Browse By Person
It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!
Coptic Orthodox Church
If I am OF two natures, can they be real if I am not also IN them?
edited November 2016
Also, I will quote from St. Cyril's second letter to Succensus, and you be the judge with the term "composite nature" or "synthetic nature" (which is the same thing):
They also said the following: ‘If there is one incarnate nature of the Word then it absolutely follows that there must have been a mixture and confusion, with the human nature in him being diminished or ‘stolen away’ as it were.'
Once again those who twist the truth are unaware that in fact there is but one incarnate nature of the Word. The Word was ineffably bom from God the Father and then came forth as man from a woman after having assumed flesh, not soulless but rationally animated flesh; and if it is the case that he is in nature and in truth one single Son, then he cannot be divided into two personas or two sons, but has remained one, though he is no longer fleshless or outside the body but now possesses his very own body in an indissoluble union. How could saying this possibly imply that there was any consequent necessity of mixture or confusion or anything else like this? For if we say that the Only Begotten Son of God, who was incarnate and became man, is One, then this does not mean as they would suppose that he has been ‘mixed’ or that the nature of the Word has been transformed into the nature of flesh, or that of the flesh into the Word’s. No, each nature is understood to remain in all its natural characteristics for the reasons we have just given, though they are ineffably and inexpressibly united, and this is how he demonstrated to us the one nature of the Son; though of course, as I have said, it is the ‘incarnate nature’ I mean.
The term ‘one’ can be properly applied not just to those things which are naturally simple, but also to things which are compounded in a synthesis.
Such is the case with a human being who comprises soul and body. These are quite different things and they are not consubstantial with each other, yet when they are united they constitute the single nature of man, even though the difference in nature of the things that are brought into unity is still present within the system of the composition. So, those who say that if there is one incarnate nature of God the Word, then it necessarily follows that there must have been a mixture or confusion with the human nature being diminished or ‘stolen away’, are talking rubbish. It has neither been reduced nor stolen away, as they say. To say that he is incarnate is sufficient for a perfectly clear indication of the fact that he became man. And if we had kept silent on this point there might have been some ground for their calumny, but since we add of necessity the fact that he has been incarnated then how can there be any form of ‘diminution’ or ‘stealing away’?
Also check out the first letter to Succensus:
And his letter to Acacius of Melitene and his letter to Eulogius also repeats the same analogy of the composite human nature. This can all be found in Letters 1-50 translated by McEnerney.
It's fascinating because I discussed this with a Chalcedonian priest and these were his words: "I spoke with a Coptic bishop once and I was very impressed with him. They know now that they can't support Dioscorus and Severus and that they have to accept Chalcedon, but they feel there is just nothing they can do about it right now."
At other times he has said: "The problem with the Copts is that they firstly will admit Christ had a human will, but that it was passive, and that his humanity was a tool used by his divinity."
I just don't get where he is getting this stuff. He is very monastic oriented, backs Athos and is a supporter of Elder Ephraim in America.
So Christs Humanity: in the union is it passive or active?
Your Chalcedonian priest doesn't know what he is talking about. Not only will we support St. Dioscorus and Severus, we will die defending the faith they confessed. I have high doubts he spoke to a Coptic bishop (at least a canonical one).
Never in the history of Miaphystism has anyone claimed Christ did not have double consubstantibility. Never has any Copt claimed Christ's humanity was passive. Never has any Copt said the humanity was only a tool. Whoever your Chalcedonian priest spoke to does not know what he is talking about.
Actually this is not a surprise. Until very recently, Mt Athos slandered the Coptic Church in constant polemical lies.
Regarding your main question, what exactly is a passive union? Is it an incomplete union? Is it a union forced upon the humanity? Is it a union in the mind only and not in reality? I think this needs to be defined first.
If any of those definitions apply to "passive", then no Christ's union is not passive.
I think he believes that the humanity is complete, but it is only operated by the energy of the Logos and that the humanity doesn't function with its own natural energy and spiritual powers, etc. I think he and other traditionalist chalcedonians rack Miaphysite Christology up to a subtle docetism where the human nature is real but not really active independent of the divinity.
If, according to such traditionalist Chalcedonian accusations of miaphysitism, Christ's human nature does not function with its own natural energy and powers - and if we affirm that to be human is to function with a natural energy and power that is unique to humanity - then the only logical conclusion is that Christ does not have a real human nature.
