Tuesday, January 23, 2007

And the spark goes out

We saw toward the end of my last response that Svendsen's rationality was starting to break down. There were crazy charges that I didn't read the Fathers, that Augustine didn't talk about the person/nature distinction, that I read "harlequin novels from Rome" on Church history, that my reading of the scholarship was "highly selective," that Father Edward Oakes was saying literally the opposite of what he said. And this is why I don't talk to him: because he's nuts. When it comes to Rome, he loses the capacity for dealing with reality. This is exactly what happens when you get "locked up in your own head" on a matter; you cease to be accountable to reality. I recommended Anthony Rizzi's The Science before Science, which deals with Svendsen's brand of modernist philosophical idealism quite handily. In matters of theology, Svendsen takes the absurd position that theology is a purely deductive science, which no one this side of Godel's incompleteness theorem should be foolish enough to accept.

In his last installment, sadly, Svendsen is purely raving. There are no arguments; there is no accountability to reality. He simply makes assertions without even the benefit of logical structure, and in many cases, without even meaningful premises.

I can only assume the Book of Hezekiah is where Jonathan Prejean gets his Christology. My final contribution to the discussion with Prejean over his neo-Platinist tendencies follows:

I can only assume that Svendsen has learned a new word and thinks he will demonstrate his intelligence by using it, because I doubt that he knows what Neoplatonism is any more than he knew what Aristotelian categories or Platonic concepts were.

This is just gratuitous nonsense, and Prejean should just stay out of this arena altogether. He has claimed to know what exegesis is, but he keeps proving he is clueless about it. “Mundane” words do not suddenly have a different “meaning” just because they are found to be inspired. On the contrary; it is precisely because they are inspired and therefore authoritative that we must “pay even closer attention” (Heb 2) to them and take them at face value rather than play with them as “spiritual toys” to be manipulated by those who would have them say whatever they want them to say.

Svendsen has no argument for why inspiration doesn't give additional meaning to mundane words; he simply asserts it. He can't actually interact with my view, which is different from his, so he baldly asserts that I should "stay out of" the arena without explaining why. Numerous Fathers have pointed out that one aspect of the richness of divine Scripture is that it has multiple meanings because of inspiration and the action of the Holy Spirit. As usual, Svendsen's method is self-contradictory; he accuses me of "manipulating" Scripture based on his irrational conviction that his inductive method provides a certainty that he denies inductive methods can have. This is what happens when you develop your theological method on blind faith, unaccountable to reality. You make up some source for certainty, you call that authority, and you detach yourself from justifying it.

Yes, Prejean did in fact say Scripture is irrelevant and meaningless as a consideration in the present debate, and it is embarrassingly obvious that he is now backpedaling on this point. All one need do is read the previous installments to this dialogue to know this is true. Prejean writes his current point as though this discussion is about whether or not the relevance of Scripture for today is tied directly to its inspiration. He’s stating a given, and he’s doing it as a smokescreen to take the pressure off for his rather moronic comments about Scripture’s irrelevance made earlier in this discussion. His statements both then and now are akin to stating “an orange has no flavor,” and then, once challenged on the utter foolishness of that statement, making the rather silly “clarification” that what he really meant to say was “apart from the citrus and the sugars and the rest of the chemical makeup that constitutes flavor, an orange has no flavor.” The backpedaling is obvious.

Yet another example of the Svendsen MO: accuse me of saying something I didn't say, and then act as if I actually said it. What I said was "I have nothing to hide; I have never been anything other than willing to yield the field if you want to discuss matters of Biblical exegesis, because I don't share your concept of Scriptural authority. From my perspective, it's about as interesting to me as an argument from the Book of Mormon or the Qu'ran; we might as well be reading different books." Svendsen's exegetical method ignores what I consider to be the greater part of the meaning of Scripture, and he won't present an argument for his view of revelation (see above), so why should I care what he thinks? As a historical document, Scripture's relevance cannot be tied to inspiration, simply because one cannot take the supernatural into account in a matter of purely human effort (historical exegesis). Svendsen has a bizarre hybrid method that tries to give to a mundane method (historical exegesis) more certainty than it can have (asserting that a merely probable method can be certain) on account of Scripture being what Svendsen calls "revelation." But he hasn't presented any argument for why "revelation" means what he says or why a purely historical method can be modified in the way he describes. He simply asserts his own view of inspiration, bereft on any justification. Since I don't share it, it's pointless for him to simply assert his method. Until he can present an argument for it, he isn't interacting with other views; he's simply dismissing them. I was extremely clear that I didn't see any point in discussing exegesis because Svendsen hadn't justified his concept of Scriptural authority, and he still hasn't! What I'm saying here is little different than what Dr. Philip Blosser points out repeatedly in his massive reply to Steve Hays: there's just no argument made for his concept of Scriptural authority. Until that is made, I don't see why Svendsen's concept of Scriptural authority or Hays's is any more pertinent to my view than any other unjustified claim of textual authority (e.g., the Qu'ran, the Book of Mormon). This is probably the number one reason for Catholics finding Evangelical arguments simply irrelevant.

All very gnostic indeed. The “human” aspect of Scripture, according to Prejean, is “mundane” and “irrelevant” for us today. It is only the “divine” aspect, whose meaning not only transcends the words of the text, but ends up being a different meaning altogether (albeit not contradictory), and is discerned only by the magisterial illuminati.

If it's not contradictory, then it doesn't "transcend" the words of the text completely; it simply extends outside of the historical intent of the author. But the rule of faith from which the meaning is discerned is quite public. If it weren't for sin leading to carelessness and error in people's thinking, Christians wouldn't even need a Magisterium. The Magisterium is there to provide a process to judge error as sin produces it over time.

If what Prejean intends to show is that Paul read some kind of mystical reading into the OT wilderness narrative, he is off base. Paul is not reinterpreting the OT narrative; he is simply making a modern-day application of its principle. Prejean wants us to believe that what Paul is saying here is that there is a deeper “hidden” meaning in Scripture that can be discerned only through the magisterium.

