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Church History discuss Nestorius and the Council of Ephesus in the The Church forums; There was a question in "The Wading Pool" about Nestorius and the Council of Ephesus (431). I've looked into these issues in a good bit ...

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    Nestorius and the Council of Ephesus

    There was a question in "The Wading Pool" about Nestorius and the Council of Ephesus (431). I've looked into these issues in a good bit of detail. There is controversy, and not everyone sees eye to eye on these things. But our knowledge of them is coming into sharper focus.

    My opinion of this council is largely shaped by Samuel Hugh Moffett, a historian from Princeton, who, writing in his 1991 work, “A History of Christianity in Asia,” describes this council:

    “On Easter Sunday in 429, Cyril publicly denounced Nestorius for heresy. With fine disregard for anything Nestorius had actually said, he accused him of denying the deity of Christ. It was a direct and incendiary appeal to the emotions of the orthodox, rather than to precise theological definition or scriptual exegesis, and, as he expected, an ecclesiastical uproar followed. Cyril showered Nestorius with twelve bristling anathemas…As tempers mounted, a Third Ecumenical Council was summoned to meet in Ephesus in 431 … [it was] the most violent and least equitable of all the great councils. It is an embarassment and blot on the history of the church. … Nestorius … arrived late and was asking the council to wait for him and his bishops. Cyril, who had brought fifty of his own bishops with him, arrogantly opened the council anyway, over the protests of the imperial commissioner and about seventy other bishops. …
    It's interesting to note that the Bishop of Rome at the time, Celestine I, did not attend, but his "papal legates" were honored guests of Cyril.

    The council was called by the emperors, at the request of Nestorius. (There were two emperors at the time -- east and west.) In fact, all of the first seven councils (which were observed by Eastern Orthodox believers) were called by emperors.

    Near the end of his life, Nestorius, from exile, wrote a work called "The Book of Heraclides," in which he gives an explanation of his life and theology. In that work, he describes how Cyril "conducted" this council:

    They acted … as if it was a war they were conducting, and the followers of [Cyril] … went about in the city girt and armed with clubs … with the yells of barbarians, snorting fiercely … raging with extravagant arrogance against those whom they knew to be opposed to their doings, carrying bells about the city and lighting fires. They blocked up the streets so that everyone was obliged to fee and hide, while they acted as masters of the situation, lying about, drunk and besotted and shouting obsceneties… (Moffet 174).
    The anathemas of this council were directed at Nestorius; they ratified 12 “anathemas” that, as Moffett relates, had nothing to do with Nestorius’s actual teachings.

    This, in my opinion, is a travesty of church authority, and yet as Moffett and others have written, this schism was far greater extent than either the 1054 split with the EO’s or the Protestant Reformation. In this split, (effected by Cyril’s armed thugs and a council that bore false witness against Nestorius), the entire eastern portion of the church (farther east than Jerusalem) was cast off and later left to die at the hands of Islam. Yet this church was far larger in numbers and scope than the churches surrounding the Mediterranean see.

    Moffett summarizes this council:

    The Church of the East never accepted the judgment of the Council of Ephesus in 431. It remains the only one of the first four ecumenical councils rejected by Nestorians, and they may as well have been right. Its legality is questionable. Its conduct was disgraceful. And its theological verdict, if not overturned, was at least radically amended by the Council of Chalcedon thirty years later... (Moffett 175)
    As for the supposed "infallibility" of this and other councils, Ludwig Ott, writing in "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma," says,

    The 3rd General Council of Ephesus (431) cofirmed the Twelve Anathemas of St. Cyril of Alexandria, but did not formally define them. (Citing Denzinger 113-124, Ott goes on to say): They were later recognized by Popes and Councils as an authentic expression of Catholic Dogma.
    What we have is a situation in which this council condemned something that nobody at all believed -- as Cyril's anathemas really didn't touch what Nestorius taught -- and the 2nd Council of Constantinople (553) did "recognize" these "false witness" anathemas as "an authentic expression of Catholic Dogma".

    As for what Nestorius actually DID believe, Moffett says the "doctrine of the unity of the person of Christ" that Nestorius taught "may have rested on the use of a word too weak to support the theological weight it was required to bear, but it was in no sense heresy."

    This was confirmed as recently as 1994 by Pope John Paul, in what is known as the "Common Christological Declaration Between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Churches of the East" in 1994. This agreement stated that Nestorius's use of language (including his term "Christotokos" vs "Theotokos") was "legitimate" and "right".

    For more information on "the Churches of the East" (otherwise known as "Nestorian" Churches), see:

    Philip Jenkins: The Lost History of Christianity

    Mar Bawai Soro: The Church of the East: Apostolic and Orthodox
    John Bugay
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    And the sphere of a creature's knowledge, be it that of an infant, or of a man, or of a philosopher, or of a prophet, or of saint or archangel in heaven, will float as a point of light athwart the bosom of that God who is the infinite Abyss for ever. From A.A. Hodge, "Evangelical Theology," pg 16.

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    Scholars like to pity the bad guy. This story is repeated time and time again. Is it possible that such scholars are simply repeating false witness against Cyril?
    Adam B., Old Dominion, RPCNA

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christusregnat View Post
    Scholars like to pity the bad guy. This story is repeated time and time again. Is it possible that such scholars are simply repeating false witness against Cyril?
    Who repeats this time and again? I'm sure it needs to be studied further by Reformed scholars, as it will help to provide a lot of insight into our understanding of how councils and church discipline work (and are supposed to work).

    The only group that basically thinks Cyril was a good guy were the Eastern Orthodox, who are bound to those first seven councils, including Ephesus in 431 but especially Constantinople II in 553 which further condemned Nestorius, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and others, by name.

