Friday, January 19, 2007

Part 2 of "The last glimmer of hope"

Continuing from my last installment, "Mathetes" asks:
So I've been taking a look at the goings-on at Triablogue and A & O ministries, and I'm not sure I understand the argument.They're charging that the Reformed expression of predestination logically entails monothelitism. I understand monothelitism to be the belief that Christ had one will, not two. But why would predestination prevent Christ from having two wills?Another question, if I may, is that the Roman Catholic view of predestination seems ambiguous (I think Dr. Svendsen made mention of this in Evangelical Answers). Has the Vatican ever rubberstamped a particular predestinarian tradition (whether Thomism or Molinism)? As far as I can tell so far, the furthest they've gone with it is calling predestination "a mystery" at Trent and that was that.So it seems they have some monastic, but unofficial, traditions of predestination which they've never spoken against. But yet they're also considered Arminian - perhaps because their idea of salvation is synergistic?Anyways, the whole matter is a bit confusing...if someone could clarify, it would be greatly appreciated.

Svendsen replies to the bolded portion:
It wouldn't. Prejean simply has an inane propensity to connect things that are not related.

It confuses the natural (human) and supernatural (divine) orders to treat the divine nature as if its sovereignty or power is defined by subordination of the human nature for several reasons. First, subordination is an extrinsic relationship, so it would make God's sovereignty dependent on the existence of created things, which is logically absurd. God's power must be defined in a way that does not depend on the existence of creaturely beings; otherwise, creatures are "part of" God in the sense of partially constituting what God is. Second, if God's sovereignty is denigrated to deterministic causal power among beings, then God's subordination of wills effective destroys them (because a will is nothing other than self-motion, self-causation). If all wills are determined, then there are no other wills but God's; the Fathers and Scholastics are all adamant on the point that a will is not even a will if not free. Consequently, the Reformed doctrine of predestination is absolute monotheletism; there is only one will at all. The application to Christ is simply a case of what is generally true. What Reformed doctrine calls a will is what the Council of Trent calls a "figment," a concept (being of reason) with no basis in reality. Third, this philosophical error about causation translates into some other form of Christological error, meaning a defective concept of salvation as well (since Christ is the embodiment of our salvation).

The third point warrants a more detailed explanation. By confusing the divine and human natures in their operation (i.e., confusion of the wills by subordination), one comes to the mistaken conclusion that the two natures can be united by a mere unity of operation. This is Nestorianism, the notion that the union in Christ is the unity of two actors. The related salvific error is that our salvation results from Christ's obedience to the divine will and atonement of the divine wrath, effectively saying that subordination of the human will to the divine will constitutes our salvation. This error is Pelagian as well (and historically, that was the reason for Nestorius's condemnation by Rome), because it gives to the operation of the human nature a power that it cannot have, basically saying that subordination to the divine will can save (i.e., if Adam had obeyed, he would have been glorified as a matter of right). The fact that the postlapsarian will is caused to be subordinated does not make the scheme any less Pelagian, because in terms of natures, the operation that is saving is a purely human one, even if the ability to exercise that capacity has been contingently removed by the Fall. Art Sippo at times speaks of "pre-lapsarian Pelagianism," and this is what he has in mind. This form of monotheletism can be differentiated from Monophysitism, which involves a real confusion of the natures themselves that leads to a confusion of the wills as a result. In both cases, there is a root confusion in the divine and human operations, but in Monophysitism, it stems from a confusion about what the natures are, while in Nestorianism, it is a confusion about how they co-operate.

Comparing Reformed (or Arminian) doctrine to Catholic theology is a category error. Reformed doctrine rejects the Catholic concept of transcendent causation, making God just another cause among causes that must deterministically cause results in order to be "sure" they will happen. Arminian doctrine also denies God's transcendent causation by following the Pelagian error, supposing that wills somehow exist independently without being dependent on God for their very existence. Neither Thomism nor Molinism does this; the concept of "middle knowledge" and "physical premotion" are ways of explaining God's transcendent causation as distinct from mundane causation. However, I would argue that these attempts claim more comprehensiveness in their concepts than can realistically be allowed. In this respect, I think Cajetan has stumbled over his own observation that "existence [as a concept] does not exist;" he appears to have forgotten that we can speak meaningfully of the divine existence without defining it and that he ought to have done likewise with respect to the internal divine operation. I don't think that either Thomists or Molinists have the right answer, because they are asking the wrong question. But at least they are asking the wrong question about the right subject, while Reformed and Arminian schema are simply confused about the subject, having no coherent concept of divine causation in the first place.

To Svendsen's latest response:
There’s barely anything worthy of response in Prejean’s recent post because there’s barely anything there of substance. Hence, since I won’t be descending into another 20-page “oh yeah? Well, same to you!” Prejean-style brawl, I’ll respond selectively. Suffice it to say that I hope his response to my former post has more substance.

Wish I could afford to do that, but I can't take the risk of being accused of leaving something out or being taken out of context, so I'm stuck with the repetitive style.

“But I don't accept that Scripture serves as a divine authority in the way that Svendsen does”

This statement keeps coming up as an excuse not to consider Scripture in all this. And that’s a big part of the problem. What Prejean means is not that he subscribes to something other than sola scriptura, but rather that he doesn’t subscribe to any kind of scriptural authority at all. He has already admitted that, for him, Scripture is irrelevant and on the same level as the Book of Mormon and the Quran.

To reiterate what I said before, what separates Scripture from the Book of Mormon and the Qu'ran is its supernatural component, which is perceived supernaturally and not naturally. Here, I'm not talking about the material/immaterial distinction, because nature includes both of those things. I'm talking about the difference between divine and human operations. Treating Scripture as a purely historical work can only identify the human part of the operation and that is going to be far more limited by time and relevance than the supernatural part.

“I don't know why affirming basic principles of logic is ‘humanistic.’”

It’s not principles of logic that are in question; it’s the notion that one can simply rationalize that which is unknowable that is in question since, quite obviously, it has not been divinely revealed. Aristotelian categories and Platonic concepts do not function as interpreters of the divine, at least not for the Christian.

Aristotelian categories and Platonic concepts, at least the one's in question for Christology, are simply logical necessities of reality. They don't express anything more than the reality they affirm. As an analogy, Svendsen himself uses mundane techniques to exegete Scripture. Clearly, the language of Scripture cannot exhaust the unknowable God, but that doesn't mean that language performs no useful function. If anything, I would hope for Svendsen to be consistent; if he recognizes the limits of what logical categories can say about God, he should be all the more cautious about what human language generally can say.

“On the contrary, the fact that Chalcedon used the qualifier proves my point. You don't see the Chalcedonian Fathers saying ‘theotokos of the man Christ’; rather, they say ‘theotokos as regards his humanity.’”

If this doesn’t demonstrate Prejean’s implicit Apollinarianism (and consequential Docetism), I don’t know what does. Notice here Prejean admits he makes a distinction between that which is “man” and that which is “humanity.” Christ is the latter in Prejean’s view, but not the former, in direct contradiction to Scripture. When Chalcedon affirmed that Mary is theotokos “as regards his humanity,” I do not think they intended to deny that Mary is mother of “the man, Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5)—Prejean clearly does.

To reiterate what I said before, "man" has two possible interpretations: an individual with a human nature, and a human person (viz., an entity that derives its existence from instantiating the human nature). Christ is the former, not the latter. The passage in 1 Tim. is ambiguous as to the meanings, although if the term "mediator" is given the physical meaning that I advance, then it necessarily means the former and not the latter. An unqualified use of the term "man" without any context regarding the natures would ordinarily be presumed to refer to a "human person," which is error when applied to Christ.

“Svendsen has proved a point against his own position here; he conceded that the Council used the stronger term rather than the weaker term. He appears to be relying on Brown's gaffe in this regard. I have no idea why Brown would have made the mistake of thinking that meter theou was somehow stronger than theotokos,”

Perhaps it’s because Brown recognizes that the “strength” of the term would depend entirely on the point being made in each case. After all, Brown did receive his Ph.D. from Harvard—the very school that Prejean believes immunizes you from mistakes so long as you maintain a 3.9 GPA. Are we to accept the word of an untrained mind, just because he happens to think he is well read” on the subject, over the opinion of one who has his Ph.D. in Historical Theology? Prejean’s arrogance is exceeded only by his self-delusion. Why would the simple fact that theotokos represents a “natural” connection and mater theou represents a “relational” connection mean that the former is “stronger” than the latter? If the point being promoted is not only that Jesus is God even in the womb (theotokos), but also that Mary enjoys a special status based on that biological relationship (mater theou), then of course the latter is “stronger” than the former since the latter assumes the former in the mind of Cyril. Prejean’s introduction of Arian definitions is nothing more than a smokescreen. Cyril was not using mater theou to promote Mary as mother of God absent from biological relations—he was using it as a stronger Marian title than theotokos. It is Prejean’s gaffe, not Brown’s.

The funny thing is that I was actually wrong about Svendsen relying on Brown, and not in a way that helps Svendsen. After I read this response, it occurred to me that I really was curious as to why Brown would have said such a thing. I went back to the section in question, and it turned out that Brown hadn't said this. His statement in the section I was recalling from Heresies was that Cyril "supplemented" theotokos with mater theou, without any suggestion that the latter was a stronger or weaker term. After re-reading Brown, it seems that Svendsen just made this up, because not even Brown takes his line. Of course, Svendsen's whole response about taking my word is silly, because I'm not even asking people to take my word for it; it's documented well enough in the sources I've provided that theotokos was the controversial term.

“And as I said, there's a difference between the how and the what of an Incarnation. If I were trying to explain the former, that would be a problem. Trying to affirm the latter is simply coherent orthodoxy, and if Aristotelian concepts are useful for that affirmation, then there is nothing wrong with them.”

But Prejean is trying to explain the former, and is not merely content with affirming the latter. That’s the whole point of this debate. He isn’t content to say “the Word was with God and the Word was God,” and “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” and the Christ is simultaneously “our great God and Savior” and “the MAN, Christ Jesus.” He’s not even content to affirm a single-subject Christology, but goes well beyond that to specify that Christ is a “divine person with a human nature,” and that he specifically is not a “human person." Scripture just does not put it that way, and Prejean’s use of Aristotelian categories to “explain” it is simply not the same thing as “affirming coherent orthodoxy.” His point here is just stupidity.

I'm not sure how saying the Word of God does not derive His existence from His humanity is going "well beyond" what we affirm when we affirm that Christ is the Word of God. Does the Word of God derive His existence from being human? If Christ is the Word of God, does Christ derive His existence from being human? It's simple logic (which, as I said, is all Aristotelian categories really are).

Moreover, he gratuitously assumes “Aristotelian concepts are useful for that affirmation” (didn’t he chide me earlier for not calling these “Platonic concepts”?) when the usefulness of such concepts is the very thing in question. The biblical writers did not think like Aristotle or Plato. They, for the most part, were steeped in Hebrew culture and concepts taken from Scripture. That’s just the problem with Prejean. He doesn’t think like a biblical writer and is in fact ignorant of that way of thinking because he himself is not steeped in Scripture the way the biblical writers were. He simply assumes Aristotelian categories and Platonic concepts can be superimposed on a biblical paradigm when in fact they are two exceedingly different paradigms.

I can't help but think that this overemphasis on the cultural surroundings of the Biblical writers echoes the earthly mindset of Luke 11:27-28 and John 6:41-42. The Jewish culture foreshadows, but what makes Apostles to be Apostles is Christianity, not Judaism. Their role is not limited to their cultural context; nor should their message be. Imposing these cultural limitations on their thinking strips them of their divine authority. In fact, interpreting the Old Testament according to 1st century Jewish standards is likely to lead to theological mistakes. I recognize that Aristotelian categories and Platonic concepts may be alien to the Hebrew mindset (though often implicitly included in their thinking as basic logical truths). But since Scripture as revelation is not Jewish or Greek but universal, we aren't confined by the historical limitations of any time or culture. That isn't to say that Scripture can't speak to us at all in the historical sense, but it certainly isn't limited to that sense, which is what Svendsen is arguing.

“The irony of Svendsen affirming someone who argued in favor of the term "theotokos" (Ibid., Lecture X, art. 19) as "the good Cyril" is delightful”

So many errors; so little time. This is a perfect example of Prejean’s inability to discuss this rationally. I did not, by my statement, grant unqualified agreement with every point of Cyril's theology—nor to the soundness of his exegesis on every belief—but only to his approach to that which is unrevealed vis-à-vis Scripture. To the extent that Cyril was inconsistent with his own stated principle, I am happy to take issue with him. And the comment “the good Cyril” was a playful jab at the approach of Cyril of Alexandria and his uncritical disciple, Jonathan Prejean.

I fail to see why the fact that I don't consider Svendsen's "playful jab" funny disqualifies me from rational discussion. Keep your "playful jabs" to yourself.

Yes, the "good" Cyril used a passing reference to theotokos (he did not “argue in favor of the term”). So what? Does Prejean imagine one cannot recognize Mary as “God bearer” (in the simple affirmation that Jesus was God even in the womb) apart from attempting to explain that Jesus is “an instantiation of rational nature” that consists of one part divine [where instantiation is defined as “person” AND nature all rolled up in one], one part human [where instantiation is not defined as “person” but rather “human nature”], all wrapped up in a divine instantiation in which this instantiation is somehow a full-fledged “man” without being a human “person”? If Prejean cannot tell the difference between these two things, then I see little basis for rational dialogue with him.

I agree. Rational dialogue would actually require you to provide reasons for your distinction, not merely assert it.

“St. Cyril's comments in the 11th and 16th lectures say exactly what I said: we affirm the distinction between nature and person, between begetting and proceeding, without knowing the actual details of these things.”

