Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The last glimmer of hope

There are signs, albeit faint signs, of productive questions being asked in the last two posts from Eric Svendsen. It turns out that there was an even better question asked by "Mathetes" on Svendsen's forum. I missed it before because I don't ordinarily read that forum, but I checked in just to make sure that I didn't leave anything out. I hope that I can answer all of the questions in the next couple of responses. Following my usual habit, it will be comprehensive (my earlier words in blue, Svendsen's and Mathetes's in red, my current response in black), which I do to prevent what I say from being taken out of context or from being accused of ignoring some or another particular point. I can't think of any better way to show my good faith in that respect, so I'm stuck with it.

This is the longest I have ever seen Svendsen stick to a point (which wasn't my point, but at least it is *A* point), so I'll have to give him credit for that. The benefit of him sticking to this point is that he has asked some questions that might actually help to illustrate why he is missing my position.

Then Prejean must have forgotten about the entire series of dialogue I have on Historical Theology posted under the “Notable Series” section of this blog.

No, it's simply that I won't give the anti-Mariological conspiracy theories the dignity of being considered a rational point, because there is absolutely no reality to them. Asking what a "person" is, on the other hand, strikes me as productive inquiry into exactly what Nestorianism is.

Prejean has engaged in doublespeak here. He begins by asserting that the apostles do not speak to him or to anyone else outside of their narrow first-century Jewish context. He ends up asserting that they do indeed speak to 21st-century Christians via a miracle. Do they speak to us or not? Which is it? And if they speak to us, even via a miracle, then (contrary to Prejean’s original statement about this in another thread) they can indeed function as a rule of faith.

Svendsen does not appear to be distinguishing between the natural and supernatural operation of Scripture. I can explain that as follows. First, I didn't say that the Apostles do not speak to us outside of their first-century Jewish context. In some sense, all historical literature speaks to people outside of the historical context, be it the works of Euripides, the Qu'ran, the Book of Mormon, or whatever. In that mundane sense, the Bible does speak as any historical document does. But the authoritative component of Scripture, what makes it able to speak beyond its historical confines as revelatory, i.e., its inspiration, is supernatural and not natural in quality, and this is perceived by application of the rule of faith to Scripture (Scripture being its own rule of faith in this regard would be circular; the rule of faith isn't learned FROM Scripture but used to read Scripture).

The Scripture speaks to the Church outside of time through the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit, not merely through the mundane operation of natural communication. If we strictly look at "what the Apostles were trying to tell us," then we miss the greater part of the meaning of Scripture, which is what the Holy Spirit was trying to tell us through the Apostles' words, which often goes far beyond what the Apostles themselves intended, although never contradicting that intent. So we evaluate Scripture narrowly as a historical document to ascertain what was intended at the time, using mundane means, and then we turn to the question of the Holy Spirit's providential purpose in having inspired this particular piece of writing (the supernatural). This appears to be the method used by Raymond Brown and other Catholic exegetes, although Brown in particular has been criticized for separating the two in excessively dialectical fashion (effectively separating the natural and supernatural with a faith-reason dichotomy). Anyway, the point is that the natural and the supernatural interact in the text, without separation OR confusion, and neither should be disregarded. It just happens that, as with any document with a rich historical context, much is going to be lost of the natural component with separation of time and culture.

However, as Steve Hays has cogently pointed out here, Prejean routinely confuses exegesis with the establishment of “dogmatic authority” and then with application (“the apostles don’t speak to me; therefore whatever they might say is irrelevant to dogmatic authority of revelation”). This confusion in turn is based on Prejean’s odd notion that if the Bible is written in the context of a different time and culture, then it has no meaning for us today (by which he apparently means it has no application today). Yet the content of Scripture is focused mostly on universal truths that transcend time and culture.

I don't say that it has no meaning, only that it was not, by and large, intentionally written to have meaning for us today. It still DOES, on account of the Holy Spirit's superintendence of what was written, but that is more a product of the supernatural operation than the intent of the authors. The fact that the Bible wasn't, for the most part, written intentionally for us in the historical sense may be an "odd notion" for Svendsen, but it is entirely pedestrian for Catholics and Catholic exegetes. That is not to say that there aren't numerous points of universal truth taught in Scripture; there are. But they are universal precisely because they are not bound up with cultural contexts, precisely because they pertain to universal aspects of the divine and human nature or because they pertain to singular historical events (and in the case of Christ, both are true; the historical events in His life have universal significance on account of the hypostatic union).

The idea that man has rebelled against God, that man is desperately sinful, and that he stands in need of redemption is not something confined to the first century or to the Jewish world. The idea that Christ’s death on the cross is sacrificial and propitiatory stands universally true regardless of whether a 21-century culture recognizes that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” Hence, the consequential statement “whoever believes is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already” is just as true and just as applicable for someone in the 21st-century Western world as it was for someone in first-century Judea. Exegesis is the method for determining what all that means in its original setting so that we can make sure we first get the meaning right and then the application right. But Prejean thinks we can bypass not only the message and the meaning, but consequently the application as well.

