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Do Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians share the same Christology?


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#21 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 03:46 AM

Dearest to Christ M.C. Steenberg,

Peace and blessings be with you:

I am just notifying you that I have edited the very last paragraph of my last response to you. I have done this, as opposed to posting the revision in a separate and subsequent post, for the sake of convenience and in order to save any confusion, as the original content of my last paragraph was written in response to a mis-reading of the quotation to which I was responding.

Forgive me for my negligence,

In IC XC
-Athanasius


#22 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 10:16 AM

Dear Leandros,

Thank you for your recent posts, which I’ve found quite interesting. For the sake of time I’ll focus here just on your response to my earlier comments, as the bulk of the others at this stage are dealing with the question of ‘experience’, which I feel is important, but entirely secondary to the discussion over hypostatic language. In that regard, you wrote:

I will once again revise my initial post: Hypostasis – An individual or particular subsistence.


While this is fuller than your original definition, which I fully understand was incomplete as an error of computers (such things happen, I’m afraid), this new definition only heightens the problem of a severe confusion over ‘hypostasis’ and ‘subsistence’. This is right at the core of things, and I think is the foundation of an essential rift in Christological articulation. Your comment a few lines later in your post makes this point concrete: ‘A non-self-subsistent hypostasis is indeed a non-hypostatic hypostasis, though I do not find that there is anything problematic about this.’ The problem with this is that it is simply an impossibility. Hypostasis is subsistence, it is actuality. Non-extant existence, non-subsisting subsistence, non-hypostatic hypostasis—these are invented terms of logical impossibility. The problems here are highlighted in another comment:

If X is a [non self-subsistent hypostasis] or a [non-hypostatic hypostasis], this simply means that it is not an independent self-sustaining individual subsistent reality i.e. it is not a hypostasis in and of itself – it cannot exist in its own right, but rather it receives its hypostatic value upon being hypostatized or individuated in a hypostatic union. Its hypostasis is thus contingent upon its union with a logically prior existing self-subsistent hypostasis.


Again, this seems radically to confuse the character of hypostasis, to some degree here conflating it with natural reality. A reality that is not an hypostatic reality is an ousia, or physis, in definition; it is the reality of things which is hypostatised (i.e. actualised, made concrete) in the things, pragmata, themselves. As some of the earlier fathers are careful to point out, speaking of ‘an hypostasis’ as an entity is more fully to speak of a nature hypostatised as a specific pragma. The very term ‘hypostasis’ (hypo = sub, stasis = ‘sistence’) is built on this understanding. Hypostases are realities which subsist in their ‘self’.

The reason all this is so critical to Christological discussion is because it goes directly to the question of union. One of the main challenges of the early attempts at Christological articulation was conceiving of how two entities (two ‘sistences’) could come into union genuinely as one, without a mutation, and therefore ultimate destruction, of one or the other. In other words, how does one ‘unite’, in anything other than a nominal sense, two ‘natures’, without altering them? The difficulty of the question lay precisely in the compositional manner in which it was being conceived: as if there are compositional ‘parts’ that meet and enter into union. The development of articulation of an hypostatic union in the fifth century was precisely as a way of moving beyond this compositional means of approach, coming to speak of the union as ‘hypostatic’, as the change of the manner of being of the hypostasis of the Word such that instead of hypostatising one nature alone (the divine), the single hypostasis of the Word now hypostatised the divine and the human nature in his singular hypostatic reality. There is no compositional union at all.

The problem posed by the kind of language I am criticising here, is precisely that it inadvertently reverts ‘hypostatic union’ back into a compositional model, because it is willing to grant a ‘non self-subsistent’ status to the pre-incarnational human hypostasis of the Word. Despite the logical impossibilities of the terms themselves when thus used, the real problem lies in the fact that the incarnation is still seen as a union of composites—only now the ‘parts’ united are not concretely existing natures, nor prosopic ‘persons’; but ‘hypostases’. The attempt to re-define hypostases as self-subsistent / non-self-subsistent seems to me, as I said in a previous message, an attempt to eliminate the chief problems of a compositional understanding, namely two entities uniting and thus undergoing change in the union, by making one more concrete and one less/non-self concrete; but the problems abide.

While this post is getting longer than I like, I think this material is key to the discussion at hand, so perhaps you’ll forgive me going on a bit further. A specific analogy was offered, in response to my own concerning a tree:

Since a tree is considered a simple [self-sustaining hypostasis], it cannot be employed as the subject of an appropriate and relevant analogy in examining our understanding of [non-self-sustaining hypostasis] and [self-sustaining hypostasis], which apply strictly to composite [self-sustaining hypostasis]. A better analogy to consider is that of the union of body and soul to make up the individual man: Person Y’s body is a [non-self-sustaining hypostasis], for it only exists in union with Y’s soul, and most importantly it never has, and never will have its own independent existence apart from its unity with Y’s soul.


The problem with this example is precisely that the human body does have independent existence apart from its soul. This is exemplified in the imagery of Genesis, where the former is created first, and the latter breathed into it afterwards; it is confirmed in the present economy in the mystery of death, when the soul departs the body and subsists independently until the resurrection, etc. The human person does not have full existence in either the body or the soul in separation, but only in their union; but this is precisely because human personal reality is composite reality: to be a ‘person’ is to be body and soul in union with God. When Christ is made incarnate, the human nature he takes to himself is a composite nature—precisely the grounds on which so much debate was had as to whether he had a human soul, a human will, a human energy.

But this does not vitiate the question of incarnational union as hypostatic, and in fact only reinforces it precisely by showing that impossibility of defining anything as ‘non-hypostatic hypostasis’. The human individual is a composite being, formed of various subsistent elements (body, soul), and this composite reality is what human nature is when it is hypostatised. When the hypostasis of the Word comes in the incarnation to hypostatise also human nature, it does so humanly in the same composite manner of human existence as do all humans, whilst still remaining the full and unthwarted hypostatisation of the divine nature he always is. One hypostasis—this is the key. The very point of speaking of the incarnation in terms of hypostatic union is to declare that there is, was, and only ever will or can be a single hypostasis that Christ is. The divergence to which reflections on this point lead is best summed up in a paragraph at the end of your recent message:

The declaration is in fact aimed at preserving the inseparable unity of the human and divine hypostases within the hypostatic union. Since the human [hypostasis] is non-self-subsistent, it cannot exist in and of itself, but rather it receives its hypostatic value upon being hypostatized or individuated by the self-subsistent eternal hypostasis of The Word. As such it can never separate nor exist independently from His divinity i.e. the composite self-subsistent hypostasis of the Incarnate Word is irreducible.