It's a mystical reading and a reinterpretation on its face, and "its principle" is an equivocation. Svendsen has simply read in his concept of inspiration and revelation here; he assumes, anachronistically, that the authors of the OT story knew that they were foreshadowing a future event (Christ's life). That's a mystical reading and reinterpretation, a deeper "hidden" meaning, not a strictly historical conclusion (indeed, it couldn't possibly be). Similar mystical reinterpretations include viewing Scripture as a whole, believing Scripture is inerrant in certain respects, etc. Nothing in the purely historical content of Scripture can justify these beliefs; only inductive reasoning can. But Svendsen once again deprives us of any sort of reason to believe him. Note also that my point is that the rule of faith is perfectly public; anyone who believes it can use it, although one might still make errors on account of man's fallen state. Fortunately, there is the Magisterium there to ensure that these errors leave no lasting and permanent mark.

But this is far from what Paul is doing here, and it is simply a case of eisegesis on the part of Prejean to suggest he is. Paul is not saying that the “rock” from which the Israelites drank was Christ in an exegetical sense, or even as some “fuller” sense of Scripture (as though Christ transformed into an inanimate object). It’s a figure of speech made as an application to the Corinthians in light of the Christ event. Christ, revealed as God in the NT, was by that fact the one who nourished the Israelites in the dessert. They were “baptized” into Moses, not in a “deeper” sense, but in a symbolic sense, illustrated by their passing “through the sea.” They partook of Christ’s provision of manna and water, and also partook of idols in the golden calf event. Being laid to waste for that idolatry was the consequence of such treason. In the same way, the Corinthians were partaking of Christ in the Supper, and they were partaking in idolatry at pagan feasts. Paul’s point is that they too were in danger of God’s displeasure. But there is nothing in this passage that lends itself to the Roman version of sensus plenior. And if this is what Prejean was trying to show, there are many other NT passages that would have made his point more readily (although even those would be suspect).

I picked that passage because it's the one you used. My point is that the use of a passage in a "symbolic sense" for some contemporary event is anachronism; making interpretations "in light of the Christ event" is JUST the sort of regula fidei I'm urging. But that regula fidei must be articulable and defensible, and Svendsen won't bother to justify it. His assertion that it's not the "Roman version of the sensus plenior" is gratuitous denial; it simply begs the question of what the inspired meaning of Scripture actually is.

Except for that nagging little fact that a good portion of the New Testament was written expressly to convince readers that they need to come to know God’s Son, including the Gospels of Matthew and John: “these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). Hence, the ability to understand revelation, even as an unbeliever, is assumed throughout.

Non sequitur. If this passage actually applied to everyone who could read Scripture, then everyone who read Scripture would believe, but Svendsen doesn't believe that. Obviously, the historical meaning of Scripture isn't sufficient to cause someone to believe, because not everyone who reads Scripture believes. Svendsen's citation is inapposite.

The Christological reading of the OT is something that came to light after the Christ event, and it was largely based on the new revelation received by the apostles. We have no corresponding “new” revelation that would similarly “explain” the NT, or that would suggest we ought to be looking for hidden meanings. Much less do we have mandates from the apostles that we ought to be reading and understanding their instructions and teachings in ways that “twist” the words of Scripture (2 Pet 3:16).

You don't need "new" revelation; you simply adhere faithfully to the same principle that the Apostles used, i.e., Christ. That isn't "twisting" Scripture; it's simply being faithful to the same revelation they received, else Paul was guilty of "twisting Scripture" in saying that the Rock was Christ, giving a symbolic meaning that was not there before the "Christ event" (incidentally, I thought only flaming liberals used that term). St. Irenaeus in Against Heresies dispenses with the notion that using the rule of faith to discern the formal content of Scripture somehow introduces "new" or "secret" revelation, a la Gnosticism. Instead, Christ provides the principle of ALL revelation, used to interpret ALL of Scripture. The exegetical method is uses the ontological reality of Christ as the rule by which the correctness of Scriptural interpretation is judged; "the Christ event" is both question-begging on your concept of "revelation" and dismissive of the full reality of the Incarnation. Just as the reality of Christ is not exhausted by the historical reality of His life, so the words of the Apostles are not exhausted by the historical meaning they had at the time. Your method of exegesis is Jewish or atheist, not Christian, and you've dismissed the historical Christian method of exegesis by assertion, nothing more.

It’s implicitly docetic to say that the apostles do not speak to us today; and it’s gnostic to say that the “human” aspect of Scripture carries a different meaning of Scripture than the “divine” aspect.

It would be implicitly docetic, but I am not saying that the Apostles don't speak to us today at all, only that this is not a limitation on how they speak to us. You even admitted this when you pointed out that I have always said that such meanings cannot contradict the literal meaning; a Docetist would not accept this stricture. It's not Gnostic to say that the divine and human aspects carry different meanings, only that they don't contradict one another, so that the human aspect is false. The latter statement simply begs the question based on your confused hybridization of mundane and supernatural methods. There's no a priori reason that revelation can't have meaning beyond the mundane.

“Nestorianism isn't the belief that there is no union in Christ; most Nestorians affirmed that there was a union. Nestorianism is the belief that the union between the natures is constituted by something other than the person of the Word of God, and particularly, by union of operations like will or love (i.e., Nestorian-type monoenergism, aka, monothelitism). It has nothing to do with my "limited paradigm," but rather with my belief that Christ cannot be constituted by the union of the natures.”

Again, according to what? A biblical paradigm, or a neo-Platonist paradigm?

A historical paradigm, in terms of knowing what the Nestorians actually believed. In terms of the logical difficulty, it's the law of non-contradiction: is Christ identical with the Word of God, or isn't He? You don't have to know anything about the nature of the Word of God to know whether you are affirming that they are the same thing or not. If you are saying that Christ is the union of the natures, and the union of the natures is not the Word of God, then Christ is not the Word of God. No Platonic, Aristotelian, or Neoplatonic thinking there, just a basic appeal to the law of non-contradiction. Whatever sort of thing the Word of God might happen to be, it's not possible to be and not be the Word of God at the same time.

“it's Svendsen who has ventured to say that the union in Christ consists of the union between two natures, just as Nestorius speculated. I am content to affirm that Christ IS the Word of God, the same person, and to deny the speculation that appropriating a human nature changes that.”

What? Where have I ever insinuated that the immutable Word changed? I have never stated such a thing. Yet, here we have in Prejean’s solution traces of apollinarianism—Jesus wasn’t a man; he simply appropriated “human nature.”

