I want to begin with a question and ask you to agree or disagree with this statement: Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.
If you agreed with that statement, you have just agreed to a heresy called Arianism. This is the teaching from a man named Arius, who taught that Jesus was not the divine, eternal Son of God, but was created by God before the world was brought into existence. Jesus is neither co-eternal nor con-substantial (meaning of the same substance) as God the Father. Think of Jesus more as a demi-god–still worthy of our worship, but not equal with God.
Now you may be wondering, why bring this up? Some of you may also feel bad that you initially agreed with that statement! But don’t worry, sadly you’re not alone.
Last September, a biannual survey called The State of Theology, was released by Lifeway Research and Ligonier Ministries. This survey gives insight into the theological beliefs of Americans and how they agree with or differ with basic Christian doctrines. While there are many interesting results, the answer to the question I opened with above was agreed with by 65% of self-professed Evangelical Christians. Two-thirds of self-professed Evangelicals agreed with a heresy.
Now, could they have legitimately just been confused by the phrasing of the question, reading “greatest” and overlooking “created being,” wanting to affirm a high view of Jesus? Sure. However, it also points to what I think many of us in church leadership are guilty of: seeing doctrine and theology as unimportant to living the Christian life. But I disagree and this survey proves it (go read the other responses!). How healthy can a church be if potentially up to two-thirds of its members believe Jesus is a created being? This denies the Triunity of God, and if Jesus is created, albeit the first and greatest created being, wouldn’t worshiping him be akin to idolatry since he is not God? If Jesus is not God, then we are making a grave mistake every Sunday by worshiping him. Only God can save humanity from ourselves, and our salvation depends on Jesus being God incarnate, not simply being “like God.”
What this sad reality did for me is remind me why it is important that as pastors we must not shy away from teaching doctrine or see it as irrelevant. Orthodox belief leads to orthodox living, and that includes such truths as the fact that Jesus is the uncreated Son of God who has dwelt eternally with the Father and the Spirit in Trinity and who for us and for our salvation came to this earth as fully God and fully man to suffer, die, and be raised in our place for the forgiveness of sins.
Christian, I hope you will see that doctrine matters. Learning more about the nature of Jesus is critical. Knowing what the Bible says is important. Knowing church history and the ecumenical creeds adds such richness to the Christian life. Here at Saco Bay we will continue to give you opportunities to grow deeper and learn more about the Christian faith, and we hope you will join us in that journey so that you might grow, not only in accuracy of belief and understanding, but in your love for our Triune God.
Oh, and next time we say the Nicene Creed, I hope that the following words will mean even more to you now that you know they were written to reflect biblical teaching and specifically to refute the heresy of Arius: We believe….in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through him all things were made.
by Pastor Logan Saunders