This is actually an excellent case of the same natural/supernatural distinction in the application of the Old and New Covenants. I find it useful to see the relationship between the natural and supernatural views of the text as the "shadow" of a three-dimensional object (which fits nicely with the concept of the Old Covenant as a "shadow" of the new; Hebr. 8:4, 10:1). The historical study is the study of the shadow, not the "true form" of the thing itself. The sacrificial system is intended to show a far more fundamental ontological need for grace. The human nature, in the image of God, is built so that it cannot achieve its true end without grace; it lacks the power to achieve that end through natural operations, and importantly, it lacked that power even before Adam ever sinned. Adam was really the first Pelagian; he denied his need for God's grace, asserting instead his own independence, spurning the very thing that his very nature was built to need. Because of that, his progeny are born into a state of deprivation; unlike Adam, they are born into a situation where the grace of God is not readily available to them. When Scripture speaks of sin in the context of nature, it is referring not to actual sin, but to this condition of being deprived of what our nature needs.

The radical dependence of our nature on God is the reality of which the Law and its juridical imagery is a shadow (Rom. 5:12-13, 20-21); the earthly blessings and cursings of the Law were meant to illustrate this more profound spiritual truth about our dependence on God (John 6:26-27 et seq.).

It was the error of the Judaizers who thought that the Law prescribed the means for salvation (Gal. 2-3); mere human operation avails nothing for salvation, not even for Christ. Rather, Christ's obedience under the law shows that He did not reject God's grace like Adam (and like Adam but unlike us, He was not even born into the condition of deprivation of that grace; Hebr. 4:15). He not only refused to thwart God's grace and did what Adam did not by accepting this grace according to the operation of His human nature (see, e.g., Luke 3:21-22, John 17:17-19). That's why Christ, who obviously did not need baptism for the forgiveness of sins, nonetheless accepted being baptized, and in so doing, sanctified baptism for all those who came after Him. That's why Christ's life sets the pattern to which human nature must be conformed (Rom. 8:28-30). The separation of sanctification and justification is actually based on confusion of the atonement (which removes an obstacle to grace) with grace itself. Salvation requires the operation of grace, not merely atonement.

Prejean’s confusion on these things stems from his lumping all historical documents in the same category of intent. If we’re talking about the writings of Euripides, then, yes, we can limit the application and assume Euripides was writing to those in his own day. We can view it as a mere historical document that helps us to understand the development of Greek tragedy. We don’t have to go beyond that and posit some sort of application today (unless you are a theater major) because there is no inherent authority in the writer or the writings to justify doing so.

It's not confusion; it's quite deliberately treating Scripture in the exact same manner I would treat any other historical document, because those sorts of conclusions are all that historical methods can actually tell you. Going "beyond that" and "posit[ing] some sort of application today" based on the "inherent authority in the writer or the writings" is not treating Scripture as a purely historical document. It's confusing the divine and human aspects of Scripture, which are perceived by different methods, rather than allowing them to persist distinctly and unconfusedly. If you are suggesting an application that would not be expected from some other sort of historical document of the day, then you're confusing theology with historical exegesis.

But Scripture is categorically different. It is revelation given by God. It is therefore not only inherently authoritative, but universally applicable. It is forward-looking by design. It is filled with prophecies and progressive revelation that culminates in God’s self-disclosure in Christ. But even when revelation ceases, it is not thereby finished speaking. It focuses its reader on the coming capitulation of all things at the eschaton; the summing up of all things in Christ and the final recompense in which all wrongs will be righted. It admonishes its reader to believe, act and think in a way that is commensurate with that event. It commends the Scriptures as fully capable of equipping the man of God for the work of the ministry, according to which that work is to “teach,” to “reprove,” to “correct,” and to “train in righteousness.” But most importantly, it expressly warns its readers that a day will come when men like Prejean will reject the “sound doctrine” of Scripture for fables and myths and “doctrines of demons.” Hence, (contra Prejean) the Scriptures themselves testify to their own eminent relevance for everyone, particularly those who are closest to the eschaton.

I'm not saying that the Scriptures aren't relevant to everyone who holds the rule of faith; rather, I am saying that the human component is not sufficient to make them so. If you simply read the Scriptures as a historical document, you will only get the natural component, and if you define that as the exclusive content of Scripture, you end up just like the Judaizers, worshipping the shadow rather than the reality. The spiritual content of Scripture is accessible only through the Christological hermeneutic; it is only by faith in the divine act of Incarnation that the Scriptures actually function as REAL revelation, as opposed to shadow revelation.

Svendsen is really on to something big here, but he hasn't stretched the implications as far as they need to go. Scripture is just like every other aspect of creation; it finds its significance, meaning, and purpose in Christ. So the understanding of what revelation is, how it functions, starts with an understanding of Christ as God-man. He is the model for theandric action, and just as His divine and human natures persisted unconfusedly in their personal union, so the divine and human components of Scripture persist unconfusedly. The meaning of Scripture was hidden until the Incarnation, because the divine action cannot be perceived except through the true theophany: the Incarnation. The Scriptures testify to Christ, but only those who know Him can see it. Svendsen is right to say that they admonish the believer to do these things, but that presupposes belief, which is exactly right. Until you believe and believe rightly, the Scriptures are always hidden, even if you are intimately acquainted with their historical meaning.

