Saturday, April 13, 2019

Abortion Law should be compassionate

Saturday morning I opened my email to find this notification:



I don’t do Social Media from 12am Saturday to 12am Monday so I’m not sure what this is in reponse to, and honestly it doesn’t matter. I probably won’t be interacting with this person much further. I don’t usually go past the first page of notifications, which is why I suggest people DM me if they actually need to get my attention. 

But this comment was almost certainly in response to something I posted or commented on Abortion. And as far as I can tell my thoughts on Abortion are not very appreciated by either side of the issue on Facebook, except for the people who actually know me and understand why I hold to my views. But “questions” like the one above represent how misguided the abolitionist cause has become in this country. That question, taken in its context, represents a refusal to learn from history. A refusal of Conservative (not Republican but true Conservative) wisdom. In other words the abolitionists are often indistinguishable from the pro abortion side in method and thinking.

The fundamental difference between left and right (philosophically speaking, do not read just DNC vs GOP) is that leftism is about socially engineered equality and the right is about organic natural harmony. Abortion is clearly compatible with leftism but not the right, but abolitionism has also always been a phenomenon of the left. Because leftism equates morality with law. Civil rights just are natural rights for the left. But the right recognizes that natural rights aren’t equivalent to human laws. This is why leftism struggles so much with the Old Testament. It either must embrace its ethics or reject them. This is seen on full display during the lead up to the US Civil War, see Mark Knoll’s “Civil War as a Theological Crisis”. But the right recognizes that what Paul argued in Galatians is always true: human law is a tutor not something real or absolute in itself. 

And yes the Torah came from God but as a tutor not as absolute morality. Much could be said about this but suffice it to say that if the Torah was a complete moral guide in itself then it could not accomplish the task it is designed for: holiness and unity with God. It’s purpose was in shaping the soul of Israel not concretizing its culture. If it’s merely a list of dos and donts then Holiness is not particularly difficult to acquire or particularly virtuous. The goal of the Torah is flourishing. Psalm 119 could be pointed to by anyone who wants to claim that it is the morality of the Torah that makes it beautiful but this is a mistake. The Psalmist has seen the goodness of God’s wisdom revealed in the guidelines and guidance of the Torah. He sees that it’s outcomes are excellent and a guard against foolishness. In other words the example of the Torah is that laws are judged by their outcomes not their strictness. 

And this is what the abolitionist misunderstands when they ask simple questions seeking simple answers. “Is murder wrong” is the equivalent of asking “Is a wrong thing wrong?” Murder means the wrongful, intentional, taking of a human life. In other words this person has answered their own question. And to them it’s obvious that this means human law must punish anyone connected to an abortion. 

But the recognition that abortion is a form of murder tells us nothing about what should be done legally. Especially in a society where it is already a legal form of murder. Because despite the caricature many on the pro life side paint the pro abortion lobby isn’t motivated by hatred, which is the real cause and sin of murder. These people don’t hate babies or wake up every day trying to think of how they can mutilate them. That’s Kermit Gosnell, that’s not every pro abortion person out there. And while I agree that the principalities of darkness are the true agents of change behind western abortion practice, and that their motivations clearly are based in hatred, Paul makes clear that this spiritual struggle isn’t against flesh and blood. Just as “the first Whig was the devil” so the first true leftism was the radical revolution in heaven. 

Planned Parenthood especially is extremely misguided about the purpose of human life itself. They have become wrapped up in a technocratic leftist worldview. They are driven by corporate greed and power. PP isn’t evil because they hate babies, PP is evil because they are trying to change human nature. They are trying to master and alter human teleology. Unborn (and sometimes just born) babies are the casualties in their war against God and the natural harmony of his creation. And to top it all off they’ve figured out a way to monetize this horrible enterprise. 

The real problem with abortion isn’t murder, it’s that it creates a disordered society through empowering the belief that human autonomy and equality are the highest goods. Abortion on demand is the outcome of bad philosophy that has become ubiquitous in the west. Just calling it murder ignores the real problem in this society: an unconverted heart that equates freedom with the gospel. Jesus didn’t come to set sinners free for freedom’s sake. He wasn’t the forerunner to the enlightenment. He came to set us free from slavery in one kingdom so that we could be flourishing servants in another. Making the argument into a rights of the unborn vs the rights of women just plays further into this heterodox worldview. It isn’t about equality of rights, it’s about what is right. If it was merely a debate over rights then there is a technological solution: the end of pregnancy. Ending the relationship between sex and pregnancy, which is far less crazy today than it was when CS Lewis first wrote about in “The Abolition of Man”, will end the rights debate between baby and mom. 