Here’s what Cyril says in his 11th lecture: “This also believe, that God has a Son: but about the manner be not curious, for by searching you will not find. Exalt not yourself, lest you fall: think upon those things only which have been commanded you. Tell me first what He is who begat, and then learn that which He begat; but if you can not conceive the nature of Him who has begotten, search not curiously into the manner of that which is begotten. For godliness it suffices you to know, as we have said, that God has One Only Son.”

Here’s what he says in his 16th lecture: “We would now say somewhat concerning the Holy Ghost; not to declare His substance with exactness, for this were impossible”

Cyril affirms the exact approach to these things that I have advanced and Prejean has denied. Indeed, I hope all Prejean’s readers will click the links he provides so that they can see for themselves the vast difference between the approach Cyril of Jerusalem takes and that of Prejean. Cyril cannot write two sentences without citing Scripture—indeed, in most cases he cannot write even one sentence apart from citing Scripture. And at every turn, Cyril directs his readers to nothing less than Scripture for proof of what he is saying.

I'd cite Scripture, but with someone who doesn't accept its authority, such citations are useless. Cyril is writing to Christians who share his belief, but it is evident that Svendsen does not share my belief in Christ, regardless of what his subjectively culpability for that denial may be. But note that Cyril makes exactly my distinction between person (the Son's existence) and nature (the manner of His begetting). Svendsen has cited a classic example of the distinction that he denies for no apparent reason.

In stark contrast, Scripture, in Prejean’s view, is irrelevant and inauthoritative, not written to us, and on par with the Book of Mormon and the Quran. And yet Prejean has somehow convinced himself that he is representative of orthodoxy in this discussion. He makes the same mistake as those who errantly believe “Reformed” is defined by mindlessly advancing the idiosyncratic beliefs of Luther and Calvin rather than the principles they followed to formulate those beliefs.

I didn't say that. What I said was that if I treated Scripture as you treated Scripture, it would be as irrelevant as the Book of Mormon and the Qu'ran. I consider your view of Scriptural authority nonsense.

Hence, my original point about Cyril of Jerusalem stands: Here again is Cyril’s approach:“But if the Lord permit, I will set it forth, according to my powers, with demonstration from the Scriptures. For when we are dealing with the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, we must not deliver anything whatsoever, without the sacred Scriptures, nor let ourselves be misled by mere probability, or by marshalling of arguments. And do not simply credit me, when I tell you these things, unless you get proof from the Holy Scriptures of the things set forth by me. For this salvation of ours by faith is not by sophistical use of words, but by proof from the sacred Scriptures (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture IV, Art. 17). . . . For these articles of our faith were not composed out of human opinion, but are the principle points collected out of the whole of Scripture to complete a single doctrinal formulation of the faith” (Ibid., Lecture V, Art. 12). . . . Let us be content with this knowledge [taken from Scripture] and not busy ourselves with questions about the divine nature or hypostasis. I would have spoken of that had it been contained in Scripture. Let us not venture where Scripture does not lead, for it suffices for our salvation to know that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit [Ibid., Lecture XVI, Art. 24]. . . . But the Holy Spirit himself has not spoken in the Scriptures about the Son’s generation from the Father. Why then busy yourself over something that the Holy Spirit has not expressed in the Scriptures? You do not know all the Scriptures, and yet must get to know what is not in the Scriptures? (Ibid., Lecture XI, Art. 12).

Same thing again. Affirm the person, but distinguish the nature. Affirm what is revealed (including all of the meaning, not merely the historical component), but not mere opinion. It's my methodology to the letter.

Whatever “irony” Prejean thinks he has found here is a figment of his own mind. In fact, the true irony is in the closing statement of Cyril cited above: "Why then busy yourself over something that the Holy Spirit has not expressed in the Scriptures? You do not know all the Scriptures, and yet must get to know what is not in the Scriptures?" If this isn't Prejean in a nutshell, I don't know what is.

I'd say it's pretty evident that you "don't know what is," because I deny exactly what Cyril denies. Unfortunately, you don't know enough about him to realize it or that you proved a point against your own position.

“This is so bizarre that I wonder how Svendsen could even have thought it made sense. Svendsen admits that Augustine is referring to nature in discussing humanity and divinity. But he appears to be saying that he is incapable of distinguishing between natures and union between natures (i.e., person, to which the term "Mother of God" applies).”

No, what I am saying is that Augustine does not make the fine distinctions Prejean does. He affirms Christ has a human nature and a divine nature. He does not affirm Prejean’s bizarre “divine person with a human nature,” where “person” is defined as “instantiation of rationale nature” for the divine, but where that definition is gratuitously denied for the “instantiation of rational human nature” in Christ—so that Christ is “human” (he has human nature), but is not a “man” (he has no human personality). And Prejean will never find such drivel in Augustine, which is why there is a conspicuous absence of counter examples in Prejean’s response.

We've been through this. You're confusing "personality" and "person." Augustine makes this distinction all over the place in De Trinitate. See 5.8. Yet another example of Svendsen talking about an area in which he is completely ignorant.

I have, in fact, addressed all this already in my “Calm Before the Storm” post. In it, I pressed Prejean on his definition of “person.” Prejean defines “person” as “an instantiation of rational nature.” He seems to agree that Christ instantiates human nature (complete with a human mind, psyche, spirit, will, etc.), but then oddly contends that that this does not constitute a “human person.” Prejean has insisted I must be able to explain the inexplicable, else my view remains “incoherent.” Very well; let Prejean explain how his view is coherent; namely, how he can simultaneously hold that “person” is defined by “the instantiation of a rational nature,” but that the instantiation of rational human nature in Christ does not constitute “human person.”

Because the term that modifies person has a well-known philosophical usage: indicating the "proper nature," the nature from which the person's instantiation gives the person's existence.

“I find the idea of someone who uses the term "paradigm" in this way right before criticizing "postmodern metanarratives" amusing, but I must deny that metaphysical reality is a matter of "paradigms." Aristotelian concepts describe reality, and if the reality being described is identical in Scripture times and the present day, then there is no reason to think that an Aristotelian articulation of this reality is in any way inferior.”

Notice how gratuitously Prejean advances what he has yet to prove; namely, that the “metaphysical reality” of Plato is the same as that of the biblical writers (apparently Prejean believes in Plato’s intelligible/perceptual dualism). Can he really be so dense that he does not know that one’s preconceived notions and musings about anything—much more those things that cannot be verified (in this case the metaphysical)—constitute a paradigm? A paradigm (at least in the sense I am using it) is one’s frame of reference for the way one thinks. It is a construct for interpreting and evaluating reality. An atheist speaks and writes from a different paradigm than a theist. A Roman Catholic speaks and writes from a different paradigm than a Biblicist. Is it really beyond Prejean’s comprehension that Plato, not having been entrusted with the Divine Oracles and therefore merely “guessing” his way through these things, would have a different paradigm than one who has first-hand knowledge of God’s objective self-disclosure? It is simply absurd to think otherwise.