    But to look at the details, it is clear that Cyril's anathemas did not touch what Nestorius taught. That's a clear instance of bearing false witness. And we've seen the outcome of it (though it's largely been forgotten). The schism of the fifth century was numerically a larger schism than the east/west split of 1054.
    John Bugay
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    And the sphere of a creature's knowledge, be it that of an infant, or of a man, or of a philosopher, or of a prophet, or of saint or archangel in heaven, will float as a point of light athwart the bosom of that God who is the infinite Abyss for ever. From A.A. Hodge, "Evangelical Theology," pg 16.

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    I've done research on Nestorius and came to the conclusion that yes, he was a bit mistaken and shaky on the unity of Christ, but that Cyril was using this as an excuse to increase the influence of the Alexandrian Papacy. In other words, Nestorius was not a heretic so much as the loser in Church politics (like, say, Gordon Clark in the Clark-Van Til controversy). Nestorius was exiled and his followers fled with him to the newly-independent Patriarchate of Seleucia (formed in 424 with the blessing of the Patriarchate of Antioch) which was outside the jurisdiction of the council, though they would accept Chalcedon.

    The Church of the East would go on to be the most missions-minded body of believers in history, with the exception of the New Testament Church. Within five hundred years, there were thousands of believers in China and by the year 1000, it is believed that the Gospel had reached Japan. The Church continued to thrive under Islamic rule until the Mongol invasions wiped out much of the population of the Middle East. The Church declined from the 1200s on because of association with the Mongols (several Khans were Christians) in addition to the depopulation caused by the invasions. Today, the only surviving branches of this Church are the Mar Thoma Christians of India and the Assyrian peoples of Iraq.
    Philip
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    ChristusRegnat wrote: "Scholars like to pity the bad guy. This story is repeated time and time again. Is it possible that such scholars are simply repeating false witness against Cyril?"

    Lots of things are possible, but there's very little evidence to support Cyril's accusations against Nestorius. The far more common problem, traditionally, is creating a hagiography of church fathers and councils. We see that error in folks like McGuckin, who seem to think that Cyril walked on water.
    P.F.
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Christusregnat View Post
    Scholars like to pity the bad guy. This story is repeated time and time again. Is it possible that such scholars are simply repeating false witness against Cyril?
    Who repeats this time and again? I'm sure it needs to be studied further by Reformed scholars, as it will help to provide a lot of insight into our understanding of how councils and church discipline work (and are supposed to work).

    The only group that basically thinks Cyril was a good guy were the Eastern Orthodox, who are bound to those first seven councils, including Ephesus in 431 but especially Constantinople II in 553 which further condemned Nestorius, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and others, by name.

    But to look at the details, it is clear that Cyril's anathemas did not touch what Nestorius taught. That's a clear instance of bearing false witness. And we've seen the outcome of it (though it's largely been forgotten). The schism of the fifth century was numerically a larger schism than the east/west split of 1054.
    What evidence to we have of what Nestorius taught? Above you cited one work in which he complained about Cyril. Anything else?

    It is repeated by men like Abelard who whined about his treatment at the Council of Balboa (if memory serves), where he got his just deserts under the hands of Bernard.

    The point I am making is you may be trusting Nesty's false witness against Cyril.

    Cheers,

    -----Added 9/30/2009 at 04:22:00 EST-----

    Quote Originally Posted by PCFLANAGAN View Post
    Lots of things are possible, but there's very little evidence to support Cyril's accusations against Nestorius.
    What evidence do we have to support Nestorius' orthodoxy?

    He did not want to say that God was born of the Virgin; maybe I'm missing something here.

    Cheers,
    Adam B., Old Dominion, RPCNA

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    Nestorius was simply trying to reconcile the human and the divine in Christ without denying either. He was particularly concerned with immutability, arguing that if Christ was fully God, then his divine nature could not change and therefore, could not become human. Thus, Nestorius argued that Christ must have two natures: a human and a divine. While incorrect, Nestorius' concerns would form the groundwork for the Council of Chalcedon where his Alexandrian opponents, like Dioscorus, a student of Cyril, were anathematized.

    One of Nestorius' later writings (written in exile) is located here.
    Philip
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    What evidence to we have of what Nestorius taught?
    I have been citing from the three works that I named in my first post. Moffett, of course, is a historian from Princeton. Mar Bawai Soro is a bishop from the Assyrian church (he recently converted to Catholicism, but that was after living in the US, with Catholics, for some time). Philip Jenkins touches on teachings relatively less.

    Moffett says of Nestorius,
    His writings were burned; only fragments survived. His image as left to history was that created by his enemies. Then, dramatically, in 1889 a Syrian priest discovered an eight-hundred-year-old manuscript of a Syriac translation made about 540 of Nestorius's own account, in Greek, of his controversies and teachings. It had remained hidden for centuries disguised under the title The Book (or Bazaar) of Heracleides, but the author was unmistakably Nestorius. (175-176)
    For the above he cites "the most through critical study of the text and its history," L. Abrahamowski's "Undersuchungen zum Liber Heraclidis des Nestorius," 1963. He continues:

    Judged by his own words at last, Nestorius is revealed as not so much "Nestorian and more orthodox than his opponents gave him credit for. Luther, for example, after looking over all he could find (of the largely destroyed works available at the time) decided that there was nothing really heretical in them. Opinions about him still differ widely, for his theological writing is difficult and often obscure. But some points are clear. He took his stand firmly on the historical Christ as revealed in the gospels.
    It should be noted that Nestorius was originally from Antioch, and he adhered to the Antiochene hermeneutic, which, at the time, was very similar to the Grammatico-Historical method. Continuing:

    He was not at ease with technical and semantic theological distinctions. He was absolutely convinced that he was biblically orthodox. At no time did he deny the deity fo Christ, as was charged against him. He merely insisted that it be clearly distinguished from Christ's humanity. Nor did he deny the unity of Christ's person, which was the most enduring of the charges against him. It was on this point that he was officially condemned....

