Calvin the Antiochean?

It’s helpful in debate to really show what terms mean, and not necessarily what they imply.  In current theological debates, Calvinist = Nestoriarn, Lutheran = Manichean, and neo-Chalcedonian = monophysite.  Obviously, the latter is wrong and adherents to the former two would deny such associations.  At this point in the debate men try to show how said system necessarily implies.   It’s a valid form of argument, if not a stronger form.

Reading Lars Thunberg’s Microcosm and Mediator:  The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor he notes, per the communicatio idiomatum, that the neo-Chalcedonians (and hence, Orthodox) held to a divine interpenetration of the two natures of Christ.  He writes,

According to his [Nestorius modification of the idea, the communicatio idiomatum may only be applied to the person of the union, Christ.  But in relation to the divine logos and to the human nature as such, its application is forbidden (Thunberg, 22).

Does this sound familiar?

VII. Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself;[37] yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.[38]

Of course, as Thunberg notes, there is an irresponsible way to phrase the communicatio, as the Calvinist scholastics frequently charged the Lutherans.  Maximus, however, qualified and improved the formulation of the idea, maintaining the former truth, but removing absurdities from sloppy formulations.  Maximus opted for perichoresis, a divine permeation of the human nature (if Milbank is to be believed, Maximus also allowed for a human imprint on the divine nature as well–bringing us back to the original communicatio.  Milbank references Louth’s book on St Maximus but doesn’t elucidate the point in any detail).

What do the original quotes prove?  Perhaps nothing much, but they do show the Antiochene presuppositions of later Westminster Christology.

The Divine Imprint

Back to the communicatio idiomata again.  In the post-Reformation debates the Calvinists accused the Lutherans of saying the the divine nature is affected by the human nature, implying some form of divine passibility.  It’s not entirely clear the Lutherans successfully responded to this charge, though they did have the right idea.

It is true that the natures share with one another via the hypostasis of the Word (a clarification Lutherans didn’t always make), but how can we phrase that sharing without implying that the divine nature was changed by the human nature?

First, some clarifications:  is it really true that when two natures share, the divine is “changed” by the human?  Does “affecting” something change the nature?  I see no reason why it should.  But, so goes the interlocutor, doesn’t this compromise divine impassibility?  No, for as Gavrilyuk has shown, divine impassibility means not ascribing to God certain emotions that are unworthy of him (e.g., uncontrollable rage, lust, etc).  That’s one part of divine impassibility.  Divine impassibility is an apophatic qualifier.

Secondly, what does it mean that a nature affects another nature?  Maximus the Confessor helps here,

This union, as expressed by Maximus the Confessor, means that the same substantive way or pattern or character or moral tropos of being can be shown in the human as well as the divine nature, such that the limited human power can somehow express the style of omnipotence and inversely that the divine strength can be exhibited precisely in weakness–which can have the idiom of true strength, when suffering is actively and willingly undergone (Milbank, 33-34).