This is exactly why the first version of American Abolitionism failed. It equated freedom with the Gospel. But the real problem with American slavery was that it was racist. And racism can only truly be cured with the gospel. Instead these United States fought a war that perpetuated that racism for another 100 years and eventually led to the bizarre identity politics of today. In 1865 Orestes Bronson saw that “the the Union victory will…be interpreted as a victory in the interest of humanitarian democracy.” 

Humanitarian democracy sounds nice but it’s a deeply anti Conservative philosophy. It’s essentially equatable to everything the contemporary American left stands for. And it is this tradition that the abolitionist embraces through what Brownson identified as the Lockean “sacred right of revolution”. This is completely antithetical to Conservativism and Christianity. 

So then how should we approach abortion? The antebellum abolitionist method didn’t work. It was couched in post millennialism that led to anti catholic bigotry which eventually morphed into the liberal anti religious bigotry we see today. The Republican Party of Lincoln’s day equated slavery and Catholicism as the twin despotisms that the nation needed to purify itself from, see David Goldfield’s “America Aflame . America is not the Kingdom of God. It does not need to be purified. It can’t be purified in the way the abolitionists wanted. 

But YOU can be purified. And so can your particular gathering of Jesus disciples. Beyond that you have no control or influence. Moral proximity is what matters for the Christian and the Conservative. The Good Samaritan saw what was right in front of him and took care of it. Jesus healed those who were brought to him. If we are active in our communities through faith there will be things to do. And it’s obvious that moral proximity has been expanded by technology so it isn’t always as obvious what our true responsibilities are.

But what is obvious, what is necessarily true, is that the unborn belong to God. Every single one of them. He knows them, he holds them, and he loves them more than any of us ever could. We do what we can but abolition is not our God. This is why the abolitionist movements are always inherently disordered. They worship abolition. 

The Facebook post that started this essay was probably a response to Jeff Leach’s killing of the recent Texas abortion bill. This bill would have been an attempt to nullify Federal “law” regarding abortion. That in itself makes it important because nullification is supposed to be one of the ways the States can check the Federal government. Most people think that the south tried to practice nullification but that’s false, see Thomas E. Woods’ “Nullification”. The anti slave states tried to nullify slavery through not observing the fugitive slave laws that required the free states to return the slaves. This was tyrannical and violated the free exercise clause of the first amendment. By siding with the so called “property” rights of the slave owners the Federal government violated the freedom of conscience for the free states. 

Therefore nullification is relevant to almost every culture war issue of our time. If the states had more autonomy there would be more cultural harmony over issues like gay marriage and abortion. But when the Supreme Court can simply inviolate any law passed by a state and the states have no check on the Federal government there is no ability for genuine communities to govern themselves.

I don’t know all the ins and outs of this failed Texas abortion bill but I haven’t seen much serious analysis from people on Facebook besides calling for Leach’s head on a platter, mostly metaphorical. If we try to take his actions in good faith then it seems as if Leach is uncomfortable with the bill’s insistence that mothers who seek abortions be punished. He hasn’t done a good job explaining himself but my guess is his thinking on this issue plays out similarly to the war on drugs, or prostitution. 

Generally we have punished people who seek out prostitution, or make the practice possible, but not the prostitutes themselves. And many think that this should have been the same approach to the war on drugs. Again I’m not an expert but the logic is that by criminalizing the whole process we make it harder to stop. Because the addicts stay addicts and by essentially criminalizing addiction we prevented them from becoming allies to help the authorities bust sellers. 

Apparently this approach didn’t work with the underage sex trade. It wasn’t until the people who sought out underage porn were also criminalized that anything was really accomplished. 

The upshot is that these issues are complicated. If abortion is made illegal in Texas there will be a massive fight probably ending at the US Supreme Court and in all likelihood it won’t end the way we want it to. Ironically enough because of Brett Kavanaugh. So the question becomes why punish the mothers? 

If it’s as a deterrent will it really be more effective than simply making abortion illegal? Maybe. But if the price for that possibility is that the law doesn’t get passed at all then clearly it’s not worth it. 

