From time to time I come across theological debates of the kind I used to concern myself with during the time when I was a religious believer. Usually these are familiar ones that recycle old controversies but last week I came across one that was new to me that was prompted by an evangelical preacher named Paula White, yet another proponent of the infamous ‘prosperity gospel’ that tells
suckers believers that if they ‘plant a seed’, i.e., send the evangelist money, they will reap financial rewards. White has been invited to participate at Donald Trump’s inauguration and some other evangelicals are criticizing that move, accusing White of promoting heretical views.
“I’d rather a Hindu pray on Inauguration Day and not risk the souls of men, than one whose heresy lures in souls with promises of comfort only to damn them in eternity,” wrote Erick Erickson, an outspoken Trump critic on the right. “At least no one would mistake a Hindu, a Buddhist, or an atheist with being a representative of Christ’s kingdom.”
“Paula White is a charlatan and recognized as a heretic by every orthodox Christian, of whatever tribe,” said Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and an outspoken Trump critic.
“Paula White has a long history of bankruptcies, failed business ventures, and unsuccessful marriages, which makes her the perfect choice to deliver a prayer on behalf a president-elect who has proudly proclaimed that he’s never felt the need to ask forgiveness from God for anything,” wrote Paula Bolyard, a conservative Christian blogger for PJ Media.
So what is this heresy White is accused of?
Erickson was particularly troubled by a video, which he posted, that shows White speaking to a man who says he’s a son of God, and that Jesus Christ was “not the only begotten son of God” — to which the pastor agreed, “He’s the first fruit.”
Here’s the video. Just the first minute or so is enough to get at the problem.
For those who are not steeped in Christian dogma arcana, let me translate. We all have heard that Jesus is the Son of God. But we are also told that we are all children of god. So do we and Jesus have the same relationship to god? No. The difference is that the Bible says that Jesus is the only begotten son of God and everything hinges on that key word. This website helpfully explains the difference by going back to the Greek text where the word ‘monogenes’ has been translated as ‘only begotten’.
John was primarily concerned with demonstrating that Jesus is the Son of God (John 20:31), and he uses monogenes to highlight Jesus as uniquely God’s Son—sharing the same divine nature as God—as opposed to believers who are God’s sons and daughters by adoption (Ephesians 1:5). Jesus is God’s “one and only” Son.
So there you are. Unlike Jesus, we are adopted children of god and that is why evangelicals are taking umbrage with White for seeming to agree with her guest that Jesus was only the first of the begotten children and not qualitatively different from the rest of us.
Good, clean, religious fun.