    Nor was Nestorius guilty of another serious charge against him, the heresy of adoptionism. Alexandria complained that the Christ of Nestorius was only a man, a man who was so good and so obedient that he earned for himself an adoptive "sonship" into divinity. (176 ... 177).
    Bear in mind that I myself am not a theologian; the distinctions that were fought about are made in the original languages, and I do not have the ability to analyze those. But I do have the ability to report what modern scholars are concluding.

    You said:
    The point I am making is you may be trusting Nesty's false witness against Cyril.
    I'm sure it's the other way around. Moffett goes to some length to describe the character of the various individuals:

    Confronted by an impassed that threatened to tear his Byzantine empire apart, Theodosius II reluctantly decided to defuse the situation by accepting the deposition of both the rival patriarchs, Nestorius and Cyril. They were arrested adn imprisoned, but the two men reacted to the sentence in quite different ways. Cyril promptly bribed his way back to power. ... Nestorius, on the other hand, who was often tactless and extreme but always honest and sincere, accepted the verdict with only a quiet protest at its injustice. He went obediently into exile ...
    This is corroborated by Mar Bawai Soro in his work, "The Church of the East."

    In 1999, Soro was a speaker at the Lumen Gentium series of meetings. In his introduction of Soro, note that the Orthodox Bishop Timothy "Kallistos" Ware also largely confirmed what Soro said about Nestorius:

    Check out the first couple of video clips here: OL III - Mary and the Church
    John Bugay
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    And the sphere of a creature's knowledge, be it that of an infant, or of a man, or of a philosopher, or of a prophet, or of saint or archangel in heaven, will float as a point of light athwart the bosom of that God who is the infinite Abyss for ever. From A.A. Hodge, "Evangelical Theology," pg 16.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christusregnat View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by PCFLANAGAN View Post
    Lots of things are possible, but there's very little evidence to support Cyril's accusations against Nestorius.
    What evidence do we have to support Nestorius' orthodoxy?

    He did not want to say that God was born of the Virgin; maybe I'm missing something here.
    We have very little evidence to work with, because Nestorius' enemies destroyed most of his writings.

    The primary evidence we have of his positions from his own pen is the "Bazaar of Heraclides." I think you can probably buy it in paperback these days. That's the evidence for his orthodoxy. It is typically on an examination of that work that scholars acknowledge that Nestorius did not teach that Jesus was two persons, and objected to "Theotokos" because of the potential for it suggesting that the Godhead was born of Mary.
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    See more about Nestorius, Cyril, Christology, etc., here, too.
    John Bugay
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    And the sphere of a creature's knowledge, be it that of an infant, or of a man, or of a philosopher, or of a prophet, or of saint or archangel in heaven, will float as a point of light athwart the bosom of that God who is the infinite Abyss for ever. From A.A. Hodge, "Evangelical Theology," pg 16.

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    When a cadre of modern scholars agree on something, it is best to be skeptical. Critical scholars are particularly notorious for defending heretics.

    I am contented to consider Nestorius a heretic, until convinced otherwise by his writings; I'll see if I can pick up his book some time soon.

    Cheers,
    Adam B., Old Dominion, RPCNA

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    Three points worth considering.

    1. The "severity" of the times is no argument for the illegitimacy of the proceedings. Appealing to 20th century sensibilities does not invalidate what took place in the 5th century. The actions of the various parties must be examined according to accepted standards of the time.

    2. The later subjugation of the eastern churches cannot be blamed on their separation from the catholic church; and if it was owing to separation, it still leaves open the question as to who was to blame for the separation.

    3. One ought not to appeal to theological developments since the time of Nestorius in order to paint him as a figure struggling with issues which were foreign to the history of those times. Specific phrases carry meaning within specific contexts. If Nestorius engaged in unorthodox phrases it is because he was unorthodox. His teaching must be evaluated according to what that age considered as orthodox.
    Last edited by armourbearer; 09-30-2009 at 10:06 PM.
    Yours sincerely,
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christusregnat View Post
    When a cadre of modern scholars agree on something, it is best to be skeptical. Critical scholars are particularly notorious for defending heretics.

    I am contented to consider Nestorius a heretic, until convinced otherwise by his writings; I'll see if I can pick up his book some time soon.

    Cheers,
    I think what we're saying is that the doctrine condemned at Ephesus was rightfully condemned . . . it just wasn't Nestorius' view. Most of the material written since the rediscovery of Nestorius' writings agrees that Nestorius was mistaken, but not badly enough to warrant such persecution. Church politics at its ugliest.
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    Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823-1886): "The Nestorian heresy, charged upon Nestorius, a Syrian by birth, and bishop of Constantinople, during the fifth century, by his enemy Cyril, the arrogant bishop of Alexandria. Cyril obtained a judgment against Nestorius in the Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431, to the effect that he separated the two natures of Christ so far as to teach the coexistence in him of two distinct persons, a God and a man, intimately united. But it is now, however, judged most probable by Protestant historians that Nestorius was personally a brave defender of the true faith, and that the misrepresentations of his enemies were founded only upon his uncompromising opposition to the dangerous habit then prominently introduced of calling the Virgin Mary the mother of God, because she was the mother of the human nature of Christ." (Outlines of Theology, Chapter 20, Question 15, 3rd Answer)

    I tend not to think of him (or men preceding him, to which he was referring) as a "modern scholar," but perhaps you would disagree.
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    When a cadre of modern scholars agree on something, it is best to be skeptical. Critical scholars are particularly notorious for defending heretics.
    I don't know that Moffett is a "Critical scholar". I picked up his work because it was highly recommended by Dr. David Calhoun while auditing his History of Christianity course through Covenant Seminary.

    Quote Originally Posted by armourbearer View Post
    Three points worh considering.

    1. The "severity" of the times is no argument for the illegitimacy of the proceedings. Appealing to 20th century sensibilities does not invalidate what took place in the 5th century. The actions of the various parties must be examined according to accepted standards of the time.
    But aren't these "Christians"? Is not the moral law an objective standard of behavior for all people at all times? I did not argue for the illegitimacy of the proceedings. I reported Moffett's conclusion.