Yes, there are some things that no longer apply to us, such animal sacrifices. But that’s not due to a different culture or time; it’s due solely to the prophetic fulfillment of such things in the work of Christ. Yet, even in that case, general principles still apply. Paul can cite the episodes of the children of Israel in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt and exhort the (mostly Gentile) Corinthians of the first century (several centuries removed from the Exodus), “Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved”; and he can go on to make specific applications against the Corinthians participation in pagan sacrifices. Paul makes a similar point in Rom 15:4, and specifically connects it with the timeless application of the Scriptures: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Certainly, general principles about the human nature and the divine nature continue to apply, because those things do not change. There is much moral guidance in Scripture that is simply an accurate description of human behavior, but even an atheist can recognize that. Paul's Christological hermeneutic is far from this sort of mundane analogy based on human nature; note the explicitly Christological focus in that passage (see, e.g., 1 Cor. 10:1-6, 16-17, 26). This is hardly just "they were idolators, and bad things happened to them, so don't be idolators either."

Prejean has written his explanation in the hope of escaping the charge of docetism. Yet, in the process he has placed himself in an even worse position. The atoning sacrifice of Christ recorded in Scripture has no relevance to Prejean because, after all, the concept of atoning sacrifices is something that's confined to the 1st-century Jewish world and has no relevance to us in a 21st-century Western culture. Man’s desperate condition is not a universal truth to Prejean, but rather something confined to a specific place and specific time.

On the contrary, trying to stretch the shadow into the substance itself is no kind of solution at all for this problem. It's precisely to avoid the sort of reasoning that Svendsen cites that I assert that the desperate condition of man is not merely a matter of violating the Mosaic law. It's a radical dependence built into human nature that Adam denied, leaving us in a situation not only of dependence but also of deprivation.

Scripture has no relevance to him, and in fact (according to his own words) is no more authoritative or applicable than the Quran or the Book of Mormon. There’s no sense in trying to understand the meaning of what God has told us in his revelation because none of that was written to us. The result of Prejean’s reasoning is that we’re exempt from sin, from the need for a sacrifice, and from the command to believe in Christ; and we are immune to the consequences of ignoring these things. Not only is Prejean therefore docetic (the apostles aren’t real people who can speak to us today), but he is (by virtue of that doecetic viewpoint) Gnostic in his doctrine of sin by John’s standards (1 John 1:8-10).

There's also no sense in trying to stretch the historical meaning of Scripture into something that it can't be. To understand the meaning of what God told us in revelation requires us to know His son; there is no substitute. I am far from denying the real existence of sin; on the contrary, I am opposed to limiting our dependence on God to the need of forgiveness for transgressions. That would confuse the shadow with the reality, elevating the human above its radical dependence on God. Likewise, elevating the Scripture's human component denies the need of the divine component for the Scripture to function as a whole, which elevates the human capacity beyond its creaturely limitations. Among Protestants, Karl Barth's concept of "witness," the conformity of a human life to Christ's life, probably explains this idea of the Christological dependence of revelation better than anyone else I have seen.

And remember, according to Prejean himself, it doesn’t matter that you happen to deny such charges and actively affirm beliefs contrary to the charge (Protestants, according to Prejean, deny the Incarnation and the divinity of Christ by virtue of the their understanding of theotokos, even though they actively affirm those things). Hence, according to his own rationale, even if Prejean actively affirms the apostles are real people, he’s still a docetist by virtue of his understanding of Scripture; and even if he actively affirms the principle of sin, he’s still a gnostic denier of sin by virtue of his understanding of Scripture.

I certainly have no qualms about this sort of argument. Nestorius appears to have affirmed the union of divine and human in Christ, only incoherently so. But I take issues with two statements here. First, I don't think "Protestants" as a whole agree with Svendsen's defense of Nestorius. Second, I'm not docetistic; I'm theandric. It's not docetistic to say that the theandric quality of Scripture depends on both the divine and human operations, distinct and unconfused.

No, rather because Prejean is incapable of objective analysis he has always merely assumed I hold to his understanding of Nestorianism; namely, that Christ is two persons rather than one. I don’t hold that, and never have held it. I have always affirmed the singularity and unity of the union of man and God in Christ. I’m sorry if that doesn’t fit into Prejean’s limited paradigm, but it is a fact nevertheless. The debate, as far as I have been involved, has always been about the exact way that union occurs; not about a single subject vs. a dual subject. But this is par for the course with Prejean. When he can’t understand a view, he simply lumps it into the view that seems to him to be close to it, and then issues sweeping judgments that do not apply.

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. The Word of God constitutes the basis for the union of the natures, not vice versa.