Well, if you don't draw a distinction between person and nature, then the following syllogism renders your position irrational: The Word of God does not change. Christ changes. Therefore, Christ is not the Word of God. That's why one has to distinguish person and nature; one has to say that the Word of God changes according to His human nature and not according to His divine nature. To say otherwise is to say that Christ is not the Word of God. There's not a hint of apollinarism here; the entire human nature is assumed (body and rational soul) and concretely instantiated by the Word of God.

It is entirely meaningless to use Prejean’s categories. If, as Prejean concedes, “nature” does not exist apart from “instantiation”—that is, outside of a person—then Prejean is making a distinction without a difference. A person is a person in his whole being—nature included—and is not chopped up into “instantiation” and “nature” as Prejean argues. It is meaningless to talk about “instantiations” of a thing if that thing does not exist apart from the “instantiation.” In Prejean’s incoherent philosophical speculation, 1 x 0 = 1.

That certainly is an incredible philosophical claim. Svendsen appears to be arguing that there is no difference between concreta and abstracta, that abstract entities aren't real. Logically, he has to make an argument for that.

But perhaps the problem is with Prejean’s use of the word “instantiation.” In its dictionary definition, “instantiation” is nothing more than an “instance” of something that is already known to exist, and “to instantiate” is to “represent by an instance,” not “to bring into existence” (as Prejean seems to be using the word).

Yes, and since that's a relatively routine use for philosophers, I see no reason why this would be confusing.

For instance, heos hou in Matt 1:25 “instantiates” the meaning “until but not after”; that is to say, the phrase in Matt 1:25 represents an instance of that underlying meaning. It doesn’t “cause” that meaning to exist.

That's a perfectly fine use of the term (apart from the unconvincing claim of Svendsen's thesis that this is the meaning of the phrase in Matt. 1:25). It even bears some resemblance to the ontological idea of instantiation, although it's not quite identical, philosophy of language being a bit different than ontology. In this case, it isn't the "cause" of the meaning, but it is the concrete realization of an abstract meaning.

It can instantiate that meaning only because the meaning exists apart from that instance.

True, but the meaning need only exist abstractly, not concretely. "Instantiations" as used in this Christian context of the nature/person distinction refer to concrete instances, not abstract existence.

Prejean wants to apply this word to “nature,” claiming that “person” instantiates “nature.” But this makes sense only on the ground that person is a concrete instance of nature and not something separate from nature.

Natures are abstract, and persons are concrete, so being a concrete instance of nature is different from the nature itself (except in the case of God, Who exists concretely and not merely abstractly).

To say that “person” instantiates “nature,” is to say that “person” is an “instance” of nature, and therefore that person is nothing more and nothing other than an instance of nature.

Except that's not what "instantiate" means in this context. With the exception of the divine nature (for reasons that can be relatively easily perceived), it refers to giving concrete existence to an abstract entity.

If that’s the case, then an instantiation of human nature must be a human person.

An instantiation of a human nature must be human; that is trivial. The reason you don't say that the instantiation must be a human person is that this would imply that the person exists by instantiating the nature. In the case of Christ, that is false. Christ exists as the Word of God whether or not He ever instantiates the human nature.

Prejean wants to avoid this conclusion by proposing that the Word assumed human nature, but in so doing destroys the very definition of instantiation. In other words, Prejean’s view is left incoherent because it is internally inconsistent with the terms and definitions he has adopted to promote it.

Svendsen is the one with the logical incoherence based on the syllogism I advanced before. One can reframe the contradiction for this instance: The Word of God became flesh. Becoming is changing. The Word of God is unchanging, which is a contradiction of becoming. If you don't draw a distinction between person and nature, then "the Word became flesh" is rendered incoherent. On the other hand, for me to contradict the definition of instantiation, I would have to say that the Word does not concretely assume the human nature. But obviously Christ does this, although how He is Incarnated remains a mystery.

In any case, we have again shown the utter inadequacy of Prejean’s approach to this issue. He wants to be able to explain the inexplicable in an attempt to have a “coherent” Christology; but at the end of the day his view is shown to be nothing less than incoherent.

All Svendsen has shown in an incoherence in a dictionary definition that doesn't reflect the technical use of the term. By contrast, I have shown how Svendsen's failure to distinguish nature and person renders "the Word became flesh" nonsensical.

“The nature is given concrete existence by the person”

Then “instantiation” is the wrong word to use in this discussion. What kind of “existence” does it have outside of the “person”? A theoretical one? These are simply nonsensical human speculations that have no basis in Scripture. And the more Prejean writes on these things, the clearer that point becomes.

It has an abstract existence, being known by God. How the notion that creation is known to God before its existence can be denied by Svendsen is completely beyond me. Natures exist abstractly until God instantiates them, at which time they become concrete. The Incarnation is the instantiation of human nature in God's own person. What is unbiblical about this is completely beyond my grasp.

“The doctrine of the Incarnation is that the divine person instantiates the human nature (really and concretely).”

Really? Did Prejean find this particular explanation of the Incarnation in the book of Hezekiah, perhaps?

The Gospel of John, actually.

We have already shown that “instantiation” (in its dictionary definition) simply does not support Prejean’s view.

Which is completely irrelevant, since the dictionary definition is not the technical use.

Prejean has contended that “person” is defined as “instantiation of rational nature.”

... in the technical sense of the concrete realization of an abstract.

If he wants to tack onto that the statement that “divine person instantiates human nature,” then the outcome cannot be “divine person” with “human nature,” but must instead be “person” with “divine nature” and “human nature.”

Svendsen is saying here that the Word cannot become flesh. He affirms the Word is unchanging, meaning that He cannot change in His person according to His divinity. But he says that His person must change from "divine person" to merely "person." That's straight contradiction. He's asserting that assuming flesh produces a change in the person simpliciter, which contradicts the Word's unchanging divinity.

If there is an “instance” of “human nature” in Christ, then by Prejean’s own definition it must be a “human person.”

My definition was that the modifier of person specifies the nature by which instantiation the person exists. The Word of God clearly does not exist because He is Incarnate.

Note well Prejean’s muddled and confused explanation—“person is an instantiation of nature” (or perhaps “category of instantiation of nature,” we‘re not exactly sure), and “absent an instantiation, there are no concrete properties to be bundled into a concrete entity,” and “the nature is given concrete existence by the person,” and concludes “The doctrine of the Incarnation is that the divine person instantiates the human nature.”

