Tag Archives: nestorianism

Nestorianism in Light of Modern Christian Apologetics (Part 2)

In a previous post, I commented on an inter-Christian theological controversy regarding modern Christians and the heresy of Nestorianism. Many Christians were unaware that such a debate existed within their faith today, primarily between the Protestant sects of Lutheranism and Reformed/ Calvinist theology. I had first raised my argument using the study of the philosophy of religion regarding the ontology (nature of being) of the incarnate Christian God during my recent debate with Dr. Tony Costa. Quite a few lay-Christians thought I’d misidentified orthodox Christian beliefs (Dr. Costa and his supporter Anthony Rogers are guilty in this regard), that I as a Muslim did not understand Christian beliefs and as such my claim was based out of ignorance. Rather, through my subsequent posts a number of Christians have come to realise that I had actually raised an argument that Christian theologians themselves had raised, it was in fact the lay-Christians who were ignorant of their own modern day Christological controversies. In his erudite work on Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhof wrote:

1. UP TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. The Reformation did not bring any great changes in the doctrine of the person of Christ. Both the Church of Rome and the Churches’ of the Reformation subscribed to the doctrine of Christ as it was formulated by the Council of Chalcedon. Their important and deep-seated differences lay elsewhere. There is one peculiarity of Lutheran Christology that deserves special mention. Luther’s doctrine of the physical presence of Christ in the Lord’s supper led to the characteristically Lutheran view of the communicatio idiomatum, to the effect “that each of Christ’s natures permeates the other (perichoresis), and that His humanity participates in the attributes of His divinity.” It is held that the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence were communicated to the human nature of Christ at the time of the incarnation.

Even prominent Calvinist theologian RC Sproul wrote in, “What Is the Trinity?”:

I have Lutheran friends, and I always refer to them as “my monophysite friends.” They refer to me as their “Nestorian friend,” but I always say, No, I don’t separate the two natures, I just distinguish them.”

It’s not an argument or claim invented by myself, it’s quite a well known common argument that many Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christian sects regard Calvinists as Nestorians. It is not difficult to see why. I tried to convey an argument that lay-Christians would be able to understand during my debate with Dr. Costa, but I will have to use a little bit of mathematics to better illustrate my point. The heresy of Nestorianism, entails that despite Christ having two natures, they are distinguished from each other to the point that Jesus becomes two Persons. Jesus with a divine nature and Jesus with a human nature. Surely in Islam, this enters the realm of polytheism. For the time being, let’s express how Reformed/ Calvinistic Theology about Jesus’s Hypostatic Union is Nestorian.

  • Jesus is a Person.
  • Jesus has a Divine Nature.
  • Jesus has a Human Nature.
  • Jesus = {Divine Nature, Human Nature}

If we were to say that Jesus suffered, does that mean the Person of Jesus with two natures suffered? Calvinists would readily say yes, but they would then additionally say, as James White has claimed, that only the human nature suffered. Thus, logically speaking it is a contradiction in thinking.

  • Jesus the Person with a Divine and Human Nature suffered.
  • Jesus the Person’s Divine Nature did not suffer.
  • Jesus the Person’s Human Nature did suffer.

Thus, this in effect breaks Jesus up into two Persons. They speak of Jesus in terms of only his human nature and of Jesus in terms of only his divine nature. Hence, regardless of their cries of orthodoxy, their ideas concerning the nature of Christ are inherently self-defeating and self-contradicting, thus eliciting charges of advocating the Nestorian heresy. In conclusion, as we have seen, Christians themselves did not know of these inter-Christian debates. That’s why I raised the argument in the first place. To bring attention to a problem that only their scholars seem to argue about, I merely wanted to demonstrate that Christians after 2000 years fundamentally disagree about the nature of God and cannot reconcile the God-man doctrine about Christ.

Why wrestle with confusion, when the solution is simply, there is no God but Allah….

and Allah knows best.

Nestorianism in Light of Modern Christian Apologetics (Part 1)

In an earlier article entitled, “Should Christians Appeal to Jesus’s Human Nature to Explain God’s Ignorance or Fallibility?“, I concluded that doing so is to use the heresy of Nestorianism. To demonstrate this, I quoted an example from James White’s The Forgotten Trinity:

“Crucifixion is only meaningful with reference to his human nature (you cannot crucify the divine nature). When Paul speaks of the crucifixion of the Lord of glory, he is speaking of Christ as one person with two natures.” – White, James R. (1998-11-01). Forgotten Trinity, The (p. 160). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Most recently, in my debate with Tony Costa, “Was Jesus the Son of God or Only the Prophet of God?“, I also raised this argument. In response, Tony argued that I didn’t understand what Nestorianism was. In light of this, I began to realise that the more popular Christian apologists did not seem to be aware of what the Church Fathers had written about Nestorianism in light of the doctrine of the ‘communication between the two natures’. Thus, in this short article I’d like to refer both of the aforementioned apologists, to The Anathemas of Cyril of Alexandria which was accepted in the Council of Ephesus (431 CE). He writes:

4. If any one distributes between two characters [προ′σωπα] or persons [υ‘ ποστα′ σεις] the expressions used about Christ in the gospels, etc. … applying some to the man, conceived of separately, apart from the Word, … others exclusively to the Word …, let him be anathema.1

The full text reads:

4. If anyone distributes between the two persons or hypostases the expressions used either in the gospels or in the apostolic writings, whether they are used by the holy writers of Christ or by him about himself, and ascribes some to him as to a man, thought of separately from the Word from God, and others, as befitting God, to him as to the Word from God the Father, let him be anathema.2

Thus, the position that both of these apologists hold to, that they can apply some expressions of Christ (suffering, dying, hunger) to singly his human nature and others singly befitting God, is considered to be Nestorianism. The consequences of which, both of these apologists could be labelled as heretics and anathematized from the Christian faith according to the Church Father Cyril of Alexandria.

