Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, April 16, 2010

Re: Further Reflections on Nestorianism and the God's Hammer Blog

Because of a lack of theological precision modern laymen often cannot distinguish between the idea that there are two wills in Christ without dividing Christ into two persons.  Many of them fall into open heresy by outright rejecting Scripture and accepting Nestorianism.  Moreover, the Nestorian charge is that somehow it is illogical or contradictory to say that God died on the cross or that Mary is the theotokos or God bearer,  in other words, the mother of God.  Although it is true that God cannot die and Mary did not literally give birth to God who has no beginning or end, what the Nestorian fails to understand is that God is capable of experiencing the human nature from within a reasonable human soul because He is God.  So whatever is said about Jesus Christ can be legitimately said about Him from the "definitions" of both natures.  Is Jesus omniscient?  Yes.   Is Jesus limited in knowledge?  Yes.  But the Nestorian will say that this is a contradiction.  But is it a contradiction?
First of all, the orthodox position agrees that God cannot die or be limited in knowledge, power, or location.  In other words, in regard to the three main incommunicable attributes of deity--that is omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence--God cannot empty Himself or else He is no longer God.  So in order to preserve the doctrine of God and the Trinity we must not sacrifice this understanding of who God is by nature.  So the Nestorian will accuse the orthodox Chalcedonian position of making this change in deity so that Christ can become fully human.  But does the orthodox position compromise the deity of the Logos in saying that the eternal Son of God assumes a reasonable human soul and a truly human nature into the divine nature?
The Nestorian will say yes.  Therefore, according to Nestorianism, we cannot say that Jesus is the same person as God the eternal Son, the second person of the Godhead.  The division commits two errors.  First, it means that Jesus is only a good man and not God.  When pressed the Nestorian will say that Jesus is both God and man but what he means by this is that Jesus is one person and God is another person and two persons reside in the same human body.  In other words, Jesus is not really God at all.  God is somehow in Jesus but not really Jesus.  Therefore, the logical and rational conclusion to be drawn is that Jesus is not fully God and it would therefore be idolatry to worship Jesus.  But this fails to explain how Jesus did miracles by His own authority and by His own will (John 2:18-22). The Bible never speaks of Jesus as if He were two persons.  Rather the Bible speaks of Jesus as though He were one individual man who is as fully human as anyone else.  He thinks, feels, eats, acts, lives and dies just as any other human person would.  But Jesus is more than a human person.  He is also a divine person and this person is one person being both divine and human at one and the same time.  The other error of Nestorianism is that it denies that the Son of God, the Word, became flesh.  This clearly contradicts the plain teaching of Scripture.  (John 1:1-3, 9-10, 14-15, 18; Romans 1:4; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7; Colossians 1:19, 2:9; Hebrews 1:3, 2:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:3; 2 Peter 1:17; 1 John 1:1, 4:2, 9; 2 John 1:7).
It makes no rational sense to say that Jesus is God and Jesus is not God.  Can the Nestorian make up his mind?  The reality is that the Nestorian cannot decide if Jesus is God or if Jesus is not God.  The Nestorian thinks he has solved the problem of the apparent contradiction of Jesus being one person who is both fully God and fully human.  But the Nestorian only thinks he has solved the "apparent" problem which is no real problem at all.  And even more than that the Nestorian position divides Christ into two persons which are not united at all.  The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that Jesus is only a man and not God.  Thus, the Nestorian position can affirm Mary as the christotokos, the Christ bearer, and that Jesus Christ the man died on the cross for our sins.  But what the Nestorian cannot affirm consistently is that Jesus is God in the flesh, the Second Person of the Godhead.  This means that Nestorianism is a heresy of the first rank.  To take this position is to put oneself outside the Christian faith according to Scripture (1 John 4:2; 2 John 1:7). 
It is true that God cannot die or not know anything or that God could be weak.  So in this sense the Nestorian is correct that the Logos did not die on the cross.  The Second Person of the Godhead cannot literally die or cease to exist.  But the Logos can and did assume a human soul and a human nature into the divine nature.  So Jesus is one person who is both fully God and fully human at one and the same time.  The two natures are not to be confused or mixed together or divided from the other but perfectly united in one person in hypostatic union.  It is the hypostatic union that Nestorians reject and therefore the implication is that they reject the full deity of Jesus Christ, despite their protests to the contrary.  In their attempt to solve what is not a real problem at all the Nestorians sacrifice the full deity of Jesus Christ who is one person, one God, one Lord.
So how can Jesus be both God/unlimited and human/limited and remain one person?  The answer to that question is that the incommunicable attributes of the divine nature are not communicated to the human nature of Christ nor is the divine nature reduced to something less or absorbed by the human nature.  So at one and the same time Jesus is limited in knowledge according to His human soul and human nature and at the same time in His divine nature He is not limited.  The Nestorian will say that this entails Nestorianism since it is impossible for one person to be limited and unlimited at the same time.  But this fails to distinguish what God can and cannot do.  It is similar to saying that God cannot be one God and three persons subsisting in one divine nature.  What the Nestorian is really saying is that God cannot assume a human soul and nature into the divine nature without ceasing to be God.  Therefore the implication is that Jesus only contains God in some mysterious way but Jesus is not really God nor is He fully human.  He is therefore not united in one person with two distinct natures which are respectively divine and human.  But Scripture addresses Jesus as no other than the Eternal Son of God who is a person according to trinitarian theology and  according to Scripture.  Of course, Scripture also addresses Jesus as fully human and the son of man (Daniel 8:12; Matthew 8:20; Mark 2:10; John 3:13). So for the Nestorian to say that Jesus is God but not God is illogical since the Scriptures clearly address Him as God the Son, not God indwelling a human son.  The Nestorian position is closer to Arianism or to the kenosis theory than to biblical Christianity.
So while God cannot die, God the Son died on the cross.  How can we say that?  Because whatever can be said about Jesus is true of Jesus as both God and as human.  Of course, God cannot literally die yet the Bible says that God shed His blood on the cross.  God literally experiences human limitations and weaknesses through the instrument of the reasonable human soul and human nature of Jesus Christ which is assumed into the divine nature.  It is not the Father or the Holy Spirit who assumes human form but the Word, the Logos, the Eternal Son, the Second Person of the Godhead.  The Father does not suffer for the sins of humanity on the cross but it is the Son of God, Jesus Christ who suffers for the sins of the whole world on the cross.  The Nestorian has to deny that Jesus bears the sins of the whole world and that He propitiates the wrath of God against sinners because the Nestorian cannot in good conscience say that Jesus is divine.  But the Bible makes it clear that Jesus' blood is divine in the sense that whatever is said of one of his natures can be legitimately said of the other:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28 ESV) (Compare Revelation 5:9; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

