Any defender of the Council of Ephesus is quick to point out that a denial of the use of the term “theotokos” to the Virgin Mary is Nestorian. Theotokos, popularly translated “Mother of God,” is used to force opponents into a dilemma: If Mary is indeed the Mother of God, then why do you not venerate her? If theotokos does not designate such, on the other hand, then Jesus was just a man, not God.
It’s a sharp argument. Some well-meaning Protestants have recognized a problem with this argument, but generally lack the conceptual tools to deal with it. Drake’s recent writings have demonstrated the ambiguity that early church theologians had concerning the word “God.” In responding to Anchoretic claims and apologists, I will demonstrate that they, too, are concealing an ambiguity on this term.
If Anchorites want to gloss Theotokos as “Mother of God,” then they need to abandone some of their triadology. For according to numerous Orthodox scholars (Fr John Behr, Fr. Thomas Hopko), the term “God” refers primarily to the hypostasis of the Father. Worse, it is the evil, sinful West that glosses “God” to refer to the divine nature.
Therefore, the following options are available:
- Stop using this line of apologetics against Protestants.
- Accept Augustine’s reconstruction of Trinitarian theology (begin with the essence, not the hypostases; it’s not too big a jump. You are already doing it with Theotokos).