Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo Dies

And in her last moments, her "husband" Michael forced Terri's brother and sister to leave the room so that he could rub his authority in their faces one last time. He and his attorney claimed the reason he did so was because Terri's brother was becoming argumentative with him, and Michael wanted to make the last moments of his wife's life peaceful for her. He even played soft music for her and placed flowers in her room.

There's just one question in my mind. How could anyone who is brain dead be "comforted" by music, flowers, and the absence of argument?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Book Review

Every now and then I am sent a complimentary copy of a newly released book and asked by the publisher to write a review on it. The most recent of these is a book by Del Birkey titled, The Fall of Patriarchy. Dr. Birkey is a prominent writer in what is commonly known as the house church movement (the subtitle of his book is “Its Broken Legacy Judged by Jesus and the Apostolic House Church Community”). As many of the readers of this blog know, I have been involved in the house church movement for almost twenty years, and during that time have been both an outspoken advocate of its benefits and an outspoken critic of most of its proponents. The house church model is a wonderful New Testament model for meeting together as a church, and I prefer it primarily because I see theological significance to it. Unfortunately, that movement draws more than its share of antiestablishment and antiauthoritarian malcontents, disgruntled and rebellious social misfits, radical feminists, “peace and social justice” and ex-Jesus Movement hippies, cultists, and just about every other type of kook and weirdo imaginable. I have always distanced myself from that crowd at large, and at times have even hesitated to mention I am a house church advocate. There are very few houses churches that follow that model for biblical reasons (most do it for reasons of “social consciousness” or “intentional community”)--and even fewer that follow the model for sound biblical reasons!

It took me only a few pages of reading to determine that The Fall of Patriarchy falls within the category of house church “theology” that is to be rejected for its poor exegetical foundation. The author takes the egalitarian position of the relationship between men and women in the church, and argues basically the same egalitarian arguments that have been answered time and again by the complementarian position, and in the process unwittingly exposes that position’s exegetical weaknesses. Here is a sample of the exegesis the author thinks is sound:
In his encounter with the religious patriarchs recorded in Matthew 23:1-12 NLT,
Jesus drew a dramatic and detailed “portrait” of patriarchal-type leaders. He used the episode to teach the bottom line on religious patriarchs. Of course the Pharisees were attracted to Abraham, their greatest patriarch. Yet the stern tenor of the Lord is exceedingly strong as he laid naked the symptoms of these men. He discerned that they always radiate an attitude of arrogance in practicing their patriarchy. But again, if this seems too strong, look at the exacting specifics. Jesus was obviously perturbed; not only did he call them strong iniquitous names, but he demanded that his followers avoid them, in light of their patriarchal behavior. Jesus plainly said that that “don’t practice what they preach,” while at the same time “they crush you with impossible religious demands.” Jesus makes clear that this kind of men enjoy their “prominence, show, and place of honor.” It’s obvious that our Lord had no patience whatsoever with their masculinity parade. . . . Jesus focused on his disciples (verses 8-9), protesting right out: “Don’t ever let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are on the same level as brothers and sisters!” Unmistakably, Jesus hates all forms of patriarchalism, which is sub-Christian and causes incomprehensible division among his people.
"Unmistakably"? Based on what exactly? So, Jesus’ point in this passage is no longer about the religious burden with which the religious leaders were taxing the common people? It is no longer about exposing and correcting a false piety and works-righteousness? Instead, it’s about Jesus’ disdain for men taking a leadership role in a religious and social setting (one wonders if Jesus would then have praised these leaders had they simply been a different gender)? Birkey’s “exegesis” provides a glowing example of just why the arguments for Christian feminism will never be accepted by those committed to rightly interpreting the Scriptures.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"We interrupt your normal productivity to bring you this special technology problem"

If that error message doesn't yet exist, someone ought to create it to explain the process whereby the computer that you purchased to serve your needs has at some point (I assume late at night) conspired with your other network devices--including your Internet gateway and your other computers--to enact a coup d'etat and to bring you into servitude to them.

I just moved my primary computer from my main office (with DSL) to my home office (with ISDN--there is no such thing as DSL or cable in the tin-can and string phone configurations of the high country of Colorado) because I had planned to spend more time there and less time at the main office. Within a week of doing that, the ISDN router decides it's seen enough and wants to call it quits. The problem is, you can't just walk into a Best Buy and purchase an ISDN router--they have to be specially ordered, if you can find them at all. And so, off to my main office with my laptop. The problem is, my just-over-one-year-old laptop (you know, that special time just after the warranty has expired) has decided it has seen enough DVDs and CDs. On top of that, it has digested so many installed and uninstalled programs over the past year that the registry resembles the human nervous system and the hard drive has more file fragments than files. The result is, it takes the better part of ten minutes for my laptop to bootup all the way; and opening a web browser takes about half that time.

Long story short, I am performing some much needed maintenance on my laptop as I write this. Defraging the hard drive was an all-night vigil (it took 20 hours), and now I am running all the diagnostic and fix tools, including AdAware, Spybot, Registry Mechanic, Registry compressor, and Reg Vac. I've turned down all the "high quality" options and set them to "high performance" instead, removed the background, and selected a classic look. When that's done, another scan disk and defrag just for good measure. At the same time, I'll be looking for an ISDN modem. Needless to say, I have my day (or two) cut out for me, so the blog will have to wait. Be back soon.

Friday, March 25, 2005

It's a Walter Mitty World

That's a pet phrase of David King when he's dealing with RC apologists who deny reality and seem to live in a world of their own making. This is nowhere better illustrated than the blog of Jonathan Prejean, who has now officially stated that he gave me multiple oppotunities to explain my position and that I have declined. Once again, here are my supposed "non-responses":

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And, of course, you'll search in vain for Jonathan Prejean's interaction with these--but he insists he's adequately addressed them and that he hasn't dodged any of them, and that's all that matters in a Walter Mitty world. Moreover, he keeps citing the same passage that I have already shown is the shared sentiment of the likes of Brown, McGrath, and other patristic scholars--namely, that Nestorius' objection to theotokos was legitimate--and if Prejean and his uninformed cohorts had just read my series they would know that. Oh well, it's Walter Mitty resurrected from the grave. It's time to leave them to their RC fundamentalism.

Jonathan Prejean: The Conclusion

One thing about Jonathan Prejean; so far he's proven to be unpredictable. Many have speculated how he might respond to my series. Some thought he would abandon the academic sources (which are clearly against him) and appeal instead to the infallible magisterium. I personally thought he would "counter quote" with a barrage of scholarly citations. Neither of those transpired. We were all promised a "rebuttal" of substance to my series from Jonathan Prejean. What we got instead was a series of denials that he said the things he said, along with a series of empty assertions that I didn't address his points. In case you missed it, I documented his specific statements, and responded to each of them here:

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He is the one who raised the issues--all of them--not I. His latest dismissive response confirms to me that he's completely unprepared for this kind of dialogue, and that he's unworthy of further interaction. I won't be wasting any more of my time on it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The moment we've all been waiting for . . .

. . . is finally here. Many of you have been waiting with baited breath to see how Jonathan Prejean would respond to my series on the Christological controversies. Surely, we all thought, he had big guns in patristic scholarship that he was reserving till now, and that he would pull them out to sunstantiate the charges of Nestorianism and historical ignorance he's been leveling against me over the past month. Well, here is Jonathan Prejean's "response" to my series. I suggest you read it before contining on with this post. When you're finished with it (it won't take long, believe me), then return to this post.

Finished already? Wow, that was fast! Keep in mind that this paltry, lazy post, which does not answer even one point I made, is supposed to be a response to these posts . . .

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. . . all of which are supported by the same patristic scholars Prejean pretended supported his views against mine. I may have treated Prejean to some lessons in historical theology; but I took away a lesson or two of my own--never waste time responding to Jonathan Prejean rants. He can't back them up.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Quick note in my travels

Relevant links to two contemporary issues:

1. On the Terri Shiavo case, the judge that decided that Terri Shiavo should die is now a former member of a Southern Baptist Church, thanks to the courageous stand of its pastor (hat tip to Jason Engwer on the NTRMin Discussion Forum).

2. On the Georgia killer, Brian Nichols: Hostage Ashley Smith's promotion of "The Purpose Driven Life" has catapulted Rick Warren and his book to the secular media spotlight. CNN interviewed John MacArthur on the book, and of course he set the record straight about the theologically shallow "search for significance" movement in Evangelical circles. CNN, as usual, distorted the facts (hat tip to Alpha and Omega ministries).

Monday, March 21, 2005

Lessons in Historical Theology for Jonathan Prejean (Part 4)

Over the past several days I have been demonstrating three things: (1) what patristic scholarship actually says about the Christological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries (especially regarding Apollinarianism, Monophysitism, and Nestorianism); (2) that Jonathan Prejea's charges against me are baseless and uninformed; and (3) that Prejean in fact falls under the condemnation of Chalcedon in his cryptic Apollinari-Monophysitism. Now I’d like to offer some conclusions to this series.

What we have seen throughout this series is that patristic scholars by and large confirm what I have said all along. All of them confirm that Nestorius’ views (those condemned as heretical in Roman Catholic apologetic pop-history circles) were in fact orthodox, that Cyril’s views (the hero of modern “mother of God” proponents) were in fact Monophysite, that the councils were in error in condemning Nestorius, that they were equally in error in affirming Cyril, and that Chalcedon and Ephesus in fact contradict each other in just which positions they support (Chalcedon favors Nestorianism and Ephesus is Monophysitism). Inasmuch as Apollinarian is the kernel (the under-developed version) of Monophysitism, Ephesus would also lend support to Apollinarianism (hence, my original term Apollinari-Monophysitism).

Modern Roman Catholic apologetics is inherently Apollinari-Monophysite in that it stresses the deity of Christ at the expense of his humanity. In their view, as regards the humanity of Christ, Christ is not true man and true God, but rather God cloaked in a human nature. There is no human persona within Christ, only divine. That, as we have seen, is the essence of what Apollinaris taught. I think they are Monophysite only in a derived sense, based on their loyalty to Cyril and the actual outworking of their arguments. The question remains, Are they guilty of heresy?

If one subscribes to the authority and infallibility of ecumenical councils, then I don’t seen any way around charging modern Roman Catholic apologists with heresy. Chalcedon was sympathetic to Nestorianism (which modern Roman Catholic apologists view as heretical) and condemned Apollinarianism and Monophysitism (which is the essence of their position on these things). If this is one’s authority, then they are guilty as charged.

However, if we recognize along with patristic scholarship that Chalcedon and Ephesus actually contradicted each other, then they cannot be infallible, and their authority must also be called into question. This is my view because it is the only reasonable view to hold in light of the facts (Prejean prides himself on being an “apologist for historical fact”—very well; let’s see how well he fares on this fact). Since the councils are not infallible, and not authoritative, then we are left with the question, Are they right? I believe they are right (indeed, extremely cogent) on some points, and are gravely wrong on others. To the extent they are right, I am glad to affirm them; to the extent they are in error, I just as gladly reject them.

So how do they fare on the current issue? It is my opinion that both councils attempted to explain the inexplicable and went far a field in their dogmatic pronouncements and attendant condemnations. No one can explain the unity of the person of Christ and the relationship between his natures beyond what the Scriptures affirm because it is inexplicable beyond what the Scriptures affirm. The most we can safely affirm is that Christ is both fully God and fully man. But the moment we attempt to explain just how those two statements fit together—or worse, to go beyond that and proclaim Mary as “mother of God” is some kind of ramification of all that, or that it acts as a test of orthodoxy—we end up in error. Why? Because at that point we end up abandoning discussion on the communication of attributes in Christ and start down the path of discussing the communication of attributes in Mary.

As I stated in an earlier post in this series, the term theotokos, rightly understood as a Christological affirmation, is not objectionable in itself. It becomes objectionable in the hands of RC apologists who would use it to exalt Mary’s status over against the consistent testimony of the very Scriptures to which they purport to acquiesce in the concilliar definitions of Chalcedon and Ephesus about the person and natures of Christ. Indeed, they eagerly seek to defend the Cyrilline Apollinariani-Monophysite view of Christ’s person and natures from the Scriptures--not so they can uphold the deity of Christ, but as a pretext for finding a basis for exalting Mary by somehow proving from that fact that she’s the “mother of God.” I think that much is self-evident in their writings. But in so doing, they ignore the clear statements of Jesus that such a relationship—even if true—avails nothing. Indeed, I am convinced that they would, if they thought they could get away with it, happily throw out the qualifier of the councils that Mary is theotokos only “as regards his manhood,” and that “the difference of the natures [is] by no means removed because of the union, but the property of each nature [is] preserved and coalesced in one prosopon and one hupostasis,” and use the term in an unqualified way to exalt Mary instead of Christ. After all, that is the sense in which they use the term today, completely oblivious to the fact that the title has a historical context.

So are Roman Catholic apologists wrong in their views? I believe so. Are they in Christological heresy on this point? If the councils are to act as our rule of faith, I don’t see any way around it. But Scripture is much more forgiving on this point than are the councils. If Scripture is to act as our rule of faith, I don’t see how any view that affirms the full deity and full humanity of Christ as well as the unity of his person can be labeled as heretical given the fact no one knows exactly how the person and natures of Christ relate to each other, or even whether those categories are ones the biblical writers would deem legitimate in the first place. The councils use Platonic concepts and Aristotelian categories that are foreign to Scripture; and Scripture simply does not bother to elaborate on these things, no doubt because they are inexplicable to finite minds. Hence, my major complaint on this particular issue insofar as Roman Catholic apologists are concerned is not their Apollinari-Monophysite view of Christ; it is the application they think they can make to Mary.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Brief Pause

In all my years of traveling by air (on average, twice a month over the past decade), I've encountered this type of thing on only one other occasion. But the last time it happened there were extraordinary circumstances involved. The prop plane ("puddle jumpers" as frequent flyers call them) aborted the landing due to heavy fog in the Newport News (VA) airport, and landed at an airfield approximately 80 miles away from my destination. In that instance, my luggage went before me on an earlier flight (this was before 9/11 obviously), and I was not able to get it until the following afternoon. Unfortunately, it was rather late in the evening and after renting a car and driving the 80 miles, I didn't get to my hotel until about 1am, then had to get up at 5am to get ready to teach a class that morning. I was hoping I wouldn't experience that kind of thing again, but God has a way of developing character using the most inconvenient circumstances.

Yesterday(Sunday) I took a late-afternoon flight to a small town in Missouri (I took the late flight so that I could teach my Sunday School class in the morning); and while I arrived just fine (although a delay got me in at 9pm), my luggage did not. They don't quite know where it is, but they suspect it never left Denver. I've been assured that I will get it within 48 hours. I was on the phone with the airline till the late hours of the night, and had no time to put together the installment that I had hoped to post in the continuing series on Historical Theology. I hope to post my final installment--which will include a "plot twist" of sorts--by end of day, or at the latest tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Lessons in Historical Theology for Jonathan Prejean (Part 3)

Miscellaneous Musings From Harold O. J. Brown:

I am posting some remnant quotations from Brown that are either after thoughts, or didn't easily fall into the categories I've already addressed. Again, Brown's words are in blue text, and my comments are in black text.

On Hilary of Poitiers (doctor of the church)
Hilary so sharply distinguishes the natures with respect to the suffering of Christ that he seems in danger of docetism or Apollinarianism: 'Having such a body that could suffer, he suffered, but not as having a nature capable of pain . . . when he accepted drink and food, it is not due to the necessity of the body but out of consent.' (On the Trinity 10.24).

This, of course, is the logical outworking of the failure to distinguish between the humanity and divinity of the one Christ. Apollinarians so stress the divintiy of Christ--that there is no real human person called Jesus, but that the Logos, as the nous (the mind, intellect, etc.) animates the flesh in place of a human soul, spirit, etc.--that to conclude, from that framework, that Christ could have been passible is out of the question. Modern RC pop-apologists commit the same error when they insist that Christ is noting more than a divine person--the Logos--who animates the man Jesus (the flesh, as it were). In their view (whether they admit to it or not, it doesn't really matter since they admit to it tacitly nevertheless) Jesus does not have a human mind, does not have a human personality, does not possess a human intellect--is not a human person. Hence, their Jesus cannot redeem man completely because he has not assumed humanity completely.

On Augustine
At times Augustine sounds Apollinarian as he speaks of Christ as the Person of the Logos, but at others, like the Antiochenes, he sharply distinguishes two natures. Although he did formally accept both natures, Augustine tended to express himself in terms that minimize Jesus’ human personhood. (Brown, 179)

I wonder whether Prejean is as trigger-happy to accuse Augustine and Hilary of Apollinarianism as he is to accuse me of Nestorianism? If not, why not? Oh yes, that's right; they are doctors of the church, and he's not allowed to accuse them. Prejean, like all his cohorts, cannot engage in independent critical analysis of this issue because they are prevented from doing so not only by the . Hence, their analysis will always be stilted and partisan--always. They can't get around it. And so nothing they say about this issue can be considered trustworthy.

On Chalcedon and Nestorianism
[The Council of Chalcedon in 451] was so successful that it is acclaimed as the Fourth Ecumenical Council. It closes the series of universally accepted church councils. Reacting against the Robber Council and its virulent anti-Nestorianism, the Council of Chalcedon in effect moved back toward a Nestorian position, without , however, rehabilitating Nestorius or his teachings by name. . . . The creed of the Council of Chalcedon affirmed that each nature is complete; Jesus has a 'reasonable soul and body,' a complete human nature, and thus is 'consubstantial with us' as well as “consubstantial with the Father.” These are things Nestorius himself affirmed , and he would have had no difficulty in subscribing to the creed; in fact, as an old man in banishment, he considered that the creed had vindicated him. Cyril of Alexandria had died seven years before the Council; he would have been able to sign it only with some mental reservations, while his successor Dioscurus and Eutyches clearly could not accept it at all.

Once again, Brown affirms that the "heretic" Nestorius is actually orthodox and that the "orthodox" Cyril is a cryptic heretic. Remember, Cyril is the "champion of orthodoxy" that Prejean so admires and quotes so approvingly. In fact, Prejean holds romantic notions about both Cyril and Nestorius that are deeply entrenched in his pop history.

Brown continues:

On [one] wing of the Christological front stood those who were so inspired by the concept of the deity of Christ that such sober and modest language [as the complete humanity of Christ] seemed to them to be totally inadequate and even irreverent. They had no appreciation for the nice theological distinctions such as that between theotokos and Christotokos; to reject the one and to insist on the other seemed to them to detract from the glory due the deity of Christ. . . . If contemporary liberal Christianity tends to revert to a kind of adoptionism, contemporary conservative Christians—including evangelicals and fundamentalists as well as traditionalist Roman Catholicsreveal a tendency to drift into a Eutychian or monophysite view, seeing in Christ only his deity and failing to take his humanity as seriously as the Bible and historic orthodoxy require. (Brown, 180-183 passim)

Prejean asked whether there are patristic scholars who agree with my conclusion about the Monophysitism of RC pop-apologists. Here is Brown, affirming in almost identical terms what I have been saying for years.