Dare I say it (and I am sure I will be made to regret it), Cyril would call this Nestorian. Posted Image There are not two hypostases in the Son; hypostatic union is not a compositional union of two hypostases, however these may be re-defined so as to work around the problems posed by composition. Jesus Christ does not have two hypostases, he has one. The reality of the incarnate Son has never involved a ‘human hypostasis’, but the Word’s hypostatisation of human nature.

INXC, Matthew

#23 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 01:31 PM

Dearest to Christ M.C. Steenberg,

Peace and blessings be with you:

I believe I have reached a break-through in my pursuit to understand Chalcedonian Christology, and have finally discovered through your last post, the subtle difference in our Christologies.

In reading your response however, it has occurred to me that my definition of hypostasis as it is to be understood in the context of my usage of it is in fact incorrect by virtue of the fact it can be misleading in application to certain usages of the term in certain contexts; this has lead you to a valid criticism of certain issues, which do not in fact apply to my actual position (which I have thus far been quite negligent and sloppy in attempting to convey). I thus wish to make one further and final revision:

Hypostasis: Actualized essence.

Consequently, a non-self-subsistent hypostasis is not synonymous to a non-hypostatic hypostasis as I previously affirmed (this equation that was previously made, arose from my inconsistent usage of the term hypostasis – according to my revised definition, Christ’s humanity is indeed hypostatic).

Before I respond to your last post, I’d like to ask if your response would have been any different, had you been aware of my final revisions. If not, I shall go on and respond. If so, I would like to give you the opportunity to revise your response if you so wish.

Again I apologize for the carelessness – it is quite embarrassing at this stage; I will try and make a conscious and focused effort to ensure it does not occur again.

In IC XC
-Athanasius


#24 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 01:41 PM

Posted Image This is going to sound unbelievable...however, I have further revised my definition of hypostasis for the sake of versatility:

Hypostasis: Actualised natural reality.

In IC XC
-An embarassed Athanasius


#25 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 02:48 PM

My point about experience is actually very similar to what Matthew is saying when he writes,

The difficulty of the question lay precisely in the compositional manner in which it was being conceived: as if there are compositional ‘parts’ that meet and enter into union. The development of articulation of an hypostatic union in the fifth century was precisely as a way of moving beyond this compositional means of approach, coming to speak of the union as ‘hypostatic’, as the change of the manner of being of the hypostasis of the Word such that instead of hypostatising one nature alone (the divine), the single hypostasis of the Word now hypostatised the divine and the human nature in his singular hypostatic reality. There is no compositional union at all.


Without this theological understanding of Christ either His human nature is completely subsumed by His divine nature or else we have a Christ Whose divinity precisely 'experiences' humanity as if the basis of salvation is God's sympathy for man. Again I would submit that without a Chalcedonian Christology this is exactly where we end up- humanity being 'saved' either from being in bondage to Christ or else because He can experience humanity in the sense that He can sympathise with us.

Mostly I speak from pastoral concern. I have seen how the Christology of Chalcedon translates pastorally to define what salvation actually means and it is this which I am so anxious as a priest to defend. Our temptation at the present does not seem so much in the 'bondage to Christ' direction as in Christ as 'sympathetic friend'. I object to this not to deny His love but precisely to explain that Chalcedon implies that the love of Christ for humanity is a roaring fire of Divinity & that He seeks to remake us in His image. Anything less than this or more 'human' does a terible disservice to our calling for it is literally to turn away from the incredible awesomeness of Christ's love for us.

Christ's Divine work of salvation for us is awesome beyond compare for it comes to reveal what humanity really is or should be. It is this which Chalcedon defines and that is why ultimately we have always defended its theological understanding. That is why for us it is simply a non-negotiable item for it defines what salvation means.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#26 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 03:22 PM

Dear Athanasius,

Thank you for your most recent messages. I would not be concerned over the need to refine definitions and usages in the course of a dialogue -- this is precisely what the task of discussing these things in this manner is for!

As to the specific definition to hand, namely that of 'hypostasis', your most recent revision is:

Hypostasis: Actualised natural reality.


In light of which you then add:

Consequently, a non-self-subsistent hypostasis is not synonymous to a non-hypostatic hypostasis as I previously affirmed (this equation that was previously made, arose from my inconsistent usage of the term hypostasis – according to my revised definition, Christ’s humanity is indeed hypostatic).

Before I respond to your last post, I’d like to ask if your response would have been any different, had you been aware of my final revisions. If not, I shall go on and respond. If so, I would like to give you the opportunity to revise your response if you so wish.


I'm glad to see that we're no longer claiming the possibility of a non-hypostatic hypostasis; but this definition only highlights the problem of still attempting to qualify hypostasis with the adjective 'subsistent'. Yes, hypostatisation does equate to the actualisation of a natural reality (and this phrase 'natural reality', which I use regularly, is a good way of providing for the possibility of that reality being expressed either as ousia or physis, rather than demanding one or the other); but it remains the case that a natural reality cannot be actualised in anything other than a subsistent manner. A non-subsisting natural reality, is defined as just that: a natural reality (i.e. a physis or an ousia); but precisely because it does not subsist, it cannot be called an hypostasis.

All of this sounds highly metaphysical and abstract, but it has direct bearing on the question of incarnational union. You wrote, for example, that 'according to my revised definition, Christ’s humanity is indeed hypostatic'. This is an acceptable claim only if it is made with reference to the single hypostasis of the Word now hypostatising two natures; but this is not how you are using it. You are suggesting that the Word 'self-subsists' as an hypostasis, and that the human natural reality is also an hypostasis, but one that does not self-subsist. As before, even if the impossibility of this concept is set aside, the root problem is that this conception of the incarnational union is compositional: it has two composite 'parts' coming together in union. The re-definition of these 'parts' as 'hypostases' with differing manners of subsistence seems to me a clear and perhaps creative attempt to overcome the problems of compositional union discovered in the articulations we now call 'Nestorian' and 'Apollinarian'; but doesn't actually avoid the root problem that leads to both -- that of a compositional sense of incarnational union.