I happen to believe that there is an objective reality to which all paradigms are accountable, meaning that there are some matters to which one is accountable no matter what one's paradigm. Moreover, I believe that these can rightly be used to judge paradigms, rather than vice versa. In other words, I don't buy into this presuppositional nonsense where the Christian worldview has nothing in common with atheism. Paradigms matter, but they aren't the whole story.

“No. I think it's ridiculous to think that topics not addressed explicitly by the authors of Scripture cannot be the subject of dogma . . .”

So did the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day. When you pick grain, roll it in your hands, and eat it on the Sabbath, you’re “harvesting grain” on the Sabbath, and hence you are breaking the Sabbath by doing work. When you drag a chair across the dirt floor on the Sabbath, and the legs of the chair make furrows in the ground, you are “plowing” on the Sabbath, hence breaking the Sabbath. Yep, it’s just “ridiculous” to think we can’t make dogma out of mere speculations.

And so what? That's simply an argument for having a correct standard, not an argument against theological method.

“. . . or that only concepts of the 1st century authors can be used to describe the same reality that Scripture describes.”

And how would you know for sure that the concepts you adopt to describe scriptural realities accurately convey those spiritual realities, especially since you are so unfamiliar with that spiritual reality as revealed in Scripture, not to mention the limits Scripture imposes on it?

I am not unfamiliar with it. Indeed, it is because I am not that I can distinguish the shadow from the reality.

The Children of Israel thought it reasonable to liken God to a calf based on the fact that God was powerful enough to rescue them from Egypt: “he must be like this calf—let’s make a golden calf in honor of Him. After all, our Egyptian upbringing has made us familiar with the concept of a ‘cow-god,’ and we’re only describing the same reality of God in terms we can understand.”

And they were wrong. Again, this simply proves that you have to have a reasonable standard for what is right and what is wrong.

The only motivation to abandon Scripture the way Prejean does is first to posit some deficiency in Scripture that forces us to use categories Scripture does not use.

Begging the question again. I might as well say that the only reason Svendsen wants to use Scripture in the way he does is to provide himself with something that revelation doesn't give us. I don't abandon Scripture; there is a place for it within the faith to reinforce the faith. But I reject its usefulness for those who don't follow the regula fidei.

“Nor does it imply that Scripture alone is adequate to do so.”

See what I mean? Says who, exactly? Yahweh? The biblical writers? Or, Jonathan Prejean’s comparable pea brain?

As a matter of fact, the Biblical writers DON'T say that Scripture is adequate to do so. You're the one positing a concept of revelation and imposing the demand on God that He reveal Himself in the way you demands. I'm content to take Scripture as is.

In response to my citation of the Scriptural warning not to “run ahead” of the apostles’ doctrine of Christ, Prejean responded:

“First, this would only prove that the method of extracting dogma from Scripture is not strictly deductive, but that is relatively obvious to anyone who rejects the formal sufficiency of Scripture, and it does not show either logical fallacy or lack of logic (induction being a form of logic as well).”

That is, of course, just what Prejean is suggesting; that God’s self-disclosure is deficient—a notion abhorrent to the Christian mind. Prejean’s alternative is to posit there is something magical about Platonic concepts and their ability to communicate divine realities to humanity. That is, of course, just as abhorrent to the Christian mind, and equally absurd.

Nothing magical about it, just God-given reason. Svendsen is the one putting requirements on how God has to reveal Himself, not me. I'm willing to take Him as He is, rather than saying what it is that I think I need from revelation and then demanding that God provide it.

Why does Prejean think the warnings in Scripture are there? The incipient-Gnostic heretics of John’s day were making inductions of their own. They reasoned that the descending of the dove upon Christ at his baptism coupled with Christ’s statement on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me,” was proof positive that Jesus was not the “Christ come in the flesh,” but rather that Christ merely possessed Jesus for a few years on this earth and left him shortly before his death. They “extracted dogma” inductively from Scripture, and they were dead wrong in that induction. Of course those who disregard the warnings of the apostles against “running ahead” will always think those warnings apply to someone else!

Actually, the Gnostics were pretty candid about their extra-Scriptural sources, but ordinarily, the heretics were the very ones who were convinced they were NOT running ahead. The point is that the rule of faith judges what is and isn't "running ahead." It's another injunction to have the correct rule to judge, and it just begs the question.

“On the other hand, if I were claiming that I were inducing the conclusion from certain consistent facts (say, the presence of black canine fur around a dog bowl in Svendsen's house), then one certainly wouldn't claim that it was "sophistry of the worst kind" to arrive inductively at the conclusion that Svendsen had a black dog.”

Except that Prejean has no equivalent of “black fur” in my analogy. Or, more accurate to the situation, he may have found the black fur but missed the brown fur and the sable fur that proves my dog is black AND brown AND sable—all “dark,” mind you, but not mere “black.” Prejean thinks he has solved this, but he hasn’t. He still does not know what color my dog’s coat is—much less his eyes. At best, he has “induced” a dog by his discovery of black fur that so misrepresents my dog it must be considered a different dog altogether—not unlike his induction of the person of Christ.

Svendsen admits the point; you can conclude something even if you don't know its entirety, just as you can know the dog has black fur even if you don't know its colors completely. I'm not saying that I know the mechanism of the hypostatic union, but I am saying that I know there is one.

“I didn't view Svendsen as a Humean skeptic, but he appears to be taking the view that nothing can be known inductively”

The very definition of an inductive argument is that the conclusion is at best “probable” based on the premises. An inductive conclusion, by definition, goes beyond the premises. How can anything be made a “dogma” that is at best “probable” and works only if the premises are accepted? That’s the primary difference between Prejean’s approach and mine. I am content with a deductive approach to divine truth, and Prejean uses an inductive approach.

Godel's incompleteness theorem ring any bells? No purely deductive system can prove anything. I'm happy with this statement of differences; it would prove to most people that your theological method is nonsensical.

As an example of the former, Scripture insists there is someone called the Father who is called God; it insists there is someone called the Son/Word who is called God; it insists there is someone called the Spirit who is called God; it further places “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit” in relationship to one another (“the word was with God”; “I will send the Spirit of truth from the Father”) so as to make each one distinct from the others. Yet those same Scriptures just as vehemently insist there is only one God. I cannot conclude there are three gods, since I am constrained by Scripture that there is only one God. I cannot conclude there is one “person” manifested in three “modes,” each at various times, since these “persons” are sometimes found together and in relationship with each other. And so, from all this I must conclude that there is one God who somehow subsists in three “persons.” I don’t try to explain the “makeup” of God or the relationship of his “persons” beyond what Scripture says about it because all explanations falter at some point (I place “person” in quotation marks not because I reject it as a functional term but because it’s precise definition is still in dispute in the present discussion; for the record, I concede the use of it here because it doesn’t present problems with Scripture).