Thus, it really doesn't matter if we call it passive or not. A passive human nature in Christ is by definition different than ours and by definition not a real humanity.
On the other hand, if one believes the human nature acts independently of the divinity, then there must be two conflicting persons in Christ. Rather miaphystism believes the human and divine natures are so hypostatically united that we really can't call them two or independent or passive or in conflict.
May I intrude and ask a beginners question? I have always understood it as you say, but if we can't distinctively call them two, how come then we say "He died in the flesh". My understanding has been that since He is in hypostatic union, and in one nature, the we cannot say He walked on water due to His divine nature, and ate only in His human nature. We can only accurately say: Christ ate. Christ walked on water. Christ died and rose. The Logos though never died. I hope I have clearly explained my confusion.
Thank you very much for your efforts in this discussion. It has been a very interesting dialogue. Please don't stop
It seems honestly the Chalcedonian camp is complicating things. The Alexandrians have always insisted on the full humanity and divinity of the one Christ. The issue for them is that abstract natures do not exist in reality, they only exist in real instances, Hypostases, particular natures. Hence to assert Christ is in two natures is to insist he exists in two distinct concrete realities.
how then is this not Nestorianism?
Rather, he exists in one single reality, one single dynamic, one single Hypostasis which is composed OF two and in which the full reality and dynamic of each nature is contained, but without change or confusion or division.
So is he fully man? Yes. Is he fully God? Yes. Are both of these complete and real in one hypostasis? Yep. But the lynchpin is that the real life dynamic of the Incarnate Logos is a single dynamic of union, a single dynamic of composition. One Incarnate nature of the Logos.
Aelwyn82, I don't know if that comment was addressed to me or to ShareTheLord. It applies to ShareTheLord's question very nicely.
To expand some more, ShareTheLord, your analysis is the miaphysite understanding. If I understand your question correctly, you are asking how can we say "He died in the flesh" if we really can't call the natures independent. (Correct me if that is not your question). No one will deny there is a distinction of the natures. If we remove the distinction of the two natures, then we become MONOphysite - which is a heresy. The distinction remains, but as St Cyril said, it remains in theoria. It practicality, we have no problem saying there is a composite nature and a composite hypostasis. When you understand natures this way, it is easy to say Christ walked on water, Christ died and rose, etc.
However, you have to be careful. Since the distinction remains, we have to say divinity cannot die. We have to say divinity does not walk. We have to say divinity does not rise from the dead. We can't say the Logos never died because in the Incarnation, the Logos took the humanity as his own and he became a single reality. Thus, saying divinity cannot die is different than saying the Logos did not die or God did not die. St Cyril makes it one of his 12 requirements that we must say God died in the flesh and God was born and not the man Christ was born or the man Christ died. Otherwise, this would be Nestorianism where two different persons exist in Christ.
This is why we Oriental Orthodox have no problem saying Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal who was born, crucified, died, ascended, etc, for us. Again, we have to be careful because without clarification, it seems like we are saying God the Father was born, crucified, died, ascended, etc. So you can see, when one tries to combat a heresy, one may end up on the other side of the spectrum where there is another heresy.
Theology is a very technical field with an extremely high specificity and sensitivity.
Yes that was aimed at share the faith.
Rem, is there a difference between composite nature and composite Hypostasis? This is perhaps one of the last things I myself am not clear on: are we speaking of synonyms or different things when we speak of composite nature and composite Hypostasis? Or is it that a composite Hypostasis necessitates a composite nature?
Tell your Chalcedonian priest, just like 1500 years ago, your ears only listened to what you think the bishop/Copts said, and not what he/they actually said. I'm a little surprised though that your Chalcedonian priest denies Christ has a human will and energy, considering that this is what his sixth ecumenical council fought for (unless he's Maronite?).
What does "passive/active" mean?
I hesitate to answer this, not because I fear to reveal the truth, but because I fear I have heard from Chalcedonians themselves different ways of defining "active". As you mentioned, there is something dynamic in the union. Why? Because Christ had a human nature, and human nature changes and grows, and Christ actively emptied Himself and underwent voluntarily these naturally human experiences, not for His own curiosity, but to redeem them. This includes human will, energy, etc, that is all properties which come from human nature.
