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Monday: Savage Wolves — 18 Comments

  1. I am publishing this list of heresies in the first four centuries of the Christian era, not to show off my superior knowledge (I lifted them from Wikipedia), but because I want you to notice something. Most of the heresies listed here have to do with the nature of the Godhead. Each heresy claims to have studied the scriptures and come to a better understanding of the nature of the Godhead than the others. They had so much faith in their beliefs that they persecuted one another.

    The real cost of heresy is not the rightness or wrongness of belief, but rather the perception that their version of Bible-based belief is so much superior to everyone else.

    Cut through to the Twentieth Century: I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. My earliest recollections of Seventh-day Adventist dispute was about the nature of Christ. Was Christ prelapsian or postlapsian? I learned the meaning of those terms too early in my life. People left the church, and worse, lost their faith over that argument. Have we learned nothing in two millennia of Christianity?

    When we replace the relationship with Christ with knowledge about Christ, we are in big trouble.

    "By this shall all men know ..."

    1st Century

    Docetism: The belief of Docetism holds that Jesus Christ did not have a real physical body, but only an apparent or illusory one.

    2nd Century

    Montanism: A movement that emphasizes the importance of prophecy and ecstatic experiences.

    Adoptionism: The belief that Jesus Christ was not the Son of God from eternity, but was adopted by God at some point in his life.

    Universalism: The belief that all people will eventually be saved. Universalists believe that God's love is so great that no one will be excluded from salvation.

    Valentinianism: A Gnostic heresy that taught that the world was created by a series of emanations from the supreme being. Valentinians believed that salvation came from knowledge of the true nature of the universe.

    Sabellianism: The belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three distinct persons, but are simply different manifestations of the same divine being.

    Gnosticism: A complex system of thought that teaches that the material world is evil and that salvation can be achieved through knowledge (gnosis).

    Marcionism: A heresy that arose in the 2nd century AD. Marcionists believed that the God of the Old Testament was a different god from the God of the New Testament.

    Monarchianism: A heresy that taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all the same being. Monarchians were also known as Unitarians.

    Modalism: Modalism is the belief that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three different modes of God, as opposed to a Trinitarian view of three distinct persons within the Godhead.

    Patripassianism: The belief that the Father and Son are not two distinct persons, and both God the Father and the Son suffered on the cross as Jesus.

    Psilanthropism: The belief that Jesus is "merely human": and that he never became divine, or that he never existed prior to his birth as a man.

    Sethianism: Sethianism was a 2nd-century Gnostic movement that believed in a supreme God, Sophia, the Demiurge, and gnosis as the path to salvation.

    Basilideanism: Basilideanism was a Gnostic Christian sect founded by Basilides of Alexandria. Basilidians believed that the material world was created by an evil demiurge and that the goal of salvation was to escape from this world and return to the spiritual realm.

    3rd Century

    Novatianism: A movement that arose in response to the persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire. Novatians believed that Christians who had lapsed during the persecution could not be forgiven.

    4th Century

    Arianism: The belief that Jesus Christ is not fully divine, but is a created being.

    Donatism: A movement that arose in North Africa in the 4th century AD. Donatists believed that the Catholic Church had become corrupt and that only the Donatists were the true Christians.

    Apollinarianism: The belief that Jesus did not have a human mind or soul, but only a human body.

    Tritheism: The belief that there are three gods, rather than one God in three persons.

    Collyridianism: The belief is that the Trinity consists of the Father, Son, and Mary and that the Son results from the marital union between the other two.

    Binitarianism: Binitarianism is a Christian heresy that teaches that there are only two persons in the Godhead: the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is not considered to be a separate person, but rather an aspect of the Son or the Father.

    Subordinationism: A heresy that teaches that the Son and the Holy Spirit are not co-equal with the Father. Subordinationists believe that the Son and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to the Father in either nature, role, or both.

    Anomoeanism: A heresy that taught that Jesus was not fully divine, but was a created being. Anomoeans also believed that Christ could not be like God because he lacked the quality of self-existence.

    Antidicomarians: Antidicomarians also called Dimoerites, were a Christian sect active from the 3rd to the 5th century who rejected the perpetual virginity of Mary. They were condemned by St. Epiphanius of Salamis in the 4th century.

