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Do Protestants Take the Incarnation Seriously?

Nativity Icon

On November 4th, Russ Warren wrote a “short” comment in response to my posting “Icons and the Veneration of the Saints” that raised a number of interesting points.  Rather than bury it in the comments section I decided to turn my responses into a separate blog posting.  Russ Warren’s comments are italicized.

Re. Do Protestants Take the Incarnation Seriously?  

I do get tired, and please forgive my audacity here, of hearing from various Orthodox — both on the lay and clerical levels — that because we don’t have icons we don’t believe in the Incarnation; it simply isn’t true.

You may get tired of the Orthodox criticism that Protestants don’t really believe in the Incarnation but please keep in mind that the Reformed and Orthodox traditions have quite different understandings of what it mean to believe in the Incarnation.  For the Reformed Christian to believe in the Incarnation is primarily intellectual assent to the biblical accounts of Jesus’ conception and birth by Mary, and the doctrine of Christ having two natures: human and divine.  For the Orthodox Christian believing in the Incarnation means: (1) accepting the biblical accounts of Jesus’ conception and birth by Mary, (2) his two natures as defined by Chalcedon, (3) the climactic revelation of God through the person of Jesus which far surpasses all other forms of revelation, (4) Jesus as the Second Adam, the new Man into whom we are united through baptism, (3) Mary becoming the Theotokos (God Bearer), the Throne of God, the Ark of the Covenant; (4) the Church as the Body of Christ, (5) the invisible God becoming visible not only to the first Christians but also to later Christians through icons, (6) the transcendent God becoming accessible through the Church the Body of Christ, and (7) the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist.

For the Orthodox, if one takes the Incarnation seriously one will: (1) celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th) every year, (2) publicly honor Mary by addressing her as the Theotokos, (3) confess the Incarnation in every Sunday worship, (4) celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist) every Sunday, (6) affirm the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, and (7) display pictures of Jesus in his incarnated state.  For the Orthodox faith and action go together.  It is not enough to have a strong mental affirmation of the Incarnation or to have systematic theology texts with well articulated exposition of the Incarnation.  For the Orthodox theological belief is expressed not in theology books but in liturgical worship.  If we don’t see something in your worship we will think that it is not that important to your faith.  To use an analogy, it would be like a husband who likes to tell his wife he loves her and writes to her that he loves her but skips giving her kisses and hugs, and eschews pictures of her and taking her out on their wedding anniversary because these are unnecessary to their marriage.

To conclude, when Orthodox Christians complain that Protestants don’t believe in the Incarnation, they probably have in mind the broader sense that goes beyond the Protestant intellectual/doctrinal approach.  My advice to you and other Protestants is to affirm that you do believe in the Incarnation but not in the broader sense that the Orthodox do.  Start from what both sides have in common then seek to discuss the differences in a charitable manner seeking to learn from each other.

Icons and Scripture

…we don’t necessarily see any justification in the New Testament itself that the 2nd commandment has been substantially changed (even John, whom I see as the most “Orthodox” apostle, reminds us at the end of his first epistle to “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”).

In light of the Preamble in which Yahweh declare himself to be Israel’s God and the First Commandment in which Yahweh forbids allegiance to any other deity, the most natural sense of the Second Commandment is to read it as a prohibition against imitating the worship practices of the pagans.  This makes the most natural sense for I John 5:21 which was most likely written in the pagan setting of Asia Minor.  For your iconoclastic reading to be persuasive you would need to provide evidence of the use of images in worship as the focus of controversy during the time John wrote his first epistle.

Re. Roadblocks in Orthodox-Reformed Dialogue

In the end, and this may be the roadblock that we hit again and again in our dialogues, the question is what role Scripture has within Tradition (I think it is a bit myopic for some, certainly not all, Reformed to still speak as if Tradition is an escapable reality)….

One of the major roadblocks in the Reformed and Orthodox dialogue here stems from the way we do theology.  Reformed Christians do theology from the standpoint of sola scriptura, and Orthodox Christians do theology from the standpoint of Holy Tradition.  While the Orthodox and Reformed traditions share Scripture, they have different interpretations of the same verses.  The way I deal with the conflicting interpretations is to look for the exegetical tradition that is marked by antiquity and catholicity, i.e., mirrors that of the early church fathers.  Where the Reformed tradition disagrees with the Orthodox tradition it has adopted interpretations and positions that are novel and  at odds with the church fathers.  Let me put it this way, where the Reformed tradition is in agreement with Orthodoxy, it can claim a theological heritage two thousand years old.  Where the Reformed tradition is not in agreement with Orthodoxy, it is part of five hundred year old tradition and for that reason cannot claim antiquity.  The Reformed iconoclasm is part of a five hundred year old tradition.  Iconoclasm has not been shown to have antiquity nor catholicity.

One of the limitations of a theological debate confined to Bible alone is the problem of multiple readings from identical texts.  That is why much of my arguments on this blog is not based on the claim that I have a superior interpretation of the Bible but rather that the position I uphold has a Scriptural basis and is part of an exegetical tradition that goes back to the Apostles.  A Reformed Christian can put forward a logically consistent interpretation of a Scripture text that is at odds with the historic Christian faith. There is a certain logical consistency to Reformed theology, but it must be recognized that this consistency arises from the selectivity that shapes the premises for Reformed theology.   I respect the reasoning behind the Reformed reading of the Second Commandment but it is not part of the historic Christian faith; it is a Protestant novelty.  I am of course open to your presenting evidence of the antiquity and catholicity of your understanding of the Second Commandment.

So as far as the roadblocks are concerned, I am not surprised if we do run into roadblocks on this blog.  There are some issues that we cannot find common ground and which we will simply have to agree to disagree in a spirit of charity and humility.  The only way full agreement can be reached will be for the person to reassess and revise their theological methods.  For me to become Orthodox entailed not just the acceptance of certain doctrines but also a different way of doing theology.  I made these changes reluctantly after concluding that Protestant theology was untenable on biblical, patristic, historical, and sociological grounds.  What especially pained me was reaching the conclusion that Protestantism represented a faith tradition separate from the early Church and that to be a Protestant was to be out of communion with the early church fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.

Re. Can Scripture Challenge Tradition?

…can Scriptural exegesis (whether Christological, historical-critical, grammatical-historical, redemptive-historical, or whatever mode you please) challenge and readjust the liturgical and ecclesiastical traditions?  Even ones that go back millennia?

I am going to start with a quick answer: (1) if your answer is ‘yes’ then you are taking the Protestant position, and (2) if your answer is ‘no’ then you are taking the Orthodox position.  The real question is not “can” but what position does the preponderance of evidence point to?  One can start out with an open ended question but eventually one will need to arrive at some conclusion.  For the sake of clarity, it is important to keep in mind that for Orthodoxy there is Tradition with a capital “T” which is universal and binding on all Christians and tradition with a small “t” which is local.

I would urge you to read A.N.S. Lane’s fine essay “Scripture, Tradition, and Church: A Historical Survey.”  If your answer is ‘yes’ then you are taking the Protestant ancillary view which assumes that the Church can and has erred in matters of doctrine and assumes that the Christian church suffered a major break in historical continuity.  If your answer is that Scripture, Tradition, and the teachings of the Church coincide then you are taking the coincidence view and the answer is ‘no.’  This views assume that there exists a church group that has maintained a continuity in faith and practice going back to the original Apostles, this is the Orthodox view.

So, to answer your question: Can Scripture be at odds with Tradition?  The Orthodox answer is that because Tradition consists of a written apostolic tradition (Scripture) and an oral tradition, and because the two derive from a common source (the Apostles), they cannot contradict each other.  The possibility of an oral tradition at odds with Scripture arises if a novel or alien practice enters from without (e.g., Gnosticism).    Another possibility is a misunderstanding of the received tradition, e.g., heresies like patripassianism, Apollinarianism, modalism, Arianism, Nestorianism etc.  The early Church settled these Christological and Trinitarian issues through the Ecumenical Councils.  The key means of rebutting heresy is through an appeal to apostolicity, antiquity, and catholicity.  This is the criteria used by Irenaeus of Lyons and the other church fathers.

Re. John of Damascus

One quick point: no matter how many times John of Damascus is brought up, it isn’t going to get any hard core Reformed person to change their mind about icons.  Why?  He isn’t biblical.  

I agree with you that John of Damascus is not on the same level as the Apostles.  He is a teacher of the Faith and an expositor of Scripture.  As a church father he stands in a hermeneutical tradition that goes back to the Apostles.  And for the Orthodox he formulated one of the most articulate apologia for icons.  We invoke John of Damascus much in the same way Protestants invoke Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley.    If you are a Protestant, I am not expecting you to automatically yield to him but I do hope you will engage in his reasoning.  Show where you find his reasoning problematic and unpersuasive.

Re. Nominalism Among Ethnic Orthodox

What is the Orthodox Tradition (which, of course, was not a main concern of the Reformers) doing to make sure that your understanding of icons (nicely nuanced as it is) is being held to by the rank-and-file, especially amongst the ethnic enclaves which are (stereotypically at least) fairly nominal in their actual engagement of the Church’s official dogmas and explanations?

Regarding your questions about the attitudes towards icons by nominal Orthodox Christians, especially those in ethnic enclaves, I would first say that this is a very tangled question.  First of all, nominalism is a problem everywhere, in Orthodoxy, mainline liberalism, and Evangelicalism.  Second, it is somewhat arrogant and judgmental to insinuate that nominalism is problem especially among “ethnic enclave” (ethnic Orthodox parishes).  It can be a temptation for a convert to Orthodoxy to assume an attitude of spiritual superiority over nominal ‘ethnic’ Orthodox.  Furthermore, almost all Protestant groups can be labeled ‘ethnic enclaves’ associated with particular cultures or sub-cultures: Ivy League universities, the deep South, British culture, surfing culture, the Gen X culture etc. So let me just say that your question is a spiritually dangerous one to ask.  While I respect the reasons for ethnic parishes, I have come to the conclusion that we need more Orthodox parishes for whom America is their home and English the language of worship.

So what is the Orthodox Church doing to deal with the problem of nominalism?  The first step is to begin with your own spiritual state through repentance and an intensification of one’s devotion to God.  We can seek to become consistent in our daily Prayers, in the reading of Scripture, and listening to the teachings presented in the liturgies and prayer services.  Great Lent is a good means of personal spiritual renewal.  Below is the Prayer of St. Ephraim of Syria.  The Orthodox consider this prayer as the most succinct summary of the spirit of Great Lent.

O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, idle curiosity (meddling), lust for power and idle talk.

But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity (integrity), humility, patience and love.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Then we can encourage others in our parish to deepen their relationship with God.  We can pray for others and we can encourage our priests, but ultimately the priest is responsible for the spiritual health of the parishioners.

Another way to counteract nominalism is through a love for Scripture.  This is one thing I learned from my Evangelical days and which I took with me into Orthodoxy.  I try to show how Orthodoxy is very much grounded in Scripture.  My recent rebuttal of soli deo gratia was not knee jerk reaction but a careful analysis of the Bible from both the Old and New Testament.  To do this analysis I drew on my Evangelical training.  I would say that as more Evangelicals and Protestants convert to Orthodoxy and as they bring their love of Scripture, preaching, and evangelism the Orthodox Church will become a stronger church.

Robert Arakaki

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  1. David

    While I do appreciate Robert’s attempt to flesh out just what the Orthodox “mean” when they say “protestants don’t believe in the Incarnation”…I’m still with Russ on the use of language. It’s simply overstated to say Protestants DON’T believe in the Incarnation. Indeed, most of us would affirm all points Robert makes above with some qualifications and quarrels with 3, 5 and 7. I still remember my first Refomed Pastor preaching on the grand changes wrought throughout all Creation per the Incarnation because it was new to me 30+ yrs ago. It was wonderful as he contrasted the First-Coming of Christ with the modern obscession with the 2nd coming. It was os grand that it all but insults a well-read/taught Reformed Protestant to tell him he doesn’t really believe in the incarnation!

    Perhaps it would be more charitable and accurate to say that “Protestant do not believe some of the broader Implications Orthodoxy draws from the Incarnation.” Robert get close to this in his “broader sense” comment — which calls for Protestants to try to grasp and understand in what the Orthodoxy really mean when they speak of the Incarnation.

    As for nominalism amongst the rank-and-file, I suspect we might agree to laugh with rather than at each other. Who really wants to trust getting an accurate view of the Reformed Faith (Classical Reformation Protestantism) form a rank-and-file Protestant? Kevin and Tim have strained at length to show how confused most Protestants (even Pastor/Elders…) are about the basic of Protestantism! So Russ’s exhortation to teach the masses and weed out the nominalism cuts both ways. Of course, our job might likely be more difficult than the Orthodox’s, seeing we have so many variations (mutations) or “Protestantism(s)” to deal with! Helpful post Robert.

    • robertar


      Thank you for your candor. It’s unfortunate that Orthodox Christians have used language that give unnecessary offense to Protestants. and muddied the conversation. I’ve been guilty of doing that to my Evangelical friends. I suspect that much of it stems from Orthodox Christians having an unclear understanding of how the two traditions agree and disagree on the Incarnation. It was not until I wrote this posting that I found a clearer understanding of the differences between the two faith traditions. My request to Protestants is that rather than take offense if they hear this accusation that they exercise forbearance and explain the differences between the two traditions. I hope that Orthodox Christians who read this post will become more understanding of where Protestants come from in their understanding of the Incarnation and become more nuanced in their criticism of Protestant theology. Let me close with saying that the Protestant and the Orthodox traditions have much in common with respect to the doctrine of the Incarnation and that we also have significant differences. Let’s seek to highlight what unites rather than fixate on what divides us. Let us build bridges than walls.


      • Russ Warren


        Thanks for this posting. I do wish I had more time to interact with it, but family, work, school, and (did I say?) family concerns are severely limiting my time right now.

        I do want to clarify one thing, though: I was not trying to be arrogant about the supposed ethnic nominalism. I tried to include the word “stereotypically” to make it clear that I am not accusing, but bringing up a point that I’ve heard in many, many places in my Orthodox readings. Is it true? I have no idea — but I’ve heard enough worry over it, from the source (as it were), to think that there may be some truth to it. You are right to point out, though, that nominalism is a problem in whatever tradition you happen to inhabit. I apologize for not being clearer about this in my initial post — it is difficult, I find, to speak with precision in Internet postings.

        Maybe I’ll be able to find some time later to delve further into all you have presented here. I do like what David has said, though — thank you, David!

        For His Kingdom and for His peace,


        • robertar


          Thanks for responding. Don’t worry about not writing a full fledged response. If you cannot, I hope another Reformed Christian can speak up. The main thing to keep in mind is that there is more to life than the Internet. I’m glad you’re aware of your priorities.

          For the record, I did not intend to accuse you of arrogance. If I reacted strongly, it is because the issue of ethnicity is such a loaded one, and I saw in your question a potential temptation. I would say that there is some truth to the stereotypes but we shouldn’t be so quick to judge others. Being judgmental or critical is something that devoted Christians are vulnerable to. I’m trying to make sure that the spiritual climate of this blog remains a healthy one.


  2. Baroque Norseman

    One of the best ways to discuss this is simply to note where historic Protestants themselves reject key Christian teachings on the atonement. For example, Calvin believes some extra God-stuff exists outside the person of Christ (and outside persons in general). Or better, do the two natures of Christ co-penetrate one another as the historic church taught? There is a reason Calvin said “no.”

    I’ve seen some nominalism among ethnic orthodox, but I’ve seen even worse nominalism among ethnic American evangelicals. Every SBC church I go into feels like a Republican bomb-Iran/hate Russia rally. I always felt like I was on the set of “Desperate Housewives.” Yet, that “nominalism” among Americans is okay, but any other kind is bad.

    • Tim Enloe

      Baroque said:

      Calvin believes some extra God-stuff exists outside the person of Christ (and outside persons in general)

      I’m not familiar with Calvin’s ideas on that, and in fact, I’m not even sure what theological locus you’re talking about. Would you provide a reference to Calvin that I can look up? Thanks.

      • Baroque Norseman

        I’m referring to the extra-Calvinisticum.

        Ursinus’ teaching that the person of Christ is more than the person of the Logos in his commentary on the Heidlberg Catechism.

        “Objection 2. But, according to this the Word cannot be a person, because he is part of the person; and that which is only a part cannot be a person. Answer. That which is only part of a person (and such a part that is not of itself a person) is no person; or, that which is a part of a person, is not that person of which it is a part. And so it may be said of the Word, if it be properly understood, that he is not the whole person of the mediator, although he is in, and of himself, a whole and complete person in respect to the Godhead.”
        p. 210.

        so who/what is this extra person other than the eternal Son of God? A human person perhaps under the designation of “Christ?”

        You can see it also in Vermigli’s Two Dialogs on the Incarnation where he explicitly denies that the divine person dies and only the human nature does.

        • Tim Enloe

          Thanks for the answer. I have heard of the extra-Calvinisticum, but have never studied it in any detail. For those who in the past have accused me of being arrogant, pay close attention to me when I say: to the assertions above, I have no answer at present. But, unlike a lot of converts, my ignorance doesn’t threaten me, doesn’t cause me to start swaying all over the place and casting about for an “authority” to infallibly solve all my epistemic problems. I don’t understand these assertions, and I have no answer to them at present, but far from meaning that I better start looking into converting, all it means is that I have a lot more growing to do.

          • Baroque Norseman

            The literature on extra-calvinisticum is pretty sketchy and one often has to “reverse-engineer” the discussion. Torrance has some good stuff on it, including a hard to find (go figure) essay.

            Richard Muller’s Dictionary of Latin words is helpful, albeit *very* short. I had a Reformed Christology professor try (very incoherently, as with everything in that class) to explain it, but neither we nor he understood what he was saying.