You say that nous (which is incidentally of Platonic origin as Apollinaris used it, not Aristotelian)

Notice the pettiness. I label nous an Aristotelian category, and Prejean responds that it is of Platonic origin, as though this is some great correction. Aristotle was a disciple of Plato, and regularly employed the term nous—and I doubt there is a great distinction in how each man uses it. I’m using “Aristotelian” as a category of terms. I have used “Platonic” interchangeably in past dialogue for these same categories.

To say that there isn't a difference between Aristotle and Plato on intellect is like saying there isn't a difference between Protestants and Catholics on papal authority, but leaving that aside, the distinction actually matters here. The Platonic/Neoplatonic idea of how nous is individuated is substantially different from authors with an Aristotelian influence and a concept of particular substance (e.g., Augustine, Aquinas). Part of Apollinaris's problem is that his idea of human nature doesn't include the soul as an individuating form of the human being, which is why he doesn't think that a human being has to have a soul to be a real human being.

[you say that nous] means the same thing as "person" (which isn't true of either Platonic, Aristotelian, or Neoplatonic uses of the term, but accepting your usage for the sake of argument).

That’s simply not true. I have stated that that is the Apollinarian use of the word (which Prejean may want to dispute), but that’s not thereby my definition. As I have stated elsewhere, my use of “nous,” “person,” or any other such term employed by the fifth-century debate is mere accommodation. I do not put any stock in their accuracy or authority. Biblically, nous refers to the "mind" or "intellect," and I have stated that clearly even in my earliest articles on this subject.

But Apollinaris doesn't mean the same thing by "nous" as "person;" he means roughly the same thing you do ("mind" or "intellect"). Apollinaris's error is to make mind common to the human and divine nature, so that the Word of God needs only one mind for both the human and divine nature. But he always maintains that the body is appropriated by the person, so he clearly isn't saying that "mind" equals "person" (a mind can't be a body). It is Svendsen who equates mind and person when he says "Both the human nous and the divine nous are bound together in Christ and comprise His person." This is what Svendsen says is "The View of the Bible and the Early Church," in contrast with Apollinaris's view. But it was Nestorius who held that the person of Christ was comprised by the union of two natures, rather than the person of the Word of God being the basis for the union.

That would mean that two persons (the divine person and the human person) combine to form a divino-human person with both divine and human properties. That's Nestorianism.

See again? Here’s how Prejean reasons: Svendsen’s view appears to be close to Nestorianism, therefore it is Nestorianism. Aside from the fact that Nestorius used prosopon ("face") to properly describe his view (there was already a language difference between Cyril and Nestorius), whatever Prejean thinks Nestorius believed is far from my view.

It's not a question of being close to Nestorianism; it literally IS Nestorianism. Svendsen doesn't seem to understand that Nestorianism is a heresy about the union of the natures in Christ. It's a contradiction in terms to say "I believe that the person of Christ is comprised by the union of the natures, but I'm not Nestorian."

Once again, I have gone on record stating I reject the philosophical categories and distinctions employed in the fifth-century. They are not authoritative for me. I view them as artificial categories. They are nothing more than unbiblical (and unhelpful) categories that further confuse the simplicity of Scripture. I am coming from a biblical perspective on this issue, not a fifth-century one. I refuse to speculate on just how the union between God and man takes place because to speculate beyond what is revealed invariably results in idolatry.

So do I; 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.

I have no idea what you mean by "mere accommodation" or what "categories" you have in mind. It seems that you have no concept that could sustain any sort of coherent doctrine of the Trinity. If my concepts are inadequate, then what are your alternatives?

Biblical ones.

Is begging the question Scripturally normative?

I wrote: Biblically speaking, the separation of these categories simply does not exist. A “person” and his “nature” are biblically inseparable, perhaps even to the point of being indistinguishable. God as a “person” cannot cease to be God in “nature” and still be God. Man as a “person” cannot cease to be man in “nature” and still be man. biblically, no “person” can have a “nature” that does not reflect his “person.”

Prejean responded:
Your position would then be that the Bible makes the Trinity impossible. Either there aren't three persons (because they all have the same nature, and nature is identical to person) or there are three gods, just as three men with the same nature are not one but three.

That’s absurd. That would be like arguing since Prejean and I both share a human nature, we must be identical in person to each other.

Indeed, that has historically been used for reductio ad absurdam to charge Christians with polytheism, used by pagans, Jews, Muslims and atheists alike. It is obvious that a person who doesn't instantiate the divine nature is not God and that a person who does not instantiate the human nature is not a man. Nature "reflecting" person is equally tautological; a "person" is nothing other than the real instantiation of a nature, so this says nothing other than "something is what it is." But the person can't be constituted by being the nature, else having the same nature would imply being the same person. At the same time, the instantiation of a nature cannot constitute the nature (nominalism), lest affirming three divine individuals entail polytheism. That's why it's important to avoid both Nestorianism (the person being constituted by the instantiation of the nature) and nominalism (the reality of the nature being limited to its instantiation).

But that’s not at all the point I was making. The members of the Godhead are distinct from one another, yet they share the same divine nature. The point I made was that a person is inseparable from his nature—that remains true of the Godhead as well. The Father is inseparable from deity; the Son is inseparable from deity; the Holy Spirit is inseparable from deity. None of the members of the Godhead can be separated from their nature—else they cease to be God.

