Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

The relationship of two wills in Christ


  • Please log in to reply
16 replies to this topic

#1 Peter Farrington

Peter Farrington

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 647 posts

Posted 28 September 2006 - 08:06 AM

I am in an interesting dialogue with a Greek priest.

He is wholly negative about the Oriental Orthodox but is clearly trying not to be polemical or unpleasant, and so I am wishing to respond similarly.

He wants to talk about the will of Christ but his description of Christ seems Nestorian, so I asked him if he agreed with the passage:

And these two natural wills are not contrary the one to the other (God forbid!) as the impious heretics assert, but his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will. For it was right that the flesh should be moved but subject to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For as his flesh is called and is the flesh of God the Word, so also the natural will of his flesh is called and is the proper will of God the Word, as he himself says: “I came down from heaven, not that I might do mine own will but the will of the Father which sent me!” where he calls his own will the will of his flesh, inasmuch as his flesh was also his own. For as his most holy and immaculate animated flesh was not destroyed because it was deified but continued in its own state and nature, so also his human will, although deified, was not suppressed, but was rather preserved according to the saying of Gregory Theologus: “His will [i.e., the Saviour’s] is not contrary to God but altogether deified.”

Unfortunately he does not seem willing to accept this teaching and says:

How and why was Jesus' human will subjegated to the Divine Will? Was it so from the beginning of the union? How could His human will have the whole spectrum of choice bestowed on human will from God, all the while being subjegated to the Divine Will?

Is the fact that human will has the capability of not always being harmonous with the Divine will make it sinful? Is not the human will created to have choice, and thus as St. Basil the Great clearly states, to be able to express love for God through obedience?

Love entails obedience and obedience entails choice, and choice entails struggle, especially to make the right choice.

The Coptics seem to be saying that Jesus technically had a freewill, but its capacity for choice between A and B was removed, since it was automatically subjected to the Divine will (A). If this is the case, then it can not truly be considered a natural human will.

Please help me understand some simple points by explaining how the Coptics interpret the scriptures:

A. Where they state that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are. Coptics seem to say that Jesus' human will is locked in step with the Divine will; as human beings we do not have this luxury, but when we are tempted we have to deal with a human will that is very independent of the Divine will and has to be brought under the Divine will through life struggle and askesis. The Scriptures seem to indicate this was the very path of Christ who struggled with His human will and "learned obedience through suffering". Did He not fast and pray in order to subjegate His human will to the Divine Will? Coptics seem to say His human will was already subjegated, therefore His actions and ascetical struggle was only superficial to Him and their only purpose was to serve as an example to us. It seems to take much away from the Person of Christ when His human will does not have to walk the walk we walk because it is being carried piggy-back (so to speak) upon the shoulders of the Divine will. We human beings are denied that luxury and have to struggle our life long to submit our will to the Divine. Did Jesus Christ have this advantage from the get go?

B. Where they state in Jesus' prayer to the Father that Jesus' will (still being influenced by the flesh?) was very much against the "cup" that He was going to drink, and would have avoided it if possible, "if it is possible let this cup pass from me", however through struggle and prayer was able to bring His will in subjegation to the Divine will.


He believes that the passage I asked him to comment on is 'Coptic' and not 'Orthodox'. But of course it is from the 6th Byzantine Council. As far as the content of this passage goes I have already said that it represents the OO position, which, like that of Maximus the Confessor, distinguishes between 'natural will' and 'determinitive will'. This Greek priest does not seem aware of the distinction and therefore, as far as I can see, is speaking of two 'deliberative wills' and therefore two subjects.

Of course I am not suggesting that this means that all EO believe as he does, and I have read some good articles on Maximus the Confessor by EO and RC folk over the last few days that have been very interesting and which I have agreed with.

But it would seem to me that this priest, and other EO I have known over the years, is not aware of the teaching of Maximus the Confessor, or even the contents of his own ecumenical councils. This is worrying since his first email to me stressed his seminary education.

i. What I would like to know is do other EO consider him to be mistaken?

ii. How would you correct him, gently, based on your own sources?

The problem for me is that the only way I can prove myself 'Orthodox' to him is by adopting a heresy and creating two deliberative wills in Christ even struggling against each other. My position is that of the 6th council:

..these two natural wills are not contrary the one to the other (God forbid!) as the impious heretics assert, but his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will.

I find it ironic that I am being challenged by an EO to reject the content of his own council.

Peter

#2 M.C. Steenberg

M.C. Steenberg

    Former Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,843 posts

Posted 28 September 2006 - 08:46 AM

Dear Mr Farrington,

Thank you for this recent post, which raises some interesting points. I think both you and the priest with whom you are in dialogue have raised some interesting points, and while I think the specifics of your dialogue with him are best kept a touch more confidential, some of the themes it addresses are very interesting.

How and why was Jesus' human will subjegated to the Divine Will? Was it so from the beginning of the union? How could His human will have the whole spectrum of choice bestowed on human will from God, all the while being subjegated to the Divine Will?