    However, your consideration here would also "not invalidate" something like the Inquisition. I would hope that you would not think that the reasoning in favor of the Inquisition would not be "valid" in any age.


    3. One ought not to appeal to theological developments since the time of Nestorius in order to paint him as a figure struggling with issues which were foreign to the history of those times. Specific phrases carry meaning within specific contexts. If Nestorius engaged in unorthodox phrases it is because he was unorthodox. His teaching must be evaluated according to what that age considered as orthodox.
    My understanding is that Theodore, Nestorius, Theodoret, and others from the Antioch school were considered "unorthodox" because they refused to go beyond Scripture (and thus refused to engage in speculations). Pelikan, in his "History of the Development of Doctrine" practically says that Chalcedon was a "vindication" of Nestorius. As Reformed believers, we hang our hats on Chalcedon, but not on Constantinople II, which was the council that really condemned those three.


    Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823-1886): "The Nestorian heresy, charged upon Nestorius, a Syrian by birth, and bishop of Constantinople, during the fifth century, by his enemy Cyril, the arrogant bishop of Alexandria. Cyril obtained a judgment against Nestorius in the Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431, to the effect that he separated the two natures of Christ so far as to teach the coexistence in him of two distinct persons, a God and a man, intimately united. But it is now, however, judged most probable by Protestant historians that Nestorius was personally a brave defender of the true faith, and that the misrepresentations of his enemies were founded only upon his uncompromising opposition to the dangerous habit then prominently introduced of calling the Virgin Mary the mother of God, because she was the mother of the human nature of Christ." (Outlines of Theology, Chapter 20, Question 15, 3rd Answer)

    I tend not to think of him (or men preceding him, to which he was referring) as a "modern scholar," but perhaps you would disagree.
    I am a great fan of A.A. Hodge (see my signature). And even he, here, seems to be defending Nestorius. Nevertheless, he would not have been familiar with Nestorius's "Book of Heraclides," if he even knew of it at all.

    Yes, it was true that Nestorius saw the dangers in the "Mother of God" language. A more proper translation of "Theotokos" is "God-Bearer," and that yields a proper understanding of Mary's role. But to call her "Mother of God" (Mater Theou in Latin) really introduces an inaccuracy, and we can see the results of that little slip.

    -----Added 9/30/2009 at 09:35:25 EST-----

    Quote Originally Posted by P. F. Pugh View Post
    I think what we're saying is that the doctrine condemned at Ephesus was rightfully condemned . . . it just wasn't Nestorius' view.
    Would you consider then that Ephesus "bore false witness" against Nestorius? If he didn't believe the views that were "rightfully condemned," why then were they attributed to him?
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    But aren't these "Christians"? Is not the moral law an objective standard of behavior for all people at all times? I did not argue for the illegitimacy of the proceedings. I reported Moffett's conclusion.

    However, your consideration here would also "not invalidate" something like the Inquisition. I would hope that you would not think that the reasoning in favor of the Inquisition would not be "valid" in any age.
    The name of Servetus comes to mind. The moral law remains the same, but "Christian sensibilities" change from generation to generation. In historical research it is important to paint a complete picture by examining behaviour in terms of accepted norms of the time, not according to modern standards.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    As Reformed believers, we hang our hats on Chalcedon, but not on Constantinople II, which was the council that really condemned those three.
    Not sure where this might be coming from, but it sounds odd to me. Surely Ephesus should be the focus.
    Yours sincerely,
    Rev. Matthew Winzer
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    Would you consider then that Ephesus "bore false witness" against Nestorius? If he didn't believe the views that were "rightfully condemned," why then were they attributed to him?
    Yes, they bore false witness against him: his supporters weren't given a chance to submit their case.

    To me, the whole issue here was a power struggle. Alexandria was competing with Antioch in Church politics, as well as theology, and saw the recent division of Antioch's territory (the Synod of Seleucia, 410, and the formation of the Catholicate of Seleucia into a Patriarchate in 424) as an opportunity to grab power. The ploy was successful, as Nestorius' supporters arrived late. John, Patriarch of Antioch, called a counter-council which exonerated Nestorius and deposed Cyril.

    But you've already gone into that. The only thing of lasting value that came out of Ephesus was the condemnation of Pelagianism. The Christological decrees were practically overturned (or at least highly modified) at Chalcedon to the point where, in retrospect, modern Nestorians would agree with Chalcedon.
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    Quote Originally Posted by P. F. Pugh View Post
    To me, the whole issue here was a power struggle. Alexandria was competing with Antioch in Church politics, as well as theology, and saw the recent division of Antioch's territory (the Synod of Seleucia, 410, and the formation of the Catholicate of Seleucia into a Patriarchate in 424) as an opportunity to grab power. The ploy was successful, as Nestorius' supporters arrived late. John, Patriarch of Antioch, called a counter-council which exonerated Nestorius and deposed Cyril.
    This sounds like speculation about the character of historical persons; do you have any evidence to support such assertions?

    Cheers,
    Adam B., Old Dominion, RPCNA

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    armourbearer is offline. Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by P. F. Pugh View Post
    But you've already gone into that. The only thing of lasting value that came out of Ephesus was the condemnation of Pelagianism. The Christological decrees were practically overturned (or at least highly modified) at Chalcedon to the point where, in retrospect, modern Nestorians would agree with Chalcedon.
    I will pass by your power conspiracy as something which sensible people won't be too inclined to fall for, but in the quoted paragraph you are not only exonerating Nestorius, but Nestorians, and that is simply impossible to accomplish.
    Yours sincerely,
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    Quote Originally Posted by armourbearer View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by P. F. Pugh View Post
    But you've already gone into that. The only thing of lasting value that came out of Ephesus was the condemnation of Pelagianism. The Christological decrees were practically overturned (or at least highly modified) at Chalcedon to the point where, in retrospect, modern Nestorians would agree with Chalcedon.
    I will pass by your power conspiracy as something which sensible people won't be too inclined to fall for, but in the quoted paragraph you are not only exonerating Nestorius, but Nestorians, and that is simply impossible to accomplish.
    While such an exoneration is impossible if modern Nestorians teach the errors condemned at Ephesus, it seems that the moderns do not teach the Ephesian errors: as they are now in sufficient communion with the RCC that a Roman may receive communion in an Assyrian Orthodox (Nestorian) church if an RCC is not available.
    In Christ's love and service

