Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost…
Dualism will change the way you view God, the world, redemption, the possibility of knowing truth, and your view of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. As you grow in your walk with the LORD, as you “grow in grace and knowledge” as commanded, you will need to address the issue of dualism–it has crept in at various times in Church history, necessitating the Nicene Creed even. It creeps in still, we must guard against it, and teach the next generation to recognize and refute it.
The Word became flesh when Greco-Roman dualism abounded. When Stoics, Platonists, and other forms of Gnosticism asserted that matter was evil, we must get out of these bodies to have real life and purpose and happiness. Yet Jesus had come in a body! He also rose in a body. We are promised a body like His, like the one seen and touched by the apostles and other witnesses. What God created is good, even if the Platonists of today again assert otherwise.
Why this matters today:
“In recent years, however, the New Testament has too often suffered from hermeneutical methods governed by damaging dualist and analytical epistemologies in which form and being, or structure and substance, have been torn apart, with the result that the gospels and epistles and other books that comprise it become severed from their deep roots in divine revelation and thereby lose the consistent substructure that holds them conceptually and meaningfully together. Here we have sadly breaking through the teaching of the Church once again the epistemological dualism that infected late Patristic, Medieval, Enlightenment thought and disrupted the doctrine of the Trinity by driving a wedge between the historical and ontological factors or ingredients in God’s triune self-revelation through Christ and in the Spirit, so that an understanding of what God is for us is severed from what God is in himself.” Torrance, Christian Doctrine of God, page 35
In other words, dualism changes the way we read, approach, and interpret Scripture.
This quote from Torrance may sound a bit daunting to unpack, but is important for you to understand whether you have incorporated dualism into your thinking, and into your theology–and if you have, it is time to be renewed in your mind, letting those opposing thoughts go, clinging to the truth with a new vigor, and in the delight of knowing Him.
At the root, dualism separates God’s acts from His being. This leads many to believe that they can have or posses, apart from God, what can only be found in Him. Love, life, light, power… He is love, and does not give us a love that is separate from Himself.
Growing up, this dualism crept into the teachings I heard most often through people trying to say “was that Jesus’ divinity or His humanity?” Beloved, these are false questions; Jesus is not two beings. He is the God-Man, not a god and a man smooshed together.
Spend some time studying and meditating on the following section, in light of what the title “Christ” means, and what the rest of Scripture teaches concerning the Christ, concerning Jesus, what Jesus said of Himself, and about the fulness of times (i.e. proper time) in which He came, in which He was sent. This is a study that will take time, be patient–enjoy the slow walk, walking at His pace.
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.1 Timothy 2:5-7
Dualism denies the Trinity
It also crept in through the teaching that the Trinity is like an egg… or like a person is a father to his children, a husband to his wife, and a son to his own parents… Nope, this is heresy; heresy that makes sense if you accept dualism and want to fragment your god. We end up with three gods, or one god who is only able to be one portion of who he is at any given time.
This is not the One True Living God, who is always eternally Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We must learn to recognize these attempts as heresy, set this dualism aside and abide in the Word. (See book recommendations below!)
Two basic types:
Cosmological dualism says God is separate from world, because He is above His creation. These dualists would have you hate the created world. They claim our need is to escape this created world. Ultimately, this is a denial of God’s goodness, a denial of His delight in His creation. In this denial you call God a liar. These dualists separate matter and ‘spirit’, or material from immaterial.
Yet we are whole and are not the sum of our parts. We are not a body with a soul; we are not a soul with a body; we are a person! A whole person. Fragmentation hurts and destroys what God has created. He died on the cross to redeem me, not part of me. He assumed a nature like ours to redeem our whole self, not leaving behind that evil material part (body).
Epistemological dualism claims that what can be known and what is true never meet. We only know forms (Plato) never the thing as it is in itself (Kant). God is so ‘other’ that we can only know things that hint at the truth. The Truth displayed in the Incarnation, Logos taking on flesh, undoes this false teaching.
