Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Road to Chalcedon: A Review

The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined, by V.C. Samuel

The next section of Samuel’s book proceeds to the Council of Chalcedon.  But before coming to this, I would like to review the path thus far.  Something has been bubbling under my surface, and I think I can best express it by summarizing the events prior to Chalcedon.

Keep in mind a couple of points: disagreement regarding the conclusions at Chalcedon in 451 resulted in the first, long-lasting (until today) split in the Church (the more recent would be the split in 1054 between East and West, and the Reformation beginning in 1517). 

The non-Chalcedonian Churches include the Ethiopian, Coptic, Armenian, and others.  These represent a small portion of the Christian community (at least some of these have accepted the better-clarified doctrines on Christ’s nature in subsequent councils). 

Secondly, the disagreements leading up to Chalcedon centered on different views by Alexandria and Antioch regarding how to describe the nature of Christ.  The disagreement between these two sees would play out throughout the time leading to Chalcedon.

From the earliest days after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the development of doctrine began its journey.  We see disputes even in the book of Acts, and disputes did not end with the writing of the book of Revelation. 

The disciples went to the four corners of the known world, even before they had any written New Testament letters or Gospels.  Teachings were passed on orally, each, no doubt carrying understandings that in some ways were unique to each disciples’ views.  I imagine that local custom and culture also influenced how the teaching was understood.

On a better understanding of the nature of Christ, while the question wasn’t somewhat settled until Chalcedon, the essence of the doctrine can be found in the Scriptures and in the earliest Church fathers.

Now, for a brief summary of the events leading to Chalcedon:

Nestorius presided over the see of Constantinople from 428 to 431.  He was condemned as a heretic by the Council of Ephesus in 431 for teaching the “foul doctrine” of two Sons.  Nestorius insisted this was not his teaching, instead using the term prosopon to describe his views.  The council, presided over by Cyril of Alexandria, was held before the Syrian (Antiochene) delegation could arrive.

On the Alexandrine and Antiochene positions: Those representing Antioch were not in full agreement with the positions taken in Ephesus in 431, and opposed to them were those from Alexandria.  Externally this problem was resolved by the reunion of Cyril of Alexandria and John of Antioch in 433.

But the reunion was understood differently by those in the two camps.  This different understanding would lead to further controversies and difficulties – especially after John’s death.  There is something worth noting here: the differences were so nuanced that even a written exchange between the leaders of these two centers of Christendom could be understood differently.

The extreme opposition to Nestorius exposed another heresy, that of Eutyches, an abbot in Constantinople, who maintained that Godhead and manhood were so united in Christ that after the union the manhood became absorbed in the Godhead. 

He was condemned in a synod held by Flavian, Bishop of Constantinople, in 448.  Eutyches, however, believed he would be creating new doctrine if he agreed to the statements offered by Flavian.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Natural Law or Chaos

I have started watching a video series entitled “Welcome to Negative World.”  That would be our world.  The speakers are Aaron Renn, Joe Rigney, and James Wood.  I am only into the second video of seven, so I cannot speak to the value of the entire series.  However, I am so far finding it of value.  I discovered the series via a video by Paul VanderKlay, where he examines the first video in the series.

The second video in the series is a talk given by Joe Rigney: The Three Worlds and the Tao.  He presents the case for natural law as what has been broken in our society – yes, there was always sin, but it is today where the sin is codified, celebrated, even mandated by the law.

Toward the end of the talk, he cites from a letter by CS Lewis to Clyde Kilby of Wheaton College (beginning here):

The Tao is the necessary expression in terms of our temporal existence of what God by His own righteous nature is.  One could even say of it that it was begotten, not made.  For is not the Tao simply the Word itself, considered from a particular point of view.  

It is a powerful statement.  Paraphrasing Rigney: The Tao is God’s nature in creation.  Behind the Tao is the Word, the logos – Jesus Himself.

Yes, natural law was there from the beginning; per Lewis, it was begotten as the Son was begotten.  As Doug Wilson often says: our choice is Christ or chaos.  While natural law doesn’t contain the salvific value that comes with Christ, one could also say – in this temporal world – our choice is natural law or chaos.


