Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nestorius' Complaint Against Cyril in the Aftermath of the Council of Ephesus

Cyril is therefore prosecutor and accuser, and I the defendant: is this the council that has heard and judged my words? Is it the Emperor who summoned it, if Cyril was among the judges?

Why do I say 'among the judges'? He was the whole tribunal, for whatever he said was immediately repeated by the rest, and his single personality took the place of a tribunal for them. If all judges had been assembled, and the accusers and accused set in their proper role, all would have had equal liberty of speech, instead of Cyril being everything, accuser, Emperor, and judge. He did everything with arbitrary authority, and after ousting from this authority the Emperor's emissary, set himself up in his place. He assembled those who pleased him both from far and near, and made himself the tribunal. I was summoned by Cyril, who assembled the council, by Cyril, who presided. Who was judge? Cyril! Who was accuser? Cyril!! Who was bishop of Rome? Cyril!!! Cyril was everything. Cyril was bishop of Alexandria and held the place of Coelestine, the holy and venerable bishop of Rome.

--Nestorius, The Book of Heracleides of Damascus.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Inconsistent Logic of Creationism or Why Creationism is Essentially Deistic

...At the heart of their anti-evolutionism, the creationists have hidden a stunning inconsistency in their own logic.

Consider this: Creationists would reject any notion that God is unable to act in the world today. Indeed Christianity, like Islam and traditional Judaism, regards the continued, personal activity of God to be an essential element of belief. Now, let's step back a bit and think about this.

As a matter of unshakable faith, they believe that God can act in the world at the present time. And that, presumably, He can work His will in any way He likes -- with power or with subtlety, by works of nature, or by the individual actions of His creatures. The very same people, bowing to the explanatory power of molecular biology and biochemistry, would also agree that life today can be understood as a wholly material phenomenon. None that I know of would reject the proposition that a single fertilized egg cell -- the classic specimen of developmental biology -- contains the full and complete set of instructions to transform itself into a complex multi-cellular organism. Neither would any respectable creationist challenge the assertion that every step of that developmental process is ultimately explicable in terms of the material processes of chemistry and physics. Miracles aren't required -- the complexities of molecular biology will do just fine.

This means that the biological world of today, which we can test and study, analyze and dissect, is one that works according to purely material rules. But this world is also one in which believers, as a matter of faith, accept sincerely the tenet that God can and does work His will. Obviously, they do not see any conflict in the idea that God can carry out the work He chooses to in a way that is consistent with the fully materialist view of biology that emerges from contemporary biology. Neither do I.

But there's the rub. Curiously, they somehow regard those very same mechanisms -- adequate to explain God's power in the present -- as inadequate to explain His agency in the past. For some reason, God acted in the past in ways that He does not act in the present, despite the fact that we assume in the present that he can do anything and everything. This inconsistent reasoning is at the heart of their desperation to show that evolution -- which depends on the material mechanisms of biochemistry and genetics -- could not have created the multitude of new species that have appeared throughout the geologic record of life.

Such reasoning shows a curious lack of faith in the creative power of God. Creationists act as though compelled to go into the past for evidence of God's work, yet ridicule the deistic notion of a designer-God who's been snoozing ever since His great work was finished. They want a God who is active, and active now. So does any believer. But why then are they so determined to fix in the past, in the supposed impossibility of material mechanisms to originate species, the only definitive signs of God's work? If they believe in an active and present God, a God who can work His will in the present in ways consistent with scientific materialism, then why couldn't that same God have worked His will in exactly those ways in the past?

The more sensible and self-consistent position, scientifically and theologically, would be quite different from theirs. The real, actual, working world that we see around us is one that is ruled by chemistry and physics. Life works according to its laws. If God is real, this is the world He has to work in. Therefore any effort to view God's work in light of modern science must find a way to understand how His will can be accommodated at all times, not just in some distant past.

--Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin's God (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007), 216-18.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Note to My Readers

I'm on what I hope will be a brief hiatus, perhaps for another week or so. Besides attending to a number of items that need my attention, I'm also dealing with some tough choices that will have to be made in the near future. I can't be more specific on a public blog. But I would greatly appreciate your prayers. Friends, feel free to email me.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Christological Divide that Anticipated Chalcedon, Part 3

Commissioned by Pope Celestine of Rome to prosecute the judgment of the Roman synod of 430 concerning the teachings of Nestorius, Cyril of Alexandria proceeded to write his infamous third letter to Nestorius, to which he appended twelve anathemas (see entry below). This turned out to be ill-judged, as the pope's charge did not envision a new definition of the faith, and the language of the anathemas only served to incite moderate Antiochenes against Cyril in defense of Nestorius.