Hypostatic union is something wholly different. There are no composite parts, however defined. Simply using the term 'hypostasis' does not equate to articulating hypostatic union.

INXC, Matthew

#27 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 05:17 PM

Dearest to Christ M.C. Steenberg,

Peace and blessings be with you:

It is becoming clear to me now where we both stand, and I think you will find that ultimately we are in fact proclaiming the same Christology, as I hope to prove in this post - though I am open to correction ofcourse if you beg to differ. Before I respond to your specific points however, I would like to bring up a most interesting point that has just struck me, and that should explain our present conflict, and also cast hope in our reaching a final agreement:

It has become clear to me, that our respective Christological languages are being shaped by two differing, though not contradicting traditions arising from two key figures: It is apparent to me that you are evidently following in the footsteps of Leontius of Byzantium, and his theory of en-hypostatisation, whereas I am following the footsteps of St Severus of Antioch from whom I in fact adopt the notion and language of Christ's humanity being a non-self-subsistent hypostasis. What is interesting, is that the article on St Severus as located on your website, states the following:

‘Severus’ human nature is not “hypostatic” but like the human nature of Leontius of Byzantium and John of Damascus ‘hypostatised’, received to the unity of the hypostasis of the Logos’

The author thus equates St Severus's understanding of Christ's humanity (the basis of my statements) with Leontius of Byzantium's (the apparent basis of yours). This equation may be considered true in the sense that St Severus may have rejected a hypostatic humanity according to Leontius's and St Johns' understanding of the term "hypostatic", however it is false in saying that St Severus did not affirm a hypostatic humanity - he simply understood it in an Orthodox sense.

Hopefully, this post will clarify the manner in which I understand Christ's humanity in following St Severus:

The problem with this is that it is simply an impossibility. Hypostasis is subsistence, it is actuality. Non-extant existence, non-subsisting subsistence, non-hypostatic hypostasis—these are invented terms of logical impossibility.


It would be a logical impossibility if I were to assert a thing to be a non-subsistent hypostasis (it would be like denying the subsistence of a subsistence), however I am very clearly using the term non-self-subsistent hypostasis. I am thus not denying the subsistence of the hypostasis per se – which would be an obvious logical contradiction – rather I am denying the self-supporting subsistence of the hypostasis; I am denying that that hypostasis subsists independently of a subsistence external to it.

Again, this seems radically to confuse the character of hypostasis, to some degree here conflating it with natural reality. A reality that is not an hypostatic reality is an ousia, or physis, in definition; it is the reality of things which is hypostatised (i.e. actualised, made concrete) in the things, pragmata, themselves.


I am sorry, but I am in no way confusing hypostasis with natural reality. A natural reality (such as physis in its generic sense, or ousia) is actualized or realised in a particular subsistence, however that particular subsistence is not necessarily self-subsisting. It may indeed well be, as is the case with Christ's humanity, that its very subsistence is contingent upon the subsistence of an independent subsisting actualisation of a differing natural reality.

The development of articulation of an hypostatic union in the fifth century was precisely as a way of moving beyond this compositional means of approach, coming to speak of the union as ‘hypostatic’, as the change of the manner of being of the hypostasis of the Word such that instead of hypostatising one nature alone (the divine), the single hypostasis of the Word now hypostatised the divine and the human nature in his singular hypostatic reality.


I agree with this 100%, however I understand it in the following terms: The self-subsisting Hypostasis of The Word had, since time eternity hypostatized His divinity. At the incarnation, He thence hypostatized a non-self-subsisting humanity, and thereof existed according to a compositional self-subsisting hypostasis.

There is no compositional union at all.


If you are rejecting a compositional union in the sense of two hypostases coming together to form a composite union, then I would have to agree with you. Christ’s humanity is not hypostatic in the sense that it is a person or an individual and independent subsistence actualizing the human essence and thence capable of uniting with a separate external hypostasis, but rather in the sense that it is a true reality actualized or instantiated by the self-subsisting hypostasis of The Word.

The problem posed by the kind of language I am criticising here, is precisely that it inadvertently reverts ‘hypostatic union’ back into a compositional model, because it is willing to grant a ‘non self-subsistent’ status to the pre-incarnational human hypostasis of the Word.


There is no pre-incarnational human hypostasis of the Word. The very qualifier of “non-self-subsistent” to Christ’s hypostatic humanity denies the very possibility of a pre-incarnational humanity, for it logically implies that the causal and self-sustained subsistence of Christ's actualized humanity was contingent upon the logically prior existence of the self-subsisting hypostasis of The Word.

the real problem lies in the fact that the incarnation is still seen as a union of composites—only now the ‘parts’ united are not concretely existing natures, nor prosopic ‘persons’; but ‘hypostases’.


There are no ‘parts’ united! We do not speak of a pre-incarnational human hypostasis uniting with the divine hypostasis, rather we speak of the hypostatic-ness of Christ’s humanity receiving its instantiation and reality at (and not prior to) the Incarnation; this hypostatic humanity is non-self-subsistent for its subsistence is contingent upon the logically prior subsistence of the self-subsistent hypostasis of the Word.

The problem with this example is precisely that the human body does have independent existence apart from its soul.


It may have physical existence, but not a vivified existence; without the soul, the body cannot perform or function humanly, and in due time it will return to the dust from which it was created. My analogy thus holds if we are to understand subsistence here in reference to a vivified subsistence rather than a mere physical one. However I can think of another analogy:

The relationship between the hair of my head and my head. The instantiation and reality of the essence of hair-ness is contingent upon the logically prior existence of my head. It is thus a non-self-subsisting hypostasis.

Dare I say it (and I am sure I will be made to regret it), Cyril would call this Nestorian.


Well I hope that upon understanding the terms according to which I understand Christ’s humanity to be hypostatic – as an affirmation of its reality and instantiation - that you do indeed regret making such a claim. As I have stressed, Christ’s humanity is not a hypostasis in and of itself, rather only insofar as it is hypostatized. St Cyril would have no problem at all with what I am saying; it is in fact an explicit denial and negation of Nestorius's precepts.

