Answering the Anchorites

This project has been a long time in coming.  Anchoretic apologists have been initially successful in picking off Reformed students by using a series of Trinitarian and Christological arguments.  In short, the Reformed students are (supposedly) faced with the implications of what they believe about necessity and how this is (supposedly) at odds with conciliar Christology.   The average Reformed student has no chance whatsoever of answering these challenges, if current seminary models are still valid.  There are two ways of dealing with these challenges:   1) simply pretend to be ignorant.  This really isn’t a bad method.  Most of these Anchorites (most but not all) aren’t that much more philosophically advanced than the Reformed student.  So all that the Reformed guy has to say is, “Hmm…show me.”    More often that not, that works.    Still the challenges must be faced.   The following challenges (and answers thereto) are based from numerous conversations with Anchorites.  They really aren’t based on any definitive literature because there isn’t any definitive literature that truly understands Calvinism.  Maybe that will change in the near future.

Anchorite challenge 1:  Isn’t the Reformed faith Nestorian?   Rushdoony and A.A. Hodge fell into Nestorianism.  The WCF 8.2 says that the person of Christ is divine and human.

Response ~1: Rushdoony doesn’t speak for the Reformed faith.   For over ten years he willingly cut himself off from any communion.    Hodge spoke too loosely and no one at the time really understood what Nestorius was saying, as McGuckin later demonstrates.   As to the Confession, if this is a claim to a Nestorian Christology, it is a very vague and weak claim.  I suppose  What does the Confession mean about the Person being “divine and human?”   It really doesn’t specify.   The most common interpretation is that the person has both divine and human elements to it.   This isn’t that much different from Maximus the Confessor confessing a synthetic Christ (cf. Von Balthasar, The Cosmic Liturgy).

Anchorite Challenge 2:  But doesn’t the Reformed faith deny a communication of attributes?  This means there is no communion between the two natures, and such a denial is a Nestorian separation.

Response ~2:   The Reformed do not deny a communication; we simply deny a 1:1 switch-over between the two natures.   Rather, we assert that the two natures are communicated to the Person.  If the Reformed (and generally Western) position is not held, and the two natures communicate their propria to each other, then they lose any real human or divine identity.   You can assert Nestorian all you want, but from our position all we see of you is Eutychianism.  Sure, this is a Western Christology.  We don’t hide it.  Unfortunately, we do not see anchorites trying to understand what legitimate concerns the Reformed have.  None has said it better than Richard Muller,

The Christological problem follows the [epistemological issue]:  if the human nature of Jesus, as finite, is in capable in itself of comprehending the infinite knowledge of the theologia archetypa[think of the simple divine mind, admitting no real distinctions], then any equation of the theologia unionis [for our present purpose, think the communication of attributes; BH] with archetypal theology must involve some alteration of the human nature of Jesus.  For Jesus to be possessed of an infinite divine wisdom according to his humanity, there would have to be either a communication of divinity to humanity or a transference of divine attributes to Jesus’ humanity within the hypostatic union (Muller, PRRD I: 250]

We must add one more thing:  if the Eutychian communicatio is true, then it’s hard to understand why Christ had to be anointed by the Holy Spirit and receive said gifts.

Anchorite Challenge 3:  You believe in necessity, do you not?  So, on your view is Christ’s human nature determined by his divine nature?

Response ~3:   This is one of those times where you just press them to define their terms.  When I hear the word necessity, I reach for my pistol.  Okay, maybe I don’t, but the point is that necessity has a loaded vocabulary.  Since I am representing Reformed theology, I get to define what necessity means (and doesn’t mean) according to Reformed sources.  Fair?  Reformed Orthodoxy makes a distinction between the necessity of consequence and the necessity of the consequent.   The former is how contingent events fall out in God’s providence.  They will happen, given what events came before them, but not absolutely.   As Muller says, it is a conditional necessity.  “The conditions that create [necessitate?  BH] that circumstance are themselves conditional” (Muller Dictionary, 200).  By contrast, the necessity of the consequent is an absolute necessity (like the opera ad intra).  Therefore, to answer the question, even though I think the question is badly misleading, the human nature follows the divine nature in terms of a necessity of consequence.

But even saying that, I simply have not read in any serious Reformed sources anything like the above charge.

Anchorite Challenge 3b:  How can you speak of natures determining?  Isn’t that Manicheanism?

Response ~3b:  All we mean by that is no nature against the terms that definite that nature, not even God.  This is standard theological fare (cf. Muller, ibid 200).  I remember listening to a Our Life in Christ podcast on the Essence and Energies (#4) and they came very close to positing a schizophrenic God.   They admitted that God’s nature doesn’t change, but then asserted that predestination isn’t true because God relates to us as a person, not a nature.   I suppose on one level God indeed does relate to us as a person, but I shudder to think of a disjunction between person and nature.

Anchorite challenge 3c:  Isn’t that monoenergism, since the human will of Christ doesn’t act freely?

Response ~3c:  No.  Given what we believe about the necessity of the consequence, we allow for freedom.  Let me explain.  Reformed scholasticism speaks of a liberum arbitrium, a freedom of choice.   We believe that the faculty of will (voluntas) is itself free and not prey to the bondage to which human nature fell (Muller 176).  We maintain that the human will is free from external constraint and imposed necessity.  The so-called lack of freedom is the limitation of choice.
How does this relate to Christ’s two wills?  I don’t know, but I think I have demonstrated that that the human nature isn’t “bad” on the Reformed gloss.

Anchorite Challenge 4:  But surely you Reformed speak of a sinful nature, right?

Response ~4: This might be somewhat our fault.  Our humanity has a sin nature accidentally, not substantially.  It’s been easier in discourse to simply say “fallen nature,” or something like that.    Casualty of war, I suppose.

 

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11 comments on “Answering the Anchorites

  1. Excellent post. What is the best resource for the reformed position of divine impassibility vis a vis the crucifixion? I believe the Lutheran/EO tend to think the reformed border on nestorianism in this area, when they deny that the divine second person suffered on the Cross.

  2. Justin says:

    Have you read Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins by Muller?

    • Yes, though I read it at a time in my life when i was very angry and critical of the Reformed faith. In any case, his basic thesis is correct. More thoughts on it later.

    • here is what I think on that book. I think it was Muller’s earlier work, thoug I doubt his position has changed. He is correct in his general thesis that the later Calvinists did not ruin Calvin’s theology. He has forever buried the Barthian and Federal Vision narrative on that point. That said, if Calvin wasn’t a supralapsarian, and Beza and Perkins were, then what is the best way to account for that obvious difference? I can’t remember his answer, truth be told. If you want to read a good debate on that book, see here.

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