If we choose we can make up our own theology, build our own edifice of Christian doctrine and create a set of beliefs that are a culture in which we socialise people. We may call this Christianity. But whether it is or not depends on whether it is that state of being put in place by God and expressed and taught by Jesus and the apostles. This is the apostles doctrine.
To know what God is saying to us in the Bible we need to read it through the Jesus’ Lens. There is a frame or hermeneutic for interpreting the Bible correctly. This frame is Jesus Christ and His accomplishments for the human race. To impart truth instead of cunningly devised fables, truth must be grounded in what God has done and said through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus is the hermeneutic.
As a gardener, we can bring home a tree from the nursery, like a promising mulberry tree. We can dig a hole to receive it, put some compost, rich soil and fertiliser in the hole and place our tree deep in the life-giving soil. Or if we are a gardener of slight skill we plant our tree in the air. No one with any wisdom would do this and expect the tree to grow disconnected from the soil and the nutrients of the earth.
Yet this is these kind of gospel that has sometimes been promoted in the 19th century and later. They have no root. They are disconnected from the soil of scripture, not planted in the earth of the apostle’s teaching, disconnected from the Church Fathers and sometimes not even and expression of Reformed Theology. They have no root in truth are a stunted tree and irrespective of their size and the sincerity of their people - are incapable of ministering life.
Arius spread the contention that Jesus Christ was not fully God but a separated and created being accorded Godly qualities. This was a serious undoing of the enterprise of God, for if Jesus was not fully God it could not truly be said that humanity had been re-joined to God. The effect would be that we are not fully saved.
Thus there could be no incarnation and no Kingdom of God manifesting in people. There would be no real salvation and no realising God’s dream of sharing the creation with His Daughters/Sons. But in Jesus Christ son of God, the dream is realised because in Jesus human beings are re-joined to God and become the manifestation of God. The church fathers did not give way to populism and held the line against ‘other gospels’.
“If the early Christians had lost their nerve and conceded the “lesser divinity” of Jesus, whatever that might mean, then the work of God in Christ for our salvation would have been rendered meaningless. No mere man, nor half god, could possibly intervene to save fallen and sinful humanity, let alone restore all of creation. Only the Creator can enter creation to fix its brokenness and redeem its original, latent purpose.”
“Alexander tried to remove Arius from his position [of influence]. However, Arius was a popular church leader. The people of Alexandria, as well as several other church leaders, greatly respected Arius for his strict morality, his self-discipline and his teaching abilities. The people took to the streets in public demonstrations, chanting slogans of Arius.”
Strict morality has little bearing on the Gospel of Jesus and the apostles which in a nutshell is Christ for us and in us and our having been included in His Life. It’s astonishing that many Believers see their religion as a moral program when such a believe has no support in the pages of the New Testament. What we do find there is Jesus as the way to union with God and the presentation of Himself as our atonement and our life.
It’s not ok to teach a distorted gospel for any reason, let alone a political one and let alone one that cripples Believers and shifts their focus from Jesus to the law. We should not be deluded into thinking that a teaching is legitimate just because its proponents are good living people, have held high positions in the church and have an overseas ministry. A doctrine is either right or wrong. If wrong it will rob people of spirit and life and can even rob them of salvation. Poor doctrine does not rob us of words. It robs us of life.
Jesus warned that a casual attitude to truth places us in danger of losing all we have (Matt 13.12).
If we are naïve and have enough hubris, we can make up our own theology. Indeed I once heard someone say when a visitor had presented the apostles teaching in their presence, ‘We’ll have to see how that fits with our theology.’ We have no right to a gospel that is not the gospel of Christ and the apostles. We have no. right to our own theology.
Given that what had been presented was the gospel of the Kingdom and not some alternative gospel, it was an unfortunate statement – a statement of the kind that relies on fictions to keep out the truth so that the religion of the fathers can be maintained. God’s theology is revealed in the word and in the teaching of those who rightly interpret the word of truth. Thus we must adhere to the gospel of the Kingdom and not some ‘other gospel’ as Paul warned. Speaking of ‘real theology’ as distinct from ‘false facts,’ Stephen Morrison observes,
“Barth always reminded us to “begin again at the beginning” with God’s self-revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. We will never master God’s Word or turn it into our word; it remains God’s free and gracious address to us. It is God’s Word to humanity, and not humanity’s word about God, which is the subject of theology. Therefore, this subject never becomes an object of our control. We are summoned by God’s Word, to learn its content and, above all, know its Subject. Thus, we are all theologians in the Church.” (1)
The truth that Christ is our life is all life, all generous and unconditionally life-giving. Any other gospel comes under the heading of ‘thieves and robbers’ who enter by another door and distribute a lesser life of the kind Jesus described as tares. The contention that Jesus came to endorse the law is a heresy just as destructive as Arianism. It nullifies the gains of the cross and suffocates the incarnation. If the Enemy can persuade us to neutralise the incarnation he has gone a long way to stifling the Kingdom of God.
(1) Morrison, Stephen D.. Karl Barth in Plain English (Plain English Series Book 1) . Beloved Publishing. Kindle Edition.