Ten More Interesting Facts Concerning the Christological Divide that Anticipated Chalcedon, Part 3:

(1) Moderate Antiochene thinkers like John of Antioch, Andrew of Samosata, and Theodoret of Cyrrus were alarmed by what they perceived to be Apollinarian implications in the Cyrilline Christology.

(2) The teachings of Theodoret can be seen as representative of the mature Antiochene position at this stage of the christological divide. Avoiding the pitfalls of Nestorius' clumsy assertion of two natural prosopa united under one prosopon of identity, Theodoret asserted both the completeness and distinction of the two natures (phusis) while maintaing but one person (prosopon) in which the natures were united. Interestingly, at this point in the history of the debate, Antiochenes like Theodoret were of a mind to avoid Theodore of Mopsuestia's distinction between "the Word who assumes" and "the Man who is assumed."

(3) The essential difference between the Cyrilline and Antiochene christologies lies in the nature of the union of the divine and human natures in Christ. The Antiochenes objected to Cyril's "hypostatic union" as implying some kind of necessary union, harkening back to pre-Apollinarian days when Alexandrian christology, using an essentially platonic anthropology as its base, understood the Logos as constituting the "spirit or soul" of the incarnate Christ. The Antiochenes also objected to Cyril's insistence on a genuine communicatio idiomata as implying a mixing or confusion of the two natures.

(4) At the prompting of Nestorius, and the concurrence of the western emperor, Valentianian III, Emperor Theodosius II of the East summoned a general council to meet on Pentecost (June 7) in the city of Ephesus in 431.

(5) Cyril and his supporters were the first two arrive in the city. On June 22, despite the protests of the imperial commissioners, Cyril and sixty like-minded bishops proceeded to hold a synod without the Antiochene delegation. Nestorius, who had arrived earlier in Ephesus, naturally refused to attend.

(6) After the letters of both Cyril and Nestorius had been read aloud, the Cyrillian synod proceeded to condemn Nestorius as "the new Judas." The synod also canonized the symbol of Nicaea (325) as summarizing the orthodox faith and Cyril's second letter to Nestorius as its authoritative interpretation. This all took place in a one-day session.

(7) When the Antiochene delegation finally arrived on June 26, they proceeded to hold their own synod under the presidency of John of Antioch, and promptly deposed and condemned Cyril and Memnon, bishop of Ephesus, while also repudiating Cyril's Twelve Anathemas as Apollinarian.

(8) The Roman delegation finally arrived on July 10, and, following the instructions of the pope, joined the Cyrillian synod. At this point, John of Antioch was added to the list of the deposed, and, as a gesture of good will to the western delegation, Pelagianism was condemned. It was this synod that would go down in history as the Third Ecumenical Council.

(9) Amidst the confusion, Theodosius was compelled to intern the leaders of both parties. However, given his own theological sympathies, and helped by the aggressive diplomacy of Cyril's supporters, he quickly restored Cyril to the see of Alexandria and deposed Nestorius, who retired to his monastary near Antioch.

(10) While at this point the two parties appeared hopelessly and irreparably to be more divided than ever before, two important factors pointing toward the possibility of future rapprochement deserve attention. First, the Twelve Anathemas appended to Cyril's third letter, while being read aloud at the Cyrillian synod, were not given its endorsement, being passed over in favor of Cyril's second letter. Second, John of Antioch's synod, while condemning Cyril and Memnon, had nonetheless failed to endorse or rehabilitate Nestorius.

The Twelve Anathemas that Cyril of Alexandria Demanded of Nestorius

The things which it is necessary that thy Piety anathematize have been annexed to this our Letter:-

1. If any one confess not that Emmanuel is in truth God and that the holy Virgin is therefore Mother of God (theotokos), for she bare after the flesh the Word of God made Flesh, be he anathema.

2. If any one confess not that the Word of God the Father hath been Personally united (kath hupostasin) to Flesh and that He is One Christ with His own Flesh, the Same (that is) God alike and Man, be he anathema.

3. If any one sever the Persons of the One Christ after the Union, connecting them with only a connection of dignity or authority or sway, and not rather with a meeting unto Unity of Nature (henosin phusiken), be he anathema.

4. If any one allot to two Persons (prosopa) or Hypostases, the words in the Gospel and Apostolic writings, said either of Christ by the saints or by Him of Himself, and ascribe some to a man conceived of by himself apart from the Word That is of God, others as God-befitting to the Word alone That is of God the Father, be he anathema.

5. If any one dare to say, that Christ is a God-clad man (theophoros anthropos), and not rather that He is God in truth as being the One Son and That by Nature (phusis), in that the Word hath been made Flesh, and hath shared like us in blood and flesh [Heb. 2:14], be he anathema.

