The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, October 29, 2011

John Gerstner vs. Arius in Narnia

This is a paper I submitted for my church history class. Enjoy!









Location: Narnia, underneath the lamppost.
Time: Evening, during the reign of the wicked white witch and her perpetual winter.
Characters: John Gerstner, Arius

                “What? Where are we? And is that… is that Arius? What are you doing here, you dirty old heretic!” John Gerstner exclaimed gruffly, squinting his eyes from beneath his black-rimmed glasses.
                “Why, aren’t you a funny looking man, with little hair, no beard and a smashed face. I was just walking into this cave after being exiled by that darn emperor Constantine with two of my companions[1], and suddenly, I arrived here, beneath this glowing orb on a pole, next to you in this calf-deep snow,” Arius responded, quite confused.
                “Ah, well never mind. It appears we are in Narnia Arius. I know you don’t know what that is, but shoot, you didn’t know that Jesus was God either. Perhaps this is God giving me the opportunity to dialogue with you to glean more information about early church history to help further the Kingdom. Eh, well, so much for cessationism I suppose.”
                “How can you say that Jesus was God Gerstner? If He was God, then Scripture was wrong when it said that God was one, and if you call yourself a lover of the church and a lover of God, you dare not take a position that falsifies His Word!” Arius deftly formed a snowball and flung it at Gerstner’s face, but Gerstner, ever alert, eluded the compacted ice crystals with a quick roll.
                “Nice try Arius, but snowballs don’t win debates. Tell me, what do you say to Jesus’ words in John 10:30, ‘I and the Father are One?’”
                “Bah, Gerstner, what concern is that to me? There is a union between the Father and the Son, to be sure, but this union does not necessarily equate to Jesus being divine. And I did not anticipate a frail old man like you being so nimble. Curses!”
                “Oh Arius, Arius, Arius, the book of John opens by saying ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.’ It says Jesus was God, without any qualifications. Certainly if Jesus was God, He was divine, can’t you get that through your thick head!” Gerstner shoveled some snow with his hands at Arius. Not being as deft as his counterpart, the snow cascaded down from the heavens like a powdery blanket and landed on Arius’ face and body.
                “You jerk!” exclaimed Arius as he brushed off the snow from his shoulders and shook his head. “You are no different than my Bishop Alexander- cruel and with nothing to back up your heretical beliefs! I believe that God created Jesus, before the creation of the world or anything else, and that Jesus was God’s greatest creation ever. Indeed, it is clear from the Bible that everything God made was through Christ. However, we cannot say that Christ was eternal; he was very much like God in all these other ways, but to say that Jesus too is God, uncreated and eternal, would create two separate gods, something that Scripture vehemently denies.”[2]
                “Oh my,” said Gerstner dejectedly, “you are missing the point of the passage Arius. Jesus said He and the Father were one, not two! Two in persons to be sure, but one in essence. Homo-ousios, not Homoi-ousios. But I know you don’t believe that. I’ve read the history books about you.”[3]
                “No no no! It is homoi-ousios. Otherwise Jesus would be eternal and self-existent, making Him divine like God. That cannot be,” said Arius, still exasperated from having the snow thrown on him.
                “Well friend, let us look at the passage from John 1 a bit more closely, shall we? Does it not say that Jesus from the beginning existed, that the Word was in the beginning with God? The beginning does not mean after the beginning, but the beginning!”
                “No, the beginning implies that at some point in time God created Jesus, for if Jesus were eternal there would be no sense in speaking of a beginning,” Arius responded defiantly.
                “Poppycock!” retorted Gerstner. “Arius, because of the finitude of our minds, God must condescend to us and speak in human terms. We cannot fathom eternity past, so Scripture says “in the beginning” to help us see that always and forever has both God the Father and God the Son, Jesus, existed. You freely admit that Christ existed before the universe was made, correct?”
                “Yes, and your point would be what?” said Arius, looking up and becoming a bit distracted by the lamp that he thought was a magical glowing ball on a stick. Gerstner seized the moment and scarfed up another snowball, promptly pelting Arius in the face with it.
                “Ha-ha,” Gerstner sneered. “I still got some life left in my throwing arm. But anyways my poor Arius, the point is simply this- time did not begin until the world began, until the universe was made. God acts, He creates, in space and time. But if Jesus existed before the world began, He existed before time began. And if there is no time, there is no beginning in that sense of the word. Therefore, Arius, it would appear your conclusions are wrong and mine are correct. What say you?”
                “What say I? I say that you are far worse than even the followers of Origen! At least they claimed that Jesus was a lesser form of divine than God.”
                “True, they were in error there, but they were still orthodox, unlike you Arius.”[4]
                “Oh nevermind that! I’ll have to study up more on that Gerstner, I can see what you are saying to some extent, but that still doesn’t resolve the problem of there being two separate gods in my mind. And how can you be so surreptitious with your throwing of the snowballs at me?”
                “Snowball throwing, like destroying chumps in debates, is my forte Arius,” Gerstner said confidently, folding his arms across his chest. “It’s a good thing my Calvinism is keeping me humble- ha! At any rate, the two god problem is resolved like this, and I’ll grant that there is some mystery involved, but hear me out. I’m going to tell you something that, from your perspective, will be in the future, but for me, will be in the distant past. After you had passed away, some other theologians came along with a new theological term to describe the trinity, or the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They said that God and Jesus had one ousia, or nature which Father and Son both share equally, but there is also a hypostasis, which is the way in which the divine nature is distinctively shared between Father and Son. This makes them separate persons.”
                Arius, who had begun to stare at the glowing orb on the stick again, hurriedly turned his attention to Gerstner.
                “Ah, I knew that would obviate your focus,” Gerstner said with glee.
                “Alright so let me get this straight,” Arius spoke after the glaze over his mind wore off. “Are you saying God is like a three-sided mountain, and if we only see one side, we see one of the members of the trinity, either the Father, Son or Holy Spirit? Yet each side of the mountain looks different, even though they are of the same substance, or, I….I suppose you could say, the same nature?” The lights were beginning to come on for Arius.[5]
                “Indeed, indeed,” said Gerstner with a grin as big as the Cheshire cat.
                “But then…in what ways are they distinguished?” asked Arius.
                “I am glad you asked that,” said Gerstner, assuming his usual professorial air. “God the Father shares His divine nature with His Son and the Holy Spirit equally. He shares it with His Son, begotten from all eternity. It is shared with the Spirit because God has eternally breathed the Spirit forth. Therefore, the possession of this nature is unique to each member of the Godhead. God the Father possesses the divine nature from Himself alone. The Son derives the divine nature from His Father just like a child from a parent; however this is from the standpoint of eternity, sometimes called ‘eternal generation.’ And the Holy Spirit possesses the divine nature because He eternally proceeds from God- He is the very Breath of God.”[6]
                “My, my heavens!” Arius exclaimed. “I’ve never thought of it like that. I…I concede that, on the surface of things, that at the least seems very plausible.” Arius sat on the ground cross-legged in befuddlement, his jaw slack and eyes agape.
                Gerstner, feeling a bit of remorse now from pummeling the now dejected Arius with snowballs, walked next to him and patted him on the back. “I’m sorry for smacking you in the face with that snowball Arius. I just got excited. I mean, it’s not every day that someone gets to hit an ancient heretic in the face with something, in Narnia no less! I can’t wait till I get to tell R.C. Sproul about this, boy he’ll never believe it.”
                “Um, that does not sound like much of an apology, but I suppose I can forgive you,” said Arius, staring at the snow in front of him, still trying to mentally pick up all the pieces of his shattered doctrine. “Tell me, whatever became of my followers?”
                “Well,” said Gerstner with a sigh, “Thankfully they vanished into the annals of history, not unlike many ancient heresies. However after the Protestant Reformation some 1,000 years later, forms of Arianism resurfaced, such as the Socinians. One could even argue that currently the Jehovah’s Witnesses have their roots in your heretical teachings my dear Arius. And as I am sure you are all too well aware, the Nicene Creed was formulated to repudiate your teachings. It is still well known and talked about to this day.[7]”  
                “Wow, the importance of such issues that we were debating really were important for the course of church history, nay, human history, weren’t they John?”
                “Indeed they were, Arius, indeed they were,” Gerstner responded. The two remained transfixed where they stood, the snow still falling softly from the silent sky above the frosted trees. All was silent, reflecting the somber mood of the two important men, separated by centuries yet brought together by the magic of the Narnian world. 
                “Alas,” said Gerstner after another moment. “Arius, get up old chap, I know the story of this world all too well. Soon enough I will be able to interest you in what we call Turkish delight. It’s very tasty, but the one who offers it, much like the devil, is quite the temptress.”
                “Ah, I do believe I would much like to try some of this Turkish delight, even if it is offered by a devil,” said Arius.  
                The two stood up and began walking further into the snow-laden forest, as if old friends, then slowly disappeared out of sight, hidden beneath the fog of the falling snow. 