Properly speaking, they would cease to exist; an instantiation of no nature is nothing. Of course, that is an impossibility with respect to an unchanging divine person.

Prejean’s objection has much more to do with person and being than it does with person and nature, biblically defined. Biblically, God is God by virtue of his attributes and nature. God regularly defines himself by his abilities, his attributes, and his nature: by his immutability (“I am God; I do not change”); by his self-existence (“I am that I am”), by his eternality (“I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”), by his love (“God is love”), etc. Jesus is the Word who was with “God” (i.e., the Father; distinguishable from him), but was himself “God” (i.e., deity).

Given that "person" is the real existence of a nature, I can't see where the fact that my objection has to do with person and being in any way implies that it doesn't relate to person and nature. Svendsen is saying here exactly what I am saying; only what instantiates the divine nature is God.

Fortunately, this isn't true, because your logical argument for equating nature and person is nonsense.

Notice Prejean’s straw man. I did not say person and nature are to be “equated” biblically; I said they are biblically “inseparable,” perhaps to the point of “indistinguishable.” That remains a biblical fact whether Prejean recognizes it or not. As an analogy, identical twins may be “indistinguishable,” but that fact does not “equate” them or make them truly “identical.” Once we identify a specific instance of an entity that has all the attributes of a man, what is left to define that entity as a person? More on this later.

I don't recognize a difference between indistinguishability and true identity. If two things are literally indistinguishable, i.e., they have no properties distinguishing them, then they are the same thing. Philosophers distinguish individuals by the property of haecceity ("thisness"). the Trinity has the rather odd property of being distinct (having haecceity) while being numerically identical to Himself. More on that later.

Natures don't reflect persons; persons instantiate natures. Your statements are tautologous; you are simply saying that a person that does not instantiate a nature is not a person with that nature. This is both necessarily and obviously true and has nothing to do with the point.

That’s not my point at all. I recognize that nature is the broader category and person is one instance of that category. But there’s no need for sophistry here. When I say that a man’s nature reflects his person, or that God’s nature reflects his person, I’m referring to the specific instance of that nature in the person. Hence, no “person” can have a “nature” that does not reflect his “person.” If we have all the attributes of deity bundled into a specific instance, how is that not a divine person? By the same reasoning, if we have all the attributes of humanity bundled into a specific instance, how is that not a human person? Yet there are not two persons but one.

Person is a category of nature? I've never heard anything like that before; person is a category of instantiation of nature, specifically, the instantiation of a rational nature. Again, you're confusing the instantiation of the nature with the nature; absent an instantiation, there are no concrete properties to be bundled into a concrete entity. The nature is given concrete existence by the person, not vice versa. The doctrine of the Incarnation is that the divine person instantiates the human nature (really and concretely). You seem to be arguing that if there is a concrete instantiation of the human nature, there must be a human person and that the person Christ is constituted by the union of this human person with the Word of God. That's Nestorianism.

I wrote: These texts affirm that Jesus was “a man.” Further, they affirm he was *fully* a man “in all things,” not a *partial* man, not *almost* a complete man, and not mere “flesh and blood.” Indeed, the full “manhood” of Jesus as the “last Adam” is assumed in texts such as Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. Further, they assert that if he did not assume *full* humanity, then he could not have redeemed us fully—to which even the fathers testify: “What is not assumed is not redeemed” (Gregory of Nazianzus). Atonement requires that Jesus is fully man--flesh, intellect, spirit, and whatever else one may care to specify regarding that which makes a man a “man”--not simply God with a "human nature.”

Prejean responded:
Feel free to clarify if I am misinterpreting, because I am not exactly sure what you have a mind, and I don't want to misunderstand you. It appears that you are saying that Jesus was human not only in the sense of having flesh and blood, but also in the sense of having emotions and reason (although with the caveat of Hebr. 4:15, without sin). What is confusing is your conclusion "not simply God with a 'human nature.'" The definition of human nature "whatever one may care to specify regarding that which makes a man a man, including flesh, intellect, spirit, etc." To say that He has all of these things is nothing other than saying that He has a human nature. Perhaps the subsequent questions will clarify.

Here is why Prejean's distinction between “person” and “nature” confuses the issue. If he has a human body, human emotions, a human intellect, a human mind (the biblical “nous”), a human, spirit, a human soul, a human will, human understanding, human wisdom, etc., what, pray tell, is lacking for this to be a “human person”?

A "person" isn't a nature; we classify persons by the instantiation from which they derive their existence. The Word of God is a "divine person" because His existence derives from being God (more specifically, "God from God"). A "human person" is a "human person" because he derives his existence from instantiating the human nature, i.e., by being created. To say that someone is a "human person" is to say that the person was created. When that person is the Word of God, it isn't proper to say that He is a "human person" because His existence is not derived from instantiating the human nature. 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." This is why the Fathers distinguished Christ's proper nature (meaning proper to His existence) from His assumed nature.