Is the fact that human will has the capability of not always being harmonous with the Divine will make it sinful? Is not the human will created to have choice, and thus as St. Basil the Great clearly states, to be able to express love for God through obedience?


This is actually a good set of questions, that raises some of the issues that are normally drawn out in this kind of discussion. Though I think it important to recall that it's easy to think too strongly in very simplistic terms about what is involved in 'choice' in such a context. There are numerous fathers that remind that Christ must have had true human freedom in his human will; but also who remind that 'freedom' does not necessarily always equate to deliberative opportunity between right and wrong -- that this is actually a kind of base, disfigured definition of 'freedom' (a topic at which we've discussed at some length in this Community in the past).

This is emphasised in comments like:

Love entails obedience and obedience entails choice, and choice entails struggle, especially to make the right choice.


To a degree. But it is equation of free willing to simply 'a choice', or a deliberative agency selecting between various options, risks disassociating both freedom and authentic human willing from the idea of relationship and communion, in which freedom can be seen not so much as deliberative agency, but the lived expression of true communion. There have been some good discussions on precisely this theme here over the past year or two.

Regarding the question of the nature of the two wills in Christ, I think we need to be very careful to draw too categorical distinctions between aspects of willing as whole wills. E.g.:

[The 6th Byzantine Council] like that of Maximus the Confessor, distinguishes between 'natural will' and 'determinitive will'. [My colocutor] does not seem aware of the distinction and therefore, as far as I can see, is speaking of two 'deliberative wills' and therefore two subjects.


I presume here you are speaking of the idea of a logos- or natural-will, and a gnomic- or deliberative-will, which Maximus draws out in some of his works, famously asserting in his later works that Christ possessed a human natural (logos) will, but not a gnomic will. One has to be especially careful here. Firstly, Maximus' real meaning is not often understood: when he comes to deny a gnomic will in Christ, he does so in the context of defining that gnomic will as a particular inclination to fall deliberative choices, which clearly he cannot confess of the incarnate Son. This is not the same thing as saying that a gnomic will is actually a separate kind or category of human will which is not possessed by Christ; rather, that it is a manner of inclination that's become a kind of 'second nature', an habituation of fallen willing, which one who has not sinned does not possess.

All that being said, it is also the case that Maximus' denial of a gnomic will in Christ actually comes very late in his life and writings. For many years he not only allowed that Christ could possess this aspect of willing, but in fact explicitly states that he did.

My position is that of the 6th council: [...] these two natural wills are not contrary the one to the other (God forbid!) as the impious heretics assert, but his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will.


Clearly such a passage can be read to mean many things, and imply all manner of different Christologies (perhaps it's a little unfair simply to pluck a passage out of a council - even if ecumenical - since even these are open to many interpretations; this is why they have caused as much discord as unity through individual readings). But simply saying that one agrees with the statement doesn't actually respond to the questions that most people have about the underlying Christological issues -- indeed, the passage from the council really does little more than summarise in paraphrase Christ's own words, which are even more direct and clear than the council's: 'I do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.' If it were just a matter of agreeing to statements of relationship, Christ's words would suffice without any need for the council's; but the point is that the words, the confessional statements that 'I do not my own will but that of him who sent me' (in Christ's first-person), and 'his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will' (in the council's third-person), are observations of a confessed reality. They give rise to questions, they do little to answer them.

The questions that naturally flow from the statement 'his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will' are: what does 'subject' mean? How does one conceive of Christ's human will being 'subject' to the divine, without it being a slave, or devoid of freedom, which is a necessary component of the human will actually being human? etc.

INXC, [I]Matthew


#3 Peter Farrington

Peter Farrington

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 647 posts

Posted 28 September 2006 - 09:45 AM

The questions that naturally flow from the statement 'his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will' are: what does 'subject' mean? How does one conceive of Christ's human will being 'subject' to the divine, without it being a slave, or devoid of freedom, which is a necessary component of the human will actually being human? etc.


Dear Matthew,

Do please call me Peter.

If the EO are not clear then what they mean by these conciliar statements then it seems a little problematic that they should then condemn the OO for:

a. not accepting these statements

b. teaching heresy in regard to the will(s) of Christ.

Are you saying that you agree with the later or earlier Maximus? Which one is consonant with the 6th councils? Which one is right?

It seems to me that the OO would agree with the Maximus who says that there is a difference between the faculty of will and the use of will. We would want to agree with him that in Christ there is the complete natural human faculty of will, but that as the Incarnate Word this faculty is always used properly, which means that his natural human will is always used in communion with the Divine will.

It would seem to me that my [colocutor] is setting up two agents in Christ because he wants to say that the human agent is struggling to choose the good. From all that I have read of Maximus, including your own paper, this would not seem to agree with him.

In the Garden the humanity of Christ has natural sinless movement, there is a natural desire to avoid pain, but at a different level of will Christ says clearly 'Your will be done'. This is an act of His human will being in accord with His Divine will.

