WCF and Nestorianism.

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Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
I was going through the children's catechism the other day with my kids and the question I have asked a thousand times "What is God?" answered by "God is a spirit, and does not have a body like we do" suddenly brought a chill to my bones.

How do those of you who are more zealous over these documents solve the apparent dillemma and rescue te catechism or WCF for that matter from Nestorianism ?

I. There is but one only, living, and true God: who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense,
eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that
diligently seek Him; and withal, most just and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
 

raderag

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think that isn't the whole picture with Westminster:

CHAPTER VIII.
Of Christ the Mediator.

II. The Son of God, the second Person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof; yet without sin: being conceived by he power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.

III. The Lord Jesus in his human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure; having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell: to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety. Which office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called by his Father; who put all power and judgment into his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same.

Chalcedon Christianity means that Christ is a fully divine person that takes on another nature (hypostatic union). One mistake that many people make (i.e. Lutherans) is to ascribe divine properties to the human nature, thus contradicting chalcedon by changing the human nature to divine. I think Westminster strikes the balance correctly.

The Definition of the
Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D)
Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

[Edited on 1-17-2006 by raderag]

[Edited on 1-17-2006 by raderag]
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
You must admit though that the question in the children's catechism is dead wrong:

Q. 9. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, and has not a body like men.


He does have a body like we do, but the natures remain distinct.
I am going to switch to the shorter catechism I think.

Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
 

raderag

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by Saiph
You must admit though that the question in the children's catechism is dead wrong:

Q. 9. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, and has not a body like men.


He does have a body like we do, but the natures remain distinct.
I am going to switch to the shorter catechism I think.

Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

Well, if you are teaching a 4 year old, then I doubt they understand the difference between nature and IS, but it is important. I think that most Christians tend towards Nestorianism, and that is why we must explain the incarnation to our children.

One thing that really helped me to understand it was to wrap my mind around Mary being the mother of God.
 

raderag

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by Scott
It is speaking of His nature.

Right. Christ's nature was divine. There is a popular evangelical apologists going around saying that Christ is a NOT a divine person, but a human person. He also says that Nestorius didn't hold to the heresy of Nestorianism, but was misunderstood. This guy is pretty well respected, even in reformed circles.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
The question is set up asking "What" is God, not "Who" is God.
So it would seem that it is a question about God's nature, not about His personhood.
 

raderag

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by larryjf
The question is set up asking "What" is God, not "Who" is God.
So it would seem that it is a question about God's nature, not about His personhood.

Very observant. You are correct.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Scott,

Would you say Christ, in nature, is Spirit, or flesh, or both ?
I think the WCF is incomplete when it says God is without a body.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Mark,

The WCF does not begin with explaining the nature of Christ. It begins all the catechisms with God - the doctrine of God, or Theology Proper, not Christology.

WCF DoG in chapter 2 -

There is but one only,[1] living, and true God,[2] who is infinite in being and perfection,[3] a most pure spirit,[4] invisible,[5] without body, parts,[6] or passions;[7] immutable,[8] immense,[9] eternal,[10] incomprehensible,[11] almighty,[12] most wise,[13] most holy,[14] most free,[15] most absolute;

WCF LC

Q7: What is God?
A7: God is a Spirit,[1] in and of himself infinite in being,[2] glory,[3] blessedness,[4] and perfection;[5] all-sufficient,[6] eternal,[7] unchangeable,[8] incomprehensible,[9] everywhere present,[10] almighty,[11] knowing all things,[12] most wise,[13] most holy,[14] most just,[15] most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.[16]

WCF SC

Q4: What is God?
A4: God is a Spirit,[1] infinite,[2] eternal,[3] and unchangeable,[4] in his being,[5] wisdom,[6] power,[7] holiness,[8] justice, goodness, and truth.[9]

Children's Catechism

What is God? God is spirit and does not have a body.

Now, in terms of Christology, you have to look furhter down the road:

The children's catechism covers that in questions 43-71

WCF chapter 8

The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man's nature,[10] with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin;[11] being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance.[12] So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.[13] Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.[14]

WCF LC

Q39: Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?

