Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Holy Trinity and Human Nature

A couple days ago I mentioned an upcoming post concerning dogma and how we think about other things. I think this is an interesting example of what I was talking about in that post.

Pelikan writes (p. 72):
This clarification and expansion of Chalcedon in the direction of teaching two wills and two actions ... took its start from the doctrine of the Trinity, clarifying its christological terminology on the basis of trinitarian usage. In the Trinity there were three hypostases, but only one divine nature; otherwise there would be three gods. There was also a single will and a single action. Thus will was an attribute of a nature and not of a hypostasis, natural and not hypostatic. Hence the person of Christ, with a single hypostasis and two natures, had to have two wills, one for each nature. [emphasis added]
Although it might seem to us - if we think carelessly about the question and ignore the implications of christology described by Pelikan - that a will is something I have by virtue of being a person - an individual hypostasis - we see that the consequences of such thinking fall afoul of what is actually true. In the case of Christ, it would mean that - since he was a divine person with two natures - he had a single will (the divine one); or, if that were to be unacceptable to us, we might go the Nestorian route and insist that in Christ a divine and human person - two hypostases - were united, because Christ clearly had a human will.

But both of these conclusions are false. So we see that what we believe about God and Christ has profound implications for what we believe about ourselves. Likewise what we believe about ourselves may affect how we think about the Incarnation and the Godhead. It is important that we get the feedback cycle right here. Dogmas about the Incarnation and the Godhead are absolutely true because they are divinely revealed. We reject them at our peril. Given a conflict between dogma and our own ideas, we necessarily must conclude that it is our ideas that are wrong rather than the reverse.

Obviously it is not easy sometimes for us to reach that conclusion. On such occasions, we must take refuge in the virtue of humility.

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