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    Diploma in Christian Studies, Regent College, Vancouver
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    Bachelor of Music in Trombone Performance, University of Toronto
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    armourbearer is offline. Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by timmopussycat View Post
    While such an exoneration is impossible if modern Nestorians teach the errors condemned at Ephesus, it seems that the moderns do not teach the Ephesian errors: as they are now in sufficient communion with the RCC that a Roman may receive communion in an Assyrian Orthodox (Nestorian) church if an RCC is not available.
    If that is the case, it doesn't materially alter the tradition's condemnation of Nestorianism. Since that time East has split from West and the West has undergone a Reformation; any "Romanist" acceptance of Nestorianism cannot be construed as a "Catholic" acceptance of Nestorianism.
    Last edited by armourbearer; 10-16-2009 at 06:55 PM.
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    It seems as if an old thread has been brought to the front. Here is something though that I probably needed to address at the time:

    Quote Originally Posted by armourbearer View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    As Reformed believers, we hang our hats on Chalcedon, but not on Constantinople II, which was the council that really condemned those three.
    Not sure where this might be coming from, but it sounds odd to me. Surely Ephesus should be the focus.
    The rulings of these three councils (actually four) went back and forth. Ephesus made a particular Christological ruling, which was superceded by Chalcedon, which in turn was ruled on in another way by Constantinople II (in 553 ad).

    In summarizing the work of Mar Aba, a 6th century Patriarch of Seleucia (Baghdad), here is what Moffett says concerning later efforts within the "Nestorian" church, "The Church of the East" to work past what had transpired at Ephesus:

    Above all, Mar Aba (patriarch of the "Nestorian" church) gave himself to the work of reunion. Not only did he heal the wounds in his own church, he also reached out to restore broken relationships between Christians east and west. Not long after his conversion Aba had made a pilgrimage to Christian centers in the West, Jerusalem, Egypt, Greee, and Constantinople. At the Byzantine capital he is said to have been received to communion and in no way treated as a heretic.

    Whether or not he was actually so well received in Constantinople as that implies, in his general council of 544 (The Council of Mar Aba) he saw to it that the Church of the East brought itself more into official theological harmony with the non-Monophysite, orthodox West by adopting the creed and decrees of the Council of Chalcedon. At the same time the council reiterated that the basic doctrinal position of the Persian church was the Creed of Nicaea as interpreted by Theodore of Mopsuestia:

    Our opinion -- the opinion of all the bishops of the East -- on the subject of the faith established by the 318 bishops (i.e., the Nicene Creed) which we defend with all our power, is that which was set forth by the holy friend of God, the blessed Mar Theodore, bishop and Interpreter of the holy Books.
    A few years later such recognition of Theodore's authority would be labeled heretical in the West. But in 544 it was no act of schism, though the emperor Justinian did, it is true, issue a personal edict that very year condemning the "Nestorianism" of Theodore. It is ironic that as the Church of the East was reaching out for reunion with the West, the West was making that reunion impossible. (Moffet 219)
    Just a few years later, in 553, the Council of Constantinople II condemned Theodore, Nestorius, and Theodoret (and another individual named Hiba) by name.

    Summarizing, Moffett says:

    All three were summarily anathematized, though Theodore had died in communion with the church and though Theodoret and Hiba had officially been cleared of taint by the Council of Chalcedon.
    Last edited by johnbugay; 10-16-2009 at 08:18 PM. Reason: Fixed spelling
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    The rulings of these three councils (actually four) went back and forth. Ephesus made a particular Christological ruling, which was superceded by Chalcedon, which in turn was ruled on in another way by Constantinople II (in 553 ad).
    Chalcedon's words: "the frenzied folly of Nestorius" (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, second series, 14:264).

    Constantinople II's words: "the blasphemies of the heretics Theodore and Nestorius" (ibid., 310).

    Chalcedon affirms the judgements of Nice, Constantinople I, and Ephesus in express words. Constantinople II affirms the judgements of Nice, Constantinople I, Ephesus, and Chalcedon in express words.
    Yours sincerely,
    Rev. Matthew Winzer
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    Quote Originally Posted by armourbearer View Post
    Chalcedon's words: "the frenzied folly of Nestorius" (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, second series, 14:264).
    It was not this simple though. While they condemned the man, in the words of Pelikan,

    it is, of course, quite another question whether these interpretations of the christological alternatives represented a fair and accurate reading of the various theologies. The insistence that Christ not be divided or separated into two persons did not really strike the center of its intended target, which was the need to affirm that the birth, suffering, and death of Christ were real, and simultaneously to protect the Godhead from compromise by them.... Although the Chalcedonian formula did not in fact say oany of these things unequivocally, it did allow room for them; hence it could be, and indeed was, taken as a vindication of the Nestorian position. (Pelikan, "History," Vol 1, pgs 264-5)
    So then we are back to that business of a council (Ephesus) not having condemned Nestorius's teaching as it had been stated (except to disagree with his cautions on "theotokos"), but again, on what basis does Chalcedon call that a "frenzied folly," when they are adopting very much akin to his "one person after the union of two natures" christological formulation?

    I am not saying that we need to welcome Nestorius with open arms; again, my point is to question precicely "how" the Holy Spirit spoke in the council of Ephesus? This was one council that Nestorius refused to attend because (a) his people hadn't arrived in the city, and (b) Cyril was presiding, having "compelled" people to come in, quite evidently at the hand of armed gangs of thugs who were terrorizing people to see things his way. (This is why the Emperorer originally threw out both Cyril's and John of Antioch's council).

