Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Our Collective Faith and Heresies 6

Heresies.jpgThe next heresy in B. Quash and M. Ward, Heresies and How to Avoid Them: Why It Matters What Christians Believe  concerns adoptionism: the view that believes in a double sonship for Christ. The chp is by Rachel Muers, a Quaker professor at Exeter.


First, he is Son of God by generation and nature; second, as a human he becomes God’s Son by adoption. This heresy was thought to separate the deity of Christ too sharply from his humanity. This view arose in the 8th Century, in Toledo Spain, and is connected to Elipandus. It was deemed heresy by Pope Hadrian I in 785 AD and at Frankfurt in 794.

Muers quickly reveals that the more popular view is that Jesus was adopted as God’s Son at the baptism. She knows the issue is more complex than this. Adoptionists, therefore, do not deny the Trinity and neither do they deny that the Son was/is eternally God. So, the issue is how to speak well of Jesus being the Son of God as a human.

Muer argues it is very important to affirm the humanity of Christ and not to make him less than human. Adoptionists wanted to affirm that everything God gives to Jesus, God gives to us. They pressed the doctrine of co-humanity to the extreme.


Her point as she sums up our collective faith: nothing could make Jesus God”s Son because he was — eternally — God’s Son. And this has to do with Jesus as example: he’s more than that. It’s his Sonship and his life, death, resurrection — and our participation in those events — that make us children of God, that give to us adoption.

Comments read comments(5)
post a comment
Scot McKnight

posted April 1, 2009 at 7:21 am

I thought I’d kick-start this discussion by appealing to the last comment I made to Charles on the previous post about orthodoxy and heresy:
You’re language prejudices the case because you’ve equated any view
that God cares what one believes with a petty bureaucrat.
The issues are these: Does one have to believe in Jesus Christ? Let’s
say yes. Once one admits that, one has to ask what one has to believe
about Jesus Christ for it to be the real, apostolically-understood
Jesus Christ.
One more issue to others in this series:
It is true that not all believed in these orthodox tenets. That the church had to discuss these things shows variations. The issue here is not that there were variations but which variations fit within the apostolic faith in Jesus Christ (and the nature of God). The central issues arose early and the Church had to work its way through what was consistent with the faith already believed and what was not. Once those issues were worked through, orthodoxy became what we have always believed.

report abuse

Travis Greene

posted April 1, 2009 at 9:30 am

Plus, to respond specifically to Charles’ comment, nobody’s talking about the afterlife. That may be an appropriate subject to think through, but nothing so far in this series (so far as I’ve noticed) has contended that any and all heretics are summarily doomed to hell. If you heard your brother talking about your parents in a way that you thought fundamentally misunderstood who they are, you’d want to correct him. You wouldn’t assume that he’s automatically out of the family, forever.

report abuse


posted April 1, 2009 at 10:24 am

How does an adoptionist understand Colossians 1 and all things being created through Christ, who was present during the creation?

report abuse

Dave Leigh

posted April 1, 2009 at 11:51 am

Years ago I heard John MacArthur say he believed Jesus was always the Second Person of the Trinity but only became the “Son” at his human birth. I went to his commentary on Hebrews, published by Moody Press, and found he had actually published this view. I was shocked at him and Moody Press because it seems to me that this would fall under or close to this heresy. Someone told me recently that MacArthur had changed his view on this. Does anyone know if that’s the case? Either way, am I correct in equating these views?

report abuse

Mike M

posted April 1, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Scot said: “Does one have to believe in Jesus Christ? Let’s say yes.”
Yes to what? I think I’m starting to get a handle on this. My reading of Chalcedon is that the church replaced “faith in Jesus” (which is a difficult concept, especially since it requires not only mental but also physical effort) with “believe that Jesus is God” (which is easy to believe) to define what a Christian is. This is true genius, too. Define who Jesus is (and those are really impressive arguments), make that ‘belief’ the means test for church entry, then make everyone a heretic who doesn’t buy the party line.
I confirmed that, too, from the Eastern Orthodox website.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog ...

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the ...

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: ...

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's ...

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or ...

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.