Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 19, 1963
NUMBER 49, PAGE 4,7b-9a

Gnosticism, Arianism, Socinianism, Which?


James W. Adams, Errors, like Superstition's cat, have "nine lives." They can be killed in one generation, but they will not stay dead; they have an embarrassing way of coming to life in the following generations. In each of its reincarnations, a pernicious error may bear a different name, but it is the same old "cat."

The apostolic church was plagued by a false teacher by the name of Cerinthus who taught a species of materialism called "Chiliasm." Some of the most illustrious men of the early church opposed Cerinthus and his doctrine. Seemingly, his influence and teaching were vitiated, but his doctrine lives today to plague believers under the name of "Premillennialism."


The Gnostics are probably the most ancient of all heretical sects having their origin in the bosom of the Lord's churches. Among their many fallacies was the denial of the deity of Jesus Christ "that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." (1 John 4:1-3) The many schisms growing out of Gnosticism gave endless trouble to the first century churches.


In the early part of the fourth century, a learned and popular man by the name of Arius revived the ancient gnostic heresy concerning the person and nature of Christ, revised it here and there, clothed it in new garments and pressed it with vigor. He denied that Jesus was God in the same sense as God the Father. He recognized Jesus as a divine being, but not eternal and self-existent, rather a created being. This stirred up a great controversy among the churches resulting in the convening of the Council of Nicaea in A. D. 325. A young man by the name of Athanasius championed the deity of Christ in opposition to Arius and his views which resulted in the discrediting of Arius and his views in the eyes of the major portion of the dignitaries there gathered.


In the middle of the sixteenth century, a man by the name of Faustus Socinus revived again the ancient controversy over the nature and person of Jesus Christ. Socinus and his followers among other things denied that Jesus Christ existed before his birth; they taught that he was not immortal until he ascended to the Father.

Modern "Anti-Christs"

Rationalists and Modernists, Unitarians, and Jehovah's Witnesses of our day deny the deity of Jesus Christ. Each group has its own peculiar slant on the matter but all deny the deity of Christ. Consequently, some people in all religious bodies of so-called "Christendom" have been affected more or less by this age-old denial of the true identity of Jesus. Probably, the matter has been much obscured by the "scholastic doctrine of the Trinity" as held by Roman Catholics and certain Protestant bodies. So many speculative theories surround the so-called "doctrine of the Trinity" that the real truth expressed in the word of God has been greatly hindered. Alexander Campbell became suspect in the eyes of many of the clergy of his day among denominations because of his rejection of the human title, "the Trinity." He firmly believed in one God manifested in the threefold personality, Father, Word (Son), and Holy Spirit, called in the scriptures the "Godhead" or "Godhood." (Acts 17:29; Col. 2:9) He objected to the term "Trinity" because of its connotations. It was his view that believers could unite on Bible language, but that unity would be impossible if such terms as "Trinity" and others were insisted upon.

Some brethren through the years have, failed to grasp the real objection that is made to the term "Trinity," and as a result have fallen into error themselves relative to the nature and person of Christ and the homage that may scripturally and properly be paid to him as "God." Recently, an article has been carried in the Gospel Guardian and in many church bulletins that could well expose churches of Christ to the charge of Arianism, Socinianism, or Unitarianism. This article did not overtly question the deity of Christ, but it did utterly repudiate the scripturalness of "praying to Jesus." As far as this writer is concerned, such is tantamount to a denial of the deity of Jesus. If one cannot pray to Jesus or direct a song of praise to him (both acts of worship), on what basis could it be argued that he could be worshipped at all? If he cannot be worshipped, then he is not deity. Hence, we say that to indict prayers and songs addressed to Jesus is a practical denial of his deity. I am certain that no Christian wants to be either a theoretical or a practical "Anti-Christ." Surely, brethren have not seen the consequence of their contention!

Jesus Christ Was And Is God

While we, like Alexander Campbell, do not care to be identified with the endless speculations of the ages concerning "the Trinity," we do believe that Jesus Christ was God (Deity) in the very highest sense of that expression. In rank, both in creation and redemption, the position which he occupied probably may be regarded as inferior to that of the Father (if the question of rank is not a species of anthropomorphism which is very probable in view of the unity of the Godhead unquestionably taught in the word of God), yet in nature he was and is one with the Father. In this respect, both are alike Deity and one in no sense inferior to the other.