    Reymond gives a large analysis of the council of Chalcedon, and it is largely seems to be "fencing off" a particular set of guidelines, within which was "orthodox Christology."

    So it is true that they used "Theotokos" as a title, but they specifically did not use the "Mother of God" language which Cyril had specifically used (there are multiple ways to translate "Theotokos," one as "God-bearer," which Nestorius could have accepted, and "Mother of God," which is Cyril's way of using it, which had become a popular expression, and which ultimately opened the door for "Marian devotion".)

    It was muddy, and while I understand that you are looking to attribute "the work of the Holy Spirit" in the entire history of the church (in the spirit of the Magisterial Reformers), I still do not see how, precisely you are dividing up what was "the work of the Spirit" and what was not "the work of the Spirit" in these councils.

    Especially Ephesus. That council has almost nothing going for it, except that Chalcedon (interested in making peace) said, "That was The Ecumenical Council" of the several held at that time. But what it offered with one hand, it took back with the other.
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    It was muddy, and while I understand that you are looking to attribute "the work of the Holy Spirit" in the entire history of the church (in the spirit of the Magisterial Reformers), I still do not see how, precisely you are dividing up what was "the work of the Spirit" and what was not "the work of the Spirit" in these councils.

    Especially Ephesus. That council has almost nothing going for it
    ? Speaking of magisterial Reformers, have you read what any of the magisterial Reformers said about Ephesus? And it's relationship with the Spirit?
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    [quote=TimV;703079]
    Speaking of magisterial Reformers, have you read what any of the magisterial Reformers said about Ephesus? And it's relationship with the Spirit?
    Luther did not think Nestorius's work, without having seen Heraclides, was all that bad. (I've cited Moffett on this somewhere).

    And to my knowledge, Calvin says almost nothing of it, except Institutes 4.9.13, where he says "Nestorius's impiety was overthrown. From the beginning, then, this was the ordinary method of maintaining unity in the church whenever Satan began any machinations."

    Now, this is not the way we understand Ephesus today. As I mentioned, Cyril started the council, virtually at gunpoint (or the 5th century equivalent of it), and ruled without half of the rightful attendees being there. If that passes for "an ordinary method of maintaining unity whenever Satan begins his machinations," then we are in trouble.

    Turretin as well seems to have little to say about these councils that we are discussing.

    I am open to suggestion as to which Reformed (or even conservative Protestant) sources have written histories of these councils, and said precisely what parts of them that the Reformed say are "guided by the Spirit" and which parts are not.

    To my knowledge, the Reformed reject councils 5, 6, and 7 (Constantinople II, III, and Nicea II), but I am not aware of any source that discusses this in any detail at all.
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    Quote Originally Posted by armourbearer View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by timmopussycat View Post
    While such an exoneration is impossible if modern Nestorians teach the errors condemned at Ephesus, it seems that the moderns do not teach the Ephesian errors: as they are now in sufficient communion with the RCC that a Roman may receive communion in an Assyrian Orthodox (Nestorian) church if an RCC is not available.
    If that is the case, it doesn't materially alter the tradition's condemnation of Nestorianism. Since that time East has split from West and the West has undergone a Reformation; any "Romanist" acceptance of Nestorianism cannot be construed as a "Catholic" acceptance of Nestorianism.
    Nobody is claiming that the tradition was wrong to condemn "Nestorianism" when some of Nestorius' followers embraced the errors condemned by Ephesus. But the term "Nestorians" is equivocal. Some of his early followers did walk down the Ephesianly condemned path. Others (and his modern descendants) did not.

    As I understand the matter, there are no significant differences dividing the RCC from Protestantism in the area of Christology. If yes, what are they? If no, is there any theological reason why Reformed Protestants should treat the contemporary Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorius contemporary followers) as different from, say, the Greek Orthodox, since both bodies accept Chalcedon?
    Last edited by timmopussycat; 10-17-2009 at 01:20 PM.
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    And to my knowledge, Calvin says almost nothing of it, except Institutes 4.9.13, where he says "Nestorius's impiety was overthrown. From the beginning, then, this was the ordinary method of maintaining unity in the church whenever Satan began any machinations."
    You could have turned one page back to 4.9.8, where he says ...we willingly embrace and reverence as holy....Ephesus..... ;-)
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimV View Post
    And to my knowledge, Calvin says almost nothing of it, except Institutes 4.9.13, where he says "Nestorius's impiety was overthrown. From the beginning, then, this was the ordinary method of maintaining unity in the church whenever Satan began any machinations."
    You could have turned one page back to 4.9.8, where he says ...we willingly embrace and reverence as holy....Ephesus..... ;-)
    Calvin at 4.9.8 lists the first four councils as "concerned with refuting errors--in so far as they relate to the teachings of faith. For they contain nothing but the pure and genuine exposition of Scripture, which the holy fathers applied with spiritual prudence to crush the enemies of religion who had then arisen.

    At any rate, if what he says in my quote is the qualification for what he said in your quote, What is it of "Nestorius's impiety" that was contrary to Scripture? Nestorius was from the school of Antioch most careful not to be "contrary to Scripture". If you read Nestorius's letter, cited in the Council of Ephesus, he is most careful to adhere to Scripture.

    On the other hand, as we've discussed here, Cyril, via a logic trick, got a council full of his own followers (all of Nestorius's people, including John of Antioch and his contingent were not present) not to vote on Nestorius's own words, but on this logic trick:

    If, however, we reject the hypostatic union as being either impossible or too unlovely for the Word, we fall into the fallacy of speaking of two sons.
    Nestorius nowhere says "two sons". Nowhere. As best as I can tell, his ONLY "impiety" was not to use the word "Theotokos."

    Now, I've searched through the confessions that are generously published at this site. And I do not find any Reformed believers staking their faith on the word "Theotokos". They all manage to adequately describe Chalcedonian Christology without using that word.

