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Begotten But Made
Conciliar Christology, The Historical Jesus, Mount Olympus, and Johnny Cash
The title of this article might be enough to make St. Nick to scuttle down the chimney and slap my jaws. He has done it before. Well, not to me, but you get the idea.
The ecclesial rabble-rouser, Arius, was the original recipient of those jolly love taps. St. Nicholas of Myra shook the Libyan lout like a bowl of jelly. At least, that’s how I sing the song.
Arius was prophet for profit who had been peddling lies concerning the Second Person of the Godhead. He affirmed that Jesus was “divine,” but that it would be proper to only ever use the lower-case with reference to Him. Arius held that the Lord Jesus was the first of Jehovah’s creations (sound familiar?). He said that there was a “time when he was not.” He was not, therefore, in any real way equal with the Father. The heretic maintained that Jesus was begotten in Bethlehem and that was the moment He was made; that is created. You can see how this might unsettle those of a more orthodox disposition.
Arius used a rather catchy pedagogical method for the dissemination of his trashy doctrine. He rewrote a few of the more bawdy bar songs of his day, those that were sung at pagan orgies, to reflect his more “progressive” view of the faith. The songs were so crude that grown men would often blush. And Arius wasn’t even a celebrity pastor from from Seattle.
In 325 A.D., an ecumenical council met in Nicea to settle the question. The Arian party was large and influential. At a certain point in the discussion, Arius rose to his feet to regurgitate his drivel. He did so by breaking forth in one of his well known ditties. Some historians tell us that grown men ran out of the hall in embarrassment, blushing as they went. Even members of his own faction were ashamed. But not St. Nick. He was downright mad. He strode over to the transgressive troubadour and punched him square in the face. He didn't let his right hand know what his left hand was doing as he turned the other cheek of Arius. Now before you get your knickers in a twist, exclaiming, “That wasn't very Christ-like,” let me say that I wish that the worst thing that we had ever done was to punch a heretic!
After the incident, the council went on to formally denounce Arius and his vile heresy, as well as give us the famous Nicene Creed. That creed set forth in very certain terms the essential equality of the Son with the Father.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The council affirmed that Jesus was begotten, not made. So you see why my title might raise the hackles of the bellicose bishop. The second section of the Creed definitively teaches that Jesus was not “made” in the sense that He was not created. He eternally existed as the eternally begotten Son of the Father. So how dare I say that He was begotten but made? Well, because the creed says so.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man…
Isn’t this a blatant contradiction? No, not at all. The previous section says that Jesus was not “made” in the sense that He was not created. This section, however, says that He was “made” in the sense that He was constituted something by virtue of the Incarnation.
There is a sense in which Christ, the Mighty Maker, was made. Consider of some of the glorious statements in Holy Scripture that state this grand truth.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3).
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law (Galatians 4:4).
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man (Hebrews 2:9).
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Galatians 3:13).
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens (Hebrews 7:25-26).
We should give praise to God because the Lord Jesus was both begotten not made, yet begotten and made.
Made lower than angels!
Made of a woman!
Made to be a curse!
Made higher than the heavens!
All of this so that we might be made Sons of the Most High God. Hallelujah! What a Savior.
A Humble Appeal: We Need Your Help
2020 has been a year for adjectives. Unusual. Unprecedented. Strange. Difficult. Painful. And for some, downright tragic.
It has been a year of tests. Some of which garnered less than a passing grade. Our governments have made manifest follow of trusting in princes and chariots. Our churches have had to find ways to be both creative and faithful in a time of social distancing and virtual gatherings. Our families have had to deal with the paradoxical pressures of cabin fever, loneliness, and the contempt born of familiarity when there is no place to go to get away from ourselves.
Added to the psychological and emotional struggles of “pandemic living,” have been the physical and financial burdens. Doubtless, there are few of us now who have not known someone who has either been hospitalized on account of the virus or perished due to complications arising from it. And we likely all have loved ones who live in constant fear of catching the dread plague.
In His merciful Providence, the Lord has seen fit to keep me in health during this current crisis. For that I am thankful and humbled. Humbled because there have been so many others whose lot was cast differently than my own. So it is with some sense of duty that I pray for the souls of those departed and the families and friends who have been left to remember and mourn them.
While I have enjoyed relatively good health this year (I am fast approaching forty after all!), I must confess that this has been a difficult year for me as well. The small business in which my father and I labored together was unable to withstand the pressures of a collapsing economy wrought by shutdowns and other Covid-related restrictions. In a matter of months we went from profitable to belly-up.
I have been in the process of finding other employment that would meet my needs, but the job market is a mess. I have applied to a few decent leads, at least one seems promising. But they are positions that will not be available until after the first of the year. In the meantime, I have been doing the odd side-job, and some part-time work. I ask you to pray for both me and my family as we seek something sustainable—and that will sustain us.
Knowing that these have been difficult days for everyone; and understanding that Christmas is just around the corner and the season’s healthy appetite for mammon, I ask you to consider helping us if you are able in order to see us through the first of the year.