As I have written often, the search and struggle today is because we no longer hold that it is proper to act in accord with the Tao - objective reality, or, dare I (and CS Lewis and Joe Rigney) say, natural law.  This meaning crisis discussion, held by people like Jordan Peterson, Paul VanderKlay, John Vervaeke and Jonathan Pageau, among others, will come to realize and explore this point or it will never be more than a passing intellectual exercise in a little corner of the internet.

Yes, there has been positive impact on individual lives via this online discussion; this is not a small thing.  But this is only because the conversation is occasionally speaking to natural law ethics and objective reality without acknowledging it is doing so.

The search for solutions to both the meaning crisis and our loss of liberty will eventually come to the same place: the necessity of natural law ethics.  I outline this here, in two books.


Merry Christmas to you all.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Government or State?

Ryan McMaken and Tho Bishop, in conversation with Derek Dobalian, ask the question: Should Christians Hate the State?  To which many Christians would reply with the first verse of Romans 13:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.

Of course, a more appropriate Christian reply would be based on the command that we are to love our enemies, but as most of us still haven’t successfully worked through the love God and love our neighbors part, this is much to ask at the moment.  But I digress.

The question raised was about the state, but the apostle Paul writes of governing authorities.  Setting aside the many various understandings of the term “governing” and the different interpretations of the passage in Romans (I have offered mine here and here and here and here), what are we to make of the term “state” and the term “government”?

I offer, and this is well grounded in the history of the Christian West: government is designed to enforce laws that come from a source higher than those governing.  This is true at every level of governance – from civil government down to family government.  This as opposed to a state, which enforces laws of its own making.

The transition can be seen in the outcome of the wars of state-building (wrongly called the wars of religion), and was certainly cemented by the end of the seventeenth century in much of western Europe.

So how does this effect an understanding of Romans 13?  Continuing with the passage:

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.

Who is to define “good conduct”?  If the ruler is God’s servant for good, on what good basis would God have him rule?  If he is to carry out wrath against the wrongdoer, on what basis is wrongdoing understood?

In other words, does God allow the ruler to develop his own rules, to define what is good?  Is there any example of this Biblically in any of the history prior to Paul’s writing these words?

We know, from the beginning God gave the law.  God gave judges to judge according to God’s law – not to make law.  The various kings of Israel and Judah were considered as acting against God’s law – if not, how could any of these be described as bad kings (as many of these were)?  By definition, every king would be a just king if he is free to make decrees and then acts according to these decrees.

So, a proper governing authority governs according to good law which has come from God (I suggest natural law ethics captures this law).  A state is a governing authority that has usurped God’s authority in making the law.

But I am still not yet to the point of answering the question posed by Tho and Ryan.

Doug Wilson offers a blog post: Trump, NFTs, Fremdschämen, and More.  First, a brief explanation of the title, from Wilson:

·         Trump, well, you know that one.

·         NFTs stands for “Non-Fungible Tokens,” which is a cryptographic asset embedded in a block chain…

·         Fremdschämen is a German word for the embarrassment you feel for someone else who really ought to be embarrassed for himself, but somehow mysteriously isn’t.

Apparently, Trump has sold superhero digital images of himself…and these sold out.  There is plenty of embarrassment to go around here.  But this is a sideline to my focus. 

Wilson offers: “…lawless nations are in need of a Legislator.”

Friday, December 16, 2022

Your Serve

About seven weeks before the council met at Ephesus, Leo of Rome had sent his Tome to Constantinople where it had been well received by Flavian and the party opposed to Eutyches.

The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined, by V.C. Samuel

The referenced council was the Second Council of Ephesus in 449, attended by about one hundred fifty bishops.  The purpose was to settle the issue raised by the condemnation of Eutyches in 448 – condemned for not accepting the Antiochene view of the reunion of 433 even though the disagreement in understanding that reunion had not been resolved between the Alexandrines and Antiochenes.  Emperor Theodosius II convened the council, asking Dioscorus of Alexandria to exercise supreme authority over it as president.

In addition to investigating the condemnation of Eutyches, Dioscorus came to the council with his own understanding – the Alexandrine understanding.  This as opposed to the Antiochene understanding under which Eutyches was condemned – and despite the reality that no official reconciliation between these two positions had occurred via a formal council.

In this mix, Pope Leo sent his Tome, intending it (according to Samuel and supported with extensive endnotes) to be understood as the only possible expression of the Christian understanding of Christ’s person.  In other words, exercising Rome’s understanding as the supreme authority, Leo intended to make a statement after which no council would be necessary.