You will need to describe the EO position to me a little better I feel, since it seems that your teaching is not governed by the 6th council as much as I had expected. I appreciate that in Maximus the 'gnomic' or 'deliberative' will is not meant to describe a different category of will, but he rather uses it to describe our fallen and therefore hesitant, wrong and provisonal use of our faculty. But in Christ there is no hesitation, wrong choices or provisionality. He uses his natural human will properly, that is, always in accordance with the Divine will.

I appreciate that there are discussions about these things. But the EO cannot claim that the 6th council must be accepted, and then say that in fact on the issue it dealt with no-one really has any answers.

What DO the EO teach about the natural human will of Christ? Was it possible for Christ to sin? Did Christ constantly have to struggle to choose the good and did he have to fast and pray to conquer his humanity? It seems to me that this variant of the EO position make Christ either liable to sin, or sets Christ up as a different person to the Word.

I happily accept:

"..these two natural wills are not contrary the one to the other (God forbid!) as the impious heretics assert, but his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will."

But I find it a little disturbing that what seems clear and wholly Orthodox should be described in the following manner?

They give rise to questions, they do little to answer them.


because I am sure that if I said the same about Chalcedon, for instance, I would be told that this was evidence of my lack of Orthodoxy. If the 6th council does not answer any questions then why must it be accepted by the OO?

It seems to me that the two positions which the OO hold on this matter,

i. That the humanity of Christ is perfect and complete in every way without sin and therefore has the natural faculty of will.

ii. There is no contradiction between the natural human will and the Divine will so that there are in a perfect unity.

says what is necessary. And it seems to be what at least some of the writings of Maximus say. And it seems to me to be what the 6th council says.

Peter

#4 M.C. Steenberg

M.C. Steenberg

    Former Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,843 posts

Posted 28 September 2006 - 11:14 AM

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your most recent posting in this thread -- and a belated 'welcome' to the Community. :-)

In your most recent post, you wrote:

If the EO are not clear then what they mean by these conciliar statements then it seems a little problematic that they should then condemn the OO for:

a. not accepting these statements
b. teaching heresy in regard to the will(s) of Christ.


Ah, but you see, I said nothing in my earlier post of an EO position, or an OO position, or any claims one group might make with respect of the other. There is very little fruit for any kind of constructive dialogue in discussions that try always to frame things in these kinds of categories -- at least in (notable) part because there is no such thing as 'the EO position', or 'the OO position'. If spending time with the fathers teaches us anything, it is that the tradition of the Church is expressed in many different ways, and various fathers called Orthodox will speak of things in different terms, from different perspectives, etc. So we must be careful not to force on modern-day contexts a kind of uniform expression that has never really played a part in the tradition of the Church.

But moreover, as others (and I myself) have said in another thread in this forum recently, however one qualifies it, this kind of discussion is simply confrontational at its root -- and this particular confrontation has been done to death. It seems a more productive goal simply to discuss the actual issues at stake: the Christological questions, means of articulating answers to them, etc., rather than attempt to compare the position of one church to that of another.

That caveat and preamble aside, as to the specific issue you raised of whether certain readings and people are 'clear [...] what they mean by these conciliar statements': if this is how you read my comments above, then I fear you did not take the point I was expressing. I did not approach the question about whether the council is clear, or one tradition's reading of it is unclear. What I said was that the text's statement is not itself a complete answer to the Christological questions that drive various concerns - but that it was part of a confessional statement that raised questions as well as responded to them.

Regarding comments on Maximus the Confessor, you wrote:

Are you saying that you agree with the later or earlier Maximus? Which one is consonant with the 6th councils? Which one is right?


I'm not sure I consider this a reasonable way of looking at Maximus. There aren't two Maximuses (Maximi?), but one father whose articulation of the mystery of Christ's incarnation was framed differently at different points of his life and work, without those different expressions necessarily contradicting one another, despite at times being quite different. The fact that Maximus could for some time claim that Christ did engage in gnomic willing, but later deny the same, can mean any number of things (apart from simply that Maximus changed his mind, which, if you look at the texts, seems very unlikely); but one thing that it has to mean is that gnomic will cannot be a 'thing' or type of will instrinsic to man, for then Maximus would effectively deny part of the very claim about Christ's complete humanity that he spent so much of his life arguing for so fervently.

The task isn't to pick 'early Maximus' or 'late Maximus', but to understand what his changing discussion on the nature of gnome reveals about his understanding of the logos or natural reality of the will, in harmony with its tropos or mode of realisation.

Regarding one way of reading this distinction, you wrote:

We would want to agree with him that in Christ there is the complete natural human faculty of will, but that as the Incarnate Word this faculty is always used properly, which means that his natural human will is always used in communion with the Divine will.