          • robertar

            I’ve never heard of extra-Calvinisticum until now. For what it’s worth I found this essay on the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Library website. It’s “The ‘Extra Calvinisticum’ and Calvin’s Eucharistic Theology” by David G. Peters. I took a quick look and it looks like a cogent description of the issue.

            At first I thought it was an arcane issue but it looks like it sheds light on where Reformed Christology differs from the Lutherans, and possibly the Orthodox as well.


          • Jnorm

            Tim Enloe,

            Access to more knowledge in and of itself doesn’t equal growth to us. Christian growth to us equals a strong prayer life along with what is mentioned in 2nd Peter.
            “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

            For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

            Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

            Also, christian growth comes by way of perseverance through much suffering, pain, and persecution.

  3. Baroque Norseman

    I said “atonement.” I meant to say “Christology.”

  4. John

    May I insert myself to make 2 comments? (a question that is clearly rhetorical, since I will go ahead and do it!). If it is not sufficiently clear from what follows, I should state that I am an Orthodox Christian.

    1) The question of whether scripture can ‘correct’ tradition in the Orthodox church is a good one, and I would say that this is actually what the church fathers grappled with in their encounters with early heresy. None of the fathers that I know of simply said, ‘here is church tradition, get on board or get out!’ God forbid! They defended their positions by recourse to Scripture. Speaking in general terms, we can even say that it was because of the challenges posed by heresy that the Orthodox church was forced to go back to Scripture and to prove that what the church teaches is actually in accord with Scripture. So, I would say that, yes, it is important for unwritten tradition to be squared with Scripture, and that if you want to see this in action, read some of the writings of the fathers that led up to the ecumencial councils. Some suggestions are: St Athanasius’ Contra Arianos , in which he shows from Scripture that the Son of God is one-in-essence with the Father; St Cyril of Alexandria’s writings against Nestorius, in which he defends the use of the term Theotokos; you could also see St Maximus and St Sophronius’ writings in defense of the human will of Christ, though these are harder to find; regarding the debate over icons, there is not only St John Damascene but also St Theodore the Studite. I can point you to where these writings can be found if you’re interested. By all means, as Robert said, read the fathers with an open mind: you will find that their authority comes not ‘from the top down,’ that is, from the church deciding that they are fathers and everything they say is correct; rather, their authority can be judged from what they actually say, from the arguments they use. Many of their writings can also be read in short portions. I have found that I get a lot out of reading a page or two of the fathers each morning after my Scripture readings.

    2) Regarding the ‘extra calvinisticum,’ I would suggest a short but dense book by TF Torrance, Space Time and Incarnation. The extra calvinisticum has to do with a debate between Luther and Calvin over the person of Christ. Calvin tried to hold that the divine nature of the Word is united with our human nature in Christ but that he is not contained in a human body and that he is also at the same time reigning in heaven with God and present everywhere in creation. Luther held that the whole Word entered a human body, such that the body contained the Word (this is an extreme kind of kenoticism). If the Lutheran view were true, it would mean that the Word is not with the Father in heaven at the same times as he is incarnate in a human body. We Orthodox would agree with Calvin, as our liturgical services teach us, that the Word is not ‘contained’ in a human body but that he reigns in heaven at the same time as He is incarnate on earth. This happens in a mysterious way that cannot be understood according to our normal human conceptions of space.

    • Baroque Norseman

      But natures are en-hypostatized, if Christ’s nature also exists outside the *Person* of the word, then it must also, by definition of “nature”, exist in another hypostasis. This is why many Lutherans since Chemnitz charged Calvinists with Nestorianism.

      I’m very much a Torrancian and Torrance, at least in STI, is reconstructing extra-Calvinisticum. In other lectures he is very harsh on this view, as are most Barthians.

    • Tim Enloe

      Now *there’s* a properly nuanced perspective on the relationship of Scripture and tradition. I very much appreciate the note that the authority of the Fathers is not “top down,” just because an a priori something called “the Church” says so. That is the line most converts, in the grip of a largely manufactured “crisis of authority” take, but it is not square-able with the texts, either Scripture or patristic. I love Athanasius on this issue, especially in the Four Discourses Against the Arians. It is quite plain that the authority of his views comes from *the arguments*, and not from the fact that he is a “Father” and part of “the Orthodox Church.” It is quite plain, also, that he believes proper exegesis of *the very words* of Scripture leads to the Nicene conclusions. For Athanasius, it is not, as Roman Catholics often say and as at least some Orthodox also say, that Scripture is like a wax nose, capable of supporting any old position, even the heretical ones, without the addition authority of “the Church.”

      • Jnorm

        The view of the Fathers was called Prima Scriptura.

      • Baroque Norseman

        Here is something I noticed in 2007 in my Van Til days: when we speak of “Scripture” and tradition (or Scripture and anything) there is the unspoken presupposition that the “other” guy necessarily shares the same philological, hermenueutical, philosophical and cultural (e.g., “Go America/Bomb Iran”) assumptions about the text as the other guy. Yet this presupposition is itself not necessarily derived from Scripture.

        Which means that while one can affirm that “Scripture corrects tradition” (whatever that means), one does not necessarily mean by “going to Scripture” what the other guy means by “going to Scripture.”

        This is why both Moonies and Southern Baptists “believe the bible,” yet…well

        • David

          Excellent point Baroque,

          Presuppositions can be a tricky thing to apply, or surmise in others. We too often presume to pigenhole people/ideas far quicker than we should…only to realize far later that we completely “miss-pigenholed” someone or don’t even have sufficient categories (“holes”) to accomodate all our quick-pigening! But then, some are oblivious to the egg on their faces! 🙂 Lord have mercy on us all.

    • Jnorm


      We are more in agreement with the Lutherans. Luther was following Saint Cyril, just as we do! You mis-understood Luther’s view. Luther believed God-Incarnate to be Omni-Present, for there is a communication between the natures.

      • Jnorm


        The communication of the Natures also have implication on how the Visible Church is mysteriously united to the Resurrected body of Christ. And so one’s Christology is also linked to ones Ecclesiology as well. But going back to Christology, Martin Luther’s view was alot closer to us than John Calvin’s view.

      • Baroque Norseman

        How close to Luther’s view do we really want to get? Both Luther and Calvin (with varying degrees of consistency) believed in Absolute Divine Simplicity (the divine essence is = to the attributes), which is why both sides never made headway on this: the divine nature, if communicated to the other nature, swallowed up that nature (which is why the Calvinists charged the Lutherans with monophysitism) and the Lutherans charged the Calvinists with Nestorianism (since they denied any real communication). Ironically, both charges are correct.

        Of course, non-Augustinians do not have this problem.

        • Jnorm

          Baroque Norseman,

          I could be wrong, but I thought the Lutherans were following Saint Cyril’s communicatio idiomatum?

          If so then they should believe in an interpenetration between the two natures without confusion, mixture or fusion. Thus keeping them distinct. But you brought up A.D.S. in all of this and so you maybe seeing something I’m not seeing. Are you saying that the Lutheran adherence to the Augustinian interpretation of A.D.S. causes them to have a tendency to believe that the Divine nature shallows up the human? Hmm, the Augustinian view of A.D.S. does cause a break down of all distinctions. You know, I never put much thought into how A.D.S. could influence Lutheran thought in this area.

          In regards to the protestant Reformers and A.D.S. in general, well, I do know of some online Calvinists who hold to an Augustinian interpretation of A.D.S.; However, at this time I am unable to find where John Calvin held to it. And so I really can’t say much about that just yet.

          • Jnorm

            I meant to say swallow.

          • Matthew N. Petersen

            Lutherans definitely do follow Cyril and the real communion of the natures. Eutychianism is not the correct charge. There is, however, a tendency, toward monothelitism, due to the strong emphasis on grace alone. Thus Bonhoeffer (who is definitely not a monothelite) says that the traditional Lutheran position is that the humanity is merely passive (in Christology). I don’t know enough to say how strong a tendency it is, or whether Bonhoeffer is correct.

    • Alexei

      You seem to know your theology very well. Right now, I am readinf the writings of St. John Chrysostom for the second time, and I am very interested in what I am reading. I don’t like the comments of Phillip Schaff, though, and think it is better if he keeps it to himself. It is better if Eastern Orthodox Christians make their comments on Eastern Orthodox saints doctrines. Of course Orthodox theology is different: that is why they are different churches, or they would be one if they had the same theology. Theology is of the upmost importance, as we can all agree, and our love of God and man is, too. Email me at alexei300@outlook.com. I can’t find the writings of St. Theodore the Studite, as well as a couple of others, on the internet. I am very excited to reD What St. Theodore wrote. I only read St John of Damascus’ writings on the defense of holy images. Let God and the Theotokos bless you!

      • robertar

        Thank you!

  5. Baroque Norseman

    A lot of people think that Everybody (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) has the same view on Christology, yet a lot of guys–like Calvin in ICR–simply quote the conclusions of councils and fathers without really incorporating them in their thought.

    I’m not criticizing anyone at the moment–simply making an observation. Guys like Bruce McCormack–a Calvinist: I’m referring to Calvinist authors at the moment–note that Calvin’s view of the hypostatic union is out of bounds with Chalcedon (McCormack thinks that’s a good thing). This might sound surprising at first, but consider that Calvin doesn’t “flesh out” (pun intended) the hypostatic union, at least not from a Cyrillian and Chalcedonian context.


    McCormack is very clear and I don’t think can be challenged on this point. And more importantly, he is a Calvinist and not a mean Orthodox critic.

    For more on extra-Calvinisticum, see Calvin’s commentaries on John 14:26 (I think it is verse 26). You see where he says “natures act” (natures do no such thing; persons do).

    • Matthew N. Petersen

      I’m not sure it’s Chalcedon, directly that Calvin and the Reformed have trouble with. The trouble seems rather to be a Nestorianish reading of Chalcedon and Leo’s Tome, reading them in contradistinction to Cyril. That is, their reading of Chalcedon is rather akin to St(?) Severus of Antioch’s reading, but instead of rejecting Chalcedon, they accept it on this reading.

      That Reformed reading of Chalcedon is a plausible reading, however, it is a reading explicitly condemned by Constantinople II. A Reformed pastor has told me, arguing from Chalcedon, that it is heresy to believe Mary is literally theotokos, rather theotokos must be understood as metonymy. But this reading of Chalcedon, and this understanding of Chalcedon is anathematized by II Constantinople.

      • Tim Enloe

        So one question would be whether the “Nestorianish” (giving that judgment the benefit of the doubt) reading of Chalcedon by Calvin, et.al., is something that is essential to the system of doctrine, or something that might be corrected.

        This question assumes, of course, a much more nuanced view of sola Scriptura than seemingly most Reformeds today have, in which they’re entirely comfortable with validating the Catholic and Orthodox belief that being Reformed means pretending ancient authorities don’t matter next to (our own construal of) “the plain meaning of Scripture”

        • Tony Arsenal


          With all do respect, either you are speaking with very uneducated Reformed people, or you are drawing a vast and inaccurate generalization of Reformed people.

          I have never spoken to a Reformed person, and being at a Reformed seminary I speak to quite a few Reformed persons, who do not take the interpretation of the Early Church seriously. By and large, when the Early Church interprets something in a given way and a Reformed person disagrees, they are going to seriously consider if the Early Church got it right.

          This statement also ignores the fact that many Reformed theologians are deeply involved in studies of Augustine, Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, as well as many other ECFs.

          • Tim Enloe

            Tony, you don’t know how happy I am to hear that. Truth be known, yes, “most Reformed” people with whom I’ve had dealings on the Internet are precisely as I described them. Including many with degrees from Big Reformed Seminaries. There’s a great deal of confusion about the Reformation’s principles out there in ReformedVille, and sadly, many of the leaders are guilty of promoting the confusion. I’m very glad to hear that there are lots of others who are not so confused, and who actually DO take the witness of history seriously. May their tribe increase!

          • Matthew N. Petersen

            I have a reply something like Baroque’s. I’m definitely not qualified to judge well how much it is essential, and how much inessential. I have hunches about where the problems manifest themselves, but I can’t articulate it well enough, or really know enough to get into it.

            I know Dr. Leithart isn’t Nestorian, likewise J. Jordan and Meyers are not.

            I’m not entirely sure that their program cannot be rephrased as a correction to the Nestorian tendencies in Reformed Christology and the monothelite tendencies in Lutheran theology.

        • Baroque Norseman

          ** is something that is essential to the system of doctrine, or something that might be corrected.**

          That’s a good question and one I have wrestled with over the past four years in considering leaving Protestantism. From seminary experiences most Reformed friends I know would say it probably doesn’t matter, since it distracts one from awe-ing over the majesty of God and God’s passion for God’s glory.

          On a more serious note when I told some Sproul-ites that their Christology (WCF 8.2) was Nestorian because both Nestorius and WCF said the Person of the Logos is constituted from the two natures, they didn’t seem to care too much.

    • Matthew N. Petersen

      I didn’t have time to read the link this morning. Now having done so, I should add that the orthodox position is definitely not that the humanity of Christ has no personality or energy–that is simply monothelitism.

      The orthodox position needs to hold two seemingly contradictory things:

      1) The Logos is the sole person in the Incarnation. It was the Logos who died on the Cross. There is no metonymy involved in claiming that God died, or that Mary is Theotokos. She is, and literally so. This is not to say that a divine nature died, but that the Divine Person was born of Mary, died on the Cross, rose from the dead, and shall return to judge the quick and the dead. In his sermon on the trial of Jesus, Dr. Leithart emphasized that it was the God of the universe who was on trial. This gets it exactly correct. (The third through fifth ecumenical councils addressed this question.)

      2) The humanity of Jesus is active, with its own distinct energies. God the Word actually has a human personality (in the modern sense of the word), a human mind, and a human will; and none of these are simply overrided or directed by the Divine nature.

      The Reformed temptation is to deny the first, the Lutheran, to deny the second. Whatever problems the Orthodos might have, they still after 1300 years value these two positions highly. The energies/essences distinction in part to make sense of these seeming contradictions.

      And just to make myself clear, I do not say that the Reformed position is Nestorian, or the Lutheran monothelite, but that those are the temptation.

      • Baroque Norseman

        **And just to make myself clear, I do not say that the Reformed position is Nestorian, or the Lutheran monothelite, but that those are the temptation.**

        Compare what Calvin said and what Maximus scholars and Cyrillian scholars have noted on Nestorianism. I really don’t know how you avoid the conclusion? Here are some post-Reformation quotes,

        Martin Chemnitz,
        “And they have actually boiled it down to this, that the hypostatic union is the highest and most intimate coming together by which the divine nature assumes and the human nature is assumed and made the property of the divine, so that these two natures, apart from all change or comingling, come together, concur, and are united to produce one person in Christ.” The Two Natures in Christ, 69

        I don’t really know how that last clause isn’t hard-core, raw Nestorianism.

        • Matthew N. Petersen

          Yeah, I was really confused by Chemnitz. He seemed at times to take the Nestorian position, and at others to take an orthodox one. But it’s hard for me to envision Chemnitz being Nestorian–he’s the leading Lutheran scholastic after all. So I wonder if he isn’t even really considering the issue we do, and so uses language that could be taken either way.

          But my point is just that I’m not making accusations. I’m trying not to be polemical. I think that polemics would turn off any Reformed or Lutherans.

          • Baroque Norseman

            St John of Damascus said all heresies deconstruct on the same point: they confuse person and nature. That’s why certain forms of Protestantism can simultaneously hold monophysite and Nestorian positions and not be inconsistent. As Plato noted, the things that are most dissimilar are actually most alike. See more Chemnitz,

            ** And from this figure we have come to use as equivalents the terms essence, nature or person (υποστασις or υφισταμενον) with reference to the incarnation of Christ.”

            Martin Chemnitz, The Two Natures in Christ, 90.**

          • Matthew N. Petersen

            Again, I’m confused by Chemnitz. Here, he seems to say that hypostasis, and phusis, and ousia are the same thing. But that’s such a glaring error, and one that he explicitly denies elsewhere, that it seems he must have something else in mind.

            Thus, for instance p. 157

            However, at this point we must not only deal with the phraseology and manner of speaking but also with the facts. For the natures in Christ do not subsist individually, by themselves, alone, or through themselves, nor do they do the things which belong to each nature; but the person subsists in the two natures and does all things according to the properties of each nature.”


            Or even two paragraphs after the section you quote “And when the difference between essence and person was not kept in mind, ti gave birth to great troubles over this doctrine [of the Incarnation]. Nestorius thought that because there are two perfect natures there would also be two pwersons in Christ. Eutyches, on the other hand, thought that because of the unity of the person there must of necessity be onl one nature in the incarnate Christ. The monothelites likewise, because of the unity of the person, felt that there were attributes of only one kind in Christ and that they were the same for both natures. These things cannot be easily unsnarled, explained, or refuted without a clarification of the difference between essence and person.” p. 91

            So I have no idea what he’s trying to say on p. 90. I haven’t quoted the whole paragraph, but it doesn’t make any sense as the conclusion of the paragraph either, and it doesn’t fit with what follows.

            That is, I don’t understand his point in that quote.

          • Matthew N. Petersen

            I don’t understand Chemnitz’s point, not yours.

  6. Baroque Norseman

    ***I know Dr. Leithart isn’t Nestorian, likewise J. Jordan and Meyers are not.***

    Leithart has been waffling for the past three books. Around 2007 he had written some good books that effectively refuted Calvinism, and then he realized what he just did. That’s why his blog posts over the past few years have been more and more old-school Reformed.

    He may or may not be a Nestorian. His problem is more of trying to mix Calvin, Nyssa, Aquinas, and Zizzy and the result is quite frankly bizzarre.

    Jordan’s theology changes with every new Bible study (anyone remember his old-school Puritan days? LOL! Theonomy, anyone? ).