Now, if "active" means that the human nature has to make a decision independent from the divine nature, but in submission to it, then forgive me, but this is the epitome of Nestorianism, and for Chalcedonians to stoop so low in order to contradict us in all things to get to this point means they know nothing of their own theology, and continue to desperately separate us from everything, including proper Orthodox Christology which they also should confess. When Fr. Peter Farrington quoted them one paragraph of their so-called sixth ecumenical council, some Chalcedonians accused Fr. Peter's quote of confessing a "passive union", and they didn't even know they were condemning their own council, not Miaphysite Christology which we so happen to have found essential agreement with.
It just so happens there isn't even agreement between Chalcedonians among key Christological beliefs. Fr. Patrick Reardon sadly believes Christ had to discover his own identity as "Logos" when He was "growing in wisdom and stature"! You have to be kidding me! If this is "Chalcedonian Christology", I'm not part of it.
They know nothing of their own Christology. They just keep fishing for differences, and the more they fish, the more they fall by the wayside into their own heresies not seeing true Orthodoxy when it stares them in the face.
Thank God these Chalcedonians with their influence seem to only exist in the internet, and not in real life.
I recommend this article by Fr. Peter Farrington:
Minas, this Chalcedonian priest says the Copts believe the human nature is a passive tool of the divinity, he himself does not believe that.
What do you mean when you say he believes that the humanity "only operated by the energy of the Logos and that the humanity doesn't function with its own natural energy and spiritual powers, etc."?
Sorry in context I meant he believed that the Non-Chalcedonians think that. That the humanity assumed by the Logos was only used by the Logos as almost a puppet without its own natural energy and natural will. He would say that is what YOU really think. Ridiculous of course.
edited November 2016
I have heard that a lot, that Christ's human nature is a puppet. I find this criticism amusing because I have not heard in any of the Church fathers ever an idea upon which Christ's humanity would be described other than having a full human nature, and not partial.
Let me address this for one second because I think this is important, and it has been leveled against Miaphysites. One has to ask once again, just as the word "active" needs to be defined, what does it mean that Christ's human nature be "not a puppet".
I have not found anything from Maximus the confessor remotely close to this phrase as a criticism of what he perceived as Monophysitism or Monotheletism. I never read from him that the heretics believe Christ's humanity is the puppet of the Logos. What I did read is he believed that in order for Christ to redeem human nature, every single aspect of human nature must be assumed including His very own human free will. However, Christ is not a second person in relationship with the Logos, but He is the Logos incarnate who engaged and actively used His own human free will, but in a completely different MODE ("tropos") than regular human beings do. That means that Christ fully controls all aspects of His humanity and engages them actively as He pleases through His own volition. So when Christ grows and makes human decisions, His divine person actively empties Himself fully immersing Himself in human experiences, including fear of death and choosing good and rejecting evil. But He does not do this in the same manner as regular humans do, but as God the Logos does, without the ignorance of what Maximus coins as the "gnomic" will, the tropos that fallen humanity is inclined towards. It is why Maximus teaches that as Isaiah taught, before he "knew" good from evil, he rejected the evil and chose the good, a mystery that shows Christ even as a child, His human will is divine or deified, bent God-ward even as He is growing in wisdom and stature humanly.
All of this is the teaching of Maximus the Confessor, one of the biggest Chalcedonian theologians who inspired the sixth ecumenical council. I'm not pulling this out of my behind. I have read his disputation with Pyrrhus and a lot of scholarly work on his theology out of interest to see how similar he is to St. Severus of Antioch. Despite his unfair criticism of Severus, I find him to be quite agreeable essentially with Severus.
Remember, Christ's human free will, since it is a facet of human nature, is hypostatically united to His divine will and nature! You cannot say that about any other human nature in this world. Neither you, nor I, nor even the Theotokos is hypostatically united to the divine nature. We are united, but not naturally or hypostatically, but by grace, by our mingling into the body of Christ. Therefore, it is impossible that Christ's human will be independent of His divine will, but it is completely and fully deified and subject to the divine will. Whatever the human will decides, it already is decided by the divine will and the human will becomes the will of God for us, because it is the will of God incarnate, so that our weak wills may be in the process of being deified.
So now, is that a puppet? If so, then Maximus is accused of puppetry heresy, whatever that means. It being a non-puppet means that the person who uses the human will uses it separately from the divine will as if turning off His divine will to turn on His human will, neither did Maximus believe this, nor did Severus, nor do I, and that definition of "non-puppetry" is heretical, not Orthodox at all. Christ is theandric, and as such His will is also theandric, and Christ never does anything separately from His divinity. He emptied Himself and humbled Himsef to fully engage in human nature with all its properties, including free will, but He still did so with a deified human nature which is hypostatically united to divinity, and which still is so much so united to divinity that anything human He does is placed in eternal glory for the sake of man, in the Holy of Holies made without hands, as St. Paul teaches to the Hebrews.