It's Svendsen who is muddled, or more likely, employing his usual tactic: impute a belief I don't have (in this case a dictionary definition that I never used), then act like I had the belief. He's confused the dictionary definition of "instantiation" with my use, which I made quite clear in the last statement "what gives concrete existence to the nature." It's a perfectly clear and simple statement that the Word gives concrete reality to His human nature.

Now compare this to the utter simplicity of Scripture: “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Who is the one in the discussion engaging in philosophical speculation? It is certainly not I.

Certainly not, because if you were engaging in any sort of philosophical reasoning, you would have realized the bare contradiction between this affirmation and saying that the Word becomes a different person in the Incarnation. Because you won't engage in any sort of philosophical reasoning, you speak nonsense as if it actually meant something.

“A 'person' isn't a nature; we classify persons by the instantiation from which they derive their existence.”

Here we have evidence that Prejean is teetering between two meanings of “person.” On the one hand (via his use of “instantiation,” unless he is misusing the word), he claims to maintain that “person” represents an instance of nature.

This is the sort of thing that I mean by losing the power of rationality. I'm not "misusing" a term by giving it a well-known technical meaning, and certainly not when I not only use it in that way but also provide an explicit statement of how I am using it. But generally, if you don't know how a person is using a word, you ask how it is being used. In fact, I never used the word in this way, and the fact that it isn't the dictionary meaning that Svendsen has nothing to do with anything. This is just basic intellectual charity, and Svendsen can't muster it, instead following his usual MO: impute something I don't believe to me, then act like I said it.

This definition gives priority to nature, not person. Person is simply a concrete instance of something that is assumed to exist (that is the dictionary definition of “instantiation”), and so “person” derives its existence from “nature.” So, contrary to Prejean’s statement above, “person” IS “nature” concretely considered (or applied). On the other hand, he wants to argue that “person” somehow exists apart from nature, giving person priority. Nature in this case is the lesser thing that is considered after the fact of “person.” On this definition, “nature” derives its existence from “person.” Prejean’s view is based on an equivocation of the term “person,” and is therefore incoherent.

It's not nature concretely considered or applied; it's nature actually existing concretely. Just because natures exist abstractly doesn't mean they also exist concretely. A nature depends on a person for its concrete existence, although not for its abstract existence, because it is known by God eternally. It's not giving nature priority; it's giving God priority. Nothing but God exists unless God makes it so. Svendsen's view says things have to exist before God gives them concrete existence, which is philosophical nonsense.

But regardless of which definition he really holds, we are once again compelled to ask the question, Says who? Who says “person isn't a nature” or that a person is the “instantiation from which they derive their existence”? Prejean’s neo-Platonist instructors?

Considering that these concepts are necessary to affirm "the Word became flesh," then I think that Svendsen ought to tread very carefully. Person/nature predates Neoplatonism, by the way; if you're going to use the jargon, at least learn what it means.

If “existence” is all that defines “person,” then a dog is a person, an insect is a person, and a tree is a person. But then Prejean will object, “No, what I meant is person is an instantiation of rational nature,” but that just begs the question and is nothing more than gratuitous circular reasoning.

It's circular to say "This thing is a dog," "this thing is an insect," and "this thing is a man?" That's what I mean by being grounded in reality. At some point, your reasoning has to terminate on reality. Is a dog a different kind of thing than a man? Is one rational and one not? This isn't a question of circularity, but reality. Even my three-year-old knows the difference between a dog and a human; are you accusing her of circular reasoning and Neoplatonic philosophizing? This is just insane, but it's practically par for the course in a modernist world.

What degree of “rational” is then required? There is evidence that even apes and dolphins can respond rationally. No one can really know for certain one way or the other. Although greatly debated, even dogs have been shown to demonstrate some degree of rational behavior. Are these “persons” as well?

Anthony Rizzi's book does a great job of this one. Again, Svendsen is using the dictionary definition of "rational." I'm using the term in its technical (and in this case Aristotelian) sense. If I really wanted to be pedantic, I would point out that the faculty is actually the perception of reality according to sentient intellection in the Zubirian sense, but the point is that there's a perfectly good and understandable definition of what "reason" means.

“The Word of God in no way depends on His human nature for His existence, so it would be wrong to say that He is a ‘human person.’”

Notice again Prejean’s biblical confusion on this point. Of course the “Word” does not require human nature for his existence. But the “Word” is Christ’s pre-incarnate designation. His post-incarnate designation is “Christ Jesus.” Contra Prejean, Christ does not and cannot “exist” apart from his humanity. His “manness,” his human existence in all its fullness, is (again, contra Prejean) absolutely required for him to be and to remain “Christ Jesus.” Prejean simply confuses pre-incarnation conditions with the incarnation itself.

The "pre-incarnate designation" is irrelevant; we are speaking of the things to which terms refer. If the Word of God isn't Svendsen's preferred term, the Second Person of the Trinity will do just as nicely. Does the Second Person of the Trinity depend on flesh for His existence? Does Christ? Is Christ the Second Person of the Trinity? Svendsen can't get around a bare logical contradiction by shuffling terms. For that matter, he says the Word is unchanging, so whatever change in "designation" there might be can't correspond to any change in person simpliciter. Consequently, the term is just as good before or after, no matter what label is used. Note the slippery way Svendsen tries to get around his own implicit denial that Christ is the Word of God. This is just like Nestorius's use of Christotokos to try to avoid facing the fact that he implicitly denied that Christ was the Word of God.

“This is backward; attributes aren't gathered together into an entity; the entity instantiates them (the concrete reality is the person, not the nature).”

No; at least on the dictionary definition of “instantiation,” the concrete “instance” is the person; but the underlying “reality” is the nature.

And the dictionary definition is thoroughly irrelevant to the discussion, so it isn't even rational for Svendsen to raise it.

“The instantiation of a human nature doesn't require a human person because a divine person can instantiate the human nature without depending on that nature for His existence.”

Teeter Totter, Bread and Water. Prejean would be well advised to pick a definition of “person” and go with it. He earlier argued that a person is an instance of rational nature. That is the closest Prejean comes to the actual definition of “instantiate.”