A39: It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature,[1] perform obedience to the law,[2] suffer and make intercession for us in our nature,[3] have a fellow feeling of our infirmities;[4] that we might receive the adoption of sons,[5] and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.[6]

WCF SC

Q22: How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A22: Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body,[1] and a reasonable soul,[2] being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her,[3] yet without sin.[4]

The WCf does not confuse these questions, they separate them.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
I think it betrays the trinity for a catechism or confession to anticipate proper Christology and not include it in the doctrine of God.

God has a body. Not the father or the Spirit but the Son.
 

raderag

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by Saiph
I think it betrays the trinity for a catechism or confession to anticipate proper Christology and not include it in the doctrine of God.

God has a body. Not the father or the Spirit but the Son.

What if the question would have been, what is the nature of God? That is the question, when taken implicityly.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
God is one being three persons.
Christ is one person two natures.

How can we seperate first Christ from the word "God" in the question, what is God's nature ?

What is God's nature ? First spiritual and divine, and secondly, human, because the Eternal Son became flesh.
 

raderag

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by Saiph
God is one being three persons.
Christ is one person two natures.

How can we seperate first Christ from the word "God" in the question, what is God's nature ?

What is God's nature ? First spiritual and divine, and secondly, human, because the Eternal Son became flesh.

So, is Christ a divine person, a human person, or both?
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
both . . so the question regarding God's nature should include both pre and post incarnate attributes.
 

raderag

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by Saiph
both . . so the question regarding God's nature should include both pre and post incarnate attributes.

Christ is a divine person (not a human person) with a divine and human nature. To suggest both is Nestorianism.

The catechism is talking about the essence of God, and is thouroughly orthodox. Here is Aquinas on the very matter:

Whether God is a body?



Objection 1: It seems that God is a body. For a body is that which has the three dimensions. But Holy Scripture attributes the three dimensions to God, for it is written: "He is higher than Heaven, and what wilt thou do? He is deeper than Hell, and how wilt thou know? The measure of Him is longer than the earth and broader than the sea" (Job 11:8,9). Therefore God is a body.


Objection 2: Further, everything that has figure is a body, since figure is a quality of quantity. But God seems to have figure, for it is written: "Let us make man to our image and likeness" (Gn. 1:26). Now a figure is called an image, according to the text: "Who being the brightness of His glory and the figure," i.e. the image, "of His substance" (Heb. 1:3). Therefore God is a body.


Objection 3: Further, whatever has corporeal parts is a body. Now Scripture attributes corporeal parts to God. "Hast thou an arm like God?" (Job 40:4); and "The eyes of the Lord are upon the just" (Ps. 33:16); and "The right hand of the Lord hath wrought strength" (Ps. 117:16). Therefore God is a body.


Objection 4: Further, posture belongs only to bodies. But something which supposes posture is said of God in the Scriptures: "I saw the Lord sitting" (Is. 6:1), and "He standeth up to judge" (Is. 3:13). Therefore God is a body.

Objection 5: Further, only bodies or things corporeal can be a local term "wherefrom" or "whereto." But in the Scriptures God is spoken of as a local term "whereto," according to the words, "Come ye to Him and be enlightened" (Ps. 33:6), and as a term "wherefrom": "All they that depart from Thee shall be written in the earth" (Jer. 17:13). Therefore God is a body.


On the contrary, It is written in the Gospel of St. John (Jn. 4:24): "God is a spirit."