This is well and good -- I don't know of anyone who would wish to say anything otherwise. But this is again a kind of statement that doesn't answer its own questions. How is it that the human will acts always in accordance and harmony with the divine? That is the question (or at least, one of the questions) at the heart of the matter. My computer always acts in harmony with the keys I press, but this is not because it and I have a commonality of will, but because it has no option but to do the thing I will it to do (i.e. by typing on it). If the human will in Christ always wills in accordance with his divine will, is this because he has no other option? Or does he freely determine in his human will in every moment to realise his divine will?

None of these questions are addressed simply by saying 'his natural human will is always used in communion with the Divine will'. Rather, that statement, which is certainly true, gives rise to these kinds of questions, and it is in these questions that the real mystery of the incarnation of the Son takes deep shape in one's mind and heart.

Concerning your conversations elsewhere, you note:

It would seem to me that my [colocutor] is setting up two agents in Christ because he wants to say that the human agent is struggling to choose the good. From all that I have read of Maximus, including your own paper, this would not seem to agree with him.


While I cannot say what he may or may not wish to suggest, I can at least offer that this seems highly unlikely. But not impossible (I heard a very good paper recently from a scholar in Russia who argued persuasively that Maximus believes Christ authentically was afraid of death in the garden of Gesthemane, etc.). Nonetheless, I would wager that the concern he wishes to address is not that of a struggle in Christ, but that of real freedom in Christ: is Christ truly free, in the sense that the human will is a free will, to be disobedient?

(Again, I would encourage you to look at some of the past threads on the question of freedom in Christ, for some excellent discussions on this theme that took place here not long ago.)

You will need to describe the EO position to me a little better I feel, since it seems that your teaching is not governed by the 6th council as much as I had expected.


Given that I haven't yet tried to share 'the EO position' at all, but simply look at some of the questions these statements involve, that could be quite the project! But as above, it's not one that I think is terribly productive to this particular discussion.

INXC, Matthew

#5 Athanasius Abdullah

Athanasius Abdullah

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts

Posted 28 September 2006 - 11:44 AM

Dear M.C. Steenberg,

+irini nem ehmot,

Nonetheless, I would wager that the concern he wishes to address is not that of a struggle in Christ, but that of real freedom in Christ: is Christ truly free, in the sense that the human will is a free will, to be disobedient?


Severos of Antioch addresses this issue by essentially concluding that it is because of the fact that Christ’s human will is trulyfree will that it is always in sync with the divine will.

True freedom of will, in the sense that Severos had in mind, is not freedom in the sense of mere volitional capacity, but rather in the sense of fully informed volition. When man opposes the will of God, we do so primarily because of the ignorance of our person which inhibits us from recognising true, absolute and objective goodness (which our spirits are naturally inclined towards) in order to consequently will and act in accordance to such goodness; we recognise as the good that which falsely appears good to us by virtue of our ignorance.

Christ, being none other than True, Absolute, and Objective Goodness Incarnate, could not have possibly suffered from the same problem, hence the impossibility of His human will freely acting contrary to the divine will. It seems contradictory for me to use variations of the terms “impossible” and “free” in application to the same subject, but essentially it is no contradiction, just a paradox.

Is there any Father or theologian of the EO Church that would share similar sentiments to this?

In IC XC
-Athanasius

#6 Peter Farrington

Peter Farrington

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 647 posts

Posted 28 September 2006 - 12:59 PM

Dear Matthew

Thank you for your thoughtful and thought provoking post.

I am not looking so much for a definite nailed down statement which answer every question. But I am expecting that someone writing from the EO context would be aware of certain boundaries which define acceptable discourse on a subject.

For me the boundaries of the OO position are indeed:

i. the humanity of Christ is complete and perfect and consubstantial with us in all things except sin, including the natural faculty of will.

ii. In Christ there is no contradiction between the human and Divine will.

iii. The natural human will in Christ is free, but truly free, not bound to sin as ours is, therefore it cannot choose evil.

iv. He who wills humanly and Divinely is one. There is only one subject in Christ, the incarnate Word, who wills humanly and Divinely.

There is much that be can said which is within these boundaries. But it seems to me that to go beyond any of them is to be in error from an OO perspective.

I would honestly expect to be given similar (but perhaps different) boundaries by someone writing from the EO context.

If there are no such boundaries from the EO side then it seems to me that all opposition to my own Orthodox communion is merely a game. I cannot believe that, therefore it seems necessary to ask again, byt perhaps with greater clarity, 'what defines the EO position on this topic?'.

I will certainly try to read through earlier posts but it seems to me that this should be an easy and straightforward question to answer. If it is not then again I must be doubtful that EO criticism of OO Christology has any merit, which I cannot believe.

I understand that a Father such as Maximus may well take several positions over his lifetime, but it does seem entirely reasonable to ask whether from an EO position ALL his teaching is within the boundaries of Orthodox discourse. It should also be easy to describe how the teachings of the 6th council inform Byzantine thought on this topic. If they are not authoritative then why insist the OO accept them? If they are authoritative but not at all clear, then how can they be authoritative?