    • Thank you for this information, even if it came from Wikipedia. I have saved it for future reference. At age 25 (1976) I became a Christian and SDA. Over time, I have also noticed that the heresies regarding the "Heavenly Trio" are rising again. One of my long-time spiritual friends has contended with me about Jesus being "begotten" or brought into existence as a lesser god, as it were. This unbiblical approach to the nature of Jesus becoming a god opens the door to pantheism (The belief that God is in everything and that we can become gods.) Your shared information indicates that the topic of God's nature, the Divinity of Christ, and the Godhead are the enemy's favorite topics of attack because it is coming back around. An old lie.

    • Thank you for posting this summary, Maurice. I believe that aberrant beliefs likely crop up when people are not busy "preaching the gospel" and reaching out to those in need. It's a focus on belief, rather than action, as you point out.

      However, it looks like I am an "Antidicomarian" because I see no support in the Bible for Mary's "perpetual virginity." In fact I see that erroneous teaching as a step in the elevation of Mary to a near-divine level as "Mother of God" and "Queen of Heaven."

      As for the rest of the list, I see several of these beliefs as not only ancient heresies but beliefs that crop up today - even in our church and on this blog.

      Some of these are more important than others. If beliefs affect our view of God and the way He saves sinners, they will also affect the way we relate to others. That makes them important, and I believe we need to offset such teachings with clear and convincing demonstrations of what God is really like and how He saves sinners.

  2. Idols and Sunday. "Wolves" added ideas to the primitive Church. But the Word of God is the truth and shows the truth. If not these, what other things have I placed before the truth, justifying my error? Have material things become more critical, different doctrines, or has the Sabbath not rightly observed?

  3. GOD bless His Church!
    If we do not have the right concept of WHO is GOD we end in self-righteousness
    The Father needed to be GOD in other way how could judge
    The Son needed to be GOD in other way how could stand the punishment
    The Holy Spirit needed to be GOD to make us to the Glory if GOD
    QUESTION: about your “gospel”,”jesus”, “spirit” how much Truth-Power-Law-Love do they have?

  4. Savage Wolves...the church has really compromised in alot of things.We cannot only point out on the change of the day of worship..this is not as serious as we are supposed to deal with the things has kept on changing in our church in the name of modernization or better ways of doing things.This lesson has reminded me that as a church we need to the Self introspection.

    • H'mm ... what kind of compromises are you thinking of?

      Does the bible describe "ways of doing things"? Does it tell us to always do things the same way?

      It occurs to me that controversy about "ways of doing things" may, in itself, be something introduced by Satan.

      As an example: I am from a German background, and in the past, at least, Germans were known for being fairly stiff and proper. That doesn't mean that they didn't worship from the heart - just that they were not very demonstrative with their feelings.

      By contrast, some areas closer to the equator seem to be much more demonstrative about their feelings and also have different styles of music. Whose way was prescribed in the Bible?

      I know of African congregations that march around their church singing and clapping before entering. Germans don't do that. Who is right?

      I have seen song leaders in an African-American congregation dance as they led the worship in music, and some consider dancing inappropriate for church services. (No, there were no sexualized body movements, and it seemed to me that their movements were almost unconscious - just moving with the music.) Read all of Psalm 149 and Psalm 150 for perspective.

      I know that in some areas of India, the Adventist conference sends new congregations a gift of hand drums as a welcoming gift. It's to help keep their singing rhythm to stay together. Yet some Adventists consider drums in church to be instruments of the devil. And, oh, yes, their rhythm is syncopated, while some North Americans feel syncopation to be introduced by the devil. Who is right?

      Several books could be written on different "ways of doing things," with readers picking what they consider to be "right" or "wrong." But, as I said above, I believe this institutionalizing of "ways of doing things" as the "right way" may just be a tactic introduced by Satan.

      • I am fully aware of the dverse in beliefs and practices but we cannot not overlook other practices that as a church we can and cannot embrace. I will just give one example..nowadays the church is slowly turning out to be political platforms. Our leaders are giving love according to political affiliation and this has led misunderstanding among church members further more losing membership
        I stand to be corrected

        • I agree, Ruby. We need to have discernment offered by the Holy Spirit (James 1:5) to understand what does and what does not go contrary to the word of God.

          Politics are divisive and have no business in our churches - especially in today's environment, and especially from the pulpit. A pastor, elder, Sabbath School facilitator or any other leader is free to vote as he/she wishes, but it is important that they keep their political convictions to themselves. Otherwise they are in danger of turning away seekers for truth.