Making abortion, the way it’s currently practiced, illegal should be the goal. And I see no advantage to punishing the mothers. Grief sticken women who have procured an abortion will have no motivation to come forward or testify against the illegal abortionists. And there’s simply no way that this part of the law will make it easier to pass or withstand the scrutiny of the courts, which is surely its destiny. 

True justice will only come from God, and no one will escape it. If the mothers need to be punished God will do so, and has already done so in the sacrifice of his son. This is why the Christian should never approach legal questions with “justice anxiety”. When humans try to accomplish justice through punishment they rarely accomplish anything. Punishing the abortionists should be enough. Our approach to human law is always to assume the worst, to try to figure out what the unintended consequences of a law might be. The desire to punish mothers seems like it is pregnant with problems. 

Abortion law as practiced prior to the radical revolution of Roe v Wade was based in compassion. Many on the pro life side are not motivated by compassion and virtuous societal shaping. Instead they are out for blood, seeking a French Revolution or Nuremberg style redress of wrongs. So many babies have been lost in this culture war and the desire for retribution is understandable. But wise victors are generous towards a defeated foe. It was this lack of magnamity after WWI that directly led to WWII and far greater evils. But we aren’t “victors” yet and imposing unnecessarily harsh conditions preemptively simply prolongs the culture war unnecessarily. 

The situation can always get worse. We are not nearly pessisimitic enough about the left’s dedication to their dogma of abortion rights. We must be guided by the hope that God is always in control and the problems of each age exist so that the Church can fulfill its destiny of trampling over the gates of hell. But this looks different with every problem and every generation. And we cannot trample those gates if we embrace the methods of the kingdom they guard. We do not fight fire with fire. We fight fire with water. The waters of baptism and the waters that baptize our eyes when we witness injustice should guide us towards true peace.

Peace in the womb cannot be accomplished without peace in ourselves. God is in charge. Not the president, not the congress, not the courts. We always work for what we know is right but if we do this without wisdom and love our causes are lost before they begin. 


Friday, April 12, 2019

Paul Moser & “Conservatism”

Dr. Paul Moser is a well respected Christian Philosopher and Scholar. He’s written numerous books. Unfortunately he’s fallen prey to the popular caricature of Conservatism that befuddles so many these days. We had a brief interchange on Facebook that sadly revealed his ignorance of The Great Tradition.

Here is the interchange:





Lots could be said here, but not much will be because Moser simply needs to read some real Conservativism. Sometimes we must reproach our betters, and Dr. Moser is certainly my better by a long shot and I will deal with his 4 “points” as briefly as possible. 

1. Conservativism is supposed to be a “wax nose” in that it is by definition pliable and adaptable. This is a common claim made against us by Libertarians especially. And no real Conversative denies that our tradition is hard to define, because it isn’t an ideology. Conservativism is a practice that is accidentally  political. But as Sir Roger Scruton says it begins with Love. The Conservative has found something to love and seeks to Conserve it. As Edmund Burke made clear Conservation requires reform and reform requires an object worth conserving. This will look different in different times because the needs of society change. Conservatism is the virtuous managing on change, which is why Burke was so opposed to the French Revolution but not the American. 

2. The Republican Party is a hurdle to the Federal deficit. The classic Reagan formulation was that by lowering taxes on the rich the government would have access to more money over all. I’m not an expert on this but I believe the math actually works. But part of the problem is that while Reagan was able to roll back the massive progressive tax rates no one has been able to do anything to rollback entitlements. Once  government grants an entitlement, especially in a democracy, there is virtually no way to get ride of it. Professional politicians in a broad democracy, especially one with universal suffrage, have no incentive to act as Burkean Trustees and essentially act as mere delegates for the people. Ironically this means that democracy is robbed of representation because only the winning votes are rerpresented. This tyranny of democracy reifies Rousseau and allows the people to rob themselves of leadership. This is why Conservatives are almost universally in favor of repealing the 17th amendment, which changed the election of US senators from state parliaments to a popular vote within each state. Term limits would help with this as well. But none of this has happened yet, so entitlements remain and the GOP almost always cuts taxes. This is a major cause of the ever increasing deficit. 

