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.