You wish to avoid discussing EO and OO positions but that seems entirely necessary. On one level I am not interested in 'your' opinion, though of course I am, but ultimately I want to know that what you are describing, as an EO, comes within the boundaries of what is acceptable to the EO.

This does not produce opposition and confrontation but clarity. Otherwise we are no different to Anglicans with a multiplicity of orthodoxies and heterodoxies.

I think I have to say that if it is not possible to easily express the EO teaching about the will(s) of Christ then that is itself problematic. I believe that I can express the OO teaching in so far as it is defining boundaries for theological discourse and thought.

How can we find out if we each believe within the acceptable boundaries if we do not describe them? How can describing those boundaries not be productive?

Peter

#7 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 28 September 2006 - 04:44 PM

Having been a passive observer of this ongoing discussion in several threads, I have been very reluctant to chime in. Much of what has been presented goes way above my meagre ability to comprehend and at any rate, in this case I do not feel qualified to be an "official" spokesman for the Chalcedonian position. I look to my bishop for guidance. When he says we can accept or commune visitors from the Coptic Church, I will be most happy to see it happen. While I understand that Peter and Anthanasius have presented very cogent possible OO position that certainly seems agreeable to my simple mind, it is not clear in my mind as to whether or not this is actually the OFFICIAL position of the OO, in a similar manner as I wonder if the "Greek priest" mentioned earlier is presenting an authentic EO position. I have seen those who present a Catholic position on the filioque that most Orthodox can accept, but that does NOT make the filioque "acceptable". I would LOVE to see our respective bishops sign a joint position and forgive each other's churches for past offenses. I think such a thing is indeed possible. If the thoughts and ideas presented here could be the basis for such an understanding then to God be the glory. But I will say that I have to leave it to better minds than mine to decide what constitutes acceptable and agreeable theological terms.

Simple thoughts from a simple mind.

#8 Peter Farrington

Peter Farrington

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 647 posts

Posted 28 September 2006 - 06:59 PM

Dear Herman

You don't sound at all simple, in a disparaging sense.

The OFFICIAL position of all of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, since it has been synodally received by all, is the statement:

Both families agree that the Hypostasis of the Logos became composite by uniting to His divine uncreated nature with its natural will and energy, which He has in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit, created human nature, which He assumed at the Incarnation and made His own, with its natural will and energy.

Of course this was ALWAYS the position, but I offer it as an OFFICIAL statement. Anyone who says that the Oriental Orthodox take a different view is either not bothering to find out what we believe, or else is being rather wilfully contrary, as far as I can see.

There may be other questions to ask about the wills, but it can not be said, as in fact many EO still persist in saying, that the OO do not believe that Christ has a natural human will.

Best wishes

Peter

#9 John Charmley

John Charmley

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,101 posts
  • Guest from Another Religious Tradition

Posted 29 September 2006 - 12:52 PM

Ah, but you see, I said nothing in my earlier post of an EO position, or an OO position, or any claims one group might make with respect of the other. There is very little fruit for any kind of constructive dialogue in discussions that try always to frame things in these kinds of categories -- at least in (notable) part because there is no such thing as 'the EO position', or 'the OO position'. If spending time with the fathers teaches us anything, it is that the tradition of the Church is expressed in many different ways, and various fathers called Orthodox will speak of things in different terms, from different perspectives, etc. So we must be careful not to force on modern-day contexts a kind of uniform expression that has never really played a part in the tradition of the Church.


Matthew/Peter/Athanasius and others,
There is, indeed, little fruit in always trying to frame discourse within predefined categories, but in this sort of discussion, it may be helpful to frame some issues upon which it is not possible to write about 'the tradition of the Church'? After all, one of the things under discussion here is the identity of 'the Church'.

I am alive to Matthew's caveat about 'uniform expression', as well as to the nuanced and multi-layered nature of what might be meant by 'the tradition of the Church', and I am equally desirous of avoiding unhelpful polemic, as well as divisive confrontations; that said, must we not also be careful to avoid the error that lies at the opposite end of this spectrum? This might be characterised as reading the past through the sort of dialectical methodology adopted by the Anglican communion, in which differences are fudged and divisions blurred by writing about 'the tradition' of 'the Church', as though either concept was straightforward.

But moreover, as others (and I myself) have said in another thread in this forum recently, however one qualifies it, this kind of discussion is simply confrontational at its root -- and this particular confrontation has been done to death. It seems a more productive goal simply to discuss the actual issues at stake: the Christological questions, means of articulating answers to them, etc., rather than attempt to compare the position of one church to that of another.


Because this sort of discussion has tended towards confrontation does not mean it must always do so. Since the 'issues at stake' involve two different 'traditions', and at least two different discourses about 'Christological questions', it is unclear to me that we can have unproblematic access to an articulation of the latter. What is needed is to evolve a way of discussing 'the actual issues at stake' that acknowledges that they include different positions of different traditions.