3. “Unbridled human freedom in politics and commerce” is an interesting way to describe The Great Tradition of Conservatism. Sir Roger Scruton founded The Salisbury Review in part because of Maggie Thatcher’s rise to Prime Minister. Because Thatcher and Reagan represent not so much the victory of genuine conservatism as much as the victory of F.A. Hayek’s classic “The Road to Serfdom.” Hayek infamously wrote an essay entitled “Why I am not a Conservative.” The truth about Hayek is much more complicated, and I honestly believe he is fundamentally an integral part of The GreatTradition, but he was the prime intellectual influence on both the “Reagan Revolution” and Thatcherism. And both those movements have more to do with the defeat of 20th century totalitarianism than Conservatism qua Conservatism. Indeed as Scruton has pointed out, on numerous occasions, the identification of Conservatism’s raison d’etre with freedom is a mistake. Classical Liberalism and Conservatism are deeply intertwined but not in the way that most think. Liberal education is an achievement of a society, not its basis, which is why the Liberal arts are contrasted with the Servile arts.  Barring some Star Trekish robotics revolution the Servile arts, like farming, will always be necessary. The Liberal arts are not necessary. They are engaged with by access to leisure not necessity. But more importantly the Conservative recognizes that freedom, while a good thing and a societal achievement to be treasured, is deeply dangerous. Os Guinness’ golden triangle of freedom is instructive here. Free societies are rare because genuine freedom requires both Faith and Virtue. When faith and virtue come together, as they so beautifully did in Tocquevillian America, people can be truly free. Not free in the sense of Rousseian internal identity, well described by Francis Fukuyama in last year’s excellent “Identity”, being expressed, but free to do what we truly ought to do. But freedom always eventually corrodes either Faith or Virtue. This is why Marx was right to conclude that Capitalism sowed the seeds of its own destruction. But his reasons for thinking so were wrong. In fact Marx had almost too high a view of capitalism and what it could accomplish, since it created the Proletariat and they would eventually displace the Bourgeoisie through the dialectic of history. Josef Schumpeter was the brilliant economist who rightly identified why capitalism was not sustainable, partially through his concept of creative destruction, but also because capitalism undermines the very things that made it possible in the first place. Namely the Faith and Virtue that lead to freedom and capitalism. Capitalism is clearly a good thing, it alleviates poverty, improves medical care, science etc. But all these things come with a cost. The less we have to rely on Faith and Virtue the less we need them. And so these things atrophy, which is why I am essentially a BenOp guy. And when faith and virtue disappear so does freedom. Tim Carney’s “Aliented America” perfectly encapsulates both the US failure to actually fight for truly free markets but more importantly what happens when Faith and Virtue are dissolved by focusing only on freedom. But last year’s “Why Liberalism failed” by Patrick Deneen makes the case even more concretely that freedom itself cannot be the goal or the method of the Conservative. Freedom is an outcome, not a philosophy. 

4. As I said in 1 Conservativism isn’t an ideology, and it’s ironic that Moser accused it of being amorphous and an ideology! I think it’s clear that he probably doesn’t know what he’s talking about. So I will end this post with a short reading list, of mostly short books, so that he can learn what Conservatism actually is and is not. 

1. Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition by Sir Roger Scruton 

2. How to be a Conservative by Sir Roger Scruton 

3. How to think Seriously about the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservativism by Sir Roger Scruton (anything by Scruton is great)

4. The Wise Men know what Wicked things are Written on the Sky by Russell Kirk (anything by Kirk really)

5. A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future by Os Guinness 

6. Obamanomcis: How Barack Obama is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses by Tim Carney (this book goes after the GOP just as much as the DNC) 

7. The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis (hopefully just needs to be reread) 

And whenever I finally finish my book on Conservatism (Lord Willing) maybe he’ll read that, because maybe (Lord Willing) it will be worth reading. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The New Worlders Episode 4

The fourth, and longest, episode of The New Worlders is up!

Check it out here for Anchor

And here for iTunes

Leave us a rating and a review and share this podcast with everyone you know! Especially if they're Conservatives.

AK47 Season 2 Episode 17

This episode was a long conversation with my new friend Mike! He's from Florida and likes Cigars but that's all we're going to reveal at this point! Very mysterious...maybe he's just a smoky Alligator?

In any case we discuss philosophy of religion, Buddhism, and a bunch of other stuff!