    • Tim Enloe

      Which books were those? And how did he “refute Calvinism” only to later realize what he did?

      • Baroque Norseman

        Primarily *The Baptized Body.* His take on apostasy, if taken consistently, refutes the “P” in TULIP.

        Contrast that with his commentary on 1-3 John. He almost “corrects”his earlier reading. Anyway, his more recent blog entries over the past two years have been more “vanilla” reformed and less friendly to Orthodoxy.

        • Tim Enloe

          I haven’t read “Baptized Body,” but I’m familiar enough with FV theology to wonder how the take on apostasy refutes the P in TULIP. The saints still persevere in FV theology; it’s just that there’s a more biblically and theologically nuanced discussion of what it means to be a “saint” relative to membership in the Visible Church.

          Not that Calvinism is reducible to TULIP, anyway. I’m given to understand that TULIP is a late 19th or early 20th century construct designed to refute a caricature of Arminianism. Tweaking it here and there would hardly refute the whole Calvinist system of doctrine.

  7. David

    It does appear that Dr. Leithart is more friendly to the Fathers than Jordan, who calls them “Babies” (not sure how he nuances the Apostolic rebuke to some babes still needing milk, when they should be eating “strong meat” in maturity and of full age? Must need to some contextualization to allow for Patristic-Babies?) Yet as a whole the FV/CREC men have, at least till recently, not only been friendly to a Classical Protestantism that’s more Anglican — which has gotten them into much public hot water with the Scott-Puritans and Presbyterians. Perhaps (as Baroque has often intimated) there is some sort of Heglian process going on here as they try to nuance Reformed theology per Orthodoxy & Rome’s influence with the original Reformers into the new synthesis? But then, as one Orthodox brother has pointed out, perhaps we Protestants are caught up trying to devise more rational propositional statements about Incarnational-Christology than we can?

    • Tim Enloe

      As one educated at New St. Andrews, who fellowshipped with several of the main FV movers and shakers (including Leithart and Wilson) on a regular basis for 7 years, I don’t think it’s a “Hegelian” impulse that drives their work. I think it’s two main things.

      First there is great discontent with the profoundly revivalistic orientations of much of mainstream conservative Evangelicalism (particularly its Reformed subcircle). Related to this there are corresponding realizations that the Reformers were not like that and that the typical story Protestants tell about the Reformation (that it was a systematic and novel eruption into the flow of Church history, and this was a good thing) simply is not true. This impulse leads to a desire to be more like the Reformers, and it manifests itself in the quite true and proper attempt to be more catholic and less sectarian.

      However, second, working contrary to the first, there is a lingering, not well thought through commitment to what Wilson in particular thinks of as the “Puritan heritage,” particularly its virulent biblicism, which pretends that the authors of “tradition” (whatever it is) just didn’t quite read the Bible properly, but modern Reformed Evangelicals do and are competent to correct both the past and the present on the basis of an allegedly “more consistent” attention to “the plain meaning of Scripture.” This tendency is particularly bad in Jordan, who treats the Church Fathers as “Church Babies” and pretends that his usually very novel exegetical constructs are just so much more penetrating than anything ever produced before. (This is a function of militant Van Tilianism, which unashamedly proclaims that its duty is to “exorcise” the tradition.)

      These two impulses have come together to create a set of ongoing reforming impulses broadly known as “the Federal Vision,” which has implications for how we do theology and liturgy, and how we view of the Christian past relative to both the Reformation and ourselves. At their best, these impulses do lead Reformed people toward more catholicity. But at their worst, they tacitly try to take back with the other hand what they gave with the first.

      • Baroque Norseman

        I actually agree with everything you just said, and I have been there in every one of those camps.

    • Matthew N. Petersen

      I think Tim’s analysis is pretty accurate. Except that, I don’t think Pr. Wilson’s biblicism is the same as Jordan’s. I think Jordan makes lots of good points through his novel approach to Scripture, but doesn’t know when to say “at least, that’s how I read it, in my admittedly idiosyncratic way.

      • Baroque Norseman

        In my conversations with Jordan (in person) he came across as “if you aren’t accepting his reading you must be stupid.” That was literally how I felt within minutes of meeting the guy.

      • Tim Enloe

        Right, Matt. “The Liturgy Trap” was an absolutely terrible book (though I don’t have it at hand and read it 3 years ago, so can’t cite from it). I remember thinking as I read it that Jordan claimed to be making the case for NOT converting to Rome or Orthodoxy, but his fanaticism about the Bible actually made the case FOR converting to Rome or Orthodoxy. Thankfully, there are better solutions for the Reformed than this militant Van Tilian biblicism that can’t see past the inside of its own eyeballs.

        • robertar

          Dear Folks,

          I just want to commend all of you for the recent discussion about Christology which I thought was thoughtful and open minded. I’m especially pleased the attempt by Tim and others to understand the enhypostatic union not just from the Reformers but also the early church fathers. Modern Protestantism and Evangelicalism suffered a great loss when they ignored their roots in the early church; I’m encouraged to see them reconnect with their patristic roots. I’m sure that for the Orthodox this discussion is forcing them to think more clearly about what the early fathers had in mind when they defined orthodox Christology. Admittedly the topic can be a difficult one to grasp but we all have much to learn.

          This discussion has prompted me to revisit certain books on Christology. The books I’ve found helpful are: John Zizioulas’ “Being as Communion,” John Meyendorff’s “Christ in Eastern Christian Thought,” and Catherine Mowry LaCugna’s “God For Us.” I also plan to revisit T.F. Torrance’s “Space, Time, & Incarnation” and “Theology in Reconstruction.” I’m well aware of the fact that these are 20th century theologians and anticipate that reading these books will enable me and others to engage the older debates in the Reformed tradition and the Orthodox tradition. Any other leads would be greatly appreciated.


          • Tim Enloe

            I have Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, but don’t recall if I’ve ever cracked the cover. About four years ago I read Leo Donald Davis’ The Seven Ecumenical Councils, and at that time thought I started to see a few connections of importance. Three years ago I read a text on Christology by Roch Kerezsty and a handful of patristic writings for a class at the University of Dallas. I have an outline by an Orthodox friend of mine on how Christology affects the issues of justification and predestination, but it’s very dense and though I read it from time to time, I haven’t made much progress in truly understanding it . I know the issue is important, and I wish I had serious amounts of time to give it. The best I can do is try to keep listening to those who have studied it seriously.

          • David

            Thanks Robert. I have ‘Being As Communion’ via several high Protestant/Orthod recom. but have not read it yet. Re-reading an online review make it look especially appropos for reader on this blog, as the Orthodoxy author is willing ‘critique’ his own theology and entertain where Christians outside Orthodoxy can be helpful. Coppied his review for us below.

            “Every so often a book comes along that manages to rotate and shake up your paradigm in such a way that, after the shift is over, you suddenly see things not only in a new way, but in a new way that makes far greater sense. _Being as Communion_ by Metropolitan John Zizioulas is one such book for me.

            It works on several levels, bringing together what are oftentimes considered disparate strands of thought – philosophical, theological and pastoral – into a thickly weaved narrative that shows why an Orthodox understanding of the Trinity as the communion of the three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is…necessary. For Zizioulas, this communion of the Trinity is the model to be embodied not only by the Church as the communion of all churches, but by the very person as well: we only are who we are when we are in communion with God and one another.

            The title of the book is no mistake; Zizioulas puts himself in dialogue with some of the great philosophers of the 20th century (such as Heidegger and Levinas, the latter of whom he praises, particularly his work Totality and Inifinity). The fundamental point that Zizioulas raises about Being is that in the eucharist – in the act of communion itself! – the essential and the temporal become fused into a living harmony. Such was – and is – Christ, and such also is to be the Church and the Christian, participating in the eternal life of God while in the here and now. Being is not static, but in time and in relation.

            For those that have found themselves turned off to Orthodox theology in the past due its oftentimes proclaimed self-sufficiency, Zizioulas may very well seem like a theologian that comes out of left field: his *criticisms* of Orthodox theology (and I have never read an Orthodox theologian that was critical of Orthodox theology before) are what many Western inquirers have long wanted to know: can Orthodoxy be constructively self-critical? Can Orthodoxy be open to the recognition of Western churches as viable, even if critiquing them at the same time? Zizioulas presents an unapologetic “yes” to both of these questions.

            The most heartening thing about this book, however, is the fundamentally pastoral angle the Zizioulas takes. While he can discuss the Cappadocians, for example, at great length, he also sees the essentially pastoral implications of the relational, Trinitarian God: the imitation of this *as* the relational pastor. He is especially concerned with the rise of anti-clericalism in both Greece and abroad; he sees this anti-clericalism as committing the same fallacy that it seeks to fight against: the reduction of the Church to being first and foremost an institution. Yet, he also sees how the pastoral failures of the past have contributed to this by not seeking to incarnate the fundamentally relational nature of God.

            The book ends with a substantive – and crucial – question. If the Church is fundamentally the communion of churches, what do we make of churches that are in ecclesiastical and/or confessional division? It is with this question that Zizioulas quite literally ends; it is an abrupt ending, too, that leaves reader in a state of suspension. Yet, I can’t think of a better way to end it. From theology as the contemplation of God to the reality of a fragmented Church (especially with regard to Protestantism/s/s/s/s/s…), there is quite a tragic distance. It is in the recognition of this distance, though, that the real conversation and communication – the very word “communication” being etymologically related to both “community” and “communion” – begins.

            This is a book that cuts through dogmatic and ecclesiastical divisions and asks substantive questions that are birthed from the very life of the God who is in communion with himself and, in being so, opens himself to communing with all others. At this time, I know of no other book that more urgently needs to be read; and, I know of no other book that I would more highly recommend.”

          • Matthew N. Petersen

            Jenson has some really good stuff too. His book Lutheranism has some very good stuff on Christology (though the book isn’t all about Christology, and isn’t all recommended.) His Systematic Theology has a very good extensive section on Christology, particularly, on patristic Christology. Even his book Canon and Creed has some very good information about Christology, and the place of scripture in the Church.

          • Russ Warren

            LaCugna and Zizioulas, along with N.T. Wright, brought me out of my Unitarian funk and into full-bodied Trinitarian experience.

            Irenaeus and Ignatius helped, too.


          • Nordic Monk

            If anyone’s interested, Torrance has a good series of lectures here, the latter ones deal with Christology and Torrance, a Calvinist, is quite open where Calvinists get Christology wrong.


          • robertar

            Nordic Monk,

            Sounds promising. Can you give the titles or the links to Torrance’s talk? I feel like you are leaving me hanging in suspense.


          • Matthew N. Petersen

            I think that link is to the talks.

  8. David

    Well said Tim, I think you mostly nailed from where is sit. Baroque can tell us what sort of Hegalianism he sees in play here. But I don’t think he means it in a nefarious way, just an instinctive inheritance of the West? Interesting discussion from a Protestant/Reformed point of view. What is the Orthodox take on all this?

    • Baroque Norseman

      Easy: Jordan sees the church “growing” through history and only those at the end of history (which Jordan usually equates with himself) are in a position to judge the earlier points of history. See his *The Liturgy Trap.*

      • Russ Warren

        Is this different than St. Irenaeus’ idea of growth, that is, we are meant to mature through life? Or Ephesians 4, where we are to grow up into the stature of Christ?


    • Baroque Norseman

      Right, I am not equating the West with Hegelianism (though Hegel certainly did!). Rather, when people say things like the Holy Spirit is sanctifying the church as a way of criticism of the earlier sections of the Church (see Schaff, Nevin, Bahnsen), the unspoken premise is that those who are later are in a position to judge, whereas the former is not allowed to judge (at least not on definitional issues).

  9. Nordic Monk

    I can sum up the discussion with a few questions:

    1. Did or did not Calvin say that natures act (see his commentary on John 14)?
    2. Can Calvinists consistently say they hold to a single-subject Christology (see Ursinus’ commentary on Heidelburg)?
    3. Did the Westminster Confession say, in contrast to Chalcedon, that the Person of the Logos is both divine and human?

    I know almost a dozen people who have left the Reformed faith simply by answering those questions.

    • robertar

      Dear Nordic Monk,

      Thank you for your questions. Maybe you can provide some of the answers for the rest of us busy people? 🙂


    • Russ Warren

      I have a brief moment to respond to #3:

      Here is the quote from the WCF 8.2:

      The Son of God, the second *person* in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. 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.

      I *ed the important words, as far as the debate goes. The WCF, if the whole comment is read, seems to be saying that the Person of the Son of God precedes the union of the natures, and that the natures are joined *in* the one Person. So, it could feasibly be read either way: either Chalcedonian or Nestorian. But, given the preexistence of the Son of God as Person, a Nestorian reading would be an aberration. Should we revise the wording to clarify that? Certainly.

      Also, as far as clarifications goes, when reading the WCF here, it seems that there may be two different definitions of “person” being used: one of the theological hypostasis, the other of “personality.” So the one Person of the Logos takes on a human nature, making the one person(ality) of Christ, who is very God and very man. At least, that is what I’m seeing.


      • Tim Enloe

        Help me out here, Russ. How could one read that passage from the WCF in a Nestorian way? (I am here revealing my lack of grasp on the fundamental issues, I know, but that’s why I’m asking.)

        • Russ Warren


          The line where it says “So that two whole, perfect, and distinct *natures*, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one *person*” is where the confusion can arise. Is the Person of the Logos prior to the union, or does the Person get constituted out of the union? In other words, are there two Persons — the Logos and the God-man?

          At least, this is how I understand the Nestorian charge. I think Baroque could clarify this further.


          • Tim Enloe

            Ok, that makes sense now. But I wonder if those who make the charge of Nestorian are just being contrarian, since the language *could* be taken in an orthodox way. In that case, it’s not necessary to get all polemical about how Reformed theology is heretical and only Holy Orthodoxy can correct it, etc. If one doesn’t read other Christians suspiciously and from a presumption of one’s own superiority in the first place, the problem might not arise.

          • Tim Enloe

            In other words, lack of clarity may lead to heresy, but it is not itself heresy.

          • Russ Warren


            Yes, you and I are thinking along the same lines. However, BN/NM is right to mention that the Heidelberg and Ursinus go too far. I only was dealing with the WCF.


          • Tim Enloe

            I looked up the Ursinus quote, and yes, he does use the word “constituted” of the relationship between the natures and the person. “Constituted” means “put together from,” so yes, I can see (I think) the problem with that. Is it that such a statement implies that Christ was not a complete person until the human nature was “constituted” with the divine?

          • Matthew N. Petersen

            Tim, I’m not quite sure I can tell what you are saying. On the one hand you could be raising a triadological point, that the Second Person was not a full person till the constitution with the human nature. That isn’t the problem.

            On the other, you could be taking about a Christological problem, that Christ only comes to exist as a person when the person is constituted from the union of the two natures. If you mean the second, you’re spot on.

            The problem with saying the two natures constitute the person of the mediator is that it implies that the person who died on the Cross was created when his person was constituted by the union thirty-four years earlier.

            But the Person who died on the Cross was not created, and is instead the Eternal Logos. On the Cross, God died; not a union between God and man constituted 34 years earlier.

          • robertar

            I’d like to add that there is an ecclesiological dimension as well.

            Because faith in Jesus Christ is essential for salvation how we understand who Christ is is an important matter. Having a wrong understanding of Christ, e.g., the cults, can lead us away from union with God. I see two things happening in Tim’s insightful comment. He’s wrestling with the intricacies of the persons/natures debate and the tension between Reformed Christological formulas compared with that from the early Church, and in the end he takes a position much like the popular Evangelicals who teach, “Just believe in Jesus!” This leads to several questions: How much do we need to know about Christ in order to be saved? And at what point do the finer points of Christological doctrine become extras? It seems that Tim is straddling both the confessionalism of the magisterial Reformation and the pietism of popular Evangelicalism. My guess is that much of the tension (contradiction?) arises from a lack of an ecclesial context capable of embracing both forms of faith in Christ (doctrinal and relational).

            Orthodox Christology is liturgical and ecclesial. I’m not expected to have read the church fathers and the Christological debates, but I am expected to accept the Church’s teachings about Christ. The Orthodox Liturgy contains numerous references and teachings about who Christ is. If one attends the Liturgy faithfully one will learn the essential doctrines. As a matter of fact if one listens carefully one can hear echoes of the earlier Christological issues that were debated and settled in the Ecumenical Councils. This corresponds to the doctrinal/confessional end of the Protestant Reformation. However, the focus of Orthodox worship is the Eucharist where we go up to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. This corresponds to the relational emphasis made by popular Evangelicals. Thus when the seminary trained convert and the tiny infant receive Communion, they both share the same faith in Christ and the same Christology because they are both members of the Church. In any event should anyone have a mistaken understanding of who Christ is the priest is there to correct the mistakes by pointing to the teachings of the Church.

            It is my impression that Protestantism’s fragmented church situation has resulted in Tim’s quandary. My question to Tim is: If someone has a flawed Christology who has the authority to correct that person? The creed, the local presbytery, the denominational seminary, or something else?


      • Nordic Monk

        The *person* is divine. Period. He assumes to himself a human nature, but he is still a divine person. This isn’t a slip of the tongue. Numerous post-Reformation scholastics repeatedly said the person is formed out of the two natures. In ICR 2.14-15 Calvin says that.

        As I (formerly Baroque Norseman) have repeatedly demosntrated from Protestant sources, Protestants say that the person is formed from the natures. This is exactly what Theodore of Mopseuestia and Nestorius said.

        Besides quoting the sources, I really don’t know what else to say.

        • robertar

          I think what you’ve given us is quite helpful. Thanks.


        • Russ Warren


          I’m not disagreeing with you: many Prots/Refs have thought along aberrant lines. I’m saying, though, that I don’t think it is necessary to do so. I do think the WCF wording should be cleared up, as it leaves the possibility for confusion, but I don’t think that it is a necessary part of the Reformed system(s), at least as far as I understand them.