And this is Svendsen's problem. I can manifest innumerable modes of action, all related to one another, so there's no reason why God couldn't. To defeat modalism, it won't suffice to say what Svendsen said here; he hasn't provided sufficient reason for his beliefs (and he claims a deductive method). Moreover, we also have to deal with the fact that Scripture identifies one of these persons with Jesus of Nazareth. Those are the sorts of logical difficulties that require explanations of at least what it is that is being affirmed. Unless Svendsen is speaking complete gobbledygook, he has to mean something and not nothing when he says "persons." He has to mean something and not nothing when he affirms "one God." The problem with Nestorianism is that, deep down, it's the affirmation of nothing, sheer nonsense. For the Christian belief to be robust, it can't be sheer nonsense. To some extent, you have to have conceptual content of things like "person," and that's what natural theology can show.

The same is true of the union of God and man in the Incarnation. I can affirm with Scripture that Jesus Christ is the Word become flesh, that he is fully God and at the same time fully man, and that if either the former or the latter is deficient in any way he cannot act as our perfect sacrifice and high priest. Scripture says nothing beyond this. It doesn’t speculate that the “man” part of Christ is really just “human nature” and not a “real man” per se. In fact, it goes out of its way to condemn any such notion as heresy—and that heresy is particularly relevant because it is one the biblical writers themselves faced vis-à-vis incipient Gnosticism. Hence, it would not only be mere speculation but, in fact, a dangerous enterprise to suggest, as Prejean does, that the “man” part of Jesus is merely “human nature” and not really a “man” at all.

There's that Nestorianism again. There is no "man part" of Jesus. There is a human part of Jesus. Jesus is not a separate man joined to the Word of God; Jesus IS the Word of God.

But this is precisely Prejean’s approach. He thinks he can figure all this out inductively. But the problem is precisely with the realm of inductive logic itself. For one to argue inductively, one needs some degree of certainty and universal acceptability about the premises, and a good understanding of the known parameters and conditions that may shape the outcome. This works fairly well for things in this life and in this plane of existence. For instance, if we can observe that every crow we have ever seen happens to be black, then we can safely conclude that, very probably, all crows are black. We cannot say this with absolute certainty, since there may be white crows that no one has seen; yet we may be reasonably assured that all crows are black. Or, in the field of technology, we might use the symptoms of a computer problem to inductively work our way through a problem-solving process to find not only a likely cause but a viable solution.

Even revelation can't get you around inductive reasoning, because you have to use inductive reasoning to perceive revelation in the first place. It's all a question of being consistent in how you induce things. But in Svendsen's case, he's got logical and deductive problems as well; his premises are in apparent contradiction.

But in the case of the Incarnation, we’re not dealing with observable facts or commonly known conditions. In fact, the only conditions about which we may be certain are “revealed” conditions. Even in the case of the computer problem I mentioned, we may not have certainty. Say the symptom is such that when I open more than one application at a time I receive an “out of memory” error message. The problem is inductive because there are many things that could be causing the problem. And unless I have knowledge of all the conditions of the computer, as well as how all the components relate to each other, it’s not likely my guess as to what the solution might be will even be in the ballpark. Further, until I apply what I suspect is the solution, and observe first-hand that my solution has solved the problem, there is really no way to be certain that my proposed solution will even work—and in fact it is not uncommon in technology that my first “guess” at a solution to an unknown issue will fail, and that I will have to look elsewhere to solve it.

This is where Svendsen's method begs the question. We can't be deductively certain even of revealed conditions; revelation itself requires induction. He's simply asserted his own unjustified view of revelation, one that I don't share. My inductive method is consistent; I am certain of the truths of revelation in the same way I am (inductively) certain about other truths.

Of how much lesser value will my “guess” be when I am inductively working from the physical world and rational thought to explain the metaphysical world—a world of which I have no first-hand knowledge--particularly when there is no way to "test" my solution to ensure it "works"? No one has or can observe the dividing line between person and nature—Plato’s dividing line is a mere hypothesis, and one that has not been revealed. Is “person” really defined by God as an “instantiation of rational nature”? Perhaps; but it’s nothing more than a guess; certainly not something we can know in this life because we cannot dissect it.

With all due respect, that's just silly. I recommend Anthony Rizzi's The Science before Science to cure yourself of this backward thinking. Person and nature is probably one of the more obviously observable distinctions, and it's a matter of no credit to modern society that it's forgotten something that was blindingly obvious centuries ago.

And even if we could reason it out to the point that we can safely define ourselves, it is simply absurd to think that we can somehow apply that same understanding to someone who is both man and God. The circumstances and conditions surrounding the Incarnation are unique in addition to being unknown.

If it weren't for Svendsen's bizarre and unjustified barrier around what he considers "revealed," the absurdity of this statement would be obvious. We don't know what it's like to be human? What exactly is Svendsen affirming when he says that Jesus was "fully man" then? And I'm the Docetist? If what Svendsen says here is true, he has no logical and deductive basis for thinking that revelation can tell him anything about what happened then, and yet somehow, he criticizes me for not thinking enough like a first century Jew that he says we can know nothing about. This just goes to show how Svendsen's view of revelation ties him up in knots.

The fact that there were so many views on the exact relationship of the human and divine in Christ during the Christological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries just proves my point that any view finally adopted is a mere theory that cannot be proved because its premises are not universally shared.

Disagreement means everyone is wrong? Wow, Svendsen has really got himself in that rarified Kantian air of dialectic uselessness.

Is Christ a divine person who possesses a human nature? Is he instead a divine person who cloaks himself with human flesh? Is he instead divinized flesh? Is he instead a singular “person” with a divine nature and a human nature? Is he instead a fusion of divinity and humanity?

Yes, no, no, no, no (assuming "instead" means Nestorianism), no. It's not an obvious thing to discern right and wrong answers, but it can assuredly be done.

Granted, some of these theories are more easily dispatched than others on biblical grounds. Nevertheless, who could possibly know these things with any certainty?

Everyone who thinks it through carefully and rigorously according to the rule of faith, for one.

No one knows the mind of God, and he has not revealed it.

... by Svendsen's definition of "revealed." Begs the question.

No one observed the hypostatic union, and so no one can know what conditions apply in this case.

All that proves is that we can't comprehensively describe the Incarnation, not that we can't affirm anything about it. Moreover, the Incarnation isn't known by natural theology; rather, it is a revealed truth with certain logical consequences based on what we know about the things being affirmed (like being human).

Indeed, no one can claim to know with certainty any conditions of the metaphysical apart from divine revelation.

That's more Enlightenment nonsense. I don't know that I exist? I don't know that I'm typing on a keyboard or drinking or thinking about what I'm going to say? All of those are conditions of the metaphysical. Unfortunately, modern minds are conditioned to say extremely stupid things about metaphysics, but that doesn't change the fact that it's an extremely stupid statement.

And so, the various views on this that the “church” condemned as “heresies” are not only metaphysical unknowns, they are in fact unknowable in this life. How then can they be heresies? At the very least, it is the height of arrogance to make a dogma of any of these views, hence binding the conscience of man to it as some sort of shibboleth of orthodoxy.