Here, Matthew is being enormously helpful in two ways: the first is the very existence of this forum; the second is his (if I may make so bold) characteristically creative comment that the 'tradition of the Church is expressed in many different ways, and various fathers called Orthodox will speak of things in different terms'. If one were able to adopt, even as a working hypothesis, that both OO and EO are 'traditions' within a bigger 'tradition' and that both have Fathers who can be 'called Orthodox', then we might be able to frame a discourse that does what is needful. Would that be possible?

By providing the outlines of some of the OO positions, Peter is not necessarily restricting or confining the discussion. It is often possible to have a more free-flowing discussion when one sees clearly where one's interlocutor is coming from.

As I understand the OO tradition, it becomes quite apophatic about the operation of the two wills; some parts of the mystery are ineffable, and prideful man may think he can penetrate them, but his language will always fall short, because we cannot know the mind and will of God in the way the Logos knows them. Much as I enjoy theological discussions (especially with those who know so much more than I do, because I learn so much more that way), I am mindful that salvation is available for those without a Ph.D.(!)


Given that I haven't yet tried to share 'the EO position' at all, but simply look at some of the questions these statements involve, that could be quite the project! But as above, it's not one that I think is terribly productive to this particular discussion.


That may, of course, be right, but it would not hurt to know what an EO 'position' on some of the points Peter mentions looks like. I sense that we are eirenic enough here to survive such a thing.

Of course, if we aren't, our moderator can moderate us!

I am learning so much from you gentlemen, and would be interested to know whether any of you think we can frame the sort of discourse needed without getting into the unfruitful paths Matthew mentions? In the end, it is His (undivided) Will, not our own.

In Christ


John

#10 Peter Farrington

Peter Farrington

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 647 posts

Posted 29 September 2006 - 01:22 PM

Dear John and Matthew

Thank you for helping me to clarify somewhat my own thoughts on this topic.

I suppose that at heart I am saying, you expect me to 'accept' the 6th council, well what does it teach?

I have said a little about how I read it, but if I am reading it wrong then I would expect the EO here to be able to say.

So surely there must be some EO here who can help me understand what you believe the 6th council teaches?

If not then I can really see no content to an 'acceptance' or 'rejection' of it.

I have no desire at all to be confrontational, and I see no likelihood of that happening in this thread, but the EO must surely know what they believe? So please describe what the 6th council teaches. This is manifestly an authority in the EO communion so I would expect most people here to be able to say something straightforward and useful. Not everything that can be said about the issue but enough so that someone agreeing could be considered Eastern Orthodox.

Best wishes

Peter

#11 Ephrem Gall

Ephrem Gall

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 21 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 27 June 2007 - 04:05 PM

I'm simply and Eastern Orthodox reader, unsuited to the task of saying anything definitively. But I've read V.C. Samuel's "The Council of Chalcendon Re-examined" and it confirms for me- to the degree that I understand it- what I've heard from my own spiritual father: the differences are semantic.

Nevertheless I have a procedural suggestion.

(But first) Personally, if I were one whose teachings mattered, I could not work within the terminological framework off the miaphysites because of one large Scriptural event: Gethsemane. ("Not my will, Lord, but Thine be done.") Of course I am willing to be corrected on this. I have not taken the time to scrutinize the relevant texts, which I would say are:

St. Maximus the Confessor's writings on Gethsemane and Pope Shenouda's teachings on Gethsemane.

The person who could harmonize the two would provide a basis for reunion. I have read both on Gethsemane at different times, but haven't studied them in depth for this purpose. It seemed to me that there were significant differences, though. Prove me wrong, someone.

Or perhaps I will make the time to find them again and scrutinize them. I forgot where I found Pope Shenouda's teachings on the subject on the internet.

#12 Ephrem Gall

Ephrem Gall

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 21 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 28 June 2007 - 02:22 AM

... what I said was simplistic, to say the least. In the earlier posts we find, from Peter Farrington, an acknowledgement of Christ's natural human will and His Divine will, and this, of course explains Christ's prayer in Gethsemane.
But the only thing I found today from His Beatitude (is that the right word?) Pope Shenouda was a very fine sermon on Gethsemane from St. John 17. I really appreciate his homilies and practical books. But what I saw once on the matter of "Not my will but Thine" - a concise statement- was that Christ said this to give us an example of what we should do, and reiterating the "One will" position. I'm sure there is more out there on this from Pope Shenouda on this discussing the matter but I don't have access to it, or haven't tried hard enough. His is the hand we wish to kiss, in ecclesiastical reconciliation.

#13 Peter Farrington

Peter Farrington

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 647 posts

Posted 28 June 2007 - 06:08 AM

Dear Bill

Thanks for your interest and eirenic approach, it is appreciated.

I am not sure that Pope Shenouda has really addressed the issue in a comparative sense, and what he has written is very usually taken out of its Oriental Orthodox lexical context and made to say something he does not mean.

It is clear to me from my study of our Oriental Orthodox fathers, especially St Severus of Antioch, that we are taught to confess that the humanity of Christ was complete in every regard, and this must include the human faculty of will, but we wish to assert that He who wills is one.

