Biola AntiChrist (1)

2John 1:7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist.”

The term “Antichrist” gets thrown around a lot, especially by Dispensationalists. Biblically speaking though it does not pick out a distinctive eschatological figure. Rather, it denotes someone who denies the Incarnation. Throughout church history there have been many ways to deny the Incarnation: Docetism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, etc. Studying them in detail will reveal that they all, more or Image result for antichristless, turn on a few different categorical conflations. [1]

Unfortunately, the Evangelical school Biola University has over the last twenty years become a purveyor of Antichrist. Biola staff in their philosophy department have proposed and defended theological models aimed at denying the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. This includes figures like William Lane Craig but also lesser known figures like Garrett DeWeese. In what follows I sketch the contents of an article that DeWeese wrote defending Monothelitism and then in a second part, I provide an analysis.

The article was published here and is entitled “One Person, Two Natures: Two Metaphysical Models of the Incarnation.” DeWeese’s thesis is that the “standard model” with Jesus having two wills and two intellects, implies that Jesus’s humanity is ephemeral because said entities are merely theoretical and make no substantial difference to the life of Christ. Moreover, the “standard model” either implies or seems to imply a form of Nestorianism. A Monothelite (and apparently Apollinarian) model does a better job because it grounds Christ’s exemplary role as perfect man.[2]

So how does DeWeese propose to get there from an examination of the “standard model?” DeWeese begins with a very general sketch of Chalcedonian Christology and then aims to take on the challenge of Image result for garrett deweeseassessing the philosophical coherence of Chalcedonian Christology. To do that work, DeWeese provides quick glosses on key terms such as person, nature & mind. Some of these glosses tend to have the conclusion he wishes to reach baked in, where soul is taken to be synonymous with person. He continues with a rehearsal of the history leading up to the Monothelite heresy, but the discussion of terminology and the history need not detain us.[3]

What is of philosophical and subsequent theological interest is how DeWeese glosses the difference between Plato and Aristotle on essence and then which of these views he thinks prevailed at the conciliar level. DeWeese reads Plato as positing “abstract” forms or universals, contrasting him to Aristotle who takes substances in the primary sense to be concrete particulars of sorts. (Tableness as distinguished from this table.)  In Deweese’s telling for Plato, natures are just aggregates or sets of properties,[4] whereas for Aristotle natures are individuals with certain properties, something like a metaphysical pin-cushion where the cushin is the substance and the pins are distinct properties. In short, DeWeese reads Plato as an abstractist and Aristotle as a concretist, with the difference being on the former that objects are “piles of properties”[5] and on the latter properties are had by something which itself not a property. What this means philosophically is that for abstractists like DeWeese, there can’t be different kinds of persons strictly speaking and actions can’t be individuated qua natures as if natures were concrete things. There are just the properties it takes to be a person and then the properties it takes to be a given nature.

The way this affects the Christological discussion will be seen shortly, but suffice it to say that DeWeese takes the difference between Plato and Aristotle to turn on whether forms or natures exist as “abstract” universals or concrete particulars. On DeWeese’s reading of conciliar history, the view that progressively won out in the ecclesial councils was the latter, namely that the humanity of Jesus is a concrete particular, a distinct instance of human nature with its own soul, will and body.

This he thinks made Eutychianism and Monothelitism possible. The Eutychians were reacting to the idea Image result for leontius of jerusalemthat the human nature of Christ was a primary substance and so would count as a second person in Christ. To fix this problem, the Eutychians posited Christ as a tertium quid such that his humanity was not a substance or individual object and so a third new thing resulted from the mixture.[6] But Euytychianism was obviously wrong, but Monothelitism, thinks DeWeese, “was not so clearly heretical.”[7] For DeWeese, Chalcedon was compatible with either a Dyothelite or Monothelite gloss. After the Sixth Council with Dyothelitism prevailing, the sticking point for DeWeese is whether earlier patristic figures would have agreed with Dyothelitism and its offending concept of a “reified nature.”[8] Consequently he completes his survey of the patristic material with the claim that Constantinople III “does not represent the unambiguous teaching of all the fathers and early theologians.”[9]

DeWeese moves to a discussion of various western medieval takes on the incarnation. Here we are introduced to Boethius’ well-known gloss of a person as an individual substance of a rational nature. In DeWeese’ telling, the Medievals faced a problem. If humans were persons by being body-soul composites that were a substance, then how was it that the Logos did not assume a human person? This is just to say that if body-soul composition was sufficient for personhood for humans, then it should also be sufficient in the Incarnation. But of course, if Christ assumes a human person this is tantamount to Nestorianism. Whatever were the Medeivals to do?