On the contrary, NOT to bind them to what is required in order to avoid Christianity being an affirmation of nonsense is what produces the flaming liberalism and secularism you see. You've cut off the only thing that can stop it.

“It was Nestorius who was not content with "the Word became flesh" but who felt the need to introduce a novel term, Christotokos, when Theotokos was both less confusing and more accurate”

How is theotokos (“God bearer”) “less confusing and more accurate” since it says nothing about Jesus’ humanity? How does that title “accurately” describe who Christ? How is christotokos (“Christ bearer”) “inaccurate” since it is more general and omits nothing? Did Mary not bear the Christ? How is it confusing? Is there some confusion in Prejean’s mind over whether Jesus is the Christ? What Prejean really objects to is biblical restraint. Christotokos is a perfectly acceptable title because it does not overemphasize one of the natures of Jesus to the detriment of the other.

On the contrary, it doesn't say whether Christ is or isn't the Word of God. Theotokos does. Christotokos doesn't even require Christ to be divine; it doesn't say what "Christ" is. But we know what God is and what man is. Theotokos leaves no room for doubt. I fail to see how "Biblical restraint" counsels against affirming that Christ is the Word of God.

“No, but I do believe that [Scripture] is a theandric document, a combination of nature and supernature, and I don't believe the natural component exhausts the supernatural meaning of Scripture, which is perceived only by the rule of faith”

The latter point, of course, is not demanded nor even suggested by the former point. That there would be some “mysterious meaning” of Scripture comprehensible only to the “illuminati,” just because it was authored by God, is not only an unjustified conclusion but a Gnostic ideal. Communication assumes the ability to understand. According to Jesus himself, God revealed his word to “babes,” not to the “wise.” The God who chose the “foolish things” of the world, and the ignoble people of the world—the fishermen, the carpenters, the common man—does not turn around and shroud his word in symbols intelligible only to a “Magisterium.” That’s a byproduct of Prejean’s catholicism, not of biblical truth.

The rule of faith is thoroughly public. It's only folks like Nestorius who manage to talk themselves out of what the simple folks accept with eager hearts: "Jesus is God." The Magisterium is only needed because of sin; people are careless and prideful. If it weren't for sin, there would be no need for a Magisterium.

“What do I care about your accomplishments outside of patristics? The issue is whether you are keeping up with patristics and the skills that would be relevant to that field of study.”

It was Prejean who claimed my formal training is 20-years out of date, that I don’t work in my field, and that I haven’t “kept up” with my training. But I have kept up with my field (New Testament) and have never claimed to have training in patristics. All I have claimed is that I at least have training in related disciplines—something that Prejean does not have.

But I wasn't talking about related disciplines; I was talking about patristics. You introduced something entirely irrelevant to the subject.

“So what I would like to understand is why someone who is not "keeping up with that field" is writing articles about ‘Apollinarimonophysitism’ without bothering to get back up to speed on the subject?”

I was up to speed when I wrote my article on Apollinarimonophysitism. And what is ironic is that Prejean himself was writing about these things before he even knew of the existence of McGuckin. He produced McGuckin’s views only after he lost his debate with me. That means he himself was engaging in the very exercise for which he now chides me; namely, by his own admission he was writing about these things before he “got up to speed” on them. Prejean pretends he does not understand how someone can do that, but it is painfully obvious that he himself did that very thing before he knew of McGuckin’s existence. Now I don’t accept that McGuckin is the “controlling voice” on this issue, but Prejean obviously does. Hence, Prejean is a hypocrite.

I listed several people whom you and your brethren are fond of citing (Thunberg being an exception included as an example of Maximian scholarship) to point out that even they didn't take your view of the subject. But by the time I wrote that article, I had read the magisterial works and several of the related monographs. My point originally was that not even the older Protestant scholarship agreed with you on what Apollinarism and Monophysitism was or about a conflict between Ephesus and Chalcedon. When we then got into your claims about what Cyril and Nestorius believed (which were irrelevant to the original discussion), I pulled out McGuckin. But it's not as if McGuckin cornered the market on the Christological issue, which was covered well enough by Sherrard and Meyendorff years before McGuckin's work (and no one had mounted a rebuttal). McGuckin was only necessary to rebut your charges about Cyril's and Nestorius's personal orthodoxy, but there still wasn't controversy about what Ephesus and Chalcedon said. Even the "compromise with Nestorius" theorists argued for that theory based on what they thought Nestorius believed (which turned out not to be what he actually believed, i.e., the condemned heresy). This is yet another "accuse of saying something that he didn't say; act as if he said it" line.

“The notion that the Scripture could be read truly without the rule of faith to discern its spiritual content was not one that any of the Fathers held.”

Prejean betrays both his ignorance and his simplistic and pop-roman-apologetic understanding of the fathers. Prejean doesn’t read the fathers; he reads books about the fathers. What rule of faith? There was simply no such thing as Prejean’s rule of faith in the fifth century. No one believed in an infallible pope at that time. No one believed councils could not err at that time. No one believed councils were irreformable at that time. No one believed, as Prejean clearly does, that Scripture is irrelevant, not for us today, does not speak to us, and whatever other nonsense he has spouted. And if Prejean wants to pursue this point, I will be happy to bury him under a mountain of extended quotations from the fathers that will quickly cure him of his ignorance.

What does infallibility have to do with anything? I mean Irenaeus's rule of faith, i.e., the Church. The formal exercise of that authority has changed; the God-given authority has not. And I scoff at the notion that you can "bury" me under quotations. If they're of the same quality as your citation of St. Cyril or that joke of a "work" that David King and Bill Webster put together, then save your typing, because it's ridiculous.

“They certainly didn't believe that the mundane historical content of Scripture exhausted its meaning.”

Again, who is “they”? The fathers collectively (as though they held a monolithic view on this)? If so, then Prejean is simply spouting his ignorance. He doesn’t know what the fathers believed on these things because he has never read the fathers.

Are you that stupid? Do you honestly think I haven't read the works of the Fathers, or that if I don't read them in the original languages that it somehow "doesn't count?" The observations I am making are routine among patristics scholars.

“Indeed, "for Pete's sake," look at Cyril's statements about "the divine and holy mysteries." What Svendsen is doing is exactly what Cyril condemns: trying to justify the Christian faith by some mundane method rather than the divine inspiration of the Scriptures.”

What?! This is patently absurd! Prejean has this exactly backwards. It is he who is trying to justify his brand of “orthodoxy” by use of reason and platonic concepts rather than Scripture. I, in stark contrast, have constantly pointed to the Scriptures as the necessary restraint in our speculations. Who is the one justifying his faith by use of a “mundane method” here?! Who is the one justifying his faith by use of “the divine inspiration of the Scriptures”? Prejean is becoming delusional in this conversation.

Only Svendsen's sheer bias and ignorance could make this conclusion plausible. How on earth is the use of a restrictive, critical method of exegesis that neglects all other meaning not mundane? How does Svendsen acknowledge the holy mysteries (i.e., the reality of the Sacraments) in his Scriptural interpretation? Does Svendsen presuppose the truth of the Church in all his interpretations? Svendsen very clearly is NOT giving attention to the "divine inspiration of the Scriptures;" rather, he is treating them like any old historical document and then tacking on authority after the fact.

