The Unity of Christ (Beeley)

THE GREAT MASTER: ORIGEN

Alexandria Egypt was the crossroads of the world (Dio Chrysostom).  Alexandrian Christianity had rather diverse beginnings.

First Principles: “Origen’s presentation of his doctrinal system here is arguably the most influential single theological project in all of Christian tradition outside of the canonical Scriptures” (Beeley 11).

Christ and Cosmology

words of Christ include “the whole of Scripture” (13).  

“Origen encourages readers to move beyond the human Christ.”

  • dualist view of the cosmos: the physical and sensible world seen as radically impermanent compared to the intellectual sphere. God and the saints inhabit a spiritual world in contrast to the physical world (15).  

Origen’s dualist cosmology came at a certain cost:  it determined how he spoke about Christ.

  • he notes that Christ has two natures, but places these two natures within a Platonic, dualist cosmology.

Divinity and Distinctness

  • our source of knowledge: epinoiai; conceptions.  
  • For Origen a hypostasis is a distinctly existing thing; a concrete entity or being (Cm. John. 10.212).  
  • On the Son’s being:  ousia meant something different for Origen than it did for Nicea.  For Origen this suggested a diminution from the Father’s being.  “Being” suggests the actual existence of a thing, so for two things to share the same being is to be the same thing.

The Image of God

  • The Son has many epinoiai in contrast with the Father’s simplicity.  The Father cannot be directly describable because of his simplicity. Only the Christ, who becomes many things, can image the Father’s simplicity.  The Son is mediator between God and creation, not as an intermediary of being, but in the Son’s way of being divine.

Incarnation: Image Revealed

  • The human soul of Jesus bridges the gap between God’s divinity and Christ’s humanity. In fact, Origen must hold to trichotomy as the only way to bridge the gap. 

FOURTH CENTURY AUTHORITIES

Eusebius of Caesarea

Origen was regarded by some as an accurate transmitter of the rule of faith (51).  ++

Economia

  • God’s ordered dealings with creation, which culminate in the Incarnation.
    • Eus. wants to maintain that Christ is “divine” and older than creation.  Therefore, the Christian faith is really ancient.
  • “theology:” confession of the divinity of Christ.  It is the interpretation of economia (64).
    • Christ’s manner of existence is two-fold
      • He is known to be God by those who believe.
      • Yet he put on human existence capable of suffering.
    • Beeley maintains that Eus. does not see Christ’s generation in any temporal sense (67).  
      • Christ is divine not as an independent deity (one god among others), but as the direct result of his specific relatinship with God the Father.

Does Eusebius hold to a hierarchy of being ala Middle Platonism?

  • To be sure he does say the Son is the bond between creation and God.  But this may be an overly literal reading of his texts. 

Is Eusebius a Semi-Arian??

  • Beeley argues that Eusebius uses temporal prepositions devoid of temporal meaning (91).  He is concerned to use “biblical, rather than philosophical” terms to stress the Son’s transcendence over creation.
  • Eusebius uses a sequential language to underscore our theological epistemology:  we must remember the “causal ordering of the divine generation…Eusebius’s language preserves the economic basis of theological knowing with respect to the inner structure of the Trinity, resisting the leap to an artififical, abstract conceptuality of pure eternity” (92).  

Christology:  Martyrdom leads to political triumph.

  • Eusebius’s understanding of matyrdom “is far from an abstract concern.  It is initially tied up with the surrounding Greco-Roman society in wys that call on Christians to witness to Christ with their bodies as much as with their minds” (96).

NICEA AND ATHANASIUS

Both Arius and Alexander departed from Origen:

  • Arius in denying the Son’s consubstantiality
  • Alexander in denying that the Son was generated from the Father’s will (116).

Alexander’s modifications:

  • Son always exists from the Father..  The Greek term aei denotes nonsequentiality (116);  

Athanasius I

  • Christ’s identity as the eternal Word of God. 
    • Logos idea: Word is truly of or from the Father (128).  
    • Principle of existence or means of God’s providence (C. Gent. 29, 42, 46). 
  • Salvation Through Incarnation
    • Our need to overcome death and mortality (Inc. 10).  Overcome this by participating in the Word (Inc. 4-5, 11).  
    • Our natural state is “corruption towards non-being” (Inc. 4, 7).  
    • Christ’s death reverses all of this
  • The Word versus its Flesh
    • highly dualist conception of Christ (Beeley 133).   Distingishes between the human body and the Word. 
    • Divine word did not suffer at all when it was born/died (Inc. 17).  
    • The Word used the body as an instrument (Inc. 20).  
  • Dualist Cosmology and Anthropology
    • strong distinction between intelligible and sensible realms (C. Gent 10).  
    • Radical division between being and nonbeing. 
    • God is known by works, but we can’t know his essence.  This raises a tension:  how can the Word reveal itself through his bodily acts yet deny any knowledge of God’s essence (136)?  
  • Conclusions:
    • Logos Christology is dualist.
    • Absolute impassibility of the Word.

Athanasius II: The Orations Against the Arians

Per Marcellus of Ancyra, the human Christ will eventually cease to be in the eternal kingdom; this is probably why the Creed says “His kingdom will have no end” (144).  

  • Rhetorical strategy:  mean
  • The Image of God
    • This is a new development in his works.  
    • Christ is the image and form of divinity.
      • He reveals the divinity of the Father, the brightness of the Father’s light.
      • The Father sees himself in this image (Prov. 8:30; C. Ar. 1.20; 2.82).
    • If Image, then fully divine
    • Language of mediation:  
      • denies the “Word” is a mediator of divinity to creatures, except in Incarnate form (C. Ar. 1.59: 2.31).  
      • If God requires a mediator, then wouldn’t the mediator require a mediator, and so on ad infinitum? (C. Ar. 2.26). 
    • Is God’s will distinct from his being?
      • C. Ar. 1.29; 3.62
  • The Incarnation
    • Christ’s human experiences were not the experiences of the WOrd, but of his human flesh alone (C. Ar. 1.41).  
    • Beeley argues Athanasius’s debt to Marcellus (154). 
    • The communicatio idiomatum is strictly verbal (155; cf. C. Ar. 3.32; 41).
    • It is hard for Athanasius to say that Jesus developed (Luke 2:52).  
  • Technical terminology
    • emphasis on strict oneness between Word and Father (follows Origen).  
    • metaphysics:  real problem with Arian term “originate” is that it means the Word was created in time and ex nihilo (Decr. 16).  
    • homousion as generic: relationship b/t father and son–common nature shared by derivation; relationship b/t all humans of one class (Ep. Serap. 2.8-9).