          • Tim Enloe

            I’m happy to report that all this is making more sense to me now than it ever has before. I am beginning to understand what phrases like “single-subject Christology” mean, and why they are important. So thanks to all who are commenting on this thread. It’s been and continues to be very helpful to me.

            Nevertheless, contra Nordic Monk, I see no reason to pack up and leave the Reformed faith just because some of its language is unclear and because some have taken the unclarity and run wild with it into various heretical positions. As the saying goes amongst us Protestants, “If you’re looking for a perfect church, don’t come here because you’ll instantly ruin it.” I’m not looking for a perfect church, so I have no need to go, “Ack! Heresy alert! I must convert to Orthodoxy, which has no heresy!” That’s just extreme. As Russ and even Nordic Monk have said, questions remain whether these problems are actually essential to the Reformed way of thinking or are just accidental problems that need to be cleared up. I can respect those who, like Perry Robinson, have studied these issues in minute detail and have concluded that the errors are essential to the system and so they have left for greener pastures. But it’s by no means certain that this is the only answer to the problems. Care and patience are also intellectually and spiritually respectable options.

          • robertar


            I intended this blog to be a place where people from two different sides could meet and find common ground. I’m glad that you found the recent discussions helpful. You may not feel that you’re ready to pack your bags but I’m glad that you and I”m sure others are growing closer to the early church fathers and the ecumenical councils. There’s such a great need today for Christians to learn from the early Church. Let’s continue meeting on the Bridge and dialogue with each other.


          • Tim Enloe

            One thing that will be very important for Reformed folks like me who are starting, haltingly, to see the big picture about Christology is to be able to intelligently determine whether problems in Reformed confessional language such as have been highlighted by Nordic Monk are due to simple human error on the part of those authors or to those authors being consistent with a principle.

            For instance, the polemical characterization of sola Scriptura that says (falsely) that Scripture is the only standard of truth does lurk behind some Reformed theologians who have said mischevious things. The radical form of the “Puritan impulse” is too strong in many Reformed men, and they are too ready to toss out anything that they cannot personally find congruent with “the plain meaning of the Bible.” But that’s not all Reformed people, and for myself, I don’t think that ethos is essential to what it means to be “Reformed.” The Puritans were not the only permutation of “Reformed” to come out of the 16th and 17th centuries, nor was Separatism based on the impatient desire to have “reformation without tarrying for any” normative in the Reformation itself.

            Too, for those Reformeds who, like me, do not have *deep* acquaintance with the Fathers based on years and years of careful reading and thinking and praying, patience is all the more required. The sheer volume of patristic writings, let alone the sheer volume of scholarly interpretations of it (e.g., McGuckin, Kelly, etc.) is just overwhelming. It’s premature for anyone to encounter some problems in Reformed language, some suggested correctives from patristic writings, and throw up their hands and convert. People have to follow their consciences, of course, and I don’t mock someone who finds himself in a theological cul-de-sac and has to just leap over the thing by going somewhere else. All I’m saying is that such behavior need not be thought of by any Protestant as essential, and it is worth it for each person pondering these issues to recognize their own limitations of time and study, and to not surrender to the impatient and unrealistic (and ironically, hyper-Puritan) desire to have a “pure” faith RIGHT NOW, or else.

            God doesn’t expect us all to get high As on theology exams to be His friends. Becoming a Christian can be – and usually is – as simple as being the publican, beating one’s breast and saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” You can be saved merely by reading about Christ in the Gospels and simply believing what they say, even if you can’t articulate any of it in formal theological propositions that would pass the Chalcedon Standard. Patristic Christology is certainly important as a boundary marker against heresy, but heresy is not the same thing as apostasy. Too, there are many reasons why a person might be a heretic, and also many reasons why he might not even grasp that he is one. So again, patience and care are what is required in these sorts of discussions.

          • Jnorm

            Tim Enloe,

            Is Christology essential? Meaning, is it an Essential issue of the Christian Faith?

          • Tim Enloe

            Jnorm, of course Christology is essential to the Christian faith. The question you really mean to ask me is, “Is parsing all the formal theological propositions of fully developed credal orthodoxy about Christ essential to the Christian faith?” And the answer to that is “No,” if by “Christian faith” is meant that which is necessary to be believed for salvation.

          • Jnorm

            Tim Enloe,

            Why are you making a sharp distinction between Christology and ““Is parsing all the formal theological propositions of fully developed credal orthodoxy about Christ essential to the Christian faith?”?

            You are making it seem as if what Saint Athanasius, One of the Cappadocian Fathers(in regards to Christ having a human soul), Saint Cyril, the Emperor Justinian, Saint Maximus…..etc.

            All fought for something that wasn’t really a Salvation issue.

            How did they understand the importance of what they were doing? Was it a salvation issue for them? If so why?

          • Tim Enloe

            Jnorm, I don’t understand your view. If all of this formal propositional matter about Christ is essential to salvation, how was anyone saved before it got worked out? Do you really mean to suggest that when the preaching of the Apostles in the NT says merely “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” or when the Apostle Paul describes the contents of the Gospel in 1 Cor. 15, what they really mean to say is you better not mess up the person / nature distinction, and better make sure you can properly distinguish Nestorianism and Monophysitism, etc., or you’re damned?

            Perhaps you need to think through what you’re claiming about these things more carefully.

          • robertar


            Did you see my comment dated November 16th? In it I proposed an ecclesial approach to faith in Christ and Christology. I’m assuming that you didn’t see it because it ended up further up the comment thread. I think it addresses some of the concerns between you and JNorm. But if you feel that it doesn’t relate to the discussion I will respect that.


          • Jnorm

            Tim Enloe,

            My view is that there is strong continuity between the first century with the later centuries(what you called fully developed credal orthodoxy), especially when it comes to extremely important issues like the doctrine of the Trinity and Christology.

            I don’t believe in a sharp disconnection or utter apostasy after the last Apostle died.

            If there is a sharp disconnect between the first century and later centuries in the area of the doctrine of the Trinity and Christology then one could just ignore what was said in later centuries(fully developed credal orthodoxy) and just rely on either their own intellectual prowess or their own belief in the Holy Spirit guiding them as an individual to interpret the scriptural text correctly.

            One of the modern problems with this is that everyone is able to read into Scripture their own meaning of what they want Christology to be and what they want the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be.

            But if there is a continuity of thought between the first century and the later centuries then we shouldn’t ignore what the Church fought so hard for on these issues. If the essence of what was taught from the first century with the later centuries is the same then yes, I believe it is important to adhere to the decisions made by the Historic Christian Faith(what you termed fully developed credal orthodoxy)

            Was there doctrinal growth on these issues? Yes! But the core essence was the same. It is of the same spiritual and doctrinal DNA.

            And so it really doesn’t matter how simple or how complex you make the doctrine. For example, Baptismal Regeneration is Baptismal Regeneration. Now a rejection of Baptismal Regeneration would mean that you have a totally different doctrine completely. Something with a different spiritual and doctrinal DNA. Something that is not an organic growth but a rupture. Something from a totally different tree completely. A different animal. A Macro-evolution if you will.

            If it is of the same doctrinal and spiritual DNA then it would look something like micro-evolution. It would still be recognizable as being the same animal.

            And so, this is why I am saying what I am saying. I believe the Christology that the Historic Church fought so hard for is of the same doctrinal and spiritual DNA as the Christology seen in Scripture. And so to reject the fully developed credal orthodoxy is to in essence reject what fully developed credal orthodoxy says who Jesus is.

            Is Jesus the second Person of the Trinity Incarnate? It really shouldn’t matter how simple or complex one makes this basic truth over the centuries.

            Tim, I hope I wasn’t harsh in this response. Please forgive me if I was. Sometimes I can’t see my emotions or mood when I type.

          • Jnorm

            After thinking about those who rejected the teaching of Baptismal Regeneration in favor of another teaching, I am starting to think that I probably should of said Macro-Revolution instead of Macro-Evolution.

          • Tim Enloe


            I agree that there is strong continuity between the first century and the few after it in terms of essential Christian doctrine. But what “continuity” means needs to be fleshed out so we can all avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary polemics. Let me briefly tell you how I would flesh it out.

            The NT was written in Greek to people whose minds were suffused with a broad mixture of (for lack of a better word) philosophical and cultural presuppositions that would, if given sufficient opportunity, lead to the sorts of theological reasoning we see in the Ecumenical Councils. In this sense, there is strong continuity between the contents of the NT and the doctrinal conclusions of the Councils.
            However, at the time the NT was written, all of that (what I call “fully developed credal orthodoxy”) was nascent, and due to the various pressures exerted upon Christians, including the periodic outbreaks of sustained persecution, there were precious few opportunities for believers to carefully reflect upon these matters for the first couple of centuries. “Reflection,” in fact, being a fundamentally philosophical activity, often requires a long time to produce results, and along the way it frequently produces notions that are later seen to have been inaccurate, imprecise, and misleading.

            This is, I believe, why so many views that were later labeled heresies arose: well-meaning and very smart Christians (like Justin Martyr and Apollinaris and Tertullian) did the best they could with the time they had to figure out what the complex portrait of the NT Jesus meant. Because most of those who laid the groundwork for the doctrines formulated by the Councils were philosophically trained, we see in their works precisely that long, difficult, not always accurate process of intellectual wrangling with the text of the NT. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that it’s only after the Church is freed from the continual fear of persecution and actually begins to substantially dominate the Late Antique culture that we begin to see much more careful Christological reflection culminating in the Councils.

            So yes, there was substantial continuity between the Apostles and the later generations who produced the Councils, but for us to imagine that the complexities of the Chalcedonian disputes were even remotely in the minds of the Apostles is to my mind quite unpersuasive. Further, even granting the idea continually announced by the Orthodox on this blog that the unwritten traditions are of equal authority to the Scriptures and contain much doctrinal content that is essential for salvation, to imagine that the complex ideas that animated the disputes between Eutychians, Monophysites, Monothelites, etc., were being clearly passed down by the Apostolic Successors, so it was just a matter of getting into a position where Councils could be called to formally lay down the law, is, to my mind, also unpersuasive.

            Thus, while it is certainly essential to believe the correct things about the person and work of Jesus Christ in order to be saved, it simply cannot be essential (at least not for every person without exception) to be able to properly parse the person / nature distinction, or to make sure he has rooted out not just all explicit but also all tacit heresies, in order to be saved. Such a position would be quite insensitive to the fact that God has made many different kinds of people, and not all are capable of the sort of sustained, deep intellectual reflection that is involved in these matters. Jesus says if you want to be saved, you must be as as little child. I don’t think that’s merely a metaphor; I think it means you must literally have the teachableness of a child – but if you have teachableness, it follows that you don’t already know. Thus one need not know all of these things in order to be saved. (I make the same objection, by the way, to Reformed people who universalize the Reformation dispute with Rome and claim that it is at all time necessary for all people everywhere to believe the formal propositions of justification by faith alone in order to be saved. This is simply a ludicrous notion given how incredibly simple the presentation of Jesus’ work is in the Gospel of John.)

            To conclude, there is some doctrinal content required for one to be saved, but if we pay attention to the most relevant biblical examples, that is, how the Apostles themselves preached, it becomes clear that the essential doctrinal content is really quite minimal. Paul tells us plainly in 1 Corinthians 15 what he preached as “the Gospel,” and I contend that what he says there is “it” as far as what is essential for salvation. Everything else is a matter of growth in grace and understanding, which is a matter of a lifetime of building, not a matter of the mere foundation.

            And so to Reformed people who universalize the Reformation dispute, I point out the obvious fact that the exceedingly complex discussions of justification and works in Romans and Galatians are written to people who are already saved, in order to help them increase in understanding of what they already believe. But anyone who claims that it is essential to salvation to have straight in one’s head all this complex theology of faith and works is piling up burdens that most people can’t bear, and might, if they continue to be ornery about it, be guilty of the Pharisaical sin of refusing to lift a finger to help those they ridiculously burden down. Same goes for any insistence that being an expert on Christology is essential to salvation.

            I hope this clarifies my view for you.

      • Nordic Monk

        Also, be careful of reading modern notions of “personality” back into 17th century documents. Van Til erred on this point.

        • Russ Warren

          Fair enough, although reading the WCF here there seems to be two different definitions, even if I’ve botched the second one.

          More research, I think, will need to be done to figure out exactly what is going on here — a clarification and revision is certainly needed.


      • Perry Robinson

        I’d suggest that taking into account the Reformed tradition’s thinking and teaching on the person of the mediator makes the Nestorianizing reading all the more plausible.

        • drake

          That’s is because most of your readers don’t follow up on your references. I have and I have found your accusations to be based on entirely on stealth. Examples:

          Here is a quote from the very book that you tried to say taught the person of the mediator is a result of the union:

          “Calvin does, in fact, speak of the ‘person of the mediator’ prior to the incarnation, in reference to the Old testament witness…The eternal Son is designated as mediator prior to the incarnation and performs his office in the communication of God’s Word to man.” (Christ and the Decree, by Richard Muller [The Labyrinth Press: Durham, North Carolina, 1986] pg. 29)

          • Perry Robinson

            Drake, Against my better judgment and for purposes of establishing my honesty, I will respond.

            I’ll direct readers to the elipses in the quote that you gave on page 29. Here is the part you left out.

            “His statements have however, a different purpose and systematic implication than the Chalcedonian emphasis on the eternal person of the Son.”

            Well, that gives a different light to things now doesn’t it? Why did you leave that out? We can add the subsequent remarks,

            “Futhermore, Calvin’s doctrinal determination of the Son as God emphasizes the full Godhead of the Son rather than the eternal generaton of his person as stressed by Chalcedonian and later Greek theology.”

            Of course you left that out too. That also seems to support my contention.

            Over on page 31 Muller writes,

            “The Son of God, theefore is not properly called Christ apart from his office, for it is there, in his official capacity, that he manifests as the true fulfillment of the offices of the Old Testament his threefold work as prophet, priest and king. The historical and soteriological dynamic which led Calvin to the conception of the persona mediatoris here brings about an equally historical view of Christ-an emphasis upon the name ‘Christ’ as the preeminent representation of the divine saving purpose within the temporal economy of promise and fulfillment. The person of the mediator is, moreover, anointed to a unified work of obedience and redemption in which two natures conjoin, neither the divine nature nor the human nature alone constituting the mediatoris persona or the mediatoris officium for only the one who occupies a middle position between God and man (medium gradum statuit inter Deum et nos) can fulfill the divine-human work of salvation: in mediatoris officio God and man come together in harmony.” pp. 31-32

            And again,

            “Quite to the contrary, the function and historical Christology of Calvin tends to refer the work of mediation not to the nature assumed but to the person who performs the worl. Whereas the medieval scholastics who asked the question affirmed Christ as mediator according to his humanity in order to state that the eternal divine person, apart from the hypostatic union, does not mediate, and to focus the act of mediation witin the work of satisfaction as performed by the human nature of Christ win the personal union, Calvin and those who followed his arrangement of doctrine strove to manifest the unity of the person in the unity of the work. Here the focus of the act of mediation is the divine-human person rather than the flesh assumed by the divine person.” Muller, p.33

            How can you have a “divine-human person” prior to the incarnation? You can’t. this is why the material you cite does not and cannot support your claim.

            Now it should be clear from Muller that while Calvin speaks of the person of the mediator before the union, this is only in light and relative to the office as decreed and not strictly speaking. Muller is explicit in saying that “Christ” is fully and most properly reserved for the “divine-human person”, which can only be a product of the union. So no, I was not only not dishonest in reporting what Muller says, but I was also not wrong. The language and structure is clearly Nestorian.

            It would help in talking with PEOPLE not to accuse them of being dishonest simply because you think they made a mistake. It is just plain rude. Here I wish I could simply say you made a mistake, but since you deliberately left out key qualifying information to support your case, I have a hard time seeing the matter as that of an honest mistake. This illustrates why I have generally ceased to interact with you. I fully encourage readers to buy the book and read it for themselves.

        • drake

          Perry- “Why did you leave that out?” 1. I have already written an article on this here:


          2. I have a 500 word curfew here for responding to Robert too thoroughly.

          “Of course you”

          1. I deal with this in my article. He is not saying that the mediator begins with the human nature. He says that the Mediator is RECOGNIZED in a human nature.

          2. Your more anchoretic view asserts christ’s humanity is an eternal universality while our humanity is temporal/particular. This denies consubstantiality, so to remain biblical, some departure from the anchoretic system is required. I admit that unabashed.

          “How can you have a “divine-human person” prior to the incarnation?”

          “How can you have a “divine-human person” prior to the incarnation?” You missed where he talks about his eternal mediation being recognized in the human nature.

          “How can you have a “divine-human person” prior to the incarnation?”

          Only from the perspective of men. Rutherford clears all this up in his Covenant of Life. You have done typical half reading Perry. Where are your book reviews? Take a look at my website and see how many EO book reviews I have. That shows I actually read those books and dealt with them line on line cover to cover. Your writings have shown your real motive. You need to read through Owen’s Dissertation on Divine Justice and do a complete review before your criticisms of Reformed Theology have any weight to people who know Reformed Historical Theology.

          “It would help in talking with PEOPLE ”

          I will take no moral advice from you and you know why. BTW, nice job deleting your filthy emails so I couldn’t publish them for all to see.

          Your problem continues to be the universality issue which clearly shows your mediator has only one nature, the divine nature. You get nothing created on your economia and your apollinarianism is exposed.

          “Are the virtues in us on his view or the Reformed view”

          In their logos they are uncreated. I.E. holiness is uncreated. In their mode or application they are created: I.E. Paul is holy in the temporal economia.

          “with making creation necessary”
          Perry continues to ignore necessities extending from the eternality of the will, as opposed to necessities extending from the nature.