In IC XC
-Athanasius

#28 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 22 October 2005 - 02:49 PM

Dear Athanasius,

My sense is that you are still putting an interpretation onto the Patristic witness that I do not really think is there; as in your interpretation of St Cyril's words.

For example you write, "God’s experiential knowledge of humanity was the direct practical consequence of His truly becoming man."

But yet the quote from St Cyril does not speak of a direct practical consequence of experiencing humanity almost as if this was the purpose and means of salvation. The Incarnation is not first a means or way of experiencing the human condition for Christ as if by this experience we then can be saved. This would be to denigrate the basis of salvation to Christ having a sympathy for mankind.

Instead the focus of St Cyril and the other Holy Fathers is that through the Incarnation Christ adopts human nature & humanity is saved in virtue of the fact that Christ is God. I sense that to this Orthodox understanding of salvation has been added some other ideas about experience.

What St Cyril writes about Christ's experience of human nature is extremely important, "The passions of his flesh were aroused, not that they might have the upper hand as they do in us, but in order that when aroused they might be thoroughly subdued by the power of the Word dwelling in the flesh, the nature thus undergoing a change for the better.”

What Christ experiences is not identical to what we experience for our experience is affected not only by the blameless passions- hunger, fear of death, etc- but also is tainted by sin. Isn't this why when St Cyril refers to The Word being afraid (above) he couples this with human freedom from cowardice? Christ shares in the human condition free from sin personally- precisely then the focus of our salvation is on the Person of the Pre-eternal God/man Christ when we speak of His human nature. Otherwise we drift off into humanistic conceptions of the Incarnation. Thus we must be extremely careful about what we mean when we say that Christ has the experience of humanity. We obviously do not mean He experiences what is sinful although He fully (and much more than us) experiences the effects of sin. We do not mean that for the sake of the experience or by its means we can be saved- for this would imply the Incarnation was for the purpose of overcoming some lack in God or merely to sympathise with us (again this is just saying that God is trying to overcome some shortcoming in His knowledge.) So Christ's 'experience' of humanity is absolutely real (not docetic) and yet it is not identical to ours for our experience is tainted and distorted by sin. Ultimately then as with so many other things concerning God's providence this is a mystery beyond human conception in which our words suggest more than they describe.

Once again it is these things concerning God's providence which are so central to our salvation that Chalcedon addresses. In a real sense all of what the Church proclaimed from Christ to His Holy Apostles and then the Holy Fathers both theological & monastic lead up to Chalcedon. For us St Cyril's intent is fully Chalcedonian and indeed his inner strivings are fully fulfilled in that Council. In any case for us as Matthew explained these things for us are not metaphysics or abstractions. They are quite literally a matter of life in Christ.

My genuine prayer is that Christ also leads you and your brothers & sisters in Christ so that you can see that Chalcedon is no threat to your deepest strivings for the love of Christ. If these discussions can help achieve that even in some small degree then they were worth the effort involved.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

PS: In order to try to prevent unnecessary posts: from the posts of the past few months I do not dispute that in many ways you are trying to make the same theological points as we are. This is a great joy & cause for hope. But my sense is that you are trying to use another vehicle to get to the same destination we are. I think at this point it is more this question that is being discussed.

#29 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 22 October 2005 - 06:04 PM

Dearest to Christ Fr Raphael Vereshack,

Peace and blessings be with you:

My sense is that you are still putting an interpretation onto the Patristic witness that I do not really think is there; as in your interpretation of St Cyril's words. For example you write, "God’s experiential knowledge of humanity was the direct practical consequence of His truly becoming man." But yet the quote from St Cyril does not speak of a direct practical consequence of experiencing humanity almost as if this was the purpose and means of salvation.


I’m sorry, but it is not I that am imposing an interpretation upon St Cyril, rather it you imposing an interpretation upon me. I’m sure this going to sound like a broken record by now, but I never claimed that The Word’s acquirement of experiential knowledge of humanity was “the” purpose and means of salvation; I simply affirmed that it does in fact possess soteriological significance. I have been quite explicit about this in my last few responses to you.

Thus, I have neither adopted this notion myself, nor imposed it upon St Cyril. St Cyril very clearly affirms that "God’s experiential knowledge of humanity was the direct practical consequence of His truly becoming man”:

“Even if it is appropriate for The Word to know that which belongs to humans, he has not yet been called to gain experience of our weaknesses. But when he enclosed himself in our flesh he was 'tempted in every respect'. We obviously do not mean that he had been ignorant before, but rather that to the God-befitting knowledge that he already possessed was added the knowledge gained through temptation.” [Ad augustas, 29 (ACO 1. 1. 5. 47)]

St Cyril implicitly equates being “tempted in every respect” with being called to “gain experience of our weaknesses”, and quite clearly states that this followed upon the antecedent of his being “enclosed…in our flesh.”

Instead the focus of St Cyril and the other Holy Fathers is that through the Incarnation Christ adopts human nature & humanity is saved in virtue of the fact that Christ is God.


That is all well and good, however again you miss my point regarding the fact that whether or not Christ truly experienced humanity has direct implications upon whether or not He truly became man in the first place.

This was the very heart of St Cyril’s debate with Nestorius. Since St Cyril advocated a real incarnation whereby God truly became (as opposed to merely entered) man; He could consequently thus speak of God suffering in the flesh, and being born of the Virgin. To Nestorius, ascribing such human experience to God was theopatheia – both a blasphemy and an absurdity. Nestorius held to a notion of unqualified divine impassibility, which consequently denied The Word’s human experiences, precisely because he denied a true Incarnation for the notion of God quantitatively dwelling in Christ at the highest degree and hence been conjoined to him via a moral union by good pleasure.

You cannot regard God’s becoming man, and God’s experiencing man as two separate and independent issues, for they are intrinsically interrelated; A denial of the latter is a denial of the former, and conversely an affirmation of the latter is an affirmation of the former.

Thus we must be extremely careful about what we mean when we say that Christ has the experience of humanity. We obviously do not mean He experiences what is sinful


I very explicitly negated the notion of Christ experiencing sin in point 9, so I really don’t believe I have been ambiguous or careless regarding what I mean with respect to Christ’s experiencing humanity. I mean exactly what St Cyril himself means in the two quotations provided in my previous post.

