Brief note on Cyril of Alexandria

Status
Not open for further replies.

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I'm not sure we can construct a complete view of the atonement from Nestorius' works, but it appears he recognized the significance of the passive obedience of Christ in our salvation. Now, whether he would use the "Christ" where he used "God" there, is a more difficult issue (we have so little of his own writings to go on). Given that he called Mary, Christokos, I suspect he'd prefer not to refer the atoning work simply to the name of Christ, but to the person of God the Word.

Please keep in mind that I only used the atonement of Christ as a modern day concern which this controversy influences. I would not import it into those times and make it a criterion of judgment. I don't expect the fathers to speak of atonement in Anselmian categories. By and large they were more concerned with the issue of humiliation-exaltation than with satisfaction.

I am sorry, but I just cannot see anywhere that Nestorius affirmed orthodox Christology. I agree we cannot pin "two persons" on him because we have no statement to that effect; but his language is always in terms of speaking of the Word as a prosopon and the flesh as a prosopon while the "unity" is apparent and moral rather than real and personal. My own opinion is that he was a rationalist who simply could not accept the "mystical union," and therefore struggled to rationally come to terms with how the finite could contain the infinite. We have seen a similar example in Gordon Clark in our own times. I am open to any evidence which suggests otherwise.
 

johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
Again you trumpet the fallibility of human councils. I always find this an unbalanced zeal when it refuses to recognise the work of the Spirit of truth in the church. It really maintains solo Scriptura rather than sola Scriptura. There is a whole garbage truck of inconsistency here.

Why do the Reformed then seem to stop counting "ecumenical councils" after Chalcedon? How much (if any) of the councils of Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (681) and Nicea II (787) do you accept? By what criterion, and by whose authority, do you reject what you reject of these? Are there other subsequent councils that have addressed these three?

As noted previously, this is a-historical and fails to take into account the development of dogma. Nestorius must be judged in the appropriate court of jursidiction, which is his own times, not ours.

What then is our responsibility, given that we have information about him that "his own times" did not have? Or that "the appropriate court of jurisdiction" in "his own times" was very much a corrupt one?
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
First, apologies. Lack of sleep and an excessive zeal caused me to misread/skip over some things. Pastor King is right that it is improbable that Nestorius was aware of the doctrinal statements produced at Chalcedon.

However, the Bazaar does suggest that he was a) aware that it was happening b) aware of the flight of Dioscorus c) aware of the tone it was taking.

To show the importance of the controversy in modern terms -- do you believe "Christ" satisfied "infinite" justice? How?

By being God incarnate. I don't think Nestorius would disagree here.

Then we will have to agree to disagree over what Nestorius would agree or disagree with.

What I stated was simple Nicene Orthodoxy--both sides at Ephesus were orthodox by Nicene standards.

Personally, I have been persuaded, in my reading of the history, that in Heaven, we will meet Nestorius, Cyril, John of Antioch, and maybe even the odd Arian Goth. If there's not room in Heaven for a few heretics, then we're all damned. I'm just not convinced that Nestorius' error was enough to warrant a church split. The whole question of theotokos seems to be a question of which terminology to use rather than the actual theological content.
 

johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
My own opinion is that he was a rationalist who simply could not accept the "mystical union," and therefore struggled to rationally come to terms with how the finite could contain the infinite.

Were there "rationalists" in the 5th century?

It is true, Nestorius began with the phrase, "And the Word became flesh". Nestorius's characterization of this did not become the orthodox way of characterizing it. But Chalcedon did not rely on the verbiage of any one party in coming up with the definition. Cyril's terminology was not used -- in fact, some of his theology was definitely rejected, and yet he became a great doctor of the Church, as later councils (rejected by the Reformed) incorporated some of his theologies (to my understanding).

Reymond says "It is interesting to note that the council did not declare Leo's Tome a doma of the church as he had wished, doubtless lest it give too much authority to the Roman bishopric. It then wrote a new creed ..."

Nestorius became a "heretic" because of a mischaracterization of his teachings that simply happened to have been voted on by "a council". That was his "court of jurisdiction" -- it was dishonest with him.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
My own opinion is that he was a rationalist who simply could not accept the "mystical union," and therefore struggled to rationally come to terms with how the finite could contain the infinite.

Were there "rationalists" in the 5th century?

Yes; there were rationalists in the 1st century. Read 1st Corinthians and its refutation of the exaltation of reason and an over-realised eschatology.

It is true, Nestorius began with the phrase, "And the Word became flesh". Nestorius's characterization of this did not become the orthodox way of characterizing it. But Chalcedon did not rely on the verbiage of any one party in coming up with the definition. Cyril's terminology was not used -- in fact, some of his theology was definitely rejected, and yet he became a great doctor of the Church, as later councils (rejected by the Reformed) incorporated some of his theologies (to my understanding).