I answer that, It is absolutely true that God is not a body; and this can be shown in three ways. First, because no body is in motion unless it be put in motion, as is evident from induction. Now it has been already proved (Question [2], Article [3]), that God is the First Mover, and is Himself unmoved. Therefore it is clear that God is not a body. Secondly, because the first being must of necessity be in act, and in no way in potentiality. For although in any single thing that passes from potentiality to actuality, the potentiality is prior in time to the actuality; nevertheless, absolutely speaking, actuality is prior to potentiality; for whatever is in potentiality can be reduced into actuality only by some being in actuality. Now it has been already proved that God is the First Being. It is therefore impossible that in God there should be any potentiality. But every body is in potentiality because the continuous, as such, is divisible to infinity; it is therefore impossible that God should be a body. Thirdly, because God is the most noble of beings. Now it is impossible for a body to be the most noble of beings; for a body must be either animate or inanimate; and an animate body is manifestly nobler than any inanimate body. But an animate body is not animate precisely as body; otherwise all bodies would be animate. Therefore its animation depends upon some other thing, as our body depends for its animation on the soul. Hence that by which a body becomes animated must be nobler than the body. Therefore it is impossible that God should be a body.


Reply to Objection 1: As we have said above (Question [1], Article [9]), Holy Writ puts before us spiritual and divine things under the comparison of corporeal things. Hence, when it attributes to God the three dimensions under the comparison of corporeal quantity, it implies His virtual quantity; thus, by depth, it signifies His power of knowing hidden things; by height, the transcendence of His excelling power; by length, the duration of His existence; by breadth, His act of love for all. Or, as says Dionysius (Div. Nom. ix), by the depth of God is meant the incomprehensibility of His essence; by length, the procession of His all-pervading power; by breadth, His overspreading all things, inasmuch as all things lie under His protection.


Reply to Objection 2: Man is said to be after the image of God, not as regards his body, but as regards that whereby he excels other animals. Hence, when it is said, "Let us make man to our image and likeness", it is added, "And let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea" (Gn. 1:26). Now man excels all animals by his reason and intelligence; hence it is according to his intelligence and reason, which are incorporeal, that man is said to be according to the image of God.


Reply to Objection 3: Corporeal parts are attributed to God in Scripture on account of His actions, and this is owing to a certain parallel. For instance the act of the eye is to see; hence the eye attributed to God signifies His power of seeing intellectually, not sensibly; and so on with the other parts.


Reply to Objection 4: Whatever pertains to posture, also, is only attributed to God by some sort of parallel. He is spoken of as sitting, on account of His unchangeableness and dominion; and as standing, on account of His power of overcoming whatever withstands Him.


Reply to Objection 5: We draw near to God by no corporeal steps, since He is everywhere, but by the affections of our soul, and by the actions of that same soul do we withdraw from Him; thus, to draw near to or to withdraw signifies merely spiritual actions based on the metaphor of local motion.

--Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica, First Part ,Question: 3

[Edited on 1-17-2006 by raderag]

[Edited on 1-17-2006 by raderag]
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Can we please refrain from the word "essense" while discussing this. It is too nebulous. I prefer being or nature.

Christ is divine person with a divine and human nature. I believe that.

The catechism is deficient. It needs a better answer that does not betray the incarnation.

The question of the trinity should come first, followed by maybe something like this:

How about: God is a spirit, and the Son became a man like us, and Jesus forever remains God and man.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Aquinas is arguing against God being a body, not having a body. There is a difference.
 

raderag

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by Saiph
Can we please refrain from the word "essense" while discussing this. It is too nebulous. I prefer being or nature.

Christ is divine person with a divine and human nature. I believe that.

The catechism is deficient. It needs a better answer that does not betray the incarnation.

The question of the trinity should come first, followed by maybe something like this:

How about: God is a spirit, and the Son became a man like us, and Jesus forever remains God and man.

Ok, but Westminster took the exact same approach, order, and logic that Aquinas did. I just don't see the problem. The incarnation has nothing to do with the nature of God.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
Mark, do you believe God 'changed' with the incarnation?

That is an interesting question. Did the immutable God take on a mutable form ? Did Chrst grow in wisdom and knowledge ? God, as the eternal transcendant being did not diminish by becoming flesh.
So in that sense, He did not change. But did God the Son experience something as a human, that God the trinity, could not have existentially known without the incarnation ? ?

I have no idea.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
How do you guys explain the trinity to your kids. Mine are 7 and 5 right now (the ones old enough to discuss this with me).
 

raderag

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by Saiph
Aquinas is arguing against God being a body, not having a body. There is a difference.

