The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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From Nestorianism to Monothelitism

The Arian controversy was just a foretaste of what was to come. The Athanasians has substituted the commonsensical Arian idea with one obviously nonsensical. Yet the theological evolution was to develop even further away from common sense to absolute absurdity. The christological evolution was to culminate in a doctrine that was completely devoid of any sense or meaning.

Apollinarianism and Nestorianism

We will start with Apollinarius (c310-390) who became bishop of Laodicea around the year 360. [1] Apollinarius, who, of course, thought of himself as a defender of orthodoxy, was an ardent anti-Arian. In his attacks on Arianism, he taught that Jesus was without a human soul, having only a divine one. [2] This was certainly in-line with the Nicene creed which held that Jesus was of the same substance as the Father. However, his teaching was condemned by the council of Constantinople in 381 as heretical. It seems like the church wants to have its cake and eat it too: Jesus was God but it was heretical to say that he was then not man.

Then early in the fifth century, Apollinarius' teaching was condemned by the bishop of Constantinople, Nestorius. This former monk from Antioch, taught that there were two separate natures, the divine and the human, existing together in Jesus Christ. Nestorius who was a zealous persecutor of heresy, obviously believed that he was simply expounding orthodox doctrine in opposition to Apolinarianism.

Things were not that simple however, the voyage to complete absurdity has not yet ended. Nestorius made an enemy in Cyril (d444), Bishop of Alexandria by denouncing the use of the word theotokos (Greek for "mother of God") to describe the Virgin Mary. Nestorius had said that Mary gave birth to the human but not the divine nature of Jesus.

When Emperor Theodosius II called for a council in Ephesus in 431 to debate the issue of Jesus' nature, Cyril saw his chance. Arriving ahead of Nestorius and his supporters, he quickly started the council and succeeded in having Nestorius deposed and his teaching condemned as heretical. When Nestorius arrived, he held a second council, this time packed with his supporters and deposed Cyril for having convened the council before he arrived! The emperor, annoyed at this bickering deposed both Nestorius and Cyril! [3]

With the theologies of Apollinarius (who taught that Jesus had only one nature, the divine) and Nestorius (who taught that Jesus had two natures, the divine and the human) both condemned as heretical, it seems unlikely that there could be any other theology about Jesus. But again, the church fathers proved themselves equal to the task and pushed the nonsense further.

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Euthychianism or Monophysitism

Eutyches (c378-454), an abbot in a monastery in Constantinople, must surely have thought he had hit upon the right formula at last when he taught, in opposition to Nestorius, that the two natures of Jesus were nevertheless commingled to form a single nature. His doctrine eventually became known as monophysitism. In 448, a council in Constantinople was convened to discuss Eutyches' teaching. Bishops from all over northwestern Asia attended the council. Eutyches, with the support of the Egyptian bishops, particularly Dioscorus (d454), bishop of Alexandria, tried his best to convince the council of the orthodoxy of his teachings. However, he was not convincing enough, and the council condemned his teachings as heretical. Eutyches was deposed. [4]

But Eutyches was a wily creature well adapted to political maneuvering. He appealed for a wider hearing and in 449 a worldwide council in Ephesus was called by Emperor Theodosius II. The Ephesian council was to go down in history as the "Ephesian Robbery" (Latin: Latrocinium). The bishops, probably tired of the neverending theological squabbles, debated with their fists instead of words. Eutyches took advantage of the tumult and manage to convince the council to acquit him of heresy and have him reinstated as an abbot. [5]

His victory was short lived, however. In 451 another council was called by the new emperor, Marcan, at the instigation of Leo I, Bishop of Rome. The council, held at Chalcedon, condemned Eutyches' monophysitism as heretical. The council came up with the following formulation about the nature of Jesus Christ:

We confess one and the same Lord Jesus Christ and we all teach harmoniously that he is the same perfect in the Godhead, the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man...acknowledged in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation. [6]

This formula, which the Chalcedon bishops presented as the orthodox position, surely did not exist in the Nicene creed and needless to say, would have been completely unintelligible to the Nicene bishops. This obviously nonsensical formula, which states that the two natures of the Jesus is at the same time distinct ("without confusion") and at the same time inseparable ("without separation") was called hypostasis. [7]

The hypostatic formula, which at best was an unconvincing compromise, was not accepted by everyone. Severus (c465-538), the Patriarch of Constantinople and a monophysite, rejected the Chalcedonian formula and taught that the natures of Jesus was a kind of mixture.[a] [8] The controversy was thus not resolved by the council in Chalcedon.