As for Cyril, he goes out of his way to “prove from Scripture” the points he is making, and he interprets Scripture in the plain, usual, and ordinary sense that I would to accomplish that goal. He doesn’t always get it right; but neither does he engage in some ethereal and nebulous interpretation, comprehensible only on a higher plane, to prove his points. But more important is the point I originally made and which is completely lost on Prejean; namely, that he manifestly does not hold the same high view of Scripture as Cyril, particularly in what is required to “prove” a point of theology. Cyril takes pains to prove everything from Scripture, and makes it abundantly clear that if it cannot be proved from Scripture, then it cannot be upheld as binding. Prejean, on the other hand, blatantly rejects the relevance of Scripture in this discussion—worse, assigns it the same status as the Book of Mormon and the Quran in its ability to define orthodoxy!—and turns instead to Plato, Aristotle, and his own “brilliance” as his "spiritual guide" to the metaphysical world and the divine nature

Again, Cyril is writing to his fellows in the Church who share his rule of faith. Svendsen has abandoned that community. I can prove everything in Scripture to someone who accepts the rule of faith. For those who don't, Scripture is useless ("feed not that which is holy to the dogs").

“The only teaching I have been arguing for from Ephesus and Chalcedon is a single subject, so either you were saying that Chalcedon "ran ahead" of the Apostles in teaching a single subject or you are simply so baffled about what it taught that you think it was teaching something beyond what it did teach.”

This is a patent lie. As I have already shown, Prejean is not content to know that Christ is a “single subject,” but must postulate precisely how that single subject comes together, and how exactly Christ is to be defined. Anyone who affirms that Christ is a “one person”—which I affirm—also affirms a single-subject Christology. But, in spite of this affirmation, Prejean continues to accuse Protestants of believing Christ is two persons. That proves he is not content with a simple affirmation that Christ is one person, but must in fact define how Christ is one person. That is exactly the area that I maintain is inexplicable in the same way the Godhead itself is inexplicable. And so, Prejean lies when he claims to be content with an affirmation that Christ is one person not two.

But you are postulating Christ as a union of operations, which is not EVEN a person. I have no idea what the mechanism of the hypostatic union is, but I do know that a person is a real entity that can't be produced by sticking two other entities together. Is Christ the union, or is He the Word of God?

“But what you said here doesn't exonerate you from the charge that you deny the single subject, because explaining how isn't required in order to affirm what kind of union between the natures exists. Is this union constituted by the person of the Word of God, or isn't it?”

See what I mean? Through sheer sophistry he denies that more is required to be orthodox than a simple affirmation of single-subject Christology, and simultaneously maintains his insistence that we must affirm a specific idiosyncratic theory of just how that union takes place. What he refers to as an affirmation of the “kind of union” is precisely what I mean by “how it takes place.” The “kind” of union is just the thing that I have maintained is unknowable because, inasmuch Scripture does not reveal this information, the theory assumes knowledge of “how” that union must have taken place (viz., God the Son assumed a human nature but did not become a man per se). And if we don’t have affirmation in Scripture of the kind of union it is, nor just how that union took place, then we’re left to our own devices in figuring it out. And once we find ourselves outside the realm of divinely revealed truth, no one can affirm a “kind” of union apart from explaining (or at the very least assuming) just “how” that union took place—else there would be no reason to accept it. And that is just the predicament Prejean is in. He rejects Scripture and so must stand on his own reasoning faculties to figure out what “kind” of union takes place in Christ. But he cannot do that without first assuming the “hows” of that union, else why accept it? And if one does not accept Prejean’s underlying “hows,” there remains no basis for accepting his proposed “kind of union.”

Is Christ the union or the Word of God? A simple question, having nothing to do with how they are joined, that Svendsen still won't answer.

“Given that I don't think God placed Biblical restraints on knowledge (indeed, it strikes me as a contradiction in terms), I don't think the fact that I had no need of them.”

He doesn’t place biblical restraints on knowledge; he places biblical restraints on knowledge of the divine: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29). "So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female” (Deut 4:15-16).

That's not an argument; it's a bare assertion followed by two irrelevant Scripture passages.

“Indeed, I think there are plenty of natural limitations on my "brilliant intellect" that more than prevent me from having God "all figured out," so I can't imagine why He would be so threatened by my mind that He would need to constrain it.”

It’s not because he is “threatened” that your mind needs to be constrained by revealed truth; it’s because your mind is foolish.

Then why would it need to be constrained? More nonsense without argument.

“There was no period in which Arianism held sway in all the bishoprics in both East and West. "Athanasius contra mundum" is an exaggeration, as was the world "groaning to find itself Arian." You've been reading too many Protestant conspiracy theories. None of the Arian bishops had the authority to speak for the Church as a whole, and Liberius's and Hosius's signatures to the compromise formula (which was not even heterodox, only dangerously ambiguous) was obtained under duress. I could recommend some good works on the subject, including some recent monographs, but I doubt they would help you. Timothy Barnes's Athanasius and Constantius is the must-read, though.”

Once again, Prejean is held captive by highly selective scholarship. The thing that constantly escapes Prejean in his evaluation of which scholars are right and which are mistaken is that he is not qualified to make that judgment. All he can go by is what the author by whom he has most recently become convinced happens to say about the other positions. Part of the problem is that he confines much of his reading to harlequin novels about Rome. But at the end of the day, it just doesn’t matter that Liberius signed a document under duress (a true Christian dies rather than denies Christ under duress in any case—and in this case, the worse fate Liberius would have suffered was deposition). What matters is that Arianism held sway in the church, and Athanasius and his orthodox companions were effectively deposed. The Arians could claim that any voice of opposition in their day was just heterodoxy rearing its ugly head in the exact same way that the fifth-century church could say the same thing about the Nestorians, Apollinarians, and Monophysites of their own day. Prejean’s “rule of faith” is illusory, and contains so many escape hatches that it dies the death of a thousand qualifications.

If you actually think that I confine my reading to "harlequin novels about Rome," then you're an idiot, plainly and simply. But since you know nothing about my reading habits and you've never seen my library, I'll just assume that you're lying about me, even though I've cited my bibliography numerous times. That pretty much shows what you and your buddies are about. You can't beat Catholics honestly, so you lie about them.

“Svendsen evidently now can't even read a review reasonably. Svendsen argued that this use of phrase meant that Chalcedon was correcting Cyril; Oakes says exactly the opposite, conceding that Chalcedon considered Cyril orthodox.”

To be precise, I did not say Chalcedon corrected Cyril—although other scholars (such as Meyendorff) have said this—I specifically said Chalcedon corrected Ephesus (though, actually, I am not opposed to saying it corrected Cyril as well). And Oakes affirms this point when he states (in his correction of McGuckin) that “The decree the Eastern bishops supported dearly represented a middle passage between the extremes of Antioch and Alexandria,” and then proceeds to identify those “extremes” in terms of the dispute between the term "hypostasis" and the term "person," as well as the phrase "from two natures” and the "in two natures.” More on this momentarily.