Athanasius III: The Late WOrks 

CAPPADOCIANS

  • Homoian debate
  • Apollinarius
    • Despite his problems in truncating Jesus’s soul, he raises a valid point: what is Christ’s “acting principle?”  Traditional ontology and psychology would have said “the soul.”  If Jesus had two souls, per Apollinarius, then which one is the “acting” one?
  • Gregory of Nazianzus
    • Views Christ’s identity in dynamic, narrative terms (Beeley 185)
    • the very nature of human existence is a dynamic movement towards God rooted in our creation and oriented towards consummation (185).  By anchoring theosis in the goodness of human creation, Gregory avoids most of the pitfalls associated with this doctrine.
      • Christ is the means of our restoration.
      • Xp effects our divinization in and through himself.
      • He uses language of “mixture” (mixis), “union” (henosis), and “blending” (krasis). in regards to the divinity and humanity in Christ.  
        • Not a crass mixture, though.  Gregory isn’t too clear on this point.
    • Biblical interpretation:  Gregory’s understanding of perichoresis is to emphasize the difference b/t intra-Trinitarian relations and the union of God with humanity (Beeley 189, cf. Ep. 101.20-21).  
      • communicatio is true at the level of Christ’s being.  Christ did not merely operate (energein) by grace, but was and is joined together with human existence in his being (Ep. 101.22).  Here is a huge advance over Athanasius’s dualism. 
      • His method preserves the unity of Christ and, pace Athanasius, does not see the humanity as a separate existence.
    • The suffering of God.  incorporation of human suffering into the divine life (not simply divine being;  he is not abandoning impassibility, but seeing God’s being as life).  
    • Through the knowledge of Christ as “God made visible,” Christians are divinized and elevated through faith (Beeley 194; cf. Or. 29.18-19).
  • Gregory of Nyssa
    • he embraced Greek philosophy more than did Basil or Nazianzus.
    • Against Eunomius
      • Nyssa focuses on the language of creation.
      • For the most part Gregory does not represent an advance on the Nazianzen.   Per the communicatio he repeats both Ath. and Naz., “the lowly statements apply to the Servant; the honors to the master’ (Beeley 208; cf. C. Eun. 3.3.65-66).  
        • the divinity participated in Christ’s passion by serving as the active principle against the passivity of the flesh (210).  
    • Against Apollinaris
      • Here Gregory’s dualist Christology almost comes apart (see his references to a drop of wine in the sea; Christ not coming again bodily, but in the Father’s glory–Antirrh. 230).

THE CONSTRUCTION OF ORTHODOXY

Augustine and the West

  • Hilary of Poitiers
    • Transition point between East and West.
    • “carries forward a revitalized Eusebian tradition…Origen” (226).  
    • “The Trinity”
      • The Son’s generation is closely tied with role as unique revealer of the Father.
      • Distinction between Father-Son relationship and Creator-creature relationship.
      • The Son is image of the Father’s substance; distinct but not dissimilar.
      • One God because one principle (Trin. 5.10; 7.32).
    • Hilary’s weak points:
      • Jesus did not have the same kind of humanity as us (10.23), 
      • Did not believe Jesus possessed a corruptible human substance.
      • This “froze his Christology in a particular dualist position” (Beeley 230).
  • Ambrose of Milan
    • He indirectly corrected Hilary’s project.
    • echoes Nazianzus that Christ’s divine identity need not conflict with his human.
    • The Word died a human death, not a divine one (Inc. 5.36).
    • Divine mediation:  not only reconciles us to God but positively convey’s divine nature to us (Inc. 4.23).
  • Augustine’s early Christology
    • Consciously adopted the “one persona, duabas naturas” (concept).
    • Strongly unitive Christology
    • Christ is the crucial link between the divine love and the love we show others.
    • Totus Christus
    • Augustine’s use of “two personae” is not meant to be dualist: “he uses the term to mean something like a literary persona or voice” (Beeley 240).
  • Augustine’s Mature Christology
    • Christ’s humanity is humanity of the divine Son; he is divinely human.
    • Augustine’s project, while deficient in many respects, does constitute an advance in one key area:  he ties in the juridical aspect. (Trin. 4.19).
  • Augustine’s Late Christology
    • Christ’s introduces “healing into the death of the flesh” by the hidden and mysterious power of the divine decree.
    • Christ’s mediation is his divine-human identity.  
      • The nature of divine mediation is not to wield absolute power but to extend oneself in love and justice (Civ Dei. 9.16-17).

CYRIL, LEO, and CHALCEDON

  • Cyril of Alexandria
    • His major influence, argues Beeley (258), was not Athanasius but Gregory Nazianzen.
      • His use of “Hypostatic union” at this point is not strictly technical.
      • The Word is united with human flesh as a single hypostasis.  Union is “the concurrence into one reality (en) of the things united” (Un. Chr. 3.62/ Ep. Eulog. 64).  
      • “The one nature”
  • Leo of Rome
    • we see the language of “both natures acting.”  This is a very definite–though often unnoticed–move away from Cyril.   Natures do not act.  Persons do.
    • Beeley openly states that “Leo’s position is essentially the same as Nestorius” (Beeley 276).
    • Chalcedon bypasses the earlier narrative dynamics of Gregory and Cyril (economy of salvation) and moves into technical language (282).

