The One Heresy
We Must Confront This Christmas!
Most of us will sing “O come, let us adore him” sometime during this Advent season—along with “Let earth receive her king” and “worship Christ, the newborn king.”
But what if behind millions of those voices lies a false and deadly view about who we’re adoring, receiving, and worshiping?
The truth is that published in-depth research has uncovered a major heresy about Jesus being held by the vast majority of Americans, including American believers.
If Christmas 2022 is not the right time to confront and crush this tragic misunderstanding about the one who was born “to save our souls from Satan’s power when we were gone astray,” then when is?
What if the one “born to you this day in the city of David” has been perverted for many of us into someone masquerading as “a savior who is Jesus Christ the Lord”? What if we unknowingly celebrate the birth of a “lesser” Jesus, of an imposter redeemer? What impact could that one distortion have on our Advent observance—and far beyond?
And more importantly, if allowed to remain unchecked, how might such a heresy undermine your daily walk with God’s Son in 2023?
Results of an in-depth survey
First, here are the facts. The joint study of American thinking about biblical truths titled “The State of Theology,” conducted by LifeWay Research and Ligonier Ministries, examined 34 key beliefs. It concluded that American evangelicals are “deeply confused” about some of the core doctrines of the Christian faith regarding such issues as sin, God’s judgment, the need for salvation, and the Holy Spirit.
But chief among the theological deficiencies of a majority of Christians was this: 78% believe that Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father. The report put it like this: “Strangely, while most evangelicals strongly believe in justification by faith, they are confused about the person of Jesus Christ (emphasis added).
This is no small matter. The fourth-century Church father Arius would have celebrated! That is why he was banned from leadership of the Christian movement by the Council of Nicaea.
The battle over a “lesser” Jesus
Arius was an ascetic theologian known today for the heretical development called “Arianism.” He emphasized God the Father’s uniqueness and believed Christ was subordinate to the Father. Arias taught there was a point in eternity when the Son did not exist until God created him as his first act in forming the universe.
This distorted view of Jesus spread through Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa in the ensuing centuries. One of its manifestations today is found in the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Long before this heresy took root, Christian leaders who were contemporaries of Arius and deeply troubled by the impact of his confusing propaganda on that generation of God’s people convened a “universal” convocation of church fathers in the city of Nicaea (located in modern-day Turkey). Out of their deliberations—in contradistinction to Arian heresy—came the powerful words of the Nicene Creed, recited in millions of congregations worldwide nearly every Sunday.
Two-thirds of that decree is about our Lord Jesus Christ and crushes the perspective that made him less than God and less than supreme in all things. Read it for yourself:
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 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.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.
With those words, Arius was dispatched. With those words, the heresy was refuted. With those words, God’s Son was restored to and reassured of his rightful place in the minds and hearts of his followers everywhere. They gave him the preeminence and the supremacy rightfully his by virtue of his very nature (so beautifully defined by the words of the Creed).
But this heresy remains alive and well among us today
in ways you might not have expected.
Of course, we know this is so by the facts reported in the study referenced above. Yet a fallacious Christology pervades the Christian world on a much more profound level than simply erroneous conclusions about Jesus’ eternal existence.
There’s a defection from Jesus today that robs him of his supremacy in all things. This travesty is far more deadly than how Arius treated him!
Those who follow what I share about Christ in my articles, books, blog posts, videos, podcast, and speeches know I have continued to warn about what I call the “crisis of Christology” that has infected and crippled so many of the people of God and the Church’s mission for the glory God.[Suggestion: After you read this blog post, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read my in-depth analysis of this crisis in my interview with the editor of the TriStateVoice HERE].
In the end, this crisis is a sister heresy to the one recently reported by LifeWay Research. But instead of me being the one to unpack this for you, let me turn to a “prophetic” article by A. W. Tozer. What he says is even more relevant to the Body of Christ in America today than when it was written nearly 60 years ago.
What this pastor/theologian/author declared to be a significant threat to the cause of Christ in his day has now become a full-blown tragedy that holds the potential of distorting everything we claim about Christ as we sing carols this Christmas season.
The greatest heresy we must confront
Tozer wrote an article titled “The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches.” He died shortly after, so it proved to be his final message to the Church, declaring in part (emphasis added):
HERE IS THE BURDEN of my heart . . . My grief is simply the result of a condition which I believe to be almost universally prevalent among the churches . . . Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name . . .
It is a basic doctrine of the New Testament that after His resurrection, the Man Jesus was declared by God to be both Lord and Christ, and that He was invested by the Father with absolute Lordship over the church, which is His Body. All authority is His in heaven and in earth. In His own proper time, He will exert it to the full, but during this period in history, He allows this authority to be challenged or ignored. And just now, it is being challenged by the world and ignored by the church.
The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited, constitutional monarchy. The king (sometimes depersonalized by the term “the Crown”) is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point, a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted and supported, but his real authority is small. Nominally, he is head over all, but in every crisis, someone else makes the decisions. On formal occasions, he appears in his royal attire to deliver the tame, colorless speech put into his mouth by the real rulers of the country . . .
Among the gospel churches, Christ is now, in fact, little more than a beloved symbol. “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” is the church’s national anthem, and the cross is her official flag, but in the week-by-week services of the church and the day-by-day conduct of her members, someone else, not Christ, makes the decisions . . .