The scriptures clearly assert the truth that Jesus is God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God 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 1:1, 14) "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God...." (Phil. 2:5, 6)

Ascribed to him by the scriptures are attributes of Deity and predicated of him are actions that characterize Deity only. He is said to be eternal and self-existent. "The same was in the beginning with God." (John 1:3) Isaiah describes Jesus as "the everlasting Father." (Isa. 9:6) He describes himself as follows: I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore." (Rev. 1:17, 18) "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." (Rev. 22:13) Isaiah describes the eternity of God in this same language. (Isa. 45:6; 43:10) Again, Jesus said: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." On another occasion, he said, "Before Abraham was, I am." (Rev. 1:8; John 8:58) The Hebrew writer describes him thus: "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Heb. 13:8) He calls himself "the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6) Omniscience and omnipresence are both predicated of him. Creative power is predicated of him — a power belonging only to Deity. "All things were made by him...." (John 1:4) "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible.... and he is before all things, and by him all things consist." (Col. 1:16, 17) "By whom also he made the worlds...." (Heb. 1:2) He is said to preserve the universe, forgive sins, judge the world, send the Holy Spirit and many other acts characteristic of Deity only.

Jesus Accepted Worship From Men And Angels

During the personal ministry of our Lord, he accepted worship from men. This, both angels and righteous men refused to do. John attempted to worship an angel but the angel refused to allow him to do so "And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God." (Rev. 22:8, 9) Peter refused to accept worship from Cornelius the Gentile. "And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also as a man." (Acts 10:25, 26) Paul and Barnabas refused worship in Lystra saying, "Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you...." (Acts 14:8-18) Furthermore, the scriptures absolutely forbid the worshipping of angels or men, in fact, the worshipping of any created thing. "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels...." (Col 2:18) "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served, the creature rather than the Creator...." (ASV-Rom. 1:25) The fact that Jesus accepted worship from men and angels indicates that he was God and therefore worthy of such veneration.

The Hebrew writer said of him, "And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him." (Heb. 1:6) It seems ridiculous that angels should worship Jesus and such at the same time be forbidden to man.

Not only was Jesus worshipped by angels, but at his birth was worshipped by the wise men who came from the east to find him. (Matt. 2:11) In connection with their worship, they also gave him gifts. The man who was blind from birth, whom Jesus healed, worshipped him (John 9:38), and Jesus accepted his worship. After the miracle of the calming of the storm on the sea, the Lord's own disciples worshipped him. (Matt. 14:33) It will be observed that, while Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith during the storm (vs. 31), he did not rebuke them for the worship which they gave him. The disciples worshipped Jesus in connection with the giving of the great commission. (Matt. 28:17-20) They worshipped him again in connection with his ascension into glory. (Lk. 24:52) These are but a few of the many examples to be found in the four gospels of men worshipping Jesus with his apparent approval and blessing.

What About Praying To Jesus?

Brethren have always believed and taught that the scriptures teach in three ways: (1) by precept; (2) approved example; and (3) necessary implication. Furthermore, we have always contended that the word of God does not have to say a thing but once to make it so. If, therefore, we can find praying to Jesus enjoined by precept and example, who can question its scripturalness?

Is praying to Jesus enjoined by precept? Observe the following: "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us whatsoever we ask we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." (1 John 5:13-15) Here, in language unmistakable praying to Jesus is enjoined upon the children of God.

Is praying to Jesus justified by approved example? Note the following examples: (1) Stephen prayed to Jesus at the time of his martyrdom, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Acts 7:59) (2) Paul prayed to Jesus for a removal of his "thorn in the flesh'. "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from me." (2 Cor. 12:8) That "the Lord" of this verse was Jesus Christ is evident from the answer that was given to his prayer. "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Cor. 12:9) Note the statement, "that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Paul was praying to Christ. (3) John prayed to Christ on Patmos. "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly, Amen. Even so come Lord Jesus." (Rev. 22:20)

What About Singing To Jesus?

John saw visions on Patmos that had their setting in heaven, but had their application in many cases to things that were to happen on earth. In one of these visions, we believe there is to be found the answer to the question which is the heading of this paragraph. "And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having everyone of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." (Rev. 5:1-10) We recognize the highly figurative character of this passage. We do not understand harps, beasts, and golden vials to be literal in their import. In fact, we are told that the golden vials represent the prayers of saints. However, these people who are kings and priests and reigning on the earth and who have been redeemed with the blood of Jesus unquestionably are Christians, and they are represented as singing to Jesus redemption's song, literally addressing him in song. This, plus all of the other evidence already adduced, seems completely conclusive to this writer relative to praying and singing to Jesus. No, we do not "lie" when we sing: "My Jesus as thou wilt," "Tell it to Jesus alone," "Worthy art Thou," "I need thee every hour," "Tarry with me, 0 my Savior," "Jesus I come." Our songbooks are not without fault, but God forbid that we should allow any man or set of men to remove from use in our worship the hundreds of beautiful hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs that are addressed directly to Jesus Christ on the grounds that thus to address Jesus in song and prayer is without scriptural warrant.

--{ }35th Place, Oklahoma City, Okla.