POST-CHALCEDONIAN CHRISTOLOGY

  • Leontius of Byzantium
    • all natures are hypostasized but need not have multiple hypostases. 
    • the hypostatic characteristic of every nature is not the same as the nature itself.
      • a nature is a general category; hypostasis a specific one. A hypostasis exists in itself, whereas a nature can only exist in a hypostasis.
      • The problem is that this leads to a generic definition of the Trinity
      • The hypostasis is seen as a principle of individuation.  
      • His connection of the two natures suggest they exist within a kind of netrual space, rather than in the Son of God (291). 
  • Constantinople II
  • Maximus the Confessor
    • Did he misunderstand Gregory?  Gregory sees the Trinity as a monad moving to a dyad and ending in a triad (Or. 23.8).  Maximus resists this meaning and says Gregory is speaking of creation (Quaest. 105; Ambig. 1).
    • Places himself in a narrative understanding of Christology.
    • The wills work together in this way: The divine Son wills all that Christ does.  He is the ultimate subject of all of Christ’s works.   But Jesus also had a natural human will–whether or not to follow and obey the divine will.
    • Jesus’s will is not gnomic (300ff). It does not wander or subject itself to wavering human condition.
  • John of Damascus
    • He differs with Maximus’s approach in several respects:  he does not begin with Nazianzen but as a committed Chalcedonian he filters the fathers through that standpoint.
    • He relies heavily on Leontius.
    • Even though Jesus’s humanity is divinized, Damascene emphasizes that it was God who became man, not man becoming God.

Observations

Beeley shows how the old Antiochene/Alexandrian divide breaks down at key moments (272).

Augustine (Lewis Ayres)

Ayres, Lewis.  Augustine and the Trinity

Continuing the argument in his Nicea and its Legacy, Ayres wants to posit Augustine as a faithful exponent of the “pro-Nicene” tradition.  In order to do so, he must rescue Augustine from the charge that Augustine simply framed Trinitarian theology around explicitly neo-Platonic categories.    Thus, Ayres argues that Augustine used a number of non-Christian sources ranging from Platonic to neo-Platonism; therefore, a 1:1 parallel between Augustine and Plotinus is unwarranted, or so Ayres argues.  Ayres continues with a Latin context for Augustine, and here we are treated to some excellent expositions of Hilary and Ambrose.  

Pro-Nicene, but…

I grant Ayres’ argument that Augustine was not a full-orbed neo-Platonist.  Further, I can even agree with him that Augustine did not use the idea of “hypostases” in the Plotinian sense (he may well have, but I lack the ability to judge that topic).  Notwithstanding, though, Augustine did say he was heavily influenced by Platonists and did admit he framed his doctrine of simplicity around Platonic categories (City of God, books 8 and 11).  Elsewhere in the book, Ayres routinely says that Augustine’s models often follow Platonic categories (Ayres: 209, 314, 316).  So, do we see Augustine as a neo-Platonist or not?  Why not?  Ayres has certainly advanced the scholarship on Augustine and neo-Platonism, but he has come nowhere close to overturning the earlier scholarly consensus.  Earlier scholars, therefore, are not off-base for seeing Augustine within at least some category of neo-Platonism.  

Ayres also wants to argue that Augustine held to a robust view of the irreducibility of the divine persons:  in other words, an emphasis on the “three-ness” of the Trinity.  A few questions arise, though:  if the persons are irreducible, how can they subsist in the essence relatively?  It seems the concepts of “relative subsistence” and “irreducibility” are mutually exclusive, especially given the fact that Augustine didn’t even like the term “persons!”  Secondly, if the Holy Spirit is the love between Father and Son, or the love of the Father and Son, then one must immediately ask, “Is the Holy Spirit now an attribute of the other persons, or is he an irreducibly divine person?”  

The book ends with a thorough discussion of how Augustine used the Trinitarian analogies.  This book is quite fine in many ways.   Ayres gives us careful arguments and advances much recent scholarship.  I do not think his “pro-Nicene” thesis is as strong as he presents it, nor do I think he successfully disengages Augustine from the neo-Platonic model.  

Basil on the Holy Spirit

The Neo-Aetian challenge on prepositions:

Basil said ‘Glory be to the Father with the Son together with the Holy Spirit’ (instead of the usual formula: ‘Glory be to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit’).  Did Basil’s use of different prepositions suggest different natures?

The Hellenistic mindset, especially in its hardened Arian form, said that a given style of language indicates a specific metaphysical reality.  As Basil used different prepositions, he must have meant different natures.  Therefore,

Of whom = Creator

Through whom = Demiurge (think the god of Freemasony)

In whom = Holy Spirit in Place and Time.

Basil has several lines of response:

a) The different prepositions indicate not different natures, but Economy and Theology.  Basil also says that the Aetian construction derives from heathen (read: Hellenistic) sources (III.6).

b) second refutation:  The different prepositions indicate distinct hypostases.   Therefore, hypostasis doesn’t mean what later writers would call nature.  Again, he has broken with Hellenism.   Further, by distinguishing the hypostases, yet maintaining the co-equality, Basil has negated the Hellenic principle that distinction = opposition or declension of nature.

c) third refutation: St Paul applies different prepositions to the same hypostasis (p.7).

Key point:  Different names represent different energies, not different natures (8.17). Names do not define the essence, but reveal it.  Persons who exhibit common operations (energies) share the same essence.

Simplicity of essence.  For Basil it functions like homoousion.  It is a theological symbol, not a philosophical construct.

The numbers used in the Trinity are qualitative, not quantitative.  We do not “count” in God, since that implies addition and partition (18.44).  “We do not count by way of addition” (45).  What does Basil mean by “monarchy?”  We speak of a king, and a king’s image, but not two kings. We do not divide the glory.  “Honor paid to the image passes to the prototype.”

Positive Description of the Spirit

He distributes his energy according to the proportion of faith (9.22). His essence is simple, yet he is impassively divided.  Psalm 33.6: “The Lord gives the order, the Word creates, and the Spirit confirms” (16.38).

Nonfallen angels receive a grace from the Holy Spirit that confirms the perfection of their essence (16.38).

The Spirit’s operations were present before the ages: “What were his operations before that creation whereof we can conceive” (19.49). Therefore, God’s energies are eternal.

Hard Sayings of Basil

“We were regenerate through the grace given to us in baptism” (10.26).

Responding to Orthodox Bridge on Torrance, Part Two

Some years ago, the Orthodox apologetics site, Orthodox Bridge, did a piece evaluating Thomas Torrance. Orthodox Bridge banned me from commenting (or at least no longer approves any comments from me) some years ago, so I haven’t paid them much attention. I browsed their site the other day and it was more of the same: “Reformed believed this but if they realized Orthodoxy was correct they would believe otherwise.” There aren’t many commenters, either. I was the oil that kept the motor running.