The council convened in any case.  Dioscorus made many statements regarding the proposal that the faith should be confirmed first.  To summarize: there was no need to clarify this, according to Dioscorus.  The faith was already clearly defined by the fathers (referring to Nicea as confirmed at Ephesus) – do you intend to question the fathers? 

This, of course, was the issue at hand – both sides claimed reliance on and harmony with the fathers, but understood the issue differently.  But this time, the council was led by an Alexandrine and not an Antiochene.  In other words, the faith is once again to be defined according to one side – the other side.

Eutyches was called in.  The creed of Nicea was incorporated, and it was submitted that Eutyches held to it, having been baptized accordingly.  This faith was confirmed at Ephesus, and Eutyches accepted it.  He anathematized the heretics such as Apollinarius and Nestorius. In all of this, he implied the Alexandrine view of the reunion.

Two significant sentences from Eutyches’ confession in this council were left out of the minutes incorporated at Chalcedon. 

‘For he who is the Word of God came down from heaven without flesh and was made flesh from the very flesh of the Virgin unchangeably and inconvertibly, in a way he himself knew and willed.  And he who is always perfect God before the ages was also made perfect man in the end of days for us and for our salvation.’

Samuel describes this statement as an orthodox answer to the issue. The statement affirms the Nicene understanding and Christ’s consubstantiality with us.  But it was not included in the minutes at Chalcedon.  Samuel sees this as a deliberate omission, one intended to ensure the pre-determined outcome at Chalcedon of condemning Eutyches as a heretic.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Irenic Dialogue

Irenic: tending to promote peace or reconciliation; peaceful or conciliatory.

Irenicism in Christian theology refers to attempts to unify Christian apologetical systems by using reason as an essential attribute. The word is derived from the Greek word ειρήνη (eirene) meaning peace.  Those who affiliate themselves with irenicism identify the importance of unity in the Christian Church and declare the common bond of all Christians under Christ.

This is different than reaching ecumenical agreement – in fact it is a necessary step before any such agreements are possible: do we understand each other?

I have been watching a series of videos by Dr. Gavin Ortlund via a playlist on his YouTube channel, entitled Catholic-Orthodox-Protestant Discussion.  The playlist has over sixty videos and counting.  Ortlund emphasizes his desire for Irenic dialogue: he is not after winning, he is after understanding – hence, he often describes the purpose and method of his dialogue and commentaries as “irenic.”

Something of Dr. Ortlund:

Gavin Ortlund is a pastor, author, speaker, and apologist for the Christian faith. He is a husband to Esther, and a father to Isaiah, Naomi, Elijah, Miriam, and Abigail (not pictured). He serves as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Ojai in Ojai, California.

Gavin has a Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary in historical theology, and an M.Div from Covenant Theological Seminary. He is the author of eight books as well as numerous academic and popular articles.

I was very pleased to find this channel and this effort.  I listen to many in the broad Christian world – Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant.  Maybe it’s just me, but there is significant content from Catholics and Orthodox regarding their doctrine, faith, etc.  I realize there is also much Protestant content, but I haven’t seen as much of it in the current conversation – in directly addressing the issues, stereotypes, misinformation, etc., regarding the world of Protestant thought and doctrine. 

I don’t at all appreciate when the conversation is dismissive or attacking, when the objective is to score points instead of to make points.  I have seen some that are downright nasty – this toward others who believe Jesus is divine, is the Son of God, that His death and Resurrection in some manner reconciles us once again with God the Father.  Unable to even love their neighbors (in the Mere Christianity house of C.S. Lewis), they even treat them worse than the enemies that they are also called to love.

What I have seen is that so much of the divisiveness is based on comparing the best of one’s doctrines to the worst of the other’s practice.  It only works to increase division unnecessarily.

What I have also seen is that when one understands the doctrines and history, many of what are considered major differences are nothing of the sort.  Not to say that there are no major issues, but clearing the field would bring focus.

Of course, this confusion is understandable when it is amateur publishers or commenters on YouTube videos.  But it is troubling when it comes from those who are well-educated in the doctrines and history.  I have seen it from all sides.