You can find the podcast Anchor

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Remember to leave us a rating an a review! Thank you to the few of you who recently rated us on iTunes, its very appreciated. 

The Two Wills of Christ

(A recent Facebook conversation about William Lane Craig's Heterodox Christology brought this to mind. This is a paper I wrote during seminary. It is highly academic but since I am not a specialist it should be comprehensible and hopefully informative for anyone interested in Christology and Christian theology in general.) 
Christology is a complicated topic. There were seven councils dealing directly with Christology which are recognized as ecumenical. The theology of the later three is infallible for Rome or Constantinople/Moscow, but amongst Protestants it has differing reputations.1 This section will be irenic and not polemical. I am dealing with the sixth of these great councils, also known as the Third Council of Constantinople (ad 680-681). I will describe what the council actually said about the nature of the incarnation. Then I will explain the heresy of monothelitism which was the occasion for holding the council. Then I will explicate dyothelitism, and to a lesser extent dyoenergism, which were the dogmas established by the council.2
I. The Acts of Constantinople III
Any discussion of a church council should involve what was decided at the council in the very words of those present. There seem to be two things of primary importance stated directly in The Acts of the 6th Ecumenical Council (ad 680-681): the naming of heretical teachers and the true teaching of the church that Christ possesses two wills and two energies. The council clearly declares that monothelitism and monoenergism are heresy and undoubtedly affirms that dyothelitism and dyoenergism are orthodoxy.3 Then it goes on to posthumously anathematize several church teachers, the most important being Pope Honorius I (ad 625-638), who reputedly taught this doctrine.4 While every council is complicated, reading the acts of Constantinople III gives one the impression that the issue is very simple. Christ has two wills and that as they say is that. Of course almost nothing in connection with Jesus Christ is that simple. There are many layers and complicated issues within the theology of this great council. One of the most vexing for the Roman Catholic tradition is the unchallenged and unqualified condemnation of a Petrine Bishop “who in everything agreed with them [heretics].”5 But first we need to understand the preceding theological developments and problems which led the church to this point.
II. Monothelitism
This ecumenical gathering, just as each previous council, did more than affirm mere metaphysics. The fathers at Constantinople III had soteriological dogma in mind.6 The issue of Christ having one or two wills seems very esoteric given the theological challenges of 21st century Christendom. But to these bishops and teachers of the church it was like asking the question: are humans really and truly saved by Jesus Christ? The defenders of monothelitism were under the impression that to affirm dyothelitism was to affirm Nestorianism and therefore to separate God and man in Christ to the point of unraveling the salvific work of the Hypostatic Union.7 The historic concern of the monothelite tradition was to maintain the synthesis of Cyril Patriarch of Alexandria (ad 412-444) who affirmed the unity of the incarnation in the person of Christ. Cyril’s theology prevailed at the council of Ephesus over the teachings of Nestorius by preserving “the deep substantial nature of the conjunction of God and man in Christ.”8 But in spite of his success, Cyril’s terminology could be confusing or ambiguous, specifically his use of the phrase “one incarnate nature.”9 But this phrase was not alone. The monothelite heresy which followed claimed the central tenets of Cyrillian Orthodox Christology as its foundation.10
“The doctrinal edifice of Monoenergism was built upon three pillars: first, the recognition of the Cyrilline doctrine of ‘one incarnate nature of God the Word’; second an acceptance of the theopaschite formula, that is, the statement that ‘one of the Trinity suffered in the flesh’; and finally, the ps.-Dionysian affirmation of ‘a new (or ‘single’) theandric activity’ in Christ after the union. Both the statements of Cyril and ps.-Dionysius the Aeropagite seemed, on a superficial reading, to endorse the existence of a single activity in Christ.”11
This quotation shows the deep interconnectedness of Christology and soteriology. Each of the theological principles listed is primarily soteriological. “One incarnate nature” was Cyril’s way of emphasizing the deification of man through Christ.12 It was not a reference to one nature after the Hypostatic Union, an explicitly Eutychian idea, but the belief that “very God of very God” became incarnate. The divine nature was united to the human nature through Christ. And the same logic can be applied to both the theopaschite formula and talk of a theandric will. Because Christ is truly God and Christ has died therefore God has died. But that is not to say that God the Father or the divine essence were crucified. And a theandric will was simply a deified human will. So Christ would still be dyophysite and dyothelite but his human will is deified. Still it is not hard to see how the monophysite confusions were made consistently, or how indebted genuine Christian soteriology truly is to Cyril.13