Yes, well the difference between Cyril and Nestorius is that the former was catholic. Cyril's emphases were rejected while his orthodoxy was respected, even as we would reject the Lutheran tenet of communicatio idiomatum from nature to nature while receiving them as generally orthodox.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
I am not attempting to revise the history. I have no dog in the fight and I am not an expert on the controversy. But I agree with John Bugay who in post 6 yearned for "a very thorough history ... written by someone other than an eastern orthodox theologian." And I don't see the seven ecumenical councils given equal ranking to Scripture by the WCF.

Again you trumpet the fallibility of human councils. I always find this an unbalanced zeal when it refuses to recognise the work of the Spirit of truth in the church. It really maintains solo Scriptura rather than sola Scriptura. There is a whole garbage truck of inconsistency here.

I "trumpet" nothing. I am a trombone player. ;-)

Your last two sentences are the guilt by associaton fallacy and you ought to know better. It would be like someone claiming that you hold to concilliar equivalency with Scripture in view of your high view of the early councils.

As for me, for over 30 years I have recognized the importance of tracing out the work of the Holy Spirit in Church history and not reinventing the wheel when early fathers, Reformers, Puritans, and Calvinistic Methodists can be shown to have understood issues Scripturally. I just don't place councils on the level of Scripture unless their findings can be shown to be consistent with Scripture.

Either Councils have the authority of Scripture or they do not. The WCF does not give councils ulitmate authority to determine controversies of religion. Rather it specifically makes the point that " The Supreme Judge by which ....councils...are to be examined can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture." WCF 1:ix

No but we can compare the statements of men with the Scripture and that is how all theological controversy ought to be settled. Which means that we ought not to ultimately judge N's statements by the judgements of other men or councils but by comparing them to Scripture, particularly in cases where he is on record as denying the specific teachings imputed to him.

As noted previously, this is a-historical and fails to take into account the development of dogma. Nestorius must be judged in the appropriate court of jursidiction, which is his own times, not ours.

Shall we not appeal Luther's condemnation by the diet of Worms? Or challenge the decrees of the Council of Trent? Certainly Cardinal Newman thanks you for taking up the principle on which he justifies Roman accretions. See his work on the development of doctrine here. Newman Reader - Development of Christian Doctrine

Now on theotokos: It is simply unjust to presume N to be guilty of an error in the nature of his Christology because of his statement concerning the propriety of a title for Mary. It is only if one can show that a Christological error is a good and necessary consequence of his anti-theotokes statements that we will be justified in condemning him for those statements.

When judging between parties in an earlier controversy, men can't be held to good and necessary consequence because it is only in the light of controversy that logical outcomes are brought forth. It is illegitimate to judge on the basis of knowledge which has come as a result of that controversy. It equates to standing on a man's shoulders and kicking him in the head at the same time.

You are missing the point. You made the link not me. Your claimed that N was guilty of heresy at point B because he "erred" at point A. For that claim to be true, denying the title to Mary must necessarily force one into asserting an error about Christ's nature. Such a demonstration could have been provided, and N or anybody prior to him who (ex hypothesi made the denial before he did) truly shown to be guilty of heresy at point B at any time before the Council began, at the council or even today, on the the basis of logic alone once the prooof of necessity is known. Such a demonstration does not necessarily involve relying on knowledge that came about as a result of the controversy, as what is at issue is the logical demonstration that one "error" necessitates the other.

It is an error to make theotokos a mere "title for Mary." It is a Christological statement, as the structure and emphasis of both Ephesus and Chalcedon reveal. It does not aim to show us something about Mary per se, but about Jesus Christ. As with the nativity revelation of Matthew and Luke, Mary's dignity is conceived solely in terms of the nature of her offspring.

The question is can the Scripturally assigned dignity of Mary and the Scripturally described nature of the incarnate Second Person be correctly expressed in terms other than "theotokos" without violating that dignity and misrepresenting that nature? If the answers to these questions are yes, then there may not be a real problem when someone wished to avoid the term, provided that the term or terms one uses instead of theotokos correctly express the Scriptural realities to which they point.
 
Last edited:

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I "trumpet" nothing. I am a trombone player. ;-)

:)

Your last two sentences are the guilt by associaton fallacy and you ought to know better. It would be like someone claiming that you hold to concilliar equivalency with Scripture in view of your high view of the early councils.

There was no guilt by association; I identified your unbalanced statement with the position of solo scriptura. If in reality you heartily recognise the work of the Spirit in the church then I am very happy to withdraw the identification; but if that is the case, I would also ask you to present that balance when looking at the decrees of councils. By your own admission, the fact that councils may err does not mean that they have erred; so it is not helpful to appeal to the fallibility of councils simpliciter.