    I do not understand how, given that what we know now is far more extensive than what Calvin knew, any Reformed believer would continue to condemn Nestorius as a heretic.
    John Bugay
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    Now we're talking past each other. You said Ephesus has almost nothing going for it. Then you said

    you are looking to attribute "the work of the Holy Spirit" in the entire history of the church (in the spirit of the Magisterial Reformers), I still do not see how, precisely you are dividing up what was "the work of the Spirit" and what was not "the work of the Spirit" in these councils.
    and I showed you where Calvin called Ephesus holy, and reverent and to be embraced. Surely you see a difference between something that's holy and to be reverenced and to be embraced and something that has almost nothing going for it!
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimV View Post
    Now we're talking past each other. You said Ephesus has almost nothing going for it. Then you said

    you are looking to attribute "the work of the Holy Spirit" in the entire history of the church (in the spirit of the Magisterial Reformers), I still do not see how, precisely you are dividing up what was "the work of the Spirit" and what was not "the work of the Spirit" in these councils.
    and I showed you where Calvin called Ephesus holy, and reverent and to be embraced. Surely you see a difference between something that's holy and to be reverenced and to be embraced and something that has almost nothing going for it!
    Yes, I see what Calvin said. I am trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here. But when I look at the council itself, I see a bankrupt proceeding, held under questionable circumstances, that made a ruling ("Theotokos") that no reformed confession even mentions.

    Other than that Calvin listed as he did, what is it about Ephesus that is "the work of the Holy Spirit"? Why is Nestorius condemned?
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by armourbearer View Post
    Chalcedon's words: "the frenzied folly of Nestorius" (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, second series, 14:264).
    It was not this simple though.
    Facts can be brutal things. Just accept them and you will be much better for it.
    Yours sincerely,
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    Quote Originally Posted by timmopussycat View Post
    Nobody is claiming that the tradition was wrong to condemn "Nestorianism" when some of Nestorius' followers embraced the errors condemned by Ephesus. But the term "Nestorians" is equivocal. Some of his early followers did walk down the Ephesianly condemned path. Others (and his modern descendants) did not.
    If present day Nestorians are not historic Nestorians then there is no benefit to discussing them in a thread which is examining an historic question.
    Yours sincerely,
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    made a ruling ("Theotokos") that no reformed confession even mentions.
    Is this to be taken that you consider none of the Reformed Confessions to have stated anything about Mary as the Mother of God, or that God was born of Mary?

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    Quote Originally Posted by armourbearer View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by armourbearer View Post
    Chalcedon's words: "the frenzied folly of Nestorius" (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, second series, 14:264).
    It was not this simple though.
    Facts can be brutal things. Just accept them and you will be much better for it.
    It is a fact that Chalcedon referred to "frenzied folly"; it does not say what that "frenzied folly" was. That actually explains nothing. So I'm not sure what you are asking me to accept.

    As a former Roman Catholic, I was able to leave that system precisely because I did not accept what they said as "facts"; I challenged them, and searched for the truth. (That is why I am here and why I attend a PCA church).

    I've written quite extensively about this here and in the other thread. I'm relying on the word of sound historians and theologians and have cited them extensively. I can admit that Nestorius, personally, in his actions, may have been "frenzied". But that is not a heresy. His rationale for suggesting the use of the term "Christotokos" was an attempt to compromise between a party that was insisting on Theotokos and one that was insisting on anthropotokos. To my knowledge this dispute occurred prior to Ephesus. (In Heraclides, Soro does not provide a quote for this, but he says that Nestorius does state that he could "accept the communicatio idomatum" as expressed in the term Theotokos" with the reservation that it be noted that "In the beginning was the Word," and that "God the Word exists eternally." That is a scriptural qualification of that term.)

    It was also stated in the other thread that Chalcedon admitted some portion of Nestorius's construction into the definition that we all now adhere to (and as well, some of Cyril's construction from Ephesus was not used. So, prior to Chalcedon, nobody adhered to "Chalcedonian orthodoxy" Such a thing simply did not exist.

    From what I can gather, from what you have been saying, the only reason Nestorius is a heretic is that he did not say "Theotokos". But nor did any of the Reformed confessions; each and every one of them managed to define their Christology without saying "theotokos".

    Aside from that, the ONLY thing that I can tell is that you dislike that I've said that Berkhof was factually wrong about what Nestorius (and Theodore) taught. And I explained that in detail as well.

    Could you please state, in positive terms, what it is that you think I should "just accept"?

    -----Added 10/18/2009 at 07:53:39 EST-----

    Quote Originally Posted by Christusregnat View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    made a ruling ("Theotokos") that no reformed confession even mentions.
    Is this to be taken that you consider none of the Reformed Confessions to have stated anything about Mary as the Mother of God, or that God was born of Mary?

    Cheers,
    It seems to me that the Second Helvetic confession goes into the most detail of this -- the date on that is 1566. And it does not say "theotokos" nor "Mother of God" but uses other language to make its Christological statement.

