Was Jesus Just another Martyr?
The Heresy of Socinianism
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
-Colossians 2:9 (NIV)
(8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—(9) not by works, so that no one can boast.
-Ephesians 2:8–9 (NIV)
This heresy started in Poland in the 16th century by Laelius Socinus and Faustus Socinus. This teaching states that only man needs to be reconciled by God (which is true). The problem comes in how they said you should obtain reconciliation. They believed that one must come to God through their own will, not through grace. They taught that one must improve our moral character in order to become right with God, which can only happen through sheer will and repentance. The death of Christ was only to show us how to be a martyr and was of no power than any other martyr. They taught that the language the writers of the New Testament used, when talking about Christ, was merely a way to illustrate His life. In other words the writers didn’t really mean what they wrote; when it says that Jesus died for our sins, they would teach, it is not really what is meant.
Now where Socinians have gone wrong, Biblically speaking:
- They have totally denied the trinity in their teaching.
- They teach the Holy Spirit is a force from God, not a person and apart of the Godhead.
- They teach that Jesus is not divine but a perfect example of how we should live, just as any other martyr.
- They placed emphasis on human rationality instead of Biblical authority.
This teaching denies Biblical Christianity and must be condemned. So the question is asked, “Where do we find this kind of teaching today?” Well this teaching has survived primarily through the Unitarian tradition (as well as smaller fringe groups). We will leave today’s Unitarians as a subject for another time.
While Jesus is the perfect example of how we should live, He did a lot more than be an example. He died for our sins so that we might be made right with God. Not through anything we have done, but through what He did. This is where the two verses above refute this kind of teaching.
May God bless you today my friends.
Sources Consulted in the Writing of this Article
- The Pulpit Commentary: Index. 2004 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.) (399). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- Strong, A. H. (1907). Systematic theology (732–733). Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society.
- Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (2005). The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev.) (1671). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
- Slick, M. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. Socinianism. http://carm.org/socinianism