For us St Cyril's intent is fully Chalcedonian and indeed his inner strivings are fully fulfilled in that Council.


We would beg to differ. The only one who fulfilled the inner strivings of St Cyril for us, was his successor St Dioscorus. I find it hard to conceive how a council could fulfill the inner strivings of St Cyril by exonerating his arch-enemies and heretical opponents as well as their works presenting a Christology he fought so hard against, whilst doing away with his own formulas and expressions.

In any case for us as Matthew explained these things for us are not metaphysics or abstractions. They are quite literally a matter of life in Christ.


Ofcourse!

My genuine prayer is that Christ also leads you and your brothers & sisters in Christ so that you can see that Chalcedon is no threat to your deepest strivings for the love of Christ.


Chalcedon is not a threat; it is ancient history. I am willing to acknowledge that Chalcedon can be anachronistically interpreted in an Orthodox context, and in that case I would applaud the Orthodoxy of my Eastern Chalcedonian brethren, which I would view as being presently held in spite of Chalcedon as opposed to by virtue of it. Regardless of this, Chalcedon will by no means be considered an Ecumenical Council for a number of reasons that are not necessarily directly doctrinal – for example, its mistreatment of St Dioscorus alone suffices in justifying this rejection.

In IC XC
-Athanasius

#30 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 09:41 AM

Dear Athanasius, Fr Raphael and others,

I continue to find this conversation extremely interesting, even after a few days of ‘calm’ to the posting routine. I’m a touch belated in responding to Athanasius’ continuation of our dialogue, but will try my best now.

The main brunt of our conversation has centred around the matter of hypostasis vis-à-vis ‘subsistence’, and how this relates to the incarnational union of natures in Jesus Christ. My abiding criticism has been that language of a ‘non-self-subsistent hypostasis’ is both logically inadequate, as countering the logic and meaning of hypostasis as itself ‘subsistence’; as well as incarnationally inadequate, since it appears to me a creative but ultimately insufficient way of accounting for the problems caused by compositional means of exploring that union. To this end, I might recapitulate a portion of our dialogue (that is, between Athanasius and myself), vis-à-vis ‘non-self-subsistent hypostasis’:

I wrote:The problem with this is that it is simply an impossibility. Hypostasis is subsistence, it is actuality. Non-extant existence, non-subsisting subsistence, non-hypostatic hypostasis—these are invented terms of logical impossibility.

To which you replied: It would be a logical impossibility if I were to assert a thing to be a non-subsistent hypostasis (it would be like denying the subsistence of a subsistence), however I am very clearly using the term non-self-subsistent hypostasis. I am thus not denying the subsistence of the hypostasis per se – which would be an obvious logical contradiction – rather I am denying the self-supporting subsistence of the hypostasis; I am denying that that hypostasis subsists independently of a subsistence external to it.


The difficulty I see in this kind of conceptualisation and language is that it divides and subcategorises ‘human nature’ into different means of reality. In the human life of everyday human persons, the miracle of birth equates to the hypostatisation of human natural reality (‘nature’, whether we call it ousia or physis). The hypostasis of this nature that the person thus is, has not pre-existed that birth in any means or manner: there was no ‘pre-’ version of the hypostasis, whether ‘self-subsisting’ or ‘non-self-subsisting’. Nor does the child’s subsistent reality depend on another hypostasis for its making real. The hypostatisation of the human nature subsists (i.e. self-subsists) fully in the child qua child. The hypostatisation of the human nature takes place at the conception / creation of the child. The ‘thing’ or ‘reality’ (pragma) that the child is, is the subsisting hypostasis (a tautology) of the nature (ousia/physis) of humanity. This is in fact the understanding of St Gregory of Nyssa far more than it is Leontius of Byzantium.

The difficulty with the language of ‘self-subsisting’ and ‘non-self-subsisting’ hypostases is that it creates a new category of human subsistence for Christ. Christ’s humanity, unlike that of every other human person, is ‘non-self-subsistent’, thus described in order to accommodate what I have yet to be convinced is not, at deepest level, still a compositional vision of the incarnational union. Were it not, there would simply be no need for this distinction of language and conceptuality, which hinders rather than helps the understanding of hypostatic union. This becomes clear for me in comments such as the following:

I agree with this 100%, however I understand it in the following terms: The self-subsisting Hypostasis of The Word had, since time eternity hypostatized His divinity. At the incarnation, He thence hypostatized a non-self-subsisting humanity, and thereof existed according to a compositional self-subsisting hypostasis.


Firstly (and this is in fact quite important), the eternal Christ does not ‘hypostatise his divinity’, he is the hypostatisation of the divine nature as Son. This may seem a harping on words (it is hard for this whole conversation not to seem as such! nonetheless, it is important), but the distinction is critical: the hypostasis is not a thing (a pragma) that serves to actualise a natural reality, but is the actualisation into subsistence of that reality. This goes precisely to the question of Christ’s human nature: the idea that Christ’s ‘hypostasis’, which has always hypostatised one nature, now takes to itself another, is a slight distortion: Christ is the hypostatisation of his divine reality, which in the incarnation hypostatised that divinity together with the fullness of human reality. True hypostatic union means that Christ’s manner of being has changed: he is the same One he has eternally been, but that divine one is now man.

The fact that we are not in fact saying the same thing (and indeed, the substance of my continuing view that language of ‘non-self-subsistent hypostasis’ maintains a compositional sense of the incarnation) comes out in another series of comments:

If you are rejecting a compositional union in the sense of two hypostases coming together to form a composite union, then I would have to agree with you. Christ’s humanity is not hypostatic in the sense that it is a person or an individual and independent subsistence actualizing the human essence and thence capable of uniting with a separate external hypostasis, but rather in the sense that it is a true reality actualized or instantiated by the self-subsisting hypostasis of The Word.

There is no pre-incarnational human hypostasis of the Word. The very qualifier of “non-self-subsistent” to Christ’s hypostatic humanity denies the very possibility of a pre-incarnational humanity, for it logically implies that the causal and self-sustained subsistence of Christ's actualized humanity was contingent upon the logically prior existence of the self-subsisting hypostasis of The Word.

