Paul Tillich, A History Of Christian Thought – Table of Contents

Monarchianism. Sabellius. The Arian Controversy. Nicaea.

We finished yesterday with a special type of reaction against the Logos Christology, namely what is called dynamic monarchianism. I know that these lectures are the most difficult in the whole course, and so I will not shy away from repetition.

The Logos Christology, as invented by the Apologists and carried through to a full victory by Clement and Origen, is a method of making the universality and uniqueness of the event Jesus understandable to the Greek mind. The only way in which this could be done at that time was to establish a Divine power within God Himself which appears in the historical Jesus. We find this early in the Fourth Gospel, we find it in all Gnostic literature, and we find it in a most philosophical form in the Apologetic attempt to defend Christianity. Then we find it in the context of a universal philosophical system derived from the Alexandrian scheme of emanation and return of the soul, by Origen.

This was one line of thought in the early Christian Church It was a line of thought which, as many Christians believed, is more “Athens” than “Jerusalem.” For this reason they resisted it, and they did so in the name of what is called the Divine monarchy: God alone rules and God alone must be seen in Christ. This is the meaning of the Monarchianistic reaction against the Logos Christology. It is in some way a reaction in which Old Testament feelings react against Greek ideas. But this is too simple, as the subject of the Forum is too simple in its formulation, and perhaps for this very reason most interesting.

The Monarchianistic movement itself was split. There was one (movement) which followed the adoptionistic Christology, which says that God, or the Logos, or the Spirit, has adopted a fully human being and made him into the Christ, and gave him the possibility of becoming fully deified in his resurrection. But this adoptionist Christology, which we find especially in the West – Theodotus of Rome – and which influenced the basic Roman feeling to a great extent, also had a representative in the East, Paul of Samosata. This Christology started with human existence, tried to understand humanity and to emphasize the Biblical words in which the humanity is emphasized, and then to show that this man was driven by the Divine Spirit and was finally elevated into the Divine sphere.