Without knowing it…
Many churches and speakers unintentionally conform to dualism–most Western thinkers do. The teaching is passed quite easily to those who do not study on their own. Let this be a call “study” and continue in His Word (John 8; 1 and 2 Timothy), caring about doctrine.
To fully believe God concerning our union with Christ, concerning our hope, and even our ability to know Him–we must fight those dualistic tendencies rather than dismissing them as unimportant. Dualism says you cannot know God; and though it is a dim vision–we have a true knowledge. Though much of what we know is difficult to put into words, “the Trinity is more to be adored than explained” (T.F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God) for example–yet The Word became flesh that we would know Him, and understand, and speak.
Most dualists compartmentalize heart and mind, and therefore teach that you can know God in mind without knowing Him in heart. This teaching makes sense when you isolate passages of Scripture; true Biblical theology understands Scripture in light of all of Scripture, and seeks understanding without isolating passages.
And so, beloved, as dead in trespasses in sins we cannot know Him, whether you attempt to know Him in heart or mind. Once alive in Christ we do know Him, and are known by Him, and never cease from growing in our knowledge. At times the Spirit will show us that we are ‘double-minded’ (see James 4:1-10) but never that we are partly alive in Christ, or partially redeemed, or partially His child. Alive or dead, knowing Him or not, light or darkness.
Speaking wisdom with those who are mature, (1 Corinthians 2-3) or speaking plainly with those who are just beginning to grow; either way we will not mix in worldly dualistic philosophies in order to tweak the Gospel or make it more palatable. We will proclaim His excellencies, without saying “but, who can know?” We will teach one another, admonish one another, and grow together toward a true knowledge, knowing this renewal and growth is from the LORD.
God has spoken to us in His Son, and pours it into our hearts and minds (which cannot be separated) through His Spirit (the Spirit who regenerates us, refreshes and renews us, anoints us, teaches us…).
We will not be easily swayed by every philosophy that resurfaces, challenging the Truth. We will remain rooted and grounded in love, in faith, in knowledge…
We will contend for the faith once for all handed down, and cling to what the apostles spoke and wrote (Jude; Ephesians 2; 2 Thessalonians 3). We will speak the things fitting for sound doctrine, delighting that there is and ever will be sound doctrine in His True Church (Titus 1-2).
And we groan, we groan with His Spirit; not to be unclothed, but further clothed in our heavenly bodies (2 Corinthians 5). Our true hope is not to escape the bodily life, but to be free of all the affects of the fall when He takes us home, as we dwell in our true home, in our resurrection bodies, in the new heavens and new earth.
The Spirit and the bride say: Come LORD Jesus! (Revelation 22)
Examine your faith, examine as you read and pray–do you separate God into pieces? Do you separate who you are into parts and pieces? Why? Consider yourself a whole person, and how all of you is intimately interconnected, not to be fragmented.
If you have never, now is the perfect time to spend a season meditating on the Nicene Creed, and God’s Oneness. One True God, three persons; inseparable, equal in power and glory! Equally to be adored and worshipped. Whatever Jesus revealed about God, it is true of the One True and Living Triune God. https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/nicene-creed
God is the Source, and offers us all that we have “in” Himself. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-4). God is love, love is not a possession He hands out, He offers us love in Himself, not a commodity that we can take. What ways have you misunderstood what God promises? The doctrine of our Union with Christ can heal so many of these misunderstandings! You are either “in Adam” or “in Christ” but do not have anything in Christ yet separate from Christ.
Meditate on what God teaches in His Word concerning loving God and serving God, not as though you could do so with your head but not your heart–but as though you were a whole person, a being incapable of being dissected into parts. God hated those who believed they could worship with their lips yet their heart was far from Him. We either love, or do not; we worship or we do not; there is not “well I love Him in my mind but not in my…”
“When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and he will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. Al things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that he takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”John 16:13-15
Notice the oneness of the Triune God, oneness in purpose, in knowledge, in revealing knowledge, in act and being. Look for this oneness of the Trinity as you read, you will be delighted! Look for this especially as you ponder the Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, and whether Jesus accomplished anything on your behalf.
photo by Giomarco Boscaro on Unsplash