On the Monophysites
The fundamental impulse of monophysitism is the insistence that the unity of the divine and the human in Christ is fulfilled in the physical life of Christ and produces a single nature. The theory states that the Word becomes flesh, but it works itself out in the human flesh becoming divine. Because they held that Christ’s humanity became divine, many, including Cyril and even Gregory of Nazianzus [both canonized doctors of the church], could be called Monophysites. (Brown, 184)

Again, does Prejean want to accuse Cyril and Gregory of Monophysites? If not, why not? He has not trouble railing uninformed accusations of Nestorianism against me. So why not rail accusations of Monophysitism against these "doctors of the church"? Such accusations would at least have the advantage being informed by scholarship rather than by Prejean's pop history, on which his accusations against me are based!

Brown continues:

The first important Monophysite, Severus, reiterated the traditional statements of orthodoxy and acknowledged two natures in Christ, but went on to assert that in the incarnation a synthesis occurs, producing a single nature or hypostasis. Here the identification of physis (“nature”) with hypostasis (in trinitarian discussion, “person”) led to confusion. Severus argued that Christ could not have two hypostases (“persons”), which was orthodox, but by it, he meant natures, which was not. Severus’ views did not substantially differ from those of Cyril.

Once again, Brown affirms that Cyril, the hero of Prejean, was in fact a Monophysite. Brown continues:

The theology of Leontius [of Byzantium], despite his efforts to preserve the human nature of Christ, seems ultimately to result in a Logos that has in some way taken on an impersonal human nature—again suspiciously reminiscent of Apollinaris. . . . The fifth Ecumenical Council, convened at Constantinople in 553, . . . went further than Leontius in concessions to the Monophysites, reaffirming the hypostatic unity of the natures, the divine nature of the Logos with the anhypostatic [impersonal] human nature [this was Cyril’s view as well]. (Brown, 185-86).

Here is a good example of the "authority" of an ecumenical council; an authority to which Prejean subscribes and wants everyone else to as well! Notice they affirmed the Monophysite-Apollinarian view that Jesus Christ is a divine person who took on an impersonal human nature. Now notice how Prejean describes his own view:
For the record, we have no objection to people speaking about just one of Christ's natures, as long as they aren't denying the one divine person of the Word of God. . . . However, to spell it out clearly and obviously, Jesus is no person other than the Word of God. Therefore, it is plain theological error to say that what happens to the person does not happen to God.
A divine person who takes on a human nature. That's Prejean's view. That's the view of all RC pop-apologists. That's also the Apollinarian-Monophysite view. We may as well throw the comments of J.N.D. Kelly into the mix. Here's what he says about the Apollinarian view:

The body of Christ could not by itself exist as an independent 'nature'; to exist as such it needed to be conjoined with, and animated by, spirit. [Apollinaris] brings out the full significance of his teaching in the statement, 'The flesh, being dependent for its motions on some other principle of movement and action (whatever that principle may be), is not of itself a complete living entity, but in order to become one enters into fusion with something else. So it united itself with the heavenly governing principle [i.e. the Logos] and was fused with it . . . Thus out of the moved and the mover was compounded a single living entity--not two, nor one composed of two complete, self-moving principles.' (Early Christian Dosctines, 291-92).

Notice how similar Apollinaris' position is to Prejean's. Apollinaris rejected the notion that Jesus was, in essence, a complete person in and of himself apart from the Logos who animated the flesh. There was not "one [person] composed of two." In other words, Jesus the man is an empty shell into which the Logos pours himself; apart from the logos, the man is not really human at all since there is no animating principle.

But this is just what Prejean argues is his position: "Jesus is no person other than the Word of God." So we must pose the question to Mr. Prejean: if the Logos never "tabernacled" in Jesus, would he be a person with a human personality, spirit, soul, mind and intellect animating the flesh? If so, then does this "person" cease to exist once animated by the Logos? And if not, how could he be considered a real human being in the first place and how could it be said that he became like us in every way except sin? How could he be consubstantial with us in his humanity to the same extent that he is consubstantial with the father in his deity?

Kelly continues:
The frankily acknowledged presupposition of [Apollinaris'] argument is that the divine Word was substituted for the normal human psychology in Christ. . . . 'The divine energy fulfils the role of the animating spirit (psyche) and of the human mind' (noos). . . . What is important, however, is that on his interpretation the Word was both the directive, intelligent principle in Jesus Christ, and also the vivifying principle of His flesh. . . . This was his theory that the Word was the sole life of the God-man. . . . If the Person of the Incarnate is constituted by the Word, the description of Him as 'one incarnate nature' connotes the organic unity. (Kelly, 192-194 passim).

Note very carefully what Kelly is saying about the Apollinarian position. "The Person of the Incarnate is constituted by the Word." In other words, in fact, in the words of Prejean, "Jesus is no person other than the Word of God." These positions, those of Prejean and Apollinaris, are identical!

Here is Kelly's assessment of the Apollinarian position:
If it is assumed that Christ lacked the most characteristic element in man's make-up, a rational mind and will, His alleged manhood was not in the strict sense human, but must have been something monstrous. . . . The rejection of a normal human psychology clashes with the Gospel picture of a Saviour who developed, exhibited signs of ignornace, suffered and underwent all sorts of human experiences. (Kelly, 296).

Montrous indeed; a demigod of sorts. The divine Word is the person, the human nature is that which he wraps himself. A mutation that produces a half-God, half-man being, rather than a person who is at once fully God and fully man.

The Apollinarian Christology, in the opinion of its critics, failed to meet the essential conditions of redemption. It was man's rational soul, with its power of choice, which was the seat of sin; and if the Word did not unite such a soul with Himself, the salvation of mankind could not have been achieved. (Kelly, 296-97).

And that is exactly what I argued in my article on modern RC pop-apologetic Apollinari-Monohysitism.

Kelly continues with an assessment of the mildly Apollinarian view of Gregory of Nazianzus:
His conception of the union, however, permitted him to exploit the communicatio idiomatum [communication of attributes] to the full, and to speak, for example, of the birth of God from the Virgin and of 'God crucified', as well as to insist on the propriety of calling Mary theotokos. A marked weakness of his theory, however, was its failure, despite its recognition of a human mind in Christ, to make adequate use of it in understanding such experiences as His growth in knowledge, His ignorance of the last day, His agony in Gethsemane and his cry of dereliction. (Kelly 298).

The relevence of this quote becomes clear when we see that Prejean and RC pop-apologist will give at least theoretical assent to the fact that Jesus had a human mind and soul, even though they can't explain how Jesus has a human mind and soul without actually being a human person. This quote gives them the benefit of the doubt that they acknowledge a human mind and soul in Jesus even though they believe his personhood is divine only. Very well; Kelly characterized the view of Gregory of Nazianzus in identical terms. He, too, professed a belief that Christ possessed a human mind and soul. But Kelly categorizes his view as mildly Apollinarian and not the orthodox view of the later councils, especially Chalcedon. Moreover, RC pop-apologists have no difficulty in applying the communication of attributes in the same way gregory of Nazianzus did. I have had some tell me they see no problem with saying that God died! Yet kelly's assessment of that view is that it is not orthodox!

Kelly goes on to describe Theodore's Christology, which he does consider orthodox:
Theodore's doctrine is therefore that a single Person (prosopon) results from the coming together of the Word and the humanity, or more precisely that 'the natures have in virtue of the union brought about one prosopon. . . . [His teaching], it would seem, is that the Incarnate is 'one prosopon', and by this he means that He is the 'one subject' Who can be addressed now as God and now as man. (Kelly, 306).

Kelly goes on to recognize weaknesses in Theodore's views, but he exonerates him from the charge of Nestorianism leveled against him by--you guessed it--Cyril the Monophysite!

I will continue with Kelly in the next blog entry.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

And the Backpedaling Begins

I hadn't even finished my series on the Historical Theology lessons for Jonathan Prejean when my eye caught this "update" at Jonathan Prejean's blog:

UPDATE -- After having read Dr. Svendsen's first couple of forays into this area, I'm going to say a couple of things strictly in the interest of saving both his time and mine. Everybody with any familiarity in the relevant history knows that it is somewhat doubtful that Nestorius was Nestorian and that some scholars have made the argument (albeit pretty convincingly discredited by recent scholarship) that St. Cyril was a monophysite. While interesting as a historical matter, it has absolutely nothing to do with the heresy of Nestorianism (aka, the error attributed to Nestorius), which is the substance of my charge against Dr. Svendsen.
Now I am forced to break from my series momentarily and post a response to this update. Be warned, I’ve got eight full pages of notes on just the response to the update.