I posted part one some years ago and I guess I Forgot part two. As is always the case in my interactions with Orthodoxy today: an Orthodox person will approve of everything I say. I am as fair as possible. I just want to highlight how bad the argumentation is.

This post covers some details I didn’t have time for yesterday.  I came at yesterday’s post with the wrong assumption: I thought Orthodox Bridge would analyze Torrance’s writings and then do a critical review.  No, what happened was they reviewed a journal issue dealing with Torrance.    So, let’s continue:

OB writes,

One fascinating aspect of Tanev’s essay is his discussion of how Torrance’s understanding of space shaped his theology.  Tanev criticized Torrance’s for his narrow understanding of science, e.g., he embracing Einstein while rejecting quantum theory (pp. 204-205).

But if you read Tanev’s essay, all you can really conclude is Torrance wasn’t satisfied with the yet-to-fully-mature work of the Copenhagen school.  He didn’t think it had fully distanced itself from Kantian presuppositions (I have no idea whether that is true or not, and I am fairly confident that neither does OB).  In any case, the relation of quantum mechanics to relativity has zero relevance for either Orthodoxy or Protestantism.

If you listen to his lectures Torrance fully embraced some understanding of quantum mechanics.  

Arakaki continues:

One notable contribution in quantum physics is the discovery that there is no simple objective study of physical phenomenon; “observed reality can be transformed by the fact of observing it.” (p. 207)  This gives physical reality a dynamic and probabilistic character much like “the freedom of interpersonal human relations” (p. 209).

This is Karl Barth 101.  God’s being is never separate from his act.  In fact, it is being-in-act.  

This leads Arakaki/Tanev to write,

Tanev saw Torrance’s failing to draw on the epistemological implications of quantum theory as contributing to his lacking a proper understanding of hypostasis (p. 208; 210-211).

This isn’t really a problem for Torrance.  As any student of dogmatics knows, it is almost impossible to give a definition of “person.”  Person is a who, and so resists any reduction to a what.  Therefore, the question, in some Eastern models, “What is a person?” is a conceptually contradictory question.   Further,

 If it is true that Bohr didn’t use clear models and terms, then it might not be so much Torrance’s fault.  

Taven goes on to quote liberal modernist Orthodox theologian Christos Yannaras on hypostasis.  Yannaras’s has an intriguing model, something about being-a-person as tied to a relational field.  A person is an ex-stasis, a standing out. Again, quite fascinating but this has ZERO dogmatic authority for Orthodoxy (and once you skim away the Heideggerian substructure, I am not sure how coherent it really is). And on some Orthodox readings, Yannaras is a modernist heretic.

 As a corrective to Torrance’s realism, Tanev presents Christos Yannaras who appropriated Einstein and Bohr to explicate John of Damascus who saw physical space as a locus of the disclosure of God’s personal energy (p. 210).

I’m still scratching my head with this one.  What do they mean by “Torrance’s realism?”  Do they mean scientific realism?  Philosophical realism?  Both?  Are they rejecting realism in favor of nominalism?

I’m not sure that Torrance would disagree with the last sentence.  Torrance primarily used Einstein to rebut Newton’s notion of “Absolute Space” and the container notion of space.  That would mean that God is identical with space, which is a no-no for Christians.  

Tanev shows how quantum physics can lend support for the Orthodox approach to describing the Trinity.

Sounds a lot like natural theology and analogia entis.  I didn’t think Orthodox liked that.

St Cyril and the Christological Controversy (McGuckin)

McGuckin, John. Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

From the movie Agora

St Cyril of Alexandria is the sphragidis of the Fathers, the seal of the Fathers. While he is not the last word in Christology, he was an able summarizer of Christological thought and was remarkably consistent. He’s also disliked among academics today. St Cyril played hardball and it seemed like he used unsavory means to keep heretics from being represented at Council.

Prof McGuckin dismantles these myths. McGuckin a) exposes the postmodern and elitist presuppositions of the university professors and b) offers a different angle on the Nestorian Controversy—and he does it with dash, flair, and humor.

To be fair, though, it is difficult to know exactly what Nestorius actually believed. Nestorius was accused of maintaining there were two persons in Christ, a position he seemed to deny. Yet McGuckin makes clear that Nestorius believed in two prosopon in Christ. This word can mean “person” but doesn’t always, and that appeared to give Nestorius an out. Yet as McGuckin and St Cyril make clear, Nestorius nonetheless held to two operating principles in Christ. (At this point McGuckin gives a long summary of Nestorius’s Christology. In short, it reads:

• Extreme divine impassibility: the Logos cannot suffer (131).

• Christ’s two natures remain ontologically apart, existing side by side (135).

• The Church’s confession of Christ should always begin with his double reality (156).

On pp. 138ff McGuckin gives a helpful summary of the meanings of ousia, physis, hypostasis, and prosopon.

Ousia: Essence, substance, being, genus, or nature.

Physis: Nature, make up of a thing. (In earlier Christian thought the concrete reality or existent.)

Hypostasis: The actual concrete reality of a thing, the underlying essence, (in earlier Christian thought the synonym of physis.)

Prosopon: The observable character, defining properties, manifestation of a reality.

Even at first sight it is clear that the words bear a range of meanings that overlap in some areas so as to be synonymous.  This is particularly so with the terms Physis and Hypostasis which in the fifth century simultaneously bore ancient Christian meanings and more modern applications.. In relation to Physis, Cyril tended to use the antique meaning, Nestorius the modern. In relation to Hypostasis the opposite was the case.”

McGuckin, 138-139.

7. “Ousia is the genus of a thing.  Once can think, for example of the genus ‘unicorn.’  Such a genus exists, but only theoretically, not practically or concretely.  It does not exist, that is, ‘in reality’ as we would say today.  Nonetheless, it makes sense to talk of the necessary characteristics of a unicorn such as its magical horn, its horse like appearance, its whiteness, its beard and lion’s tail, and so on. Thus the genus of unicorn is the ousia, that which makes up the essential being of a thing.. The notion of the physis of our unicorn is intimately related to this.  It connotes what we might call the palpable and ‘physical’ characteristics of a unicorn such as outlined above-but always understanding that his possession of a physis-nature still does not necessarily imply that such a creature is real…In some circles, especially those represented by the Christian thinkers of Alexandria following Athanasius, the word physis signified something slightly different from this sense of ’physical attributes’ and had been used to connote the physical existent-in the sense of a concrete individual reality.  