What the Nestorian really does is to limit what God can do.  The Nestorian says that God cannot assume human form (Philippians 2:5-11; Galatians 4:4) without giving up His deity.  But is this logical and does it entail Nestorianism if we say that Jesus had both a divine will and a human will, that is two wills in one person who is both God and man?  The Nestorian thinks so.  But does it follow?  If we follow the analogy of the trinitarian unity of three persons who are all fully divine and perfectly united in one divine nature without being confused or mixed or separated into three separate gods, then we can likewise say that one person can be both God and human hypostatically united in one person in the same way that three persons can be perfectly united in one divine nature without sacrificing the absolute unity of God as one God or denying the three persons or subsistences or entities within the one divine nature.  The fact that Jesus Christ is the Word become flesh is biblical (John 1:1-2, 1:14; Hebrews 1:3).  Scripture nowhere divides Christ into two persons but simply and plainly speaks about the one man Jesus Christ as being both the Eternal Word of God and as being the son of man (John 1:18; Acts 7:56).  So the Nestorian position must read into the text what the text never says.  In essence, the Nestorian position is one huge argument from silence.  But the Bible clearly presents Jesus Christ as one individual in historical time.  No one has a problem saying He is human.  But almost every heresy there is attacks the full and complete deity of Jesus Christ.  Nestorianism is no exception.  To deny that Jesus Christ is one person who is fully God and fully man is to deny Christianity and become a heretic.  Nestorianism does not solve any problems.  It creates one huge problem.  Nestorianism denies that Jesus Christ is literally God, the Second Person of the Godhead.