And this is why I appreciate Ortlund’s channel and methodology.  Not to say that I agree with all of it (from the little I have heard from him regarding social and cultural topics, he seems a mess), but his approach is irenic, and he is well-educated not only in Protestant history, he also points back to the earliest Church fathers (his Ph.D. is in historical theology, after all), finding value in many of them – and a common thread from these earliest fathers to many doctrines in Protestant denominations (yes, even Calvin-Reformed).

I offer a few of the comments made in his videos, dealing with some of the stereotypes of Protestant-Reformed theology.  First, a couple of the “solas”:

Friday, December 9, 2022

The Trial

Eutyches was an archimandrite and heretic who lived in the fifth century at a monastery near Constantinople.

-          Orthodox Wiki

[Eutyches], An heresiarch of the fifth century….

-          New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia

In the present context it should be noted that in the light of the opinion that Eutyches was not in fact a heretic….

The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined, by V.C. Samuel

One of these is not like the other.  The home Synod of Constantinople in 448 condemned Eutyches as a heretic.  The issues involved were directly relevant to subsequent councils at Chalcedon and beyond.

Eutyches was not a theologian of any standing.  He was a monk who held some standing in the monastic circles around Constantinople, having directed more than 300 monks over thirty years.  He was a friend of Cyril, and an indefatigable supporter of the Alexandrine cause at the capitol.  He had direct access to the emperor’s court.

Flavian (the president of this home synod) and Eusebius of Dorylaeum would leave no stone unturned during the synod, until Eutyches was finally crushed at Chalcedon.  But the story begins here, three years earlier in 448. 

This conflict, which led to Chalcedon, had a simple beginning.  It began in theological debate between Eusebius (“a bishop that was ruthless”) and Eutyches (“an old monk who could exert great influence at the court of Theodosius II but who could not be relied on for any consistent theological discussion”).

On 8 November 448, Eusebius presented to patriarch Flavian of Constantinople a libel against Eutyches.  Although no specific accusations were made nor details offered in the petition, he was accused of presenting ideas contrary to Nicea and Ephesus, demanding that the monk be called to defend himself.  Flavian advised that Eusebius take the matter up privately with Eutyches, however Eusebius persisted.

Thirty-two bishops took part in the proceedings, which lasted two weeks with several sittings.  In the first period, the monk refused to attend despite being summoned three times.  In the latter period and at the seventh sitting, he finally appeared, escorted by representatives of the emperor.  With this, his trial began.

The nature of the faith was first confirmed: Cyril’s second letter to Nestorius and the Formulary for Reunion were read.  The councils of Nicea and Ephesus were confirmed.  Then testimony given by Eutyches was relayed by Presbyter John and Deacon Andrew: the monk denied all charges of heresy; he considered Eusebius an old enemy; he accepted both Nicea and Ephesus; he laughed at the accusation that the flesh of our Lord came down from heaven.

The difficulties were around the subtle language that separated the Alexandrine position from the Antiochene, with Eutyches holding to the Alexandrine view.  After his testimony, he was charged with holding two heretical ideas:

…that he rejected a union of two natures and that he refused to admit that Christ was consubstantial with us.

Some of Eutyches’ testimony is offered:

‘After he became man,’ Eutyches is reported to have said, ‘that is after our Lord Jesus Christ was born, God the Word is worshipped as one nature, namely that of God who has become incarnate.’

‘In which scriptures,’ asked Eutyches, ‘is there the expression of two natures?  Or of the fathers, who has defined God the Word that he has two natures?’

At the same time, Eutyches said that Christ was perfect God and perfect man.

‘May it not happen to me to say that Christ is of two natures, or to argue about the nature of my God,’ said Eutyches.

Eutyches felt that he would be creating doctrine where none existed and where no agreement had been reached.  On this view, Samuel agrees.

In order to make his position clear, Eutyches had prepared a written statement of his faith.  But this was neither received nor read.  It is speculated that the reason it was not accepted was that it registered the monk’s acceptance of Nicea – requiring the synod to decide if the statement was orthodox. 

Flavian would have been forced into a no-win situation if the statement was read – either accepting Eutyches as orthodox (having agreed with Nicea), or concluding that Nicea was not (thus condemning Eutyches).  Per Samuel, this would have forced the synod to make a clear statement of accepting either the Alexandrine or Antiochene position.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

One Step at a Time

Mike Portnoy, former (and best) drummer for Dream Theater, due to his struggle with alcohol, went through the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  He decided to write lyrics that followed the 12-steps, what has become known as Dream Theater’s Twelve-step Suite.