If on the other hand, being a puppet means that Christ has human free will but never uses it, then I agree that this definition of "puppetry" is heresy, because even St. Severus believed Christ used human free will, because to "choose" means Christ had a full human nature with rational faculties so that our will that is originally bent towards sin may be shone to bend towards the Father in Christ, as St. Severus taught:
These words ‘he spurned’ and ‘he did not listen’, and on the other ‘he chose’ show us the Logos of God has united to himself not only to the flesh but also to the soul, which is endowed with will and understanding, in order to allow our souls, which are inclined towards evil, to lean towards choosing good and turning away from evil. For God as God does not need to choose good; but because for our sakes he assumed flesh and spiritual soul, he took for us this redress.
I am currently watching this:
We can unequivocally say either the Coptic bishop misrepresented Coptic Christology (which I highly doubt) or the Chalcedonian priest is making a claim that has no substance and no proof, neither in contemporary Coptic Christology or ancient Miaphysite apologetics. It would be a complete waste of time arguing why Copts don't believe what he thinks Copts believe when we don't actually believe what he thinks we believe. When this priest has any actual reference or proof, we can explore the actual content of his argument.
Fr Anthony Paul's presentation linked here does not go into actually theology. It is merely historical and why a historical interpretation needs a new paradigm.
Rem, is there a difference between composite nature and composite Hypostasis? This is perhaps one of the last things I myself am not clear on: are we speaking of synonyms or different things when we speak of composite nature and composite Hypostasis? Or is it that a composite Hypostasis necessitates a composite nature?"
I think Minasoliman is better equipped to answer this than I am. In Alexandrian thought, nature really means a single source of reality. We also understand nature to be synonymous to hypostasis with a caveat. A hypostasis is a single subject or a tangible person. A nature is not tangible. It just describes the characteristics of that single subject. Any hypostasis necessitates a nature. The easiest way to understand this is to follow St Cyril's example of the soul and body (which I already mentioned above). A human hypostasis is a composite of flesh and soul. We also say the human nature is a composite of the nature of flesh and the nature of soul. But we don't consider the human nature as two natures. In theoria, they are two distinct natures, but in reality, we only speak of one human nature and drop the need for the adjective composite. Thus, all humans (or human composite hypostases) have a composite human nature to begin with but we just say a human being has a human nature.
So to answer your question: a composite nature and a composite hypostasis are sort of synonyms because that is how we treat them. This alone makes no sense until you compare composite nature and composite hypostasis to the human nature and human hypostasis.
(Mina correct me if I am wrong)
I think Fr. Anthony's video is an excellent birds eye view of the times and the issues that is made quite palatable for those not used to in-depth investigation.
Rem, I think as you do on this issue. And objectively now, this is I think an important observation:
Whenever you have two DIFFERENT ways of speaking about one thing one will always be better to at least SOME degree, it's inevitable, because no difference is perfectly equal. It seems to me the miaphysite christology is inherently a BETTER description of the reality of the incarnation than the Chalcedonian, because the Chalcedonian is internally consistent, but it seems also very ad hoc. Meaning, it can be accurately described from within its own system, but with added exceptions, notes, theoretical constructs, and extensive philosophical definitions. I see the miaphysite explanations of St. Cyril and Severus as more elegant and streamlined, certainly technical when need be, but more of a KISS mentality and in a sense a more "natural" way of speaking. To say one out of two, and one from two, and one composed of two says and implies it all in conjunction with the four adverbs in my opinion.
Also, I noticed something interesting about the monothelite controversy: Weren't all the monothelites Chalcedonians?! lol. Weren't they fought also from the oriental orthodox side?
edited November 2016
I generally agree with Rem's last post on composite nature vs composite hypostasis. For general purpose, because of the slight nuance of hypostasis from prosopon, physis becomes synonymous with St. Severus's definition of hypostasis when used in the manner of saying "composite nature".
