Archive for the ‘Nestorianism’ Category

Brief Responses to Jay Dyer

April 14, 2010

Jay Dyer has resurrected a few old jibes at his blog in two posts (first)(second).

In the first article he resurrects the assertion (which I already debunked) that Calvinists are Nestorians or “proto-Nestorians”:

Here, St. Athanasius rebukes the Proto-Nestorians and by extension, their modern day re-incarnation, the Calvinists. So, we now officially have five well-known Calvinists who have made pro-Nestorian statements: A.A. Hodge, R.J. Rushdoony, Eric Svendson, Turretinfan and John W. Robbins co-author, Sean Gerety.

Mr. Dyer is being a little misleading in presenting things this way. Speaking only for myself and A.A. Hodge, our comments were that Nestorius was false accused of holding Nestorianism. Jay’s comment suggests something else to the reader.

What about the substance of what Athanasius wrote? Is it opposed to Reformed theology? On the contrary, Athanasius properly distinguishes between the human and divine natures, even while affirming the unity of the person: “But the Word Himself offered His own Body on our behalf that our faith and hope might not be in man, but that we might have our faith in God the Word Himself.” And again: “For humanly He enquires where Lazarus is laid, but raises him up divinely.”

Athanasius even mentions the issue of the substitutionary atonement: “And it has been made plain to all that not for His own sake but for ours He underwent all things, that we by His sufferings might put on freedom from suffering and incorruption [1 Corinthians 15:53], and abide unto life eternal.” And again: “But in the same body in which He was when he washed their feet, He also carried up our sins to the Tree [1 Peter 2:24].”

The second article resurrects the assertion that Calvinists are Manicheans (which I already debunked). The second article primarily relies on Gregory of Nyssa. The bigger part of my response will have to wait for another time, where I will argue that although Gregory of Nyssa does not make reference to “original sin” as such (that term is one that has historically been more popular in the West, especially following Augustine), Gregory inconsistently affirms various of the aspects of it, namely those aspects that are the most clear from Scripture. The lesser part of the response (and an adequate response to the quotation provided from Gregory) is that like Gregory of Nyssa we oppose dualism of the kind that posits two distinct first causes: one good and one evil. Thus, we avoid the charge of Manicheanism or even any reasonable accusation of tendency thereto.



>Further Response to Dyer

March 16, 2009

>Dyer has produced a further response (link) and my response to him is below.

Dyer wrote: “1. Turretinfan is at it again, in an audio response to my audio response, found here. To begin with, he says I mischaracterize the reformed position according to Charles Hodge about Jesus suffering the wrath of God, which is not true. Charles Hodge most definitely held to this awful, anti-Trinitarian view. Turretinfan says I misquoted, because Hodge was simply laying out various views. On the contrary–it is most certainly his view.”

a) My objection was to the idea that Hodge held that Jesus had to spend an eternity in hell. That was not Hodge’s view, though Mr. Dyer made it sound like that.

b) Hodge, of course, held the perfectly orthodox view that Jesus suffered the wrath of God.

c) Mr. Dyer has not shown that this orthodox view is anti-trinitarian, nor (apparently) can he do so. We’ve given him several tries to do so, and all we can do is ask him again to try to set forth his demonstration.

Dyer wrote: “Hodge clearly says that the Father turned His favor from the Son for a period.”

I answer: ok

Dyer continued: “That is an undeniable division in the Trinity, if one accepts the orthodox view that Jesus is a divine Person.”

I answer: Why on earth should that be? Mr. Dyer just asserts this, but he in no way substantiates this.

Dyer continued: “Note that Hodge doesn’t want to go there, as its “vain to enquire.” Yes, it is, because its heretical.”

I answer: That’s just a silly argument from Hodge’s unwillingness to speculate.

Dyer continued: “For more examples of this heresy, Nick of Nick’s Catholic Blog has listed several quotes here.”

I answer: I’m actively debating “Nick” on the topic of the atonement, and so (in fairness to Nick) I’ll decline to address Nick’s quotations using this mechanism, as that might be viewed as trying to circumvent the word limits imposed on that debate. The debate will be over in a month or two, at which point I will be free to respond at greater length if need be.

Dyer again: “2. Turretinfan goes on to remark that St. Augustine had some things in common with Rome, but others in common with Protestantism. He implies its the same with St. Athanasius. This is not the case. I showed last year in this article that St. Augustine is thoroughly a Roman Catholic, and its not just “monasticism” as Turretinfan tries to say. St. Augustine was a Catholic Bishop. Consider his view of the papacy, as shown here.”