    Please don't be coy; if you think I am in error, please say precisely where.
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    It is a fact that Chalcedon referred to "frenzied folly"; it does not say what that "frenzied folly" was. That actually explains nothing. So I'm not sure what you are asking me to accept.
    I am asking you to accept the fact that there was no revised understanding of Nestorius or what he taught. The councils speak uniformly. Your conjectures to the contrary are simply contrary to fact.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    (In Heraclides, Soro does not provide a quote for this, but he says that Nestorius does state that he could "accept the communicatio idomatum" as expressed in the term Theotokos" with the reservation that it be noted that "In the beginning was the Word," and that "God the Word exists eternally." That is a scriptural qualification of that term.)
    This is all a figment of the historian's imagination. Any communicatio can only be predicated on the acknowledgment of a unio personalis, which Nestorius never affirmed. His statements in the Bazaar only allow for a moral union and specifically refer to the adoption of the person of the flesh. Such language cannot be reconciled with orthodox Christology as defined by Chalcedon.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    It was also stated in the other thread that Chalcedon admitted some portion of Nestorius's construction into the definition that we all now adhere to (and as well, some of Cyril's construction from Ephesus was not used. So, prior to Chalcedon, nobody adhered to "Chalcedonian orthodoxy" Such a thing simply did not exist.
    How ridiculous! Chalcedon praises Ephesus and self-consciously aims to reproduce the orthodoxy of Ephesus in seeking to meet the challenges of new errors.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post
    From what I can gather, from what you have been saying, the only reason Nestorius is a heretic is that he did not say "Theotokos". But nor did any of the Reformed confessions; each and every one of them managed to define their Christology without saying "theotokos".
    You are not gathering very well. I have continually insisted on the Christological significance of the theotokos -- a significance which Nestorius rejected. That significance is embodied in the reformed confessions. See WCF 8:2. The eternal Son of God was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary. That conception pertains to the human nature but is nonetheless a conception of the Son of God -- a doctrine which Nestorius rejected.
    Yours sincerely,
    Rev. Matthew Winzer
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    I'm not interested in getting involved in this thread beyond this post, but I do think it's of importance to point out a few historical facts about events at the Council of Chalcedon.

    The 9th session of Chalcedon was held on October 26, and involved the examination of Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466). He had been deposed in 449 by the "Robber Council of Ephesus." It was well known that he had befriended Nestorius. In order for him to be restored, Theodoret was required by Chalcedon to condemn Nestorius, which he did in the following formula...
    "Anathema to Nestorius and to whoever does not call the holy Virgin Mary Theotokos and to anyone who divides the only-begotten Son into two sons. I myself also have subscribed to the definition of faith and to the letter of the very reverend archbishop Leo; this is my opinion. And after all that, may you be saved." See Peter L'Huillier, The Church of the Ancient Councils, p. 197.
    The same condemnation of Nestorius was likewise required by Ibas of Edessa, Sophronius of Constantina, and John of Germanicea. The point is that even though Antiochian sentiments were represented in the official definition of Chalcedon, none of that affected the Council's posture against Nestorius as pronounced at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. Though the number of bishops claimed to have been present was later numbered at about 630 in attendance, the actual figure was probably closer to 510, and the Antiochian contingency was well represented (Ibid, p. 187).

    DTK

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnbugay View Post

    Please don't be coy; if you think I am in error, please say precisely where.
    You may need to do an in depth study of the 9th Commandment; both in your treatment of people on this board, as well as historic councils of the Church. Please don't impute motives that you are ignorant of. The form of my question was intended to give you the chance to speak for yourself rather than my own prejudice being read into what you said. Perhaps you should grant me the same courtesy.

    Cheers,
    Adam B., Old Dominion, RPCNA

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    My apologies to all.
    John Bugay
    City Reformed PCA, Pittsburgh, PA
    http://reformation500.wordpress.com
    --
    And the sphere of a creature's knowledge, be it that of an infant, or of a man, or of a philosopher, or of a prophet, or of saint or archangel in heaven, will float as a point of light athwart the bosom of that God who is the infinite Abyss for ever. From A.A. Hodge, "Evangelical Theology," pg 16.

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    One of my seminary professors did his Ph.D. on Cyril and the Council of Ephesus. I copied the OP and sent it to him to get his opinion on this. Here is the gist of his reply:

    But here’s the short version of the story:



    1) Yes, Cyril was a jerk in the way he treated Nestorius.



    2) But Cyril did not treat Nestorius any worse than Nestorius treated Cyril at the time that Nestorius thought he had the upper hand. In his Book of Heraclidis, written much later from exile, Nestorius seems to have forgotten this fact and he whines incessantly about the way Cyril treated him. But he does not back down on his Christology at all, and he does not seem to remember how badly he treated Cyril.



    3) The way Cyril treated Nestorius would have been inexcusable IF a major truth of the gospel were not at stake.



    4) Modern scholars don’t think that a major truth of the gospel was at stake, because they believe Nestorius adequately affirmed the “deity of Christ.”



    5) But as Cyril knew all along, as John of Antioch came to recognize, and as virtually the whole church eventually realized, Nestorius did NOT adequately affirm the deity of Christ. For Nestorius, Christ as a man in whom God the Son dwelt, just as the Spirit dwells in each of us. But the rest of the church, led by Cyril, correctly recognized that such a definition of “deity” missed the central point: Christ had to BE God the Son, not just be INDWELT by God the Son, or he could not save us.



    6) Modern scholars generally speaking hold to a Christology very much like that of Nestorius. Their notion of the “deity of Christ” means little more than some sort of divine spirit dwelling in this man. It certainly does not mean that he was the eternal Second Person of the Trinity. Since the modern scholars believe that, and want that to be acceptable, they assume Nestorius’ thought was acceptable, and they assume that Cyril’s vehemence toward Nestorius was only the result of politics. It wasn’t. Behind the politics and the mistreatment of Nestorius lay the fundamental, correct recognition that Nestorius’ Christ could not save us, because he was not God the Son incarnate.



    7) One of the sad ironies of this is that evangelicals emphatically hold to Cyril’s Christology, but we do not realize that we are doing so. And we often passionately defend Nestorius and defame Cyril, not realizing that in doing so we have bought into a liberal, 19th-century way of viewing the controversy that has nothing in common with our own faith.

    P.S. – Nestorius’ use of Christological language was not the problem. The problem was his view of salvation and the view of Christ that came out of it.


    P.P.S. – Jenkins’ The Lost History of Christianity is a fascinating book, but he knows basically nothing about the theological issues of the time, and he virtually admits as much. He is willing to say that anyone who calls himself a Christian is one.
    This prof is knowledgeable in the area and has written a chapter in a textbook (Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective: An Introductory Christology) as well as at least one book (Life in the Trinity: An Introduction to Theology with the Help of the Church Fathers) on the subject.
    Tim Phillips
    Pastor, Midlane Park Presbyterian Church (ARP)
    Louisville, KY
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