  10. Nordic Monk

    One of my comments didn’t get through, so here goes:

    First of all, the link to the torrance lecture is in my earlier reply. The actual part of the lectures that deal with Christoloty are lectures 6-10.

    As to the questions above:

    1. http://tsarlazar.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/lets-summarize-the-calvino-nestorian-charge/

    2. http://tsarlazar.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/did-calvin-confuse-person-and-nature/

    3. http://tsarlazar.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/calvin-the-antiochean/

    Here’s where many Calvinists get confused. They think Nestorianism means two persons of the Logos, which Calvin never said. The problem is that Nestorius and Nestorians had no difficulty saying there was one person of the Logos–they simply emphasized that this one person was *formed out of two prosopon,* which is precisely what the Calvinist tradition has been saying and what I have illustrated with my quotes from Ursinus and others.

  11. David

    If I’m understanding this rightly, it looks to me that the 1st and 3rd sentences of Russ’s Westminster para quoted above are spot on. It’s that middle sentence where one might pick some some “Nestorian” sentiment…here

    “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.”

    Given it’s position between the other two sentences, I’d be inclined with this alone, to give the judgement of charity and say this is Chalcedonian. Perhaps there is other stuff that needs to be considered. But then, I’m not sure I’m seeing all that I should? I’m with Tim, sincerely wanting to know what I’m missing…besides “editing” this 2nd sentence a bit?

    • Baroque Norseman

      That’s because the Protestant tradition has said the person is formed out of the two natures, which is classic Nestorianism. Nestorius did *not* say there were two persons of Jesus. He said the Person of the Mediator was formed out of the two nature/prosopon/individual acting subjects.

      Ursinus’ teaching that the person of Christ is more than the person of the Logos in his commentary on the Heidlberg Catechism.

      “Objection 2. But, according to this the Word cannot be a person, because he is part of the person; and that which is only a part cannot be a person. Answer. That which is only part of a person (and such a part that is not of itself a person) is no person; or, that which is a part of a person, is not that person of which it is a part. And so it may be said of the Word, if it be properly understood, that he is not the whole person of the mediator, although he is in, and of himself, a whole and complete person in respect to the Godhead.”
      p. 210.

      so who/what is this extra person other than the eternal Son of God? A human person perhaps under the designation of “Christ?”

      You can see it also in Vermigli’s Two Dialogs on the Incarnation where he explicitly denies that the divine person dies and only the human nature does. That is just classic Nestorianism. He is explicit in his rejeciton and denial of Cyril’s teaching on this key point over against the Nestorians.

      Calvin also says in Inst 2.14.5 that the two natures constitute the one person. McCormack rightly notes that Calvin’s understanding of Chalcedon is substantially flawed.

      As for the second Helvectic confession, I’d suggest looking at the original Latin text, which has been edited in English translation. The original Latin indicates that Christ is two “hypostases”, which is highly problamatic to say the least. Then we have WCF 8.2 which says taht the *person* of Christ is both human and divine, but chalcedonian Christology has it that Christ is always and only a divine person. All of this is cataloged by Bruce McCormack, Richard Muller and other Reformed writers. You can see some of it documented here->https://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2008/06/15/a-deformed-christ/

      The Lutherans have been rightly been complaining abot it for 500 years or so as documented by Martin Chemnitz’s The Two Natures in Christ.
      It isn’t sufficient to say that Christ is “one person.” Any Nestorian, and Nestorius did as well, could agree with that statement. Nestorius, Diodore, Theodoret and Co. all denied that Christ was two persons, because they took “Christ” to be one product or result of the union. “Person” was prosopa, one single manifestation or appearance produced by two natures/subjects. McGuckin lays it out fairly well here->https://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2010/02/14/some-notes-on-the-christology-of-nestorius/

      Y’all are wanting to read this as a Chalcedonian statement, but if you read the statements surrounding the Reformed tradition, such a move is impossible. It is Nestorianism, pure and simple.

    • Matthew N. Petersen


      It’s the final sentence which is problematic “Which *person* is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.” Had it said “Which Divine Person has a human nature” it would be spot on. However, the person, as person, is not human, but Divine. He is a Divine Person with a human nature. He is not a human person.

      He is not Divine on account of possessing a Divine Nature, He is Divine by virtue of His Personhood. Similarly, having a human nature does not make him a human person. As Person He is Divine and not human.

      • David

        Thanks Matthew, this is helpful.

      • Jnorm

        Matthew N. Petersen,

        I agree! The onlything I would add is the inclusion of the Divine nature as well. And so it would look like this:

        He is a Divine Person with a Divine and human nature.

        This way people will be able to see the distinction between Person and nature more clearly!

        • Jnorm

          oops, I meant to say natures, not nature.

  12. John

    In my understanding, it was not clearly stated until Leontius of Byzantium that the hypostasis of Christ is the same hypostasis as the pre-incarnate Logos of God. Thus the semantic vagueness about this that you are finding in some of the reformed confessions is also present in Chalcedon (though I don’t mean to imply that the Chalcedonian confession is unorthodox – simply that the formula ‘the hypostasis of Christ is the hypostasis of the Logos’ had not yet been stated).

    This statement, for example, is not lacking in orthodoxy as far as I can tell: “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.” It is only problematic if we also say that the person (or hypostasis) did not exist before the union of natures.

    Matthew, I must disagree with your most recent statement. It is true only before the incarnation. After the incarnation we can indeed say that the hypostasis of the Logos is both divine and human. He is not God with human nature tacked on – he has united humanity with himself such that even in heaven he is clothed in our nature (body + soul). As Baroque Norseman stated earlier, there is no such things as an unhypostasized nature, so there cannot be an unypostasized human nature in Christ. We can say that Christ is a human person (“and the Word became flesh”), we just also have to say that he is a divine person. We also avoid error by refusing to say that there was a human hypostasis before Christ’s human nature was united to the Logos of God. Many Orthodox prefer the term God-man because it emphasizes the total union-in-distinction expressed in Chalcedon and later Orthodox Christology.

    On Christology, besides the sources already mentioned, I recommend the newly published third volume of Dumitru Staniloae’s dogmatics, on the Person and Work of Christ (Holy Cross Press, 2011). In my opinion, Staniloae is one of the greatest Orthodox theologians of the 20th Century.

    • Jnorm


      Saint Cyril of Alexandria lived before Leontius of Byzantium, and most of the people who gathered at the Council of Chalcedon were what I would call moderate Cyrillians(as opposed to those in whom I would call fundamentalist Cyrillians who only wanted to stick to certain words of Saint Cyril exclusively)

      Yes, it is true that the words of others were included at Chalcedon, like Saint Leo, and possibly words from the school of thought of Theodore of Mopsuestia. However, in regards to Saint Leo, his tome had to be in agreement with the theology/school of thought of Saint Cyril in order for it to be accepted. And in regards to the other non-Cyrillian dyophysite language, well, the formula of reunion already took care of that, and so our form of dyophysitism is compatible with Saint Cyril. The next council would take care of any Nestorians trying to hide behind a misreading of Chalcedon, for the 5th council is the official interpretation of the 4th. And so our Christology is Cyrillian Chalcedonianism.

      Now in saying that, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that Christ is a Divine Person “in”(from the 4th council) and “of”(more Cyrillian language possibly from the 5th council, I have to review just to make sure, I’m going off of memory at the moment and so I could be wrong) two natures(Both fully Divine and human)?

      Body + Soul can = human nature. I could be wrong, but you seem to be either confusing person and nature or you seem to want Jesus to be two people at or after the Incarnation. You want him to be both a Divine Person and a human person. We believe Jesus to be One Divine Person in(to avoid Apollinarianism and Eutychianism) and of(to avoid Nestorianism and the christology of his teacher Theodore of Mopsuestia) two natures. We don’t believe Jesus to be two persons(both divine and human). No, we only believe Him to be one Person.

      This quote is from the general introduction to the book “On the Person of Christ: The Christology of Emperor Justinian” translated by Kenneth P. Wesche

      “Nestorius was vigorously opposed by Cyril of Alexandria who insisted that the one who was born of Mary, Jesus of Nazareth, was none other than the Divine Logos himself. For that reason, Mary must be called “Theotokos” for Jesus whom she bore is himself God by nature and by hypostasis. This is the same as Justinian’s view and provides the background for understanding his freguent charges that the Nestorians call Christ a mere man. In fact, Nestorian Christology can indeed call Christ Christ God and man, but this is because “Christ” is the meeting point of the human and divine natures, and if we look at Christ in one direction we see the Divine Logos, or the divine nature, and if we look in another direction we see Jesus, or the human nature. The crucial point, however, is that in the Nestorian way of thinking, Jesus is the human nature in Christ and is therefore not himself identical to the Divine Logos. This latter point is what Justinian has in mind when he makes his charge, for with St. Cyril he wishes to emphasize that Jesus is not someone else than the Divine Logos but that he is one and the same Divine Logos; “Christ,” in other words, is the Divine Logos only who as the incarnate Divine Logos is both human and divine in nature, but divine only in identity or person.” pages 16 and 17

      If you buy the book you will see the Emperor’s letter on the three chapters. But yeah, our Christology is one of Cyrillian Chalcedonianism.

  13. John

    “Body + Soul can = human nature. I could be wrong, but you seem to be either confusing person and nature or you seem to want Jesus to be two people at or after the Incarnation. You want him to be both a Divine Person and a human person. We believe Jesus to be One Divine Person in(to avoid Apollinarianism and Eutychianism) and of(to avoid Nestorianism and the christology of his teacher Theodore of Mopsuestia) two natures. We don’t believe Jesus to be two persons(both divine and human). No, we only believe Him to be one Person.”

    I apologize for my unclarity. Of course there are not two persons, but there is a bifocal quality to Christ as “truly God, truly man.” If there is no such thing as an unhypostasized nature, then we must say that the human nature is taken up into the hypostasis of the Logos in the Incarnation. After the union, then, there is not just a Divine hypostasis with a human nature, but a divine-human hypostasis in which two distinct natures share the same hypostasis.

    • Matthew N. Petersen

      I believe you are equating “human person” with “person with a human nature” and “divine person” with “person with a divine nature.” The distinction between the two is subtle, but important. When we say the Logos is a divine Person, we do not mean that He is a Person with a Divine Nature, but that, as Person, He is Divine. So when the Logos takes a human nature He does not thereby become a Divine/human person, but One Divine Person with a divine and a human nature.

      It is true however, that the phrase “truly God and truly man” is from Chalcedon.

    • Jnorm


      When you say un-hypostatized nature, are you referring to what Baroque Norseman said up above in regards to en-hypostatized? I will re-quote him:
      “But natures are en-hypostatized, if Christ’s nature also exists outside the *Person* of the word, then it must also, by definition of “nature”, exist in another hypostasis. This is why many Lutherans since Chemnitz charged Calvinists with Nestorianism.”

      Are you talking about this issue? His response was in regards to what you said. I will re-quote you here:
      “The extra calvinisticum has to do with a debate between Luther and Calvin over the person of Christ. Calvin tried to hold that the divine nature of the Word is united with our human nature in Christ but that he is not contained in a human body and that he is also at the same time reigning in heaven with God and present everywhere in creation. Luther held that the whole Word entered a human body, such that the body contained the Word (this is an extreme kind of kenoticism). If the Lutheran view were true, it would mean that the Word is not with the Father in heaven at the same times as he is incarnate in a human body.”

      So when you say unhypostasized nature, what exactly do you mean by that? From the rest of what you say it seems as if you are interpreting the term God-man in reference to both Person and nature. For you said:
      If there is no such thing as an unhypostasized nature, then we must say that the human nature is taken up into the hypostasis of the Logos in the Incarnation. After the union, then, there is not just a Divine hypostasis with a human nature, but a divine-human hypostasis in which two distinct natures share the same hypostasis.

      Are you using the term un-hypostasized as un-personalized? I want to know exactly what you are saying when you use that term.

      I will re-quote you again, but this time instead of using our word hypostasized I will use the english word person
      “If there is no such thing as an un-Personalized nature, then we must say that the human nature is taken up into the Person of the Logos in the Incarnation. After the union, then, there is not just a Divine Person with a human nature, but a divine-human Person in which two distinct natures share the same Person.


      Why does the addition of an extra nature to the hypostasis of the Divine Logos must also mean a change in the hypostasis of the Divine Logos? Why? Why can’t it just mean that the hypostasis of the Divine Logos received an additional nature(body and soul)?

      From where I stand it would seem as if before the Incarnation the Divine Person only had one nature and that nature was the Divine nature; however, after the Incarnation the Divine Person had two natures. One Divine and the other human.

      Saint Cyril and the Emperor Justinian viewed the identity of the hypostasis as the Divine Logos:
      “It is most important to note how this view of Christ’s particularity distinquishes Justinian’s “Cyrillian Chalcedonianism from Nestorianism and from many Christologies one encounters in Western Christian thought. At issue is “who” lies inside the particular prosopon of Christ, and what is the starting point for determining that. Both Nestorianism and Cyrillian Chalcedonianism acknowledge that there is one Christ who is one particular or hypostasis or prosopon, and that furthermore this one Christ is divine and human in his natures. Many contemporary theologians who have sought to vindicate Nestorius from his condemnation at the Council of Ephesus in 431 base their defense of Nestorius precisely on this point: Nestorius, as also the Council of Chalcedon in 451, taught that Christ is one particular who is both God and man. But many of these scholars fail to grasp the significance of the fundamentally different starting points characterizing these two Christologies which lead to radically different notions of hypostasis and the content and identity of Christ.” page 17


      “These different starting points yield radically different confessions concerning the philosophical content of the particular or hypostasis of Christ: the former understands hypostasis in terms of identity, i.e the subjective core, the “self” (autos in Greek) or “who” of Christ, which is one, and is seen to be the Divine Logos himself so that the terms “Jesus,” “Christ,” and “Divine Logos” are identical, referring to one and the same subject. The hypostasis, then, is the foundation, not the product, of the union, for it is the eternally existing Divine Logos, the one through whom all things came into being in the first place. The latter, on the other hand, starting from the “undivided appearence” of the historical Jesus, understands hypostasis as the product rather than the foundation of the coming together of the two natures. These two natures, moreover, are each seen as two fully intact subjects: Jesus is the human nature and so is a “someone other” than the Divine Logos, for the Divine Logos is the divine nature. On the basis of this Cyrillian Christology Justinian published the condemnation of the Three Chapters in 543, which was confirmed by the Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 553. The Three chapters were “Nestorian” documents from the late fourth and fifth centuries. They included the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia (and Theodore himself was included in the condemnation, which proved to be so controversial that Justinian was compelled to justify posthumous condemnations, which he does in the second and third documents presented here):” pages 18 to 19

      • Matthew N. Petersen

        Quotes from Rev. Kenneth P. Wesche, On The Person Of Christ: The Christology of Emperor Justinian (SVS Press)?

      • Nordic Monk

        Here’s a thought: we could say that Christ’s divinity, which is the divine nature coterminous with Spirit and Father, is omnipresent by [b]means of the divine energies[/b] (or Logoi), since the point of the divine energies is to manifest God while remaining fully divine.

        Historically, Lutherans and Calvinists did not have a framework for the divine energies so their discussions often went nowhere.

  14. Nordic Monk

    I do hope this discussion convinces some Protestants that just because someone looks into Orthodoxy, it is not, contra some Lectures by certain CREC ministers four years, that they are psychologically failing and suffering a mental breakdown because they are postmodernists who hate sola scriptura. You do realize that is now the standard post-Federal Vision/CREC/Medieval Protestant response to Orthodoxy?

    No, many of us are simply asking the questions around the most important issue in all reality (see Ephesians 1:10).

    Shucks, I’m even reading a book by a Reformed minister Ralph Smith on the Trinity. And he says that we should frame all our theological and life decisions based around conclusions drawn from the Trinity. When he says things like that, the CREC and FV call it “profound.” When I say things like that, even though I am quoting Gregory Nazianzus, I am called “psychologically shifting.”

    • Tim Enloe

      If some CREC ministers are saying that, so much the worse for them. Probably it’s just a defensive reaction, since a number of people have begun attributing their conversions to Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism to FV teachings. Pastors are responsible for the souls under their charge, and since the FV has been subjected to a radical witch hunt in conservative Reformed circles, these pastors are probably just trying to make it plain that they don’t think FV principles really do lead to Orthodoxy or Rome. But as one who’s been in FV circles for years, I would disagree with how said pastors are rhetorically handling this.

    • Perry Robinson

      Nordic Monk,

      Question: Do you enjoy blood sport often?

  15. John

    Just for clarification, I am using person and hypostasis as synonomous (though I’m aware that there is some debate over this): an individuation or particular instantiation of an essence or nature.

    Jnorm, in my reference to Baroque Norseman’s statement about the impossibility of ‘unhypostasized nature,’ I am taking it out of its original context of a discussion about the extra calvinisticum as we seem to have definitively moved on from that topic. The point he is making is fully in line with Orthodox teaching and is also applicable to the union of natures in Christ.

    Matthew, I guess I am just missing the distinction you’re making between ‘divine person’ and ‘person with a divine nature’ and ‘human person’ and ‘person with a human nature.’ Doesn’t the word ‘divine’ in ‘divine person’ simply refer to the nature? You seem to me to be in danger of cutting the person away from the nature. If we say that the Word after the incarnation is a ‘divine-human person’ we do not in saying that imply a mixture of natures, but rather that the person of the Word, which before the Incarnation was an hypostasis of the divine nature, is after the Incarnation the hypostasis of both his natures, divine and human. The Word, in the Incarnation, became the actor and agent of our human nature – and when I say ‘became’ I do not mean to indicate a change or transformation in the Word but the fact that our human nature is hypostasized and personalized in the Logos.

    How would you interpret the phrase ‘divine-human hypostasis’? What about ‘God-man’?