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In the next century, Sergius, the Patriarch of Constantinople (in office 610-638), tried to reconcile the monophysites and the Chalcedonians. He taught that although Jesus had two natures, he had only "one mode of activity". The emperor of Byzantine, Heraclius (575-641) in a similar attempt to unite the Christians, issued a decree in 630 that while there were two natures in Jesus, there was only one will. He referred to matter to Pope Honorius I (d638). Honorius I like Heraclius affirmed that Jesus had only one will. This doctrine, that Jesus had only one will, was called Monothelitism. [9] For a time all was well, and it seemed like unity was being achieved.

However within a few years the issue was debated anew. In 633, Sophronius (c560-638), the Patriarch of Jerusalem condemned Monothelitism as the revival of the Eutychean heresy. [10] Heraclius tried to avoid further trouble and schisms by issuing the Ecthesis in 638 that pronounced once and for all that the two natures in Jesus have only one will. The Ecthesis also forbade any further debates on the subject. The Ecthesis was accepted by two council in Constantinople. However, in the third council in the same city in 681, finally condemned both monophysitism and monothelitism as heresies. [11] This council decided that there are two wills but they always coincided.[12]

Although monophysitism was condemned by the council as blasphemous, not all the Christian churches accepted the Constantinople formula. Monophysitism continue to exists to this day. The Coptic, the Armenian and the Jacobite churches are all monophysite churches with about fifteen million followers worldwide today. [13]

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With the condemnation of the monophysitism and monotheletism we have reached the stage of development of Christology that is today shared by the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Churches. [b] Thus was how the Christian concept of God, of the Trinity developed. The Christian concept of God is a monstrosity, an example of how nonsense can be given free reign upon the abdication of reason.

We found that as Christianity developed the concept of Jesus became more and more absurd and meaningless. The Nicene Creed (325) asserted that Jesus was truly God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. The first council of Constantinople (381) made the contradictory assertion that Jesus was also truly man. Hence Jesus took on two natures in Constantinople. The council in Ephesus (431) asserted that Jesus' two natures were nevertheless indivisibly one. In Chalcedon (451) it was further elaborated that although the two natures were indivisible they were also distinct. [14] Then, in Constantinople (681) the bishops decided that Jesus had two wills, but that they always coincided and acted harmoniously with each other. These formulations are absurd and devoid of any sense.

As the rationalist J.M.Robertson (1856-1933) pointed out, the Church, claiming its roots in Judaism was committed to monotheism; and yet the main attraction of Christianity to the pagan converts was the apparent divinity of Jesus, which, logically, tend to make the religion a polytheistic one. The only possible solution is to make both affirmations whenever a controversy arises. This led to a logically contradictory but theologically durable picture of Jesus. [15]

But each time an affirmation was made, a new aspect of christology was being added. It is obvious that the Nicene creed would have shocked even Paul, let alone the original apostles! Christianity, like all social institutions evolved. As Robert Wilken, Professor of the History of Christianity of the University of Notre Dame said in his book The Myth of Christian Beginnings:

There is no original Christian faith, no native language, no definitive statement of the meaning of Christ for all time...No matter how deeply we probe, how early we extend our search, we will never find an original faith. [16]

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a.If the reader is beginning to feel that all these debate about concepts which already have been reduced to nonsense as ludicrous- the author is in complete agreement with him! But such is Christian theology!
b.The account of how the orthodox church broke away from the Roman church is given in the next section. It was to be the final development in christology.


1.Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p28
2.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p318
Robertson, A Short History of Christianity: p110
3.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p318
Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p140
Robertson, A Short History of Christianity: p111
4.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p318
Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p182,343
Robertson, A Short History of Christianity: p111
Wilken, The Myth of Christian Beginnings: p77-78
5.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p319
Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p296
Robertson, A Short History of Christianity: p111
Wilken, The Myth of Christian Beginnings: p79
6.Ibid: p79
7.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p319
8.Ibid: p319
Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p471
9.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p319
Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p246,343-344
10.Ibid: p481
Robertson, A Short History of Christianity: p112
11.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p319
Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p128
12.Robertson, A Short History of Christianity: p112
13.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p319
14.Robertson, A Short History of Christianity: p111
15.Ibid: p113
16.Wilken, The Myth of Christian Beginnings: p185

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© Paul N. Tobin 2000

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