I wrote: It is not "human nature" that mediates for us before God, but "the man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5).

Prejean responded:
"The man" only requires a person with a human nature.

Prejean will later define "person" as a concrete instantiation of rational nature (an instance or gathering of the essential attributes of nature into a single entity, for which see below). Yet here he neatly sidesteps that definition by distancing the person from the nature so as to suggest that the instantiation of human nature does not require a human person. More on this in my closing remarks.

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

It doesn't require that there be a man, Christ Jesus, separate from the Word of God.

Except the text specifies that he is not only “man,” but "the man." Can a man be a man without being a human person? If so, how?

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

I am not saying that the man is separate from the Word. I’m saying that Christ Jesus is the singular union of man and God. I do not purport to know how that union took place or what the exact makeup is--and I doubt anyone else can adequately explain it either. But I must affirm with Scripture that he is 100% man and 100% God.

Is He the union or is He the Word of God? If "the man Christ Jesus" IS the Word of God, then you affirm that a divine person (the Word of God) can instantiate the human nature. I'm not asking you to say HOW a divine person can instantiate the human nature; nobody knows that. All I'm asking you to affirm is that the natures are united in the person of the Word of God. This talk of "union" is just misleading, and it's exactly the sort of wishy-washy language that Nestorius kept using. Is the union the same as the Word of God, or isn't it?

I entirely agree with you that natures don't mediate; persons do.

And yet in this case, the “person” is “the man” Christ Jesus. If person is a concrete instantiation of nature, then how does Prejean avoid ascribing personhood to “the man” (a concrete instantiation of human nature)?

I do ascribe personhood to Him, and I also affirm that He is the same person as the Word of God. The person instantiating the human nature is the divine Word of God. The Word of God unites the natures.

Also, I'd question your exegesis of the term "mediator" here. In context, it appears to have a "physical" meaning (in the sense of pertaining to physis, nature), affirming that there is a single person acting as a physical mediator between the two natures.

Question it all you like; but you'd be in error to do so. I affirm there is a single person acting as mediator; but “nature” is not what is in mind here so much as the need for man in his whole being to have a mediator before God.

I fail to see how that answers me. What could capture the need of man's whole being more than the human nature?

You seem to be thinking in terms of Christ talking to Himself ("for us"), and that seems logically implausible. I don't see this passage as pertaining to his intercessory (human) role as high priest.

What? Why would you assume that on my view Christ must be talking to himself in this passage? By mere virtue of his humanity? Christ is obviously exempt from the need for mediation because he is the mediator. And he is the mediator precisely because he is both man and God. Paul is obviously referring to the rest of mankind, of which Christ became the “source of eternal life to all who obey” by virtue of that suffering and sacrifice (Heb 5:7-9), which actions make him our “high priest” by definition (Heb 5:10). If “mediator” in this passage does not refer to his intercessory work, what can it mean? Even the context makes intercession clear. Vv. 1-2, “I urge that prayers, requests, and intercessions be made for kings and all in authority”; v. 3, “God our Savior”; v. 4, “who wants all men to be saved”; v. 6, “gave Himself as a ransom for all men.”

I took you to be implying that Christ as "the man Christ Jesus" was interceding before God in His human capacity, and it seems relatively obvious to me that His mediation is theandric, involving both divine and human action. It seems from what you are saying here that you are not, so I apologize for the misreading.

I wrote: Atonement is possible only if one who is fully man, through perfect obedience to God, can reverse the sin brought into the world by the “man” (viz., Adam) who, using his human soul, spirit, will, intellect, etc., rebelled against God.

Prejean responded:
The idea that perfect obedience can save is Pelagian. Not even perfect obedience can earn union with God; that is beyond the capability of human nature, even for Adam, even for Christ.

Try reading Romans and Hebrews a few times and you will be quickly cured of your biblical illiteracy on this point:For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. (Heb 2:10) . . . In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 5:7-10)But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. . . . For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:12-21)

I suggest you put down your Catholic Theology book and immerse yourself in Scripture.

Oddly enough, those are exactly the passages that I would point to in support of the opposite conclusion. In particular, Romans 5 seems to militate rather strongly against the idea that perfect obedience suffices to give salvation. Certainly, disobedience prevents salvation, and certainly, Christ's life is the form of our salvation and reception of grace. But to think that it was the human effort of obedience, apart from God's grace, that elevates man to union with God strikes me as badly wrong-headed, if not outright Judaizing. We need to be saved from our condition of being deprived of grace, but we also need to live the acceptance of that grace in the pattern of Christ's life in order to reach our supernatural end.

I asked: Do you believe Jesus was fully human; that is to say, fully a man? Was he 100% man?

Prejean responded:
Yes, He was a person possessing the full human nature.

That’s not what I asked. What I asked is whether a concrete instantiation of rational human nature (using Prejean's conceded definition of "person") can be a “man” apart from being a human person? Prejean's answers to my later questions reveal that he believes the phrase “human person” legitimately describes an instantiation of human nature. If that’s the case, then he's dancing on this point—and I think he knows it.

