When Christ first appeared among the twelve apostles, He appeared as a man, the son of a carpenter. Yet the apostles soon realized that Jesus was not an ordinary man. He performed miracles. He changed water into wine. He healed the sick, raised people from the dead, and walked on water. Although He experienced a human death on a cross, He physically rose from the dead, both body and soul. Then Jesus reappeared to the apostles after His physical death in human form again, albeit in a spiritual nature. What exactly did Jesus look like when He returned from the dead? Did He look like His old self before His death, a common man? Or did He look like a ghost, some hazy, smoky, spiritual being that had no mass or physical, corporeal quality? I believe that Christ appeared in both natures, humanly and Godly. He possessed some form, because the apostles recognized Him and Thomas put his hand in His side. He ate fish with the apostles. Yet Christ walked through walls and disappeared as quickly as He appeared. Bur once He ascended into heaven, we have never seen Christ again. Jesus gave the apostles, His 70 disciples and the Fathers plenty to wonder about.
When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). But did Peter mean that Jesus was God Himself, or just the expected Messiah of the Jews? These first century Jews sought a Messiah but did they expect God Himself? Probably not. Because Christ was resurrected, did that make Him divine? Not necessarily. The Pharisees believed in resurrection so Jesus could have been a righteous man in the eyes of God who received special treatment. Righteousness does not equal divinity. Did the early Christians borrow from the philosophy of the Greco- Roman myths of mystical humans becoming Gods such as Hercules and Zeus? Even the Romans and their emperors considered the Roman Emperor as a God. Probably borrowed but hey knew Jesus was not God in that sense. Paul prayed to Jesus, as if to God, and referred to Jesus with Words used to describe God. But did the early Christians believe that Jesus was in fact God Himself? Paul says “one Lord, Jesus Christ”…“through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” Baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost does not make Jesus God but does lead to the idea of a trinity. And because Jesus spoke Words of truth and wisdom and performed miracles, many concluded that Jesus was somehow sent from God and thus was the son of God since on several occasions Jesus addressed God as His “Father.” Thus many wondered whether Jesus had a human nature before crucifixion and whether He somehow changed His nature to divine after His resurrection. Was He just a mere human before his baptism when the Holy Spirit descended on Him and then, after His baptism, He turned divine?
Therefore many questions arose in the early Church. Was Jesus man, divine or both? Did Jesus as the son of God begin His existence at His conception, or did He exist forever, like God? And if He was God and existed from all eternity, how could God take on human form? All of these questions lead to many church Fathers providing various and differing answers. But answers to questions by one became heresies to others. Let’s look at some of the initial questions about Christ’s humanity and divinity in the early Church.
Monarchianism was a set of beliefs that emphasized God as being one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defined God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being. [Wikipedia]. They opposed the doctrine of an independent, personal subsistence of the Logos(Christ) and affirmed the sole deity of God the Father. They emphasized the indivisibility of God (the Father) at the expense of the other persons of the Trinity. Their name came from their defense of the "Monarchy" (ultimate rulership/unity) of God. Thus, it represented the extreme monotheistic view. [Britannica].There can be only one God and Christ was not Him. Monarchianism was generally credited to Paul of Samosata, a bishop of Antioch.
Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, the demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of a remote, supreme, divine being, esoteric knowledge (gnosis) of whom enabled the redemption of the human spirit. [Wikipedia]. Gnostics were divided on Jesus. One view held that He appeared as having human form but that He was actually living in spirit only. The other view contended that His divine spirit came upon his human body at baptism and departed at the crucifixion. Jesus was merely a human who attained divinity through gnosis and taught his disciples to do the same. Many of these early concepts were based on the Platonist traditions. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, wrote against many of the first century heresies, including Gnosticism, in his work, Adversus Haereses.