Well, according to DeWeese they came up with the idea of a suppositum, which bears and sustains properties and so is like a substance. And Christ’s human nature is not a suppositum but it is a substance. To avoid Nestorianism, the Medeivals reasoned disjunctively. Body-soul composition was Image result for Dyothelitismsufficient for human personhood, unless the body-soul composite is sustained by a suppositum. In the case of the Incarnation the latter obtains and so there is no second subject in Christ.

DeWeese then moves to provide objections to Dyothelitism, starting with objections to the supposed Medieval model. For the “Medieval model” these run as follows.

  1. The distinctions proffered by the Medievals are ad hoc.
  2. Scotus’ explanation of why the humanity of Christ is not a person commits him to negative properties, but these are controversial and modern metaphysicians have little sympathy for them.
  3. Some advocates for a Scotistic model accept the possibility of a dissolving of the hypostatic union.
  4. Barring 3 and alleged absurdities of it, it is necessary that the Logos assumes a particular substance, that is, Christ’s human nature and this implies that the “standard interpretations” of Dyothelitism are flawed.[10]

His objections to Dyothelitism per se run as follows.

  1. Dyothelitism appears to imply Nestorianism. It does so according to DeWeese for the following reasons.
  2. It is implausible that persons are other than minds,
  3. Dyothelitism relies on analogies from abnormal psychology.
  4. On Dyothelitism it is difficult to show how two wills did not conflict with each other.
  5. On Dyothelitism Christ’s human mind is something ephemeral that makes no explanatory difference to the life of Christ.
  6. A two minds view entails that the humanity of Christ is a conscious being
  7. Reduplicative predication fails; for the experience must be cashed out in a first person experience. But this implies a second order center of experience.

After these objections, DeWeese moves on to cashing out his Monothelite model.  He begins with glossing person as an “individual, a particular that has its own properties but is not “had by” something else.” [11] He includes consciousness, sentience and relationality, but his descriptions here really do not require our attention. It is significant though that at the end of his cashing out each of those things he glosses a person as a soul.[12] Next DeWesse glosses natures as such as “abstract things” which are had by concrete particulars. All persons therefore are natured persons since they instantiate a specific nature. The kind of person and hence mind and will that is instantiated is determined by the nature.[13]

From here, everything for DeWeese is downhill. The Logos “instantiates” the divine nature and the Logos assumes the set of properties that define human nature. So the divine person exemplifies human nature. But because mind and will are properties of persons, Christ has only one mind and one will, which are specific to his divine person.[14]

Next he argues that his position doesn’t necessarily fall under the condemnations of Constantinople III in 681 because of a supposedly different metaphysical base for his model [15] He follows Craig in advocating for a kind of kenoticism or self-limitation of the Logos with respect to his personal properties. On this view, Christ voluntarily restricts the use of his personal powers to the range of thoughts, experiences and such that are appropriate for a human being.[16] Consequently, we could still speak of the human mind of Christ due to the Logos’ constrained usage of his hypostatic powers, but without the temptation to think of this as a second person.[17] This constrained operation should be viewed as a limited “subset” of the divine mind. [18] It is therefore this limited subset of the divine mind that is the “self” that undergoes the human experiences of the incarnate Word and is therefore none other than the “self” of God the Son.”[19]

Next Deweese attempts to fend off some objections. First, he argues that it might appear that his view “veers” too close to Apollinarianism but this is a mistake he says. For Apollinarius there was no rational soul present being replaced instead by the Logos; the Incarnation being, then, was a kind of tertium quid.[20] DeWeese asserts that his model is not guilty of Apollinarianism because it presents Christ as “fully human and fully God” and because it doesn’t present the hypostatic union as a tertium quid. Second, he argues that the biblical terms soul and spirit do not have univocal and precise meanings so that “their use in a particular way can be made a mark of orthodoxy.” [21] Third, the thesis that Christ had a human soul can be understood in more than one way. One way is the traditional way with Christ possessing a “thing” called a soul and the other way with the Logos functioning in a limited or self-constrained way. Consequently, DeWeese thinks that his model does a better job of preserving Cyril of Alexandria’s insistence on a single subject Christology and therefore his model represents a return to the patristic consensus as articulated by Cyril and Chalcedon.[22]

