A recent fracas between Jay Dyer and Turretinfan has yeilded some results that bring to mind a biblical narrative as well as events in church history. There’s no need to reherse the the biblical narrative in Judges 12. The application in church history has been key technical terms to root out advocates of heterodoxy. Heretics of many ages past have sought to cloak themselves behind ambiguous terms or the rejection of terms adopted by the church to encircle a divine truth to hide their heresy . As Francis Turretin, the esteemed Reformed scholastic of the seventeenth century wrote,
But it is often found that they who litigate more pertinaciously than others against the words, cherish a secret virus. It is sufficiently evident that those new corruptions of religion condemn the words adopted by the ancients for no other reason that they are unwilling to receive the things designed by them. Knowing that with the words they might abolish the doctrine also, we therefore did right in retaining them and insist on their use being not only lawful, but also beneficial and necessary for repressing the pertinacity of heretics and for bringing them out of lurking places. Institutes of Eclenctic Theology, vol. 1, 258.
Dyer and Turritanfan had been squabbling and fumbling over the Eucharist, specifically exchanging charges of heterodoxy-Nestorianism and Eutychianism.
So being characteristically me, I decided to ask Turretinfan a question.
Did a divine person suffer and die on the cross or no?
My question was obviously a test to see if he could confess as a Calvinist, orthodox Christology. The two natures are united in one divine person, which is not itself the product or result of the union, but rather takes up into himself human nature. Turritanfan’s answer was rather telling.
Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross.
I asked a follow up question to the effect of, this only answers my question if I already know that you think Jesus is a divine person. Is Jesus a divine person who suffered and died? But my follow up question was denied posting rights. Needless to say, his answer is inadequate since it can easily cloak a heterodox understanding. There are a few possibilities here. Perhaps he doesn’t wish to get “sidetracked” with a discussion on Christology. (So much for being Christ centered.) Maybe he is genuinely unsure how to answer the question or maybe he knows what I am asking and doesn’t in fact adhere to Chalcedonian Christology. Only he could clarify. But I have run into this kind of refusal to utter the shibboleths of orthodoxy far too often by Calvinists to think its just plain old ignorance. Turritinfan it seems isn’t enough of a fan after all.
As to the conceptual matters, the Nestorians admitted one “person” of Jesus Christ. They also admitted that things true of his humanity could be spoken of this one “person” with no communication of energies. What they would not admit was that this one “person” was the eternal Son, the divine Logos and so it was impossible for them to admit that God suffered, died or was born. Hence their aversion to the term Theotokos. In their view, the “person” Jesus Christ was the product or result of the union of the two natures. This is why it is possible to give an unorthodox reading to the statement that after the Incarnation Jesus is a composite hypostasis. That could mean that the person is the product of the two natures coming into union or it could mean that the one divine person takes human nature into his divine person. The latter is orthodox while the former is heterodox. Consequently, there is no divine-human person of Christ, as the Westminster Confession apparently and erroneously teaches, when it states,
“So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. (WCF 8.2)
That this heterodox view has substantial roots in the Reformed tradition cannot be denied. Reformed theologian Bruce McCormack brings this out nicely in citations in a past post I wrote here. (Just scroll down to the material starting from Bruce McCormack and start reading from there.) It is unfortunate that this heterodoxy makes its way into semi-popular works about Orthodoxy from Reformed writers as if it were the western theological position. Notice Donald Fairbairn in his Eastern Orthodoxy: Through Western Eyes,
Western theologians generally state that at the incarnation, divine and human natures were combined in an inexpressible union into a single person. This idea is connected to the Western way of describing the Trinity. Westerners emphasize the essence or nature of God to such a degree that we envision this nature as an entity itself, which could be combined with a human nature to make the person of Christ. 61
Now whatever defects Leo’s Tome may have, representing classical western Christology, this is not explcitly one of them. This is not the western theological tradition. It is not taught by Catholicism, Anglicanism or Lutheranism in their historic and representative documents and advocates. It is flat out Nestorianism. (You can find similar nonsense in Harold O. J. Brown’s work Heresies.) But Fairbairn is rather sloppy since on the very next page he speaks of this as being the view of “modern western theologians.” I have no idea who he thinks this view is to be attributed to since he gives no references. But the fact that he could write as if this is the unquestioned western theological view is beyond disturbing. Of course, linked with McCormack’s comments referenced above with both authors coming out of the Reformed tradition, indicate again the troubling nature of “Reformed” Christology. Notice again McCormack’s important comments,
For Reformed Christians, it is not simply Chalcedon which defines “orthodoxy” within the realm of Christological reflection; it is Chalcedon as interpreted by the Reformed Confessions.
This is why Reformed affirmations of adherence to Chalcedon’s Christology are vaccuous. The two are not compatible. So you have to pick-Chalecondian Christology or Reformed distinctives.
So I’ll ask again.
Turretinfan, did a divine person suffer and die on the cross?