Since I never held the definition that Svendsen thinks I did (which Svendsen calls the "actual definition" for no reason that I can perceive, given that he is supposed to be answering my view).

Then he suggested that “instantiate” means something like “create” (“person gives concrete reality to nature”; the word does not mean that at all).

That's the only thing I have ever meant by it, and moreover, it's the standard use of the term in the context of concrete and abstract entities. The word DOES mean exactly that, but Svendsen irrationally insists that it doesn't, despite my repeated insistence and explicit statement that I am using it in this way.

From that standpoint he is now arguing that “person” is something entirely separate from “nature” and that “nature” is something entirely separate from “person,” so that there can now be an “instance” of human nature without it resulting in a “person”

Natures are abstract; persons are concrete. Persons can instantiate natures without deriving their existence from the instantiation of a nature, although the Incarnation is the only case of it.

that is to say, an instance of “nature” can be extracted from the very thing it is supposed to be an instance of, so that it becomes an entity in itself without consideration of “personage,” and then can be pasted onto another “person” of a completely different nature.

Svendsen's slipped back into the dictionary meaning; he's talking nonsense again. Natures are abstract; they lack concrete existence outside of persons. Persons give natures concrete existence.

“Person” begins as nothing more than an artifact (instance) of rational nature (in this case rational “human” nature), and ends up being something that can in fact be extracted from that instance and disposed of.

If it were disposed of, there would be no concrete existence. If Svendsen is asserting that there is no difference between existence and non-existence, well, that's just crazy.

This remaining “instance” of human nature (no longer a “person,” mind you, even though Person and Instance began as the very same thing) can now be repackaged and re-used by other “persons.”

There is no "instance" of a non-instantiated nature. Svendsen is just spouting nonsense that has nothing to do with what I said.

This is equivocation of the worst kind. And where exactly does Prejean get this notion in the first place? Hezekiah 46:2? Reread Prejean’s statement above; the arrogance of such an assertion is staggering. On what authority does Prejean’s assertion stand outside of the word of his neo-Platonist instructors? How exactly does Prejean know things like “attributes aren't gathered together into an entity” and “the entity instantiates [the attributes]”?

Um, because I believe in a difference between existence as an idea and existence in reality. I don't think that you can collect a bunch of thoughts together and make a real thing out of them. For example, if I collect the attributes "equine," "one-horned," and "lavender" in my head, a purple unicorn does not spring into existence, even though I can form a perfectly good concept. I know that it isn't popular for the modern mind to confront the idea that things in my head don't actually have to exist (see Rizzi's treatment of "beings of reason"), but that's the reality.

In Prejean’s mind, philosophy is a hard science that allows you to break down the properties of “person” and “nature” and conduct DNA analysis on them. Prejean displays a remarkable childish confidence in his position on these things—or else he has special revelation from God about them that no one else has (the book of Hezekiah, perhaps?). I’ll wager it’s the former.

Sure, and why not? If anything, philosophy is the hardest science; it deals with reality most directly. It's the anti-metaphysical nonsense of modernism that produces such a corruption of God-given reason. God gave you senses to know about the world and reason to know these things.

“Sure. He can be a divine person instantiating the human nature. Why not?”

Why not? Because Prejean has previously defined “person” as “instantiation of rational nature,” that’s why. “Person,” therefore, is not a thing that is separate from instantiation—it is the instantiation.

Sure. That's not a reason why not.

And if Christ instantiated human nature then it follows inextricably that Christ is a human person.

But adjectives modifying the person say something about the person's existence, not what natures the person instantiates. Even if you were doing that, the term would have to be "divino-human person," because He instantiates both natures, not merely one or the other. But that's not the default meaning of "person."

Once again, Prejean begins with one definition of “person” (person is an instance of rational nature, and an instance of rational human nature is therefore a human person—what else would define us as a human person?), and then changes it to another (person can be extracted from an instance of human nature—even though “instance” and “person” were once defined as the very same thing—and the remaining “instance of human nature” can be glued onto another “person”) to suit his cause.

Once again, Svendsen begins with a definition that I didn't hold and finds a contradiction with the definition I was always using. Once again, he repeats the category error between abstract and concrete existence. This evidently never gets old for him.

Prejean previously denied that “person” is a thing in itself, but rather something like an artifact of “instantiation.” If that is his working definition of “person” (unless he is now going to backpedal on that as well), and if he agrees (as he has in his answers to my questionnaire regarding the proper nomenclature of a “human person” and the consequent redundancy of referring to a man as a “human person with a human nature”) that “instantiation of rational nature” = “person,” and that “instantiation of rational divine nature” = “divine person,” then it follows inextricably, by Prejean’s own reasoning, that “instantiation of rational human nature” = “human person.” To make an exception in the case of Christ is to engage in the fallacy of special pleading. Remember, it is Prejean who insisted that any view on this issue must be coherent and internally consistent. His is neither.

Again, there is no length to which Svendsen will not go to misrepresent me or to attack me irrationally. I didn't say that person was an artifact of instantiation; I said it was the instantiation (with the technical meaning I repeatedly ascribed to it). "Human person" is NOT proper nomenclature because the person instantiates human nature; it is proper nomenclature because it defines the nature of which the person exists by instantiating. "Human person with a human nature" is redundant because if a person derives its existence from instantiating the human nature, then that person is necessarily human. In other words, human person says MORE THAN person instantiating the human nature. For some reason, and I have no idea what that reason is, Svendsen thinks that when I am denying that Christ is a human person, I am denying that He instantiates the human nature. What I am denying is precisely the additional component of "human person," namely, that the person derives His existence from instantiating the human nature. Any formulation that says the Second Person of the Trinity NEEDS the human nature to exist is blasphemy.

Further, Prejean’s insistence on making a hard and fast distinction between “person” and “nature” results in a nonsensical product. If things like “rational thought,” mind, spirit, will, knowledge, wisdom, etc.—all those things we know were “human” in Christ (“he grew in wisdom”), what is left to define “person”?

Concrete existence. That's it. That's all. "Person" is the difference between a rational nature existing concretely versus abstractly. There are consequences of the real instantiation (for example, the possession of accidental properties), but the reality that distinguishes a person from an abstract nature is concrete existence.

This point (combined with my point about the radical natures of sin) is what has led Prejean to clarify that “person” is not a “thing” in itself but an instantiation of a thing in the first place.

