One would think that of all people in the United States, evangelical Christians would get this question right. But one would be wrong to make that assumption.
Ligonier’s 2018 State of Theology survey reveals evangelicals’ reaction to the statement: “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” 73% strongly agreed; just 14% strongly disagreed.
These results reveal the abysmal state of Christological understanding among the great majority of professing evangelicals. If the full spectrum of professing Christians were surveyed, doubtless the results would be even worse. The assumption typically is that the theological acumen of evangelicals is markedly better than nominal Christianity as a whole. But in this case there is no good news.
The nature of the person of Christ was the subject of intense debate in the early centuries of the Christian church, leading to the development of the Nicene Creed in 325 and further refined and expanded at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Part of the Nicene Creed declares that Jesus Christ is “very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”
The statement proposed in the State of Theology survey reflects the ancient heresy taught by Arius in the 4th century, who viewed the Son of God as being created by the Father and therefore less than fully God. It is the same deviation from the truth promulgated today by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
If Jesus was not, as the Council of Chalcedon declared, “perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood, truly God and also truly man,” then He was not capable of paying the infinite price necessary to redeem us from our sin.
Clearly the 21st century church has much work to do in refuting the ancient heresies which have begun to reemerge among our ranks. So much of Christian preaching and teaching is currently focused on practical matters of how to deal with life’s day-to-day crises that we are losing the critical center of our faith. If the Son of God is not co-equal with the Father and with the Holy Spirit then we have lost the essence of the Christian faith. Without the Trinity, lesser issues fade into insignificance.