In point of fact, that isn't what you asked. You asked if He was fully human, fully a man, 100% man, and I say "yes" to all of those questions, because that is simply asking whether He instantiates the human nature. The question of whether someone can be a man apart from being a "human person" is entirely separate, and of course I do believe this, as I said above. There's no "dancing" here. Being a "man" means "having the human nature," and being a "human person" means "deriving one's existence from the instantiation of the human nature." Christ is a man, not a human person.

I asked: Was there any part of humanity that was not “shared” by Jesus via the incarnation? In other words, if one attribute of humanity is “personhood” (and whatever that entails on your view), did Jesus assume humanity on that level?

Prejean responded:
"Personhood" is not an attribute of humanity by definition.”

Says who? Plato or Yahweh? But even by his own definition, an instantiation of rational nature is a person; and so, by that definition, the instantiation of rational human nature must be considered a human person. Yet here Prejean is arguing that I can be an instantiation of humanity without being a person? How?

"Personhood" is obviously not an attribute of humanity, because that is identical to saying that humanity must necessarily exist, which is obviously not the case. I'm not saying that you can be an instantiation of humanity without being a person; I'm saying that a person can instantiate humanity without being a human person. Namely, I'm saying that a divine person, which is to say a person who derives His existence from being divine, can instantiate with human nature. Or, to put in succinctly, Jesus Christ is the Word of God.

"Personhood" refers to concrete individual existence of any rational nature.

I will ask the question again: Did Christ have a rational human nous (mind, intellect)? Was it a concrete individual instance of it? If so, how does Prejean avoid the notion of “human person”?

And I will say again: the adjectives put in front of "person" do not conventionally refer to the nature instantiated by that person, but to the instantiation of the nature by which that person exists.

Existence is not an attribute of nature for any nature except the divine nature. The divine nature necessarily exists; nothing else does.

I agree with this point. But we’ll see whether Prejean can maintain it in light of his view.

I certainly believe so.

I wrote: If the answer #2a is yes (and/or 2b no), what is included in your definition of “person” that was unimpacted by sin and does not therefore need to be redeemed in the atonement?

Prejean responded:

This is what I mean by confusing "nature" with "person." Persons are only impacted by personal sin; the "except sin" qualification in Hebr. 4 means that Christ has no personal contact with sin. "Original sin" refers to being born in a condition of privation, absent God's grace, which is solely situational and accidental, not an effect of sin on the nature per se, so Christ does not have this property either.

Prejean has not only missed the point entirely, he has also misunderstood Scripture’s teaching regarding the effects of Adam’s sin to his progeny. He would be well advised not to confuse the error-filled, semi-Pelagian Roman theology of original sin with the Scriptural teaching about the sin nature. I’ll let this point slide here (though will take it up later) since he's already conceded that everything required for the existence of a "person" is part of his definition of "nature."

Of course, since I think there is no Scriptural teaching about the "sin nature" (indeed, I view it as a metaphysical absurdity) and since I have categorically denied Svendsen's assertion that person is part of nature or a category of nature, I don't think he's proved much.

Based on my answer to #3, these questions involve a category error. Person isn't an attribute of nature, so personal redemption is not a matter of the nature being redeemed. All faculties of nature are redeemed, but person is not a faculty of nature.

I will grant Prejean this point based on his definition of person.

Not sure why there's a different answer for 2a, but OK.

Sin is an act of the will (and particularly, the gnomic mode of exercising the will).

Biblically, that’s the definition of rebellion, but sin comprises much more than that. A person can sin in his actions, his plans, or merely in his unacted-upon thoughts and desires. Indeed, sin resides in us because we have a sin nature. Our sin nature is such that, according to Paul, “nothing good dwells in me” and “I am in bondage to sin.” That sin, according to Paul “dwells in me” to the point of exclaiming “wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death!” That’s why Prejean’s notion of original sin is anemic. We are radically impacted by sin in our entire beings, such that even the “heart is desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” That’s why it’s important to account for these things when speaking of the redemption provided by Christ. Again, whatever was not assumed by Christ was not redeemed. That includes the entire person of a man, not merely his attributes of nature considered separately.

First, plans, thoughts, and desires are movements of the will too. Second, you're reifying sin. Sin isn't a thing; there is no sin nature. On the other hand, this is an excellent description of the person who treats his own nature as autonomous, not requiring God's grace. It's a vicious cycle; our nature deprived of its supernatural end is a pathetic and feeble thing, and our efforts to the behave as if we are not in desperate need of grace, as if some works of our own nature could elevate us to God, only serve to reinforce how pathetic our efforts are. Note the Psalmist's affirmation of the incomprehensibility of sin, that the corruption of the heart is baseless and chaotic. To say that there is a principle of sin, a "sin nature," is to deny the fundamental senselessness of sin, and at the heart of the senselessness is the notion that our nature can somehow grasp God by its unaided operations. Christ is human, but He has no "sin nature."