Either Councils have the authority of Scripture or they do not. The WCF does not give councils ulitmate authority to determine controversies of religion. Rather it specifically makes the point that " The Supreme Judge by which ....councils...are to be examined can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture." WCF 1:ix

Unless you can find in this thread where I have ascribed "the authority of Scripture" to Councils your remarks are irrelevant. As already noted, you are speaking to the wrong issue. You quote WCF as an authority. Should I assume thereby that you place the WCF on the same level as Scripture? No. Then neither should that be read into my remarks. It should also be borne in mind that the WCF validates the orthodox Christological tradition in its presentation of Christ the Mediator.

Shall we not appeal Luther's condemnation by the diet of Worms? Or challenge the decrees of the Council of Trent? Certainly Cardinal Newman thanks you for taking up the principle on which he justifies Roman accretions. See his work on the development of doctrine here. Newman Reader - Development of Christian Doctrine

Again, I haven't denied the responsibility of the modern church to evaluate past councils. I am only requiring that such an analysis does not import later developments and concerns into the proceedings being evaluated. In this case, I would insist that neither the Council nor Luther be judged by a principle of scriptural authority which did not come to the fore until the debates of the Puritans with the Elizabethan settlement. This puts the onus on the historian to ascertain precisely what Luther meant by being captive to the Word, and not simply to assume a Puritan view of it.

The fact that you would confound any idea of the development of dogma with Newman's specific idea of it does not indicate you understand the subject very well. At no point in this discussion have I suggested that non-scriptural developments are permissible.

You are missing the point. You made the link not me. Your claimed that N was guilty of heresy at point B because he "erred" at point A. For that claim to be true, denying the title to Mary must necessarily force one into asserting an error about Christ's nature. Such a demonstration could have been provided, and N or anybody prior to him who (ex hypothesi made the denial before he did) truly shown to be guilty of heresy at point B at any time before the Council began, at the council or even today, on the the basis of logic alone once the prooof of necessity is known. Such a demonstration does not necessarily involve relying on knowledge that came about as a result of the controversy, as what is at issue is the logical demonstration that one "error" necessitates the other.

I have stated that the theotokos was orthodox Christology at the time. Nestorius denied it. There is no moving from point A to point B in my criticism of him.

Again you fail to understand the historical method at issue. I am not saying that Nestorius can't be found guilty or exonerated today. I am saying that the case is not to be examined as if it were a new case. He has already been tried and condemned in his own times. Modern concerns cannot be read into the proceedings which found him guilty and used as a basis for his exoneration. E.g., the fact that Mariolatry came to be condemned by Protestants does not justify Nestorius' rejection of the theotokos as a common Christological affirmation of the time.

The question is can the Scripturally assigned dignity of Mary and the Scripturally described nature of the incarnate Second Person be correctly expressed in terms other than "theotokos" without violating that dignity and misrepresenting that nature? If the answers to these questions are yes, then there may not be a real problem when someone wished to avoid the term, provided that the term or terms one uses instead of theotokos correctly express the Scriptural realities to which they point.

No, that is not the question because "theotokos" meant something significant at that time just as "sola scriptura" means something significant at this time. To understand the significance of it we simply need to look at Peter's confession: thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. What would that confession mean if it only consisted of "the Christ," and there was a rejection of "the Christ" being "the Son of God?" That is what Nestorius' denial of theotokos and affirmation of Christotokos looks like. Either Mary is the mother of our Lord or she is not. By denying the theotokos Nestorius claimed she was not.
 
Last edited:

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
No, that is not the question because "theotokos" meant something significant at that time just as "sola scriptura" means something significant at this time. To understand the significance of it we simply need to look at Peter's confession: thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. What would that confession mean if it only consisted of "the Christ," and there was a rejection of "the Christ" being "the Son of God?" That is what Nestorius' denial of theotokos and affirmation of Christotokos looks like. Either Mary is the mother of our Lord or she is not. By denying the theotokos Nestorius claimed she was not.

For goodness sake, Nestorius was making an assertion about Mary--he wasn't denying the divinity of Christ at all--he was orthodox by Nicene standards. The question was not whether Christ was God and Man, but exactly how that relationship works.

Again you fail to understand the historical method at issue. I am not saying that Nestorius can't be found guilty or exonerated today. I am saying that the case is not to be examined as if it were a new case. He has already been tried and condemned in his own times.

And we are saying that the case needed a retrial due to procedural irregularities and a biased jury. To me, there's a reasonable doubt about Nestorius' guilt, especially given his actual teaching. The fact that he claimed not to teach what the council accused him of teaching is enough to warrant our saying this. His real teaching is what needed to be examined, not the misrepresentation of it.

I have stated that the theotokos was orthodox Christology at the time. Nestorius denied it. There is no moving from point A to point B in my criticism of him.