Arianism was a christological concept which asserted that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who was created by God the Father at a point in time, was distinct from the Father, and was therefore subordinate to the Father. Arian teachings were first attributed to Arius (c. AD 250–336), a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt. [Wikipedia]. Arianism was the opposite extreme of Monarchianism. Various models of resolving the relationship between God the Father and the Son of God were proposed in the 2nd century, but later rejected in favor of the doctrine of the Trinity as expounded at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, which confirmed the concept of God as one being, consisting of three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Council of Nicaea in 325 deemed Arianism to be a heresy. They decided that Christ had two natures-a human nature and a divine nature- but was in fact God. The Father and Son are one in substance or being (ousia), but distinct in person (prosopon). They defined Christ by defining God, so Christ was not fully described in 325 A.D., only God, as a Trinity, was explained.
The remainder of the third century and the fourth were concerned with the problem of the mode of the union of deity and manhood. Apollinarianism held that in Christ, the Logos, took the place of the human soul. Apollinarianism was condemned by a synod in Alexandria, 362, by synod at Rome under Damasus and at Constantinople, 381. Eutyches was a presbyter at Constantinople. He first came to attention in 431 when he spoke of two natures before the union, but after the union and incarnation, he spoke of one nature. He held that the human nature and the divine nature were combined into the single nature of Christ without any alteration, absorption or confusion: that of the incarnate Word. Eutyches was condemned. Eutyches took the opposite extreme of Nestorius who held that Christ is the expression of two natures. Mary gave birth to a human being. The Holy Spirit produced a temple for God, the Logos, and a temple in which He (God) dwelt. Our human nature was put on Christ like a garment. The humanity of Jesus was not, in itself, God. The duality of the natures is one on account of the unity. He preached that Christ could be one or the other, God or man, but he could not be both at the same time. [First sermon of Nestorius].
The Church Council at Chalcedon in 451 attempted to settle the union confusion. It held that Christ was truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; He was of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of nature’s being in no way annulled by the union. [Bettenson]. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of his virgin mother, whose virginity remained entire in his birth as in his conception. The properties of each nature and substance were preserved entire and came together to form one person. Each nature preserves its own characteristics without diminution, so that the form of a servant does not detract from the form of God. Christ is invisible in his own nature, but he became visible in ours; he is incomprehensible. Continuing to be before time, he began to exist in time. From his mother, the Lord took nature, not sin. [Tome of Leo, Leo, bishop of Rome, 440 to 461].
The bishops that were uneasy with the language of Pope Leo's Tome repudiated the council, saying that the acceptance of two physes was tantamount to Nestorianism. Archdeacon Dioscorus of Alexandria, a cohort of Cyril, advocated miaphysitism [that in the one person of Jesus Christ, Divinity and Humanity are united in one ( mia - "one" or "single") nature ("physis"), the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration] and had dominated the Council of Ephesus in 431. Churches that rejected the Council of Chalcedon in favor of Ephesus broke off from the rest of the Eastern Church in a schism, the most significant among these being the Church of Alexandria, today known as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. [Wikipedia]. The results of Chalcedon implicate that Christ appeared on earth as the son of God, a son who existed for all eternity alongside God in two natures, but in one substance. The Council declared that in Christ there are two natures; each retaining its own properties, and together united in one subsistence (hypostasis) and in one single person. If Christ was both fully human and fully divine, how was these two natures unified into one human person, Christ? Many disagreements remained among the Metropolitan Sees and still remain today.
I have come to believe that Christ was a substance of God transformed into human form. Christ did not exist as a separate person alongside God as if the whole universe had three rulers, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, each sitting on three separate thrones in heaven. There is only one ruler, God. God can be everywhere at once. Motion, time, space and eternity have no effect on God. God is the cause of everything and everything is caused by God. God can live within you and me in Spirit while he resides in heaven. God was on this earth in human form 2000 years ago. Christ was not a son of God as if God had children, like you and I have sons and daughters. God did not mate with a female God to produce Christ. When God decided to appear on earth, He sent His Spirit to Mary, who through a miracle, created Himself in human form and called Himself Jesus. Jesus was God himself in human form. When the human God (Christ) died, He return to heaven in Spirit, and His substance reunited with Himself (God). The Holy Spirit is likewise not some third, independent ruler in Heaven. The Holy Spirit does not sit on a separate throne next to God either. Rather, the Holy Spirit is the soul of God. God created us in His likeness, but He exists in spiritual form, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, just as Christ appeared to the apostles after His death when He ate fish with them and allowed Thomas to put his hand in His side. We should not, therefore, say that we have never seen God. We have seen God in the form of Christ, both as a man and in Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, as God himself, still traverses the heavenly and earthly worlds, just as He did since the beginning of time. God sent His spirit at creation. God sent His spirit throughout the Old Testament. God sent His spirit in the form of a man, Jesus, 2000 years ago. God still sends his Spirit to us today to reside in us because of the death of a tiny part of Himself, Christ, the human part. I don’t think Christ still exists or if He does, He exists as the Spirit of God. I think God in the form of Christ came to earth, accomplished His task, and returned to Himself. God conquered sin by offering a part of Himself as an oblation for the sinful nature in which mankind lived. He came in the form of the Spirit of Himself in human form and returned to Himself after His ascension in Spirit.