Meyendorff didn't say this was a theological correction, and the extremes of Antioch and Alexandria were NOT the positions held by Cyril and John of Antioch by Oakes's own stipulation. Again, Svendsen can't read.

“He merely notes that the Chalcedonian Fathers did not consider his orthodoxy exclusive of other equivalent formulations such as the ones advanced by Leo (viz., they did not see the need to correct Leo in light of Cyril). They appear to have accepted orthodox statements rather even-handedly, picking whichever one appeared most useful or clear.”

That’s not exactly what Oakes says. What he says is this: “The standard Western account of that episode claims for Rome a balance of approach lacking in the more disputatious Greek theologians, who were still too besotted by the neo-Platonic speculations common in the East.” Isn’t this exactly what I have maintained throughout this dialogue—that the fifth-century formulations were too steeped in platonic speculations to be granted the status of dogma (I seem to be more of a defender of the approach of fifth-century Rome than Prejean is on this point)? Oakes does not repudiate this account, but goes on to affirm (in correction of McGuckin) that “we know the Alexandrians themselves detected these ‘concessions’ to Antiochene theology [at Chalcedon] because Cyril's more hotheaded successors (Eutyches and Dioscorus, primarily) actively rejected the Council.” But if those who followed Cyril (who spearheaded Ephesus) rejected Chalcedon (even though they fully embraced Ephesus), then it follows necessarily that they thought Chalcedon contradicted Ephesus, and that Cyril himself was Monophysite in his Alexandrian theology. Consequently, Oakes affirms there was a difference in theology (“concessions” as he calls them); and just because the prevailing voice at Chalcedon accepted those concessions does not mean the differences aren’t real.

They didn't follow Cyril OR Ephesus; that was Oakes's point and why McGuckin was right. It absolutely doesn't follow that Cyril was Monophysite, and Oakes specifically agrees with McGuckin that it doesn't follow. Do you hate Catholics so much that you can't even read them anymore?

“That Svendsen claims support from Oakes for the proposition that Chalcedon and Ephesus conflict is objectively dishonest, although given Svendsen's rampant emotionalism, I have strong doubts as to whether he sees it.”

The reason I don’t see it is because it’s not there. Oakes affirms that Chalcedon is at least a “middle ground” or “concession” between the Alexandrians (whose view was well established at Ephesus) and the Antiochenes. And who is it that is operating on rampant emotionalism? Remember, it was Prejean who earlier chided me as being “behind the times” and too ignorant of current scholarship for mentioning that the use of the Antiochene phrase “in two natures” and the Cyrillene phrase “from two natures” was a point of dispute between the two schools. Yet Oakes affirms the very same point in his review—and Prejean just ignores it; which betrays the fact that Prejean’s true agenda in this is to apply standards of scholarship to me that he refuses to apply to patristic scholars themselves!

No, Oakes calls it a concession between the extreme positions, neither of which was held by Ephesus OR Cyril. You've got a screw loose if you can't see this.

“It's ridiculous to think that most scholars are going to put out a statement every time that their work is refuted, and indeed, it would be obnoxious in the extreme for me to demand it of them.”

Prejean has certainly demanded it of me. I guess that makes him “obnoxious in the extreme,” but only inconsistently so.

You're not a scholar. Since there's no accountability for people like you as there is for scholars, I do what I can to point out that you are a raving loon.

“Indeed, the way I "do scholarship" is not to go out of the way to embarrass people I think are refuted, which would be pointless, but to allow them the dignity of silence.”

But this excuse is refuted by Prejean's actual practice many times over. Why was this courtesy of “silence” not extended to me?

You're not a scholar. You have no responsibility and no accountability.

If Prejean came to the conclusion that I was out of touch with recent scholarship after our discussion took place (in the series posted on my blog), why did he not think it “pointless” to “go out of his way” to “embarrass” me by spamming every web board he visited about my “lack of qualifications” for nearly a two-year period after the discussion had ended? Where was the “dignity of silence” in that case?

You're not a scholar. You have no responsibility and no accountability.

No, Mr. Prejean can’t hide behind that farce—we all know him differently. The reason he won’t write these scholars is because he knows he'll have his amateur teeth handed to him

To whom? I'm not even aware that any of them disagree with me. I know of no one with a publication in the last decade who disagrees with me. If it hasn't been of sufficient interest to them to even write a rebuttal, why should I not presume that they have nothing to say? I'm certainly not afraid of asking, but if their answers in print don't seem adequate, why would I think that a response in email would be in better, particularly if having their work rebutted was a sore spot? What you're saying is just plain crazy; nobody does this.

“Given that McGuckin gave a speech at the festschrift for Pelikan's 80th birthday, I can't imagine that Pelikan thought McGuckin had done him wrong.”

What? “Done him wrong”? Does Prejean really think all scholars must be agreed on every point of historical interpretation before one can speak at another’s festschrift? What is this point supposed to prove?

Of course not. It proves merely that McGuckin's charge was neither ridiculous nor unfounded, and that means it's not unreasonable to agree with it. Moreover, if the trend is to accept the later view as against the earlier view, then that is plenty good reason to assume that the earlier view has been adequately refuted.

And I repeat: your concept of Scriptual authority based solely on natural meaning lacks any perception of the supernatural meaning, meaning that it is just another document like any other uninspired document.”

Prejean clearly does not understand biblical exegesis. And he just as clearly confuses “natural reading” (communication assumes understanding of that which is communicated) with “natural meaning” (by which Prejean seems to mean “earthly understanding”), as though those things are identical. I would counsel Prejean to go and immerse himself in Scripture and learn how to do exegesis. That’s the best advice I can give him.

Those things are identical. I read Scripture all the time, and I don't neglect its spiritual meaning. And I don't mean "earthly meaning" by "natural;" I mean "within the capacity of human effort."

“Then what other person is there in Christ than the divine person? It is because you say that He is not ONLY a divine person that you err; indeed, that IS the Nestorian error. There is no way that you can say "[the divine person] is not ALL that Christ is" without also saying "there is more than one person in Christ."

Notice Prejean’s persistence in asking me to explain what I have repeatedly insisted throughout this discussion is inexplicable precisely because it is beyond human comprehension. To attempt an explanation of this is to concede a premise that I reject. It is Prejean who thinks these things can be “figured out” through reason, not I. Hence, I have no obligation to explain, only to affirm. Indeed, I have every obligation, given my premise, not to attempt an explanation! The ability to explain it is Prejean’s assumption, not mine. But since Prejean does think it can be explained, then he needs to answer the questions I posed to him in my “Calm before the Storm” post, which he has not so far done.

I'm asking you to explain why you are affirming a contradiction, which you are obliged to explain no matter what your premises. If you're content to allow your belief to be nonsensical, then I'm content to let you say so.