But the question is whether the term was crucial to orthodox Christology (and again, Nestorius did not reject the term outright--he just found it confusing). Does the alternate term compromise Christ's divinity? No. The alternate term was imprecise, but not inaccurate. Nestorius knew and taught that Christ was God--that part was not at issue at Ephesus, having been decided by Nicaea. No one ever accused Nestorius of being Arian.

Just because a term is orthodox does not mean that alternate terms are heretical. I personally would have suggested theanthropotokos.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
For goodness sake, Nestorius was making an assertion about Mary--he wasn't denying the divinity of Christ at all--he was orthodox by Nicene standards. The question was not whether Christ was God and Man, but exactly how that relationship works.

The reason why Ephesus and Chalcedon settles "how that relationship works" is because the manner of subsistence was seen to be critical to the affirmation that Christ is God and man. When Nestorius emerges on the other side of the orthodox fence he is clearly seen as affirming something different to orthodoxy. He does not teach two natures in one person, as has already been shown from the Bazaar. If you agree with the Bazaar you disagree with orthodoxy; hence it is little wonder if you defend Nestorius because you are really only defending yourself.

And we are saying that the case needed a retrial due to procedural irregularities and a biased jury. To me, there's a reasonable doubt about Nestorius' guilt, especially given his actual teaching. The fact that he claimed not to teach what the council accused him of teaching is enough to warrant our saying this. His real teaching is what needed to be examined, not the misrepresentation of it.

The only point in question is whether he taught "two persons." But whether he taught it or was imputed with it is really beside the point because his teaching does not and cannot affirm the two natures in one person formula of orthodox Christology.

The alternate term was imprecise, but not inaccurate.

It is not only imprecise but inaccurate as a substitute for theotokos. The substitution diminishes a point of Christology for which Ephesus and Chalcedon contended. If you agree with Nestorius then you also diminish that Christological assertion.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
The reason why Ephesus and Chalcedon settles "how that relationship works" is because the manner of subsistence was seen to be critical to the affirmation that Christ is God and man. When Nestorius emerges on the other side of the orthodox fence he is clearly seen as affirming something different to orthodoxy. He does not teach two natures in one person, as has already been shown from the Bazaar. If you agree with the Bazaar you disagree with orthodoxy; hence it is little wonder if you defend Nestorius because you are really only defending yourself.

If I agree with the Bazaar, it's because it teaches two natures in one person. He's speaking the language of prosoponic union--which is the language of Cyril himself. If Cyril's understanding was orthodox, the so was Nestorius'.

If you want to show me exactly how the Bazaar teaches two persons, please do so. My concern is that we not convict a possibly innocent man just because a church council did.

And I must say that accusing me of Christological heresy does little to convince me.

But whether he taught it or was imputed with it is really beside the point because his teaching does not and cannot affirm the two natures in one person formula of orthodox Christology.

But it's exactly the point. If his teaching does affirm the two natures in one person formula (which I think it does), then he was falsely accused and we need to re-evaluate. Cyril of Alexandria, by all accounts was a man who sometimes let his zeal blind him to the facts. If this is so, then it is very much the point.

Remember also that Nestorius and his teacher Theodore were esteemed as Church fathers outside the Roman Empire post-Ephesus. What we have to say, then, is that if real Nestorian teaching (as opposed to Ephesian-Nestorian) is heretical, then we hold the whole of the Eastern Missionary enterprise of the next five centuries (the largest missionary effort in church history) to be unorthodox. Are you prepared to say that half of the church of Nestorius' day was heretical?

It is not only imprecise but inaccurate as a substitute for theotokos. The substitution diminishes a point of Christology for which Ephesus and Chalcedon contended. If you agree with Nestorius then you also diminish that Christological assertion.

Why? Does Christotokos as a title for Mary somehow diminish the identity of Christ? I agree that the term is imprecise (see my alternate title), but I don't take the title "Mother of God" to be a doctrinal statement. Again, all my sources indicate that Nestorius didn't reject the title persay--he just didn't like it.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If I agree with the Bazaar, it's because it teaches two natures in one person. He's speaking the language of prosoponic union--which is the language of Cyril himself. If Cyril's understanding was orthodox, the so was Nestorius'.

If you want to show me exactly how the Bazaar teaches two persons, please do so. My concern is that we not convict a possibly innocent man just because a church council did.

Please pay attention. I have repeatedly said that we have no evidence that Nestorius taught two persons. What we have in the Bazaar is a reference to the Word as a person and the flesh as a person and a mere moral union between the two. Please see my above response to your quotation of the Bazaar and especially the emboldened portions. This language cannot be reconciled with Christological orthodoxy.

And I must say that accusing me of Christological heresy does little to convince me.

You weren't accused of heresy, as you will see if you give some attention to the conditional form of the statement to which you are repying.