In the hands of Cyril the word is used in two senses, one in what might be called the standard ‘physical usage where it connotes the constituent elements of a thing, and the other in which it serves to delineate the notion of individual existent-or in other words individual subject.  This variability in the use of a key term on Cyril’s part goes some way to explaining Nestorius’ difficulties in following his argument over the single Physis of the Incarnate Word (Mia Physis tou Theou Logou Sesarkoene).  By this Cyril meant the one concrete individual subject of the Incarnated Word. Whereas Nestorius heard him to mean the one physical composite of the Word (in the sense of an Apollinarist mixture of fusion of the respective attributes of the natures of man and God.)

McGuckin, 139-140.

The prospon is the external aspect or form of a physis as it can be manifested to external observation and scrutiny.  It is a very concrete, empirical word, connoting what appears to outside observation.  Each essence (ousia) is characterized by its proper nature (physis), everything that is, which makes it up, and in turn every nature that is hypostatically real presents itself to the scrutiny of the senses in its own prosopon-that list of detailed characteristics or ‘propria’ that constitute this thing individually and signal to the observer what nature (physis) it has and thus to what genus (ousia) it belongs.  In the system Nestorius is following, every nature has its own prosopon, that such of proper characteristics (idiomata) by which it is characterized in its unique  individuality and made known to others as such.  The word carried with it an intrinsic sense of ‘making known’ and appeared to Nestorius particularly apt in the revelatory context of discussing the incarnation.”

McGuckin, 144.

Cyril’s Christology

Before examining St Cyril’s Christology, McGuckin surveys Apolloniarius’s Christology. While denounced as a heretic (and rightly so), Apollonaris put his finger on many important points. To put it another way, while Apollonaris’s heresy was bad, it set the stage for Cyril’s triumph. Apollonaris saw the important point that had to be maintained: the single subject of the Logos (179).

Redemptive Deification

St Cyril’s Christology was tied to his soteriology: “The incarnation was a restorative act designed for the ontological reconstruction of a human nature that had fallen into existential decay as a result of its alienation from God” (184). The Logos appropriates human nature—and this human nature becomes that of one who is God—the human nature is lifted up to extraordinary glory.

St Cyril also offers us a way to think about divine impassibility: we should see the intimacy of the connection between the two realities of Christ…In the incarnation the power of the one transforms and heals the fallibility of the other.

“The human nature is conceived as the manner of action of an independent and omnipotent power—that of the Logos; and to the Logos alone can be attributed the authorship of, and responsibility for, all its actions” (186). The subject is unchanged, but that subject now expresses the characteristics of his divinely powerful condition in and through the medium of a passible and fragile condition.

Of course, St Cyril ties this in with the holy mysteries (188). The believer is deified because the encounter brings him into life-giving proximity with the Logos—and this proximity was the metaphysical root of all being.

St Cyril’s vision was the transformation of the human race according to the paradigm of divine appropriation of a human nature in the incarnation (188).

The Ecumenical Reception of St Cyril

Cyril preferred to say that Christ was of two natures, placing the stress on the Incarnation (231).

McGuckin scores major points in noting that St Leo’s Tome actually had to pass muster before it was excepted. The Church didn’t merely receive it and note, “Leo has spoken. The end.” They said this, but only after it passed a Cyrillene test. Why did they praise Leo? Because his Tome agreed with Cyril and the Fathers, not merely because he was “pope.”

Conclusion

This was a fantastic book. It is truly one of the great books written on Christology. Because of the timeline it does not deal with later concerns about the energies and wills of Christ. However, it wonderfully ties in ecclesiology, Christology, soteriology, and the Eucharist into one prism which then sheds multi-perspectival light on the Church.

We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ (ed. McGuckin)

cGuckin, John. ed. We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ Ancient Christian Doctrines, volume 2. Downers Grove, IL: IntervarsityPress, 2009.

John McGuckin gives us an outstanding, yea even world-class compendium of Patristic Christology. It nicely succeeds the first volume in the series. McGuckin notes a set of “ciphers” that explain the theology behind the Nicene Creed:

“‘Christ’ becomes a cipher by which the Fathers consider the corpus of Scripture as a proleptic description of the Incarnation” (McGuckin 10).
“The image of Light from Light inspired whole generations of patristic theologians across many centuries, who saw it as a vivid cipher of the divine unity and harmony of action” (49).
The ‘coming down’ (katabasis) was a cipher for the great theophanic epiphanies of God in the Old Testament, notably at Sinai and in the pillar of fire that God used to symbolize his presence in the desert” (96). It is God’s self-revelation and his compassionate stooping down to mankind.
“The Logos is not merely ultimate Truth but also the perfect beauty of God” (xxi).

We Believe in One Lord

Gregory of Nazianzus: “…the Father who experiences through the Son nothing corporeal, since he is Mind” (Poema Arcana 1.25-34).

Gregory of Nyssa: “that while we confess the invariable character of the [divine] nature, we do not deny the difference in respect of cause (to aition) and that which is caused (aitiaton), by which alone we apprehend that one person is distinguished from another” (On Not Three Gods).

Jesus Christ

Ephrem the Syrian: “The letter yodh of Jesus, our King, is queen of all the numbers” (Hymns on the Nativity 27.13-16).

The Only Son of God

A key element in this treatment is St Basil’s Letter 236, where he outlines how to gloss ousia and hypostasis. Thus, Basil:

The distinction between οὐσία and ὑ πόστασις is the same as that between the general and the particular; as, for instance, between the animal and the particular man. Wherefore, in the case of the Godhead, we confess one essence or substance so as not to give a variant definition of existence, but we confess a particular hypostasis, in order that our conception of Father, Son and Holy Spirit may be without confusion and clear….Hence it results that there is a satisfactory preservation of the unity by the confession of the one Godhead, while in the distinction of the individual properties regarded in each there is the confession of the peculiar properties of the Persons.