In brief, Mr. Prejean has been caught with his proverbial pants down on this issue and now he’s attempting to backpedal. Prejean’s statement above suggests he’s always known that Nestorius was wrongly charged with heresy, and that I am off-topic by focusing on this. He pretends that he knew all along that Nestorius was misunderstood by Cyril, who in turn was likely a closet Monophysite. The problem is, this explanation is completely out of step with what Prejean wrote earlier. Here’s one example:
To respond to Dr. Svendsen's query of 3/14/05, I refer to my post here, which clearly points out Svendsen's Christological errors (fundamentally based on the complete inability to make a distinction between person and nature, an error that was shared by Arius and Nestorius).
Note well that Prejean does not say, “an error that was erroneously attributed to Nestorius.” He instead says, “an error that was shared by Arius and Nestorius.” Now he’s saying, “Everybody with any familiarity in the relevant history knows that it is somewhat doubtful that Nestorius was Nestorian.” Which will it be, Mr. Prejean? Shall we proceed with the pop-apologetic understanding of the historical events that you undoubtedly possessed before I began posting my series; or with your new understanding of historical events which, forced by my citations of Brown, you quickly acquired when you scrambled to your patristic sources looking for contradictions to my position only to find it confirmed? I am not anxious to waste my time interacting with that kind of disingenuousness on your part; the kind that strongly and consistently asserts an erroneous position about the historical events, and ridicules and derides my comparatively accurate understanding of those events in the process, only to backpeddle once the evidence comes out and then pretends the issue was never about my understanding of events to begin with.

Prejean also wrote the following:

Rather than wasting time discussing historical matters on which we completely agree (or matters entirely irrelevant to the Christological discussion, such as Catholic Mariology), it would probably be more expedient to address the actual disagreement.
But this is precisely the disagreement. Prejean makes fundamental blunders in his criticism of my views precisely because his understanding of the Christological controversies goes no further than the typical Roman Catholic pop-apologetic understanding of them. That acts as the basis for his disagreement with everything else I have to say about this issue. Hence, it is completely relevant and completely to the point. If Prejeans’s understanding of the historical events weren’t so deficient, there wouldn’t be a disagreement. His entire thesis against my position was that I am ignorant of the scholarly view on these issues, that I am unqualified to address the historical Christological controversies. Here again is what he said about my understanding of the events:

For one thing, it's not a matter of simply happening to disagree on the subject. Svendsen is flat-out wrong, and it's not even debatable. He's completely out of his league here. He has zero qualifications in the field of patristics or church history (his Ph.D. is in New Testament), and his opinion conflicts with the overwhelming scholarly opinion on those subjects without the least bit of justification for doing so. Normally, when one talks about a subject in which one is entirely unqualified, one maintains a certain humility that allows one to be corrected, at least if one is behaving reasonably. Now when someone has been plainly corrected beyond doubt on such a subject (such as would be completely obvious to anyone who consults any scholarly authority on Apollinarism, monophysitism, or indeed any survey of Byzantine Christology) and that same person persists in the plain and obvious error without even a hint of acknowledgment, it is obvious that the person is ranting irrationally, having abdicated the field of reason altogether.
And . . .

he was running afoul of people who actually do have those qualifications. If I were the one running afoul of Meyendorff, Pelikan, McGrath, Kelly, Sherrard, Schatz, Jurgens, Quasten, Newman, Thunberg, and just about every other patristics or church history scholar of significant repute, then it might be relevant to raise my qualifications. But since I am relying on their arguments, it is *their* qualifications that are relevant, not mine. I'd love to see Svendsen attempt to justify his position using any reputable work, as that would clearly expose how absurd his position is.
And, in response to my description of Apollinarianism, Prejean wrote:

Oh, I see. You don't know the difference between a person (hypostasis) and a nature, which is exactly Nestorianism! Now it all makes sense! I wonder if that shows up anywhere else. Let's see, there was this accusation of Monophysitism...
And . . .

As far as my alleged attacks ad hominem, one of them I consider entirely legitimate, namely, calling into question the qualifications of someone who repeatedly asserts a position contrary to the bulk of scholarship without providing any good reason for doing so.
And . . .

Yep, you definitely do not know the difference between a person and a nature. Wow, imagine actually talking about Christological heresies without even bothering to learn that! St. Cyril would call that "stupidity." I'll be more charitable and call it blindly irrational anti-Catholicism. Either way, on behalf of all of us orthodox creedal Christians like myself and St. Cyril, I'd like to commend Dr. Svendsen for openly admitting his heresy, allowing us to expose it to the light of day and the anathemas of the Fifth Ecumenical Council.
And . . .

Incidentally, Svendsen failed to mention another error that he made in the same article, when he said "In short, Apollinaris' view was that Christ was a body of flesh formed and animated by a nous (spirit and intellect), but that the nous was not human, but rather divine. What Apollinaris means by nous is 'person'.” . . . Hence, the Apollinarian heresy maintained that Christ was not fully human. Again, this is evidently sheer ignorance on Svendsen's part, as the issue was nature rather than person.
And . . .

My point was exactly to defend against your erroneous charge against Catholicism based on incorrect citations of councils and church writers. That's my entire point; you are speaking in an area in which you have no competence, and you are making elementary errors in doing so.
And . . .

Perhaps Dr. Svendsen would care to explain why he ventured to write an article accusing Catholics of a heresy without substantiation. How many patristic scholars agree with your explanation of "Apollinarimonophysitism?" If I am so wrong on this subject, it should be trivial to produce some kind of evidence on this point.
And . . .

Meyendorff's Christ in Eastern Christian Thought (not to mention Byzantine Theology) and Sherrard's The Greek East and the Latin West are excellent (and short) introductions to the subject by actual scholars that will quickly expose the absurdity of your position.
And . . .

If Svendsen can show to me such a deviation from respectable scholarship that would put my own qualifications in issue, he is welcome to respond in kind.
ALL of this—every single objection—has to do with a disagreement in our respective understanding of the historical events; not my personal view of Christ. In each case, Prejean claims I contradict patristic scholarship—something that would be completely irrelevant if the “real issue” were my personal view of Christ (how could a patristic scholar speak to that issue?). Prejean has now been corrected on this, and he has tacitly (albeit disingenuously) admitted it by his backpedaling. It is he that approached this issue in an uninformed way, not I.

As for Prejean’s Apollinarian views, here is a sampling:

For the record, we have no objection to people speaking about just one of Christ's natures, as long as they aren't denying the one divine person of the Word of God. . . . However, to spell it out clearly and obviously, Jesus is no person other than the Word of God. Therefore, it is plain theological error to say that what happens to the person does not happen to God.
This is classic Apollinarianism. So, too, did Apollinaris deny that Jesus was a human person who had a human personality. Here again is Brown on this issue:

"Apollinaris rejected the proposition that Jesus possessed a human personality. . . . No one since the fourth century has called himself an Apollinarian, but the idea of Apollinaris resurfaces whenever there is a combination of orthodox dogmatism and theological naivete. . . . Firmly to assert the deity of Christ is not the same thing as to confess the New Testament faith in him, for in the New Testament he is definitely a man who is revealed to be the Son of God, with all that impliesnot a divine being who reveals himself in human form."

In contrast to Prejean's Apollinarianism, the Scriptures affirm that Christ became like us “in every way.” Chalcedon confirmed (contra Apollinarianism) that Christ was “homoousios with us in manhood, like us in all things except sin,” and (contra the common objections to Nestorianism) that Mary was theotokos “as regards his manhood.” Pelikan assesses Chalcedon this way:

“The formula . . . condemend any notion of hypostatic union that would jeopardize ‘the differences of the natures’ or would violate the rule that the union was accomplished ‘without confusion.’” (The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Vol I, 264).

As Brown has noted, Christ possessed a human personality; he wasn’t merely a divine person dressed up in a human suit as Prejean in his Apollinarianism believes. He was completely man AND completely God. I am a human person with human personality. Prejean is a human person with human personality. Mr. Prejean, Was Jesus a human person with human personality? Did he become like us in every respect except sin or didn't he?

As to the charge of Nestorianism that Prejean continues to level against me, here’s Pelikan again:

“To say that the difference of the natures was not taken away by the union could mean that the activities and properties appropriate to each nature were to be predicated ontologically only of that nature [such as the birth of Christ vis-a-vis the title theotokos, as McGrath will later point out], even though verbally it might be permissible to predicate them of ‘one and the same Christ.’ ‘Without confusion’ could likewise be interpreted in support of the thesis that, since the incarnation no less than before it, the human was the human and the divine was the divine. . . . hence, it could even be, and indeed was, taken as a vindication of the Nestorian position.” (Ibid., 265).

Now, Prejean has stated unequivocally that my position is Nestorianism. And he assumes by that charge that I am in some kind of heresy. Presuming for the moment that Prejean has actually rightly understood the Nestorian position (it’s highly doubtful given his statements regarding the Nestorian denial of the full humanity of Christ), then what Pelikan is saying is that Chalcedon agrees with me (vindicates me) against Prejean!

The real problem here is that Prejean is attempting to rationalize and “explain” the mystery of the unity of the personhood of Christ in such a way (in this case, an Apollinarian way—a divine person with a human nature rather than the orthodox view of a divine-human person, the God-man) as to go far beyond the decision of the councils. (Hence, Pelikan concludes that “the references to ‘one and the same’" in the council document "would indicate that he, in the concreteness of his total person both divine and human, was the subject,” Ibid.). By so doing Prejean is violating the prohibition in those very councils not to speculate beyond its decisions! Here is one such example of Prejean's speculations:

“If you deny that Mary is the Mother of God, then you are denying that Christ the person is the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity.”