But the irony of Constantinople III is that both the dyophysite Nestorians and monophysite Eutychians were monothelites.14 In the case of both they were under the impression that to have one will and energy was to preserve the union of natures.15 For the Monophysites this followed from their insistence on one nature, for their reading of Cyril was such that the one incarnate nature actually meant a new combined divine-human nature.16And for them the concept of a theandric will meant a God-human composite will, not a deified will.
The reasons for Nestorian monothelitism are far more ambiguous and complicated. Their main motivation came from the Nestorian desire to affirm one prosopon.17 But the fullest definition of Nestorianism is something more akin to one prosopon and two hypostases which is why the Nestorian heresy is usually described as belief in two persons in the incarnation due to the historical ambiguities between those Greek words, and how prosopon and hypostasis became synonyms eventually. Nestorianism recognizes, along with all other Christians, that there must be a unity to the incarnation of some kind but that there must be a genuine duality as well. But rather than the duality merely being emphasized the duality came to be understood as two complete or independent dualities united by a prosopon, but the prosopon in question is not God the Son or even Jesus Christ but the conjunction of God the Son with Jesus Christ in two complete hypostases. 18 This is why Nestorius denied the term Theotokos as the virgin Mary’s liturgical title and opted for Christotokos instead and why he also denied the theopaschite formula. The human nature of Christ could not experience divinity and the divine nature of God the Son could not experience humanity so the prosoponic unity of these two independent natures must have been a unity of action or willing. And since willing seems intuitively to be personal as opposed to natural both the Eutychians and the Nestorians placed will in the person rather than nature.19 Here it is important to note Pope Leo’s (ad 391?-461) contribution to the discussion.
Since Leo’s Tome is an official part of the acts of the council of Chalcedon, all Christians who commit themselves to the binding teaching authority of Chalcedon are committed to Leo’s Tome as well.20 This is interesting because the Eastern Church will often remark that the Tome has problems, namely that it flirts with Nestorianism at worst and is ambiguous at best; even though they know it must be orthodox.21 In any case Pelikan shows that Leo’s phrasing of the natures doing things was essential for defeating monothelitism and paving the way for Constantinople III. As I’ve already admitted it seems appropriate to make “actions” or willing belong to person and not nature but the Christological problems with this intuition were at the center of the theology of the sixth council. According to Pelikan both heretical groups sought to reinterpret Leo’s language, in fact they completely altered it.22 They tried to read a single subject of action into the actions being performed.23 Leo’s theology was universally hated outside the churches that wanted to follow Chalcedon consistently.24
The actual phrasing that caused this trouble for the heretics was Leo’s claim that each “form” does the acts which belong to it.25 Pelikan explains:
“Without any change in the spelling of the Latin and with at most a very slight change in the spelling of the Greek, Leo’s formula could be read to say that the incarnate Logos ‘does, by means of each form, the acts that belong to it, in communion with the other,’ with the word “form” now in the ablative or instrumental dative. This was the interpretation of Leo set forth by Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople, an advocate of ‘one action.’ Yet if our transmitted texts are reliable, he elsewhere quoted the same passage correctly, ascribing the acting to each of the natures rather than to the single hypostasis of the Logos.”26
This issue is not an irrelevant vestige of Chalcedon because Constantinople III directly cites Leo’s Tome as its proof and basis for dyoenergism. The exact passage is quoted that the heretics tried to manipulate as evidence for their view.27 The significance of this point cannot be overstated for Constantinople III. A direct connection to Pope Leo I showing that Christ had two wills means that dyothelitism was self-consciously in step with Chalcedonian dogma. Regardless of intuitional problems there is no great difficulty in seeing how a will could be proper to nature and not person.28 It would be like a metaphysical appendage, just as legs or lungs are something a body has but do not themselves make up a physical body. A will is something that can be accessed and utilized but it is not the center of action or more importantly agency. In other words a person uses a will, but persons perform determinative and deliberative actions and the will is where those decisions are actualized. That is why we tend to think of and call ourselves agents or centers of action. So if anything were to be located in Christ’s person it would seem to be action. But Leo’s language prevents this conclusion! He has located action as well as will in each nature, because the natures are actually doing something not merely