There are no ‘parts’ united! We do not speak of a pre-incarnational human hypostasis uniting with the divine hypostasis, rather we speak of the hypostatic-ness of Christ’s humanity receiving its instantiation and reality at (and not prior to) the Incarnation; this hypostatic humanity is non-self-subsistent for its subsistence is contingent upon the logically prior subsistence of the self-subsistent hypostasis of the Word.


The logical progression from each of these paragraphs into the next is what grounds my point. To speak of an ‘hypostatic-ness’ of Christ’s not coming into being until the incarnation is a very good point: it eradicates the problem of two wholes attempting to be united (i.e. ‘Nestorianism’). The most obvious type of compositional vision is rebuffed. However, to claim that in the incarnational union, there is made hypostatic a nature in a non-self-subsisting manner, thus united to a nature eternally hypostatic in a self-subsisting manner (i.e. that of the eternal Word), is to make compositional the final product, even if the compositional elements are denied at a previous ‘stage’ in the incarnational reality. What one is left with is a Christ of two hypostases. The re-definition of one as self-subsistent and the other as non-self-subsistent, reliant on the other for subsistence, is a creative attempt at articulation, but does not make the final result any less compositional.

INXC, Matthew

#31 Leandros Papadopoulos

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 01:18 PM

Dear friends, a specific “being” is essential/substantial in its specific configuration of its mode of being. Therefore a specific human being is defined by its “humanity” which is its mode of being, by its “hypostasis” which is the specific configuration of its mode of being, and by its “essence” which is the substantialness of “the specific configuration of the mode of being” of the specific human being.

So, the mode of being is common for all human beings and it is called humanity. The mode of being(humanity) is configured in a specific human being by a specific configuration that is named hypostasis/substance/person which defines it, therefore each specific configuration is found exclusively in the specific being whose mode of being configures. Each specific configuration is substantiated in a specific substantialness that is called the essence of the being, therefore each essence is exclusively owned and defined by the respective configuration of the mode of being, which is substantiated exclusively in what defines and owns. Therefore, while the mode of being of humans is one, each human being has each own exclusive hypostasis/person and its own respective essence. So, I can say that I, Leandros as a human being, I am of the same mode of being (nature) with every other human being but I am a distinct hypostasis(person) according to the specific exclusive configuration of the common mode of being as it is substantiated in my exclusive essence(ousia), therefore I am a human being.

But, the substantialness of a human being is created, that is the hypostasis of a created human being appropriates a created essential substantialness(both corporeal and incorporeal), which is not created by its respective hypostasis, but it is owned by it as its appropriate substantialness. So, neither the hypostasis nor its substantialness are pre-existing before the creation of the specific being, which they respectively define and substantiate, but they both come in being through its creation. Therefore the human being is not uncreated, but it is created, not as a composition of pre-existed components, but as a creature that is not self caused. Thus, the creation of Christ as human being is not a self caused creation(miaphysisism), neither a composition(nestorianism), nor an illusion(arianism) nor an transformation(monophysisism). The creation of Christ was caused by His Most Holy Virgin Mother’s substantialness, which Christ’s configuration of His divine mode of being(His Divine Hypostasis) appended as His own substantialness, therefore a new human being was created by them, which was not self caused.

The appropriation of Virgin’s substantialness by the Son of God, is not a composition, but a creation, therefore the specific configuration of mode of being of Jesus Christ is not mixing(monophysisism) neither co-being(nestorianism) nor phenomenological inhabitation(arianism) nor self creation(miaphysisism), but a creation of a non self created singularity which defines neither the mode of being human alone nor the mode of being God alone, nor a composite mode of being in a composite mode of being God and Man(because Christ is the only being of His kind, so His creation does not constitute a mode of being in an abstract formation which is to be found in individual substantialness, but His creation constitutes only Himself as a substantial singularity).

Jesus Christ is a Being that His configuration of being singularly defines univocally two distinct modes of being in two distinct substantialnesses, one Divine uncreated (the Son of God) and one human created (the Son of Man). The difference in His two substantialnesses regards the co-substantiality with two different “generator” substantialnesseses- one created and another uncreated. Regarding the Son of God, His uncreated co-substantiality with His Father substantiated Him, as a the Son of God, in the sameness of His uncreated substance with the uncreated substance of His Father that begot Him, and regarding the Son of Man, His created co-substantiality with His Most Holy Mother substantiated Him, as the son of (hu)Man, in the exclusiveness of His created substance apart from the created substance of His Mother that gave birth to Him. The uncreated birth and the created birth were both for Christ essential generations, distinct in their respective generators that generated Him and in the way of genesis, therefore He is without mother in the way that he was begotten as a Son of God and without Father in the way that he was born as a Son of Man.

The essential two births of Chirst which are both not self-caused are united in the pleasure of the Father, to begot His ONE Son in both substantialnesses, therefore both the uncreated and the created substantialities experienced the substantiality of the Son of the Father, in two distinct substantialnesses which are the Son Of God and the Son of Man. The one was by the virtue of His Image that was substantiated in the sameness of His Father's uncreated Essence and the other by the virtue of His image that was substantiated in the sameness of His mother's created essence. Therefore the same Image/Hypostasis was substantiated in both essences that the Word append as His own substantialness, which in either case was a proper substantiality caused by His Father, Who is the only un-caused Person.

The main problem of the miaphysis (non-Chalcedonian) doctrine is the misunderstanding of the role of the Virgin in the creation of Christ (which is the problem of all non-Chaldedonian doctrines – nestorianism/arianism/monophysisism), thus presenting a discontinuity in the Uncreated Work of God, in order to present Christ as self-created being, at least in His specific created human configuration of mode of being, as Godman.

I ask brother Athanasius Abdullah to present the role of the Most Holy Virgin Mother of Christ in Incarnation of Christ, as it is presented in the miaphysis doctrine, in order to give me the opportunity to clarify further the differences between the Chalcedonian and the non-Chalcedonian Christology, based on his authentic presentation of the non-Chalcedonian Christology.

May God bless us, all.

(Message edited by lpap on 26 October, 2005)


#32 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 01:35 PM

Dearest to Christ M.C. Steenberg,

Peace and blessings to you:

The difficulty I see in this kind of conceptualisation and language is that it divides and subcategorises ‘human nature’ into different means of reality.


