The Confusion Between Person and Nature

Do I have reading comprehension problems or do Roman Catholics refuse to own up to error?

The essence of Nestorianism:

“But being human, i.e., an instance of humanity, entails being a person.” — Mike Liccione

What’s wrong with this ordo? And why does it not work in this order in evaluating Chalcedonian Orthodoxy? Why is it then not hypocritical to say “From the fact that all human beings are persons, which I affirm, it does not follow that all human beings are human persons, which I deny (Mike Liccione)?

Full context:

“There is something that each and every human person has in common, namely what may be called humanity. Call that “the human essence.” But being human, i.e., an instance of humanity, entails being a person. The same goes for being God: any x that is God must eo ipso be a person. That is part of what I mean by saying that the divine essence necessitates the divine persons.”

Notice that the analog here is not some category person which could be divine or human. Mike is prescriptive about what each essence has whether divine or human, and essence on his view necessarily entails person. That is the basis then on which he wants to make the analog work.

The analog fails because of the very order in which the questions are handled. If essence is prescriptive and entails having person, then Christ who has two natures, must also have two person’s that are prescriptive of those two essences (that’s logical order of his thinking). The union must be conjunctive.



12 Responses to The Confusion Between Person and Nature

  1. Joseph Patterson says:

    Could you send me an email at jwp3datyahoodotcom? I want to ask you something.

  2. Fr. Maximus says:

    Not to mention the obvious problem with stating that the Persons are identical with the Essnce. If the essence is absolutely simple and the persons are identical to it then the Incarnation is impossible, since the Persons must be simple and never composite. And I have never understood how identifying the Persons with the essence is not sheer Sabellianism.

  3. Father,

    Forgive me for grumpiness in that dialogue, but I’ve been talking to some of them for several years about this stuff. I try to point out to them that there method of thinking through these issues is harmonious with the way Nestorius or Eunomius approaches the problem (i.e. thinking of person as a predicate of an essence, or that an essence necessitates a person, and instance of an essece is a person, etc.) and is in reverse order to the Christological Fathers. I’ve even pointed out that the philosophical reasoning of a Eunomius or Nestorius in many ways was quite sound (given their starting points), but refining their philosophy was never the Orthodox answer.


  4. Michael says:

    Your logic is bad. Consider the following argument:

    Having an eye entails having a head.
    Bob has two eyes.
    Therefore Bob has two heads.

    Having a personal nature entails being a personal supposit. This says nothing either way about the possibility of there being many persons in one nature or many natures in one person.

    We do not identify persons with natures. Consider the quote from Bonaventure on my blog:

    “Nestorius fell into this worst error, as Boethius says, becuase he did not know to distinguish between person and nature. For because of the fact that he saw in Christ a double nature, he understood there to be a double person. Eutyches erred for the same reason, but not in the same way; for because he did not know to distinguish between nature and person and saw that in Christ there could only be one person he was compelled to claim that in Christ there was only one nature. And therefore just as tehre were two errors in divine matters, namely of Arius and Sabellius, because they did not know to distinguish between nature and person, so there were two errors about the incarnation of Christ, namely of Eutychis and Nestorius. But the Catholic Church passes through the middle of those errors saying that there are many persons and one nature in deity, and in Christ manynatures and one person. And therefore she grants unqualifiedly that a person has assumed a nature and denies that a person has assumed a person, just as the Master says in the text.”

    As pointed out there, I showed this passage to you over two years ago and you ignored it, continuing to insist that the West does not have this distinction. Instead of admitting the fact you claimed that it was irrelevant and turned it into an argument about the Filioque. Whatever.

  5. photios says:

    1) Look at Mike’s analog and the way he is using it. Just as the divine essence necessitates persons (of that kind!), so does humanity. A person is prescriptive for an essence. That is the WRONG way to go about answering the problem. Worse yet it makes the essence the cause of person. And that’s not Eunomianism?

    2) Bonaventure adds nothing new to the conversation. It’s a parrot creedal statement of Neo-Chalcedonian Orthodoxy. Justinian and others were pointing those same things out 700 years before Bonaventure. What WE want to know his how Bonaventure is CONSISTENT with that creedal statement in HIS theology, not him parroting others.

    3) The whole thomistic tradition says that the persons of the trinity are identical to the divine essence. What does that amount to? Chicken scratch? Goody for you if you can prove that some Franciscans don’t make this mistake, bad for you that you commune with heretics that do.


  6. Michael says:

    Mr Jones,

    you equivocate on “identity” and “distinction”, as you always have. This silliness was refuted years ago and you never responded. I’m going going to get into it again.

  7. No Mr. Sullivan. I respond to your words as they are. It is YOU who equivocate.

    The only silliness that is displayed is having to defend the silliness of Rome’s arrogant dogmas.


  8. Michael says:

    Sorry, but you’re the one who brought up Thomas and the thomistic tradition, which you continue to misrepresent and misunderstand.

