Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Flirting with flavors of Nestorianism....

The Internet Classical Theists have been focusing their attention on trying to "maximize" the divinity of Christ. It is of course true that Jesus in his incarnate state continue to possess all the attributes of deity, possessing his full divine nature (contra kenoticism). But we know that Jesus did not always "act divine" and therefore in those many times throughout his 33 years on earth, at those instances he had set aside the use of his divine attributes. For example, it is inconceivable for Jesus to "act divine" while dying on the Cross, for immortality is a divine attribute. This idea that Jesus set aside the use of certain divine attributes from time to time during his incarnation is basic evangelical teaching about the incarnation, for if Jesus had it, and it was not expressed, it was not used.

Classical Theists however are not happpy with this teaching. They insist that Jesus as God always have these divine attributes. Most certainly, none of us will disagree with what they say, on the surface. But, at least for one such proponent, he states that for Jesus to not use his divine attributes is to have it go "from actuality into potentiality." I must say that is a very bizzare way of inserting Aristotelian metaphysics into Scripture, as if use or disuse has any correlation with actuality and potentiality in God, noting especially that everyone agrees that the incarnate state is something unique to the Son, not to the entire Godhead. More generally, there is a pushback against any supposed limits on the divine nature. Jesus according to these internet classical theists must express his divine nature all the time, while expressing the human nature also.

All of this comes to a head in the interpretation of Mark 13:32. When Jesus expressed his ignorance of future times, was he doing so out of his human nature? In a sense, everyone agrees that this was done according to the human nature. But the internet classical theists seem to think that Jesus was simultaneously knowing the future times "according to the divinity" even as he denied it in his mouth "according to his humanity." However, if one holds that Jesus is one person, we have a problem. Natures are not persons. Therefore, by definition, natures cannot do, act, or think. So if Jesus "according to his divinity" knows the future times while "according to his humanity" does not know the future times, the natures seem to acquire quasi-personal qualities. One can perhaps claim that Jesus both know and does not know in his one person, that natures do not truly know anything, but unless one is stating that as an indicative of split personality, that is a blatant contradiction. One's mental state cannot be both knowing and not knowing of the same thing at the same time, for such violates the law of non-contradiction.

It is in this light that the classical theists' strong assertions that seem to separate the divine nature and the human nature begin to acquire flavors of Nestorianism. Nestorianism (whether Nestorius actually believed it is irrelevant here) is the teaching that Jesus Christ is two persons: one divine, one human. In Nestorianism, because Jesus is two persons, one can easily do what Josh Sommers has done and clearly demarcate "the Son qua God" and "the Son qua Man." The Nestorian does not have to be concerned if the two natures are doing different things and thinking different thoughts even, for they are two natures of the two persons. This is not to say that the internet classical theists are Nestorians, only that what they are saying seems to be flirting with Nestorianism.

A solution that has been floated is the ideat that Jesus has two minds. But in response, how does that not look like split personality disorder? How do the two minds work together in the one person if they are thinking different things? Lastly, since minds are properties of persons, how does that not ultimately lead back to Nestorianism? I do not believe that this works either, and therefore the internet classical theists seem to be in a pickle: Either they can embrace Nestorianism, or claim paradox in their system without providing an explanation for the paradox. Perhaps there is some other way for them to proceed, but I do not see it.

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