I’m not sure exactly what you mean by this, but to put it accurately in my own language I would argue that such conceptualisation simply recognises different manners in which the natural human reality may be considered to be actualized:

In human beings, the natural human reality is actualized as an individual subsistence that does not in itself precede the actualization of this human reality (i.e. there is no logically prior subsistence that thence actualises the human natural reality, for all human subsistences are actualisations of the human natural reality in the first place), but rather is the product thereof.

This is the crux of the distinction between the actualisation of human reality in normal human beings and Christ's actualisation of human reality, for the individual subsistence of Christ – The hypostasis of The Word – had already eternally pre-existed the in-time hypostatisation of His human natural reality.

Were [the incarnational union] not [compositional], there would simply be no need for this distinction of language and conceptuality, which hinders rather than helps the understanding of hypostatic union.


I maintain that it is not compositional in the sense you inetrpret it (and I shall deal with this later on in this post); the language employed nonetheless serves as an effective and clear instrument in the emphasis of Christ's unity against a Nestorian dualism: It affirms that it was the eternal Word who actualized humanity in-time, and not any other independent individual subsistence (for e.g. "The Son of Man" as opposed to "The Son of God" as Nestorianism would lead), such that ultimately His humanity is inseparable from His divinity by virtue of its continued subsistence being contingent upon the hypostasis of The Word (for this very hypostasis constitutes the actualised divinity and humanity subsequent to the incarnation).

Firstly (and this is in fact quite important), the eternal Christ does not ‘hypostatise his divinity’, he is the hypostatisation of the divine nature as Son.


If you scroll up to the passage of yours to which I was responding, you will find that in stating that the hypostasis of The Word eternally “hypostatized” His divinity, I was in fact employing your very own language in an attempt to meet you on your own terms, for you yourself explicitly stated: “the hypostasis of the Word…instead of hypostatising one nature alone (the divine).” I understood this in terms of the fact that Christ’s subsistence always constituted His actualized divinity and that at the Incarnation it thence constituted an actualised divinity i{and} humanity; I in turn used your own terms upon this presumed interpretation of them.

the hypostasis is not a thing (a pragma) that serves to actualise a natural reality, but is the actualisation into subsistence of that reality.


The term “actualization” implies the process by which a natural reality is actualized (I am speaking here in mental contemplation alone – for there is obviously no actual process of actual duration by which such actualization occurs, rather it is instantaneous); thus it is not desirable language for me.

On the other hand, I do not speak of a hypostasis as some sort of a pre-existing “thing” that subsequently actualizes a natural reality, rather I speak of a hypostasis as the very actualized natural reality that constitutes the very subsistence (as stated in my definitions list of my initial post, to which you initially agreed) or synonymously the subsistence actualizing the natural reality.

True hypostatic union means that Christ’s manner of being has changed: he is the same One he has eternally been, but that divine one is now man.


Indeed. Yet this is the very corollary implication of the concepts that I am presenting to you in the language that I present them to you. So I must be missing something.

A person’s manner of being is determined by the natural reality actualized according to their subsistence. Since time eternity, Christ has subsisted according to a divine state of existence; at the incarnation, this very subsistence hypostatised a natural human reality also, such that the One Christ thence subsisted according to both divinity and humanity – two states (rather than two grounds) of being. His humanity is non-self-subsistent since its reality was instantiated at, and not before, the Incarnation, and dependent upon the logically prior existing hypostasis of The Word, as opposed to an independent hypostasis adopted or assumed by The Word.

However, to claim that in the incarnational union, there is made hypostatic a nature in a non-self-subsisting manner, thus united to a nature eternally hypostatic in a self-subsisting manner (i.e. that of the eternal Word), is to make compositional the final product, even if the compositional elements are denied at a previous ‘stage’ in the incarnational reality.


There are no concrete elements or parts constituting a final product (as if building blocks so to speak), for the "final product" has always existed since time eternity – the One hypostasis of The Word. The hypostasis of The Word - as a self-subsisting one - was never contingent upon the hypostatic union.

We thus affirm a composite union based on The Incarnate Words' hypostasis's "inclusion" or "possession" of humanity and divinity, though certainly not a synthetic union based upon the coming together of humanity and divinity constituting or forming the ultimate hypostasis of The Incarnate Word. The composite self-subsisting hypostasis of The Incarnate Word does not refer to some sort of a new hypostasis brought into existence via the union of the self-subsisting hypostasis of The Word with the non-self-subsisting hypostasis of The Word’s humanity; rather, it refers to the one and same self-subsisting hypostasis of The Word, which becomes “composite” as opposed to “simple” subsequent to the Incarnation, exclusively with respect to His possessing and actualising two distinct and continuing natural realities subsequent to the incarnation.

The logical consequence of a denial of the above affirmed understanding of the Incarnate Word's composite hypostasis subsequent to the incarnation, is monophysitism.

In IC XC
-Athanasius

#33 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 01:54 PM

Dearest to Christ Leandros,

Peace and blessings be with you:

I am afraid your criticism of the Oriental Orthodox conception of Christ’s humanity constitutes a straw man attack. Christ’s humanity is not self-caused, it is simply self-appropriated. Please see points 4 and 7 of my initial post.

In IC XC
-Athanasius


#34 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 01:58 PM

Dearest to Christ Leandros,

Peace and blessings be with you:

I am afraid your criticism of the Oriental Orthodox conception of Christ’s humanity constitutes a straw man attack. Christ’s humanity is not self-caused, it is simply self-appropriated. Please see points 4 and 7 of my initial post.

In IC XC
-Athanasius


#35 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 01:58 PM

Dearest to Christ Leandros,

Peace and blessings be with you:

I am afraid your criticism of the Oriental Orthodox conception of Christ’s humanity constitutes a straw man attack. Christ’s humanity is not self-caused, it is simply self-appropriated. Please see points 4 and 7 of my initial post.

In IC XC
-Athanasius


#36 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 02:01 PM

Forgive me for the thrice repeated response to Leandros - I am starting to have internet problems.