Yet, amazingly enough, neither Ephesus nor Chalcedon adopted the phrase “mother of God” (meter theou) even though it was readily available to them and even though it was in use by Cyril, who spearheaded Ephesus. This, once again, demonstrates Prejean’s woeful misunderstanding of the history of events. He thinks theotokos means the mariologically loaded “mother of God,” with all that implies. Yet he is flatly contradicted not only by the Greek language itself, but also by patristic scholarship, including Pelikan who states: “Theotokos did not mean simply ‘Mother of God,’ as it was usually rendered in Western languages . . . , but more precisely and fully “the one who gave birth to the one who is God” (Mary Through the Centuries, 55). We’ve already seen Brown’s comments on this; namely, that theotokos was christological in intent, not mariological, and that it’s bare meaning is “God-bearer,” not “mother of God.” Yet this does not stop Prejean from speculating beyond the conclusions of the councils, and in violation of their prohibition against doing so.

Prejean’s statement above is based on the Apollinarian notion that nothing can be stated about Christ in his humanity without stating it about Christ in his deity. But this is the communication of attributes gone awry, and it is something the councils specifically warned against in their prohibition against confusing the natures and in their affirmation that each nature performs only those activities appropriate to that nature. Hence Christ the man was passible—he was weak, tired, hungry, thirsty, sorrowful, felt pain and wept. In addition he grew in wisdom and was ignorant of the day and hour of the end (Matt 24:36). Can we therefore rightly say that God is passible, that he feels pain, that he is weak, that he hungers and thirsts, that his wisdom grows or that he is ignorant of the future? Doesn’t the communication of attributes allow—indeed, demand—that we be able to make such statements with impunity? Such a notion is blasphemous. Yet, although they themselves would likely reject the application of the communication of attributes in these cases, modern-day Apollinarians like Prejean have no difficulty affirming of God what can only be true of man in other cases; or more precisely, of Christ in his deity what can only be true of Christ in his humanity.

As an aside, the Monophysites attempted to use the same comminication-of-attributes rationale they found in the litugy with theotokos, which title had escaped criticism by the majority of the fourth- and fifth-century church, who would easily reject the notion that God is passible: “If it was liturgically traditional and and dogmatically proper to call Mary Theotokos and by this title to predicate birth of the Second Person of the Trinity [the Monophysites reasoned], the sufferings of the cross could also be legitimately attributed to him” (Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, Vol I, 270).

Prejean gives subtle (if not unwitting) hints that he understands this concept of the difference of natures. In answer to my question regarding Heb 7:3: “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever,” Prejean states: “Of course. The fact that you're equivocating between the sense in which ‘without father or mother’ is true and the sense in which ‘Mother of God’ is true doesn't really amount to an argument.”

No one is equivocating here except Prejean. I am using the same sense in both cases. Just as we cannot say that Christ in his humanity is “without mother,” and is “without beginning of days or end of life,” neither can we say that Christ in his deity is with mother, and does have beginning of days and end of life. There is no equivocation here at all—it is direct one-to-one correspondence, and both cases illustrate instances in which the communication of attributes does not apply.

Indeed, this is the very thing Augustine himself stated in the letter I quoted in my article and for which Prejean took me to task (as though I wrote it!):

"Since, then, Christ is God and man . . . we must take account of both these natures in Him when He speaks or when Scripture speaks of Him, and we must mark in what sense anything is said. When we say that Christ is the Son of God we do not separate His humanity from Him, nor when we say that the same Christ is the Son of man do we lose sight of His divinity. For, as man He was on earth, not in heaven where He now is . . . although in His nature as Son of God He was in heaven, but as Son of man He was still on earth and had not yet ascended into heaven. . . . and He will so come, on the testimony of the angel's voice, as He was seen going into heaven, that is, in the same form and substance of flesh to which, it is true, He gave immortality, but He did not take away its nature. According to this form, we are not to think that He is everywhere present. We must beware of so building up the divinity of the man that we destroy the reality of His body. It does not follow that what is in God is in Him so as to be everywhere as God is. . . . God and man in Him are one Person, and both are the one Jesus Christ who is everywhere as God, but in heaven as man" (Augustine, Letter 118.8-10).

If this paragraph had come from me and not from Augustine, you can be sure Prejean would have accused me of Nestorianism. Yet Augustine gets a pass. Why? Because Prejean can afford to call Svendsen a Nestorian, but he can’t afford to be consistent and call Augustine a Nestorian.

One of the reasons that the councils prohibit catholic laymen from speculating beyond its conclusions, I suppose, is aptly illustrated by Prejean’s next statement:

“Far from that being the case, Svendsen has explicitly denied that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity. I'd call that a pretty significant error for a ‘staunch defender.’ . . . That's why Svendsen's position is so inexplicable.”

The orthodox Nestorian view has always seemed “inexplicable” to Cyrilian Apollinarian-Monophysites. No doubt that’s one of the reasons the council took measures to prevent such silly speculations and prohibited its laymen from arriving at such inane theological conclusions on their own. Prejean has accused me of Nestorianism. Yet the burden of those who accused Nestorius was not that he was denying that Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, but rather that he was affirming that Christ was two persons. And they didn’t derive that so much from his view of theotokos as from a specific term he used, prosopon, which they misunderstood! Once again, Prejean has shown how incompetent and irresponsible he is in handling these issues. Stick to legal briefs, Mr. Prejean, or to something you’re good at.

As for my mention of Cyril; that was in response to Prejean’s constant appeal to Cyril’s condemnation of Nestorius. Prejean quoted Cyril approvingly in his:

So, as I said good thing that no one behaved in such an "inane fashion" as to adopt this view, and thereby partake of the Nestorian "stupidity." Errr, what was that you said there, Dr. Svendsen?
In so commenting, Prejean locks himself into my prior observation that he misunderstood the Nestorian “heresy” all along, and in so doing places himself between a rock and a hard place. Does he believe Cyril is correct in his condemnation of Nestorius? If so, he ends up contradicting the majority view of patristic scholarship who (as even Prejean himself concedes) regards Nestorius’ views as completely orthodox and as vindicated at Chalcedon. If not, then it is really Cyril who behaved in an “inane fashion” and who partook of “stupidity” in his erroneous accusations against Nestorius, now isn’t it. Errr, what was that you said there, Mr. Prejean?

Moreover, Prejean disagrees with the majority of patristic scholars (not “some scholars” as Prejean would have you believe) that Cyril was sometimes Apollinarian, sometimes Monophysite. I have already cited Brown to that effect. Here is Pelikan on it:

“Such a narrowing [of the theological gap between orthodoxy and the Monophysitism] is to be found at least as much in the Chalcedonian party itself, which, during the century between the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and the Second council of Constantinople in 553, moved steadily toward an interpretation of Chalcedon in terms of Cyril and therefore nearer (though never quite near enough to heal the schism) to the Monophysite position” (The Christian Tradition, Vol I, 274).

Granted, Pelikan does not explicitly call Cyril a Monophysite here; but he strongly hints at the conclusion others have come to; and the fact that the Monophysites appealed to Cyril as their authority does not help Cyril’s cause. However, Pelikan goes on to characterize the “valid interpretation” of Chalcedon as “the obvious (and Western and, indeed, Nestorian) interpretation” (Ibid., 277). This is over against the “neo-Chalcedonian” interpretation (the Cyrilian intrepretation) of the Monophysites which prevailed at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553.

Here is what McGrath says about Cyril:

“Cyril of Alexandria is one of the many writers within the [Alexandrian] school to emphasize the reality of the union [of the divinity and humanity of Christ] in the incarnation. The Logos existed ‘without flesh’ before its union with human nature; after that union, there is only one nature, in that the Logos united human nature to itself. This emphasis upon the one nature of Christ distinguishes the Alexandrian from the Antiochene school, which was more receptive to the idea of two natures within Christ.” (Christian Theology, 361).

Bear in mind that both Pelikan and McGrath are writers that Prejean himself appealed to as witnesses against my view. Yet both of them affirm what I have been arguing all along, and both of them contradict the claims and beliefs of Prejean.

Speaking of McGrath, here is what he says about the communication of attributes and the title “mother of God” as a test of orthodoxy (something, as we have seen, Prejean is inclined to do): “A failure to agree that Mary was ‘mother of God’ became seen as tantamount to a refusal to accept the divinity of Christ” (Ibid., 364). Now where have we seen that before? Oh yes; in Prejean’s assertion, to wit: ““If you deny that Mary is the Mother of God, then you are denying that Christ the person is the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity.”

What does McGrath have to say about that?

“But how far can this principle be pressed? For example, consider the following line of argument: Jesus suffered on the cross. Jesus is God. Therefore God suffered on the cross. The first two statements are orthodox, and commanded widespread assent within the church. But the conclusion drawn from them was widely regarded as unacceptable, as we noted in our earlier discussion of the idea of ‘a suffering God’ (pp. 273-8). It was axiomatic to most patristic writers that God could not suffer. . . . By the time of Nestorius, the title theotokos (literally, “bearer of God”) had become widely accepted within both popular piety and academic theology. Nestorius was, however, alarmed at its implications. It seemed to deny the humanity of Christ. Why not call Mary anthropotokos (“bearer of humanity”) or even Christotokos (“bearer of the Christ”)? His suggestions were met with outrage and indignation, on account of the enormous theological investment which had come to be associated with the term theotokos. Nevertheless, Nestorius may be regarded as making an entirely legitimate point (Ibid., 364-65).

