Keep the Spirit of St. Nicholas this Christmas, Slap Down a Heretic

I’m sure you’re all familiar with Santa Clause, the obese cola-chugging cookie-chomping fat man, who commits B&E offences across the world, organized from his crime syndicate HQ in the tax-exempt north pole, where he keeps midgets with pointy ears enslaved in his sweat shop to make cheap merchandise for Toys-R-Us.

But that Santa is not the real St. Nicholas. No, the real St. Nicholas of Myra was a die hard socialist who believed in giving hands outs to the poor and loved nothing more than slapping down heretics who denied the deity of Christ.

According to legend, St. Nicholas, the church bishop of Myra, was a delegate to the Council of Nicea in 325 AD and was part of the pro-homousios party who supported the full and equal divinity of the Son with the Father against the Arians who denied it. According to some hagiographies, Nicholas slapped Arius in the face in front of the entire assembly. He was summarily rebuked and had to apologize, but his violent outburst in the cause of orthodox Christology has been memorialized in legends and even in art.

So this Christmas season, amidst the eggnog, mistletoe, turkey, and presents, we have to wonder: Who would St. Nick slap down?

People who probably merit a good face slapping for their subordinationist Christology these days are:

Unitarians
Christadelphians
Jehovah’s witnesses
Oprah
Up to half of the Church of England
Complementarians who push the “subordinated in rank” thingy too far
And James McGrath for his book The Only True God (but go easy on James, he’s a friend)

So this Christmas season if you know someone who has a Christology so low that it could win a limbo contest against leprechauns, then follow St. Nick’s example, and slap them in the face, preferably with a soggy fish, oh and then apologize profusely. St. Nick would be proud of you.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
  • Richie

    St. Nicholas was most certainly not “a die hard socialist”. That is just your own ideology being anachronistically transposed to Nicholas so as to justify your present day beliefs about national health care, etc. However, there was no such thing in the 4th century as socialism. Socialism is the government ownership of the means of production of goods and services. It follows that the government would also control its distribution. Nicholas believed none of the above nor could the Roman Empire have carried it out even if it wanted to since it did not have the productive, administrative or logistical abilities to do so. Nicholas, on the other hand, simply believed in giving to others – NOT through government – especially to the family of faith. This would be done directly or through the church itself. Socialism does not really begin until the 19th century in either developed theory or practice until the 19th century. It was a reaction against the excesses of industrial capitalism and requires the production of an industrialized society to be viable in any significant degree. The early church cared for its own members directly and for members in other parts of the world according to their abilities to meet those needs – NOT, through the government at either the local, national or empire level. See the entire Book of Acts and the NT Letters and throw in ESV and NIV Study Bible Notes and commentaries for further explanations.

    As for your your list of those who believed in sub-ordinationist Christology you would have to also most significantly include:

    Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, himself (e.g. John 17:3; etc.)
    Peter and the other original Apostles (e.g. Acts 2:22-36; etc.)
    The Apostle Paul (I Cor. 8:6; etc.)

    After all, as you yourself have elsewhere implied, if we don’t read the NT in the light of later church tradition we will indeed end up believing just exactly what the NT itself teaches in its original context:

    “One God, the Father, and One Lord, Jesus Christ.”

    It is only when we interpret such statements in terms of later post-biblical philosophy and theology that we come up with the emerging complexities of language and thought that culminate in Nicea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon.

    • CPS

      Richie,

      I think you just *MIGHT* be taking Michael a *BIT* too seriously here.

      I don’t agree with him about socialized medicine, nor about his egalitarianism, but I also don’t think he REALLY believes Nicholas to have been a “die-hard Socialist” or that complementarians deserve an ACTUAL “face-slapping,” any more than I think he REALLY believes Santa Claus to be the head of an international crime syndicate based in the North Pole.

      Respectfully, and with sincere love, brother: ’tis the season NOW to be jolly, and ALWAYS (but ESPECIALLY now) to be charitable.

      • Richie

        CPS,

        I agree totally with your comments on charity – ALWAYS.

        However, apparently Michael’s humor is too deep for me. For me these are serious issues with serious consequences for peoples’ lives and if this is humor it is certainly humor mixed with a barely hidden underhanded slight towards others who disagree with his views on these issues. Michael is too good a scholar and too prominent an author to resort to such ways of writing. Perhaps this is just a generational thing – but, sorry, I’ve lived too long and seen too much to think its acceptable from a prominent Christian scholar like him.

        But feel free to “slap me down” anytime CPS. You write so well in all of your posts that it’s a pleasure to read them even if being on receiving end of the slap. And, I hope you, Michael and all the readers of this blog have wonderful Christmas season as we celebrate the true meaning of our savior’s birth.

        • CPS

          And a Merry Christmas to you, too Richie–thanks for your kind words!!

          (Oh, and please don’t read me as attempting to slap you down!)

          By Grace,
          Curtis Sheidler

  • William Hamilton Barnes

    Did Arius turn the other cheek?

  • SoundOn

    Arias’ views showed the deep misunderstanding of the Godhead within the church and he certainly had some false views, but his teachings were no less false than the current understanding of the Trinity. Arius teachings simply showed the beginnings of the Great Apostasy and highlighted a major division over a simple doctrine. The Church struggled to define God and therefore it was doomed to eventually split apart. Only a few hundred years after Christ’s ministry and the Church couldn’t even accurately define God anymore which is why it is so important that the Church be led by those with the appropriate Priesthood authority. The debate at the Council of Nicea lasted not just those few months, but it took another 125 years and three more major councils to finally provide an explanation that everyone could agree on. And it’s not surprising that if you read the Nicene Creed it is obvious that nothing was really defined or clarified at all. In the end it is more of a politically correct explanation rather than a doctrinally correct one. The creed declares the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be abstract where all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being. They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. With such a weak, but safe explanation one can believe whatever they want about the Godhead. One could believe that they are separate beings, or one being, or both. Trinitarinism also claims that God is immaterial, formless, and uncreated, but the problem is that this definition is not derived from nor supported by the Bible. There is no scripture to be found in the Bible that states this. Not to mention that Trinitarianism is too confusing to be true and God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33). A child should be able to understand something as simple as the Godhead. The simplest explanation for the Godhead is that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are separate and distinct beings, but united in purpose just as it is described in John chapter 17. There is no other possible explanation for their oneness based on what this chapter teaches. On the other hand there is no way a child could logically understand Trinitarianism because there is no logical explanation for it. And anyone who attempts to explain the Trinity using scripture must use a rationale that is illogical and which will become more and more complicated because it is not true.


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