No, the person IS the thing in itself. That's what instantiation means.

Now he seems to be backpedaling and re-defining "person" as a thing in itself (considered apart from the nature it instantiates) that instantiates just any nature it wants. Prejean is nothing if not slippery in his definitions; and that in itself is enough to charge his own view with incoherence.

Except the only one who has ever asserted this definition is Svendsen, and he pulled it from a dictionary in direct contradiction to my own stated definition. Can we repeat it once more? Misrepresent my view, then act like I believed it. Svendsen's slippery understanding doesn't make me incoherent.

I affirm that the man Jesus Christ is the word of God made flesh. I affirm he is one person. But that does nothing to answer the question at hand. I also have to affirm that Jesus is as much man as he is God—and if he is less than fully man, we are unredeemed and left in our sins. If Prejean wants to refer to as “nature” all the attributes that most people recognize as comprising a “person”—mind, will, intellect, soul, spirit, desire, emotion, etc.—I suppose that’s his prerogative.

The nature collects the attributes in the abstract; the person realizes them concretely. What is hard about this? Does Svendsen honestly have this much trouble separating the idea of a will from actually having one? Is Jesus Christ a combination of two real things, or is He one? Why are these hard questions?

I maintain that if a position must degenerate to this microscopic level of distinctions, based as they are on human speculation (what Paul calls the “wisdom of this world,” 1 Cor 1), the position is typically not worth arguing

Personally, I think affirming a bare contradiction in "the Word became flesh" is a sufficient reason. If the concepts are superfluous are redundant, then explain why. How hard is that? If you don't like the distinctions, don't say that they are wrong when you can't muster an argument against them. It's like saying because you don't like chocolate, no one should eat it. Your distaste is not a reason. But if you are going to claim that there is no real distinction between a person that exists necessarily and a person that exists contingently, then you need to make an argument for why the distinction is "based ... on human speculation" rather than reality.

I said I would forego this point, but this is just too delicious, because it illustrates so well the sub-Christian beliefs of Jonathan Prejean. The "sin nature," according to Prejean, is a "metaphysical absurdity" (Hezekiah 46:2). Why is it, then, no one in this world can live a sinless life no matter how hard he tries?

There are perfectly good explanations that don't resort to some hypothetical entity called a "sin nature" that can't even be defined coherently.

How does Prejean explain the case of Mary in his own Roman Catholic belief? How is it Mary lived a sinless life? Was it because she did not sin accidentally, or rather because she was "conceived without sin"?

Because she didn't choose to sin, and because she was given grace enabling her to make that choice. Being conceived without sin is beside the point; Adam was conceived without sin, and he chose to sin anyway.

How is it that, once redeemed, no one in heaven will ever sin?

Because they have fixed their will in virtue, so that their authentic power of choice will not deviate from its natural end.

Why do people die in this life?

As a consequence of Adam's sin, which has put us in a situation in which we are vulnerable to separation of body and soul.

The sin nature that Prejean denies effects many consequences in us: it condemns us, it causes our bodies to decay and die (what Paul calls “the corruption” in Rom 8), it produces a sinful disposition (Rom 3), and it prompts us to rebel against God (Rom 1).

The "power of sin" is a condition, not an ontological entity. Svendsen is reifying evil into a metaphysical essence, like a Manichee. I don't deny the condition; I deny that St. Paul is talking about an evil metaphysical nature. Note particularly St. Paul on bodily resurrection in 1 Cor. 15; the body is resurrected according to its nature even though the sin of Adam made it vulnerable to death. Evil, and vulnerability to evil, provides the circumstance for sin; it doesn't cause sin. As in Romans 1, it is ultimately evil choice that is responsible for sin.

Paul affirms that before our conversion, “we were by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2—I suppose Prejean thinks our “children of wrath” nature is a “metaphysical absurdity” as well). If we are by nature children of wrath, that speaks of a sin principle that resides within us and that results in God’s judgment (unless God just condemns us arbitrarily).

Not at all. I think it is a metaphorical description of our condition on account of being born human, not some ontological definition of a philosophical mechanism. It's odd how Svendsen is willing to engage in philosophical speculation to create an entity called a "sin nature," rather than simply taking St. Paul's word at face value.

Indeed, no one can read Paul’s theology of the human condition in Rom 1:10-18 apart from the principle of sin that resides in and controls every single one of us, making us “slaves to sin”:

“as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.’ ‘Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,’ ‘The poison of asps is under their lips’; ‘Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness’; ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace have they not known.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”

Certainly, this is an apt description of humanity deprived of grace, unable to attain to its supernatural end. A pathetic state indeed. A condition, however, is not a metaphysical principle; it is an accidental situation.

Paul addresses this same condition in chapter 7 of the same letter:

“For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death (v. 5). . . But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. (8-11). . . For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin (14). . . So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me (17). . . . But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me (20). I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good (21). For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (21-23).

Sinful passions and "the flesh" are nothing other than the faculties of nature inordinately used, turned from their natural purpose. By Svendsen's reasoning, the Law actually causes sin, which is an obvious contradiction with Paul's own statement that the Law is spiritual and the person is carnal. The way the Law produces sin and sinful passions is exactly through being veiwed inordinately. When the Law becomes a source of pride in human nature, as if mere human effort could earn God's favor, it turns into an avenue for coveting God's own power, denying the dependence of human nature on its supernatural end. This lesson is taught over and over by St. Paul in Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and more besides. The Law is intended to illustrate our dependence on God, but its message is perverted into the delusion that man does not need God, if he but obeys the Law.

Here Paul clearly sees a principle of sin "at work within us"—that’s the sin nature.

It's far from clear; it's not there. Paul is talking about a condition, not a metaphysical entity.

According to Paul, sin "indwells" us, "works in" us, is "alive" in us, is "present within" us, is a "principle" that wages war against our minds, and as a result makes us its "slave," putting us into "bondage to sin" and making us its "prisoner."

Sure, but how? Through action, through direction of the will toward inordinate fleshly ends. The reality of sin is the reality of human choice, not some Manichaean metaphysical necessity. There is no alien principle of sin; there is simply the disorder in which we set ourselves against the purpose of our own natures.

According to Paul, this condition is the result of our being "sold into bondage to sin."