Gregory of Nazianzus: The Son is related to the Father as Word is to Mind….This follows from his passionless generation and from the union, and is part of his revelatory function” (Oration 30.20).

Eternally Begotten of the Father

Gregory of Nyssa: [as] the existence of the Son is not marked by intervals of time and the infinitude of his life flows back from before the ages and onward beyond them in an all-pervading tide, he is properly addressed with the title of eternal” (Against Eunomius 1.42).

Origen: [The Son is generated from the Father] as an act of will proceeds from the mind without cutting off a part of the mind” (On First Principles 1.2.6).

Gregory of Nyssa: “The idea of cause differentiates the persons of the Holy Trinity, declaring that one exists without cause and another is of the Cause….but in speaking of cause and of the cause, we do not by these words denote nature….but we indicate difference in the manner of existence” (On Not Three Gods).

Gregory of Nyssa: The Characteristics of the Father’s person (hypostasis) cannot be transferred to the Son or the Spirit, no, on the other hand, can that of the Son be accommodated to one of the others” (On The Lord’s Prayer 3).

True God from True God

Clement of Alexandria alludes to “Cthonic daimons” against whom the Christian faith wars (58 n. 40).

Begotten not Made

Athanasius: He is the proper Word of the Father, and we cannot, therefore, suppose any will existing before him, since he is the Father’s living counsel and power….By the act of will by which the Son is willed by the Father, the Son himself loves and wills and honors the Father” (Against the Arians 3.63, 66).

Of One Being With the Father

Basil: community of ousia is taken to mean an identical principle of being (Against Eunomius 1.19).

For Us

Gregory of Nazianzus: “….in order that I too might be made God so far as he is made man” (Oration 29.19).

And for our salvation

Irenaeus: “The glory of God is a living, human being” (Adv. Haer. 4.20.6).

He came down

Ephrem the Syrian: “The scattered symbols you have gathered from the Torah towards your beauty, and you set forth the prototypes in your gospel as well as powers and signs from nature….The types have come to an end, but the allusions persist. The flash of the symbols has been swallowed up by your rays” (Hymns on Virginity 28.2-5).

By the Power of the Holy Spirit

Cyril of Alexandria: For though the Holy Spirit has a personal existence (hypostasis) of his own and is conceived of by himself, he he is not therefore alien from the Son. For he is called the Spirit of Truth, and Christ is the truth, and he is poured forth from him just as he is also from God the father” (3rd Letter to Nestorius).

Cyril of Alexandria: “For the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father but also belongs to the Son” (Homilies on the Gospel of Luke 11).

He Became Incarnate

Cyril of Jerusalem: “Let us never be ashamed of the Cross of Christ. Others may want to hide it, but you should mark it on your forehead, so that the devils may behold the royal sign and flee trembling far away” (Catechetical Lectures 4.14)

From the Virgin Mary

Gregory of Nazianzus: “Anyone who does not admit that holy Mary is the mother of God is out of touch with the Godhead” (Letter 101.5)

And was made man

Athanasius: “He became man, and did not come into a man” (Against the Arians 3.30; here Athanasius rebuts the Aristotelian container notion of space).

Theodoret of Cyr: “For even though souls are immortal, they are not immutable but constantly undergo many changes” (Letter 146).

Key terminology

Ousia: nature or being

Cause: the proprium of being the uncaused Cause is the unique attribute of the Father (3 n7).

Idiomata: personal characteristics (25 n7).

The Word Enfleshed (Oliver Crisp)

Crisp, Oliver D. The Word Enfleshed: Exploring the Person and Work of Christ.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016.

As with all of Oliver Crisp’s works, this volume brings rigorous analytical clarity to weighty discussions.  Furthermore, the essays are connected.  Some of Crisp’s earlier works (i.e., Retrieving Doctrine) seem more like collections of essays, even though they are quite good.  This is a valuable intermediate-level text for Christology.

Eternal Generation and Paul Helm

Crisp explores some “varieties of Arianism,” so to speak and whether Paul Helm’s criticisms of eternal generation (EG) hold water.

The problem for adherents of EG: “if God the Father eternally causes the existence of God the Son, then his existence is logically dependent on the eternal causal action of the Father” (Crisp 5).

Response #1: Logically dependent isn’t temporally dependent, so Arianism is blocked. Another important point is that since this generating act is spiritual and non-physical–its being generated from within the mind of God–it is “an eternal divine act of internal self-differentiation” (13).  It is a “de re” necessary relation, so Helm’s claim that it moves economy into ontology doesn’t work (though this might be a problem for ESS).

Christ Without Flesh

Crisp rebuts Robert Jenson’s later criticisms of the logos asarkos. Robert Jenson notoriously claimed that Christ is identical to the 2nd Person of the Trinity.  This has the bizarre implication that Jesus’s flesh is eternal.

Jenson might not mean that, though.  He clarifies that Christ is the narrative pattern of Israel

Incorporeality and Incarnation

Problem: how can a simple God the Son possess a material body, yet not be made of parts?  Crisp gives a fascinating discussion of Neoplatonism and panentheism.

Christological Doctrine of the Image of God

Crisp explores the various proposals for the image of God, calling particular attention to the difficulties in the Plato/Calvin view.  If the image of God is what we have to the exclusion of everything else in creation, and I think all sides would agree with that, and if the image is reduced to the soul/rational faculties, then we have the uncomfortable position that angels (and perhaps demons) are also in the image of God.  Few want to go down that road.

On the other hand, attempts to get rid of any “substance talk” concerning the image of God and/or human nature don’t work, either.  For those who hold that the image is connected with ruling and dominion (which I think it is), we still have substance ideas.  Someone who is ruling has the metaphysical properties and capacities for ruling.  I think the dominion idea is correct, but you can’t avoid substance-talk.

Desiderata for Models of the Hypostatic Union

Pace Bruce McCormack, we have to deal with substance.  Even Barthians like McCormack make claims about the properties or concrete particulars of Christ (78).

The problem: Does Chalcedon commit us to a particular metaphysics?  

Answer: Probably.

Some conclusions:
(1) The Son didn’t assume a personal human nature.  This is the an/enhypostatic distinction.