Now ain’t that interesting? McGrath is a source who Prejean insisted contradicted me; yet here he is affirming exactly what I argued. Has Prejean even read McGrath? Moreover, Prejean has labeled me a Nestorian and accused me of denying the deity of Christ simply because I agree with Nestorius in his rejection of the humanity-denying, idolatry-inducing Roman Catholic Marian title “mother of God.” But McGrath says that Nestorius had “an entirely legitimate point.” Will Prejean now be consistent and accuse McGrath of denying the deity of Christ? Will he now be consistent and say that Nestorius also denied the deity of Christ since his view of this is identical to mine? If so, then he is contradicted by all patristic scholars, who take pains to show that Nestorius did nothing of the kind.

So now the question becomes, Who is out of his league on this issue? Who is the incompetent one? Who is speaking out of ignorance? I usually don’t ask these kinds of questions or make these kinds of insinuations; but these are the direct words of Prejean concerning me. Hence, I think the answer to these questions is now apparent to all—it is the same one who now finds himself backpedaling.

I will continue with my citations from Brown in tomorrow’s blog.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Lessons in Historical Theology for Jonathan Prejean (Part 2)

Continuing in our series, here is what Brown has to say regarding the Nestorian controversy:

Installed at Constantinople, Nestorius found himself embroiled in a rancorous controversy over the use of the term theotokos as a title for the virgin Mary. The term, which means “God-bearing one” (not precisely “Mother of God,” as it is frequently translated), originally was descriptive of the man Jesus, born of Mary. In order to assert that he was truly God even when in Mary’s womb and during the process of birth, Mary was given the title theotokos. . . . In later centuries the term theotokos will come to be seen as a Mariological term expressive of her personal glory, and will be rejected by many who accept the full deity and preexistence of her Son.

Of course, Prejean’s romanticized version of history will disallow him from viewing theotokos as it was originally intended. All patristic scholars acknowledge the fact that theotokos was not originally intended as an honorific title for Mary, but developed into one centuries later. Hence, as I pointed out in my book Evangelical Answers nearly a decade ago and more recently in Who Is My Mother?, whereas most Protestants would easily accept theotokos in its original intent (though there are other terms that are more precise), Roman Catholic pop apologists such as Prejean subscribe to the title only in terms of what it developed into centuries after the fact. In other words, Prejean’s faith in the “Mother of God” is based on a revisionist history of that word. The sometimes-Apollinarian-sometimes-Monophysite Cyril of Alexandria attempted to supplement theotokos (“God-bearer”) with meter theou (lit., “mother of God”), but that phrase was adopted by neither Ephesus nor Chalcedon. Does Prejean want to talk about the “overwhelming view of patristic scholars” in regard to theotokos? Does he want to call attention to the fact that he holds to a revisionist view of the meaning of theotokos that stands in conflict with the scholarly consensus of patristic studies?

Brown continues:

The expression theotokos was poorly chosen as a shibboleth to divide the orthodox from heretics, for a number of prominent heretical groups had no difficulty with it. Arians could use it, although they did not believe that the Son is of the same substance as the Father, because they did accept him as a kind of divinity and acknowledged that he was born, suffered, and died. Apollinarians, with their view that there is only “one incarnate nature of God the Logos,” readily accepted the term. The Antiochene school, from which Nestorius came, sought to maintain the true humanity of Christ. To speak of Mary as “bearing God” seemed to Nestorius to imply that the One she bore was not a true man. Nestorius was willing to say that the Christ born of Mary is God, but did not want to say, “God is born,” because to do so implied in his mind that the One born was not a true man. One must say, “Christ is born,” thus implying, because God and man are one in Christ, that both God and man are born. To call Mary either “God-bearer” or “man-bearer,” although both are correct in terms of the communication of attributes, appears misleading. . . . The term theotokos originally was intended to affirm the deity of Jesus Christ, but it gradually came to be a title of honor for Mary. . . . Nestorius observed the beginnings of this development, and warned against making the Virgin into a goddess. . . . The term [Nestorius] preferred, Christotokos, is quite orthodox but was unpopular with those who emphasized the deity alone and was resented by those devoted to the growing cult of Mary. For the first time, growing popular piety was beginning to play a role in deciding major theological issues.

Brown reiterates what is a well-known fact among patristic scholars; namely, that the original intent of the title theotokos is far removed from the modern RC application of it. It is the RC apologist who is out of step with history and the meaning of words when they translate theotokos as "mother of God," with all that implies. To the RC apologist, "mother of God" is a title intended to exalt Mary; not a title intended to affirm Christ's deity in the womb. And once again, Prejean is shown to be incompetent in his understanding of Nestorianism. As Brown notes, Nestorius "sought to maintain the true humanity of Christ." Prejean, driven by his pop-history, engages in a fundamental blunder when he asserts that Nestorianism denied the full humanity of Christ.

Brown continues:

Nestorius taught that the two natures of Christ fall together in one prosopon [lit., “face”]. The Greek is ambiguous: by it, Nestorius apparently meant one person, which would be quite orthodox, but his opponents understood him to be saying one appearance, and thus to be speaking of only an apparent unity between the divine and the human in Christ. Nestorius held that the Logos was indissolubly united with the human personality from the moment of conception. There was, however, no transformation or mixture of the natures. Each preserves what is proper to it; hence, one can say only that the humanity is born, suffers, and dies, and was raised; nevertheless, although there are two natures, there is a single Son. These entirely orthodox views were first attacked from Alexandria, apparently initially because of ecclesiastical and personal rivalry; here too the problem of Nestorianism seems to be the first in which personal and regional pride and ambition were decisive –in this case, the desire of Alexandria and its patriarch, Cyril, to attain the undisputed preeminence in the eastern half of the Roman Empire.

This is the view, as Brown will show, that was eventually adopted by Chalcedon, and by Reformed theology (contrary to the utterly uninformed musings of one of Prejean's contributors to the comments section of his blog).

Brown continues:

[Cyril of Alexandria] acknowledged two perfections (teleia) in Christ, human and divine, but avoided the term physis, “nature.” As far as the positive presentation of Cyril’s position is concerned, it is hard to see any significant difference from that of the Antiochenes as represented by Nestorius. But he attacked them nonetheless, fearing or claiming to fear that in their interest in preserving the full humanity of Jesus, they let the deity be reduced to a mere appearance or a title. He misunderstood the Antiochenes as holding that the henosis of the divine and the human came about only as a relationship between them during the life of Jesus—a momentous misunderstanding Cyril’s great influence fastened on the church.

As Cyril understood Nestorius, all of Jesus’ saving acts were performed in his human nature only. . . . [In Cyril’s view] to suggest that Christ is two persons (which, be it noted, Nestorius did not do!) would bring a fourth Person into the Trinity itself, the man Jesus. . . . Theodoret objected that Cyril was once again reverting to a krasis (“mixure”) of the two natures; Cyril vigorously denied this, and claimed he only wanted to affirm their real unity. In so doing he revived an Apollinarian formula, one incarnate nature of God the Word; if the divine and human are really united, their union is a true nature, animated by the Logos. Cyril erroneously attributed the formulation to Athanasius, in consequence of the fact, mentioned earlier, that writings of Apollinaris had been circulated under the venerated name of Athanasius. Nevertheless, Cyril insists that both the divine and the human natures remain unchanged, so that in a sense one can say that he implies three natures: one divine, one human, and one of the incarnate Logos. Here apparently Cyril has been willing to strain the meaning of the word “nature”: his “one incarnate nature” is not a deified human nature, as in Apollinaris or the later Monophysites, but a theological postulate to underscore the reality of the unity of the unchanged, unmixed divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. Nestorius, by contrast, had strained the concept of the person, calling one person what to others looked like a mere harmonious collaboration between two distinct persons.

Cyril is not the champion of orthodoxy Prejean and his RC apologetic cohorts, in their romantic notions of Roman Catholic history, believe. In fact, Nestorius was much more orthodox than Cyril. Brown continues:

The incarnate nature as seen by Cyril was not a real nature in the usual sense, i.e. not a third kind of nature, but later Monophysites understood it to be so. Thus they claimed Cyril as the godfather of their doctrine. Nestorius’ incarnate person was a single person, not two as his critics thought, but he could not convince others that it was so. Consequently he has gone down in history as a great heretic although what he actually believed was reaffirmed at Chalcedon. The council of 451 really was far more compatible with the formulations of Nestorius the heretic than with those of Cyril, the doctor of the church. . . . Perhaps if he had not been misled into attributing the expression mia physis to Athanasius, [Cyril] would not have incorporated it into his system; but even without it, Cyril is more readily capable of being called as a witness for monophysitism than a doctor of the church (the title conferred by the Vtaican in 1882!) ought to be. In any event, if the views of Apollinaris and Nestorius have the merit of internal consistency, those of Cyril do not. He can be claimed by both Monophysites and dyophydites.

There's your venerable Cyril, champion of Mary, in all his historic glory!

Brown continues:

What Cyril could not accomplish with the somewhat muddled formulations of his theology he more successfully pursued by means of political and ecclesiastical diplomacy, appealing to the wife and sister of the Emperor Theodosius II in the East and to Pope Celestine in the West. While Nestorius approached the pope as an equal, Cyril rather obsequiously asked him for direction and instruction. For whatever reason, Celestine turned sharply on Nestorius and rallied to Cyril.

In the conflict with Nestorius, where the actual theological difference was minimal, Cyril’s courting of Rome and Rome’s rallying to his cause helped Rome to solidify its claim to a unique authority in the church. At the otherwise undistinguished Council of Ephesus (Third Ecumenical), Nestorius withdrew when his supposed ally John of Antioch failed to arrive; the council then condemned Nestorius. John finally arrived and together with Nestorius and the imperial commissioner convened what they called the true council, and deposed Cyril. Personal factors influenced the ultimate result: while Cyril intrigued at court, Nestorius ill-advisedly withdrew to a monastery; the Antiochene party abandoned him to his fate.