being utilized by the Hypostasis. Like my legs deciding to walk rather than my use of my legs to walk. If this is an accurate description of Leo’s theology then it would appear to be wholly unorthodox because of the conciliar distinction between person and nature, and seemingly lead to Nestorianism.29 Yet the theology of Chalcedon and Constantinople III, two anti-Nestorian councils, rests on Leo’s theology. It is therefore probable that agency and action are in fact different for conciliar Christology. Also the council of Chalcedon and Leo’s theology has to be read and understood in light of Cyril’s theology. For as Fairbairn argues Chalcedon was not a compromise between Cyril and Nestorius but was in fact a defense of Cyril’s theology.30 All of this makes a Nestorian interpretation of Leo, and therefore dyothelitism, highly incredulous.
III. Dyothelitism
According to O’Collins, “at the level of Christs will and ‘natural’ activities, the Council upheld the Chalcedonian balance between a ‘Nestorian’ separation and a ‘Eutychian’ blending.”31 And clearly it was necessary for this clarification to take place because the heresy in question was not as gross or violent as Apollinarism or Arianism. It was and remains a subtler falsehood. This is evidenced by its widespread speculation in the orthodox churches.32 After Chalcedon it was clear to most of the church that Christ must have two natures. But was “will” proper to “nature?” This is why Collins says that it is a soteriological question.33 If the unassumed is the unhealed and part of human nature is a human will then Christ must have one if we are to be saved.
The concept of operation/activity or energy is less clear in the theological texts I have surveyed.34 But as has been shown it was important to Constantinople III, and apparently Pope Leo I. According to Pelikan, dyoenergism was a clear derivation from dyothelitism, which is strange considering two things. First, it is clearly an Aristotelian concept rather than a Biblical one.35 Second, if “action” comes after “willing” then why was there so much controversy over it being located in the person of Christ?36 In any case dyoenergism was seen as following from dyothelitism.
Conciliar Christology was defined by many things, but probably the most important of these was the principle of the unassumed being unhealed. So the sixth council affirms that Christ had to have two wills: one will shared with the other members of the trinity, and one will shared with human nature. The reason for this is quite simply that only God can save and in order for God to save something he must connect it to himself. That is essentially the first three councils in a nutshell. The argument against Arius:
  1. Only God could save us
  2. Christ has saved us
  3. Therefore he must be God.
And contra Apolinarius human nature can’t be healed unless all of it is healed, Christ has perfectly healed us therefore Apolinarius was wrong. So Christ must be fully God and fully man as explained at Chalcedon. The Sixth council was really about how God saves us by giving further clarification to the fourth ecumenical council. There are still questions which need to be answered and puzzles that need to be solved, but it seems clear that the council thought of itself as merely a continuation of the previous five ecumenical decisions, which includes the theologies of Cyril and Leo. Right or wrong Constantinople III thought it was representing the continual and unified soteriology and Christology of the Chalcedonian church. And so if the theologians of this council were correct then the current Neo-monoenergism is in serious trouble.
1 Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy but this is also true of some Anglicans and Lutherans.
2 For much of this paper dyothelitism and dyoenergism as well as monothelitism and monoenergism will simply be equated with each other. The distinction between them is important and will be discussed but generally speaking they are so closely related as to be undifferentiated, at least from a historical Nicene perspective.
3Schaff, Philip and Henry Wace, eds., The Seven Ecumenical Councils, vol. 14 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 342.
4Schaff and Wace, eds., The Seven Ecumenical Councils, 343. See also Leo Donald Davis, The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787) Their History and Theology (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1990), 282.
5 Schaff and Wace, eds., The Seven Ecumenical Councils, 352.
6 Gerald O’Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 197.
7 Davis, The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787) Their History and Theology, 280. This also seems to be the primary concern of Neo-monoenergism, which means that it is properly motivated even if ultimately wrong.
8 Aloys Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition (vol. 1): From the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon (451), 2nd rev. ed., trans. John Bowden (Atlanta: John Knox, 1975), 477.
9Andrew Louth, trans., The Early Church Fathers: Maximus the Confessor (London: Routledge, 1996), 9.
10And as we shall see later even earlier fathers whose theological arguments were entrenched in related but different issues. Nicene theology in the seven councils is a gradual unfolding and reestablishing of essentially the same theology in light of different problems. Lack of clarity in otherwise unquestionably Nicene fathers led to many of the heresies in question.
