Apollinarius (The Younger, 310-390 CE) was an early Christian teacher whose views on Christ were condemned as heresy. He and his father, a grammarian, rendered the Old Testament into a poetic form reminiscent of ancient Greek verse and Platonic dialogues. This was done after the Emperor Julian forbade Christians to teach the classics.
But Apollinarius’ sense of innovation didn’t stop there. He argued that Christ and God were one and that this doctrine should be taught to the people. This might sound similar to what some Catholic priests say in passing today, but it’s very different when we look at the finer points of Catholic theology.
For Apollinarius, Christ’s human spirit was replaced by the divine Logos. As such, Christ couldn’t morally develop during his lifetime because he was already perfect. This view denied Christ’s human side. It was rejected by an orthodoxy believing that all of humanity could not be saved unless God was partly human. The movement spearheaded by Apollinarius, called Appollinarianism, could only redeem the spiritual but not the natural aspects of humanity.
The distinction between spirit and human nature continues today. More generally, it takes the form of a broad distinction between spirit and nature. Some see these two ideas as identical and others don’t. A new wrinkle in this issue is the subatomic physics observation that matter can behave like energy and vice versa. This development has lead many to speak of “matter/energy.”¹
Although Apollinarius became Bishop of Laodicea (360 CE), he was condemned by the synod at Rome (374-380 CE) and the council of Constantinople (381 CE).
¹ The centuries-old theological idea of immanence means that spirit comes into or dwells within matter but matter and spirit remain qualitatively different. This idea is found within the Catholic Holy Spirit and with variations in many world religions. Now that subatomic physicists see matter as matter/energy, it doesn’t follow that matter/energy is necessarily the same as spirit. But not everyone sees it that way. Recent observations in subatomic physics seem to have given some, like Stephen Hawking, confidence in believing that they can speak meaningfully about God and spirituality. But Hawking’s confidence seems to be more about his exceptionality in conceptual thinking than in any kind of advanced mysticism. Accordingly, his remarks arguably fall short when he speaks to ultimate meaning and purpose. However, one can’t help but admire how he’s overcome adversity, as well as his treatment of complicated scientific ideas—especially when illustrating new theories about space and time. He’s also to be commended for asking the big questions, which many people never even bother to think about.
- Apollinarius revisited (jonchadwickchambers.com)
- Mixing and Blending: The Orthodox Recipe for Theanthropos (afkimel.wordpress.com)
- St Gregory the Theologian and the Apollinarian Nonsense (afkimel.wordpress.com)
- Stephen Hawking Says Physics Would Be More Interesting If We Hadn’t Found The Higgs Boson (businessinsider.com)
- Understanding Modernity (thebackporchpundits.wordpress.com)
- Understanding the Doctrine of Soul Sleep: A Christian Overview (christianity.answers.com)
- Do ALL churches fail? (sjmarch.wordpress.com)
- Stephen Hawking: Not finding Higgs Boson would have been more interesting (mnn.com)