Many Protestant communions have issues with giving adherence to the traditional Creeds. Creeds bind individual believers to a formal expression of Scriptural truths. Creeds were created to eliminate gray areas which lead to false understandings of eternal truths. Many would view Creeds as intolerant. Especially in this politically correct world, Creeds can be somewhat insensitive to those who would rather hold positions that allow both orthodox and heretical views.
Indeed, Creeds are designed to be just that- intolerant, insensitive, unforgiving. For a Creed defines the boundary with which the enemy Satan is not permitted to enter, nor any of his followers. Heresy is a half truth at best and provides a false sense of security which brings spiritual destruction and in some case physical destruction on a wide scale throughout history. So while Creeds seem to turn on points of scriptural, philosophy & ecclesiastical concerns which they do; they make their mark by sealing literally with the blood of thousands of martyrs as to what is truth.
Christology is the discipline in theology for the study of the Person of Jesus Christ. Since Christ is the basis of belief for all Christians, it is critical to understand who Christ is and who He isn’t; since our belief and salvation are dependent upon Him.
Many of the early church heresies turn on either Christ’s personhood or His natures (Divine & Human). It should be noted that many of these heresies were based on a misunderstanding of scripture and in defense against some other heresy, yet the defense formed to refute a given heresy & supporting a true belief in Christ turned out to be heretical as well.
Today we have many Christians who possess an uninformed or ill formed view of Christ. And like heresies of old these are simply remakes of their older heretical versions. Perhaps the greatest of these today is Nestorianism. This is the belief that Christ has two natures and two persons(human & Divine). Now the reformers would never profess two persons in Christ, however, those who came after them, that have discarded the creeds over the centuries are not generally aware of this dogma nor the history and sacrifice of saints who died for these truths.
Protestants have some motivation for supporting this heresy. Catholicism affirms that Mary is the Mother of God. Various cultures that have significant numbers of Catholics have developed traditions which celebrate this truth of the church and of course the prayer “Hail Mary” also contains this phrase as well. In reaction to this display of honoring Jesus and His mother, Protestants have felt the need over the centuries to counteract this piety, which seems excessively focused on Mary. Part of this is simply because Protestants are not familiar with the theological distinctions about giving honor to a person and for that matter most Catholics haven’t been taught it and don’t understand it either. The average Catholic does not know or likely heard about Latria (worship given to God alone) and Hyperdulia & Dulia (honor given to Mary and honor given to Saints respectfully). The majority of Catholic do however understand that they are not to worship Mary, but likely are not able to explain the process. Hence, the Protestants concern with whether the Catholic is honoring Mary or worshiping her. We must also remember that external actions do not necessarily relay what is going on in the believers mind and spirit. I think a strong reminder once a year from the pulpit on reflecting what these theological categories mean would be helpful.
Those who reconcile with the Catholic church coming from one of the Protestant confessions many times have difficulty with this dogma. However, if one keeps the Creed in mind and why those at the Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus)
rejected Nestorianism would be beneficial.
In their zeal to defend against a perceived false worship of Mary, some will reject that Mary is the Mother of God. The individual will attempt to apply logic and state that if Mary is the Mother of God that she must be Divine herself in order to give birth to a Divine person. Such reasoning is false because Christ is one Person – not two. Christ has two natures, but once the Protestant attempts to separate the Incarnation of Divine and Human natures they are forced to falsely create two Persons of Christ (one human and one Divine). This destroys the Trinity and creates 4 person in one God.
Given the utter victory of the church in defining the Trinity, this should make any Christian recoil from this type of reasoning. Yet if they still are unable to accept Mary as Mother of God and they recognize that God is a Trinity there is a host of other heresies waiting for the believer.
Docetists- Christ appeared to have a real human body, but actually was an ethereal being much like an angel. It derives its name from the Greek, dokein, “to seem, to appear.”
Next is Ebionism who rejected the teachings of Paul and emphasized the importance of the law of Moses. Generally, they regarded Jesus as a divinely inspired prophet but not as God.
Valentinianism, Monarchianism, Sabellianism/Modalists all had there respective day in the Sun. St. Epiphanius writes about them:
“Their doctrine is, that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and the same being, in the sense that three names are attached to the one substance. A close analogy may be found in the body, soul and spirit of man. The body as it were the Father: the soul as the Son ; while the Spirit is to the Godhead as his spirit is to a man. Or take the sun: it is one substance, but it has three manifestations, light , heat and the orb itself. The heat…( is analogous to) the Spirit; the light to the Son; while the Father himself is represented as the actual substance. The Son was at one time emitted, like a ray of light; he accomplished in the world all that pertained to the dispensation of the Gospel and man’s salvation, and was taken back into heaven , as a ray is emitted by the sun and then withdrawn again into the sun.”(Epiphanius Bishop of Salamis 375 AD. Adv. hareses Ixii.1)
If this theological position rings a bell, it’s likely that you know or where at one time a Oneness Pentecostal for they are anti-Trinitarians holding to the belief that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God and one Person.
Adoptionism is where Christ is/was created by generation and nature, and became divine by adoption and grace as an adult. Arians which was created by Arius a presbyter of the Alexandria church in the 4th century taught Christ was not God like the Father, but a creature made in time. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses hold similar beliefs.
Eutycheanism/Monophysites– archimandrite of Constantinople held that Christ is One person and One nature.
Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance (homoousious) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos); one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.
This is called the Definition of Chalcedon.
Note that there is a great balance between the two heretical positions of One Person & One nature on the one hand and two persons and two natures on the other.
Christians rightly think of Jesus as God and hence many of us tend to think of Him in exclusively Divine concepts. However Jesus is fully human in nature and therefore we should also realize that He sanctifies us by and through His Incarnation. Eastern Orthodoxy has a wonderful saying that all that Jesus touches is redeemed.