5 New Words
·         Cessationism- the view that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues, prophecy and healing, ceased being practiced early on in Church history.
·         Poppycock- empty talk or writing.
·         Surreptitious- done, made, or acquired by stealth
·         Hypostasis- the substance or essential nature of an individual
·         Socinianism- an adherent of a 16th and 17th century theological movement professing belief in God and adherence to the Christian Scriptures but denying the divinity of Christ and consequently denying the Trinity



[1] Nicholas R. Needham, 2,000 Years of Christ's Power: Part One: The Age of the Early Church Fathers (New York: EP BOOKS, 1998), 205
[2] Nicholas R. Needham, 2,000 Years of Christ's Power: Part One: The Age of the Early Church Fathers (New York: EP BOOKS, 1998), 201
[3] Ibid. 211-212
[4] Nicholas R. Needham, 2,000 Years of Christ's Power: Part One: The Age of the Early Church Fathers (New York: EP BOOKS, 1998), 206
[5] Nicholas R. Needham, 2,000 Years of Christ's Power: Part One: The Age of the Early Church Fathers (New York: EP BOOKS, 1998), 221
[6] Nicholas R. Needham, 2,000 Years of Christ's Power: Part One: The Age of the Early Church Fathers (New York: EP BOOKS, 1998), 221
[7] Ibid. 222

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