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August 16, 2005

Ch. XVII. Q. 106. The Distinctness of Natures

THAT THE Godhead and the Manhood retain their respective and proper attributes and functions in the Word-incarnate, without either essential alteration or mutual interference, is as vital to the mediatorial significance of the Incarnation as is their hypostatic union in Jesus Christ.1

2. The following conceptions are erroneous: (a) of an absorption and obliteration of the human and of its limitations in and by the divine; 2 (b) of a conversion or reduction of the divine by the human; 3 (c) of an essential similarity between the divine and the human, such as identifies the divinity of Christ with the perfection of His Manhood; 4 (d) of a commixture of Godhead and Manhood in one theandric nature and mode of operation, neither truly divine nor completely human.

3. These errors are branches of monophysitism, μόνος-φύσις, and are either directly or by necessary implication excluded by the decree of faith of Chalcedon, and, more largely, by the Tome of St. Leo accepted by the fourth Council, which declared that there is to be acknowledged "one and the same Christ without mixture, change, division or separation; the Only begotten, in two natures, the difference of natures not being removed by their union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved and concurring in one Person and one Hypostasis."5 And as St. Leo says, "Each of the two forms" (natures) "does, in communion with the other, that which is proper to it."6

4. The sixth Ecumenical Council completed the work of affirming the distinction of natures, in dealing with the monothelite error, that there is but one will and operation in Christ, called "theandric." Citing the phrase of St. Leo, above quoted, the Council declared that "there are in Jesus Christ two natural wills and two natural operations, without separation, change, division, or confusion . . . And the two natural wills are not opposed to each other, . . . but His human will followed, and it does not resist and oppose, but rather is subject to the divine and almighty will."7

5. However difficult it may be to give a satisfactory definition of the term nature, φύσις, in ecumenical dogma, this decision enables us to perceive that such dogma draws the line of distinction between person and nature somewhat as follows. All that is proper in essence and operation to God is included in the divine nature, and all that is proper in essence and operation to man is included in the human nature. The Person of Christ, on the other hand, is the common inner Self, Ego, or Operator in and of all that is thus denoted by the respective phrases "divine nature" and "human nature." It is the inner and determining centre of the natures, not, as moderns often interpret the term, "the concrete individuality of Jesus Christ, embracing the human and divine nature in one unitary consciousness and experience."8

6. Knowledge that the union of natures in Christ does not involve any confusion between them, or essential change in either of them, serves to fortify our conviction (a) that we need not sacrifice belief in the reality of our Lord's submission to human limitations in order to retain our faith in Him as God; (b) that we need not reduce the infinitude of Godhead in ascribing it to Him whose self-manifestation was made in the terms of an uninterrupted human life and experience; 9 (c) that although the Godhead and the Manhood possess mutual affinities, and can be hypostatically united, their differences are ineradicable. Neither one can be either mixed with or converted into the other; (d) that any form of mysticism which tends to disregard this difference is pantheistic rather than Christian; (e) that a sacramental union of heavenly gifts with outward signs or creaturely elements — e.g., in the Holy Eucharist — need not involve mutual confusion between them.

1 Incarnation, ch. vi. esp. §§ 2, 5-6; St. Thomas, III. ii. 1; Rich. Hooker, Eccles. Polity, V. lii. 3-liv, 5; Bp. Pearson, Creed, fol. pp. 161-162; D. Stone, Outlines of Christ. Dogma, pp. 83-86; A.J. Mason, Faith of the Gospel, ch. v. 7-9; Archd. Wilberforce, Incarnation, pp. 132-143.

2 Eutychianism.

3 Lutheran communicatio and kenoticism.

4 Pantheistic neologism in re ὁμοούσιος.

5 Given in H.R. Percival's Seven Ecum. Councils, pp. 264-265; T.H. Bindley, Oecumenical Documents, pp. 232-233 (Greek), 297 (English).

6 Tome of St. Leo, § 4. Given in T.H. Bindley. pp.199 (Latin), 284 (English). For history, J.F. Bethune-Baker, Early Hist. of Christ. Doctr., ch. xvi; C.J. Hefele, Hist. of the Christ. Councils, vol. III, pp. 182, et seq.

7 Given by H.R. Pereival, pp. 345-346; C.J. Hefele, vol. IV. pp. 174-5, who gives full history of the controversy, pp. 1-205. Cf. Blunt, Dic. of Sects etc., s. v. "Monothelites"; Cath. Encyc. s. v. "Monothelitism."

8 Thus Baldwin, Dic. of Philos., s. v. "Person of Christ." See Trinity, ch. iii. 15; Incarnatioon, ch. ii. 8:;W. Bright, Sermons of St. Leo, nn. 56, 156; St. Thomas, III. xviii-xix. 1; A.J. Mason, ch. v. 10.

9 Cf. Q. 108, below.

Posted by AKMA at August 16, 2005 06:41 PM