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Author Topic: Question for Oriental Orthodox on beliefs  (Read 7752 times) Average Rating: 0
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JawaMan
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« on: June 02, 2007, 03:08:28 PM »

Hey everyone. Last night I was talking to an Orthodox guy I just met online and we got on the subjects of the miaphysites. He is very much against considering the OO as in the Church. When I asked him why, he told me primarily because of what he learned from personal dialog with Coptic Orthodox priests. He said that he has met tons who only confess one nature of Christ, and used an argument like "flesh can't walk through a wall" or something like that. I suppose this would only make sense if supported monophysitism, which under Eutyches meant Christ's divinity swallowed up His humanity, so if He was not human at all, only then could He walk through a wall. He believes ecumenism has brought out more EO tendencies in the miaphysites in modern times, and that rather than actually believing in true miaphysitism from the beginning, that they changed their beliefs later on to reflect the EO.

Anyway, I wondered, do some people in your Church actually teach this? This bothered me to the core, since I have no reason to suspect this guy was lying, not knowing him beyond last night's conversation. I struggle with doubt constantly, and this shook me up.
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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2007, 04:31:14 PM »

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,11487.15.html

Read reply #15 in the above thread to get a very simplified explaination of who we are, what we believe and how we differ from the EO's. 

With regard to our changing, I have yet to come across an EO or anyone else who can back up that allegation with actual facts or documentation about when or how we changed.  We've always believed in and upheld St. Cyril's Christology.  Unfortunately, however, there is a lot of misinformation about who we are, what we believe and our history.

However, it can be said that there were some Chalcedonians who were embracing the Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia at the time of Chalcedon and who later changed at Constantinople II.  This is made clear by the extreme difficulty Justinian had in getting his fellow Chalcedonians to reject the Nestorian Three Chapters and to accept the belief that One of the Trinity died in the flesh.  Now the Chalcedonians (both Catholic and EO) have no problem seeing the errors of the Three Chapters and accepting that God in the flesh died on the Cross.  For a while after Chalcedon there were also monks living in Constantinople under the protection of the emperor who celebrated Nestorius' feast day.  Now the EO's and Catholics don't do that.  Also, it wasn't until after Constantinople II that the Nestorian Assyrian Church (which had embraced Chalcedon as a vindication of Theodore's Christology) broke away from the other Chalcedonians.  So it can be said that if anyone changed after Chalcedon, it was those supporters of Chalcedon who gave it a nestorian interpretation.  After Constantinople II, however, those people either changed to a more Cyrillian Christology, or they split away with the Assyrians.  That is why you really don't see a difference between what the EO's and OO's believe today.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2007, 10:31:33 PM by Salpy » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2007, 10:23:58 PM »

I struggle with doubt constantly, and this shook me up.

Please don't let the whole Chalcedonian controversy shake your faith.  My priest likes to say that although the Church is perfect, the people who run it are flawed.  I truly believe that the EO's and OO's are one Church.  Why do I believe that?  Look at how our two Churches (after Constantinople II) kept the same faith and worship throughout the centuries.  For a great deal of this time, the OO's and EO's were isolated from each other culturally, geographically and politically.  And yet, when the 20th century came and leaders from the two Churches were able to get together because of diaspora and better communication and transportation, they found they had the same faith.  We believe the same thing, even if we use different language to express it.  Also, our worship, rituals etc. are the same, despite superficial differences.  How could this be?  I believe the only way this could happen is through the Holy Spirit working through both Churches.  Just compare our situation to that of the Western Churches which, despite being geographically and culturally close, have splintered into thousands of groups. 

The events surrounding Chalcedon and its aftermath were unfortunate, but that sort of thing happens in the world.  That is why we must try to be "in the world, but not of it."  That is why we must have faith that God will eventually heal all wounds and realize on earth the unity which I believe already exists in heaven.