    • Jnorm


      Ok, so when you say “If there is no such thing as an unhypostasized nature”, are you saying:

      Nature = Person?

      • Nordic Monk

        There is a technical term called “anhypostasis.” It means human nature in the abstract, but since there is no such thing the Fathers quickly moved the conversation to enhypostatic.

    • Nordic Monk

      You can say that the *mode* of existence post-Incarnation is now a uniquely human one. St Maximus and St Athanasius said that. It does not change the fact that the person is still a Divine Person.

  16. Matthew N. Petersen

    The problem with saying He is a “divine-human person” is not monophysitism, but Nestorianism. The one Divine Person is human, or has a human nature. Yes. But he is not a human person.

    The Logos is not a hypostasis of human nature. His humanity is ahypostatic, and enhypostatic. Westminster (and your statement) is in error because it treats the Word as a human hypostasis. The Word has a human nature, but the Word is not a human hypostasis.

    I would be wary of “God-man” except in popular understandings and in idiosyncratic language. It must be taken as short-hand for “The Divine Person who has a human nature” not “the Logos who is both a hypostasis of Divinity and humanity.” I reject “divine-human” hypostasis because it says that the hypostasis is posterior to humanity, and thus created. That is, it says that the hypostasis is human. But the hypostasis is not human, but Divine.

  17. John

    Here are a couple of passages from St John Damascene that illustrate my point. Keep in mind that in this translation by Salmond (from NPNF) he uses the English term ‘subsistence’ to translate the Greek ‘hypostasis’.

    “He therefore became flesh and He took upon Himself thereby the first-fruits of our compound nature, viz., the flesh animated with the intelligent and rational soul, so that the very subsistence of God the Word was changed into the subsistence of the flesh, and the subsistence of the Word, which was formerly simple, became compound, yea compounded of two perfect natures, divinity and humanity, and bearing the the characteristic and distinctive property of the divine Sonship of God the Word in virtue of which it is distinguished from the Father and the Spirit, and also the characteristic and distinctive properties of the flesh, in virtue of which it differs from the Mother and the rest of mankind, bearing further the properties of the divine nature in virtue of which it is united to the Father and the Spirit, and the marks of the human nature in virtue of which it is united to the Mother and to us.”
    (On The Orthodox Faith, III.7)

    “He is then wholly perfect God, but yet is not simply God: for He is not only God but also man. And He is also wholly perfect man but not simply man, for He is not only man but also God.” (Ibid.)

    “Christ, therefore, is one, perfect God and perfect man: and Him we worship along with the Father and the Spirit, with one obeisance, adoring even His immaculate flesh and not holding that the flesh is not meet for worship: for in fact it is worshipped in the one subsistence of the Word, which indeed became subsistence for it.” (Ibid., III.8)

    It is clear from these passages that in the Incarnation the Word does indeed become a human person in as much as he becomes “truly man” and a “compound subsistence (hypostasis).” This is the great mystery of the union of natures in a single hypostasis. Your point that he is only a Divine person is operative only when we are talking about the moment of union between God and man: there is no ‘human person’ of the human Christ joined to the person of the divine Word. But after the union we can indeed speak of a ‘divine-human hypostasis’: this is what St John indicates by calling the hypostasis (subsistence) of the Incarnate Word “compound.”

    • Matthew N. Petersen

      I think the last comment actually summarizes our position nicely. We are not denying that the body of the Word is without subsistence, but that the subsistence is not a human subsistence, but a Divine one. Thus “the Word has become subsistence for the Body.”

      Similarly in the first quote, we do not have any difficulty saying the hypostasis is composite, if by that we mean that it has two natures. So we would say that the Divine Hypostasis is compound in that it exists perfectly in two natures. It bears the distinctive properties of the Word and thereby is distinguished from the Father and the Spirit, and the distinctive properties of flesh, and thereby is distinguished from the Theotokos, and all men. But that nevertheless, the subsistence is, qua subsistence, Divine, not human.

    • Perry Robinson

      The position articulate dby Matthew and Co. to which I would add my own name does not preclude composition in the hypostasis of the Logos. It only entails that said composition and enhyposticizing union does not essentially alter the hypostasis of the Logos as divine.

  18. John

    “But that nevertheless, the subsistence is, qua subsistence, Divine, not human.”

    This, then, is our sticking point. Can you offer a locus patristicus to elucidate your meaning? As far as I can see you are only emphasizing the fist part of John’s Prologue: “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” However, there is also “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory.”

    • Matthew N. Petersen

      I believe you are misunderstanding me. I am not saying that the Word did not become flesh. I have emphasized that He did. What I have also emphasized, which you seem to have misunderstood, is that He did not thereby become a human person. He took unto himself a human nature. Yes. But where we stick up is that you are assuming that taking a human nature is synonymous with being a human person.

      I’ll look elsewhere if I have time, but right now I would point to the quotes from John of Damascus you supplied.

      “The very subsistence of God the Word was changed into the subsistence of the flesh.” Note that he does not say that the subsistence was changed into a human subsistence, but into the subsistence of the flesh. That is, the flesh subsists in God the Word. The subsistence is still God the Word.

      “And the subsistence of the Word, which was formerly simple, became compound, yea compounded of two perfect natures, divinity and humanity.” Yes, I agree with St. John of Damascus. But note that he does not say that the subsistence is a human subsistence, but that there is a human nature in the one subsistence, which one subsistence remains God the Word.

      “He is then wholly perfect God, but yet is not simply God: for He is not only God but also man. And He is also wholly perfect man but not simply man, for He is not only man but also God.” I’m not sure this one is to the point. I believe he means that the Word is man to mean that He has a human nature. You take it to mean he is a human and divine person. Both are possible readings of this text.

      “[The flesh] is worshipped in the one subsistence of the Word, which indeed became subsistence for it.” That is, there is no human subsistence, but the subsistence is the Word.

      I would also point to Chalcedon “One and the same Son and Only Begotten God the Word.” Though, as it says earlier, the One and the Same God the Word does some things in his humanity and others in his divinity, yet He remains God the Word, qua Person, Divine.

      Likewise II Constantinople “If anyone shall not confess that the Word of God has two nativities, the one from all eternity of the Father, without time and without body; the other in these last days, coming down from heaven and being made flesh of the holy and glorious Mary, Mother of God and always a virgin, and born of her: let him be anathema.” Note that it says that the Word of God is twice begotten. The One Divine Person, God the Word, is twice begotten.

      And (also II Constantinople) “If anyone shall not call in a true acceptation, but only in a false acceptation, the holy, glorious, and ever-virgin Mary, the Mother of God, or shall call her so only in a relative sense, …or if anyone shall call her the mother of a man or the Mother of Christ, as if Christ were not God, and shall not confess that she is exactly and truly the Mother of God, because that God the Word who before all ages was begotten of the Father was in these last days made flesh and born of her, and if anyone shall not confess that in this sense the holy Synod of Chalcedon acknowledged her to be the Mother of God: let him be anathema.” Note again, that it is God the Word who is born of Mary. By calling the Word God the council again recognizes that He is a Divine Person.

      Indeed, if He is not a divine Person, but a Divine Person when He is in Himself, but a human person in flesh, then Mary is not literally the mother of God, for she is neither the mother of the Divine Nature, nor even of a Divine Person.

  19. Tim Enloe


    Re: your comment from Nov. 16th :

    I appreciate your attempt to parse out my position but I think further clarification is needed. It would be nice if this was all merely intellectual and we could all be dispassionate, but it isn’t like that. In matters of religion, the intellectual is all wrapped up with the attitudinal, and attitude means not just emotion but basic psychological orientation toward truth and toward other truth-seekers. Hence, I believe it is vital that certain matters of attitude be aired and adjudicated in the context of answering the intellectual questions and assertions. You often speak very strongly to me and to others, including giving many posts openly “in your face” titles (like “Do Protestants Believe in the Incarnation?”), so in what follows I will speak with similar frankness to you.

    No, I am not “straddling both the confessionalism of the magisterial Reformation and the pietism of popular Evangelicalism.” This has nothing to do with my supposedly lacking “an ecclesial context capable of embracing both forms of faith in Christ (doctrinal and relational).” The idea that I am a rootless, historically-disconnected, liturgy-deprived, Bible-Only thumping Lone Ranger is an assumption you make about me due to your own experiences as a Protestant, but it is false and so colors many of your remarks to me with distortions.

    For one, I am already a part of the catholic, orthodox Church. I am not a poor self-disinhereted sap floundering around looking for the catholic, orthodox Church, and hoping some Smart Convert can take me by the hand and lead me there. On the contrary, I already live and worship in the catholic, orthdox Church, in its full-bodied ecclesial context, complete with substantial historical liturgical backdrop centered on the Eucharistic mystery (but, in the best tradition of the Reformation, not leaving the Word in second place in favor of the Body and Blood).

    I am not a spiritual narcissist who thinks the Bible just dropped out of the sky one day, complete with the words of Christ in Red and a Concordance and cross-references, so that it can function as a self-contained, self-sufficient, self-interpreting encyclopedia of everything I ever need to know about the Faith. Not one second of my Reformed experience has rotated around the supposedly Great Quandary of “private judgment” vs. “authority,” or the supposedly Great Quandary of feeling no historical connections to Tertullian and Chrysostom and Polycarp and Athanasius and Justin Martyr and Cyril, or the supposedly Great Quandary of wondering how I can really be communing with Christ in the Supper if the presiding minister can’t point to a framed episcopal genealogy on the wall as proof that he’s really putting Christ’s flesh and blood into my mouth.

    Basically, I’m more mature a Protestant than you give me credit for being. I’m immune to much of what you folks say here that is based on the gratuitous assumption that since you had these problems and since I’m a Protestant I must have them too, and I just need you guys to cut and paste a couple of well-worn patristic citations or write exceedingly long posts crammed with footnotes to works by Pelikan and McGuckin and Kelly, and SHAZAM! I’ll see that I have little choice but to convert. In short, I do not fit your impression of Protestants derived from your own experience, and you need to work much harder than you have to take this into account.

    Second, far from uncomfortably trying to straddle confessionalism and pietism in my remarks about Christology and salvation, I am arguing from a different understanding of ecclesiology that coming to Christ does not involve the sort of work it takes to graduate with a Master’s Degree in Sound Theology. Nothing in Scripture suggests that coming to Christ is hard, at least, not once one realizes that one is spiritually akin to the publican or the thief on the cross or the Ethiopian eunuch or the Philippian jailer. The only qualification, in fact, for getting saved is to “Come unto Me all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

    The Gospel, the basic message of salvation, is outlined most cogently in 1 Corinthians 15, which says nothing about belief in Apostolic Succession, baptismal regeneration, regular participation in quasi-mystical liturgies, observance of special fast and feast days, or veneration of icons. Nothing is said there about beliefs concerning predestination or the relationship of faith and works in justification, either. These things may be helpful to growth in one’s life of grace, but they are not at all a part of the initation of the life of grace. The Gospel itself, the substantive message belief in which saves, is extremely simple – so simple that a child can understand it and be saved. Intellectuals are often prone to making it far more complicated than it is, and convert intellectuals even moreso.

    Contrary to your assertion, it is not “Protestantism’s fragmented church situation” that has led to my “quandary.” In fact, I do not have any of the “quandaries” you believe I have. I’m quite happy to learn from any of you if you can teach me anything. But I’m not happy, and will not put up with, being lectured on the assumption that what was true for you when you were a Protestant is necessarily true for me. I will not put up with behavior that suggests that your impressions of what it means to be Protestant are normative for discussions here, normative for building bridges. If you aren’t willing to examine your own beliefs with equal care to that with which you examine mine, I’m afraid that you will not be helpful in building any bridges.

    So, to answer your final question – who has the authority to correct a person with flawed Christology. The authority to correct my flawed Christology (if indeed I have such) is ultimately the Holy Spirit, and proximately those He uses as His human ministers who must give an account for my soul – namely, my pastor and elders. To be sure, I hope my ministerial authorities are knowledgeable themselves and consult the ancient witness of the Church, but it is an imperfect world and I don’t expect my growth in grace and maturity to be unblocked by obstacles even from within my authorities. Nor do I expect God to admit me into or bar me from heaven based on Robert Arakaki’s or Jnorm’s or Perry Robinson’s doctrinal standards. Similarly, I do not expect God to admit you into or bar you from heaven by the doctrinal standards of Martin Luther, John Calvin, or R.C. Sproul. I leave the state of your soul to God, the only one who can and does know it with absolute certainty, and instead choose to focus only on “horizontal” matters of my relationships with other truth-seekers.

    So in sum, please reflect on the attitude that is behind your remarks to me, and try a bit harder to build that bridge from your end. I can’t do your work for you; I can only do my own.

    • Tim Enloe

      Sorry about all the text getting caught up in the link. Don’t know how that happened, and I can’t fix it without editing options.

    • Jnorm

      Tim Enloe,

      I may be wrong, but I think Robert mentioned ““straddling both the confessionalism of the magisterial Reformation and the pietism of popular Evangelicalism.”” in regards to you because much of what you said to me and him just now seems to be in line with popular Evangelicalism.

      The former PCA, now Roman Catholic convert, Dr. David Anders explains one of the differences he noticed between the Classical Reformers and the Puritan/Pietistic Evangelical movement of Whitefield, John Wesley, Johnathon Edwards………etc.

      EWTN Live – Protestant Theology – Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. with David Anders – 06-23-2010



      If what Dr. David Anders said is true, then it would seem that you are “straddling both the confessionalism of the magisterial Reformation and the pietism of popular Evangelicalism.””

      For on one hand, you want to cling to some stuff of Classical Protestantism, but on the other hand you want to cling to some stuff of popular Evangelicalism.

      Also, it seems as if you want to detach or disconnect Salvation from anything visible like Baptism and the Church. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule like the thief on the Cross (all depending on how one interprets it), but the exceptions should never become the new rule. The norm is still the norm.

      Does the issue of the Incarnation influence the issue of Salvation? The way you talk about Salvation is the way I once spoke about it way back in my Baptist days. And so even-though you refuse to see yourself embracing aspects of popular Evangelicalism, it’s hard for us to agree with you for that’s how a number of us use to talk. And so what should we say? How should we express it?

      • Matthew N. Petersen

        I don’t think you’re reading Tim correctly.

        (Also I’m not sure “The Road Home” counts as proper scholarship.)

        Whatever answer we give to the Christological and Triadological questions, we cannot say that every Christian must understand them. They are very complicated, as the distinction between a divine Person with a human nature, and a divine/human person shows; and though the Church’s perdurance depends on answering the questions correctly, and though the theologians and liturgists must get it correctly, that does not imply that every Christian must. They are simply too difficult for most people. Most Christians believe Jesus is 100% God and 100% man, and have no real capacity for understanding more.

        Even historically, St. Justin Martyr seems to have believed that matter is eternal, and St. Gregory of Nyssa that all will be saved. Though they held to these heresies, they are not themselves considered heretics.

        I believe this is all Tim is pointing out. Not every Christian must understand Christology, and not every Theologian must be 100% correct, even to be a saint. (Indeed Theologians can hold to heresy, and still be saints.)

        I suppose more directly relevant to the discussion here is St. Isaac of Ninevah who is at least suspected of belonging to the Nestorians. Yet this question does not invalidate his sanctity. He is still a saint.

        Also, I’m not sure what your point about baptism is. Tim surely holds to some form of Baptismal regeneration. (Though since that term has come to mean something other than it should, he would probably object to the term.)

        Like Tim said, I believe you are misreading him. Please seek to understand Protestant practices as thoroughly as you would have us understand Orthodox ones. And moreover, when engaging specific Protestants, seek to understand them as fully as you would wish to be understood, rather than generalizing from some pre-conceived notion of Protestant.

        • Jnorm

          Matthew N. Petersen,

          Do you disagree with Dr. David Anders? I don’t see anything wrong with his scholarship. Especially if he stays within his field of study. If you can point out where he went wrong in his comparison of some of the differences between the protestant Evangelicalism of Whitefield and company (and modern protestant American Evangelicalism in general) vs Classical Protestantism, then please do so. I thought he was spot on!

          When I was going back and forth with Tim, I noticed he was saying things about Salvation, coming to Jesus……..etc. That seemed more in line with lower church North American and British protestant Evangelicalism.

          My assumption is that the non-Zwinglian form of Classical Protestantism took a higher view of Church, Baptism, and some Ancient Councils.

          According to Dr. David Anders, George Whitefield and company made it popular to downplay the serious sin of sectarianism. Their ecumenical effort was to focus on the lowest common denominator of what they thought was important at that time and that was the conversion experience.

          And so to them it didn’t really matter what quote on quote denomination you were from. Most of the theological differences between the various protestant groups didn’t matter to them either for they thought Jesus didn’t want them united on such things anyway. For it would all get sorted out once they got to heaven.

          What they saw as being important was preaching the gospel and being converted(according to how they understood it, which was normally detached from water Baptism, the Church as historically understood at the second Ecumenical council…..etc)

          This is what I saw Tim saying. Now he didn’t say it exactly like that, but that’s why I agreed with Robert’s statement of ““straddling both the confessionalism of the magisterial Reformation and the pietism of popular Evangelicalism.”

          Now I don’t know if it was Tim or someone else, but I do know that the idea of leaving ones group in favor of going to another was frowned upon. The idea that we should of just stayed put in our original protestant group was advocated. This would make it seem as if the differences between the various groups aren’t really all that important. As if Baptism and the Eucharist don’t really matter……as if they were side issues and not primary issues.

          You want me to seek to understand Protestant practices thoroughly but if one doesn’t really belong to an actual protestant group, well that may of changed in recent times for he did say that he was visiting or fellow-shipping with a group of Anglicans, I forgot what kind of Anglicans, and so maybe he became an Anglican. If so, then I would know something about that for I was officially Anglo-Catholic for four years before becoming Orthodox. I don’t know everything there is to know about Anglicanism nor Anglo-Catholicism, but I’m not totally ignorant of them either.

