Brother Ron Barnes
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Docetism, Nestorianism and Monophysitism
Dear Brother Ron
How does the Nicene creed repose to Docetism, Nestorianism and Monophysitism? I would greatly appreciate your help.
Docetists, named from the Greek word dokeo, meaning "to seem", believed Jesus only seemed to be human, but was not, and simply went through the motions of being human. Thus, when Jesus ate, they said, he only pretended to eat. The Nicene Creed declares Him to be fully human and fully God. Jesus was not a ghost or and angel who merely pretended to be mortal.
Nestorianism was named after Nestorius, archbishop of Constantinople from 428 to 431. Nestorius claimed that in Christ, a divine and a human person acted as one, but did not join to compose the unity of a single individual. In other words, there were two separate entities occupying the same body. To me, this borders on accusations of schizophrenia or demonic possession.
Monophysitism is the position that Christ has only one nature (divine), as opposed to the Chalcedonian position which holds that Christ has two natures, one divine and one human. Monophysitism would seem to be similar to the Docetists in that it denies the humanity of Jesus.
Jesus is only important as a source of spiritual enlightenment if we accept the belief that He was fully human. For an angel or a ghost to rise from the grave would be no miracle. Likewise, if a human died but a spirit arose, that would invalidate the entire message that the power of God is greater than the power of death. To me, this is the true meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection.
If Jesus was a ghost, an angel or a quick-change artist, then we have no hope of a life hereafter. This was not what Jesus told us. Jesus was just as human as you and I. The only difference between Jesus and the rest of us is that He was totally in synch with the Spirit of God. He told us many times that if we had as much faith in God as He had, we could be just like Him. This is what is meant by John 1:12-"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
So regarding the Nicene Creed, we find that it defines Jesus as "the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father". This would seem to imply that Jesus was a spirit, since Jesus told us in John 4:24, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth". But if Jesus was a spirit, this nullifies the importance of the crucifixion and resurrection. You crucify a body, not a spirit.
It also identified Jesus as "very God of very God". Jesus never claimed to be God. He referred to Himself numerous times as the "Son of man". Although Son of man is a distinct from Son of God, some gospel passages equate them in some cases, as in Mark 14:61, during the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus when the high priest asked Jesus: "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed one?"
Jesus responded "I am: and you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.". James D. G. Dunn and separately Delbert Burkett state that the interpretation of the use of "the Son of man" in the New Testament is a prime example of the limits of biblical interpretation in that after 150 years of debate no consensus on the issue has emerged.
The only logical conclusion is that Jesus was a fully human being whose spirit (or soul) was totally in tune with the Spirit of God, which was alive within Him, as it is alive within the spirit of each of us. Jesus wanted us to have that same unity of our spirit with the Holy Spirit. It is unfortunate that our concerns about the material world prevent most of us from achieving this.