Re: Orthodoxy (was Re: Biblical Interpretation Reconsidered)

From: Robert Schneider <>
Date: Wed Dec 31 2003 - 12:52:17 EST

Hello, Blake, Dave, and George,

    Lest you think that I simply rolled the grenade under the tent flap and
walked away, know that I have followed your responses with interest and
enjoyment. It's been a while since I've had a chance to review patristic
orthodoxy and heterodoxy, and hadn't heard the words "patripassianism" or
"monophysite" for some time. Any modalists here? It reminds me and perhaps
others of how difficult the early Church's theologians found it to
comprehend and articulate their understanding of the nature of Christ.
George's clarification us that the orthodox view is that Christ is two
natures in one person and not two persons in one nature will help us steer
clear of monophysitism (yuk, yuk).

    But, given the original question I raised about the origin of Jesus' Y
chromosomes, I think George's final comment is well taken:
> You will note, of course, that I'm using Chalcedonian language here, but
> shouldn't be taken to mean that theology must be limited to the
philosophical framework
> of nature, person &c that Chalcedon worked with.
Thanks to all of the work of contemporary biology, evolution, neuroscience,
etc., our notions about what constitutes the human, and even if there is
such a thing as "human nature" (I hold that there is), are so tremendously
different from our patristic forebears in the faith that I think there is a
challenge here for the contemporary Church to revisit the whole question and
find a new language to convey to a contemporary believer how theology
understands the relationship between divine and human in Christ. I think
this is especially important in light of the rampant "Jesuology" that
appears in some Christian circles that often blurs the distinction between
the Father and the Son, and in its extreme versions turns Christ into an
idol. When I listen to Christian radio (not often) and hear a Christian pop
song that assigns titles of the Father to the Son, I have a tendency to
shout out "Heresy!" That little Babe in the manger, in my understanding, is
not the great I AM.

A blessed new year to all,
Bob Schneider

----- Original Message -----
From: "George Murphy" <>
To: "D. F. Siemens, Jr." <>
Cc: <>; <>
Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2004 11:01 AM
Subject: Re: Orthodoxy (was Re: Biblical Interpretation Reconsidered)

> D. F. Siemens, Jr. wrote:
> >
> > On Tue, 30 Dec 2003 13:35:56 -0500 George Murphy <>
> > writes:
> > > Dr. Blake Nelson wrote:
> ...........................
> > Could a Y chromosome like Joseph's, or taken from him, have been
> > miraculously transferred? Of course. So? My point is simply that for
> > to be /Theotokos/, there had to be an unprecedented miracle.
> >
> > > On balance I have to agree with Blake here. The hypostatic
> > > union means that
> > > divine and human are united in a single person, which is the Second
> > > Person of the
> > > Trinity. That does not entail any particular belief about how such
> > > a union was
> > > accomplished, whether or not it came about by a direct, rather than
> > > mediated, act of God
> > > or, in particular, whether or not Jesus had a human father. It's
> > > true that it seems
> > > easiest to picture (which, N.B., is not the same as "explain") how
> > > this might have taken
> > > place in terms of virginal conception, but that is far from a proof
> > > that it did take
> > > place in that way.
> >
> > I recognize that there has been, and continues to be, multiple views on
> > every theological point. Such was the crux of all the ecumenical
> > councils. It is my firm belief that most of these modern alternatives
> > products of a kind of tunnel vision. Let me try an illustration of what
> > mean from the discussion of oil supply and a hydrogen energy economy,
> > especially considering Glenn's information. Here are some solutions.
> > Extract all the oil from the known pools. Get the fuel from oil shale
> > deposits. Make all cars, trucks, trains and boats hydrogen powered. Use
> > coal, but capture all the carbon and sulfur compounds produced by
> > combustion. There are all kinds of straightforward solutions until
> > everything they ignore comes up. Then they are seen to be silly.
> This is all beside the point. In principle we can understand all the
> economics &c involved in the issues of energy resources. But even if we
accept (as of
> course I do) the "that" of the hypostatic union, we don't understand the
"how" of it.
> It is, to use your language, "an unprecedented miracle." You are,
however, overstating
> the matter if you insist that virginal conception _must_ have been an
essential part of
> that miracle. We simply don't know that God could not have accomplished
the union of
> human and divine natures in the person of the Logos in some other way. &
that was my
> only point here.
> > Theologians similarly produce solutions that only work if the
> > consequences are ignored. For example, your question about Paul and John
> > may be turned on its head: why should they mention something that
> > everyone at the time knew? When did someone feel he had to explain to
> > that all mammals breathe air?
> If we want to understand the theology of Paul or John, we have to operate
> their extant writings and not with speculations about what "everyone at
the time" knew.
> & this is especially the case if that speculation is pure question
beggging - the
> question being precisely whether "everyone at the time," including Paul
and John knew
> it.
> > As a quibble on your language, there are those who acknowledge the
> > divinity of Jesus without recognizing his deity. I was told of a very
> > liberal churchman who remarked that he and his colleagues used the
> > traditional language, but with different meanings. In addition to such
> > deliberate misrepresentations, there is the general problem of
> > Clarity sometimes requires such complicated specification that it
> > unclear.
> Your quibble does not touch my language. I said "The hypostatic union
> that divine and human are united in a single person, which is the Second
Person of the
> Trinity." I should have said "divine and human _natures_" but my
shorthand should have
> been clear. The word "divine" needs to be used here because there's no
> adjective that I know of formed directly from "deity." It is proper to
say that Jesus
> is "divine" because of his divine nature, kata Chalcedon, though of course
one then must
> also speak of his humanity. & while it can be said (because of the
communication of
> attributes) that "Jesus is God," that kind of language may be misleading
because it
> suggests that he is God _simpliciter_ and not human. Thus it needs the
> statement "God is human." Similarly it can be misleading to speak of
Christ's "deity"
> unless one qualifies it (as in Wesley's Christmas carol" as "incarnate
> Of course people can play games with the language of either "divinity" or
> "deity" & say that all of us have "a spark of divinity" & so forth but my
language made
> it clear that that wasn't what I was talking about.
> & since we're quibbling, let me note that your response to Blake's
> "Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, is not a
> namely that it "Sounds patripassian," is incorrect. How it sounds is
either docetic
> (that Christ's humanity was only apparent) or monophysite (that his
humanity was
> swallowed up in divinity). Patripassianism in itself doesn't say anything
about the
> humanity of Jesus but is a modalistic claim about the Trinity - i.e., it
was the Father
> who suffered on the cross.
> Whether or not Blake meant his statement in a docetic or monophysite sense
> another matter & something he may want to address. The human nature
assumed in the
> Incarnation is created, but the Second Person of the Trinity who assumed
it is, _in
> itself_, not. It would seem to be correct (but here I'm just stating my
> opinion) to refer to the person of Christ as a creature because the
communication of
> attributes in the hypostatic union means that the properties of the human
nature can be
> ascribed to the person - which is why Mary is to be called theotokos.
> You will note, of course, that I'm using Chalcedonian language here, but
> shouldn't be taken to mean that theology must be limited to the
philosophical framework
> of nature, person &c that Chalcedon worked with.
> Shalom,
> George
> George L. Murphy
Received on Thu Jan 1 12:52:23 2004

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