Then we might want to distinguish conditional results from metaphysical entities, based on St. Paul's own description.

Indeed, note well how Paul puts v. 8: "But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind." Paul does not say that coveting produced acts of sin, which is what Prejean's view requires. He says the opposite; namely, that sin produced coveting. How is that possible apart from the very "sin nature" that Prejean rejects as "metaphysically absurd" and that Paul takes pains to demonstrate is a metaphysical reality?

The "sin nature" is completely unnecessary to the explanation. If we don't needlessly reify "sin" in this passage, and particularly if we interpret it in light of "sinful passions," we realize that this is simply sinful misuse of the faculties (sinful desire) begetting more sin. The person is looking to be his own god, so when he says the law, he turns it in an opportunity to make himself righteous, to deny his dependence on God, to covet God's power. Let's not make up nonsensical metaphysical entities through vain philosophical speculation.

Prejean continues to demonstrate that he learns his "truth" from Plato, not Paul. This, as I stated above, well illustrates the sub-Christian nature of Prejean’s belief system. He denies the sin principle that Paul insists resides in us all.

More like I am sticking to Paul, and Svendsen is getting his ideas from Mani, who originates the idea of a "sin nature" that Augustine later found nonsensical.

John himself tells us: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn 1:8). John is here referring to the same “sin principle” (or sin nature) as Paul in Romans 7.

The one that Svendsen got from Mani? Sorry, I'm not buying it.

This sin principle is distinguished from personal acts of sin addressed two verses later: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (v. 10). Now Prejean, I assume, affirms the latter (personal acts of sin); but he denies the former (the inherent principle of sin). As such, according to the Apostle, “the truth is not in” Jonathan Prejean. Rather, like the incipient Gnostics John battles in this letter, he “deceives” himself (the charge of Gnosticism keeps mounting against Prejean).

Certainly, I think there is a difference between a sinful disposition and acts of sin, but that doesn't imply a metaphysical "sin principle." Our condition of being born vulnerable to sin creates the occasion for disordering the faculties,the disordering of the faculties leads to acts of sin, which further disorders the faculties, in a vicious spiral. Absent grace, there is no way past the vulnerability of sin, so that our dependence on God's grace is absolute. Why this somehow makes me forced to believe in a "sin principle" straight out of Mani is beyond me.

Since I have already debunked Prejean’s notion of “no sin nature,” I will assume that the additional points he makes based on this mistaken notion fall to the ground as well.

You've proved the point by reifying the "sin nature" just as I described. You posit something that the Apostles' words don't require.

I wrote:“Yet Prejean ends up abandoning this definition when he insists on referring to Christ as a “divine person with a human nature.” In every other case, instantiation of rational human nature, according to Prejean, is the very definition of "human person"; but in the case of Christ, Prejean conceives of "person" as something in addition to the instantiation of a rational human nature--indeed, the instantiation of rational human nature in the case of Christ is left hanging in the air! That instantiation of rational human nature ends up being nothing more than . . . human nature; whereas in every other case it is a person! He has already conceded that existence is part of “nature” (at least for the divine), not part of “person.” Hence, even if this “person” has “life in himself,” that is only by virtue of his divine nature, not by virtue of his person per se. It makes no sense to refer to someone as a “divine person” who also happens to instantiate humanity.”

Prejean responded: “Svendsen has misunderstood me pretty seriously.”

No, I have not misunderstood Prejean; I have simply shown the absurdity and incoherence of his view. There is nothing coherent about a view that equivocates on the words “person” and “instantiation,” using them as synonyms at first, and treating them as separate things in the end.

Svendsen has just gone back to his dictionary definition of "instantiation," which I never used. The contradiction is with Svendsen's own definition, not mine.

“‘Person’ is whatever instantiates a rational nature, no matter whether it takes its existence from instantiating that nature or not.”

Here Prejean views “person” as a "thing" apart from nature; whereas before “person” was defined as an instance of rational nature, more along the lines of an artifact.

Based on Svendsen's dictionary definition of "instantiation," which was not mine.

“Ordinarily, no nature necessarily has an instantiation; thus, a ‘human person’ does not necessarily exist, not does an ‘angelic person.’ They are created.”

Whether it necessarily exists or not is beside the point. Prejean has defined “person” as “the instantiation of rational nature.” Once the instantiation takes place, the “person” exists, whether from itself or from an external source. And so, if an instance if rational nature exists (whether from itself or not), then we must ask the question “what kind of rational nature is it?” And if we have already agreed that an instance of rational nature is a person, then once we determine that this particular “instance of rational nature” is in fact “rational human nature,” we cannot conclude that the resulting “person” is something other than a human person; for that would be akin to saying that it wasn’t really an instantiation of human nature in the first place. In that case, we end up positing that an instantiation of human nature results in a non-human instantiation: A=non-A in Prejean’s view (confirming Prejean in his Docetism). That is why Prejean’s position is incoherent. It is self-contradictory.

This assumes that person and nature are the same thing, which is only true by Svendsen's definition of "instantiation" as if an instantiation were simply "one of" a thing rather than a concrete realization of an abstract entity. Certainly, if I didn't distinguish a person from a nature, then this would be true. However, my use of terms indicates rather clearly that I do. Svendsen simply doesn't know what's going on.

“The divine nature necessarily exists, but it is wrong to say that the existence is part of the divine nature (which would break the divine nature into parts). Rather, the divine nature is necessarily instantiated tri-personally; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit necessarily exist and are necessarily God.”

Yes, they necessarily exist and they are necessarily God—but not apart from their divine nature. God, apart from his nature, ceases to be God. Hence, it is simply absurd to suggest that God’s existence is not an integral part of his divine nature. Of course it is! Prejean is apparently capitalizing on my phrase “part of,” and drawing all kinds of absurd conclusions about it. “Part of” is simply another way of saying that divine nature and divine existence are mutually dependent.

"God, apart from His nature" is simply nonsense. To say that divine nature and divine existence are mutually dependent is to say that they are two things. Svendsen needs to learn how to express himself coherently on the subject of divine simplicity, if his thoughts are actually coherent.

“On the other hand, if the Word of God does not merely happen to instantiate the human nature (that is, accidentially) but instead essentially does so, then we have the human nature necessarily existing and the Word of God as necessarily Incarnate, which is obviously unacceptable as well.”