          It is good to remember the wise counsel from Ellen White, one of our founders. She wrote that we are to stay away from "party politics." If it was good counsel in the 1800's and 1900's, it is even better counsel in the 21st Century.

  5. One thing that stands out to me in II Thessalonians 2 is that the people lead astray do not love the truth and so they believe a lie. I think sometimes we're so worried about people being lost because of misinformation. But I don't think that's the big issue. It's when we reject truth that we are susceptible to Satan's lies. I've seen that a number of times - people reject one truth and suddenly they are believing all sorts of crazy things. The ones who are ignorant, God can work with, but the rebellious are much harder.

  6. Dear Inge, in your response to Ruby's post, you are asking which compromises have crept into the Seventh-day Adventist church and beliefs. If I may, I can state a couple of things I've seen in some of our churches. In my over 40 years of being an Adventist, I had never seen Easter being celebrated in our worship whereby a huge cross and a tent (signifying Jesus's tomb) are brought into the sanctuary, together with chocolates (most probably to imitate Easter eggs?) given to children after the service. I attended the service, which to me looked no different from a funeral service - really depressing to me. The order of service bulletin had the following mention:

    "God sent His Son to take the punishment for all the thoughtless, sinful things we do; Jesus gave His life because He loves us; His love is boundless, sweet, forever true. On Easter morn He showed He is our Saviour; His resurrection proves He is our Lord. That is why we tell you, HAPPY EASTER! He secured our heavenly reward."

    When I questioned the organisers of the Easter programme why pagan practices are brought into the church, I was told that the service was a means of inviting the community at Easter when they are more receptive to our message. For me, I wholeheartedly believe it is wrong to bring the world into the church in the name of winning souls. There are several ways we can preach the gospel without compromising our beliefs.

    The second example is Christmas celebration in some of our churches. As I was growing up, I always knew that Christmas was for Catholics and Protestants but not for Adventists. I never saw Christmas being celebrated in an Adventist church in my country (Rwanda). When I came to Europe, I found a clear divide between churches. Many Adventist churches observe Christmas in a very shy way (not openly but for instance mentioning it in a sermon); while others (maybe a few) do it in an open way by holding outreach programmes to preach the new-born Jesus (including the Christmas shelter for the homeless, promoted by ADRA); others (probably a minority) do not even mention Christmas (even when Christmas day falls on a Sabbath).

    There are many examples one could give but I'll just stick to these two.
    Please let me know in a comment, if you think these practices are, in fact, compromises that are bringing the 'world' into the church and dilute our message (especially when you have such unbiblical phrases like "on Easter Sunday morn ..." in an Adventist publication) or if, actually, they are fine for Adventist churches to observe as they are in line with our Adventist beliefs.

    [Moderator Note: Your comment was edited to refer to the "Seventh-day Adventist" church, also shortened as "Adventist" rather than "SDA." Our name has specific meaning. "SDA" means all sorts of things in different places. We ask you kindly to use the real name for our church in future comments."

    • I'm in North America and I feel like most churches in my area do celebrate Christmas and Easter, though there are always a few comments or questions about whether it is appropriate to do so.

      Here's my thinking (and of course you are welcome to disagree): I don't feel the pagan ties to Christmas and Easter are strong enough or recent enough to concern ourselves with. If we did some analyzing, we'd find all manner of traditions that have some root in paganism. But we don't worry about them because they don't have that meaning to us or really anyone anymore. I also remember Paul's comments about meat offered to idols - he was against feasting in a pagan temple, but wasn't particularly concerned about eating meat that had possibly been blessed. I would say the same principle applies here. If you conscientiously feel you cannot celebrate Christmas and Easter, don't. But I hope you will respect that many of us can and are truly blessed by it. My church has an agape feast on Good Friday night and I love it. It's one of the most meaningful days of the year at church.

      As you mentioned, the world is open much more to church at these two holidays. I am sad if they come looking and we just act like it's another day. Drawing attention to Jesus is our first goal.

      One other thing, the Bible never forbids creating holidays. The Jews created an extra biblical holiday, Hannukah. It's mentioned in John, so I don't think God condemned it even though He didn't institute it. Choosing to celebrate Christ's birth and death is fine. The issue is when we exchange God's day for another (as happened with Sabbath). That is wrong. But celebrating other days and events is not something to worry about.