11Allen, Pauline and Bronwen Neil, eds., Maximus the Confessor and his Companions: Documents from Exile(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 3.
12Daniel Clendenin, Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003), 128.
13Demetrios Bathrellos, The Byzantine Christ: Person, Nature, and Will in the Christology of St. Maximus the Confessor, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 24-27.
14 Jaroslav Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700), vol. 2 of The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), 64.
15 Sergius Bulgakov, The Lamb of God, trans. Boris Jakim (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 75.
16 Allen and Neil, Maximus the Confessor and his Companions, 4.
17 O’Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus, 186.
18 Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition (vol. 1), 505-507. It should become clear later how this has impacted both Medieval, Reformed, and Neo-Monoenergist Christology. It is also possible to formulate Nestorianism in modern terms as a divine person and a human person coming together to form a new divine-human person. This sort of confusing language or unclear thinking can be found even in such a venerable document as the Westminster Confession where in Chapter VIII, article VII it says: “Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures; by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes, in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.” The problem does not lie in the two natures acting but of a seeming multiplicity of persons. As we will see shortly the two natures of Christ doing things is actually a mark of Chalcedonian orthodoxy against Nestorianism.
19 It is hard to see how the Eutychians did this. My conclusion is that they considered the will to be personal and hypostatic is due to the fact that they still maintain distinctions between the Father and the Son. So unless the Father is incarnated along with the Son they have to be monothelites. Of course this is part of the problem with Eutychian theology, even understood in its nuanced miaphysite formula, there seems to be confusion not just of the two natures in Christ but of what the incarnation actually consisted. Are the Father and Spirit just as equally incarnated as the Son? Does the divine nature die along with Christ on the cross? It has the exact opposite problems of the Nestorian ambiguities.
20 Teaching authority and simple intellectual adherence are completely different. The Neo-Monoenergists are generally not committed to the teaching authority of Chalcedon or Nicaea but they still wish to be Chalcedonian broadly.
21 This is an observation from my personal interaction with the Eastern Tradition. And the kickback against the Pope in question has more to do with Roman Catholic apologetics than it does with the East’s acceptance of Leo’s Tome. As we will see Leo is a fundamental pillar within the Eastern theological system, but while his Christology is clear and systematic they think that Cyril’s theology is clearer in terms of soteriology. This is probably true but shows how indispensable a multiplicity of teachers within the church has always been. Because where Cyril is ambiguous Leo is not and vice versa. Where Leo could be misinterpreted Cyril could not.
22 Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom, 65.
23 Allen and Neil, 10.
24 Bathrellos, The Byzantine Christ, 32.
25 Schaff and Wace, eds., The Seven Ecumenical Councils, 256.
26 Pelikan, 65.
27 Schaff and Wace, eds., The Seven Ecumenical Councils, 342.
28 It is difficult for many current evangelicals, which is the basis of the occasion for the writing of this paper. It is not difficult for many other Christians, myself included, to think that will is natural rather than personal. I think my claim is substantiated by the fact that most Christians throughout history have been dyothelites, and so if they are/were wrong then it was/is an easy mistake to make.
29Bathrellos, 37. A better or more appropriate analogy than legs deciding to walk would be stubbing a toe while walking. Your leg is going to respond to that stimulus, it is going to do something: react to the pain. And so in the case of Jesus it could be that his nature’s doings are these sorts of things. He receives pain from his human nature, etc.
30Sanders, Fred and Klaus Issler, eds., Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2007), 82.
31O’Collins, 197. This is not a compromise position as much as it is an understanding of what the heretics were right about. For as I have tried to demonstrate Cyril and Leo are neither Eutychian nor Nestorian.
32Pelikan, 62.
33O’Collins, 197.
34Bulgakov seems to agree. The Lamb of God, 75.
35 This point is minor but usually extra biblical words like trinity or homoousios are used to defend what seem to be clearly biblical ideas or concepts, especially in the conciliar debates. But in this case it seems that what was generally understood by energia had to do directly with Aristotelian philosophy.
36 Pelikan, 63. Bulgakov disagrees that it was connected to Aristotle’s use of activity or energy, but David Bradshaw has argued a whole book opposing this point and Barthellos (cited above) agrees with Bradshaw. See David Bradshaw, Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).