So we do speak of one will because we do not believe that Christ is schizophrenic or has two personal centres. But just as it is natural to human nature to fear death, to desire food and water, to wish to sleep, so we believe that all of these are exhibited truly in Christ.

The human nature of Christ in Gethsemane surely manifested this fear and it was natural to the human faculty of will in Him, but when He said 'Not my will, but thine be done' surely He was willing to do the will of the Father and over-ruling in Himself the natural human will to avoid pain and death?

He did not go to His death kicking and screaming, if we might say such a thing, but even though the natural faculty of human will manifested itself, saying 'If it be possible...' nevertheless He did will to do the will of the Father.

There is only one will, if we understand this in the sense of what is willed and by whom, even while we recognise that that faculty which wills is both human according to the human nature he took for Himself, and divine according to His own nature.

Even the writings of Pop Shenouda express this clearly if those who read them have a eirenic and not a polemical mind. He says..

What the Divine nature Chooses is undoubtedly the same as that chosen by the human Nature because there is not any contradiction or conflict whatever between the will and the action of both

Here we see that both the Divine and the human nature choose, that is have the faculty of will. But Pope Shenouda describes the will as one because there is no contradiction between these two faculties which act in union.

He also says..

Again, the Son, in His Incarnation on earth, was fulfilling the Will of the heavenly Father. Thus it must be that He Who united with the manhood had One Will. In fact, Sin is nothing but a conflict between man's will and God's.

And this should be understood in the same sense. He is not speaking here about faculty of will, but of the object of the will, and the object of the human will in Christ is the same as that of the Divine will. Indeed what I find most odd about those who try to suggest that the Oriental Orthodox believe what we actually reject as heresy is that while in human spirituality we stress that the human will should become united with the Divine will in terms of object of willing without ceasing to be truly a human faculty, but in Christ it is often suggested that the human will of Christ must not only be a faculty which preserves its integrity, as if of course the case, but must have an independent activity, which is frankly Nestorian.

To be truly human is not to will differently to God, but to freely will in accordance with the will of God in a human manner. This is what we believe is found in Christ.

Pope Shenouda says this clearly..

The Saints who are perfect in their behaviour achieve complete agreement between their will and the Will of God, so that their will becomes that of God, and the Will of God becomes their will.

The saints have not ceased to be human, nor do we understand that the union of will has taken place by the change of the human will into something else, but there is a union of will in the greatest of saints such that we can say truly that they have the will of God.

Indeed the 6th Council says..

And these two natural wills are not contrary the one to the other (God forbid!) as the impious heretics assert, but his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will. For it was right that the flesh should be moved but subject to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For as his flesh is called and is the flesh of God the Word, so also the natural will of his flesh is called and is the proper will of God the Word, as he himself says: “I came down from heaven, not that I might do mine own will but the will of the Father which sent me!” where he calls his own will the will of his flesh, inasmuch as his flesh was also his own. For as his most holy and immaculate animated flesh was not destroyed because it was deified but continued in its own state and nature (ὄρῳ τε καὶ λόγῳ), so also his human will, although deified, was not suppressed, but was rather preserved according to the saying of Gregory Theologus: “His will [i.e., the Saviour’s] is not contrary to God but altogether deified.”

Now we tend not to speak of 'two natural wills' because this has seemed to us to already define a division of will into two personal centres, but the substance of this passage is entirely what has always been confessed in the Oriental Orthodox communion. And I have much evidence from St Severus to show this.

As this passage says, He calls His own the will of His flesh, and His human will, without being supressed is not contrary to God. Therefore the object of the faculty of the human will is the same as that of the Divine will, and in this sense we understand that His will is one.

It is very clear from the words of Pope Shenouda that we must confess that the human will exists and is active in Christ, in the sense of faculty, not in the sense of having a different object.

He says..

The complete righteousness which marked the life of our Lord Jesus was due to His Divine as well as His Human will....Thus, the crucifixion was the choice of the Divine as well as the human nature.

But he explains how he wishes to understand the language of 'one will' by adding...

Had it not been One Will, it would not have been said that Christ died by His Own Will for our sake.

By this, as by all he says previously, he means that if the human will in Christ had not also willed to die then He would have died against His human will and we could not speak of 'one will'. One will means the agreement, and union, and deification without supression of the human faculty of will.

It can be shown authoritatively that this is the view of the Oriental Orthodox because all of the Holy Synods of the Oriental Orthodox Churches have synodically confirmed the text of the Second Agreed Statement on Christology with the representatives of the Eastern Orthodox which says..

Both families agree that the natures with their proper energies and wills are united hypostatically and naturally

and

Both families agree that He Who wills and acts is always the one Hypostasis of the Logos incarnate.

and

Both families agree that the Hypostasis of the Logos became composite by uniting to His divine uncreated nature with its natural will and energy, which He has in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit, created human nature, which He assumed at the Incarnation and made His own, with its natural will and energy.

