Problems in Person-Nature apologetics

I’ve documented difficulties here before.  I keep seeing this phrase bandied about on internet message boards.  While I appreciate the truth in it, I really don’t think it delivers all its proponents think it does.  Too often Calvinists are accused of violating the person-nature distinction.  I don’t want to come across as belligerent.  I am not the ones advertising a certain blog as a meeting ground between Calvinists and Orthodox, yet writing posts against Calvinism.  Okay, here goes:

1.  Please define what a “person” is for us.  You may go the Western Thomist route and call it a “rational subsistence of an individual nature.” You will probably need to abandon your EO triadology while you are at it.  Opting for an Eastern route, while better, does not get you out of the ditch.  Most Eastern fathers, per Farrell’s gloss, didn’t even define what a person is (since they thought definitions = limitations).   If that’s so, how can we be violating the person-nature distinction when no one can even tell us what a person is!

1a.  At this point several options are available:  you can say a person is “hyper-ousia,” but that only moves the difficulty back a few places and introduces other difficulties.

1b.  Opting for Farrell’s route and calling it a “who” or an “agent” only gives me a synonym for the term; it does not define it.

2.  Please define “nature.”  Is it being used in a generic, numeric, or cardinal numeric sense?

3.  Do you believe in a gnomic will (Maximus oscillated on this his entire career)?  If so, how is that not positing three wills in Christ?  If you want to make modal distinctions and say, as I think I would, that the gnomic will is simply a mode, not a substance, then you must also grant Drake his contention when he makes the modal/substance distinction.

4.  David Bradshaw (following Palamas) says that simplicity is an energy.  He also says that God’s essence is simple.   Given the essence/energies distinction, can we even speak of God’s essence any more, since essence has collapsed into the category of energy?  The collapse is unavoidable if simplicity of essence is an energy.  Simplicity of essence is an energy.  Ergo, collapse.

5.  Since we are talking about a person-nature distinction, please provide for us your theory of logic and individuation.

22 comments on “Problems in Person-Nature apologetics

  1. Canadian says:

    You have been ungulfed into Drakes scholastic warp drive. I hope you enjoy your trip. I need to leave these empty incursions and commune with my God, hopefully participating in him so that my many sins may be reduced for his glory. Pax.

    • Whoa. Tough Stuff, Mr. Canadian. I need to buy you “Oh Canada” which is a song by Five Iron Frenzy. You can find some pretty good live recordings on youtube. Cheer up, my brother. We all love Jesus around these parts,

    • olivianus says:

      “Drakes scholastic warp drive”

      >>>Huh? I define person by intellect, you as huperousia, neither in being or non-being and I am the warp drive scholastic? Give me a break.

    • With the exception of his thoughts on double-procession, very little in Drake’s thought is unique to him. It’s almost a summary of the Covenanters and Francis Turretin.

      Anyway, the debate on generic-identity nature theories is a huge problem in modern substance ontologies. Ergo, if one is to make “person-nature” (neither of which you defined, btw) the template for their theology, you should be able to deal with this.

  2. They say “eh” instead of what or duh…that’s the mighty power of Canada! 🙂

    • Canadian says:

      I never heard a word, but that is likely pretty close to what it would look and sound like if myself, Jacob, and Drake were in public together. A crapload of fun but little understood or accomplished 🙂
      I would be the guy with most ancient instrument on the left, Drake the loudest and most animated guy with the touque (that means winter hat :-)) and Jacob the other guy who though in charge of the forum would not step in and moderate Drake when he feigned vomiting at my national anthem at 2:06.

      • I’m the guy at the bass. Just kidding. Sorry for my nonsense. Here the lyrics. Glad we are all smiles.

        Welcome to Canada, it’s the Maple Leaf State. Canada, oh Canada it’s great! The people are nice and they speak French too. If you don’t like it, man, you sniff glue. The Great White North, their kilts are plaid, Hosers take off, it’s not half bad.

        I want to be where yaks can run free, Where Royal Mounties can arrest me.

        Let’s go to Canada, let’s leave today, Canada, oh, Canada, I Sil Vous Plait.

        They’ve got trees, and mooses, and sled dogs, Lots of lumber, and lumberjacks, and logs! We all think it’s kind of a drag, That you have to go there to get milk in a bag. They say “eh?” instead of “what?” or “duh?” [. From:,-canada-lyrics.html .] That’s the mighty power of Canada.

        I want to be where lemmings run into the sea, Where the marmosets can attack me.

        Let’s go to Canada, let’s leave today, Canada, oh, Canada, I Sil Vous Plait. Let’s go to Canada, let’s leave today, Canada, oh, Canada, I Sil Vous Plait.

        Please, please, explain to me, How this all has come to be, We forgot to mention something here. Did we say that William Shatner is a native citizen? And Slurpees made from venison, That’s deer.

        Let’s go to Canada, let’s leave today, Canada, oh, Canada, I Sil Vous Plait.

