What is Monarchianism?

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Monarchianism advocated the unity of the Godhead. The word “monarch” means “sole ruler.” This philosophy arose as a reaction against the many gods of the Gnostics and the two gods of Marcion—the evil God of the OT, and the loving God of the NT. This school of thought, went to the other extreme and became a heresy. The goal of Monarchianism was to clean the church of Gnostic teachings, but instead it caused confusion and a straying away from the Biblical truths.

The church battled Monarchianism at the latter part of the 2d century till the 3d. There were two kinds of Monarchians: First- the Dynamists (from a Greek word meaning “power”). This group taught that a divine power activated the human body of Jesus, who had no deity and a true human soul.  Second- the Modalists, who advocated one God who had revealed Himself in diverse ways.

In order to maintain the unity of the Godhead, the Dynamists rejected completely the deity of Christ, whom they regarded as only a human selected by God to be the Messiah and raised to deity. According to Adoptionism, one kind of this theory, the man Jesus reached perfection and was adopted as the Son of God, at His baptism.

The Modalists taught that the one God had shown Himself in diverse ways. They left their belief in the triune nature of the Godhead and denied any difference in personalities. They accepted the true divinity of the Father and Son, but added that the two were only different titles for the same being. This concept is sometimes called Patripassianism, because, apparently, the Father became the Son at the incarnation, and afterward died as the Christ. Likewise, at the resurrection, the Son became the Holy Spirit.

Early in the 3d century Tertullian disproved Monarchianism, emphasizing both the nature of the Son of God and the unity of the Godhead. However, he projected that Christ was a lesser order of God—a philosophy known as Subordinationism.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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