(2) For Chalcedon, a hypostasis “was essentially a particular individual within a universal species, identifiable as such or such a thing by the qualities” it/he/she shares with other individuals (Daley, quoted by Crisp, 86). 

(3) Persons are concrete things. A person is a substance (or supposit) that instantiates a substance-kind by a de re relation.

(4) This does not entail Nestorianism, though.  While almost all human natures are human persons, they don’t strictly have to be. In philosophy a proper part of a person isn’t a person.  There is the famous Tibbles-the-Cat experiment.  Tibbles is a cat with all of the properties of a cat.  He has 1,000 hairs on his fur.  He also has the property part of all of Tibbles’ hairs-minus-one (T -1). Does that constitute a new cat?  What if he also has the part T -2, and so on until T -999? 

(4*) Therefore, God the Son, though he has the property of human nature, is still only a divine person and not also a human person.

The Union Account of the Atonement

What’s the difference between a “model” of the atonement and a “metaphor,” with the latter term being more popular today?  A model of the atonement is a thicker description.  It actually–with varying degrees of success–attempts to explain the “mechanism” for how the atonement works.  Metaphors don’t do that.  Crisp (rightly) opts for models in this chapter.

Aulen: Ransom/Christus Victor.  Gustav Aulen’s historiography has been thoroughly criticized.  So does his claim work on the deeper level?  No. It seems that the ransom is being paid to the devil.

Anselm: Satisfaction.  God’s nature requires that he be satisfied for the wrongs against him. Human sin was committed against an infinite good and requires an infinite sacrifice. The strength of this view is that it actually explains the mechanism better than earlier views.  There are some problems, though.  Nothing is said about penal substitution.  It isn’t necessary for Anselm’s view, so Protestants might balk at this point.

Crisp then discusses the moral and penal views, with the standard arguments pro and con.  His own view, so it seems, is what he calls a “Union Account.”  He has Augustine’s philosophical realism do “all the heavy lifting” (130). If traducianism (T) holds (and I think it does), then there is no injustice in God’s punishing me for Adam. I am metaphysically united to Adam.

There are some difficulties at this point, though none of them are fatal.  If T obtains, then there isn’t any need for imputation language.  Further, are souls fissile?  Crisp says no.  I think they might be, so that’s not a problem for my traducianism.  Further, if T obtains and if the issues resolving sin and human nature are resolved, this doesn’t explain anything about the actual atonement.  T only works regarding sin, not righteousness.

Crisp then augments his view with a “mystical union” account. He doesn’t actually develop it in this chapter.  He does pick up some ideas in the following chapter on the Spirit and Christ.

The Spirit’s Role in Union with Christ

This section gets interesting as Crisp ties in Nevin’s realism with Edwards four-dimensional ontology and identity with time.

Conclusion

There is some overlap in the book and Crisp does use material from previous essays.  Nevertheless, there is a conceptual “flow” to the book.  

Aquinas on Christology

Motive of the Incarnation:

  1. The incarnation took place to deal with the Fall
  2. Incarnation 
  3. There is a tension, though:  Aquinas holds that God is the diffusive Good, which seems to suggest that The Incarnation would have happened anyway.  Yet most fathers hold that it came about because of sin.

On Person and Nature

Nature designates the essence of the species. A suppositum is the whole which includes the nature as “its formal part” (III.2.2).

Something’s “assumption” includes the principle and term of the act (3.3.1). The principle of the assumption is the divine nature itself.  The term is the Person in whom it is considered to be. The act of the assumption proceeds from the divine power, which is common to the three persons.  The term of the assumption, being the second person, isn’t common to the three.

Thomas argues that Christ didn’t assume a generic human nature, since human nature cannot be apart from sensible matter (3.4.4).

Thomas posits an archetypal theology within the union of the God-man, saying “from the moment of his conception Christ saw God’s essence fully” (3.7.3).  This is important for Thomas, for on his gloss, “The soul of Christ had to be perfected by a knowledge which would be its proper perfection” (3.9.1).  Indeed, the soul of Christ is perfected with the beatific knowledge.  Thomas isn’t saying, however, that the soul/human nature of Christ simpliciter sees the divine essence.

Christ’s human soul has access to the divine nature but doesn’t comprehend it totally.

On necessity in Christ: There are two kinds of necessity. One is by constraint via an external agent.  The other is a natural necessity. In the latter respect was Christ subject to necessity.

Christ did not have concupiscence (3.15.2). Thomas goes on to say that perfection of virtue does not exclude passibility of body but only fomes.   In other words, Christ did not lust after the pleasurable things against the order of reason.

Now to Christology proper.  The person of the Son of God is the suppositum of human nature.  For the most part, suppositum functions similar to hypostasis, so why doesn’t Thomas call it hypostasis?  I think his using “suppositum” allows him to affirm “one person” of the Son, pace Nestorius, yet acknowledge a human dimension to the Son’s person.  A suppositum is the existing hypostasis.

Why is this important?  If we take phrases like “Christ is God” or “this Man is God,” then strictly speaking it isn’t true.  By “Christ” do we mean the eternal Son, the human nature, both, neither?  Therefore, by understanding the hypostasis as a suppositum of the Second Person, we can say the above propositions. 

A hypostasis is that which has being.   A nature is that by which it has being. 

The Singular Man:

  1. Was the man Jesus sanctified/transformed by grace?  Aquinas says yes, appealing to Isaiah 61.
  2. The Passion
    1. Cry of dereliction on the cross: The Father withdrew his protection but maintained the union (ST 3.50.2). 
    2. Jesus was simultaneously viator and comprehensor.  Thomas says there must have always been a continuous union because of the Trinity.
    3. Then what do we make of death, which is the severing of soul and body (if Christ maintains both human nature and divine nature, which the latter is still in union with the Father)?
      1. Neither Christ’s soul nor body was separated from the Word of God (3.50.3).

How Not to Be Secular (Smith)

Smith gives us a roadmap of Charles Taylor’s analysis of modernity. On most accounts, Smith’s treatment excels and the reader is well-equipped to analyze both Taylor’s work and (post)modernity in general. The book suffers from an unfocused conclusion and Smith’s overreliance on postmodern pop culture.