God sent his Word (Logos), a part of God that can be siphoned off and shared with others, to Mary. “At the moment of conception, in the womb of the Blessed Mother, through the forcefulness of God's activity, not only was the human soul of Christ created but the Word assumed the man that was conceived.” (Newadvent.org). At this miraculous conception, a human body, a human soul and human free will was conceived, and Christ , the Word, who existed before creation, with a divine soul and divine will, was placed into that human body. Therefore God, as Christ in spirit, invaded a human body. Thus the man, Jesus, had two souls and two free wills, one human and one divine and God lived in a human body. “The effect of the Incarnation on the human will of Christ was to leave it free in all things save only sin. It was absolutely impossible that any stain of sin should soil the soul of Christ.” (Newadvent.org). According to the Church each separate nature of Christ had its own separate will, a divine will and a human will. “Christ did acts of adoration (John 4:22), humility (Matthew 11:29), reverence (Hebrews 5:7). These acts are those of a human will. The Monothelites denied that there was a human will in Christ. Jesus prayed: "Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done," (Luke 22:42). Here there is demonstration of two wills, the Father's and Christ's. The will of Christ was subject to the will of the Father. "As the Father hath given me commandment, so do I" (John 14:31). He became obedient even unto death (Philippians 2:8).” (Newadvent.org). These two wills were not comingled but distinct. Christ was essentially talking to Himself. His human will asked His divine will to free Him from crucifixion. Yet they cooperated with each other. Christ experienced human desires but had complete control with His divine will. In addition to two wills, Christ experienced human emotions within two separate souls. “He was subject to anger against the blindness of heart of sinners (Mark 3:5); to fear (Mark 14:33); to sadness (Matthew 26:37): to the sensible affections of hope, of desire, and of joy. These likes and dislikes were under the complete will-control of Christ…He could not have been tempted by such likes and dislikes to sin” because of His divinity. (Newadvent.org). Christ’s soul was the exact same nature as God’s soul: omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. He existed on earth as God but acted human also. As a human he loved John more than the others and he agonized over His death. As God He performed miracles and told of the future regarding His death and resurrection and the destruction of Jerusalem. While physically on this earth, Jesus could read minds and could forgive sins just as God can.
Someone might say my ideas are heretical and are similar to Sabellianism. Sabellius became the leader of the Monarchians in Rome. Sabellius, considered a founder of an early movement, was a priest who was excommunicated from the Church by Pope Callixtus I in 220 and lived in Rome. Sabellius advanced the doctrine of one God sometimes referred to as “economic Trinity” and he opposed the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of the “essential Trinity”. God is said to have three "faces" or "masks" (Greek πρόσωπα prosopa; Latin personae). Modalists note that the only number ascribed to God in the Holy Bible is One and that there is no inherent threeness ascribed to God explicitly in scripture.