I answer:

a) I don’t know why it is so difficult for Mr. Dyer to accept that Athanasius and Augustine both had points of agreement with the Reformed church as well as points of agreement with his (Dyer’s) church. It’s like he wants to exclusively “own” the early church.

b) But, the early church cannot be “owned” by anyone. They are who they are, which was neither “Protestant” nor “Roman Catholic.” That’s why I continue to insist that it is improper to pick a few doctrines where a particular father is not “X” (whether “X” is Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Reformed) and then conclude that a particular father is consequently “Y” (where “Y” is whatever the person making the claim himself is). This is not only an absurd anachronism, it is a display of one’s ignorance of the full range of any particular father’s beliefs as expressed in writing.

c) Certainly, on particular doctrines, we can say that a particular father held to “the Roman position” or “the Reformed position,” but what I’m objecting to here is therefore concluding that they were “thoroughly” this or that, based on one or a few points of agreement.

d) Augustine’s view of the papacy was not the same as post-Vatican I Roman Catholicism’s view. This is the sort of undeniable historical truth that everyone who has seriously explored the topic has to agree. If Dyer is suggesting otherwise, and it sounds like he is, then he is either ignorant of the definition of papal infallibility in Vatican I, or ignorant of Augustine’s mode of thought.

Dyer continued: “Turretinfan says St. Athanasius had no view of papal authority as we do, yet he hasn’t read much of St. Athanasius, since had he done so, he would know St. Athanasius, an Eastern Patriarch, appealed to Rome to Pope St. Julius. for condemnation of Arius. All one has to do is read his Apologia Contra Arianos, which I have.”

I answer: The idea that Athanasius appealed to a bishop of Rome is an example of Athanasius not acting like a modern Reformed person. There is no doubt about that. But why has Dyer conveniently forgotten about Athanasius’ opposition to Pope Liberius, Julius’ successor? If one wants to deal honestly with Athanasius, one has to recognize that parts of Athanasius not only that agree with one’s theology, but that disagree with it as well. It seems that Dyer would prefer to remember only a part of Athanasius’ life and writings, but not the remainder of it.

Dyer wrote: “Yes, I am quoting a second-hand work, but I’ve read Contra Arioanos. Within, St. Athanasius reproduces the entire Arian contrversy, including the papal appeals. It can be read here. I’m willing to bet, however, Turretinfan has not read it. He’s sure, nevertheless, about the Christianity of Augustine and Athanasius’ day.”(errors in original)

I answer: The entire Arian controvery would span many volumes (with Athanasius’ “Against the Arians” providing a partial summary). If, however, Mr. Dyer can find one time where Athanasius claims that the doctrine of the Arians is wrong using the reasoning that (a) the pope says it is wrong, and (b) the pope is infallible, then I’ll be happy to revise my view of Athanasius. I’m sure I can give plain statements where Athanasius appealled to the infallibility of Scripture – does Dyer think that Athanasius appealed in as clear terms to anything else as infallible besides Scripture alone?

Dyer wrote: “3. Inregards to Jaroslav Pelikan, with whom Turretinfan is obviously unfamiliar, since he didn’t know he was the chief editor of Luther’s works and became Serbian Orthodox, I admit to not knowing the Serbian pronunciations of names (as he made fun of me for doing). And yes, Pelikan if of Serbian descent. However, Pelikan is world renowned as both a patristics scholar and asa textual scholar. I’ve read several of his books, and I highly recommend them, including others beyond his 5 volume set, such as his work on the Cappadocians, his book on textual traditions, and his book on Mary in history. I mean, seriously–we used Pelikan at Bahnsen Seminary.”

I answer: As with so many things, Dyer is wrong in assuming that I’m unfamiliar with Jaroslav Pelikan. There’s no doubt that he’s a famous historian – and it is for that he is known, not for being a great theologian. If you recall, however, Mr. Dyer cited him as a theologian in his original audio clip, and I took him to task for that. He may well have edited/translated one edition of Luther’s works (actually, an impressive 22-volume edition in English, if I recall correctly), but (of course) the primary editions of Luther’s works came out long before Pelikan was a twinkle in his father’s eye.

Dyer continued: “Turretinfan continues to say I do’t understand Nestorianism when what I mentioned was various possibilities for Nestorian outcomes. “

I answer: I think in his attempts to be polemical against Calvinism, Mr. Dyer brings a lot into the definition of Nestorianism beyond what Nestorianism actually is.