In some ways the most valuable aspect is Smith’s glossary of key terms in Taylor (noted below).

Smith’s version of Taylor (S-T) avoids crude genealogical accounts of how the West declined. But there were ideological moments that made it possible. And that leads to Taylor’s thesis: it is not that belief in God is simply wrong for secularists; rather, it is unthinkable. The structures that made belief in God likely on a societal level, so Taylor, are not there anymore.

With this shift came a different understand of person and cosmos. The pre-modern self is ‘porous,’ open to outside influences (grace, blessing, curses, demons). Thus, the modern self is “buffered,” insulated from outside forces (Smith 30). But that gives way to another phenomenon: the nova effect: new modes of being that try to forge a way through cross-pressures (14ff).

Smith has an interesting but undeveloped account of epistemology and the immanent frame (IF). The IF is a concept that, like a frame, boxes in and boxes out, focuses in and out. It captures how we inhabit our age (92). It is our orientation to the world. It is more of a “vibe” than a set of deductions.

Smith is concerned that foundationalist accounts of knowledge (justified, true belief) play into a closed-world, naturalist system. “If knowledge is knowing something outside my mind, the transcendent would be about as far away as one could get” (98).

Criticisms

One horn of my criticism is aesthetic. I think postmodern literature and art is an offense against decency, so I really can’t “relate” to Smith’s usage of them. But that doesn’t negate Smith’s thesis. The other horn of my criticism is that Smith tends to give too much of the farm away. His initial claim is good: secularism not only makes belief in God difficult, it entails an entirely new structure of beliefs that do not have room for God. But I am not sure, pace Smith, why I should be impressed with this new structure. Smith asks “How do we recognize and affirm the difficulty of belief” [in a secular age, p. 6]? The first part of the question is fine–we all recognize that belief in God can be difficult for our age. But why affirm it? What does that even mean or look like? To be fair, Smith acknowledges this point occasionally (20 n32).

Nonetheless, the book has a number of poignant (and occasionally brilliant) insights that should provide good reflection for apologetics and evangelism

The Byzantine Christ (Bathrellos)

Bathrellos, Demetrios.  The Byzantine Christ: Person, Nature, and Will in Maximus the Confessor.  Oxford.

Cappadocian View of person and nature:  ousia has the same relation to hypostasis as common has to particular.  A nature/essence becomes a person/hypostasis by possessing particular idioms.  Problem with this:  if the human nature of Christ lacked particular characteristics, it would not be a real nature (38-39).  For Leontius, however, to nature applies the logos of being while to hypostasis applies the logos of being by itself (41). 

 anhypostasis:  without a person/hypostasis.  The anti-Chalcedonians wanted to prove that without a nature there is not a person, and to introduce a human nature of Christ is to introduce a human person of Christ, which is sheer Nestorianism.  What Leontius wanted to say is that if the human nature existed apart from the Logos, it would exist as a human person.  But it doesn’t exist apart from the Logos. 

 Leontius of Jerusalem defines hypostasis as “distance, separation, and subsisting by itself” (45). 

 We must reject the claim that a human nature cannot exist without a human person.  The human nature of Christ is an authentic human nature.  It never existed as a human person because it never existed apart from the Divine Logos (46). 

 Unity of the Logos and Monotheletism:  It is true that an overemphasis on the divine hypostasis of the Logos in Christology may overshadow and eventually undermine the completedness of Christ’s humanity.  Two points need to be made:  there is no necessary connection between accepting that Christ has a divine hypostasis, on the one hand, and monotheletism on the other hand.  If the will and energy are natural faculties–faculties of the nature–the divinity of the Person does not endanger them (53). 

 Monotheletism

 Actually than rather denying a human will to Christ, monotheletism resigned it to a merely passive state (66, incidentally, this is the view of hyper-Calvinism). 

 The humanity of Christ is more or less a passive instrument (71). 

 The monothelites operated under the presupposition that a difference of wills necessarily equals an opposition of wills.  This is the same reasoning by today’s postmodern thinkers regarding an ontology of violence:  differance is perceived as violence/opposition. 

 Organon concept:  Is the fact that the Logos moves the human flesh of Christ necessarily a monotheletite statement?  No.  One can say this (per Cyril and Athanasius) as long as one doesn’t undermine the human will (93).  

 The Dyothelite Christology of St Maximus the Confessor

Maximus sought the unity of Christ not on the level of nature but on the level of hypostasis (101). 

Hypostasis: it is an essence with idioms, or the essence of an individual man that includes all his idioms (102).  Mode of existence = it is impossible for beings to exist without their mode of the existence.  However, person is not identical with mode of existence (else we turn the humanity of Christ into a person).  Hypostasis responds to the question “who” and indicates an “I” (104; cf. von Balthasar).  Hypostasis is an ontological category.  It does not have to do with the existential domain in the modern sense nor with the unity of consciousness (104). 

Maximus distinguishes the human nature of Christ from the human person:  a hypostasis subsists by itself.  The humanity of Christ was never a hypostasis because it never subsisted by itself (104). 

Hypostatic (a)Symmetry

In Christ the divine nature exists prior to the human, whereas for man the soul comes into existence simultaneously with the body.  In Christ the divine hypostasis is personal. 

Maximus and Essence

Maximus identifies the divine essence with the three persons of the Trinity, but this is aimed not at erasing the all-important distinction between nature and hypostasis, but rather at excluding any sort of tetra-theistic conception of God which would make the essence would be a fourth God beside the three Persons (109).  Accordingly, Maximus identifies Christ with the two natures, in order to prevent a tertium quid existing alongside the natures (e.g., this is what Bulgakov meant by Sophia).   The “who” is identified with the “whats” without being reduced to them (109-110). 

The Ontological Priority of Person/hypostasis over nature/essence

Hypostasis is necessarily nature but nature is not necessarily hypostasis (111). 

The Logos is identifiable with the Divine Nature according to Nature and with both Natures according to Hypostasis

The flesh differs with the Logos according to essence.  “Therefore, it is clear, that for Maximus, whereas the Logos is identical with both natures according to hypostasis–since both natures are united in one hypostasis, which is identical with the incarnate logos, who is their hypostasis–he is identical wtih the incarnate Logos–he is identical only with the divine nature according to nature (112).