As for the Monotheletism issue, I'm still doing more research in this area, but overall, yes this is for the MOST part a Chalcedonian issue, but it was partially a way to lure anti-Chalcedonians into unity. Unfortunately, they resorted to persecution instead of dialogue, persecuting both anti-Chalcedonians (famous story was that Monotheletes persecuted the Coptic PopeSt. Benjamin's brother at the time Bishop Abba Minas, torturing him to death) and ditheletes like Maximus. It was just a bloody mess, literally and figuratively. It might even be that "Monotheletism" as understood as a "heresy" might not have even existed, but seemed to be a political obfuscation involving theology. Fr. Richard Price, the Catholic scholar who provided for us the full translation of the minutes of Chalcedon and Constantinople 553 seems to be of the opinion that Chalcedonian Monotheletes and Ditheletes seem to have no theological differences mostly!
If one understands miaphysite Christology, it becomes so easy to understand "monotheletism" as a composite miatheletism. As a composite hypostasis requires a composite nature, a composite hypostasis requires a composite volition. And as absurd as it is to say Christ has one and only one nature (heresy), it is absurd to say Christ has one and only one will (montheletist heresy).
On the other hand, a person who insists on highlighting the distinction of natures, but refuses to recognize the distinction of wills, seems to be hypocritical at best and clearly heretical at worse. I can understand why monotheletism was such a hot topic for Chalcedonians. As Mina pointed out, just as Richard Price has posited that there is really no difference in diathelete and "monothelite" theology, we can posit that there is no difference in OO and Chalcedonian christology. Unfortunately, it didn't matter what you said or what you believed in as a "monothelite" or a miaphysite. You were condemned for not using a specific formula.
the Chalcedonian is internally consistent, but it seems also very ad hoc. Meaning, it can be accurately described from within its own system, but with added exceptions, notes, theoretical constructs, and extensive philosophical definitions.
Interesting you say this. This is how I feel about the Chalcedonian understanding of theosis. There are so many added exceptions and theoretical constructions that most Chalcedonians can't adequately understand it. Specifically, there are contradicting explanations concerning the difference between energy and essence and whether an energy is created or not. There is also confusion on what Maximus actually said about created/non-created energies vs what later theologians said.
It seems so much easier to say "God became man so man can become God" rather than trying to define and categorize what part of God is involved in theosis (or if we can even talk about parts of God as well as other irrational peculiarities found in complex systems).
On the flip side of the coin, as Abouna Antony Paul's video above showed, the Copts didn't always agree on the definition of theosis because of Arabic and Islamic influence. So at times, we Copts have gone the route of complicated ad hoc systems instead of the more natural theologies of 4-6th century Alexandria.
I was suddenly struck by a small flash of insight: it really all falls into place if you acknowledge a single fact: The Logos in the flesh is a new MODE of existence for the Logos. And this mode is single, united and dynamic. This really makes clear the composition of the Hypostasis of the Godman.
I think William of Ockham, despite his issues, did have a good point:
"There is to be no multiplication of essences without cause."
The simplest explanation is best which requires the least amount of correction and neologism.
Sorry, I know this is an old topic, but I'm just reading it and it is something that is important to me.
I have an unusual story in that I was baptized Greek Orthodox very young, I attended a Coptic Orthodox church for all of my youth, and now in my adulthood I'm back in the Eastern Orthodox Church. I'm sure I can be part of a very enjoyable conversation about whether Christ is Divine and Human in one nature or Divine Nature and Human Nature in one Hypostasis, but that is not what I intend here.
The fact, from my very small point of view is that I don't feel like I've ever changed my religion, and this division between Eastern and Oriental is hurtful. I really hope one day this schism will end.
hi george27, u r very welcome here. our patriarchs already agreed the division is not a real differance, we just have to work towards greater unity.
may God lead us all into all truth
edited December 2020
This thread should be pinned. Amazing explanations from
If we had more OOs giving answers this adequate we would not have the same amount of misrepresentations of our Church from both inside and outside.
Saying that, I think it is accurate to say Saint Severus' christology is thoroughly Cappadocian properly applying their idea of general and particular without the "paraconsistent logic" of the neo-chalcedonians. Good references are the works already mentioned such as his letters to Sergius the monophysite, John the grammarian, nephalius and others of which some translations can be found on tertullian.org, severus of antioch by pauline allen and christology after chalcedon by laine torrence.
Here is a good modern paper that touches on what I am referring to:
God bless you all and happy nativity.
Just as the sun when it shines in a gloomy and dark house, as soon as it puts forth its ray, dispels the darkness, since it itself is not affected
by darkness, in the same way also the Only God the Word, the Sun of righteousness, as soon as he approached our nature, also dispelled the curse." Saint Severus Letter 65