Below is a short presentation I wrote this year for a discussion group I attend locally from time to time. I do not attempt to answer everything here or address objections. I specifically designed this piece to facilitate discussion so as to allow various objections to come out in due course. I did write it as part of a larger argument because I think it gets to the heart of the matter concerning Reformation disputes. That is, the argument is not over epistemological issues (how can we know the correct interpretation of scripture?) but rather normative issues (what interpretation of scripture is binding or obligatory?) So I think that framing the matter in this way helps to clear away much of the confusion over the Reformation’s formal distinctive that is left untouched by most discussions of this topic. I hope you find it profitable.
While my compatriots and I continue to gather and compile documents and information from many groups of former CRI employees across the country, I thought I would write a short piece. (I’ve included what I take to be some suitable musical accompaniment. ) Some critics no doubt think that my claims of Hank’s theological incompetence and the evidence I gave in the previous post are a matter of cherry picking. Likewise no doubt, some have wondered if the video I linked where Hank simply reads off of works by others without attribution is truly indicative of his lack of education. After all, everyone makes mistakes, right? You’re just being too hard on him, right?
Haven’t you heard? Hank Hanegraaff has become Orthodox! Well, yes I have heard. The noise produced by the collective freak out at one end of the theological spectrum from the Pauper and Pooper blog representing the bottom of the barrel of Protestantism and the unquestioning adulation of Orthodox fangirls and bloggers rushing headlong to his defense is rather difficult to miss. But I sit here poised to wish a pox on both houses, as it were. As most of you know, I am Orthodox and have been for about 17 years. And as a few of you may know, I worked for the Christian Research Institute (CRI) from 1990-1992. (That’s yours truly, bottom left, right next to Hank!) So I have a somewhat unique perspective to offer on the whole affair. In the posts that follow I explain why this is probably not a good thing for anyone, maybe not even Hank.
I have not written here in four years. The blog has been effectively dead for that time. Recently, someone asked me in social media why I stopped writing. I’d like to explain why and say a bit about where things are going.
Rise up, O men of God!
1 Rise up, O Church of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.
2 Rise up, O Church of God!
His kingdom tarries long;
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.
3 Rise up, O sons of God!
The Church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task,
Rise up, and make her great!
4 Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod;
As foll’wers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O Church of God!
Author: William Pierson Merrill (1911)
Did you hear that? Man, that was loud. What was that?
I think something is coming.
Awhile ago a Protestant friend asked me about the doctrine of dyothelitism (that Jesus Christ has two natural wills, one human and one divine). Because he is the kind of Protestant who wants to remain loyal to the Councils and Fathers, he wished to agree with St. Maximus the Confessor’s dyothelitism. At the same time, he felt drawn to monothelitism (the doctrine that Christ has only one will, that his will is properly located in his person, and that the will is not fundamentally part of either of his natures).
Here are his objections, which I have rephrased and expanded on below:
1. Argument from the Gospels: When the Gospels speak of the contrast between “my will” and “thy will” in Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane and the Bread of Life Discourse, they seem to suggest a contrast between the single will of the person of Christ and the single will of the person of the Father. This is because the wills are spoken of (a) possessively, (b) singularly, and (c) as having very different objects. If Christ can be spoken of as possessing a will, having a singular will, or having a different object of will from the Father, we have exegetical reason to think that Christ has only one will.
2. Nestorian dilemma: Either there is (a) something deeply counterintuitive about saying that one person has two wills or (b) an implicit Nestorianism in the dyothelite position. Intuitively, the will is what performs intentional actions. But then if there are two things in Christ that perform actions, this seems to mean that Christ is composed out of two separate agents or persons, each acting independently and with its own personal purposes. But this is (roughly, in a somewhat caricatured way) the Nestorian position: Christ is two separate persons one human and one divine, and He is not one divine person. Either we must deny the intuitive claim that two things which perform intentional actions imply the existence of two persons, or we must admit that dyothelitism implies Nestorianism.
3. Inductive support: Based on induction, it is likely that all persons have only one will. Why? We do not have any examples of a single person with two wills. All our examples of persons are the same: one person is matched to one will. Where there are two wills at work, there are two persons. Where there is one will operating, there is one person. Thus, it is improbable that any person could have two wills.
The first two objections remind me of Evangelical philosophers like William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland who use these arguments in favor of monothelitism (Craig and Moreland are unlike my friend, for they seem to deny that tradition has any significant weight in these matters). There is also a lot of similarity to the arguments that the monothelite bishop Pyrrhus made in dialog with the champion of dyothelitism, St. Maximus the Confessor. Setting aside concerns about how to understand the authority of tradition in Protestant theology, each argument deserves a reply. In the rest of this post I reply to the first argument (and in later posts I will deal with the other 2). Though some of this is review for seasoned readers of this blog, I thought it might be helpful nonetheless. Read the rest of this entry »