Neither Fish Nor Fowl

As I read through Gregg and Groh’s book Early Arianism–A View of Salvation, I have found their description of Arianism to be helpful and enlightening. But what has disturbed me is how familiar it sounds. The Arian vision of Christ as a creature (though created first and as the greatest of all creatures) was (to them) not an attempt to demote Christ from God to creature but to show what we, as creatures, can become. That is, Christ is the ideal creature, the Stoic sage (but, cf. Hanson’s critique of the Arian use of Stoicism in The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, 97-98). After all, Christians are to be imitators of Christ, and we can only do that insofar as it is creaturely possible. A Christ who is by nature God knows nothing of the struggles and changeability of creaturely existence.  It is specifically this which rings so familiar in my ears, often in view of the kenotic position of Christology (i.e., Christ gave up all the divine prerogatives, especially foreknowledge). “What benefit is it to me that Jesus suffered if he could not be agitated in the same way that I am?” Arius, and the early Arians would agree. So it seems to me that if my small sample size is reflective of anything in the broader Evangelical culture, contemporary lay-Trinitarian theology is neither orthodox (i.e., giving priority to the essential identity of the Father and the Son) nor Arian (i.e., emphasizing the relation of the Son to the will of the Father). Instead, it seems to be orthodox in confession but Arian in motivation, and thus, neither fish nor fowl.

What is the cause for such conflagration? Granted, there are many factors that could be involved including later orthodox reflection such as found in Maximus the Confessor. But I do wonder if American experientialism makes it easier to find greater value in a Christ who struggles–just like me.

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