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Really Bad Theology

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Thursday, October 25, 2018

Really Bad Theology

There has been an ongoing study of the state of American theology conducted by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research, and it hasn’t been pretty.

After examining 34 core beliefs, Christianity Today magazine titled their summary article, “Christian, What Do You Believe? Probably a Heresy…”

There was much to lament.

A majority of U.S. adults (59%) say that the Holy Spirit is a force, not a Person.

Six in 10 Americans agree that “religious belief is a matter of personal opinion [and] not about objective truth.”

Most Christians believe that people are basically good (52%), that God accepts the worship of all religions (51%) and that Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father (78%).

Okay, the Holy Spirit is a Person. Religious belief better be about objective truth, or it’s about nothing at all. People are NOT basically good. God does not accept the worship of all religions, particularly when those religions don’t even recognize who He is. And Jesus was created?

A little church history.

The Arian controversy of the fourth century is widely regarded as one of the most significant in all of Christian history. A man named Arius (who lived between 250-336) argued that the scriptural titles for Christ, which seemed to point to Christ’s equality with God, were merely courtesy titles. In truth, Arius said, Christ was to be seen as a creature—although the first among all creatures. So, while the Son is not like any other creature, Arius argued that He is a creature nonetheless. He even said that the Son was a perfect creature and outranked all other creatures, but was indeed created. Hence the phrase of Arius, “There was once when He was not.”

So much for the Trinity.

Arius was attempting to draw on a number of biblical passages. In John 14, you have Jesus saying that the Father is greater than He is. In Mark 13, Jesus says that no one knows when the second coming will be – not even Him – only the Father. So Arius and his followers maintained that Jesus was similar to the Father in nature or essence, but not the same as the Father in nature or essence.

This received a swift and hostile reaction from many within the church who were able to marshal an impressive number of biblical passages to combat his ideas and point to the fundamental unity between the Father and the Son. Also, the passages that the Arians used were shown to be misinterpreted, missing out on the subordination of the Son to the Father during the incarnation, and how His language reflected that state of subordination. In other words, in His incarnation, Jesus filled a different role. 

It was also argued that the divinity of Christ was of central importance to the Christian idea of salvation. If what Arius was maintaining was true, Christ could not save anyone—no creature can save another creature. Only God can save and even Arius seemed to agree that, according to the New Testament, salvation was meant to come through Jesus.

Sorry for such a stiff drink. But let’s be clear: Jesus was God Himself in human form, the second Person of Trinity.

Any other view is quite simply heresy.

James Emery White


Jeremy Weber, “Christian, What Do You Believe? Probably a Heresy About Jesus, Says Survey,” Christianity Today, October 16, 2018, read online

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

Really Bad Theology