The Suite is covered in five songs, each covering more than one of the steps, as follows:

·         The Glass Prison” contains the first three parts of the Suite (“Reflection,” “Restoration,” and “Revelation”). 

·         This Dying Soul" features parts four and five of the Suite ("Reflections of Reality (Revisited)" and "Release"). 

·         The Root of All Evil" consists of parts six and seven of the Suite ("Ready" and "Remove"). 

·         Repentance" features parts eight and nine of the Suite ("Regret" and "Restitution"). 

·         The Shattered Fortress" concludes the Suite, featuring the last three parts ("Restraint," “Receive," “Responsible").

These songs were released on five consecutive albums from 2002 – 2009, with the last album also being the last one on which Portnoy played with the band.  Sadly.

Below I capture each section of the twelve steps.  In bold and underlined is the title given to the section by Portnoy.  Below it follows the step as described by Alcoholics Anonymous.  Following in italics, I have captured a subset of the lyrics that (to me) best capture the spirit of the step.

It strikes me the steps and the lyrics are useful for dealing with any vice or harmful behavior in one’s life.

I think it is best to not comment further.



We admitted we were powerless over [pick your vice] — that our lives had become unmanageable.

Crawling to my glass prison

A place where no one knows

My secret lonely world begins

So much safer here

A place where I can go

To forget about my daily sins



Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Help me - I can't break out this prison all alone

Save me - I'm drowning and I'm hopeless on my own

Heal me - I can't restore my sanity alone



Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Way off in the distance I saw a door

I tried to open

I tried forcing with all of my will but still

The door wouldn't open

Fell down on my knees and prayed

"Thy will be done"

I turned around, saw a light shining through

The door was wide open


Reflections of Reality (Revisited)

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Hello, mirror – so glad to see you my friend, it's been a while

Searching, fearless, where do I begin to heal this wound of self-denial?


Now that you can see all you have done

It's time to take that step into the kingdom

All your sins will only make you strong

And help you break right through the prison wall



Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Your fearless admissions

Will help expel your destructive obsessions

With my help I know you can

Be at one with God and man


Hear me

Believe me

Take me

I'm ready to break through this prison wall

Monday, December 5, 2022

Foundations of Faith

If we take the most dramatic developments of the sexual revolution – say, the legitimation of transgenderism – it is interesting to ask what things wider society already needed to regard as normal in order for this first to be plausible and then normalized.

Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution, by Carl R. Trueman

Not too long ago, had the sentence “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” been uttered to anyone – to a doctor, a friend, a relative – it would have been seen as a psychiatric problem in the one speaking the words.  Help, from a psychiatrist or a priest, would have been advised or encouraged.  Today, even to suggest any help or guidance is needed – let alone to provide such help or guidance – is criminal…even when the one saying such words is a child.

What has changed in our society and in the social imaginary to bring this new situation about?

Where we have arrived today is the position of granting decisive authority to inner feelings.  No longer do we grant normative authority to the physical body.  There is no “following the science” in this.  We need not rely on the reality that when God created man and woman, He did not differentiate biological sex from gender identity.  There is no place where the science has been settled for longer than the moment the midwife or doctor announces “it’s a girl.”

So, how did “inner feelings” take authority over the physical body?  The story, as Trueman says, is a long and complex one.  It isn’t that the idea of examining and understanding inner feelings is a new one.  The Psalms are full of introspection; Augustine’s Confessions are a reflection on his inner life. 

The Psalms and Paul look inward but then understand that inward life in terms of the prior authority of the external world as ordered by God.  …Augustine moves inward so that he can then move outward to God and to the reality that is prior to and greater than his own feelings and in light of which those feelings can be understood.

Is it just me, or does the death of God in the Enlightenment keep coming up in discussions of “how we got here”? 

The transgender person, by contrast, sees inward, psychological conviction as the nonnegotiable reality to which all external realities must be made to conform.

“External realities” to include how others see them, address them, treat them.  It isn’t just the desire to have their inner feelings dictate their reality; their inner feelings must also dictate your reality.