6. If any one say that the Word That is of God the Father is God or Lord of Christ and do not rather confess that the Same is God alike and Man, in that the Word hath been made flesh, according to the Scriptures, be he anathema.

7. If anyone say that Jesus hath been in-wrought-in as man by God the Word and that the Glory of the Only-Begotten hath been put about Him, as being another than He, be he anathema.

8. If any one dare to say that the man that was assumed ought to be co-worshipped with God the Word and co-glorified and co-named God as one in another (for the co-, constantly appended, compels us thus to deem) and does not rather honour Emmanuel with One worship and attribute to Him One Doxology, inasmuch as the Word has been made Flesh, be he anathema.

9. If any one say that the One Lord Jesus Christ hath been glorified by the Spirit, using His Power as though it were Another's, and from Him receiving the power of working against unclean spirits and of accomplishing Divine signs upon men; and does not rather say that His own is the Spirit, through Whom He hath wrought the Divine signs, be he anathema.

10. The Divine Scripture says that Christ hath been made the High Priest and Apostle of our confession [Heb. 3:1] and He hath offered Himself for us for an odour of a sweet smell to God the Father. If any one therefore say that not the Very Word of God was made our High Priest and Apostle when He was made Flesh and man as we, but that man of a woman apart from himself as other than He, was [so made]: or if any one say that in His own behalf also He offered the Sacrifice and not rather for us alone (for He needed not offering Who knoweth not sin), be he anathema.

11. If any one confess not that the Flesh of the Lord is Life-giving and that it is the own Flesh of the Word Himself That is from God the Father, but say that it belongs to another than He, connected with Him by dignity or as possessed of Divine Indwelling only and not rather that it is Life-giving (as we said) because it hath been made the own Flesh of the Word Who is mighty to quicken all things, be he anathema.

12. If any one confess not that the Word of God suffered in the Flesh and hath been crucified in the Flesh and tasted death in the Flesh and hath been made First-born of the Dead, inasmuch as He is both Life and Life-giving as God, be he anathema.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dr. Radner Resigns from ACN -- UPDATED

LATEST UPDATE (as of August 3): Read Sarah Hey's latest contribution over at Stand Firm.

UPDATE: Ephraim Radner responds to criticism over his resignation. See entry #188.

Dr. Radner's letter is posted at the Anglican Communion Institute.

Written by Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner
Tuesday, 31 July 2007
A Brief Statement of Resignation from the Anglican Communion Network:

It is with sorrow and deep disappointment that I tender my resignation from the Anglican Communion Network. Since the time I assisted in its founding, its leaders, members, and mission have been dear to me, even when I have disagreed with some of its corporate actions. The recent statements by the Moderator of the Network, Robert Duncan, however, so contradict my sense of calling within this part of Christ's Body, the Anglican Communion, that I have no choice but to disassociate myself from this group, whom I had once hoped might prove an instrument of renewal, not of destruction, of building up, not of tearing down.

Bishop Duncan has now declared the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference -- two of the four Instruments of Communion within our tradition - to be "lost". He has said that God is "doing a new thing" in allowing these elements to founder and be let go. I find this judgment to be dangerously precipitous and unfair under circumstances when current, faithful, and hard work is being done by many to bolster these Instruments as servants of our common life in Christ. The judgment is also astonishingly self-confident and autonomously prophetic in a mode not unlike the baleful claims to visionary authority of those who have long misled the Episcopal Church. Finally, the declaration in effect cancels out the other two Instruments of Communion that also uphold our common Anglican life - the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. It is the entire Anglican Communion, therefore, that Bp. Duncan is declaring to be "lost". The judgment is far too sweeping.

Bp. Duncan has, in the end, decided to start a new church. He may call it "Anglican" if he wishes, though I do not recognize the name in these kinds of actions that break communion rather than build it up - for such building is what I have long perceived to be the "thing" God was "doing" with the earthen vessel of our tradition. In founding his new church, furthermore, he is, I fear, not working for the healing of our broken Body, but repeating the mistakes of Christians in the past, whose zeal has not only brought suffering to themselves, but has wounded the Church of Christ. It is not only his own diocese that his statements and actions will affect; it is many others, including parishes within them, many of which have worked for faithfulness and peace, truth in love, for some time, and for whom new troubles and divisions are now promised. Enough of this. I cannot follow him in this way. There is great work to be done, with hope and with joy, if also with suffering endurance for the faith once delivered, in the vineyards of the Anglican Communion where the Lord has called us and still maintains His calling; just as there has been in the past, and all for the glory of the larger Church Catholic.

Ephraim Radner (the Rev. Dr.)


P.S. Brett over at Canterbury Pilgrim posted Peter Toon's prediction of things. I'm no "Tooniac" by any stretch, but this is an insightful analysis of where things may be heading.