If you have found value in my work and writing, then this may be an opportunity for you to support my future endeavors. Given the time and resources it takes to research and write books, articles, lessons, and all the rest of it, I can’t do this work apart from your generosity.
If you would like to support our work on a monthly basis, consider doing so as one of our patrons here at Patreon.
If you would like to make a one time donation, you can do so by sending it directly to me through PayPal.
Thank you for considering to help us during these difficult days. May God bless your giving.
Crumbs Swept Up
Last Friday I began sharing with you a few links to books and articles I had the privilege of publishing over the course of this year. Today brings another handful.
Every year, especially around Christmas and Easter, the archeologists and apostate religionists will buy airtime in order to debunk the myth of the man called Jesus. They are often aided in their diabolical efforts by those more enlightened souls who have little interest in the “Christ of Faith” and so have sought to unearth for us the “Christ of History.” This article is a forceful, “Nein!” to such an approach.
Among the problems of most ‘quests for the historical Jesus’ is the illusion of distance. It is assumed that the “Jesus of History” stands quite apart from our time. Granting his existence, the most charitable inquisitor still maintains that the man Jesus is quite foreign to the modern Western Man much in every way. We are purportedly responsible for digging through the rubble of cultural artifacts in order to compare the data concerning a certain Galilean rabbi with the other archeological findings of first-century Palestine. After constructing a composite image of Jesus as a historical figure, we can then begin to piece together what he most likely said and did. Such details can be validated, and otherwise legitimated, by the sacred consensus of secular methodology. Having separated myth from fact, the humble historian is now ready to present us with his creation—“behold, the man!” What comes to us, then, is the Christ of Consensus. “Whom do men say that, I, the Son of Man, am?” says the fabled Lord. To which the critical historian swiftly answers, “Archeological evidence suggests that you were a Jewish male, perhaps of germanic descent. Sociological data hints that you were a peasant who attained prominence as a religious teacher and political reactionary in the early common era. Others assert that you were a figure formed in the mold of the zealots; a theological innovator pushing reform, if not revolution, within the confines of Second-Temple Judaism.” This is pretty much the best that flesh and blood can muster.
I had the privilege of writing a short piece of the relationship between Christianity and Culture—or perhaps more accurately, Christ and Culture—for the good folks over at The Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Historically speaking, “culture” is the old guard. As Judaism is the Old Testament of Israel, Paganism is the Old Testament of the Church. Our forebears sacrificed to gods which were not. The gentle heel of Christ brought down Olympus and Asgard, but he didn’t obliterate them. He made them a footstool for his feet—he made them useful.
Perhaps my most widely read pieces from this year were published at Mere Orthodoxy. The first piece is an evaluation of the spiritual character of traditional country music and what, if any, value it may have for us today.
Traditional Country Music as expressed by the haunting echoes of Hank Williams, the gritty ballads of Johnny Cash, and the tragic tales of love gone wrong by George Jones (to name but a few iconic examples) may be described as a form of religious testimony. The enigmatic figures who sang them were like some instantiation of Johannes Redivivus—latter day messengers storming in from the wilderness with honey on their chins, fire in their bellies, and a tear in their voices. Such unvarnished prophets often said more about the stark realities of sin and our inherent need for redemption in a single song than one might hear in a whole month of Sunday sermons.
Perhaps my most controversial piece (at least among Evangelicals) was this piece also published over at Mere O.
“We need revival.” ~The Teeming Masses
This phrase, ubiquitous among broad evangelicals, has transmogrified from banal cliche to axiomatic mantra. Having been chanted with such frequency that there is virtually no quarter among popular Christianity where it doesn’t reverberate, it has at long last been universalized, memorized, and canonized as the programmatic agenda for all successive ecclesial endeavors. Thus for many, the watchword is now, “revival or ruin.”
The migration from adage to axiom has been a subtle (though predictable) move. If a thing is said long enough, loud enough, and often enough people soon forget to bother asking whether it should be said at all. At the last, the proposition becomes a presupposition. After having become ingrained in the religious psyche of the masses, that notion requires something closer to exorcism than explanation to extricate the host from possession. It takes quite a while to convince the entire species of something; it takes even longer to convince them that something is specious. So here I am with a crucifix and half a gallon of holy water; the power of Christ compels me. Shall we renounce the devil and all his works?
Links of Interest
…a bound volume of more than 400 gilt-edged pages filled with 131 of his poems has been saved for the nation after being acquired by the British Library. Dr Alexander Lock, curator of modern archives and manuscripts, told the Observer: “It’s a manuscript of considerable literary importance, a new substantial work of Donne’s poetry that has not yet been studied.”
In a discussion with the journalist Toby Young on the Quillette podcast earlier this year, the Conservative politician Daniel Hannan suggested that the influence of the late philosopher Sir Roger Scruton (1944–2020) “is only going to grow with each passing year.” Yet the sum of Scruton’s legacy may not only be that he affected the way we think. Rather, and perhaps more importantly, it may be that through his work and personal example he inspires a change in how we live. Indeed, Scruton was a philosopher of everyday life. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, his ideas might gain new ground.