But it's exactly the point. If his teaching does affirm the two natures in one person formula (which I think it does), then he was falsely accused and we need to re-evaluate. Cyril of Alexandria, by all accounts was a man who sometimes let his zeal blind him to the facts. If this is so, then it is very much the point.

Where does he make such an affirmation? How many times are you going to make the same claim without actually presenting evidence to support it?

Are you prepared to say that half of the church of Nestorius' day was heretical?

I'm prepared to say what the catholic church teaches -- Nestorius and Nestorianism is unorthodox. Enough with the emotional pleas, please. Try and present some facts.

but I don't take the title "Mother of God" to be a doctrinal statement.

It is a doctrinal statement in Ephesus and Chalcedon, so you are only asserting your disagreement with the councils.

Friend, If you can't be bothered interacting on a factual level I'm not going to waste time responding to your posts.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Please pay attention. I have repeatedly said that we have no evidence that Nestorius taught two persons. What we have in the Bazaar is a reference to the Word as a person and the flesh as a person and a mere moral union between the two.

The understanding that I took away was that Christ has two natures (ousia) in one person (prosopon). Prosopon here is the exact word from which "Person" is derived.

Therefore has he said 'the likeness' and 'the name' which it has taken, which indicates a prosôpon as of one; and this same name and prosôpon make the two of them to be understood; and the distinction of nature, one hypostasis and one prosôpon,50 is theirs, the one being known by the other and the other by the one, so that the one is by adoption what the other is by nature and the other is with the one in the body.

Again, my reading here is that he is saying two ousia in one prosopon.

Again, part of my whole issue is the fact that Church history seems to have vindicated Nestorius. Not only did Chalcedon overturn the Alexandrian Christology, but the Church of the East produced the most missionary-minded--and the most persecuted--branch of the church in history. I'm quite sure that Nestorius was mistaken--but no more mistaken than Cyril was. If Cyril is orthodox, then so was Nestorius. Orthodox by Chalcedonian standards? Probably not--but neither was Cyril.

I would almost compare this to the Clark-Van Til controversy except that Ephesus produced the largest church split in history.

I'm prepared to say what the catholic church teaches -- Nestorius and Nestorianism is unorthodox.

So only western Christianity is catholic, then?

At any rate, we have two parallel threads going, of which the other is the more senior, so maybe we should move the discussion there.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Again, my reading here is that he is saying two ousia in one prosopon.
And this "reading" is an overt indication that you neither understand Nestorius, nor the orthodox understanding of Christ, which has been my point all along. But since you have been continually presenting a "moving target," I expect this to be revised as well.

DTK
 

Ron

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm going to get a bit out of my historical comfort zone here so bear with me as I ask some questions for my own clarification. Please don't derail the thread becaue of my ignorance.

Today, can't the word prosopon properly be interpreted as "person" but also as "face", which is to say manifestation (modalistically)? Accordingly, if the understanding during the controversy was "face", then to apply it to the incarnation - couldn’t that suggest a form of modalism (a manifestation of a one person God), or else two manifestations within Christ, which might suggest two persons within one Christ?

With respect to ousia, can't it rightly be interpreted as substance and therefore, more readily applied to the persons Trinity (all being divine), but not so readily (cumbersome in fact) to apply it to the Christ (without a view to the Trinity) since he was not two persons, same in substance? In other words, how can we have two substances (or beings) within one person (i.e. "two ousia in one prosopon")?

David, I'll probably phone you on this one!

Thanks,

Ron
 
Last edited:

Ron

Puritan Board Freshman
As I consider this more, if we take ousia to mean "nature" (without any further qualification), then I suppose Jesus could be referred to having two ousia. I recoil at such phraseology because I have taken ousia always to refer more to the divine being or substance that all three persons possess. In my own thinking, contrary to the term "nature", I have always attributed being and substance to the type person (either divine or human, never both ) that is being considered. SO, if the person is divine, like Jesus, then his being or substance I would have considered divine only. (“Essence” I might have possibly been more inclined to allow to be synonymous with nature (but not without further elaboration about one-person), but never would I have used being or substance that way.) In the end, I would have never equated being or substance with nature, but rather to what the person is (as a person), either divine or human. Accordingly, I have always thought of the incarnate Christ although having two natures yet in one person, as having one being or substance only, that being divine. Again, I’m out of my element here, but I question whether there has been some unusual tagging of terms going on.

Cheers,

Ron
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Ousia can mean "reality", "substance", or "Essence". Hypostasis means "That which stands beneath" or "Substantive reality" and (in the Antiochene tradition) was used almost interchangeably with prosopon. The prosopic union and the hypostatic union are thus extremely similar, but not quite. On further review, no Nestorius was not orthodox by a Chalcedonian standard--but he was by the Nicene and Ephesian standards.