          But whatever the case maybe, it’s easier to know the practices of a protestant if we know what protestant group a person belongs to. It is also easier to know what they are suppose to believe officially, if they belong to an actual protestant group.

          In reading Tim’s posts over the months I’ve noticed he was in Federal Vision circles for a period of time, and now he seems to be in a state of transition towards some form of Anglicanism. Yes, I recall what Tim said about Baptismal Regeneration in the recent past. He said something about how not everyone in the Reformed tradition rejects it. I am familiar with one CREC Presbyterian elder who has an online article about the issue. It’s been a while since I read it, but from what I can recall from memory it seemed as if he held to some sort of semi-position due to the strong influence that Election and Predestination plays in the Reformed tradition. But my PCA and OPC Presbyterian friends normally ignore him for he’s not associated with NAPARC(the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council).

          I try to ignore the Reformed Anglicans when talking about the Reformed tradition, but if they are included then yes, the Reformed tradition can hold to it.

          Tim talks about salvation in a way that seems more in line with George Whitfield. That’s all I was trying to say.

      • Tim Enloe


        Of course the issue of the incarnation affects salvation. But I am asking you to be more careful in how you are expressing this truth. As Matt said, not everyone is capable of the kind of deep reflection that is required to understand the Christological doctrines of the Councils. Yet the thief on the cross was saved, and so evidently were the publican, the Philippian jailer, and the Ethiopian eunuch. Indeed, the vast majority of human beings who have ever lived (or who ever will live) are just “ordinary folk,” able to grasp simple propositions such as the words of the Apostle’s Creed (without grasping all of the deeper implications of each clause), or “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” but not necessarily able to parse out the difficulties with Nestorianism and Monophysitism, etc. Would you set the bar of salvation higher than God? Do you think this is what the Fathers themselves did, seeing as how many of them were bishops and so in charge of the souls of vast numbers of “ordinary folk”?

        Lastly, even if what I am saying does somehow sound like pop-Evangelicalism, you shouldn’t let allergies to your Baptist days determine the standard of truth. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. It is not strictly speaking true that one is saved by “asking Jesus into one’s heart,” yet even this vague, sentimentalistic statement may get at enough of the truth for someone who believes it to be saved. Again, don’t set the bar of salvation higher than God.

    • robertar


      I did not accuse you of being a “Bible thumping Lone Ranger.” If I did, please show me where I said that of you and I will apologize to you. What I tried to do in my comment was to show how a strong ecclesiology can help avoid the traps of Evangelicalism’s ‘just believe in Jesus’ approach to salvation. A strong ecclesiology can also help one avoid the requiring one to have an detailed and precise understanding of Christology. I was reacting to your raising the question of how much correct doctrine one needed to be a Christian. This approach can function reasonably well in Evangelical circles but becomes very problematic in a liberal denomination like the United Church of Christ that I was once was a member of. Thus, to safeguard Christology it is important that one belong to a church that holds to the historic Christian Faith.

      Re. your complaint about my “in your face” title, I would like to note that it is an accurate paraphrase of Russ Warren’s complaint. But more importantly, I tried to take an irenic approach showing how this allegation simplifies the matter and obscures the important similarities between Orthodox and Protestants. By explicating the nuances in the Orthodox complaint I wanted to help Protestants understand respond reasonably rather than feel misunderstood.

      Lastly, what I want to do on this blog is explain and present the Orthodox Church’s teachings in ways understandable to Reformed and Evangelical Christians. I cringed when you wrote about “Robert Arakaki’s …. doctrinal standards;” don’t listen to me, listen to what the Orthodox Church has to say. If you question what I say, my advice is to approach an Orthodox priest.


      • Tim Enloe

        Robert, you are full of caricatures about Protestants – easily as many as Protestants are of Orthodoxy. This isn’t a personal slur on you; most converts of all kinds fail for years to untangle their perceptions of what went wrong in their former walk of faith from the actual truth about their former faith, and the more they are involved in criticizing other people without themselves being very willing to receive criticism, the longer these caricatures persist. I’ve been there, done that, got the scars to prove it, so I well understand what drives you to write the way you do.

        True, you did not use the words “Bible-thumping Lone Ranger Christian” of me, but that is how you treat all Protestants that I’ve seen you engage here. You treat us all as if we never realized the Bible came from somewhere, that that somewhere was the catholic, orthodox Church, that we have Fathers in the faith many centuries before our own particular congregations got started, and that the word “tradition” is used in several very important places in the NT. The notion that we all just sit around with our static, silent Books vainly trying to derive all truth from black squiggles on paper, bereft of all embodied context and all living authority, is a default assumption in your mind that causes you to write all that you write with a certain slant. You don’t have to say it in so many words, because all your words say it to those of us who don’t fit the caricatures. I don’t want an apology; I want more action on your part that says you are really trying to build bridges, not burn them.

        You shouldn’t push me off to an Orthodox priest, as if you aren’t responsible for what you say here. You put yourself forward on this blog because you think you are accurately representing Orthodoxy. While ultimately, because I try to take great care in my study of other views, I will not rely on what a bunch of converts say on blogs for my understanding of Orthodoxy, the fact that you put yourself forward as someone who knows what Orthodoxy teaches makes all your words fair game for criticism. I have often found, dealing with Catholic converts, that what they think Catholicism is is quite different from what Catholicism’s official organs think it is. Something similar is true, I think, of Orthodoxy and Orthodox converts. You have certain perceptions of Orthodoxy that you present to us as normative of that faith, and upon which you base what you think of as penetrating criticisms of our faith. I don’t know that you’re wrong about Orthodoxy, but I do know you’re wrong about a great many Protestants, whom you casually sweep up in your critiques as if we’re all cut from the same cloth you were when you were at the liberal seminary. We aren’t, and for a lot of us, your particular trials are non-starters. We can and ought to try to sympathize with you, but we are in no way obligated to take your starting points as our own just because you used to be “Protestant” and we still are “Protestants.”

        If these things were not true of you, you would not have written as you did, viz., that I have this “quandary” of trying to reconcile Reformed Theology with Christology because I lack the ecclesial context that can hold the two together. That simply isn’t true. It wasn’t true when I was a Presbyterian (FV churches are quite different from stagnant traditionalist Presbyterian ones that bitch about justification all day and pretend that the Modernist controversy never ended and each and every person is his own personal J. Gresham Machen. And your caricature is certainly not true of Anglicanism, which most definitely holds the historic faith Christologically speaking.

        I do appreciate some of your work and that of your friends here. You’ve given me much food for thought in the past months, especially as regards the Apostle Paul’s understanding of “tradition.” You haven’t convinced me that he was talking about special fast and feast days, or a Late Antique concept of Church government grafted onto the pastoral epistle’s presentation of succession, or the veneration of icons, or any of the rest. But you have given me pause to think harder about most of these things, and for that I’m grateful.

        • Karen

          “And your caricature is certainly not true of Anglicanism, which most definitely holds the historic faith Christologically speaking.”

          Tim, I’m just curious about what you believe the inclusion of bishops such as John Shelby Spong under the “big tent” of Anglicanism does to the effectiveness of its guarding of historic Christian faith? Obviously, by any conservative Christian standard, Spong is outside the historic Christian faith in his views, yet as I understand it, remains an Anglican/Episcopal bishop in good standing (albeit retired).

          There are indisputably examples of hypocritical Orthodox bishops who do not consistently practice Orthodox Christian faith and this is bad enough–it does hurt the witness of the Church. But were an Orthodox Bishop to author the kind of books Spong has (i.e., officially teach heresy), he would be defrocked. He could not remain in the official teaching office of the Orthodox Church. In my ignorance, I am tempted to speculate that perhaps this is in some way connected to Anglicanism’s inheriting from Roman Catholicism Augustine’s notion about the grace of sacramental ordination being retained by anyone ordained to the Priesthood/Bishopric in the Church, regardless of whether or not they remain doctrinally and/or Eucharistically connected to the Church in which they were ordained. This is one significant difference between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic (also Anglican?) understandings of the meaning and implications of Apostolic Succession.

          Just to be clear, I’m concerned here not with issues of anyone’s ultimate personal salvation (which is a matter of the heart that only God can judge), but with logical consistency of theological ideas and the public guarding of the faith by its ministers.

          • Tim Enloe

            I don’t know how to answer your question, Karen. I am not an expert on Anglicanism, though I do at least know there are a number of different permutations of it. I am pretty sure that if I was to ask my priest or the bishop about Spong’s status, they would denounce him quite vigorously. Perhaps viewing “Anglicanism” as a “big tent” is thus the same sort of flawed procedure as attempting to generalize about “Protestants” or “Protestantism” when there are so many variations? At any rate, I usually don’t take objections like this seriously. Since all churches have stinkers in them, the presence of a stinker in mine doesn’t particularly bother me. No doubt if I was interested in “dirt” I could find plenty in the Orthodox Church, but would any of you accept for a moment that such was an indicator that Orthodoxy is a bad belief? Of course not.

          • Nordic Monk

            (This is actually to Tim’s comment below.)

            Yes, all churches have stinkers in them, but Spong’s heresy, to my knowledge, has not been condemned. BIG DIFFERENCE


          • Karen

            Thanks, Tim, for the honest response. I was actually kind of just thinking “out loud” with my questions. I have some good friends in the conservative “Anglican Mission” here in the U.S. that is under the Kenyan bishops. I didn’t follow the kind of theological processes you seem to be on my journey through various parts of (and ultimately now out of) Protestantism, so I never seriously considered the Anglican Church, especially because of the positions taken by its head, Rowan Williams, and so many of its bishops here in the U.S. (see Nordic Monk’s link). Liturgically it did appeal to me, especially because I spent part of my childhood in British schools singing Anglican hymns in school assemblies and was raised in the Methodist Church.

            I just have a couple of comments. You said:

            “Perhaps viewing “Anglicanism” as a “big tent” is thus the same sort of flawed procedure as attempting to generalize about “Protestants” or “Protestantism” when there are so many variations?”

            My characterization of Anglicanism as a “big tent” comes from a perception that this is how Anglicans like to sell themselves (not sure this is fair, but it is my perception). I think this is perhaps not exactly the same as other variations within Protestantism for the reasons Nordic Monk describes mainly. I would imagine more of a potential for accountability *within* a denomination insofar as its bishops (or clergy) actually have some responsibility and authority to publicly anathematize each other’s heretical teachings, or within regional hierarchies even officially remove a persistent renegade from their ranks, thereby preserving the purity of their doctrinal commitments if they so choose.

            “No doubt if I was interested in “dirt” I could find plenty in the Orthodox Church, but would any of you accept for a moment that such was an indicator that Orthodoxy is a bad belief? Of course not.”

            Of course you’d find plenty of dirt in the Orthodox Church! I’m not sure that clergy sinning, though reprehensible, has the same theological implications as publicly preaching heresy and actually seeking to defend the abandonment of the traditional Christian definition of marriage and sexual morality, for example, and still being allowed to retain the teaching office of the church. This distinction seems to be what is driving many former Anglicans holding to traditional Christian beliefs into other more conservative Christian communions. Many of those leaning more fully on historic Christian ecclesiology (Anglo-Catholics) are being received into the Eastern Orthodox Church or the Roman Catholic Church.

            You’re right that the hypocrisy of its members is not a reason to declare a church’s teachings false, though.

  20. Jnorm

    Tim Enloe,

    Back in my protestant years, I hated what I saw a number of protestant evangelicals doing when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity not being seen as an Essential of the Christian Faith. I am good friends with a Holiness Church of God pastor who refuses to see the doctrine of the Trinity as a Salvation issue. He believes that Scripture allows Oneness Pentecostals to be true christians(in the protestant sense of the word).

    I personally hate that. I strongly believe that the doctrine of the Trinity should be a Salvation issue. I strongly believe that it is an Essential of the Christian Faith.

    As you know, I feel the same way about Christology, and so we will just have to agree to disagree. I know you feel that the fine tuned parsing of words of the later centuries as formulated in the Ecumenical councils aren’t essential, but I see the councils as being essential for if the essence of what they expressed is true, then it really doesn’t matter how complex/advanced or simple/primitive the expression over the centuries.
    and so we are going to have to agree to disagree on this as well.

    Uhm, when we look at the salvation of infants and the severely mentally handicapped (severe down syndrome and maybe other mental health issues), we know that they are unable to mentally grasp the details of these things, and so I don’t believe that salvation is all of the mind alone. No, I believe Salvation is Incarnational, and so it really doesn’t matter if one doesn’t know certain things in great detail. What matters is are they united to Christ. To me, this is Incarnational! It is united to the visible world. To visible things. To a visible Divine and Human Organism. It is not something invisible only, for Jesus is not invisible only. And so when someone comes to Christ! Comes to Jesus! They are coming to someone who is Incarnate. Thus, they are coming to something that is visible. This is where we will have to agree to disagree!

    For me, Christology is at the very center of the issues of Salvation, Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the Eucharist, The Bible, Hermeneutics, especially in regards to the Old Testament, free will and Predestination, Icons, veneration of the Saints. …..etc.

    • Tim Enloe

      If I’m understanding you rightly, particularly your second to last paragraph, then we don’t actually disagree, for there it seems you are acknowledging that strict mental comprehension of all these Christological matters is NOT necessary for someone’s salvation. You’re right about the mentally disabled and infants, but I’m just saying the same logic of exception has to be extended to many adults, whom God has not gifted with great intellectual abilities (or else, whom He has not gifted with the substantial amounts of time required to reflect on these matters.) You can’t seriously expect the ordinary guy, who works 50+ hours a week at an auto repair shop to support his family of 5 little children, to be able to make sure he’s not somehow a tacit Nestorian or Monophysite in the things he says he believes about Christ. Most people are not philosophically inclined, but “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish” doesn’t require deep reflection to understand – so again, we ought not to set the bar higher than God does. You can’t actually be saying, surely, that “believes in Him” in that verse means being able to parse out the person / nature distinction with total accuracy so as to avoid all hints whatsoever of any heresy.

      I agree that Christology is “essential to the Faith,” but that needs to be qualified, too. The Faith has a public and a private dimension. The public dimension is guarded by the ministers, and it is they who need to make sure they are not heretics in terms of Christology. The private dimension is not normative in relation to the public, and is a lot less important. It’s not that it doesn’t matter at all if oneself is a Nestorian, but it doesn’t matter as much as if the official organs of one’s church are.

      • Nordic Monk

        ***for there it seems you are acknowledging that strict mental comprehension of all these Christological matters is NOT necessary for someone’s salvation.***

        Perry mentioned this to you this summer: we are talking about logical and theological consistency of IDEAS, not recipients of grace or salvation.

        • Matthew N. Petersen


          I think you’re correct in general, but I’m not sure you’re correct in this instance. The issue he seems to be debating with JNorm is whether people with an incorrect Christology can be recipients of grace and salvation–though I agree this is an incorrect conversation to have.

          • Baroque Norseman

            Mea culpa. Another angle to look at it is that Churches with incorrect Christology will cease to be recognizable churches over the long run. Consider the Nestorianism in Reformed churches. As Nestorius split the person of Christ, so too many Reformed churches split and divide (and eventually disappear) every six months.

          • Matthew N. Petersen

            That’s a good point.

        • Tim Enloe

          I know that consistency of ideas is what Perry is talking about, but I know from years of experience that Perry is a very careful thinker who chooses his words precisely to express concepts accurately and with a minimum of distortion. I don’t have as much experience with Jnorm as I do with Perry, so I’ve been trying to clarify what he means by saying correct understanding of Christology is necessary for salvation.

      • Jnorm

        Tim Enloe,

        What I said about infants and those with severe down syndrome was within a certain context. We give Holy Communion to our Baptized infants, and so it’s within the context of a parish setting.

        We disagree because of what we believe on other issues. This is why I wanted to agree to disagree. Every doctrine influences another, and so when going back and forth with me, you maybe able to see a number of other doctrines influencing my thought. Now in going back and forth with you, I am seeing a number of other protestant doctrines influencing your thought:

        1.) A form of Sola Scriptura

        2.) The Sufficiency of Scripture

        3.) The Perspicuity of Scripture

        4.) The Invisible Church idea

        5.) Salvation being static or a one-time deal and not an ongoing process of past, present, and future.

        We are not going to agree for I disagree with you on the five things listed above. I am an agnostic when it comes to the ultimate salvation of individuals in the area you are talking about. For that is something I can’t really know. What I can know is where to find Eternal Life.

        You quoted John 3:16, now, I am an agnostic on the Salvation of individuals in the example you gave. That is not my call to make.

        However, what I want to know is where will you draw the line? Can a line be drawn? I know of evangelicals who went back and forth over the issue of Mormons being saved(in the popular North American evangelical protestant understanding of the word) or not. Where will you draw the line? Mormons can quote John 3:16 too!

        I have a protestant Holiness evangelical friend who believes Oneness Pentecostals are saved(in the popular North American evangelical protestant understanding of the word) Oneness Pentecostals can quote John 3:16 too!
        The followers of Malachi Z. York can quote John 3:16, the same with the Hebrew Israelites, the Nation of Islam, and a number of other groups.

        And so where do you draw the line? And why should other protestants agree with where you draw that line?

        Why should I agree where you draw that line when the Historic Christian Faith already decided on the issue?

        And so it’s probably best if we agree to disagree!

        • Jnorm

          Tim Enloe,

          To go where you want me to go would ultimately distort my Christology. For how is Christ one?

          Ephesians 4:4-6
          “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

          Thus another reason for us to agree to disagree!