Trueman points to a few philosophers and thinkers of the Enlightenment era that offered ideas – whether intended for good or ill – that led to the social imaginary in which we live today in the western world.  First up is René Descartes, who lived in the first half of the seventeenth century.  While he made significant contributions to mathematics, his relevance to this topic is his contribution to philosophy.

He set himself to doubting everything.  In the end, his doubt ended with his famous “I think; therefore I am.”  This could not be doubted.  But this also placed human thought as the ground of certainty.  He posited a distinction between mind and body, giving fundamental importance to the former.  This gave runway for something Descartes could not have imagined: inner feelings, not physical reality, will dictate and control.

Next is Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  He lived in the eighteenth century, dying in 1778.  Self-taught, he was an inspiration for both the French Revolution and what has become known as Romanticism. 

He was also a rather obstinate, nasty, and at times paranoid man.

He also famously sent his five children to orphanage, which at the time meant near-certain death. 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Reunion … Sort of ….

The removal of Nestorius did not solve the problem.

The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined, by V.C. Samuel

Condemning and removing Nestorius at the Council of Ephesus for holding to the ‘Word-man’ Christology of Antioch as opposed to the ‘Word-flesh’ Christology of Alexandria did not solve the dispute.  The emperor would exert himself to help establish peace.

Allow me a brief aside.  There are those who see Christianity under the emperor as an inherently negative development for the faith and for the Church.  I find it difficult to agree with such a view.

First of all – very pragmatically – the persecutions ended.  Christians today don’t even display the courage to hold Easter service for fear of the state.  Imagine the persecuted and fearful life for Christians before Constantine (or in many parts of the world today), then complain about the role of the emperor in the lives of Christians at the time.

Second, the several councils.  To my understanding, all were called by the emperor.  In terms of doctrine, where would the Church be today if not for these first several councils?  Yes, today we see fragmentation.  Imagine the fragmentation if those earliest disputes were not resolved in some reasonable manner.  Certainly, politics played a role in the emperor’s actions.  But if we cannot accept that the councils were acting under the Holy Spirit we might as well drop the entire game.

Returning to Samuel: the emperor’s efforts to resolve the issues resulted in John of Antioch writing to Cyril of Alexandria, including a profession of faith.  Cyril replied with his famous letter, Laetentur Caeli, incorporating in it a passage from John’s confession stressing the unity of Christ’s person and the unconfused continuance of the divine and human.

It said that ‘our Lord Jesus Christ’ was at once ‘true God and true man’…

There were three main objections raised by the Antiochenes, not fully resolved, and, therefore, the reunion not fully embraced: first, that Cyril’s theological positions as reflected in the anathemas were heretical; second, that Nestorius was not a heretic; and third, that the Council of Ephesus was heretical.

There was one sentence in John’s letter that would have far-reaching consequences – a sentence worded in a way that would allow different individuals with different understandings to accept it, and, therefore, to allow John to get past the difficulties he had with the decisions of the council.  It is wordy, so perhaps read it a couple of times:

‘And with regard to the evangelistic and apostolic sayings concerning the Lord, we know that theologians make some common, as relating to one person, and distinguishing others, as relating to two natures, interpreting the God-befitting ones to be of the Godhead of Christ, and the lowly ones of his humanity.’

This sentence was intended to mitigate the difficulties of the Antiochenes while also not contradicting Cyril.  Theologians distinguish matters pertaining to the Lord – a very guarded statement.  It really doesn’t say anything about Christ existing in different centers of being and activity, merely that Christ’s actions can be differentiated in these ways.

Here it will be worthwhile to attempt to describe the two positions.  And I emphasize the word “attempt.”  I have written on the two positions coming out of Chalcedon before, for example, here.  Here follows Samuel’s explanation of the split as it came out of Ephesus:

Monday, November 28, 2022

Never Growing Up

In short, the modern self is one where authenticity is achieved by acting outwardly in accordance with one’s inward feelings.

Just like a baby.

Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution, by Carl R. Trueman

Carl R. Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College. He is a contributing editor at First Things, an esteemed church historian, and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

This book is presented as an approachable and concise version of Trueman’s book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution.  As you can see, I chose the concise version for my reading.

From the Foreword, written by Ryan T. Anderson, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (and author of the book, When Harry Became Sally – banned by Amazon):

The “self” that Western Civilization cultivated, up until just a few hundred years ago, was what Harvard political theorist Michael Sandel described as an “encumbered” self, in contrast to modernity’s “unencumbered” self.