We confess in the creed that the the Son is homoousious with the Father, so I don't think that two substances is so far off-track, as Christ's divine nature is pre-existent, where His human nature is not. Hypostasis is then an accurate way to describe the union of Divine and human substance. I think the prosopic union needs clarification (and I noted that Nestorius does actually use hypostasis to describe the union at one point), but it is not inaccurate.

Maybe a good term for Nestorius and Theodore would be "semi-orthodox", but I wouldn't go so far as to call his view heretical in his time. The line between heresy and orthodoxy was so blurry sometimes, and the irregularities at Ephesus were so glaring (Nestorius himself refused to give an account of his teaching until the Antioch delegation arrived, which meant that the council rendered a verdict without hearing what he actually taught).

And this "reading" is an overt indication that you neither understand Nestorius, nor the orthodox understanding of Christ, which has been my point all along. But since you have been continually presenting a "moving target," I expect this to be revised as well.

I would be much obliged if you would actually show where exactly I have denied the hypostatic union. I really don't see where the idea of prosopic union contradicts that of hypostatic union--I would say that our Christology should recognize both.
 

Ron

Puritan Board Freshman
On further review, no Nestorius was not orthodox by a Chalcedonian standard--but he was by the Nicene and Ephesian standards.

Mr. Pugh,

You seem to grant with one hand what you take away with another, which I believe in part is DTK's lament. Assuming the councils do not oppose each other, I regret to say that I feel led to believe that you might be opposing yourself, which if true would explain this attempt to affirm both orthodox and non-orthodox in one person:

Maybe a good term for Nestorius and Theodore would be ‘semi-orthodox’?

I’ll leave the semantics and historical account to the historians on this site. Theologically, I do know that Jesus was a divine person with two natures. That is why I am not comfortable referring to his two natures with a term (ousia) that seems best reserved to describe the single being or substance of divinity that all three persons possess as it pertains to their respective persons. Two beings in one person is wrong, so let's stay away from anything that might suggest it is not.

Warmly,

Ron
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
We confess in the creed that the the Son is homoousious with the Father, so I don't think that two substances is so far off-track, as Christ's divine nature is pre-existent, where His human nature is not. Hypostasis is then an accurate way to describe the union of Divine and human substance.
Young man, you are making this up as you go along, and it's evident to me at this point that you have no understanding of basic Christology.

Listen carefully, now, and try reading closely for a change, because it might help you, though at this point I am confessedly beginning to have my doubts. There is one, yes, you read me correctly, there is but one οὐσία, and that is the one true and living God - "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!" (Deuteronomy*6:4). There is but one divine essence, substance, yes one. The Trinity is One being (οὐσία) and three persons. We never speak of Christ as two essences (substances) in one person. The fact is that you are confused and clueless, and yet still winging it as you go along!

Maybe a good term for Nestorius and Theodore would be "semi-orthodox", but I wouldn't go so far as to call his view heretical in his time. The line between heresy and orthodoxy was so blurry sometimes, and the irregularities at Ephesus were so glaring (Nestorius himself refused to give an account of his teaching until the Antioch delegation arrived, which meant that the council rendered a verdict without hearing what he actually taught).
Try this on for size, no maybe about it, you have no idea of that which you're trying to define.

I would be much obliged if you would actually show where exactly I have denied the hypostatic union. I really don't see where the idea of prosopic union contradicts that of hypostatic union--I would say that our Christology should recognize both.
I am not obliged to show something I never claimed. I am not responsible for your inability to read correctly. But I don't think you even understand what the hypostatic union of Christ is. Surely to deny it is to presuppose that you know it, which obviously you don't. And you would have an excuse if it were not for the fact that I've already cited Chalcedon's language for the hypostatic union earlier in this thread. But, in your misguided zeal, you have demonstrated repeatedly that you either gloss-over what is being said, or you are unable to read carefully what others have said. I am going to try this again...

Christ "was begotten by the Father before all ages according to His divinity and, in these latter days, He was born for us and for our salvation of Mary the Virgin, the Θεοτόκος according to His humanity; one single and same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, known in two natures [my note - not two substances], without confusion, without change, without division, without separation (ἕνα καὶ τὸν αὐτὸν Χριστόν, Υἱόν, Κύριον, μονογενῆ, ἐν δύο φύσεσιν ἀσυγχύτως ἀτρέπτως, ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀχωρίστως γνωριζομένον); the difference of natures is in no way suppressed by their union, but rather the properties of each are retained and united in one single person (πρόσωπον) and single hypostasis; He is neither separated nor divided in two persons, but He is a single and same only-begotten Son, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, such as He was announced formerly by the prophets, such as He Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ, taught us about Himself and such as the symbol of the fathers has transmitted to us. See Peter L'Huillier, The Church of the Ancient Councils, p. 194.

It is frustrating trying to deal with a novice, especially when he pontificates about something concerning which he has demonstrated himself repeatedly to be clueless.

