Sunday, January 15, 2006

Bringing It All Together: Nestorianism and Other Canards

On one of the recent posts at Triablogue, a reader asked about the context and origin of the discussion that has been occurring (that of the nature of Christ and the Eucharist). Basically, Steve and I spent some time to critique Antonio da Rosa on the matter of the “Free Grace” movement and their assumptions regarding assurance of salvation. Rev. Paul McCain then took this as an opportunity to once again propagate his ad nauseam argument concerning Calvinism and Christology (yet when is he actually going to address the issues concerning the texts of Scripture and soteriology?). I would like to take this time to respond to a few of the yet to be answered arguments made by Paul McCain. Of course, I cannot respond to everything that has been said, but I would like to highlight a few arguments.

Mr. McCain–up to the bat:

I’m not sure what you are referring to “apparitions” — the post-Resurrection appearances or OT appearances? If OT, because there was no Personal Union, no Incarnation, no…they did not “require” a hypostatic union. If you are referring to post-Resurrection appearances then I would have to raise quite a concern. The fact is that once our Lord took on human flesh that human flesh was always united to the Divine Person of the Son of God, therefore, you can not mean to suggest that the Human Nature of Christ was not with the Divine Nature during the “apparitions” — a word with which I’m mightily uncomfortable. These were true appearances of the Theanthropic Savior, the God-man, who made it a point to reveal to His disciples precisely His glorified and resurrected human nature.

It seems that Mr. McCain is so concerned with responding to Steve that he has already forgotten his own argument that he originally posited. McCain had asked, “How was it possible for the Risen Lord to suddenly ‘appear in the midst of them’ among His disciples on Easter?” We must first note that this question does not answer the argument made by Gene Bridges. In effect, it seems to say, “Well, this doesn’t really have to make sense because that doesn’t either.” But this type of argumentation does not help anyone. In any case, two things should be noted:

1. The fact that Christ would appear and disappear in these accounts does not mean that he was ever “illocal,” or that his human nature was omnipresent. McCain must show that these are indeed examples of such a nature, yet he has not done so.

2. The term appear in these texts (e.g. Mark 16:9) does not necessitate that Jesus was, before the appearance, invisible, and it especially does not necessitate that his human nature was either illocal or omnipresent. Consider the possibilities. For instance, there is the example of Jesus meeting with the disciples behind a locked door: “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” (John 20:26). But let’s not put things into the text that can’t be derived from the text. Jesus could have simply opened the door after performing a miracle that caused the door to be unlocked. Or he could have created a key. There are many possibilities. But let’s assume that Jesus actually “appeared” before them, in the sense that he was once invisible and then visible. Does this argue for an illocal or omnipresent human nature? Could not Jesus have simply caused their eyes to not be able to see him, and then “opened their eyes”? To make the silent argument that Mr. McCain makes from these appearances simply exceeds the actual texts.

Rev. McCain takes another shot–swing and a miss:

Therefore you are guilty of Christological heresy, Nestorianism to be precise. Thank you for illustrating my point about Calvinism.

This was a reply to what Steve had said: “I deny that his human nature is omnipresent. For that matter, I deny that his divine nature is literally omnipresent.” The “Nestorian canard” isn’t anything new. We have seen other Lutherans assert it in the past. Of course, McCain makes no effort to justify this ridiculous assertion. Mr. McCain: please write out a syllogism proving that Steve’s statement affirms Nestorianism.

It is evident that Mr. McCain is the one who does not have a correct understanding of the Incarnation. The human nature is not divine. It is human. Orthodoxy affirms that the two natures remain unconfused. The Chalcedonian Creed states:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood.

…one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence.

This is not Nestorianism. Nestorianism affirms not only two separate natures, but two separate persons. We affirm that Christ is one person. McCain is simply pulling the “fun fallacy”: associate your opponent with some heresy that “kinda sounds like him anyway” so that the readers will become confused and affirm the “non-heretical” position in the end.

McCain–two strikes so far, let’s see what he will do now:

Steve Said: His ascension resembles the translation of Elijah, which did not require a hypostatic union.

Again, you err by trying to explain the Personal Union and its consequencs on the basis of non-Incarnational events.Your response again illustrates how you are forced to separate the two natures in order to sustain your post-facto cosmology and philosophy and metaphysics for that matter. Thank you for so clearly proving my point about Calvinism, and further allowing me now to make clear the chief error of Calvinism: Christological heresy.

Ignoring for the moment that Mr. McCain falsely relates his misinformed view of the Incarnation to Calvinism, we must note that McCain’s response really doesn’t have anything to do with Steve’s statement. What does this have to do with separating the natures? (We note in passing that the term ’separate’ assumes that they are somehow confused, which is simply a false view of the Incarnation). The fact that Elijah’s being taken up into heaven reflects the ascension of Christ is not arguing a position based upon “non-Incarnational events.” It simply shows that the question was irrelevant in the first place. Ascension does not require divination of the human nature. Steve rightly notes, “In addition, Christ was a wonder-worker. If he could perform nature miracles, he could presumably perform a nature miracle on himself. So one need not attribute his powers to the powers of his body. They were the powers of his omnipotence.”

Standing back and taking a look at has happened, Rev. McCain has struck out. He has made quite a few red herring assertions, yet all have failed.

Evan May.

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