  3. jnorm says:

    Why should an Orthodox Christian answer Catophatically?

    Why I think simply saying what a person is not is good enough.

    • That’s fine, but how can one be guilty of violating the perso-nature distinction when no one can define those terms?

      • Canadian says:

        Kinda like you guys can’t define reprobate, world, and all?

      • Canadian says:

        I think you need to ask your questions in this post of your own Reformed communions. No sense wasting your Kruschev shoe banging on those outside your communion, what about the confusing and sometimes laughable definitions of those terms in your own confessions?

        And once again you continue to make whiny references about Robert’s blog. You have been treated with nothing but dignity and respect over there, far exceeding what you let through over here. Twice I have called you on it, saying it is bull that you were misrepresented or shut down as a “contrarian” or whatever. You complained about bias or unfair moderation he provides yet I have comments that are locked in moderation over there and will not see the light of day, and for a lot less than what you have turned a blind eye to here. Frankly, I don’t mind edgier and playfully sarcastic interaction on occasion, and I requested directly in a comment to Robert that he not ban Drake entirely from OB. But don’t keep crying to mama while letting Drake bleat out crap like:

        “Please shut J norm up with the monothele issue. If he starts to test you on things you are not comfortable with let me know and I should be able to steer you on the right course. The ammunition is here:”

        “Look at how Jnorm answered me. He gave no explanations or refutations. He just asserted his opinion because he knows he has no answers.”

        “That is why your accusation of monotheletism is a violation of the 9th commandment.”
        (Lying, bearing intentional false witness)

        “Your Egyptian mummy worship and so on and so on.”

        “You fundamentally do not have a clue what you are talking about.”

        “Did you just pull that out of your ass?”

      • jnorm says:


        We can still answer the question, we just don’t always have to do it Catophatically. One can still be guilty of violating the distinction by saying a Person is something that we say a Person is not. Or by advocating a Nature to be something that we say it is not.

        Thus, there is more than one way to answer a question.

  4. We can. A quick perusal of Muller reveals that. YOu might not like the definitions and claim they are wrong and inconsistent. Fair enough. That is an en tirely different proposition from Jnorm’s admission that you all do not even know what the terms *are*.

    • Canadian says:

      No. Why did St. Paul say he could become Reprobate if he did not discipline his body?

      Jnorm alluded to it in apophatic terms.
      Why if I ask you guys about the very same terms do we not hear from your confessions consistently what those terms “are”?

  5. The text doesn’t say whether Paul is speaking hypothetically or not. Regardless,I wouldn’t read too much into an ambiguous statement. Or go ahead and read into it. I don’t think it matters anymore for the discussion.

    The Canons of Dordt do deal with these issues (1st Point, Article 15). I really don’t know what else to say.

    • Canadian says:

      This post forcefully presses us on the use of terms, but when we press back, you claim ambiguity. Nuff said.

      Dordt’s article 15:
      “God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decree: to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish those who have been left in their own ways and under God’s just judgment, not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice.”

      Ah yes, St. Paul fearing the decree of the Reformed system.

  6. olivianus says:


    “But don’t keep crying to mama while letting Drake bleat out crap like:”

    >>>So are you saying that Bayou is deleting your comments while allowing my obnoxiety? If he is not deleting your comments what are your grounds for complaint?

    • Canadian says:

      No. Read my comment. Here on his blog, Jacob has repeatedly chided Robert from OB blog for unfair treatment of him when commenting there. It’s a specious claim and I have called him on it. Yet he hasn’t even flinched at rather combustible comments here where he is moderator, and all of a sudden his other complaint of bias doesn’t seem to be a problem over here either. Robert is supposed to be sweet Switzerland but Jacob allows German sorties with eyes wide open. I have had comments intentionally held by Robert in moderation and never released because he likely sees them a bit too flammable for his forum, and I appreciate that. So Jacob’s claim of unfairness is false and as moderator, he doesn’t seem to offer commenters here the same buffer of dignity he expects for himself elsewhere.
      And for the record Drake, sometimes your obnoxiousness is inappropriate and belittling and should be shut down in moderation, out of respect for the other who is made in God’s image. Sarcasm and a little fun trash talking I personally enjoy but we should all be willing to stop the mouths of even our friend’s, if what is said be personally belittling to even our enemy.

  7. Ah, I see what you mean. Robert gets ten times as much traffic as I do, so I doubt most worry about it. And frankly, I don’t have time to moderate all comments. As long as there is no profanity I really don’t worry about it. And if you don’t like it, do what I did: leave. I no longer really post at Robert’s site and I think all sides have been happier since. If you feel slighted, go somewhere else.

    I have limited computer access and really can’t read through every comment.

    And I have since stopped saying Robert doesn’t modeate comments. I now know he does..

  8. […] us of violating the person-nature distinction, are you entirely clear from the charges?  See here, here, […]

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