Moving on from material objections, DeWeese proceeds with a consideration of a formal objection, namely that his position falls afoul of an ecumenical council. But this objection can be rebutted on his own principles since being an Evangelical Protestant, he is not obligated to adhere to the judgments of ecumenical councils as such. He provides a number of examples such as iconic veneration (Nicea II, 787) or baptismal regeneration (Constantinople I, 381). Councils have to be accepted on the basis of their fidelity to the teaching of scripture.[23] Lastly, there is the maxim from Gregory of Nazianzus, that what is not assumed by the Logos is not healed. DeWeese brushes this aside by glossing it as a “slogan” and as such it requires explication. When one explicates it according to his view, his position does not fall afoul of Gregory’s slogan.

DeWeese concludes his paper with a consideration of the wider implications. First he rightly notes that his view will entail an alteration of Trinitarianism. This is because the Christian position holds that because volition was a property of nature and the three divine persons were homoousias, that there was only one will in the Trinity. But since DeWeese’s Monothelitism takes will to be hypostatic, this will require a revision of the Trinity such that there are now three wills in the Trinity. But he thinks this has advantages over the Christian position because it permits the three persons to desire the same thing but also exercise their own individual willing power.[24]

DeWeese then brings this view to bear on the Passion of Christ, where Christ prays to be delivered from his impending suffering but then says “not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39) DeWeese thinks that his view does a better job because it takes the passage in a “straightforward” way with each divine person having their own will. By contrast, DeWeese claims that the Christian dyothelite view would read the passage in an unintuitive and problematic way with the human will of Christ’s humanity desiring to avoid suffering and the divine will willing not to. But since the divine will “controls Jesus’ decision making”[25] there is no possibility that the human desire to avoid the suffering could be acted on. In DeWeese’s telling of the Dyothelite understanding of Christ’s two wills, the divine will in Christ “overpowers” his human will rendering the human will causally, explanatorily and soteriologically worthless. Appealing to parsimony, DeWeese, citing Craig, then claims that the monothelite (and Apollinarian) model he proffers is to be preferred because it avoids obvious problems of Jesus “talking to himself” and can make sense out of Jesus’ experience of human fear, weakness, etc.[26]

As a second advantage of his model he offers that it can take the biblical language at face value. When Jesus says he is willing carry out some task (Mk 1:41) we don’t need to posit a second divine will to do that explanatory work. Consequently, DeWeese takes the Passion statements of “not my will but yours be done” to be cashed out as meaning that Jesus uses his own “active power submitting his natural desire to avoid the coming agony to the desire of the Father, and the coming exercise of the Father’s active power.”[27] Presumably DeWeese here means by “active power” simply willing.

DeWeese believes his view to have practical advantages. Attempting to mirror Nazianzus’ maxim that the unassumed is not healed, he posits that the “unexemplified is not an example.” To qualify as an example for humans, Jesus has to manifest the qualities of human personhood and to the extent that he fails to do so is the extent to which he fails to be an example. DeWeese thinks that this is a condition that the Christian dyothelite position can’t meet because he thinks it posits the human will as a mere instrument of the divine and so renders the human volitional activity of Christ ephemeral. By contrast, DeWeese seems to think that on his model, Jesus’ volitional activity is genuinely exemplified because Christ’s actual choices are apparent, rather than subordinated desires that make no contribution to the life of Christ.

Now if DeWeese is correct about even half of what he says here, the Christian position is in very bad shape. Either we are committed to incoherence or Nestorianism or we have to take the Apollinarian/Monothelite road and say that the Christian church erred in a core area of its theology and that for a very long time.

But fortunately, DeWeese isn’t even half right. He is entirely wrong. In the second part I provide an analysis of DeWeese’ position and show exactly where, why and how DeWeese is wrong and why his account ends up being a denial of the Incarnation.


[1] Fideists can denounce “western rationalism” all they like, but clear thinking goes a long way in avoid heresy.

[2] “On the standard model, not only does Christ’s human will threaten to disappear, but Christ’s entire human mind as well. The unintended result of this line of thinking is that Christ’s human will/ mind/ consciousness becomes little more than a theoretical entity with no observable consequences in the life of Christ. Christ’s exemplary role as a perfect man simply evaporates.” DeWeese, Garret, “One Person, Two Natures: Two Metaphysical Models of the Incarnation.”  in Sanders, Fred; Issler, Klaus. Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective (p. 114). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition, p. 114.