Following the Council of Ephesus, Cyril was persuaded to agree to a formula probably developed by the leading Antiochene, Theodoret of Cyrrhus. . . . The formula answers all the concerns of the Antiochene party, but the fact that Nestorius had been condemned and exiled continued to discredit them even though their ideas were being accepted as orthodox. In addition . . . the Alexandrian party [Cyril’s party] was preoccupied with the one incarnate nature, and admitted the concept of two natures only in a theoretical sense. . . . In the last analysis, neither the Alexandrian nor the Antiochene position fully answers the problems raised by the mystery of the incarnation. Each tried to explain too much, and the only way peace could be restored would be by setting limits beyond which no explanations would be attempted.

(Brown, Heresies, 172-177 passim).

In his latest post on this issue, Prejean had this to say:

“you have admitted exactly what I argued, which is that you deny the full humanity and divinity of Christ by your Nestorianism”

This statement would be laughable even if we didn’t have Brown’s statements above to set the context. So Nestorius is purported to have denied the full humanity of Christ? Even the pop-romantic version of the story knows that isn’t true. His alleged error had to do with preserving the full humanity of Christ, not diminishing it! In reality, though, he diminished neither the full humanity nor the full divinity of Christ. His views (the Antiochene views) were completely orthodox, and his condemnation was based on (1) a misunderstanding of his views, (2) the political climate, and (3) the influence of his rival Cyril, who himself was an unwitting Apollinarian-Monophysite. Here is Brown on that issue again:

In contrast to the Cappadocian-Alexandrian tendency, the school of Antioch [i.e., the school of Nestorius] held firmly to the clear biblical picture of Jesus Christ as a historic, human, individual person. God became incarnate in this person and took him on, not it (a mere human nature). . . . the Antiochenes, who stressed—correctly, as we believe—the full and complete humanity of Jesus Christ, had no leader of the caliber of Athanasius around whom they could rally.

The more amazing thing about this is, Prejean did not know this! Here he betyrays the sum of his knowledge about these things:

"I certainly will take a look at [Brown's] work. . . . But I'm not sure how it bears on the present controversy. Was Dr. Brown arguing that Nestorianism was something other than a denial of the full divinity and humanity of Christ?"

How could Prejean, a self-professed “apologist for historical facts,” not have known Nestorius’ true views on this issue? How could he not have known the circumstances surrounding the controversy? How could he have not known Cyril’s true views (which are well-known by historians—Harnack has gone on record calling Cyril a Monophysite). I’ll tell you how: because the knowledge of RC apologists like Prejean goes no further than the romanticized version of church history. They use patristic scholars like Kelly and Pelikan as source books for sound bites without ever bothering to notice that these same patristic scholars have as much to say against the traditional Roman Catholic view of history as they have to say for it. I have encountered this numerous times with earlier RC apologists who (a decade ago) used to cite Kelly religiously to support their view on any given doctrine; that is, until we began citing Kelly to show that they misinterpreted Kelly’s own views. Prejean, a relative newcomer to this arena, is merely the new-generation RC pop-apologist repeating the same errors of his forefathers.

Here is what Prejean had to say about my abilities in this area:

“you are speaking in an area in which you have no competence, and you are making elementary errors in doing so.”

Prejean states this, but demonstrates again and again that he has only a pop-romantic knowledge of the facts surrounding the Christological controversies. He was completely unaware that scholars have assessed Nestorius to be orthodox and Cyril to be heterodox! Who is it again that is “speaking in an area in which [he] has no competency”? Who is it again that is “making elementary errors”? The irony is rich.

Here is another statement Prejean made:

“How many patristic scholars agree with your explanation of 'Apollinarimonophysitism?' If I am so wrong on this subject, it should be trivial to produce some kind of evidence on this point.”

I, of course, did exactly that yesterday in my citation of Brown, where it is evident that Brown agrees with my assessment regarding those who embody a mixture of “orthodox dogma” and “theological naivete.” Here he is again:

Apollinaris rejected the proposition that Jesus possessed a human personality. . . . No one since the fourth century has called himself an Apollinarian, but the idea of Apollinaris resurfaces whenever there is a combination of orthodox dogmatism and theological naivete. . . . Firmly to assert the deity of Christ is not the same thing as to confess the New Testament faith in him, for in the New Testament he is definitely a man who is revealed to be the Son of God, with all that implies—not a divine being who reveals himself in human form.

Prejean has waded in over his head on this one. Tomorrow we'll continue to demonstrate that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lessons in Historical Theology for Jonathan Prejean

Jonathan Prejean has responded again, and, as expected, continues to betray his unfamiliarity with anything other than romantic pop-apologetic notions about the Christological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries of the church. He claims for himself, that he "pretty much restrict[s] [him]self to being an epologist for historical fact, not Catholicism in particular," yet all of his "historical fact" conclusions are (not surprisingly) in favor of the Roman Catholic view of things. He has claimed during this exchange that in advancing his views (and his consequent criticism of mine) he's merely repeating the "overwhelming majority" view of patristic scholarship. He has also called into question my ability to understand historical theology simply because he disagrees with my assessment of the arguments of modern-day RC apologists. So what will he say when someone who is eminently qualified to speak on these issues says the same things? Let's find out.

I thought I might treat the readers of this blog, and Jonathan Prejean as well, to a series in real historical theology--one that doesn't romanticize the people involved, the events that occurred, or the conclusions that were reached the way Prejean' s unsophisticated pop-apologetics does. My prediction is that Prejean still won't be convinced, but that he will simply change his tune. So far that tune has been "Svendsen isn't qualified to speak on these things because his Ph.D. is in New Testament." So what will be his excuse when he reads someone whose Ph.D. is in Historical Theology and who disagrees with almost everything Prejean is concluding about these matters?

Over the course of at least the next few days, I will be posting excerpts from Harold O. J. Brown's book, Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present. I think the reader will find them highly instructive vis-a-vis Jonathan Prejean's recent comments. Also, to help the reader make the necessary connections to the present discussion, I will be adding my own observations (in black text) along with the excepts (in blue text). Here's the first installment:

The Alexandrian school [of which Cyril, the spearhead for Ephesus and the "mother of God" clause, was part] tried to explain what it means to say that God became man and what happens to the human being God becomes. It soon began to invert its formulation and teach, in effect, that man becomes God. . . . It contend[ed] that the preexisting Son, always fully God, transformed the humanity of Jesus in assuming it, so that it, a humanness, was divinized. . . . The Logos, in becoming human, took upon himself a human nature and exalted it to deity.

The reader will not fully appreciate this statement from Brown until he returns to it later (which will be included in a later blog entry). For now, keep in mind that Cyril of Alexandria is the veritable "hero" of the Roman Catholic view that Mary is the "mother of God."

In contrast to the Cappadocian-Alexandrian tendency, the school of Antioch [i.e., the school of Nestorius] held firmly to the clear biblical picture of Jesus Christ as a historic, human, individual person. God became incarnate in this person and took him on, not it (a mere human nature). . . . Like the Arian controversy, the Christological controversy sparked by Apollinaris began and ended in the East, but was decisively influenced by a clear stand taken by the Western church, particularly by Rome. Apollinaris, unlike Arius, had a firmly established Christological dogma to which he could appeal, that of Nicaea; the Antiochenes, who stressed—correctly, as we believe—the full and complete humanity of Jesus Christ, had no leader of the caliber of Athanasius around whom they could rally. Although Apollinaris was defeated, the Antiochene position was not fully vindicated; its clearest proponent, Nestorius, will ultimately be branded a heretic.

Brown will go on (as we will see in this series) to vindicate Nestorius and call into question the sometimes muddled view of Cyril, which was Apollinarian-Monophysite at heart. Remember, Cyril is the champion of RC apologists, including Prejean.

Apollinaris rejected the proposition that Jesus possessed a human personality, the idea of Christ as a man united with God; he proposed instead the concept of an incarnate God, of God made flesh. The root of the following developments include[ed] the ultimate monophysite contention that the humanity of Jesus is now divinized. . . . Apollinaris would not hear of a distinction between the divine and human in Christ, not tolerate the suggestion—later to be affirmed by Calvin and Reformed theology generallythat only the human body and soul of Christ were born and suffered. . . . Jesus [in Apollinaris' view] is “the God borne by a woman.” . . . Apollinaris argued that Christ himself, in order to be wholly God, had to be immutable (atrepos) and thus could not have a human soul, for if so he would have been mutable.

Modern RC apologists, including Prejean, likewise reject the proposition that Jesus possessed a human personality. In their view, Jesus is a divine person who assumed flesh, not humanity--"the God borne by a woman." Flesh is not to be equated with humanity. Flesh is merely a nature; humanity consists of the whole man--body, soul, spirit, intellect, will, etc. Although there are not two persons in Christ there is a unity of personhood in him. But RC apologists deny Christ had a human soul--that's Apollinarianism to the core.

Apollinaris resorted to the biblical definition of God as spirit: human flesh needs a spirit to direct and energize it; in Christ, this spirit is not that of the human nous, or “intellect,” but the Logos himself

It is this way that Apollinaris equated nous with person--something about which Prejean erroneously thinks I am in error. The error is all his; for although Apollinaris did not equate nous with person in any other human being, he in essence substituted nous for person in the case of Jesus by positing that in the case of Christ, the Logos Himself, not a nous, animates the flesh. If Prejean were as interested in historical accuracy and understanding my words in that context as he is in criticizing positions he doesn't even understand, then he might have seen this himself.