In other words,, Aquinas is defining the nature of God. I think we agree on the nature of God, but you believe the question doesn't speak only to the nature of God, but to the person of Christ also.

If I asked "what is a computer", I would only be correct by giving a definition that was essential to the computer. The incarnation took place in the scope of time, and thus is not essential to the being of God.
 

raderag

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by Saiph
How do you guys explain the trinity to your kids. Mine are 7 and 5 right now (the ones old enough to discuss this with me).

I have a 9 year old and a just turned 5 year old. Honestly, my 5 year old has a hard time grasping concepts like this, but I think my 9 year old has a decent understanding (assuming that I do). Sometimes I use the pie analogy, and sometimes I just use logical assertions such as The Father is God, Jesus is God, the Holy SPirit is God.
None of the persons are each other, but they coexist eternally.

Most importantly, I explain that God became man through Christ, yet remained totally God.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Brett, you win when you mention essence, because it is way over my head. I do not know what is essential to God, other than what He has said in His word, like He does not lie, etc . . .

I have explained the trinity to the same extent you have, but I am thinking of ditching the catechisms altogether and just reading the Bible and creeds.
 

raderag

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by Saiph
Brett, you win when you mention essence, because it is way over my head. I do not know what is essential to God, other than what He has said in His word, like He does not lie, etc . . .

I have explained the trinity to the same extent you have, but I am thinking of ditching the catechisms altogether and just reading the Bible and creeds.

The problem with the creeds is that they are not systematic, and do not define their terms. You have to read and understand the councils from which the creeds were written to understand them. I would think this is much more difficult and confusing than the catechism.

Sorry about the term essence, but I think it is an important distinction. All of the creeds were written with a classical understanding of greek philosophy.

I understand your consternation though, especially when teaching Children.

[Edited on 1-17-2006 by raderag]
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Originally posted by Saiph
both . . so the question regarding God's nature should include both pre and post incarnate attributes.

The two natures of the Son of God are connected in an indissoluble union and do not mix or interpenetrate. Though they are attached, they are still separate natures. The Son of God is very God. Jesus Christ is very man. He is one person. That means He is one person, self or Ego. He is not schismatic, nor does He have two persons and two natures. That is the heresy of Nestorianism.

There is no transfusion of the natures into one another although there is an assumption of the human nature by the divine nature. By assumption is meant "œtaking on." The divine nature of the Son of God has taken on the human nature. He is not changed by the union, but takes on a nature He did not formally have. By "œnature", in this connection, is meant description. A "œnature" is the essential qualities of any "œthing." For instance, an eye is made of the cornea, cones, rods, pupil, iris, ducts, glands, veins and the like. The total attributes of a particular "œthing" represent the nature of a thing or the description of a thing. It is the totality of its encompassed parts and attributes. The substance of Jesus´ human nature is not personal, for if it was, Christ would then be two persons. Rather, the human nature is impersonal. The divine nature, which is personal already as the eternal Son, took upon itself the impersonal nature of a human being. In doing so the divine nature assumed the human nature (which encompasses its assumption). That does not mean He absorbed the human nature into His divine nature, but that He attached the human nature of the man Jesus Christ to Himself. The divine nature did not change, but assumed the flesh of the human nature.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Thank you Matt. That clarifies what I believe. I still think it is hard to explain to kids because they think of Jesus as a bodily man, and they have a hard time seperating human and divine in their little minds. How do I keep them from vacillating between Eutychianism and Monophysitism ?? This is why I think I need to ditch the catechism and stick to the Bible.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
"Would you say Christ, in nature, is Spirit, or flesh, or both ?"

I would say that Christ's divine nature is Spirit.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott
"Would you say Christ, in nature, is Spirit, or flesh, or both ?"

I would say that Christ's divine nature is Spirit.

You are right. I meant to say HAS a divine nature or flesh or both.

Sorry. His fundamental or essential nature is divine. But he clothes himself with human flesh (impersonal) as wierd as that sounds.
 
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