#37 Eugene

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 02:31 PM

Dear Athanasius and Fr. Raphael,

I'd like to suggest something concerning the discussion on "experience". I find it quite usual that misunderstanding in theological discussion is often related to different understanding of terms. I can see now that this discussion returns to attempts to find a common understanding of basic terms such as hypostasis, subsistence etc. The same applies to the term "experience". The danger arise when we try to apply out human and earthly understanding and meaning of terms to the realm of Divine. The point is that the "experience" for the Word may mean a very different thing than "experience" for a human. We should try to understand what St. Cyryl really meant by saying Even if it is appropriate for The Word to know that which belongs to humans, he has not yet been called to gain experience of our weaknesses. But when he enclosed himself in our flesh he was 'tempted in every respect'. We can never fully understand what and how the Word experienced His incarnation, but it was certanily not the way we humans experience something. We can try to approach this mistery and strive to call to analogies. May be the English word "facing" would be more appropriate - facing the temptations directly in person by hypostasis of the Word made possible to conquer sin and devil. "Facing" does not mean gaining any experience or knowledge that He didn't have before, but it is an active rather that receptive/passive deed, a deed that accomplished something in creation. But this deed had to be done only in His Person, that is why it can be called "experience".

When we apply our human terms to God, such as love, justice, experience and many others, we have to use our human words and terms, because we simply don't have other means. But we should avoid the tempatation to implicitly apply all the aspects of humanly and earthly meanings of those words to the realm of Divine. We may use those earthly meanings as means and analogies in the attempt to understand the Divine meaning of the doctrine, but never assume that those meanings can be directly applied there.

This is a bit off-topic, but to me understanding of the true spiritual meaning of theological terms and doctrines is the biggest challenge and difficulty in understanding the Christian theology. Needless to say that this understanding can not be acquired through any rationale discource, the only way to gain this undestanding is to partake in Christ and in the life of His Body - the Church.

In Christ,
Evgeny

#38 Leandros Papadopoulos

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Posted 26 October 2005 - 05:22 PM

Dear Athanasius Abdullah,

Your 7th point: “7) I affirm [consequentially from 6)] The Words’ appropriation of a non-self-subsistent human essence, taken from the Virgin St Mary.” is exactly the opposite of a non self-caused creation.

"the appropriation of a non-self-subsistent human essence" is a self-creation. It is a substantialness caused by the being which it substantiates, therefore it is a self creation, interpreting the "self" as the "being". You are saying that Christ's humanity was appropriated by His hypostasis, therefore I claim that you present the human being Christ to appropriate His substantialness by Himself in a hypostatical appropriation. Even if this appropriation took place in "no time" is nevertheless a self(hypostatic) creation of His humanity. It is an essentiality realized by its pre-existed hypostatic existentiality, thus it is self caused in the specific mode of its appropriation. The “self” of the being Christ in your 7th point, as the hypostasis of the Word, appropriates His human substantialness, therefore you present His human essence as non caused by itself but by His Human hypostasis. Christ suppositively operated on His own substantialness in order to cause Himself as Jesus the Man in a specific substantial realization. If the respective specific Hypostasis would had not appropriated its own substantialness, then He would not have become substantial at all. But the substantialness is not the result of its appropriation. The substantialness is not caused by the hypostasis which substantiates; they are both caused together by otherness(non-self), being created by otherness therefore they are born by otherness. The introduction of determinism between hypostasis and essence is unacceptable, by Chalcedon, for all beings, let alone Christ.

Christ as a human being was caused by otherness and was born in His complete mode of being human as a created being, that is in His hypostasis as well as His essence, therefore the Virgin is His mother because she gave birth to an essential hypostasis in a human mode of being, that was not present before his birth neither as a human essence nor as a human hypostasis. Christ is not a man because He has a human essence being God in His Hypostasis, but He is human both in His human essence as well as in His human hypostasis, which they were both conceived at once in the substantialness of the Virgin "as the Holy Spirit came upon her, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her" and the born human Child was the Son Of God, by the virtue of His Mother, yet she is all human having nothing divine in her humanity.

Please provide your confession regarding the Virgin's participation in the Incarnation, according to Miaphysis doctrine, and then I will present the differences between the Chalcedonian and the Miaphysis doctrines in a more vivid way.

May God bless us, all.

#39 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 27 October 2005 - 02:00 AM

Dearest to Christ Leandros,

Peace and blessings be with you:

"the appropriation of a non-self-subsistent human essence" is a self-creation


Asserting something does not make it so. Appropriation has absolutely nothing to do with the cause, source, or creation of His humanity, so it cannot possibly have any implications with respect to whether the creation of His humanity is self-caused or self-created or not. You need to be more careful in what you're reading, because you too easily jump to absurd conclusions.

Appropriation has been defined in my initial post. To reject the concept of divine appropriation as I have defined and presented it, leads to Nestorianism as the logical consequence, for Christ's humanity is no longer individuated by The Word, rather it is an individual of The Word; it is no longer a state of existence of The Word, rather it is an independent ground of existence of The Word.

It is a substantialness caused by the being which it substantiates, therefore it is a self creation, interpreting the "self" as the "being".


I am really having trouble understanding how or why it is that you continue to read things into what I say, when they are neither explicit, nor implicit, nor even hinted at.

As is explicitly clear in points 4 and 7, in the context of everything else I have said in this thread thus far; His humanity is received from the Virgin St. Mary and was individuated by Him. The term “self” in “non-self-subsistent human essence” is a reference to the human essence in and of itself; the human essence in and of itself is precisely non-self-subsistent because it receives its reality and actualization at the Incarnation, and not prior to it, and because its continued subsisting reality is contingent upon the hypostasis of The Word that so appropriated and hypostatised it.

The rest of your post is once again a straw man attack.

I have already answered your question regarding the Holy Virgin’s role in the incarnation to a sufficient extent – she is the source and cause of the flesh that The Word instantaneously received and so appropriated. It is not created apart from or independently of her.

In IC XC
-Athanasius

#40 Guest_Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 27 October 2005 - 02:10 AM

Dearest to Christ All,

Peace and blessings be with you all:

As I have my final year exams approaching, I think it would be wise to take a little 2.5 week holiday off from this forum until my final exam passes.

Thank you all for your patience and the good discussion; forgive me if I have upset any of you, and please pray that I succeed in my exams.

Looking forward to resuming these discussions soon,

In IC XC
-Athanasius.





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