The encumbered self was a being made with a purpose, a telos.  He was free to live in accordance with this purpose.  He was considered a creature of God.  He conformed himself to the truth, to objective moral standards.  He had in his vision eternal life.

The unencumbered self can’t be bothered with any of that:

Modern man, however, seeks to be “true to himself.”  Rather than conform thoughts, feelings and actions to objective reality, man’s inner life itself becomes the source of truth.

Just as we describe currency which is tied to nothing objective, that can be created at will out of nothing, “fiat,” so is the modern man, who is his own standard, who can create of himself anything he chooses.  Call him “fiat” man.

He is not accountable to theologians, but to the therapists who help him find his true self.  Of course, this leads to finding his deepest and most important inner truth of sexual desires, and being “true” to this as well. 

Meanwhile laws are passed, contrary to traditional family and sexual norms and requiring others affirm any and every new lifestyle.  Objecting to any of it – and especially the worst of it – is now illegal.

Summarizing Anderson’s foreword, quoting the Catholic (sic) Biden: “Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time.” 

And with this, Trueman begins chapter one:

Many of us are familiar with books and movies whose plots revolve around central characters finding themselves trapped in a world where nothing behaves in quite the way they expect.

Trueman offers Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Franz Kafka’s The Trial, and The Matrix series of movies as examples.  However, this is no longer confined to fiction:

Things once regarded as obvious and unassailable virtues have in recent years been subject to vigorous criticism and even in some cases come to be seen by many as more akin to vices.

Marriage is between a man and a woman, for example.  Yet, we once found slavery acceptable.  So why not continue this liberating evolution into all areas of life?  Trueman sees the underlying issue as the notion of the self.  And this self connects to three other concepts: expressive individualism, the sexual revolution, and the social imaginary. 

First, to define what he means by self.  In the common usage, he is Carl Trueman, and not Jeff Bezos or Donald Trump.  But Trueman means something else by self:

…the deeper notion of where the ‘real me’ is to be found, how that shapes my view of life, and in what the fulfillment or happiness of that ‘real me’ consists.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Man or Flesh?

The Christian Church began on the foundation of faith centered in the person of Jesus Christ…

The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined, by V.C. Samuel

What to believe of this Jesus?  The various communities, widely dispersed in a Roman Empire antagonistic to their faith, adopted statements of faith or belief – later called creeds.  One or another of these statements were taught to candidates for baptism and recited regularly in worship.  Despite being somewhat varied…

…they emphasized that Jesus Christ was the Son of God through whom men and women could have a direct access to God, and from the time the New Testament writings were in circulation they could point to them as apostolic transmissions in support of their exposition.

I have, on and off, been in conversation with someone who belongs to a religion that teaches that Jesus was a good man who lived a perfect life…but don’t call Him God or the Son of God.  This idea of Jesus as God was an invention of Church councils held under the authority of various emperors, and therefore, for some reason, this makes these councils invalid.

Yet we see in this passage from Samuel that this idea was in the various communities from the beginning, before any formal councils and certainly before any Christian Roman emperor.

Dr. Jordan B. Cooper is in the middle of an ongoing series on Christology, tracing this from the earliest Church through Chalcedon and beyond.  In the fourth video of the series, he specifically discusses Patristic Christology through Chalcedon.  Beginning here, he offers:

Just because it took that long [until Chalcedon] to develop what kind of language the Church was to use, that doesn’t mean that it took that long for the Church to develop the essence of the doctrine itself. 

He points to the earliest post-apostolic writers like Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus as all speaking the same truths; the issue is figuring out the best way to express this truth.  The essence of this teaching of Christ’s divinity and humanity was there from the beginning.

Returning to Samuel:

In clarifying the nature of the faith several attempts made during the second and third centuries were rejected by the Church.

Eventually, beginning in the second century, three broad streams of Christology could be identified: Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome.  However, controversies such as Arianism were dealt with and condemned in Nicaea in 325, supported by Athanasius of Alexandria and the Cappadocian theologians. 

…the Church accepted officially the affirmation that the Son who became incarnate in Jesus Christ was eternally and fully God…

It should be noted again that this was an affirmation of that which many in the Church believed (based on both Scripture and the teaching and writings of the earliest Church fathers, even from the first and early second centuries), and not something newly discovered or invented.