DTK
 

johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
Forgive me Gentlemen, I do want to emphasize that I am very willing to grant, as Moffett says, that "This doctrine of the unity of the person (prosopon) of Christ in two natures may have rested on the use of a word too weak to support the weight it was required to bear, but it was in no sense heresy." (177)

As well, I am working with English works, and I do not see where the word "ousia" appears in some of these writings.

In his "examination" of Nestorius and "Nestorianism," Moffett says:

Nestorius's theological writing is difficult and often obscure. But some points are clear. He took his stand firmly on the historical Christ as revealed in the Gospels. He was not at ease with technical and semantic theological distinctions. He was absolutely convinced that he was biblically orthodox. At no time did he deny the deity of Christ, as was charged against him. He merely insisted that it be clearly distinguished from Christ's humanity. Nor did he deny the unity of Christ’s person, which was the most enduring of the charges against him. It was on this point that he was officially condemned. His opponents, the Alexandrians, maintained that by separating Christ into two “natures” (keyane or keiane in Syriac, physis in Greek) – “true God by nature and true man by nature” was how Nestorius put it – he destroyed the real personality of the Savior, deforming Christ into a creature with two heads. Nestorius answered, “The person (parsopa in Syriac, prosopon in Greek) is one…,” and “There are not two Gods the Words, or two Sons, or two only-begottens, but one.”

The problem lay partly in his choice of words. Nestorius used the Greek word prosopon to refer to Christ’s person as the basis of Christ’s unity. But prosopon is a weak word, used only once in the New Testament to refer to people as “persons” and more often meaning “presence” or even mere “appearance.” His opponents insisted on the use of the stronger word hypostasis (“substance,” or “real being,” as in Heb 1:3) for Christ’s person as one being, incarnate. That, said Nestorius, is too strong – for hypostasis, like ousia, if used of Christ’s unified, essential being confuses the fact that there is still a distinction between his humanity and his deity.”

There is a subtle distinction between “two natures” (Dyophysitism, which is what Nestorius and the school of Antioch taught) and “two persons,” which is how Alexandria interpreted the phrase, as if Nestorius were teaching “dyhypostatism.” By insisting that one person (hypostasis) can have but one nature (physis), Alexandria sought to make the teaching of Nestorius heretical. But what Alexandria said he taught was not what Nestorius actually taught, even in his earlier works, and clearly not in the Book of Heracleides, his last work. As early as Ephesus he struggled to find a way to express the essential unity of the person of the incarnate Christ without denying the essential reality of both the humanity and deity of the Savior and without surrendering the all-important truth that there is an ultimate, basic distinction between deity and humanity.

The divine Logos was not one, and another the man in whom he came to be. Rather, one was the prosopon of both in dignity and honour, worshipped by all creation, and in no way and no time divided by otherness of purpose and will.
(From Moffett, “A History of Christianity in Asia,” pgs 175-177).


And again, he describes this as "too weak to support the theological weight it was required to bear, but it was in no sense heresy."

I would trust that Moffett's presentation and explanation from "Heracliedes" is a better place to begin than some of the other snippets from that work have presented.

The reason that I keep bringing this up is because of context: (a) Nestorius did not get a fair examination in a council (which itself was held in a questionable way), and (b) the result was a horrific schism that, for all practical purposes, cut off half the church from itself.

The defense that "God, in the Holy Spirit, produced the correct doctrine in spite of sinful men," simply doesn't seem to hold water, in that (a) the Christological doctrine that came out of Ephesus was not upheld at Chalcedon, and (b) what DID get reaffirmed at Chalcedon, "Theotokos," was not needed in any of the Reformed confessions to write their Christological definitions (except as the definition of Chalcedon is used in them in passing), and it in fact equivocation of that term has caused a great harm of another kind, the Marian cult.

While Calvin seems to have lumped Ephesus in with the first four councils "which were concerned with refuting errors" and that "they contain nothing but the pure and genuine exposition of Scripture," he allowed (concerning "councils against councils!) that "we shall determine from Scripture which one's decree is not orthodox."

"Theotokos" is not found in Scripture; moreover, Nestorius was vitally careful to accurately characterize Mary's role from the Scriptures. Here, from the text of the Council, is what the Council rejected:

Again I should like to expand on this but am restrained by the memory of my promise. I must speak therefore but with brevity. Holy scripture, wherever it recalls the Lord's economy, speaks of the birth and suffering not of the godhead but of the humanity of Christ, so that the holy virgin is more accurately termed mother of Christ than mother of God. Hear these words that the gospels proclaim: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham." It is clear that God the Word was not the son of David. Listen to another witness if you will: "Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ. " Consider a further piece of evidence: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, she was found to be with child of the holy Spirit." But who would ever consider that the godhead of the only begotten was a creature of the Spirit? Why do we need to mention: "the mother of Jesus was there"? And again what of: "with Mary the mother of Jesus"; or "that which is conceived in her is of the holy Spirit"; and "Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt"; and "concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh"? Again, scripture says when speaking of his passion: "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh"; and again "Christ died for our sins" and "Christ having suffered in the flesh"; and "This is", not "my godhead", but "my body, broken for you".