          • Tim Enloe

            If we’re going to have to agree to disagree, all I ask is that we make sure we’re clear on what we disagree. I’m not asking you to give up your view of the importance of formal Christological propositions. I’ve only been trying to clarify what you mean by saying these things are necessary for “salvation.” I’d rather not believe that you believe that each and every person who wishes to spend eternity in bliss with God has to spend his earthly life wracked with anxiety in order to ensure he hasn’t messed up the person / nature distinction somehow or allowed tacit, subtle Nestorian ideas to creep into some barely understood corner of his theology. Is that what you believe? If not, then we don’t disagree on the most fundamental point that I’ve been trying to clarify with you.

          • Jnorm

            Tim Enloe,

            If I answered yes to your examples then I would of either abandoned my Christological views or my Christological views would of been inconsistent with other doctrines connected to it.

            Is Jesus one Person or two? Or in this case thousands? Is the Church One or many? If the church is many then that’s a form of Ecclesial Nestorianism.

            Did God become Incarnate or was his humanity only imaginary? Is the Church visible or is it’s visible-ness only imaginary……not really all that important. If what’s important is the invisible church then that would be a form of Ecclesial Docetism.

            And so the way you want me to answer your examples would distort my understanding of Christ and Church.

        • Tim Enloe

          Jnorm, very quickly: on your list of things we must agree to disagree with, I disagree with your #5. The idea that salvation is a static one time event is not part of my beliefs, nor is it a part of classical Protestant thought. If memory serves, on some other thread not long ago I outlined for you what classical Protestant thought says about “salvation” – the word cannot be left to stand alone, because it’s ambiguous. We see “salvation” as being comprised of justification (past event), sanctification (ongoing growth in holiness), and glorification (future event). How do the Orthodox see it?

          • Nordic Monk

            Fair enough, but few people in the world accept that particular Reformed gloss on “salvation” (given the horrendous fact of the ubiquity of American Evangelicalism).

            Secondly, given the Federal Vision controversy, particularly to those who were caught in the middle in the Southern United States, salvation means my faith-ing in Jesus alone. period. Anything else is papistry.

            No, that is not what the Reformed traditionally believed, but nor is that what Reformed presbyteries in America want to hear (and ordain!!!).

          • Jnorm

            Tim Enloe,

            We see Salvation as being united to Christ. For that is where Salvation is. It is in Christ! Tim, I know you are saying Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. Now if you were a Wesleyan Arminian protestant then I would say yes, in many certain areas your understanding of that is not that far from us. But you’re not a Wesleyan Arminian protestant and so what do you really mean by those words? What do you really mean when you say you see it as a process? I don’t know that much about Federal Vision, yes I know some things about them, but not that much and so what do you mean when you say such things?

            I know what some of my Calvinist friends mean when we talk about such stuff. For them, the word Salvation is limited to Justification. They would see the word Sanctification as a by product of Justification, very similar to how they would see works in their system as being a by product of faith. Well, saving faith.

            So what do you mean when you say what you say? Also, when you say the words “classical protestant”, which tradition are you talking about? The Lutheran or the Reformed(including Anglican)? Also, are you including their reactions to the Roman Catholic counter Reformation when it comes to your use of the words “Salvation, Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification”?

            Also, how strict are you in seeing the word “Justification” preceding Sanctification”?

            As a reformed protestant, do you accept or reject synergy in your category of Sanctification? If you accept synergy then you are closer to us than other reformed protestants are.

      • Perry Robinson

        Tim, Perhaps we can’t and shouldn’t expec tthe ordinary guy to understand such things. But then again, when he’s armed with Calvin’s insititutes and is swinging away at us, he should be ready to play with the big boays and not complain that its “too hard” when het gets his noose bloodied. Frankly Protestants dish it out all to easily and as a matter of *argument* they should be able to take a bit of it. as a matter of argument, these topics are all fair game and ifpeople can’t hack it, well, don’t go around the blockwith the big dogs if you’re going to piss like a puppy.

        • drake


          Lol! Ah the huberis of the demonic. Your Father the devil would be proud, but those who have read through all your “writings” are not as impressed with you as you are.

          [Note: Drake, Personal attacks are not permitted on this site. RA]

  21. drake


    “For me, Christology is at the very center of the issues of Salvation, Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the Eucharist, The Bible, Hermeneutics, especially in regards to the Old Testament, free will and Predestination, Icons, veneration of the Saints. …..etc.”

    I have a question: Why then didn’t the first general council concern Christology and the Trinity? Why did it focus on salvation by grace (Acts 15)? This seems altogether embarrassing for the Eastern Orthodox that the apostles gave priority to two major issues: the Law and the believers relationship to that law in explaining salvation by grace alone. That is, they prioritized their obligation to the original religion; to explain how Christianity flowed out of Judaism, not substituting it for something completely unrecognizable, which is what you have with Anchorism (Eastern orthodoxy-Roman Catholicism).

    • Jnorm


      What does the word Grace mean to you? Also, what do you see in these passages?

      Colossians 1:20
      “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

      Colossians 2:9-17
      “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

      When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

      Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

      Colossians 3:9-11
      “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

      Acts chapter 15 was mainly based on what Paul was doing among the gentiles and the circumcision factions’ interference in Paul’s mostly gentile church plants. Drake, what does it mean to be a christian? Must one be a jew first in order to be a christian? Meaning, must one observe the Mosaic law first in order to be a christian? What does it really mean to be in the Body of Christ? What does that mean?

      You see, not only does Jesus Reconcile God and man within Himself, but he also reconciles man and man as well. There are more passages that I could site, but there is really no way to get around the Person of Christ when it comes to the issue of Salvation, Ecclesiology…….etc.

      Jesus is at the very heart of the issues! I gotta run!

  22. drake


    What you have in Eastern Orthodoxy, is nowhere in the Old Testament. Period. Show me angelic virginity, show me penance, show me prayer to and kissing of idols, where are the monasteries, where is the hesychasm, where is prayer to dead saints, show me asceticism, intrinsic efficacious powers to the monastic disciplines, prohibitions to marry, infant communion, sacramental regeneration?

    • Lurker

      Please don’t troll here.

    • Nordic Monk

      That question presupposes an RPW take on the Scriptures. That doesn’t mean it is a wrong question to ask, just that most people outside a subset of the Reformed world do not read the Bible that way.

      • Perry Robinson

        Ah, there must be no virgins in the OT I guess. Hot damn!

        • drake

          Can you show me where I said there were no virgins in the OT Perry? What I denied is the existence of the Anchoretic Doctrine of Angelic Virginity.

  23. drake


    First, thanks for dodging everything I just asked of you. Typical.

    “What does the word Grace mean to you? Also, what do you see in these passages?”

    I don’t like the language of what things mean to me. I extend the work of major Protestant authors. So everything I believe is either a direct assertion or extension from a major Christian author.

    Treatise on Grace by Jonathan Edwards says in defining grace,

    ““SUCH phrases as common grace, and special or saving grace, may be understood as signifying either diverse kinds of influence of God’s Spirit on the hearts of men, or diverse fruits and effects of that influence”

    So the “stuff” of grace is the holy spirit. Different “kinds” of grace are simply different operations of the same “stuff”. Grace is not something created.
    Eph 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,

    “Also, what do you see in these passages…

    The Christus Victor aspect of the atonement that has been so popularly used in the past 5 centuries to promote postmillennialism. Since the advent of pluralism and secularism, Protestant Christians in the west had to take a pessimistic view of the state and the future in general, not realizing the Christological and sacerdotal implications. This has all been by Jesuit design from the counter reformation. They wanted a way to topple the Protestant establishments and so they started schools teaching secularism. If they could not have the western nations, no one was going to have them.

    “Drake, what does it mean to be a christian?”

    To believe in the JEWISH, Messiah Jesus Christ.

    “Must one be a jew first in order to be a christian?”

    He who is a christian is a jew. Rom 2: 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. You see the OT was a spiritual religion. You and the Baptists make the same mistake.

    “Meaning, must one observe the Mosaic law first in order to be a christian?”

    Depends on what you mean. A godly Christian observes the moral laws of Moses. The best explanation of the Westminster view of this is in Sherman Isbell’s The Divine Law of Political Israel Expired: General Equity. It is a correction of modern theonomy and an exposition of the Westminster view of things. Isbell says,

    “The theonomists’ denial of the more substantial distinction made by the Confession is evident in that they do not appeal to the moral law as the standard by which to separate what remains obligatory in the judicial law from what does not. In the Confession’s hermeneutic, the moral law is the measure for identifying the moral element in the ceremonial and …. [Note: Remainder deleted because the 500 word count limit per day I set for Drake was exceeded — Robert]

    • robertar


      1) Please keep your tone civil.
      2) Please keep to the topic of the posting.
      3) Don’t forget the 500 word per day limit I imposed on you. The policy still remains in effect. See my comment on July 27, 2011 Book Review: Incarnation and Sacrament.”


    • Perry Robinson

      Treatise on Grace by Jonathan Edwards says in defining grace,

      ““SUCH phrases as common grace, and special or saving grace, may be understood as signifying either diverse kinds of influence of God’s Spirit on the hearts of men, or diverse fruits and effects of that influence”

      So the “stuff” of grace is the holy spirit. Different “kinds” of grace are simply different operations of the same “stuff”. Grace is not something created.”

      Created effects are created things eveb if they are brought about by divine power.

      • drake

        Show me how an operation of the Holy Spirit is a created effect of divine power. A Christian’s sobriety from a life of drug use is a created effect, but the power that freed them is uncreated.

        • Karen

          Perry, I will be interested to see what you do with this question. Drake’s explanation sounds very Orthodox to me, but I’m sure you have a deeper level of understanding of the implications of putting it as Drake/Edwards do in light of all the historic doctrinal developments leading up to the presuppositions (i.e., the theological and linguistic context), East and West, they were/are working with.

          • Perry Robinson

            Karen you seem reasonable so I’ll converse with you.

            Simple, Do causes fully preserve themselves in their effectxs? Does God case the world to exist? Is the world an effect of God’s power? Is the world of the same essence as God or no? It is not hard to see from there that on his view the union is to be cashed on the fulcrum of causal diminishment such that the effect is not of the same nature as the cause. Are the virtues in us on his view or the Reformed view effects of divine power in the soul? Are they created things or uncreated things? All of that should be sufficient to show that his remarks above are contradictory.

            As for Edwards, he end sup I think and I am not alone in thinking this in a Platonic view of the relation of God and creation along pantheistic lines, along with making creation necessary.

          • robertar


            Thank you for your insightful contributions!

          • Karen

            Perry, I hear you, brother! 🙂

          • Karen

            Okay, sorry, Perry. That “I hear you” was for your comment below about being glad you are no longer a Calvinist.

            You are very kind to reply to me, but your reply shows me that philosophically this stuff is way over my head! In the meantime before you had responded, I thought of John 15:5 (and a few other verses) and considered that the “effects” of God’s power at work in the believer are nothing more (I should say nothing less!) than the evidence of His Presence within the believer. They are never without His Presence, but rather the fruit of an increasing union between the believer’s will and His will. To the degree that the human will receives Him, He is present (as “we can bear it” as the Orthodox hymn of the Transfiguration proclaims). We are, as we yield to Him, transformed “from glory to glory.” This transformation is not a “created effect” *independent of God’s Presence/power,* as if it could remain in the believer if God’s indwelling presence was withdrawn. It is the fruit of synergy–the union between the human will and God’s. Does this correspond at all to what you said?

            As for Jonathan Edwards that is interesting, but I haven’t studied his thought. (I have understood from some Orthodox that have, that much of his devotional thought is amenable to Orthodoxy, but obviously not so much his theology!). Perhaps someday Drake may be of a mind to consider at least your arguments, even if he disdains your presumed spiritual credentials, but I won’t hold my breath!

      • drake

        What you need to do first though Perry is become a Christian before you study the metaphysics of grace. The gospel of Jesus Christ first tells you that you are a sinner. What that means is that you have violated God’s Moral Law as given to Moses in the 10 commandments, in the genus of ethics not the genus of being. Jesus Christ took, not a universal humanity, for that can be nothing but eternal, but a particular instance of humanity in this temporal world. In so doing he obeyed God’s moral law perfectly and rendered himself up as the sacrifice to satisfy the divine justice for the sins of men both Jew and Gentile. Divine justice that is a volition at the level of nature in God the Father; the same divine justice that demands your eternal punishment if you do not accept the Jesus Christ of the Holy Scriptures. The same divine justice that the early Fathers rejected to buttress their universalist-remedial view of the after-life.

        • Karen

          Drake, I am no expert, but by no means did all of those whom Orthodox consider Fathers (Origen is not one of them) entertain a “universalist-remedial view of the after-life,” and certainly the Orthodox Church does not teach this as a dogma–on the contrary, in it’s liturgy (which expresses the consensus of the Orthodox Fathers, and takes precedence over the teaching of any individual Fathers of the Church), it expresses a firm teaching on the distinction between the wicked and the righteous at the Final Judgment and a very sober attitude about the seriousness and tragedy of sin and the believer’s personal responsibility to struggle in the power of God against it.

          A *version* of universal salvation might fairly be considered a *hope* for some Orthodox. In my opinion, inasmuch as this Orthodox hope is based, not on a misguided optimism about man’s “goodness” (as is much of modern liberal humanism), but on a depth of vision and hope in the unspeakable riches and purity of God’s eternal mercy and goodness, I think it is one that has an exceedingly Christian heart in that “God is not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” St. Gregory of Nyssa is one of the only Fathers in Orthodoxy (apart from St. Isaac the Syrian) that I am aware of that expressed this as theological speculation (not dogma), and most believe he was just following Origen’s thought in good faith at the time, so in view of his overall context, later Orthodox Councils did not excommunicate him the way they did Origen for this teaching. This does not imply they found his teaching Orthodox on this issue. Even St. Isaac the Syrian considers that God’s Being/love, that is experienced by *all* creation in the summing up of all things in Christ, “chastises” or “scourges” the wicked even as it comforts and rejoices the redeemed. He expressed his belief in the ultimate redemption of all as an *opinion* and a *hope,* but, in true Orthodox fashion, submitted himself to the Church’s official dogma, i.e., his teaching does not have the nature of a dogmatic assertion *contra* the teaching of the Church.

          In my own experience, the historical reality of this strain of thought in some Church Fathers esteemed by the Orthodox Church, and Orthodox teaching in its full context with its sober “optimism” (as it may seem) about the exceeding greatness of God’s mercy and power to redeem has been a welcome antidote for me to some Protestants’ excessive emphasis on the power of sin’s depravity to the point of making it seem as if God Himself is impotent against the powers of darkness to deceive and destroy most of his human creation and bound to some foreboding “Divine Law” (sort of like the pagan gods were bound to “Necessity”), so that He must, in order to be found “just” according to this “Law,” punish all offenders of this Law *by withdrawing His love* from unrepentant sinners (with the implication–and this is key to my objection to this strain of thought within Protestantism–that He might still, if He indeed *chose* to, extend it!). Having looked in some depth at this issue, I find this latter thought profoundly pagan in its mindset and a perverse and ignorant interpretation of the Scripture’s teaching on the nature of God, of sin, and of the basis of the Final Judgment.

          • drake

            You still did not show the necessity for eternal punishment and you failed to distinguish your view from the remedial view. The remedial view cannot sustain eternal punishment. Again, how do you get the necessity for eternal punishment without the divine justice- juridical package?

        • Perry Robinson

          Stuff like this makes me glad I am not a Calvinist anymore. Now, where’s that icon of the Theotokos so I can kiss it?

  24. drake


    You are a coward and a fraud. You have no business with this so called blog. I have never seen on any blog a word curfew. I have 54 Theses before you Robert. http://eternalpropositions.wordpress.com/41-reasons-why-i-am-not-eastern-orthodox/

    I have had Orthodox priests across the planet email me about this list so until you deal with it you’re just posing as an apologist.

    • Baroque Norseman

      What he means by word curfew is that few mortals can (or would even want to) read massive book length responses.

    • Nordic Monk

      I looked at your list. While I try to avoid anything smacking of Clarkianism for my own mental, spiritual, and emotional health and sanity, a few of the articles almost looked interesting. Some thoughts about both your site and this one:

      1. Learn some people skills. Calling the host of a blog a “fraud and coward” usually isn’t the best way to get your point across. For those in the know, it simply reaffirms what everyone already fears about the devotees of Gordon Clark: it’s hard for you guys to do theology without going into extreme rhetoric.

      2. While some of your fabled “lists” are interesting, few people in the world have the time and energy to “read everything before debating me.”

      3. Following (2) learn the Shakespearean maxim, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

    • Nordic Monk

      Some of your articles on ADS are actually quite good. Just professional courtesy here.

    • Eric

      I shall pray for you!

  25. David

    My oh my, what a few days of busy work elsewhere can cause one to miss! Just a few quick observation/bullet points.

    — With so many accusing others of misunderstanding and gross caricature – might be time for a new Blog post!?

    — No, Robert is no coward or fraud, but courageous to try what he’s trying here. No way to please everyone…so he won’t. (Drake is out of line and to me contributes nothing of real value here.)

    — No, most of us don’t & never will read long blog posts…get over it.

    — No one is duty bound to read or answer questions might think up?

    — A perfectly worded/nuanced Christology is a wonderful goal — all but humanly impossible.

    — I’ve loved reading and learning more great stuff — remembering the first Blog per John MacArthur saying “The Orthodox really don’t do theology”!

    — Robert has been far more the gracious gentleman of real maturity, presuming and caricaturing far less than his often touchy detractors — who came here with huge chips on their shoulders.

    — No, comprehending even the best of Christological statement is not “necessary” for salvation. We often bounce between the ditch of ‘Theological-Scholastic-Minutia’ — and the ditch of ‘Fundamentalist-Minimalism’. Lord have mercy upon us.

    “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Eph. 4:32

    And…that’s all I got to say ’bout that! Lighten-up brothers. 🙂

    • Karen

      God bless you, David!

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