Thursday, March 24, 2005

Regarding My Laziness

I've been mulling over Dr. Svendsen's characterization that my earlier response was "paltry" and "lazy." The "paltry" part is his opinion, which can be asserted for any reason or no reason whatsoever, so it would hardly be my place to even comment on it. But the "lazy" part seems interesting to me, most particularly because, being the person in question, I know that laziness had nothing to do with it. Upon further reflection, I guess I can somewhat understand Dr. Svendsen's feelings on the matter. After one puts days and days of one's rare free time into something, there's a degree of personal investment that makes dismissal look cavalier. Granted, I think that should have been slightly ameliorated by the fact that I pointed out exactly what I considered irrelevant to an argument that I myself made, but still, sometimes one's emotional reactions aren't entirely rational. So to make clear that my dismissal in this instance wasn't simply cavalier, I will mention that I actually spend a good deal of time over the last couple of days trying to respond to Dr. Svendsen's series. The problem was that I honestly and sincerely could not find even one point that had a thing to do with my original point. Dr. Svendsen is right that I didn't answer one point he made, because not one point that he made had a thing to do with a point that I made.

As a for-instance, I made it clear (and it should have been clear from the beginning) that the personal beliefs of Nestorius and St. Cyril really had nothing to do with the argument I was making from Second Constantinople. With that being the case, there is really nothing that it would make sense even to say in response to the following:

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."

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.

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.

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

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).

He was completely unaware that scholars have assessed Nestorius to be orthodox and Cyril to be heterodox!

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.

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

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!

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).

I think they are Monophysite only in a derived sense, based on their loyalty to Cyril and the actual outworking of their arguments.

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.

As a matter of fact, I disagree with Svendsen on just about every point he raised here (and I most certainly did NOT make the concession he asserts; I merely remarked that there was controversy on the subject). But since it has absolutely nothing to do with what we are discussing, how would it further the discussion to interact with it?

Similarly, Svendsen had several conversations with phantoms of Catholic apologists past that were entirely irrelevant to what I believe. Some excerpts:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

He thinks theotokos means the mariologically loaded “mother of God,” with all that implies.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

The relevence [sic] 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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

What response can I make to this, other than to say that none of these statements are true of me, that there is no evidence that any of these statements are true of me, and that there has been no argument to demonstrate why I am logically required to hold any of these beliefs? If somebody just makes things up, there's really nothing that one CAN say but "nuh-uh!"

So just based on things that are completely and unquestionably outside of the scope of the discussion, we're already talking about some 1,850 out of the 6,300 or so that Svendsen actually wrote (based on my word processor estimates minus the quotes), and that's not even getting into the parts that would be substantively irrelevant because they depended on false premises in the material quoted above or because they simply weren't intended to be substantive (e.g., introductions). Not only that, some 4,600 of those words were written AFTER I had specifically indicated that this subject matter had nothing to do with the discussion. Would somebody care to tell me exactly what I'm supposed to do in such a situation? Dr. Svendsen? Anyone? I'd love to be sensitive to someone's feelings when he has taken that much time to write something that was intended to be directed at me, but when I told him specifically that what he was writing was entirely non-responsive, and he still continued, what can I do? How much clearer can you be than saying "That's not what we're talking about?"

Anyway, I'd really like to understand this one, so please feel free to hit the comboxes with any theories you might have.


John Betts said...

Honestly? I think this is nothing more than a rant from him, probably one he tailors to any Catholic who opposes his views. Instead of providing examples in this post of his you quoted (which I read earlier at his own weblog), where you were 'guilty' of such things as he charged he went off on a tangent. Perhaps some Catholic apologists he has dealt (such as Mario Derksen) in the past has contributed to this, but without providing more detail I would just ignore it. Ask him for precised details and examples instead of trying to lump you into some category he has of "bad Catholic apologists". If he is unwilling, then I would wrap it up by restating your suspicions of his Christology, why you believe him to be in error, and that he is unwilling to address what you have written but instead is burning down strawmen. Just my two cents. God bless.

Anonymous said...

You ought to zero in on Svendsen's claim that Jesus was a human person. He clearly doesn't understand what a "person" is: he has defined it as a soul.