Apollinaris equated the biblical concept of flesh with the Aristotelian view of matter, and the biblical concept of spirit with the Aristotelian view of form. It is the spiritual form that animates and gives true character to inert, undifferentiated matter; this is done in all men by the human intellect, or nous, with the sole exception of Jesus Christ, in which the function is performed by the Logos himself.

Hence, once again, Prejean stands corrected on his "correction" of me. Apollinaris did indeed substitute the nous (the normal principle that animates flesh) with the Logos Himself (his person, not his nous).

[According to Apollinaris] the Logos become flesh, but not a man like ourselves, in that he neither took on nor became a human intellect. . . . [Apollinaris believed that] Christ, like all other humans, was a body of flesh animated and formed by a nous, but with the significant difference that the nous of Christ was not a human spirit but the divine Logos. (160-164 passim).

That is to say, the nous (what normally animates a man) in the case of Christ is replaced by the person of the Logos Himself. That is exactly what RC pop-apologists claim today when they insist that Jesus was a divine person with a human nature, but was not a real, human person.

Here's how Brown summarizes the situation as it applies today:

No one since the fourth century has called himself an Apollinarian, but the idea of Apollinaris resurfaces whenever there is a combination of orthodox dogmatism and theological naivete. . . . Firmly to assert the deity of Christ is not the same thing as to confess the New Testament faith in him, for in the New Testament he is definitely a man who is revealed to be the Son of God, with all that implies—not a divine being who reveals himself in human form.

This is exactly what I have said in my past articles. Brown is a conservative evangelical and reformed historian. Moreover, he is a reputable and well respected historian. He is here making the identical observation I have made regarding RC pop-apologists; namely, that they have unwittingly fallen into the Apollinarian error by so emphasizing the deity of Christ they make him out to be God dressed up in a human suit. Will Prejean now have the courage to state that Brown is "unqualified" and "out of his league" on this issue? If not, then his prevous comment to that effect regarding me is a complete canard. We're far from finished, so I expect Prejean to abstain from responding until he sees all the evidence, as a good lawyer should. At the end of this I will also expect him to retract many of the highly uninformed statements he has carelessly made about this issue. Something tells me not to hold my breath, though.

Monday, March 14, 2005

I'll Give Prejean's Incomprehensible Ramblings One More Opportunity

Jonathan Prejean has added a note to his blog that directs the reader to this previous entry. In that entry he mentions me in an incidental way toward the end of the article, and then proceeds to offer rather snide, but otherwise tenuous comments on selected quotations from an article I wrote about modern Roman Catholic epologists (of which he is one). In those selected quotes, I cite Augustine's view of Jesus' relationship with his mother--which, by the way, is opposed to modern RC musings about it. In his snide comments, Prejean presumes to accuse me of not knowing the difference between person and nature, although his emotion-laden ramblings do not make it clear just why he thinks this. The quotes he cites from my article certainly do not lend credence to his false accusation (again, for the sake of justice, I do hope he's a better analyst of things legal than he is of things theological).

He then presumes to think I might care whether I fall under the condemnation of the fifth ecumenical council. The magnitude of such a charge is tantamount to the reverse charge that Prejean falls under the condemnation of the Westminster Confession! Just in case that analogy is lost on Mr. Prejean, let me make it clear to him in no uncertain terms. This may come as a shock to him, but the fifth ecumenical council is not authoritative for me! Does it condemn me? Who cares? The ecumenical councils--all of them--were wrong in many, many things. News flash to Mr. Prejean: I cite councils and church writers as hostile witnesses against the Romanists who do hold these gatherings as authoritative. But you can't cite them against an Evangelical who does not hold to some inate authority of catholic church councils. They don't speak on my behalf. But you hold they do speak on your behalf. Hence, I can use them against you but you can't validly use them against me. Didn't you learn anything about the valid use of hostile witnesses in law school Mr. Prejean?

Prejean continues:

For the record, we have no objection to people speaking about just one of Christ's natures, as long as they aren't denying the one divine person of the Word of God. That Jesus is the same divine person as the Word of God is clearly presented in Scripture, including the letter to the Hebrews.
Including the one that says he is without [human] father or mother?

In all of this, not once does Prejean demonstrate what he has been blustering about for the past few days: namely, that my view contradicts the views of patristic scholars. Prejean doesn't cite even one patristic scholar in the article, let alone one who provides an assessement of the views of RC epologists. And not once does he interact meaningfully with my articles. It is exceedingly difficult for me to believe that these are the "objections" that Prejean thinks were instrumental in my being "plainly corrected beyond doubt."

I'll give him one more chance: But if Prejean doesn't produce something of substance in his next reply, I'll be turning my attention to more productive things. By the way, Mr. Prejean might want to begin reading historical works that lean less toward the RC view of these issues (Jurgens, Newman, etc.) and more toward the Reformed view. It is beyond obvious that Prejean's exposure to historical analysis is limited to a select few "quote books" that are commonly cited (although erroneously) by the Catholic Answers crowd, and that he has no idea what the "overwhelming majority" of patristic scholars even looks like. One such work I might recommend to him (to get him started) is Harold O. J. Brown's Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984). Brown received his Ph.D in Historical Theology at Harvard. The foreword was written by George Williams, Hollis Professor of Divinity Emeritus, at Harvard. If I'm not mistaken, that's Prejean's alma mater, so I assume he would regard this work as "authoritative" enough. Time will tell.

JP Responds Again

Here is Jonathan Prejean's latest:
UPDATE -- Exactly as I predicted, Svendsen turned from a substantive attack to a personal one by attacking my personal qualifications. Of course, he completely missed the point that the reason I was attacking his qualifications is because he was running afoul of people who actually do have those qualifications. If I were the one running afoul of Meyendorff, Pelikan, McGrath, Kelly, Sherrard, Schatz, Jurgens, Quasten, Newman, Thunberg, and just about every other patristics or church history scholar of significant repute, then it might be relevant to raise my qualifications. But since I am relying on their arguments, it is *their* qualifications that are relevant, not mine. I'd love to see Svendsen attempt to justify his position using any reputable work, as that would clearly expose how absurd his position is.
Two quick point before addressing the issue. First, I can't find any place where Prejean "predicted" I would engage in a personal attack. Second, here is how Prejean characterized me in his previous entry:

  • "ranting irrationally"
  • "abdicated the field of reason altogether"
  • "blatant irrationalism "
  • "mindless"
  • "thoughtless"
  • "heedless of any sense of prudence or shame"
  • "an addict who simply cannot help himself"
And then added more recently:

  • "entirely disingenuous"
  • "absurd"
What dastardly, vitriolic thing could I have said that would lead Prejean to conclude that my comments, in comparison to his, constitute "personal attacks"? Here it is . . . [drum roll again] . . . "Prejean's doctorate is in law." Oh, how utterly underhanded such a statement is! Is there no end to the ad hominem opportunities that will surely spring from my pointing out the fact that Prejean holds a degree in law--and this in response to Prejean's assessment that I have zero qualifications to comment on theological positions since my Ph.D. is in New Testament?! How shameful! I should have known better! The next time I have a question about what constitutes heresy I'll contact my attorney! Then he can explain to me what all the patristic scholars are saying about the views of modern Roman Catholic epologists! He can point me to the pages of Kelly and McGrath and Pelikan (just for the record, Prejean includes Newman and "proof-text" Jurgens in that mix as well--no one else does) where these scholars examine the views of Roman Catholic epologists and pronounce them orthodox!

In any case, I've certainly learned my lesson. From now on, instead of engaging in "personal attacks" like pointing out that one's degree is from a school of law, I will be sure instead to comment on Prejean's "ranting and blatant irrationalism," his "mindless, thoughtless" "abdication of the field of reason," his absence of "any sense of prudence or shame," and his "absurd" "disingenuousness." Thank you, Mr. Prejean, for praying for my deliverance from engaging in "personal attacks" and helping me to see the light in how I should be addressing you.

Now, let's address Prejean's specific points:
One thing, it's not a matter of simply happening to disagree on the subject. Svendsen is flat-out wrong, and it's not even debatable. He's completely out of his league here. He has zero qualifications in the field of patristics or church history (his Ph.D. is in New Testament), and his opinion conflicts with the overwhelming scholarly opinion on those subjects without the least bit of justification for doing so.
I essentially ignored this comment in my last post because it lacks foundation. What on earth is Prejean referring to when he says my views contradict those of "overwhelming scholarly opinion"? Opinion on what?
I hope that Dr. Svendsen will substantively engage the objections that I have raised to his position, particularly that his denial of the full humanity and divinity of Christ amounts to a denial of our salvation.
What objections has he raised? None that I can see, apart from empty assertions that my views contradict those of patristic scholars. Where in the world have I denied the full humanity and divinity of Christ--especially since I am a staunch defender of these things? Just ask any of the Jehovah's Witnesses who have had the misfortune of knocking on my door!

Is this the kind of "substantive engagement" that characterizes Prejean's arguments at trial? I'm sure he's a capable attorney; but he seems to have "lost all reasoning abilities" when it comes to assessing theological views (how am I doing with my new language resolve, by the way?).

I'll be glad to address Prejean's "objections"--just as soon as he tells me what they are.