You probably didn’t notice, but we recently removed reference to an imprisoned pastor on our websites when we learned that he and the group that he was a part of denied that Jesus is and has always been truly God. Denying the Trinity, they claim that only God the Father is truly and eternally God.
Sadly but truly, this belief places them firmly outside of the limits of what can be truly called the Christian faith and while we believe that the pastor’s arrest is unjust because no one should be arrested for their religious beliefs, it is outside of our mandate as an organization to speak out on his behalf as our mission is strictly that of glorifying God by serving His persecuted church. Denying the deity of Jesus places him and his group outside of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Surely you might say, this sort of theological hair-splitting is unnecessary in today’s world. Who are we to decide one way or another who belongs in the kingdom of God and who is outside of its boundaries?
In the late fourth century, Amphilocus was the bishop of Iconium. At this point of church history, there was tremendous debate over the nature of Jesus’ humanity and divinity. The rise of the Arian heresy was at its highest and the very existence of the Christian faith was on the tipping point, as many embraced the belief that Jesus was a created being who was a divine man but not truly and eternally God. Amphilocus personally begged the emperor Theodosius the Great to drive the Arians out of every city in the Empire, but the Emperor did not comply with his request. Personally, I think that his request was inappropriate but I understand the intent behind it and wonder if I would have responded much differently had I been in his place.
A few days later, Amphilochius came before the Emperor again. When the bishop was taken into the emperor’s presence, he was sitting on his throne with his son Arcadius, whom he had taken as co-Emperor, sitting at his right hand. Entering the room, Amphilochius gave the appropriate reverence to Theodosius, but ignored Arcadius, treating him as if he were not even there. Theodosius was infuriated by this and commanded that Amphilochius be instantly driven from court. The bishop responded, “Do you see, O Emperor, how you do not tolerate a slight paid to your son? In the same way, God the Father does not tolerate dishonour paid to His Son, turning with loathing from those who blaspheme against Him, and being angered at that accursed Arian heresy.”
Theology matters. What one believes about Jesus matters and not only for the good of the Church. I am certain that it matters to God the Father. If we want to truly glorify God, we have to make such distinctives, as difficult as they may be. Who wants to be labelled as “narrow-minded” or “judgmental”? But just claiming to believe in Jesus or calling oneself a Christian does not make it so; one must know who this Jesus is that he/she claims to believe in and identify with. This is even true for those who are persecuted and suffer for their religious convictions. People don’t always suffer for the real Jesus.
(Source of story: http://www.abbamoses.com/)