Hence the claims (following Brown) that Augustine leaned towards Apollinarianism. Augustine himself says, however:

"Apollinaris founded the Apollinarists, who dissent from the Catholic [doctrine] on the soul of Christ, saying, just as the Arians, that the God Christ assumed only flesh without a soul." (De Haeresibus, 55) and "Nor let us hear these, who acknowledge some Trinity in one eternal substance; but dare to say that the man himself, who was assumed in the temporal dispensation, did not have the mind of a man, but only a spirit and body. That is to say: He was not a man, but he had the human parts of the body" (De Agone Christiano 19:21) and "For flesh is put for man where it is said: 'The Word was made flesh', as also: 'And all flesh equally will see the salvation of God'. For not without a soul or mind, but thus all flesh as if it were said 'Every man'." (De Trinitate, 6:11)

The evidence for the Doctor of Grace's leanings toward Apollinarianism? "he speaks of Christ as the Person of the Logos". In his original article, "New Roman Catholic Apollinarimonophysites", Svendsen says that "This view of Apollinaris was directly opposed by Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus and Athanasius, was rejected by the Western church in 377 A.D., by the Eastern church a decade later, and was eventually condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D."

Realizing that Svendsen has redefined Apollinarianism, it is clear to see his error: "What Apollinaris means by nous is 'person.'" It is true that the actual Apollinarianist heresy was condemned; it is not, however, true that that error was denying that Christ was a human person. The Roman Council of 382 says:

"(6) We anathematize those who say that (there are) two Sons, one eternal, and the other after the assumption of flesh from the Virgin.
(7) We anathematize those who say that instead of the rational and intellectual soul of man, the Word of God dwelt in a human body, although the Son Himself and Word of God was not in His own body instead of a rational and intellectual soul, but assumed our soul without sin (that is the rational and intellectual soul) and saved it." (Denz. 64-65)

(7) is Apollinarianism; (6) shows that the Fathers and St. Damasus had no idea of Svendsen's conception of Apollinarianism: they condemned the idea of two persons, but also the idea that Christ did not have a rational and intellectual soul.

Svendsen would do well to try and understand the true definition of person, viz., an individual substance of a rational nature, rather than blunder on with his false equation of "person" with "soul".

The odd thing is that Svendsen seems to practically endorse the Chalcedonian formula of "God-bearer as regards his manhood". But this undercuts his whole position, which is that Jesus isn't God the Word and that therefore calling the Mother of Jesus the Mother of God the Word is wrong. "God-bearer as regards his manhood" clearly shows that Christ is a Divine Person, God the Word, with a divine nature and a human nature. Else, how could the Blessed Virgin be "God-bearer"?

It would also be worthwhile to disprove his claim that Chalcedon and Ephesus contradict.

A few quotes from Chalcedon and the Tome (accepted by the Council as the rule of faith) will show the error of Svendsen's claims:

"The same eternal, only-begotten of the eternal begetter was born of the holy Spirit and the virgin Mary. His birth in time in no way subtracts from or adds to that divine and eternal birth of his: but its whole purpose is to restore humanity, who had been deceived, so that it might defeat death and, by its power, destroy the devil who held the power of death." (Tome of St. Leo)

"The God who knew no suffering did not despise becoming a suffering man, and, deathless as he is, to be subject to the laws of death." (Tome of St. Leo)

"For although there is in the Lord Jesus Christ a single person who is of God and of man, the insults shared by both have their source in one thing, and the glory that is shared in another. For it is from us that he gets a humanity which is less than the Father; it is from the Father that he gets a divinity which is equal to the Father." (Tome of St. Leo)

"So it is on account of this oneness of the person, which must be understood in both natures, that we both read that the son of man came down from heaven, when the Son of God took flesh from the virgin from whom he was born, and again that the Son of God is said to have been crucified and buried, since he suffered these things not in the divinity itself whereby the Only-begotten is co-eternal and consubstantial with the Father, but in the weakness of the human nature. That is why in the creed, too, we all confess that the only-begotten Son of God was crucified and was buried, following what the apostle said, If they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of majesty." (Tome of St. Leo)

"And because of those who are attempting to corrupt the mystery of the economy and are shamelessly and foolishly asserting that he who was born of the holy virgin Mary was a mere man, it has accepted

—the synodical letters of the blessed Cyril, pastor of the church in Alexandria, to Nestorius and to the Orientals, as being well-suited to refuting Nestorius's mad folly and to providing an interpretation for those who in their religious zeal might desire understanding of the saving creed." (Council of Chacledon, Definition of the Faith)

Svendsen tells us that Chalcedon rejected Cyril, but it actually accepted his letters as "well-suited to refuting Nestorius's mad folly". How can Svendsen pretend that Chalcedon rehabilitated Nestorianism, which it calls "mad folly"? How can Svendsen, "shamelessly and foolishly asserting that he who was born of the holy virgin Mary was a mere man", pretend to support his opinion from Chalcedon?