Of course, the Council of Chalcedon 451 did not fully resolve the issue.  As Philip Schaff put it, the divine/human union in the one person of Christ does entail that there must be two wills and two consciousnesses in Christ:

Two wills cannot coexist in an ordinary human being. But as the personality of Christ is complex or divine-human, it may be conceived of as including two consciousnesses and two wills. The Chalcedonian Christology at all events consistently requires two wills as the necessary complement of two rational natures; in other words, Dyotheletism is inseparable from Dyophysitism, while Monotheletism is equally inseparable from Monophysitism, although it acknowledged the Dyophysitism of Chalcedon. The orthodox doctrine saved the integrity and completeness of Christ's humanity by asserting his human will.  [From The Doctrine of Two Wills in Christ].

Moreover, the divine nature is not diminished by the union nor is the human nature absorbed by the divine nature so that it is no longer human.  The two natures remain distinct, not confused or mixed, yet united in the one person of Jesus Christ.  To deny either His full humanity or His full deity is to deny that Christ (the Son of God, Second Person of the Godhead) came in the flesh (2 John 1:7).  Since Nestorianism commits this error then we must say that Nestorianism, like Arianism, Sabellian Modalism, Apollinarianism, Eutychianism, et. al., is necessarily outside the realm of true Christianity (Jude 1:1-3; Ephesians 4:4-6).  So to say that Christ had two consciousnesses or two wills is one thing but to say that Christ is two persons is quite another.

Since I have not yet read Gordon H. Clark's two books, The Incarnation, and The Trinity I will withhold judgment.  However, I have had an extensive debate with Sean Gerety over at the God's Hammer blog.  (See Clark Quick Quote and  the comments concerning doctrine of two persons in Christ at Alien Fantasies of the Federal Vision). It seems to me that Gerety and his followers have crossed the line into Nestorianism and are therefore not brothers in Christ.  I can include in that several others including Drake Shelton (see Did Calvin Get the Incarnation Wrong?), One would think that Jesus is both God and man in one person goes without saying but not so with many of the modern followers of Gordon H. Clark.  Be forewarned about this impending heresy which threatens the Reformed churches through the subtlety of deception and dissimulation. 

It seems to me that the less theologically astute laymen are more prone to fall into heresy without realizing it.  This could be said of those above.  But the most blatant offender is Drake Shelton who outright rejects the creed of Chalcedon 451 A.D. and embraces Nestorianism openly.  From what I can understand so far Clark did not reject Chalcedon but rather embraces his own version of the dyothelite or two wills of Christ view.  I could be wrong but after I read the books in question I will be doing a thorough critique and review of Clark's actual position as it is stated in those books.

[See also The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day Five].
  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;

    Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.


Charlie J. Ray said...

The 39 Articles clearly uphold the Creed of Chalcedon:

Article II
Of the Word, or Son of God, which was made very man

The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The irony here is that Sean Gerety claims to be rational but refuses to open his comments to debate the issue openly. I am more than willing to debate the issue on a rational basis here IF anyone can do so without resorting to ridicule and illogical fallacies.


Roger Mann said...

To take this position is to put oneself outside the Christian faith according to Scripture (1 John 4:2; 2 John 1:7).

While that is indeed true, it does much more than that; it makes one a "deceiver and an antichrist," an implication that the two-person fanatics are clearly oblivious to.

"For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." (2 John 1:7)

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world" (1 John 4:1-3)

Charlie J. Ray said...

and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17 ESV)

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