Not only does Christ have little or no authority, but His influence also is becoming less and less. I would not say that He has none, only that it is small and diminishing. A fair parallel would be the influence of Abraham Lincoln over the American people. Honest Abe is still the idol of the country. The likeness of his kind, rugged face, so homely that it is beautiful, appears everywhere. It is easy to grow misty-eyed over him. Children are brought up on stories of his love, his honesty and his humility.
But after we have gotten control over our tender emotions, what have we left? No more than a good example which, as it recedes into the past, becomes more and more unreal and exercises less and less real influence. Every scoundrel is ready to wrap Lincoln’s long black coat around him. In the cold light of political facts in the United States, the constant appeal to Lincoln by the politicians is a cynical joke.
The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten among Christians, but it has been relegated to the hymnal, where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion. Or if it is taught as a theory in the classroom, it is rarely applied to practical living.
The idea that the Man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all of its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians . . . .
For the true Christian, the one supreme test for the present soundness and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it. Is He Lord or symbol? Is He in charge of the project or merely one of the crew? Does He decide things or only help to carry out the plans of others?
All religious activities, from the simplest act of an individual Christian to the ponderous and expensive operations of a whole denomination, may be proved by the answer to the question, Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act?
Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold and silver and precious stones in that great day will depend upon the right answer to that question.
What, then, are we to do? Each one of us must decide—and there are at least three possible choices:
One is to rise up in shocked indignation and accuse me of irresponsible reporting.
Another is to nod general agreement with what is written here but take comfort in the fact that there are exceptions, and we are among the exceptions.
The THIRD is to go down in meek humility and confess that we have grieved the Spirit and dishonored our Lord in failing to give Him the place His Father has given Him as Head and Lord of the Church.
Either the first or the second will but confirm the wrong. The third, if carried out to its conclusion, can remove the curse. The decision lies with us.
“It came upon the midnight clear”?
Or does this Christmas hold
a darker midnight for the Church?
In “The State of Theology,” the study referenced at the beginning of this blog post, the authors concluded:
“The evangelical world is in great danger of slipping into irrelevance.”
In other words, the warning is that a spiritual gloom may be descending upon our life and witness as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ at the very moment when we’re proclaiming to this generation, “Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.”
This sobering danger is precisely why we at ChristNow.com continue to call for an American CHRIST Awakening and produce hundreds of free resources to help incite such an awakening to the full supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ in all his followers across the nation.
A Christ Awakening comes about when the heresy of a “lesser” Jesus—whether based on the diminishment of his deity or the dethronement of his dominions—is exorcised and then exchanged for a much “larger” Jesus, vibrating with the themes of the Nicene Creed.
By the power of the Spirit, a Christ Awakening could make all the glorious things declared about our Lord in all the Christmas carols of all the ages become powerfully real to Jesus followers everywhere—so much so that we could enter the new year more wholly alive to the whole vision of the whole Christ. That is, we could become more wholly alive to HIM.
Let the very present possibility of that miracle taking place this Christmas simmer in your heart for a moment! A God-given Christ Awakening becomes a time when “joy to the world” bursts forth unbounded because “the Lord has come” upon us by the Holy Spirit in a manifestation of his spectacular supremacy that causes God’s people to “receive her king” in whole new ways.
- Read my in-depth analysis of this crisis in my interview with the editor of the TriStateVoice HERE.
- Scroll through all the verses of the most familiar Christmas hymns listed HERE. Write down every insight you gain from each verse regarding the greatness and glory of who Jesus is today. Next, turn your discoveries into praise. Finally, commit to the Father that at the start of the new year, you will meditate on one description on your list per day, throughout the whole day, until you have covered them all. See what the Holy Spirit reveals to you about Jesus and your relationship with him.
- Learn more about a Christ Awakening. View this 20-minute video where I unpack for you a lot of what’s involved. Then let it become a focus of your daily prayers for the church in our nation throughout 2023. View it HERE.
- Join our Nationwide Campaign for an American CHRIST Awakening. You can sign up today HERE.
- Make much of Christ and all he is today throughout the Advent season. Do it in conversations, with emails or Facebook posts, by personal notes in Christmas cards, and/or at family gatherings. Be part of the solution as you encourage a Christ Awakening among those you love. Use some of the free resources at ChristNow.com to help you. Begin by passing this blog post along to them.
- Pray daily for the Father to grant a life-giving Christ Awakening—to you, your own congregation, the Body of Christ across our land, and to our nation as a whole.
Sing it boldly!
“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” is a doctrinal hymn based on the Latin poem “Corde natus” by the Roman Christian poet Aurelius Prudentius, composed around the 10th century. Later, it was paired with a medieval plainchant melody, “Divinum Mysterium,” and was first put in print in 1582 in a Finnish hymn book.
Today, it is one of our most popular Christmas carols. Its first stanza provides a perfect antidote to the heresy we MUST confront this Christmas. Its other four verses are also FULL of the supremacy of Christ. Check them out! So, sing it boldly!
Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega,
he the source, the ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see
evermore and evermore.
About the Author
Over the past 45 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ Awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com. Enjoy his regular Daily CHRIST TODAY Podcast.