The problem with Prejean’s statement is that what he denies is exactly what we have. As I mentioned before, while I can agree that human nature is not essential to the existence of the Word of God, it is indeed absolutely essential to the existence of Christ Jesus. There is no “Christ Jesus” without human nature, nor biblically could there be. The Word was not Christ Jesus pre-Incarnation. Although the Word “was,” Christ Jesus “became”; hence it is biblically necessary to say that both divine nature and human nature are essential to the existence of Christ Jesus—for absent one or the other, Christ Jesus does not exist.

Then the Word of God and Christ Jesus are not identical; hence, Christ is the union of two entities and not one. This is Nestorianism. Note that Svendsen is at odd with the Biblical language here, in plain contradiction with "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

“Because the person of Christ is the Word of God, and the Word of God does not derive His existence from being human.”

Not quite; rather the person of Christ is the MAN Christ Jesus and the Word of God.

Nestorianism, plainly and simply. I have no idea why Svendsen doesn't simply admit it. All I have ever meant by Nestorianism is the statement "the person of Christ is the MAN Christ Jesus and the Word of God' which is a bare contradiction of "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." It doesn't say "The Word united Himself to flesh and His flesh dwelt among us."

“The question is whether the person of Christ is constituted by the union, or whether the person of Christ is the Word of God.”

I have no problem with either statement—and just for the record, the latter statement does not necessarily preclude the former, nor are the two statements necessarily mutually exclusive.

The latter is exclusive if understood to mean an identity relationship, which is how I mean it. The Gospel of John says "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us," which precludes anything but identity.

But as a biblicist, I have consciously decided not to commit to either of them because to do so is to speculate well beyond Scripture.

Odd that St. John didn't think so, given that he commenced his Gospel with it.

Yet this is the very question that militates against Prejean’s claim that he isn’t attempting to figure out the divine by sheer force of intellect.

I'm not trying to figure out the mechanism of the Incarnation. It's Svendsen who seems to be suggesting that because the Incarnation can't be explained, God can't really become man.

It is the question that refutes his claim that he does not concern himself about “how” this union took place, only “what kind” of union it is (as though the latter can sterilely be posited apart from attempting to explain the former).

There's nothing "sterile" about recognizing the bounds of human reason.

The question, as I have maintained throughout, is certainly not biblically resolved in any case.

Except in the bare statement "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

Since Christ is necessarily human (without humanity there would be no “Christ,” only “Word”), and necessarily divine (without the Word there would be no Christ, only “man”), I don’t see how it can be answered apart from divine revelation; and divine revelation simply does not tell us.

So Christ is not the Word of God and we shouldn't worship Him. Got it.

It is interesting to note that even Prejean’s Eastern Orthodox friends are now entertaining the notion that Prejean’s own view is Nestorian, and that he is indeed relying on hyper-rational speculation to figure out the nature of the Incarnation.

Considering that they consider my view Nestorian for different reasons, and those different reasons are inapposite to Svendsen's view, this is a classic red herring, completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand, just as Hays's original tu quoque was.

The article is actually very much on target (in spite of an expected gaffe on the part of Perry Robinson, a sniveling third-rate philosophy student, and one of his associates, both of whom seem to be extremely ill informed about what constitutes a “degree mill,” and both of whom seem to think that it is an acceptable practice to get their information from the “research” of a third-rate catholic e-pologist who has no training in theology and who possesses no advanced degree—if that is the research method taught at their institution of higher learning, then I am certain I won’t be sending my children to “Saint Louis University”).

Daniel and Perry both thought I was using a term differently than I was, and at any rate, their criticism of my position was not Svendsen's. Svendsen also evidently has no concept of academic reputation. St. Louis is one of the best philosophy program in the world based on scholarly regard. It's not even possible to be a student, much less make As, at a graduate school of that quality as a "third-rate" philosopher. Perry is using "diploma mill" as most academics do: as an expression of contempt for schools with minimal requirements and non-existent scholarly regard. Svendsen's doctoral program has no scholarly reputation that I can perceive, and the sort of academic incest that the Catholic apologist in question documented is a good sign that they can't find enough people in the scholarly community willing to vouch for them. The fact that Svendsen shows such contempt for a university with such an academic reputation just shows how much of a fringe quack non-scholar Svendsen is.

To engage the unknown and the unrevealed using Prejean’s approach—namely, “I don’t need yer stinkin’ Bible ‘cause I can just figure it all out using my own brilliance”—results in a sub-Christian (nay, un-Christian or even anti-Christian) belief system that at best undermines the authority of Scripture and at worst promotes open idolatry.

That's not my approach. On the other hand, Svendsen's concept of the "authority of Scripture" is so illogical (I'm deductive, except when I'm not) that it results in more disrespect for Scripture, because it makes us Christians look like anti-intellectuals, even believers in nonsense.

Worse for me, it wastes a great deal of my energy and time—energy and time I really don’t have anymore—to continue in such dialogues. They result in nothing useful.

Finally, we can agree on something. I'd have been more than happy to leave this one where I left it more than a year ago. Unfortunately, Svendsen couldn't manage the character to do that, because he had to subsequently excise my half of the discussion despite mentioning me by name. But I'm the coward. Go figure.

In the end Prejean will remain a neo-Platonist/Gnostic/Docetist, and I will remain devoted to the apostle’s teaching.

... except the parts that Svendsen inherently contradicts without providing any explanation for it.

I assume Prejean will be responding to this; if so, he’ll have the last word on it.

Works for me.

Prejean’s view is incoherent and relies heavily on the equivocations of terms.

Heck of a way to finish. You admit that your view presumes that I "rely heavily" on equivocation of terms when the equivocation was created by you imputing a definition out of a dictionary that was completely irrelevant to the subject and that I never used. This is vintage Svendsen, and it's why any thinking Catholic just laughs at you. In fact, I only brought this up to show how, despite having put this much time and energy into it, you still can't get around the arguments. In the end, you're still Nestorian.

I’ve adequately demonstrated the deficiencies of his views and his approach. My job here is done.

Mine too. If that was the best you could do, then it pretty clearly demonstrates that you have nothing. All the cards are on the table; you've got the losing hand. Evangelicals of your stripe simply can't beat Catholics with rational argument; that's all there is to it.

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.