“The distinction of the Son from the Father was so spoken of that the Son appeared to have functions of His own, apart from the Father, with regard to the creation and preservation of the world, and thus to be a derivative and secondary God. The unity of the Divinity was commonly guarded by a reference to a unity of origin. It was said that God from eternity was alone, with His Word, one with Him (as Reason, in vulca cordis, logos endiathetos), before the Word was spoken (ex ore Patris, logos prophorikos), or was generated and became Son for the purpose of creation. The Alexandrians alone insisted rightly on the generation of the Son from all eternity; but thus the Unity of God was even less manifest. The writers who thus theologize may often expressly teach the traditional Unity in Trinity, but it hardly squares with the Platonism of their philosophy. The theologians were thus defending the doctrine of the Logos at the expense of the two fundamental doctrines of Christianity, the Unity of God, and the Divinity of Christ. They seemed to make the Unity of the Godhead split into two or even three, and to make Jesus Christ something less than the supreme God the Father.” Newadvent.org.
It seems to me that we have to first describe what God is before we can get a working definition of the son and the Holy Spirit.
Hypostatic Union is the term used to explain Christ being one person with two natures. Hypostasis is the underlying state or underlying substance, and is the fundamental reality that supports all else. It is the form of Plato, the substance of Aristotle, the one of Plotinus and the God of Origen. With regard to humans the term refers to the person. In Early Christian writings, hypostasis is used to denote "being" or "substantive reality" and is not always distinguished in meaning from ousia ('essence' or 'substance').marked by Council of Chalcedon, the Word came to be contrasted with ousia and used to mean "individual reality," Prosopon originally meant "face" or "mask" in Greek. Prosopon is the form in which hypostasis appears. Every nature and every hypostasis has its own proper prosopon: face or countenance. It gives expression to the reality of the nature with its powers and characteristics. In hypostatic union the natures remain distinct because the union is on the level of Christ's hypostasis, not his natures (physes).
The Holy Spirit is the effectuating power of God. When God decides to act, His Word, which is Christ Himself, issues commands and these commands are carried out by the enforcer, the Holy Spirit. God’s commands are promulgated, executed and enforced through the divine and natural laws which He enacted. The Holy Spirit is a very powerful part of God. The Holy Spirit is the reason for Gods omnipresence. He is everywhere at all times.
If Christ is God and God is the Holy Spirit then Christ is the Holy Spirit. God exists in spirit. God is all powerful, all-knowing and all present. He retains these perfected qualities in His other forms of existence, His Word and His Spirit. God sent the Word, which was Christ, in spirit to occupy the soul of the human being, Jesus, who transubstantiated into humanity only for His short stay on earth. God turned humanity into Himself, human yet divine.
In my opinion Christ was like a bit of mercury. Have you ever broken a thermometer that contains mercury? While the mercury is within the glass tube, it stays together as a blob. But if let out of the tube, it creates many little balls of mercury that roll around the floor. But if you put the little balls next to each other, they rejoin as if a miracle, and reform the blob again. If that is not a good mental picture, think about an explosion on the surface of the sun. When the sun erupts, part of the molten rock erupts away from the sun’s surface but is pulled back to the sun by gravity. If not, we would have chunks of the sun floating around our solar system. In these two examples, Christ is the little balls of mercury and the molten rock that attempts to escape the sun during eruptions. They exists independently from the blob or the sun for a while but they return from which they came. Notice that the little balls of mercury and the erupted molten rock remain the same substance as the blob of mercury and the sun when they become separated. God also sends His Spirit to us in the same way, same substance but different form. The Word is the Son. Wisdom and grace is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is energy released from God and absorbed by man. This energy escapes the primary substance (God), resides with those who seek it and yearns to return to the original substance (God.) God’s substance never changes. His ‘coming’ changed us, though. He changed human composition. We can now live with the Spirit and die and return to heaven in spirit, that is, if we have God’s Spirit in us, that little piece of the sun longing to reunite with the blob. And just imagine. We also have God on earth with us in another form, in addition to Spirit. If God equals Christ and Christ equals Eucharist, then Eucharist equals God. We don’t consume Christ. We ingest God.
These past controversies help us explain God in today’s world with contemporary examples. Church history was a progression of tests. Hypothesis were put forward, reality examined and conclusions made, mostly in political conflict. Councils were formed to decide these issues. Man with our finite intelligence has decided what God is and Christ was (or is). We should still seek answers, however. A simple Creed does not answer the questions I still have.