-----Added 10/17/2009 at 06:07:02 EST-----

Concerning my statement above that Chalcedon did not keep the Christological definition provided by Ephesus, I'll cite Pelikan:

The genealogy of this decree (the Definition of Chalcedon) makes clear that "the formula is not an original and new creation, but like a mosaic, was assembled almost entirely from stones that were already available. Specifically, its sources were the so-called Second Letter of Cyril to Nestorius, the Letter of Cyril to the Antiochesnes together with the the union formula of 433 (which according to Kelly, "dropped" the anathemas, "the language of "hypostatic union" and "one nature" had disappeared, in favor of Antiochene language of "one prosopon" and "union of two natures"); and the Tome of Leo; the phrase "not divided or separated into two persons appears to have come from Theodoret." Even though it may be statistically accurate to say that "the majority of thw quotations come from the letters of Cyril," the contributions of Leo's tome were the decisive ones, in the polemic against what were understood to be the extreme forms of the alternative theologies of the incarnation..."
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Listen carefully, now, and try reading closely for a change, because it might help you, though at this point I am confessedly beginning to have my doubts. There is one, yes, you read me correctly, there is but one οὐσία, and that is the one true and living God - "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!" (Deuteronomy*6:4). There is but one divine essence, substance, yes one. The Trinity is One being (οὐσία) and three persons. We never speak of Christ as two essences (substances) in one person. The fact is that you are confused and clueless, and yet still winging it as you go along!

Is Christ of one substance with the father? Yes. Is Christ of our substance? Yes. Is Christ essentially God? Yes. Is Christ essentially man? Yes. Are the two natures united in a hypostatic/prosopic union? Yes. To Nestorius, nature, essence, and substance are the same or at least extremely closely linked.

The dividing line between heresy and orthodoxy is this: is Christ fully God and fully human in one person (prosopon/hypostasis)? If that is what you hold, I maintain that you are, at least, not in serious error about the incarnation or its ramifications for the atonement. We can argue about the details of how that works, exactly, but it's an in-family dispute.

Christ "was begotten by the Father before all ages according to His divinity and, in these latter days, He was born for us and for our salvation of Mary the Virgin, the Θεοτόκος according to His humanity; one single and same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, known in two natures [my note - not two substances], without confusion, without change, without division, without separation

Do we agree that Christ was homoousious with the Father, as Nicaea stated? If He is fully God and fully Man, he must have both substances. Nature and substance are very closely linked.

In theology, ousia means "being" or "substance" in a metaphysical sense. God is three prosopa or hypostases in one ousia. We speak of ousia to denote a mode of existence. To say that the Son is homoosios with the Father is to say that He exists in the same manner as the Father--pre-existent, co-eternal, co-equal. Can we also say that He is fully human in substance? Yes--He has a physical body and all the attributes that define humanity. Can we say that these are distinct? Yes, or else we are monophysites. The hypostatic/prosopic union unites these two natures/ousia into one hypostasis/prosopon.

I'm not trying to equivocate the terms here--but I do think that these terms are closely linked.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
The dividing line between heresy and orthodoxy is this: is Christ fully God and fully human in one person (prosopon/hypostasis)? If that is what you hold, I maintain that you are, at least, not in serious error about the incarnation or its ramifications for the atonement. We can argue about the details of how that works, exactly, but it's an in-family dispute.

And that, dear brother, is precisely the problem. So long as your definition of Christological orthodoxy is so broad, vague and all-inclusive, what Pastors King and Winzer have been patiently explaining for all of us will inevitably continue to be wholly lost. It is only an "in-family dispute" if one rejects what the very conciliar definitions in question define the "family" to be.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
I suppose then, that I just disagree over how we define a heretic. I agree with the substance of Chalcedon--I just don't agree that all who take issue with it are categorically heretical. I take most councils to have the same authority--thus, I don't place the declarations of Chalcedon above those of Dordt.
 

johnbugay

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't think anyone here believes or is advocating anything other than Chalcedonian Christology.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
[Moderator]
I think enough information has probably been delivered in this thread by now for it to be profitable. If someone feels that there is something further which very much needs to be said, it can be re-opened.

For now, it stands thus: catholic Christianity receives and affirms Chalcedon. We hold that which disagrees with its formula to be opposed to scriptural teaching.

[/Moderator]


John, what *has* been clearly articulated, however, is that one can stand opposed to Chalcedon and maintain orthodoxy.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top