Ronny Milliner and Neo-Apollinarianism
by Kenneth E. Thomas
I have before me a print out from Ron Milliner's electronic magazine, "The Seeker" wherein he attempts to prejudice his readers concerning what some among us believe relative to Jesus' incarnation, by accusing them of being guilty of what he perceives to be the heresies held by a man in the fourth century by the name of Apollinarius. Hence the title of his article "Neo Apollinarianism."
I for one had never read a line of print attributed to Apollinarius in my life until Ronny and some of his ilk began to quote from him. Too, Ronny is mighty close with Roy Lanier Sr. when what Roy has to say suits his purposes. He would no doubt distance himself from him or his writings if we were discussing the work and organization of the churches of Christ. Error often makes "strange bed fellows."
Ronny quotes from Gene Frost, Tim Haile, Dudley Spears, Maurice Barnett, Walton Weaver, Weldon Warnock, and J. Wiley Adams among others, so he isn't the least bit timid about calling names and branding those who disagree with him as heretics. Well Ronny, I guess your definition of a heretic includes me as well, because as far as I am able to tell, I agree with most, if not all of what some of those men you named believed about Jesus, then and now.
One cautionary note should be made having stated the above. Before this question became the issue that it presently is, some of us made statements that we never would have made had we any idea that some of the current positions would have ever been taken. Twenty to thirty years ago, I never would have dreamed that I would be dealing with brethren who claim Jesus was "the essence of God," but without the attributes of God. Of course I realize that some have modified their language regarding the Lord's attributes. Rather than continuing to say that Jesus "surrendered, abdicated or gave up" those attributes, these brethren now say Jesus was without the attributes in the sense that He "could not use them." They say His "use" of such attributes, during His incarnation, would have been to deny His humanity. Both methods of expression result in the same faulty conclusion, which is a denial of the Lord's full deity.
Had I anticipated the formation of such an ungodly view of my Savior, I would no doubt have used different language to express myself in my earlier writings on this subject. When some of those statements were made, I know that myself and others held a firm belief, as we do now, in both the deity and the humanity of Jesus. We had no idea that one day we would have fellow gospel preachers claiming that "only God (the Father ket) possesses immortality," using 1 Timothy 6:16 in the exact same way as do the modernist and the Jehovah's Witnesses and as you did in your article.
Unless we concede that Jesus became "exactly in every way just like you and me," Milliner says we have denied the humanity of Jesus! Not so of course! While attempting to so depict us, Ronny has obviously said more than he intended to say and has denied the full deity of Jesus, teaching the Welch doctrine which claims that Jesus' Spirit was changed with the incarnation. As one of them said, He was changed "body, soul, and spirit."
By making a distinction between the human attributes that we received from Jesus in our creation, and the attributes that Jesus possessed as a man, Ronny comes very close, if not totally there, in claiming that Jesus had two spirits - one human and the other divine. Ronny hopes to convey the notion that Jesus just had one spirit, which was divine, though changed. However, his argument that this changed divine spirit only possesses the essence of God, seems to suggest that He lacked the reality of God. Essence without attributes is essence without reality! Will he accept the conclusions he has intimated? We shall see what we shall see?
I wonder Ronny, when can we tell which spirit was in control? I wonder also when Jesus died on the cross why did He not say, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirits," (plural), if your position is correct?
To document some of what I said above, let me show you what Ronny said about the characteristics of Apollinarianism. He said "these might be listed as follows:"
1. Jesus was not fully human as you and I are.
2. Jesus just appeared to be a man.
3. Jesus did not have a human spirit, but rather a divine spirit simply took on a fleshly body.
4. There was no change in Jesus' inner nature because of the unchangeableness of God.
5. Because of His deity Jesus was not tempted to sin as we are.
I suggest that Ronny rejects all of the above since he rejects what he describes as Apollinarianism. Now notice where this puts him. Look at #s 3 & 4. Ronny believes Jesus had a human spirit. And, Ronny believes Jesus Spirit was changed when he became man. Now who is denying the deity of Christ? The Bible says Jesus was what Matthew stated, "God with us" (Matthew 18-23)! The Bible says "..in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form" (Colossians 2:8-11). When the Hebrew writer wrote "a body thou hast prepared Me" (Hebrews 10:5), it was God the Son who inhabited that fleshly body (John 1:1-4, 14). Thomas did not fall down before a stripped down human with none of the attributes of deity, only the "essence" of deity (what ever that means), and say, "My Lord and My God!" (John 20:28).
Ronny, you have said much more I am afraid than you are willing to admit. I have had many discussions with the Jehovah's Witnesses and they make many of your same arguments but at least they accept their consequences and admit that they deny the deity of Jesus. To them he was only "a god" and not Jehovah. I suggest to you and to any of your persuasion that Jesus was both human and divine and when He returned to the father after His work here was finished, scripture says it was Jehovah who made His triumphant re-entry into heaven (Psalm 24:7-10).Kenneth E. Thomas
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