Note: Here is a Christian who apostated from Reformed Theology, and has debated James White’s colleague Turretin: click here for the apostate’s exposition on Reformed Theology’s similarities of Noestorian beliefs, and here for the debate. Thus, it seems as if I have inadvertently stumbled upon an inter-Christian debate, leading to the same conclusions I have been arguing all along. 

and God knows best.

Sources:

  1. Bettenson, Henry. Documents of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. London: Oxford UP, 1999. 51. Print.
  2. “Twelve Anathemas Proposed by Cyril and Accepted by the Council of Ephesus.” Twelve Anathemas. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.

Should Christians Appeal to Jesus’s Human Nature to Explain God’s Ignorance or Fallibility?

Question:

When discussing whether Christ was God or a man with Christians, they often explain his “defects” as being due to his human nature. For example, they say if he was hungry, it was due to his human nature, or cursing the fig tree and praying to God, was due to his human nature. What would be your response to this?

Answer:

Assuming that this question refers to interactions with Trinitarian Christians, it is actually a heresy to explain Jesus’s actions exclusively in light of his human nature. In Trinitarianism, Jesus is considered to be both God and man, with his divine nature and his human nature being eternally united, otherwise known as the hypostatic union. In the centuries when the Trinitarian creed was being developed, a popular heresy which existed at that time was to separate these two natures. This was known as Nestorianism. Thus, the Nestorians believed that there were two natures, a divine and human but that they were not joined together in a union.

Trinitarians describe this union as Jesus being one person with two unified natures, sometimes referred to as “fully God and fully man”. Meaning, at all times, he – Christ, was both fully God and fully man. Let’s take the example of Jesus’s crucifixion. If we ask, did the all powerful God suffer, a Christian would say no, as a divine being cannot suffer. Only the human nature suffered. This is the heresy of Nestorianism. They are disuniting the natures, and isolating the human nature from the divine nature. We must remind these Trinitarians of their beliefs, if the human nature suffered, then the divine nature must also have suffered as these natures are eternally united. Modern Trinitarians often use the heresy of Nestorianism when defending the Trinity, without realising it.

Another popular example is Jesus praying. Many Trinitarians would claim that the human nature was praying. This is incorrect, both the divine and the human natures were praying to God, the human nature is eternally united with the divine, at no point can one nature be disunited from the other. When Jesus was hungry, the human nature hungered. This is what Trinitarians claim when we inquire of Jesus’s cursing of the fig tree. Yet, they are once again isolating one of the two natures. We must remind them, both the divine and the human nature hungered, these natures cannot be separated under any circumstances unless one is willing to declare themselves apostates from Trinitarianism and believers in the heresy of Nestorianism. As Dr. James White says in his book, The Forgotten Trinity:

“Instead, the doctrine is misunderstood as well as ignored. It is so misunderstood that a majority of Christians, when asked, give incorrect and at times downright heretical definitions of the Trinity.” – White, James R. (1998-11-01). Forgotten Trinity, The (p. 16). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Interestingly, despite this book claiming to be a defense of the Trinitarian doctrine, Dr. White himself also appeals to the heresy of Nestorianism. In seeking to explain the dual nature of Christ, he says:

“Crucifixion is only meaningful with reference to his human nature (you cannot crucify the divine nature). When Paul speaks of the crucifixion of the Lord of glory, he is speaking of Christ as one person with two natures.” – White, James R. (1998-11-01). Forgotten Trinity, The (p. 160). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In the space of two sentences, a person writing on the very topic of understanding the Trinity, appeals to and accepts Nestorianism. He begins by saying that the crucifixion can only be meaningful in regard to the human nature, yet in the next sentence he states that Paul teaches that the crucifixion is of the person of Christ, the person with two natures. Such a level of confusion and contradiction is rampant throughout Trinitarian teachings. I have previously written about another Trinitarian book that sought to explain the Trinity, which you can read here.

It is interesting that John 14:26 claims that the Spirit would come to explain all things necessary for salvation and to make these things easy to understand, yet all Trinitarians would gladly proclaim that the Trinity is a divine mystery which cannot be understood and that the communication between the two natures (communicatio idiomatum) is a divine mystery. Surely then, the Trinity is not a doctrine of God, and it is something that both Christian scholars and laymen alike, find extreme difficulty in accepting and believing, and it is unfortunate that while they condemn Nestorianism as a heresy, they openly appeal to it in trying to explain Trinitarianism.

and Allah knows best.