Please take my advice and don't get too involved in the Chalcedonian polemics. This is something which the vast majority of Orthodox who have lived on this earth have never bothered with.  It only serves to inflame emotions and cast doubt because it reveals how nasty some people can be, even those who think they are serving the Church.  I've said before in other threads that debating Chalcedon is really only for theologians and others who have nothing better to do with their time. 
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EkhristosAnesti
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« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2007, 11:13:25 PM »

Jawaman,

I think it's more appropriate that you discern the Faith of the Oriental Orthodox Church through proper consultation with her creedal statements, liturgical texts, patristic writings etc. than hearsay from a friend with a polemical predisposition. I can give you a sample of each of these witnesses to give you a hint of the evidence for the undisputable fact that Christ's perfect Humanity is quintessential to OO Christology.

As for "only confessing One Nature"; well yes, that is the dogmatic formula which we have inherited and preserved from St. Athanasius via St. Cyril. One can interpret that to mean that Christ only has a divine Nature, but that would entail a false imposition of one's individual pre-conditioned understanding of those terms and their implications.

As for the theory that the OO Church has changed its beliefs, I, like Salpy, would love to see some evidence of that.

If these issues are sensitive to you, then I encourage you to refrain from discussing them with those who clearly have no idea what they're talking about, and who are incapable of producing anything substantial.
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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2007, 12:38:04 AM »

Thanks guys. You're right, if I'm not a theologian, might as well keep my nose out of it. I've benefited a lot, I know, from the Copts I do know, so I shouldn't let this deter me. I am considering ordering that book by Father Samuel, however!
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« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2007, 03:36:29 AM »

Also, it wasn't until after Constantinople II that the Nestorian Assyrian Church (which had embraced Chalcedon as a vindication of Theodore's Christology) broke away from the other Chalcedonians. 

I believe that this information is incorrect. To the best of my knowledge (I can't find my very good source on the history of the churches of the region at the moment to check, but I'm 99% certain I'm correct) the schism with the Assyrians happened in 5th century, after Ephesus, and so before the split between EO and OO.

As to the OP, I don't actually believe that either side (as a whole - there are always a few individuals that don't adhere to Orthodox belief in any church) has changed their beliefs, and nor do I believe that the beliefs differ in anything more than semantics. The schism is a tragedy but not one caused by heresy. Neither EO accusations of monophysitism nor OO claims of Nestorianism appear to hold much water when you actually examine the beliefs of the two communions - our Christology seems to differ only in terms of emphasis.

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« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2007, 08:32:14 AM »

Sorry but I believe the Nestorians reject Ephesus. I do believe that they saw Chalcedon as vindicating Theodore though.

I must agree with jmbejdl that the emphasis rather than the belief seems to be the difference. Indeed, whilst adhering to a miaphysite view, I can read almost of all of the Tome of Leo without any objection until near the end where the Pope misunderstood what St. Dioscorus believed and his reasoning in regards to Eutyches (who couldn't decide whether to be a monophysite or Orthodox) at that time.

I have just bought Fr. Samuel's book but am yet to read it as I was given several books by His Holiness the Pope and so thought I ought to read at least one of them first.
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« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2007, 08:31:19 PM »

the schism with the Assyrians happened in 5th century, after Ephesus, and so before the split between EO and OO.

You are right that the Assyrians and other supporters of Theodore and Nestorius rejected Ephesus and there was a schism then.  However, there was an agreement between the two camps which restored communion shortly thereafter.  Of course the agreement wasn't very effective.  Everyone interpreted it their own way and the result was Chalcedon.

The Assyrians embraced the language of Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo as a vindication of their Christology, although they stopped short of calling it an ecumenical council because of their rejection of Ephesus.  It was in fact the Assyrian's embrace of Chalcedon and the Tome which got the Armenians to reject that council.

After Constantinople II the split between the EO's and the Assyrians became final, although they did temporarily go back into communion during the time of the emperor maurice.
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« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2007, 01:18:25 AM »

It was in fact the Assyrian's embrace of Chalcedon and the Tome which got the Armenians to reject that council.

After Constantinople II the split between the EO's and the Assyrians became final, although they did temporarily go back into communion during the time of the emperor maurice.

I thought the Armenians ignored it due to a war they were in at the time and only later officially rejected it maintaining union with the Syrians and Copts. Could somebody please provide more information about this area? (Any Armenians present please?)
When was the time of Emperor Maurice and where was this emperor of please? What caused the temporary return? Did the Assyrians change their doctrine to be Orthodox? I am aware the RCs temporarily entered communion with the Assyrians some centuries ago also. Was this at the same time? (I believe the Assyrians accepted Roman authority during this time.)
Thanks and pray for our understanding of these things.
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« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2007, 01:33:31 AM »

The Armenians were not present at Chalcedon because they were not invited.  They were also fighting a brutal war against the Persians who were trying to force them back into the old pagan religion.

In the early 500's, however, it came to the attention of the Armenian Catholicos Babken that the Assyrians (back then they were called the "Persian Church") were saying that the Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia was vindicated at Chalcedon.  The Armenians and Georgians got together for a council, the Council of Dvin.  During this council they condemned not only Chalcedon, but also Eutyches just to make it clear they were not embracing the heresy attributed to him.

I think the emperor maurice lived in the late 500's, sometime after Constantinople II.  He formed a close alliance with the Persian emperor, Khosrov.  As far as I understand the reunion with the Persian (Assyrian) Church was political, as it was the church that was endorsed by the Persian emperor.  I don't think the Assyrians had become what we would call Orthodox at that time.  They did not accept Ephesus.
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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2007, 01:41:08 AM »

where was this emperor of please?

I honestly don't know how to answer this.  I actually got chastised once for using the wrong word.  Some people call it the Byzantine Empire, some the Roman Empire, some the East Roman Empire, some the Late Roman Empire, and perhaps some will call it the Late East Roman Empire, or the East Late Roman Empire.  I've always found the terminology very confusing.    Smiley  He was the emperor of that empire that had its capitol in Constantinople.   Smiley
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« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2007, 02:05:39 AM »

As far as I understand the reunion with the Persian (Assyrian) Church was political, as it was the church that was endorsed by the Persian emperor. 

It just occured to me that this may require explaination.  The Persian empire was pagan (Zoroastrian,) not Christian.  However, to the limited extent that Christianity was tolerated there it was under the form of the Persian (Assyrian) Church.  In other words, the Persian emperor preferred his subjects to be pagan, but if they wouldn't be pagan, it was better to be under the Persian Church than any other. 

The Armenians who lived under the Persian Empire took a certain amount of heat by rejecting the Persian Church's Christology.  In fact, some historians have interpreted the Armenians' rejection of Chalcedon in the early 500's as a move intended to show loyalty toward Constantinople and a sort of rebellion against the Persian Empire.  Recall that at that time the Henotikon was in place in Constantinople, which downplayed Chalcedon.  However, Armenian theologians will tell you that the Armenians rejected it because they had a long history of disagreeing with the Christology of the Persian Church.

As far as the emperor maurice is concerned, he was a close friend of the Persian emperor.  He formed a close alliance and even married his daughter to him.  Therefore, it was probably a political move to reunite the EO Church with the Persian Church.
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« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2007, 02:25:31 AM »

He was the emperor of that empire that had its capitol in Constantinople.

Thanks; that's all I wanted to know in this regard.

I must ask, although I think I know the answer, do the EOs accept or reject the Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia?

Why were the Armenians not invited to Chalcedon?
Doesn't this show that it was never ecumenical?

Thank you for the information you provided. Where might I find out more about the Council of Dvin?

In regards to the Henotikon, do you think it could assist in re-unifying the Orthodox Church today?
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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2007, 03:35:10 AM »


I must ask, although I think I know the answer, do the EOs accept or reject the Christology of Theodore of Mopsuestia?


They condemned Theodore at Constantinople II, so they reject his Christology now.  However, prior to that time, there were enough supporters of Theodore that Justinian had trouble getting Theodore and the Nestorian Three Chapters condemned.  That is why in response to the original post, I said that if anyone has changed it is the EO's, not the OO's.

The reason the Armenians were not invited to Chalcedon I think had to do with the fact that Armenia was way on the edges of the Empire.  In fact, I don't think we were even represented at Ephesus.  There was an Armenian representative at Nicea, though.

Probably the most thorough treatment of the Council of Dvin would be in this book by the late Catholicos Karekin I:

http://www.stvartanbookstore.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=5257

I can't answer the question about the Henotikon, as I really don't know that much about it, aside from the fact that it somehow downplayed Chalcedon.  I think it actually did serve to reunite EO's and OO's for a while.  Somehow I don't think the EO's would want to downplay Chalcedon again the way they did before.  I really don't know.  It would be interesting to get an EO's perspective on this.
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« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2007, 04:04:14 AM »

Salpy, thank you again for your information. May I please ask, are you Armenian?

This might be useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henotikon in regards to the Henotikon.

In brief (straight from Wiki):
~~~
The items the Henotikon endorsed included:
-the condemnations of Eutyches and Nestorius made at Chalcedon;
-an explicit approval of the twelve anathemas of Cyril of Alexandria; and
-avoiding any statement whether Christ had one or two natures, in an attempt to appease both non-Chalcedonian and Chalcedonian Orthodox Christians.
~~~

Would also like to see an EO perspective on this.
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« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2007, 04:14:25 AM »

Yes, I'm Armenian.  I should have made that clear.  It used to say that under my name.  I don't know why it doesn't anymore. 

Thanks for the info on the Henotikon.
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« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2007, 12:14:54 PM »

Thanks for the helpful replies. Regarding the Henotikon, I only know that it relates to the Acacian schism and the Formula of Hormisdas. I am honestly mixed on the issue. While I see the Pope as trying to do a noble thing (save Orthodoxy from heresy), I think that what he condemned as heresy was not heresy at all. It might be said that the constant back and forth between miaphysites and Chalcedonians in the empire would be evidence that not everybody saw eye to eye, and not everybody thought there was heresy at all in each other.

This actually brings up another question, though, about monothelitism. One will versus two wills. My Coptic friend told me that they believe in one will, and I know my Church teaches two, so I am wondering, why the differences in views?

I do agree, by the way, that our two separate Churches really show evidence of the Holy Spirit's work. I wonder if God even allowed this on purpose, in order to show the original Church of Christianity? It's amazing how human weakness can turn into God's tool.
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« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2007, 12:38:25 PM »

The Henotikon to my recollection was a document that was interpreted differently by both parties.  At first, it was a way to get non-C's to accept Chalcedon, so it was interpreted as a Chalcedonian-supported document.  Later, it came to be supported by non-C's as thinking this would eradicate Chalcedon, and then Chalcedonians didn't like the Henotikon.  It's one of those interesting things that when it received different interpretations, it failed to reunify.

As for the wills issue, in a oversimplified nutshell, it's exactly like the natures issue.  We defined "will" differently as the subject of action, the volition, not as the facultyof a nature, which we both agree is two.  We believe all properties of humanity and divinity (nature, will, operation, energy, faculties) were preserved in the union without mingling, confusion, or alteration.

God bless.
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« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2007, 12:06:22 AM »

You will find tons of EOs believing the same way as Nestor. I remember a dialogue with an EO, few years back, who said it exactly the same as the Nestorian way - i.e. the Divine nature was separated and hence only the human nature suffered.

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« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2007, 02:34:34 AM »

You will find tons of EOs believing the same way as Nestor.

I don't think I would say that.  I have come across a few EO's who in the midst of zealous polemics will say things like "It was Christ's human nature that suffered, slept, etc," thus treating His "human nature" like it was a  person.  Most EO's, however, are more careful in their language and I really do think they believe as we believe.  At least that is what our leaders have found in their dialogues with the EO's.

At this point I have to warn everyone that if this thread turns polemical I'll have to put it in the private forum.  So far I think we've kept it from getting into polemics.  Let's try to keep it that way.   Smiley
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« Reply #20 on: June 12, 2007, 04:22:39 AM »

Since they were really new topics, I took the questions about Oriental Orthodox beliefs about the rapture and the afterlife and I put them here:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,11872.0.html
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« Reply #21 on: June 12, 2007, 10:02:26 PM »

I don't mean anything polemic in the questions I'm about to ask.  I want to remain faithful to the Orthodox Faith as I understand it, which means strict faithfulness to Chalcedon and the three subsequent Ecumenical Councils, but I also want to give the traditional OO pov a fair, impartial hearing.  In light of this desire, I would just like to give you the chance to clarify some OO positions in light of what we EO recognize as the authoritative voice of the Church and give you the chance to defend your position against some traditionalist EO accusations.

As for the wills issue, in a oversimplified nutshell, it's exactly like the natures issue.  We defined "will" differently as the subject of action, the volition, not as the facultyof a nature, which we both agree is two.  We believe all properties of humanity and divinity (nature, will, operation, energy, faculties) were preserved in the union without mingling, confusion, or alteration.
So what I read you saying is that in the union of God and Man in the person of Jesus Christ, those characteristics distinctive of the will and energy of each nature are preserved wholly intact "without mingling, confusion, or alteration"?  That in the union, the two distinct wills act in perfect unity as one, with Jesus subjecting His human will and energy to His Divine will and energy (as the language of Constantinople III, quoted below, declares)?
Quote
And we proclaim equally two natural volitions or wills in him and two natural principles of action which undergo no division, no change, no partition, no confusion, in accordance with the teaching of the holy fathers. And the two natural wills not in opposition, as the impious heretics said, far from it, but his human will following, and not resisting or struggling, rather in fact subject to his divine and all powerful will.

Would you care to define what you mean by the words "volition" and "faculty"?

I've also read this from the Orthodox Christian Information Center--yeah, I know to take anything said on that site with a great deal of credulity:
Quote
Excerpt from a letter from Bishop Auxentios regarding my question about the Copts and their claim to be Orthodox:

...The Monophysite's fundamentalistic insistence on one formula ["one nature of the Word incarnate"]—to the exclusion of another that even St. Cyril had come to understand as synonymous [dual consubstantiality]—reflects an un-Orthodox view of dogma. Those of Orthodox spirit know that dogma is imperfect symbols describing Revelation, but not Revelation itself. What is critical for Orthodox is the integrity of that Revelation, not terminological rigidity.
How do you respond to this allegation?

(I quite often get the ironic impression that it is we EO who insist on such rigid terminology against the common recognition that the integrity of Divine Revelation is NOT compromised by recognizing the OO faith as fundamentally the same as the EO.  I'm not sure I share this sentiment, which is why I want to explore this issue more deeply.)



Note to Salpy:  I've not posted on this "Oriental Orthodox Discussion" board before, so I fear that I may be pushing some boundaries with the above questions.  I intend nothing polemic at all, otherwise I would have posted this on the private forum.  If you feel that's where my inquiries belong, I'll gladly take them there.
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« Reply #22 on: June 13, 2007, 12:55:13 AM »

Dear PeterTheAleut,

Quote
That in the union, the two distinct wills act in perfect unity as one

Yet their unity is so perfect so as to be regarded as one will.

To emphasise the point further in both negative and positive terms: their unity constitutes one will, not because the unity obliterates the distinction, but because the unity is perfect, real, and hypostatic. This was the general justification given by St. Cyril with respect to his one nature formula in his letter to Bishop Succensus, and it applies here in respect to will and operation.

Quote
Would you care to define what you mean by the words "volition" and "faculty"?

"Volition" can better be contrasted with "volitional capacity." The former is the "decision", the latter is the "mode of willing." Confusion arises because the unqualified term "will" can be applied to both categories. The Catholic Encyclopedia has an interesting way of qualifying the term 'will' to distinguish its application according to the above two categories: the former is the, "will willed", and the latter is the "will willing." Thus, our confession of "one will" ("one decision", "one volition", one "will willed") safeguards the fact that the natural human will and natural divine will of Christ, are indeed hypostasised by one subject--the hypostasis of God the Word--such that they are necessarily unified by Him--a unity which is expressed by the one ultimate decision made.

Quote
How do you respond to this allegation?

I would respond to Bishop Auxentios by encouraging him to actually read what the Oriental Orthodox Fathers had to say on the matter, as opposed to continuing the tradition of false and unwarranted presumption and ignorance. The dual consubstantiality of Christ is one of the most explicit points made in the Christological works of the OO Fathers that one who has actually read them is quite hard-pressed to miss it.

The very exact phrases “consubstantial with the Father” and “consubstantial with us/mankind”, are explicitly confessed hand in hand in the individual works of Sts. Dioscoros of Alexandria, Timothy of Alexandria, Severus of Antioch, Philoxenus of Mabbug, confessed unanimously by the consensus of OO Hierarchs in the confession presented to Emperor Justinian (which seems quite likely to have influenced the very judgments made at Constantinople 553), and confirmed unequivocally in various Synods held both in Antioch and Alexandria. Anyone who did not confess similarly, was ex-communicated and under anathema.

If you would like exact quotations I can provide them; they’ll all be more or less the same, having in common the relevant phrases, “consubstantial with the Father” and “consubstantial with us”, word for word. How much more explicit can one be on “dual consubstantiality”?
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« Reply #23 on: June 13, 2007, 01:41:35 AM »

Again, in the interest of keeping this thread on topic, I've taken the posts dealing with Oriental Orthodox music and merged them with this thread:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,9840.0.html
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« Reply #24 on: June 13, 2007, 01:50:27 AM »

If you would like exact quotations I can provide them; they’ll all be more or less the same, having in common the relevant phrases, “consubstantial with the Father” and “consubstantial with us”, word for word. How much more explicit can one be on “dual consubstantiality”?
I'd be very interested in reading these documents.  Thank you.
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« Reply #25 on: June 13, 2007, 02:42:38 AM »

Yet their unity is so perfect so as to be regarded as one will.
Foundational to the dithelete Christology of St. Maximos the Confessor, which was embraced by Constantinople III, is the Gospel account of Christ's temptation by the devil after His baptism.  If Christ truly had only one will, the Divine, then He could not have been tempted as He was--I guess this thought implies an absorption of Christ's humanity into the Godhead that even you condemn as heresy.  Is it possible in the perfect union of His human will with His Divine will for Christ to be tempted?
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« Reply #26 on: June 13, 2007, 03:27:04 AM »

I'd be very interested in reading these documents.  Thank you.

It may take me a while to type up all the relevant passages, so give me a bit of time for this.
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« Reply #27 on: June 13, 2007, 03:34:38 AM »

Foundational to the dithelete Christology of St. Maximos the Confessor, which was embraced by Constantinople III, is the Gospel account of Christ's temptation by the devil after His baptism.  If Christ truly had only one will, the Divine, then He could not have been tempted as He was--I guess this thought implies an absorption of Christ's humanity into the Godhead that even you condemn as heresy.  Is it possible in the perfect union of His human will with His Divine will for Christ to be tempted?

I am familiar with Maximus the Confessor's Christology. Ofcourse it is possible for Christ to be tempted (the Gospel accounts do not lie). However, given His one will, He had no potential to sin i.e. given that His human will was hypostatised by the person of God the Word, and hence in perfect unity with the divine will, it had no potential of overriding the divine will in contradiction to its own disposition so as to enable Christ to oppose his own person. As you are familiar with Maximus the Confessor's Christology, i'm sure you are aware that he held to that position also (he attributed sin to the 'gnomic will'--a product of human personhood).
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« Reply #28 on: June 13, 2007, 11:51:49 AM »

We should also not forget that Maximus the Confessor did defend the Pseudo-Dionysian phrase of the "new God-incarnate energy" (if indeed it was "pseudo"), showing the preservation of the divinity and humanity in that phrase.  I think we should take into account that even Maximus accepted flexible terminology so long as it is not Monotheletism one confesses.
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« Reply #29 on: June 13, 2007, 12:04:36 PM »

Quote
We should also not forget that Maximus the Confessor did defend the Pseudo-Dionysian phrase of the "new God-incarnate energy" (if indeed it was "pseudo")

I don't think there's any question of it being "pseudo". Nevertheless, documents attributed to St. Dionysius were highly regarded by both OO's and EO's, which is why OO's were able to use them to their defence. The question of their origin is still being debated I believe, but as far as I know the general trend is to regard them as being probably authored by an OO Syrian monk. I'm definitely open to correction though.
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