Having said all that, if Prejean's definition of "person" is simply the bundling together of the attributes of rational nature, then I can understand why he might exempt this from the consequences of sin. But in that case, since it is enough to say that if all the attributes of nature are impacted by sin and must be assumed to be redeemed, then it adds nothing to the equation to say that the person is also impacted by sin.

With this, I can agree. There is no aspect of human life not beset by the consequences of sin and the deprivation of grace. Persons, as instantiations of natures, are afflicted by the consequences of sin on the nature.

Divine nature is absolutely simple, meaning there is no existence/essence composition (to use Augustine's term, "To be ... is to be a person"). Divine nature is necessarily existent, and we know by revelation that this necessary existence involves existing tri-personally. Divine persons, therefore, necessarily exist.

Via their nature, no disagreement there. But this does not help Prejean’s case. He’s awfully vague on this point, but as near as I can tell, Prejean defines “person” as a concrete instantiation of rational nature. In other words, “human nature” is a “pool” of related attributes—including things like intellect, wisdom, spirit—and “person” is a single metaphysical “embodiment” or “clothing,” as it were, of those attributes. “Person,” therefore, acts as a sort of invisible layer that combines and contains all these attributes in a single entity.

... with one important caveat: person is the source of those attributes' reality; it is not merely the collection of attributes. That was a common error in recent analytical philosophy; some good Thomists have worked diligently on correcting it.

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.

Svendsen has misunderstood me pretty seriously. "Person" is whatever instantiates a rational nature, no matter whether it takes its existence from instantiating that nature or not. Ordinarily, no nature necessarily has an instantiation; thus, a "human person" does not necessarily exist, not does an "angelic person." They are created. 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.

I've bolded the last statement because it not only makes sense to me but also strikes me as an essential confession to avoid Nestorianism. If Christ is anything other than a divine person who also happens to instantiate humanity, then He is not the Word of God, because the Word of God is a divine person. 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. So I think that "a divine person who happens to instantiate the divine nature" is not a bad summary.

If “person” is the “wrapping” around nature, then it is evident that the person of Christ wraps around two natures—divine and human. And if person is defined as an instantiation of nature, and the human nature has been instantiated in Christ, then how can a reference to “human person” be avoided?

Because the person of Christ is the Word of God, and the Word of God does not derive His existence from being human. Since person refers to existence, it is improper to predicate "human person" of the Word of God.

That is not to say there are two persons in Christ—only that the single person of Christ is both human and divine. And in that case the most we can affirm is that Jesus Christ instantiates both a divine nature and a human nature; that is to say, he is a person who is both human and divine—which is what I have been affirming all along. To say that he is a “divine person with a human nature” is gratuitously to change the definition of “person” midstream for the sake of salvaging a position.

Certainly. The question is whether the person of Christ is constituted by the union, or whether the person of Christ is the Word of God. The reason we say "divine person" is to say that the existence of this person derives solely from instantiating the divine nature; the human nature is instantiated only accidentally, not essentially. If we say "human person," we imply that the person essentially instantiates the human nature; "divine person with a human nature" forecloses that.

I wrote: Poppycock! You were the one who raised the issue that my training included nothing in patristics, and used that as some sort of reason not to take my views seriously. I simply responded to something you wrote not only recently but dozens of times in the past on various boards. You either have a very short memory, or you are a liar.

Prejean responded:
which is a tu quoque response of the fallacious sort. I challenged your qualifications; I did not present my qualifications as any part of my basis for challenging your qualifications. You switched the issue from your qualifications to my qualifications, which was completely irrelevant to your own. It was only in response to the irrelevant question of my qualifications that I raised my own.

That’s absurd. Prejean states this as though the tu quoque fallacy is specially designed for those who happen to get in their ad hominem first, in a sort of “na, na, na, na, na . . . I beat you to the punch with an ad hominem and you are now disallowed to make the same point back.” See here for a fuller explanation of why Prejean’s appeal to tu quoque is illegitimate. The reason it is illegitimate in this case is that I did not concede I am unqualified to write on these issues. Far from it; what I said was that I have training in related disciples, and Prejean does not. That is not tu quoque. Moreover, Prejean states “I did not present my qualifications as any part of my basis for challenging your qualifications,” but that is not what I objected to. My objection was rather that Prejean runs around the internet asserting that all who disagree with him are unqualified to speak on the issue precisely because they have no training in patristics. It is not fallacious to point out the obvious; namely, that Prejean himself is even less qualified by virtue of the fact that he not only has no training in patristics, but not even in a related field. But I did not raise this as something that I believe is necessary—I raised it as something that Prejean apparently thinks is necessary. I don’t believe one must possess formal training in patristics to read historical documents. But Prejean clearly believes that is necessary for everyone else but him. I was merely pointing out Prejean’s inconsistency with his own (not my) stated standard. He clearly does not like it that his inconsistency has been exposed, so he illegitimately resorts to tu quoque.

Except that if you reread my original post on Nestorianism, my point wasn't that he was unqualified, but he was unqualified and at odds with those who were. Lack of qualifications aren't a problem in and of themselves; lack of qualifications and blithe dismissal of the relevant scholarship is.