"he is not parted or divided into two persons, but is one and the same only-begotten Son, God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as the prophets taught from the beginning about him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ himself instructed us, and as the creed of the fathers handed it down to us" (Council of Chalcedon, Definition of the Faith)

"not parted or divided into two persons" - but Svendsen informs us that Jesus is divided into two persons, a man and the Word of God. Hence he says that your statement "Jesus is no person other than the Word of God" is "classic Apollinarianism".

As for the idea that St. Cyril was a Monophysite, it is simply nonsense.

"We confess our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, perfect God and perfect man, of a rational soul and of a body ... For the unity of the two natures was made; wherefore, we confess one Christ, one son, one Lord. According to this unmingled unity we confess the holy Virgin Mother of God, because the Word of God was made flesh and was made man, and by the conception united to Himself a temple assumed from her. Moreover, we recognize the evangelical and apostolic voices about the Lord as men speaking with divine inspiration, joining these sometimes as if spoken of one person, but sometimes separating them as if of two natures, and these indeed befitting God according to the Godhead of Christ, but humbly teaching according to the incarnation." (Formula of Reunion between John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria)

Note also that John of Antioch accepts "one person". So much for the claims by Svendsen, following Brown, that "the school of Antioch held firmly to the clear biblical picture of Jesus Christ as a historical, human, individual person." Clearly the traditional faith has always been that Jesus Christ is "perfect God and perfect man". Note that Cyril accepts "two natures" and "of a rational soul". So much for the claim that he was "an unwitting Apollinarian-Monophysite". As for his doctrine of "One Nature or Hypostasis of God the Word Incarnate", Fr. John Romanides explains it well, I think: "For Cyril Physis means a concrete individual acting as subject in its own right and according to its own natural properties. ... To speak about two natures in Christ would be somewhat equivalent to a Chalcedonian speaking about two Hypostases in Christ. In this respect a Chalcedonian would accept and does accept everything Cyril says but would use Cyril's One Hypostasis of God the Logos Incarnate, since for him Physis means Ousia." ("St. Cyril's 'One Physis or Hypostasis of God the Logos Incarnate' and Chalcedon", Greek Orthodox Theological Review, vol. X, Winter 1964-95,

Anonymous said...

If there is one thing I have noticed about you, those who you are against, Dave and others, it is that this whole theology thing has almost become something that defined your very significance. It’s obvious in how much you all talk about yourselves, personalities, personal qualities, or inequalities. That’s one of the reasons that so many of these things begin to focus on personal things. There really seem to be two plots going on, the arguments, and the argument inside the arguing. Just an opinion of a little mouse… ;)

CrimsonCatholic said...

"You ought to zero in on Svendsen's claim that Jesus was a human person. He clearly doesn't understand what a 'person' is: he has defined it as a soul."

I did this in a roundabout way, showing the rejection of the communicatio idiomatum (which is essentially just a rejection of the concept of "person"). That's why my response was so short. To me, this is the only issue of any significance for my accusation of Nestorianism, and Svendsen not only failed to deny that he held the condemned position but actually admitted it!

"The odd thing is that Svendsen seems to practically endorse the Chalcedonian formula of 'God-bearer as regards his manhood'. But this undercuts his whole position, which is that Jesus isn't God the Word and that therefore calling the Mother of Jesus the Mother of God the Word is wrong. 'God-bearer as regards his manhood' clearly shows that Christ is a Divine Person, God the Word, with a divine nature and a human nature. Else, how could the Blessed Virgin be 'God-bearer'?"

Exactly. He claims that Protestants accept the orthodox meaning of theotokos, but his denial of the communicatio idiomatum flatly contradicts this claim.

I substantially agree with your historical rebuttals re: St. Cyril, Chalcedon, and Ephesus, but I maintain my position that it's entirely irrelevant. Even accepting Svendsen's position on these issues as entirely true, he still denies the communicatio idiomatum that EVERYONE concedes as orthodox (making him Nestorian), and he still hasn't made any demonstration that my position entails Apollinarism or Monophysitism.

CrimsonCatholic said...

"If there is one thing I have noticed about you, those who you are against, Dave and others, it is that this whole theology thing has almost become something that defined your very significance. It’s obvious in how much you all talk about yourselves, personalities, personal qualities, or inequalities. That’s one of the reasons that so many of these things begin to focus on personal things."

Christianity is a personal and Incarnational religion; it would be contrary to my beliefs to try to separate my own Christianity from myself as a person. It's not right to say it defines my significance, though. It's a note of the structure that defines what I am, but it doesn't stand independent and outside of "me" so as to dictate what I am. It's not as if I only (or even mostly) talk theology, particularly off line.

Our problem with Svendsen's personal strategy is that it is isolationist. He adopts a radically personal account of Christianity to *avoid* interacting with others, to cut people off. We adopt a personal account in order to share with others.