[3] I will return to discuss a few historical points in the evaluation section.

[4] “A nature is a complex property that includes all properties essential to an individual’s being a member of a kind; the set of properties which are necessarily coinstantiated in any individual of that kind.” DeWeese in Sanders, Fred; Issler, Klaus. Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective (p. 141). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[5] James M. Arcadi, “Recent Developments in Analytic Christology,” Philosophy Compass 13(Issue 4)· April 2018, p. 5.

[6] It goes without saying that Eutychianism and Monophysitism are not identical or co-extensive. While for the former is a version of the latter, there are other more sophisticated versions of the latter such as put forward by Severus of Antioch.  And of course it is to their credit that the Severians rejected Eutychianism, though of course I believe the fundamental problems remain.

[7] DeWeese, 122.

[8] “What is far less clear is whether earlier church fathers would have been so quick to accept the reified natures, each complete with its own proper will and working, that the sixth council affirmed.” DeWeese, p. 124.

[9] DeWeese, 124.

10] “Hence it seems most reasonable to conclude that the Logos, should he become incarnate, necessarily assumes CHN (rather than some other particular human nature), and so standard interpretations of the dyothelite model are seriously flawed.” DeWeese, 130.

 [11] Ibid. 137.

 [12] “In the literature of philosophy and philosophical theology, what I have here called a “person” is often referred to as a ‘soul.’” Ibid. 140

[13] “Now if this is correct, then since mental properties inhere in persons and not natures, it follows that the mind and will are faculties or capacities of persons and not of natures. Persons are conscious, natures are not; persons have the capacity of making choices and exercising active power, natures do not. So persons have minds and wills, natures do not. Being abstract, natures cannot think, cannot desire, and cannot exercise active power. But the nature determines what kind of mind or will it is— divine, angelic, human, and so forth.” Ibid. 142.

 [14] “Since a person has a mind and a will, and a nature does not, Christ had one mind and one will, which belong to his divine person.” Ibid. 144.

[15] “The model is thus, strictly and literally, monothelite, although given the different metaphysical understandings of personhood and nature that were current at the time of the sixth council, it is not at all clear that this proposed contemporary model entails the view that was condemned in 681.” Ibid. 144.

[16] During the earthly ministry of the incarnation, the Logos voluntarily restricted the exercise of his personhood capacities to the range of thoughts, sensations, volitions, perceptions, etc., that can be exercised by a person operating within the normal limitations of human nature, including being embodied as an organism of the species Homo sapiens.” Ibid. 145

[17] On the contemporary model, we could still meaningfully speak about the “human mind” of Christ, but we would not be referring to a faculty or entity, and we would no longer be tempted to think of it as another person.” Ibid. 146.

[18] “But rather than constituting two minds, we should understand the human mind as sort of a limited subset of the divine mind.” Ibid. 146.

[19] “But rather than constituting two minds, we should understand the human mind as sort of a limited subset of the divine mind. We could say, with Craig, that the divine mind is “largely subliminal,” or with Morris, that the divine mind is analogous to the unconscious, or with Sturch, that “the ‘self’ who undergoes the joys and pains of Jesus of Nazareth, who is Jesus of Nazareth, is also the ‘self’ of God the Son.’” Ibid. 146

[20] “Put simply, Apollinarius was a trichotimist who believed that a human was composed of a body, an animal soul, and a rational soul. In his model of the incarnation, the rational soul of Jesus was simply not present but was replaced with the Logos. Of Christ, he wrote, “He is not a man, though like a man; for He is not consubstantial with man in the most important element [viz., a rational soul].” Christ is something of a tertium quid, “a mean between God and man, neither wholly man nor wholly God, but a combination of God and man.” As the resulting being was neither fully God nor fully man, Apollinarius’s model was rightly condemned as deficient.” Ibid. 147

[21] Ibid. 147.

[22] Ibid. 148.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid. 149.

[25] Ibid. 150.

[26] “As Craig says: “[ Christ’s prayers in the garden] do not contemplate a struggle of jesus’ human will with his divine will (he is not, after all, talking to himself!), but have reference to the interaction between jesus’ will (‘ my will’) and the Father’s will (‘ yours’). Possessing a typical human consciousness, Jesus had to struggle against fear, weakness and temptation in order to align his will with that of his heavenly Father. The will of the Logos had in virtue of the Incarnation become the will of the man Jesus of Nazareth.” Ibid. 151.

[27] Ibid. 151