Therefore, Bill, you are quite correct that there is no difference in this matter between the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox. I do not believe that Christ has one will if this means that He does not have the natural will and energy which are proper to His humanity. Neither does my priest, nor my bishop, nor my Synod.

But it is still proper to speak of 'one will' since this describes the union of will, not the elimination or confusion of natural faculty. It is also possible to speak of two wills, as long as this is allowed to describe the integrity of natural faculty and not the independent and contrary activity of the human will. That is Nestorianism.

I hope some of this helps. I appreciated your post.

In Christ

Peter

#14 Athanasius Abdullah

Athanasius Abdullah

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 125 posts

Posted 28 June 2007 - 07:37 AM

Dear Bill,

I would love to add to Peter's very reasonable reply to your issues of concern, but I do not want to seem to challenge the guidelines of this forum given that the administrators locked a thread inquiring into a contemporary Coptic Orthodox issue to which I had responded, implying that such discussion was not within the skopos of the forum (which they ofcourse have every right to define the way they so wish).

I am personally unclear about what kind of discussion the Oriental Orthodox section permits exactly (OO patristics, as opposed to contemporary OO issues, maybe? Not sure...), but I do not want to risk adding to the tension that has already been created (and which I myself may have contributed to, though without intention) when such issues have been raised and when they have been deemed to challenge the forum guidelines.

In XC
Athanasius

#15 Peter Farrington

Peter Farrington

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 647 posts

Posted 28 June 2007 - 07:43 AM

Dear Athanasius and Bill

I hope that I also have not stepped beyond what is acceptable on this forum in describing the OO position.

I think I have only responded to a question and not tried to compare the OO position to the EO position too much, which is I think what is not allowed.

Peter

#16 Ephrem Gall

Ephrem Gall

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 21 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 28 June 2007 - 06:15 PM

Peter Farrington wrote, quoting and commenting on Pope Shenouda:

"It is very clear from the words of Pope Shenouda that we must confess that the human will exists and is active in Christ, in the sense of faculty, not in the sense of having a different object.

He says..

The complete righteousness which marked the life of our Lord Jesus was due to His Divine as well as His Human will....Thus, the crucifixion was the choice of the Divine as well as the human nature.

But he explains how he wishes to understand the language of 'one will' by adding...

Had it not been One Will, it would not have been said that Christ died by His Own Will for our sake.

By this, as by all he says previously, he means that if the human will in Christ had not also willed to die then He would have died against His human will and we could not speak of 'one will'. One will means the agreement, and union, and deification without supression of the human faculty of will."

As I said before, my parish priest, Fr. Peter Pier has said that the differences have come to be seem as semantic. Your explanation of Pope Shenouda's words has plausibility. Its just that "faculty" seems to me to be more constitutive of "will" than the object of the willing. There is no question that the effort to defend the psychological oneness of Christ is important. The natural will as exemplified in Christ the New Adam "always does what is pleasing to the Father." The twelve year old Christ told His Holy Mother "Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49) We achieve our ultimate purpose, likeness to God- a rejection of the exercise of the gnomic will in favor of a steady exercise of our natural will- through Him. Its just that in Gethsemane, the Lord Jesus prayed a sentence containing mention of two wills. Nevertheless I appreciate the eternal concern of the Church to preserve the unity of Christ as well.
After I read V.C. Samuel's work, I read St. John of Damascus' "Exposition of the Orthodox Faith," certain statements seemed to stretch the unity of Christ in a way that did not seem right. And in these instances, a footnote identifying St. Leo's Tome invariably accompanied them. I was seeing the matter through V.C. Samuel's eyes.
Perhaps if we had known the way it would go between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Church in later centuries, the Council of Chalcedon would have gone differently, the participants scrutinizing St. Leo's pronouncements and positions more carefully, especially his acceptance of Theodoret of Cyrus with open arms. But we never have the luxury of hindsight in such times.
Thanks again, Peter. May God grant you many years.

#17 kyrrillos

kyrrillos

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • 1 posts

Posted 21 December 2011 - 03:14 PM

I'm trying to understand the Eastern Orthodox point of view regarding the necessity that our Lord have two wills. Some one posted that Christ had to have a human will otherwise He would not have been fully human. My confusion stems from the following: How can a nature have a will? Are not wills the characteristic of beings or persons? So if we say that our Lord had two wills that implies that he was of two persons not just two natures. I know all the Orthodox churches reject such a claim because it is Nestorian or pseudo-nestorian, but can someone please elaborate.

On a similar note, all the Orthodox churches reject the Apollinarian heresy because he rejected that Christ had a rational soul. Again all the Orthodox churches took flesh with a rational soul (as St Cyril of Alexandria says), but again if Christ had a rational soul does not then imply He was of two persons, as how could flesh equipped with rational soul not be a being of its right.

I hope someone can shed light on the above two issues.

Thanks

In Christ

Kyrrillos




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users