Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Christological View of St. Michael Is Not Heresy

Last Sunday & today we had seminarian-led catechesis, and I appreciated it, because it was on the Holy Trinity, a truly great topic.  Last week, however, the point was made, in one of the vicar's power point images, that one of the trinitarian heresies is the idea that Christ and Michael are the same.  It is quite possible that he did not mean it the way it reads, but of course this point must be clarified, lest it lead people to draw the wrong conclusions.  Today I was going to take a moment in class and clarify the issue, but I never got the chance.  I walked in a bit late, because of coffee clean up, and at no point during or at the end of class did I find the opportunity.  So I do so now.

There are heretical sects, most notably the Jehovah's Witnesses, which teach that Jesus Christ was merely the incarnation of the Archangel Michael.  That, of course, is a christological heresy, one which offers a novel twist on the ancient heresy that denies Christ's true divinity.

On the other hand, there are Christians who believe that Michael, the Archangel, is the Lord Himself, the uncreated Angel (messenger) Who is Himself the message, the eternal Logos, ie., the Lord Jesus Christ, in a pre- or extra- incarnational manifestation. 

To view Michael as Christ is not the same as viewing Christ as Michael, if "angel" not be read in a literalistic manner.  In this instance, I am not attempting to argue that Michael is Christ, for that would require a more thought out, better organized, and thorough argument than what I can give this afternoon.  Nevertheless, we must be clear that it is not heresy.  It has a long history among right-thinking Christians, and it has its advocates even today.  I confess that it is my own view, as well.

Christians are free to disagree with this interpretation of the scriptural witness to the Archangel,  but there is certainly nothing heretical about it.  There are sound exegetical and theological arguments behind it, and I would suggest that it fits well with the christus victor theme of the atonement, and can help us appreciate the fact that the battle which Christ fights for us is waged in several dimensions, including the cosmic and the historical, even within the individual soul of the Christian.


Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

This is a well-put little apology for this "view." I learned this, by the way, from translating devotional materials from the period called Lutheran Orthodoxy.

Dcn Latif Haki Gaba SSP said...

Very nice, Matt. Thanks.

Michael L. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D said...

Well stated, Deacon Latif!

When I on bended knee say my (ahem ... very Lutheran) morning and evening prayers, I pray to my heavenly Father to let His Holy Angel be with me, so that the evil Foe may have no power over me. St. Michael, the leader of the God of Armies' mighty Host, is always tusseling with the devil, not only on Moses' behalf, but on mine too. Christ who raised hell to raze Hades, to free the captives, is THE Holy Angel, the adorable true and only Commander-in-Chief, of THE Father. The Christological view of St. Michael is indeed not heresy, no more so than is the Christological view imparted to strong-man Samson's ripping the roaring (jackass of a) lion's jaw apart, spoiling his house. So then let us exult with the hymnist of old: "Satan, I (and my Master) defy you..."

Your (unworthy) servant,
Herr Doktor SSP

Fr. Jay Watson said...

Indeed, well said Herr Doktor (my view as well) and VERY well said brother Dcn Latif! Your post is a helpful mini-lesson as Matthew Carver mentioned. I don't remember now where I heard/read it, but even in Jude, the "battle" twixt "Michael" and Satan over the "body" of Moses may in fact not be what we hitherto have thought. If by "body" we mean corpus (as in "works") then it could be the Pentateuch and not the 6 ft. tall Moses. It could reference Michael/Jesus' battle witht he devil over the very Torah in the 40 day desert temptation.