Correcting False Views of Christ Part Two

Correcting False Views of Christ Part Two

Dr. Craig looks at a list of ancient heresies on the identity of Jesus, some of which still show up today.


Transcript Correcting False Views of Christ Part two

KEVIN HARRIS: It’s Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. I’m Kevin Harris. I sure hope you are following us on Facebook and Twitter. We’ve got some great videos on YouTube that you can keep up with as well. Be sure and check all those out.

There are some great podcast topics coming up. We never run out of topics because things are always changing. Have you noticed that? Every day is a new day, and new topics and questions to be discovered and chased down and discussed. Man, do we have some doozies coming up, including some new stuff out on the multiverse. Just when you thought it was all over for the multiverse, it has come roaring back among certain people and on some websites as you’ll see coming up in the next few weeks. So be sure and listen. Keep it right here. Let’s wrap up looking at these Christological heresies to be avoided.[1]

Monophysitism: Orig., 5th cent. Jesus had only one divine nature and no human nature. . . . *Jesus had only one nature the divine nature which absorbed and nullified any human nature. *Affirms that Jesus is both divine and human, but not “fully” human. *Slightly different from Apollinarianism.

DR. CRAIG: I think that this is not a fully accurate statement of Monophysitism. The debate here between the early church fathers was whether Jesus had two natures or one nature. Monophysites would say that when the Son of God took on humanity – took on a human nature – that these became combined into one nature. It is not saying that he had only a divine nature and no human nature. It is that he had a divine-human nature. One theologian expressed it to me by saying Christ had a theanthropic nature – divine-human. So it would be a kind of mixture or mingling of these natures together. That is what eventually got condemned at the Council of Chalcedon – any attempt to mix the two natures of Christ together, to combine them into one nature. The Council of Chalcedon insisted that we must not confuse or blend the two natures together, but that they remain distinct.

KEVIN HARRIS: You mentioned Nestorianism earlier:

Nestorianism: Orig., 5th cent. Jesus has two unmixed, unrelated, natures. *Jesus is two distinct natures, and only one, the human nature, was birthed by Mary.

What’s wrong with that?

DR. CRAIG: Nothing! That’s what orthodoxy also affirms! I think this is not a very helpful characterization of Nestorianism. The key here is the word “unrelated” when he says, “Jesus has two unmixed, unrelated, natures. Jesus is two distinct natures.” That is also an affirmation of orthodoxy. But orthodoxy would see these natures as related, namely, they combine in one person, or they coalesce in one person. That is to say, it is one person who has these two natures. The accusation against Nestorius was that you actually have two persons here. You’ve got a human person – Jesus – and you’ve got a divine person – the second person of the Trinity.

The difficulty, I think, for orthodoxy is how can you affirm that Jesus had a complete human nature and not have a human person? If Jesus had both a rational soul and body that were human, isn’t that sufficient for personhood? That is what a human person is – a rational soul and a body. Christ had that in addition to his divine nature. The challenge for orthodoxy is: how can Jesus have a complete human nature and yet there not be any human person? What orthodoxy says is that this human nature that Christ had isn’t a person. The only person is the second person of the Trinity who has this human nature, just as he has a divine nature. These two natures are attached to a single divine person. So orthodoxy affirms that the person of Christ is divine. He is a divine person, but he has a human nature in addition to the divine nature.

What Nestorius said, as indicated here, was Mary bore the human nature of Christ. But orthodoxy wanted to say, no, Mary could be called the Mother of God because she bore the second person of the Trinity in her womb. The person that she bore was divine. They knew, of course, she didn’t bear the divine nature. Right! She gave birth to the human nature of Christ. But the person whose human nature she bore was a divine person. So she could be called the Mother of God. This led, of course, to horrible misunderstandings when Christianity encountered Islam because Muslims (Muhammad) thought that Christians believed that Jesus was the offspring of Mary and God the Father, which he regarded as blasphemous. So it resulted in a terrible misunderstanding of the doctrine of the Trinity.

KEVIN HARRIS: Two more to look at.

Monothelitism: Orig.: 7th cent. Jesus lacked a human will. . . . *Affirmed Jesus’s human and divine natures, but denied that Jesus had two wills. *Jesus’s divine will meant he would not/could not have conflicted desires. *Condemned in the Third Council of Constantinople, 680-681AD

DR. CRAIG: These later councils do not have the sort of weight or gravitas as the earlier councils like Nicaea and Chalcedon. I, along with certain others I think, believe that this council really went wrong and got it wrong in affirming that Christ has both a human will and a divine will – Dyothelitism (Christ has two wills). This seems to fairly propel you to Nestorianism. How could Christ have two wills and yet not be two persons? How could he have a human will and a divine will and yet not be two persons – a human person and a divine person? What the orthodox have to say is that the will is something that is a property of the nature and not of the person. But that doesn’t seem right. The will seems to be something that belongs to a person. It is a person who wills to do this or that, not an impersonal nature. It seems to me that here the church got it wrong in affirming Dyothelitism and condemning Monothelitism. It seems to me that they should have affirmed that it is all right if you believe Christ has one will, a divine will which is the will of the second person of the Trinity.

When Jesus prays in the Garden, Not my will but thine be done, he is not talking to himself. He is talking to his Father. The contrast in that prayer is not between Jesus’ divine will and Jesus’ human will. It is between the will of the second person of the Trinity and the will of the first person of the Trinity. Jesus says, Not my will be done but thine will, Father, be done. That verse doesn’t support Dyothelitism. On the contrary, there is one will which Christ has there, and he subordinates that will to the will of the Father.

KEVIN HARRIS: Finally there is Mythicism:

Mythicism: Orig., 19th cent. Jesus was only a mythical character. There are two-major variations. Strong mythicism teaches that there was no historical Jesus, a.k.a., Jesus of Nazareth. Weak Mythicism teaches that the “Jesus of faith” is radically different from the Jesus of history . . .

DR. CRAIG: This is not really a Christological heresy in the classical sense. Notice that it doesn’t come until the 19th century. This is heretical in the sense that it is unbiblical, anyone who believes this will not be a recipient of salvation, but it is not a view that was condemned by a church council. I think it is just included here to catch modern liberal theology under the rubric of heresy. Basically it is the same view that Christ is purely human and that the divine Christ is just legendary or even that the historical Jesus never existed, that there was no divine person.[2]

KEVIN HARRIS: As we conclude today, there is some good information in your book Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. There are some models in there and some things like that to look at that would really shed further light on this.

DR. CRAIG: I hope so. I discuss a model on the incarnation in a chapter devoted to that subject. I defend a neo-Apollinarian Christology according to which the soul of Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. But I try to nuance this in such a way as to meet the objections against Apollinarianism that made it heretical and hope to show that this view is not only biblical but also meets the constraints laid down by the Council of Chalcedon. I think it provides a possible model for the incarnation that is philosophically coherent and biblically satisfying. I invite our listeners to take a look at it and see what they think for themselves.[3]



[1] See https://intelligentchristianfaith.com/2016/05/27/not-my-jesus-a-survey-of-christological-heresies/ and https://intelligentchristianfaith.com/2016/05/27/not-my-jesus-part-2-a-defense-of-orthodox-christology/ (accessed October 16, 2016).

[2] 10:08

[3] Total Running Time: 11:21 (Copyright © 2016 William Lane Craig)