Dyer further stated: “There are different ways of being Nestorian, since Nestorius was not always clear, and even admitted a “hypostatic union,” yet always denied a single subject, as McGuckin explains.”

I answer: As I’ve pointed out numerous times already, Nestorius did not define Nestorianism, his theological opponents did. Trying to get Dyer to recognize this difference between Nestorius and Nestorianism seems to be as difficult as getting Amyraldians to recognize the difference between Calvin and Calvinism.

Dyer continued: “St. Cyril did not misunderstand Nestorius, and I have read selections of actual writings of Nestorius at”

I answer: It’s hard to say whether Cyril misunderstood Nestorius or whether Cyril knowingly misrepresented Nestorius. Nevertheless, it does not appear, on the historical record that we have before us, that Cyril accurately represented Nestorius in his characterization’s of Nestorius’ views. I’m not sure why Dyer is so set on defending Cyril on this point. Why not just admit that Cyril was fallible, and may have misunderstood Nestorius for a variety of reasons? Nestorius’ own words can be found (to a limited extent) on-line here (link).

Dyer continued: “I mentioned Pelikan on this because he quotes from Nestorian works.”

I answer: I only addressed the Pelikan issue because it seemed that Mr. Dyer wanted to consider him a theologian rather than an historian.


Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 2 of 13)

January 26, 2009

This is part 2 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).

Jay Dyer says:
1) “[A consistent Calvinist must be] Nestorian, in that the Logos cannot assume a fallen human nature.”

I answer:

a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)

Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). Christ, however, (and only Christ) was immaculately conceived. He was like the sinful flesh of Mary from whom he (after the flesh) came, but his flesh was not itself sinful. He was a true human, but he was the second Adam. He was not under Adam’s federal headship and he did not inherit Adam’s fallen and depraved nature. This is, of course, not only the Calvinist position but also the position of at least most of the major early church fathers who addressed the subject.

b) The Accusation Disputed

The Nestorian error is (to put it concisely) to deny the hypostatic union. Nestorianism, as it is classically defined, argues that Christ was not one person with two natures, but two persons. The existence of the hypostatic union is critical to the Calvinistic view of the atonement. The fact that the person of Christ was of infinite dignity on account of His divine nature makes the atonement of infinite intrinsic worth. The fact that the person of Christ had a truly human nature made the atoning death of Christ possible, as well as making the form of the sacrifice (death of man) a proper suffering of the penalty due. Without one or the other, the atonement would be impossible. Consequently, it would be impossible for a consistent Calvinist to embrace Nestorianism.

Furthermore, this alleged Nestorian error has been disputed. As A.A. Hodge explains in his Outlines of Theology:

The Nestorian heresy charged upon Nestorius, a Syrian by birth, and bishop of Constantinople, during the fifth century, by his enemy, Cyril, the arrogant bishop of Alexandria. Cyril obtained a judgment against Nestorius in the Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431, to the effect that he separated the two natures of Christ so far as to teach the coexistence in him of two distinct persons, a God and a man, intimately united. But it is now, however, judged most probable by Protestant historians that Nestorius was personally a brave defender of the true faith, and that the misrepresentations of his enemies were founded only upon his uncompromising opposition to the dangerous habit then prominently introduced of calling the Virgin Mary the mother of God because she was the mother of the human nature of Christ.

c) The Accusation Redirected

The Nestorians (those associated with the historical Nestorius) never went away, and (ironically) Rome now accepts the Nestorian communion under certain qualified circumstances (link), which (as the linked document cautions) should not be confused with the idea there is full communion between them.

On the other hand, Rome has proven Nestorius’ apparent concerns over the term “theotokos” (literally “God-bearer” but often translated “mother of God”) to be well founded. In the years since “theotokos” became accepted terminology, Mary grew to have an increasing role in the worship of Rome, until today we have apologists for Catholicism insisting that devotion to Mary is a mandatory part of religious life. Now, an official document from the Vatican from the 1970’s states: “With his mind raised to heaven … the priest should very often turn to Mary, the Mother of God, … and daily ask her for the grace of conforming himself to her Son.” (source) If Nestorius were still around today, he’d feel vindicated in opposing the term “theotokos” on the ground that it can lead to what amounts to Mary-worship (though modern Catholicism is careful not to call this sort of veneration of Mary “worship”).

Continue to Part 3


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