    “Bonaventure adds nothing new to the conversation. It’s a parrot creedal statement of Neo-Chalcedonian Orthodoxy. Justinian and others were pointing those same things out 700 years before Bonaventure.”

    You say this like it’s a bad thing. I thought you didn’t want anyone to add anything. Your point, which I have been at pains to refute, was the the West did NOT preserve their orthodoxy. When I show that St Bonaventure thinks as the Fathers thought, rather than “confusing Person and Nature”, you then accuse him of not being original! What nonsense.

    “Bonaventure adds nothing new to the conversation.”

    Frankly, I would be very surprised indeed to find that you’d read Bonaventure’s In I Sententiarum.

  9. Oh so when Aquinas says that essence and existence are identical in God it means they are not something other but actually the same thing, but when he says that one of the person’s of the trinity is identical to the essence that use of identity means something different. Okay…more Roman Catholic sophistry to document.

  10. Michael says:

    Mr Jones, the combination of your insulting tone, your arrogance, and your lack of competence make discussion with you fruitless and infuriating. This is the last time I will post here.

    Yes, the identity of essence and existence in God and the identity of person and nature in God are not exactly the same. The quotes in your latest post show this clearly.

    The identity of essence and existence, due to God’s simplicity, is such as to make each of God’s essential attributes really identical with each other and only notionally distinct (for Thomas, let’s be clear, not for me). God’s existence, goodness, eternity, are all really one and the same “item”.

    The identity of the persons with the essence is not the same. They are identical in the sense that there is in one sense one “item” and in another sense three “items”. In no sense are there four “items”: essence, Father, Son, and Spirit, such as there would be if any or all of the divine Persons were *really* distinct from the essence in any way. This is in fact precisely Thomas’ denial of your “God in general” accusation–the divine essence is not a universal property to which is added an individuating difference, i.e. Divinity+Paternity=God the Father. Thomas denies this. Rather, the Person who has God’s Paternity=God. In that sense, God the Father (the supposit) is the same “thing” or “reality” (rem) as the divine existence/essence. There is no actually existing reality in God other than the divine ousia–God the Father is not something other than God, more, less, or different. There is no composition of personal properties with nature in God which would produce an additional something.

    BUT the divine existence/essence and God the Father are NOT identical in the sense that referring to the single divine nature refers to a single divine supposit or person. God the Father is God (the existence/essence, ousia), God the Son is God, but God the Father is not God the Son. The Persons are really distinct from one another, not notionally. Because of this we have to say that the identity of the persons with the nature is not the identity of the = sign, as is the case (for Thomas) with God’s essence and existence and essential properties.

    God the Father cannot be really distinct from the divine essence because he is wholly God and in no way something other than God. There is no reality in God the Father which is not God. Nevertheless, it is not the case that, simply, Divinity=Paternity, the way that Divine Immensity=Divine Eternity, because God the Son is God, he has all Divinity, but he has no Paternity. There are two related but distinct senses of identity in play. All three Persons are identical with the essence (and with each other) in the sense that there is only one SOMETHING. There are, however, really three SOMEONES. All three persons are really distinct from each other, because the Father is not the Son is not the Spirit. To the extent, then, that Father/=Son, or Paternity/=Filiation, and yet Father=God and Son=God, there is a difference between the *kind* of identity Thomas postulates between the Person(s) and the essence and that between the existence and the essence/attributes.

    I think this is clear enough in Thomas, although it could be clearer. And it is not my position–I don’t think Thomas has the conceptual tools to adequately express the different kinds of identity he has in mind, which makes him a bit confusing and occasionally sounds almost contradictory–but I don’t think it’s heretical and I don’t think it falls prey to your objections. Rather, I think you misunderstand and misconstrue Thomas, because you give him the least possible sympathetic reading. You’re looking for heresy and so you find it. But you should know how easy it is to apply the same trick to any of the Fathers.

  11. Symeon says:

    This is a bit late, but…

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with Mike Liccione’s statements. The essence of Nestorianism is not “being human, i.e., an instance of humanity, entails being a person.” The essence of Nestorianism is that to be a human being requires a human hypostasis or person. I don’t see this at all in Mr. Liccione’s reasoning. What he says is simply the truth: To be a human being requires being a person. All he is saying as that all persons that are human beings require a human essence. The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is a divine person with a human essence, thus he is a human being, a real instance of humanity. Thus he says, “From the fact that all human beings are persons, which I affirm, it does not follow that all human beings are human persons, which I deny.” All he is saying in the quotes you present is that to be a real human requires being a person or hypostasis, full stop. He did not say it requires a human hypostasis or person.

  12. Fr. J. says:

    Who is this Ratzinger you are talking about. Joseph Ratzinger, the world knows, did not write Spes Salvi, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI did.

%d bloggers like this: