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Author Topic: Christology: Christ's Voluntary Participation in Human Experience.  (Read 1030 times) Average Rating: 0
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EkhristosAnesti
'I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."' - Psalm 91:2
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« on: June 24, 2006, 12:51:33 PM »

This thread was created for the purpose of continuing discussion of a topic that was incidental to the main subject of another thread (see here for the beggining of the relevant exchange in that thread), yet which is of such significance so as to warrant the creation of a new thread. The specific issue that was at hand in the other thread concerned whether or not Christ defecated during His Incarnate life. This ultimately concerns the general question of how Christ experienced His humanity in general. That very general question is one that is predominantly taken up by Sts. Athanasius and Cyril, both of whom are pillars of Orthodox Christology, and hence primary focus will be placed on their Christologies in particular.
 
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St. Athanasios is explaining why Christ died by public Crucifixion rather than of sickness or old age.

And that very reason why proves my very point. St. Athanasius states:

"Since it was not fit, either, that the Lord should fall sick, who healed the diseases of others"

St Athanasius is arguing that it was not fit that the Lord Christ fall sick because of who He is (i.e. the one who healed diseases, viz. the Divine Person of the Word). The very reason “why Christ died by public crucifixion rather than of sickness or old age” as explained by St Athanasius, was by virtue of the fact that The Incarnate Word, being the God-Man, was capable of exercising authoritative voluntary discretion with respect to the manner in which He humanly died. He was able to prevent Himself from dying of other natural causes to which His human nature was naturally susceptible to, by virtue of the dominion He naturally possesses over such natural laws (i.e. the very dominion that allows Him to cure sickness in the first place), in order to express and assert His divine authority (since to die by sickness or old age as normal humans do, would be an indication of weakness i.e. it would indicate that He was a victim of His humanity — the principle you are evidently attempting to defend).

St Athanasius goes further to argue that not only was it fit that the Lord not fall sick, but that He in actual fact prevented Himself from sickness, when he asks: "Why, then, did He not prevent death, as He did sickness?"

Ultimately, the experience of Christ as man differs from every other human being's experience in the following ways: (1) Christ could avoid human limitations and weaknesses, at His discretion; He was not compelled to experience every limitation and weakness, but rather, He voluntarily submitted to such things out of compassion for mankind (which is ultimately the center of St. Cyril's understanding of the self-emptying (i.e. kenosis) of The Word), (2) Christ was not ignorant of His experiences; He did not undergo any exerpience without a particular purpose.

This is very basic Athanasian/Cyrillian Christology. If you are unaware of this, I can recommend some books for you to read before further pursuing this discussion, as I would prefer to have an educated discussion on these most significant matters.

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He does not say that "He was able to restrain His hunger", but that he did not "perish of hunger".


I in fact stated that Christ was able “to restrain the effects of His human hunger”; I was implying that Christ had the power, by virtue of His being the God-man, to prevent Himself from starving to death.

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(just like neither you nor I do, despite the fact that we are not Divine)



St. Athanasius states:

"But He did not perish of hunger, because of the Lord that wore it"

According to St. Athanasius, Christ did not not (**watch out for the double negative**) perish of hunger “just like neither you nor I [would]”, but rather, He did not perish from hunger “because of the Lord that wore it”. The fact He did not die of hunger was because, being The Lord (i.e. God the Word), He was able to experience hunger beyond what is humanly capable. It is because He is the God-man, and not just a mere man (i.e. like you or I), that He did not perish. He is obviously referring, not to the experience of hunger per se, but to the extreme experience of hunger to an extent that threatens life (an obvious allusion to Christ's 40 day fast in the wilderness).

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And the claim that your views are Docetism stands if you think that Christ merely had the appearance of being human.

The claim that the Christology of Sts. Athanasius and Cyril is docetistic stems from a failure to recognise/comprehend the distinction between the “what” and “how” aspects of the central issue being discussed; either that, or they stem from an ignorance of what docetism actually entails.

The question at hand does not regard what the nature of Christ’s humanity and human experiences were (i.e. whether real and actual, or fake and merely apparent), but rather how The Person of the Word personally experienced His humanity (i.e. whether voluntarily, as ruler of His Humanity, or involuntarily, as victim of His humanity).

According to docetism, Christ’s humanity, being illusory, was never susceptible to actual human hunger, and hence Christ was never actually hungry; He merely appeared to be hungry, but He never actually experienced human hunger.

According to Alexandrine Orthodoxy, Christ’s humanity, being consubstantial with ours, was susceptible to actual and real human hunger, and He truly experienced such actual and real human hunger, albeit according to His consent to be subject to that human hunger, for He, being God the Word, had power over the natural laws of the body such that He could control the extent to which, if any, He hungered.

It should be noted--and at this stage it will be merely noted, and only further discussed once you are able to grasp the substance of this issue--that there are fundamental soteriological implications that flow from this, in contrast to a Christology that dictates that Christ was necessarily subject to any and every human susceptibility and experience beyond divine control, simply because such susceptibilities and experiences are human--a theory that a) makes no soteriological sense whatsoever (and to argue that it does in light of St. Gregory of Nyssa’s oft-repeated maxim ‘what Christ did not assume He did not heal’, is non-sequitur as I have sufficiently proven thus far), and b) presents a neo-quasi-Arian depiction of Christ.

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but chose to be "immune" from certain human functions such as elimination of bodily waste.

I repeat my previous answer to you:

"First of all, I did not say that He [chose to voluntarily abstain from the human function of defecation]. There is no indication that He did. I am simply saying that He was capable of doing so, and hence we shouldn’t assume that He didn’t. The principles that I have applied in drawing this conclusion with respect to the issue of defecation, were applied by Sts. Athanasius and Cyril to other human functions and processes, including sickness, suffering, and hunger. Since I find no logical reason to discriminate between defecation and other human activities, functions, and processes, my conclusion is validly drawn upon the basis of patristic authority."

As established thus far, according to Athanasian Christology, Christ “chose to be ‘immune’ from certain human [susceptibilities] such as [sickness, and death from starvation]”, hence He is certainly capable of choosing “to be ‘immune’ from certain human functions such as elimination of bodily waste”.

At this stage, I am only arguing the possibility, within an Orthodox Christological framework, that Christ lived His Incarnate life without ever defecating. Once you can agree to this truth, we can then discuss the soteriological implications attached to this, in order to determine whether or not it was likely that He in actual fact did, according to reason and logic, and not some arbitrary non-sequitur notion of Christ experiencing anything and everything in exactly the same way we do simply because He assumed a humanity consubstantial with ours.

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Despite your obvious Docetism EA

The only thing obvious is your lack of ability to critically engage with the patristically based propositions and arguments put forth and repeated in my previous responses. I would appreciate more reason and scholarship from you, and less (or in fact zero if possible) reductionist, non-sequitur, and patristically-opposed accusations.

Since docetism is a charge of such a serious nature, it would only be reasonable to expect that it be grounded in reason and evidence that points beyond the shadow of a doubt towards its validity. Thus far, you have not been able to prove that it is grounded in any reason or evidence whatsoever, let alone reason or evidence of the aforementioned kind.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2006, 12:56:17 PM by EkhristosAnesti » Logged

No longer an active member of this forum. Sincerest apologies to anyone who has taken offence to anything posted in youthful ignorance or negligence prior to my leaving this forum - October, 2012.

"Philosophy is the imitation by a man of what is better, according to what is possible" - St Severus
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2006, 11:43:33 PM »

I have heard it said in church that Christ voluntarily experienced our weaknesses, as opposed to experiencing them by necessity.  Or it is something like that.  I can't recall the exact language of how it is put.  I think, though, that what I have heard is what you are articulating in your post.

What I never understood completely is what the difference is between this and Julianism.  Did Julian teach that Christ could not experience our weaknesses even if He wanted to?  I have just always found the discussions on this topic to be confusing.
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EkhristosAnesti
'I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."' - Psalm 91:2
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« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2006, 12:55:31 AM »

Hey Salpy,

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I have heard it said in church that Christ voluntarily experienced our weaknesses, as opposed to experiencing them by necessity.


It’s a principle undoubtedly implied by St. Athanasius, and one that is further, and more explicitly expounded by St. Cyril. For an excellent and scholarly secondary treatment of the subject, and one that is replete with quotations from primary Cyrillian works, I highly recommend Paul L. Gavrilyuk’s, The Suffering of the Impassible God: The Dialectics of Patristic Thought, (Oxford University Press, 2004). The two central chapters of this book to focus on in relation to the subject of this thread, are chapters two (‘Docetism Resisted: Christ's Suffering is Real’) and four (‘Nestorianism Countered: Cyril's Theology of the Divine Kenosis’).

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What I never understood completely is what the difference is between this and Julianism.ÂÂ  Did Julian teach that Christ could not experience our weaknesses even if He wanted to?


Julian apparently taught that Christ could experience our weaknesses, only if he wanted to, and that he could only experience them in an incorrupt pre-fall humanity. In other words, Christ voluntarily experienced true humanity contrary to the nature of His own humanity, it seems.

St. Severus counters this argument on strictly Athanasian terms: he argues that there is no difference between pre-fall and post-fall humanity in the first place — both such humanities were/are naturally corruptible. The incorruption that Adam and Eve experienced in paradise (for as we say in our own Coptic Liturgy, “O God, the Great and the Eternal, Who formed man in incorruption…”) was incorruption by participation in the Grace of God according to their union and communion with Him, rather than incorruption by nature. Our humanities will only be incorrupt at the second resurrection.

Secondly, St. Severus countered the presuppositions underlying Julian’s doctrine, namely, that there was something inherently sinful about post-fall humanity. In fact Julian went as far as condemning the very sexual act resulting in procreation as tainting the very nature of the one consequently begotten of such an act, by virtue of its allegedly being a sinful act.ÂÂ  St. Severus responded by saying that sin is not an internal or natural aspect of our humanity—we are not born with it. He makes an astounding point regarding how sin is to be regarded as having entered into the world, rather than into our humanity. It is really a sinful world that we experience as a consequence of the fall—a world where ignorance and deceit flourish, consequently corrupting our wills and inducing us to sin. In response to Julian's argument regarding the nature of the marital procreative act, St. Severus dismisses this as absolutely alien to anything in Scripture or Tradition, and goes on to confirm the sanctity of the marital union.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2006, 01:59:06 AM by EkhristosAnesti » Logged

No longer an active member of this forum. Sincerest apologies to anyone who has taken offence to anything posted in youthful ignorance or negligence prior to my leaving this forum - October, 2012.

"Philosophy is the imitation by a man of what is better, according to what is possible" - St Severus
Tags: Julianism St. Severus Christology 
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