Nicaea resolved only one side of the equation – that of the divine nature of Christ.  How was this to be understood in regard to His humanity, His human nature?  And this without prejudice to the divine?

There were still some differences east and west. One leaning on the Cappadocians and the other on Augustine – although the west could better accommodate the Antiochene heritage more than the Alexandrine.  But this did not result in any type of split, as would happened after Chalcedon.  Despite these differences, all could accept the Nicene Creed.

Monday, November 21, 2022

I Am Responsible

This is the fifth and final post in this series, reviewing the conversation between Jordan Peterson (JP) and Peter Kreeft (PK): How to Combat Hedonism.  The last part of their conversation flowed through several different topics.

Kreeft explains what he saw when he compared Islam to the Christianity as lived in the West:

PK: It seems to me that when I look at Christianity in Western culture, Europe and North America, I see a kind of nice spinelessness; an absence of courage.

A man can be a woman?  Sure, we can ignore God’s plan for His creation.  Corruption in our institutions?  Romans 13 tells us to obey.  Diversity, Inclusion, Equity?  Rainbow flag, we are on the team.  Take the Lord’s name in vain?  Freedom of religion and free speech.

All spineless positions taken by spineless Christians.

PK: For all its mistakes and faults and violence and fundamentalism, at least Islam is a heroic faith. 

Rainbow flags or blaspheming the Lord’s name don’t go over very well in most Muslim countries.

[Addendum]: I wrote this post several days ago, but published today.  To highlight the reality of the above statement, Teams Abandon Rainbow Armbands For World Cup Matches After FIFA Threat:

In the latest World Cup Qatar 2022 controversy, FIFA has brought the hammer down on efforts of some teams and players from the West to highlight LGBT rights in the ultra-conservative Muslim host country of Qatar.

In total at least seven teams had planned to wear them during play despite the host country deeming homosexuality as illegal and against the moral teachings of Islam.

Not anymore.  Game officials will issue a yellow card to any player displaying such a symbol. 

It remains that in Qatar homosexual acts can be punished with severe sentences, up to and including the death penalty.

Of course, nothing in Christianity allows for this.  But, somehow (and we know why) it is Christianity that is the enemy ion the (non) enlightened West.

Returning to the Peterson, Kreeft discussion (and the content of the original post):

PK: [Islam] tends to be a bit too hard – spiny without flesh, but we are flesh without a spine.  I think we should exchange some of our pop-psychologists for some of their fiery mullahs – so we get a spine and they get some flesh.

Jesus had spine and flesh, but this required both the divine and human.  That doesn’t fly with Muslims; therefore, they do not have the possibility of gaining flesh as they reject God in the flesh.  While Christians embrace the divine and the human, they too often leave out the spine part – which comes to the next part of the conversation.

They discuss God ruling with two hands – one hand of mercy, the other of judgement (Peterson’s word, although I prefer the word “justice”). 

JP: In the west, we are making the case that the cardinal moral virtue is mercy and forgiveness, and forgetting completely about the fact that another cardinal virtue is judgement. 

After a discussion of several examples of the dysfunctionality when mercy and forgiveness are not balanced by judgement (justice), Kreeft offers:

PK: So, what has to be done then is to somehow combine this justice (Kreeft uses the proper word) and this mercy, this toughness and this tenderness, this patriarchal and matriarchal.  And isn’t the Christian answer to that precisely the crucifixion? Here is justice and mercy united.

And it is united in God.  God’s justice and God’s mercy are both on display, fully and maximally.  There is no higher possibility; there is no better story.  Many lessor stories have tried, none have worked.  Iron Man snapped his finger and gave his life to save the universe, but he wasn’t God sacrificing Himself / His Son – yes, Iron Man did sacrifice, but not the biggest possible sacrifice.

Peterson then talks about artificial intelligence and something he understands from Elon Musk, wanting the benefits of AI to be placed in the hands of individual people and not conglomerates like google.

JP: If a huge conglomerate like google gets its hands on artificial intelligence first, this will turn them into something approximating the world most imaginably effective dictator.

Fascism turned upside down, with the corporations making the rules for the state.  In any case, why wouldn’t the “individual” with the best imagination become the most imaginably effective dictator?  AI communism, like the communism before, will still end up in the hands of the most corrupt.