    • Dear Ephraim,
      When I was asking about which "compromises have crept into the Seventh-day Adventist church and beliefs," I was thinking of beliefs and practices rooted in the Bible. The rest of my comment mentioned differences in practices in various parts of the world - practices that are neither prescribed nor forbidden in the Bible.

      Perhaps you can explain which biblical teachings are violated by celebrating the birth and death of Christ at Christmas and Easter.

  7. Dear Inge,
    A simple answer to your question is none. However, just because there is no explicit scriptural prohibition of doing something, it does not mean that the Scripture approves of it. The scriptures tell us through Isaiah not to learn the ways of the heathens (or pagans) for a reason. By embracing pagan traditions, we make of little effect the word of God by diluting our message. How can we call people out of Babylon when we observe Babylonian practices? Would that not be seen as hypocrisy? In fact, traditional pagans (I had a work colleague who was a traditional pagan and we used to discuss these matters) marvel at how Christianity has been invaded by paganism, so much so that pagan rituals and traditions have been 'christened' and are no longer seen as anything wrong. Obviously, we all have our own views (often held due to our cultural backgrounds) about the way we ought to uphold the Truth of God's Word and we'll do things differently: only a few will stand for the truth, while many will compromise (as seen in this week's lesson - 2024 Q2 L04).

    The Seventh-day Adventist church is fast descending into an unprecedented time of compromise never seen before. Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc. are nothing compared to what is coming. I fear that soon, our worship services will be unrecognisable; our message will just be like any other message (some churches are no longer preaching the three angels' message!). Just like some of the other 'protestant' churches that have embraced the world's practices and are now shrinking, so will the Adventist church be if we continue sympathising, 'flirting', or embracing the world's practices and lifestyles. I don't want to go into details but you know the church is already divided on a number of issues (LGBT, ordination of women, etc.) and it's all because the Word of God is not viewed in the same light by all: for some, it is the supreme authority, for others it is not. I can't help but think that when Christ comes back, the church will be just like when he came for the first time (the temple had become like a market place or today's stock exchange)!

    Let's uphold the truth, no matter the cost, like the Waldenses and others who risked their own life rather than compromise.

    • Ephraim, I don't want to tell you how to live or what is right for you. If you truly feel certain practices are pagan, you should follow your conscience and avoid them. However, I would encourage you to be really careful about the judgments you make on others and assuming that they are compromising.

      I have been studying the Sermon on the Mount in my daily devotions and have been reflecting on Matthew 5:22 for the last few days. I find it interesting that Jesus says those who say "You fool" are in danger of the fires of Hell. If you look at the Old Testament use of fool (especially in Proverbs), it does not refer to an unintelligent person. A fool in the Bible is a person without moral judgment and character. And so calling someone a fool is really making a moral judgment on them. That's something only God can and should do. The irony is that by saying someone is destined for hell, we put our own selves in jeopardy.

      So speak truth and point people to it as best you can. But when dealing with issues where there is no direct "thus saith the Lord", I would suggest you tread carefully in judging those who don't agree with you. You may be compromising in ways you may not be aware of (Jesus reminds us time and time again that true corruption is of the heart) and one day may need mercy too. Remember James 2:13 - we all need that mercy rather than judgment.

    • Dear Ephraim,
      I agree 100% with the thoughts Christine expressed so well. (Thank you, Christine.)

      Arguments over practices not clearly addressed in the Bible are themselves distractions to keep Christ followers from fulfilling the gospel commission.

      We should be hesitant to label certain practices of other Christians as "pagan," because that represents a judgment of the spiritual condition of those who engage in them. In many cultures, including the European and American, the days of the week are named after pagan gods. In fact our history, which includes paganism, has left traces not only in our language but other aspects of our culture. We would have a very hard time getting on in this world, let alone sharing the gospel, if we attempted to eliminate all traces of paganism from our lives.

      When we engage in judging the spiritual condition of others or attempt to force others to practice what we believe to be correct, we are on the wrong side of the great controversy, for controlling others is the spirit of Babylon.

      Jesus left us an example that many Adventists find perplexing: He used a well-known Egyptian (pagan) story and tweaked it to make His point in the parable of "The Rich Man and Lazarus."


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