Dr. Sergey Zagraevsky
NEW CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY
original was published in Russian: ALEV-V Publishing House,
We have seen that the dogma of “Trinity” has no convincing basis in the Holy Scripture.
Having examined its forming on the public historical material, we have understood that it was elaborated only as an instrument of the political struggle of the 4th century.
And though at that time the “Trinity” was a compromise, which was convenient for the Emperor and the majority of bishops, we have to conclude in accordance with our methodology “Caesar’s – to Caesar” that the dogma of “Trinity” is a deposition on the teaching of Christ, and that deposition belongs not to the moral imperative, but to “social” evil.
Let us look if our conclusion is confirmed by historical facts. Did that dogma bring good or evil to the Christians?
It is not necessary to go far away from Early Christianity to answer this question. The fact is that the creators of the dogma of the “Trinity”, having contented themselves with the divine nature of Christ and his descent from God, forgot that Jesus of Nazareth, nevertheless, was born of the earthly woman, ate, drank, slept, got tired and suffered (John 4:6; 19:28; 11:33; Luke 22:44; Matt. 14:4; Mark 3:5 etc.) There were disputes on that, but they were only an addition to much more scaled disputes on the “Trinity”.
And in the beginning of the 5th century, the Church’s theologians had to elaborate one more dogma to answer the question, how the divine nature (which had been “legalized” by the dogma of the “Trinity”) and the human nature (which could not be “repealed”) correlated in Christ.
In the end of 420s, that question became a weapon in another peak of the struggle for the power in the Church.
At that time, there were four main centers of the
In 419, Nestorius, the head of
Nestorius considered that Virgin Mary as a human could give birth only to a human, so she must be called not “Theotokos” (Greek “God-bearer”) but Christotokos (Christ-bearer) and Jesus got his divine nature from God immediately after his birth.
Cyril insisted that the divine force came to Christ even in the womb of Mary, and he accused Nestorius of the following to the teaching of Paul of Samosata: if Christ had been born as a human, than he remained a human independently upon the moment of the getting of the divine force.
As we remember, exactly Paul of Samosata was the
predecessor of Arianism, and really, it turned out that the teaching of
Nestorius was understandable and acceptable for Barbarians-Arians – the
overwhelming majority of the garrison of
Nestorius managed to take advantage of that and to become in 428 the Patriarch of Constantinople. But he was the Patriarch not long – until 431, when Cyril of Alexandria, having won over to his side the major part of monks, started a rebel against Nestorius in the capital. Emperor Theodosius II, the adherent of Nestorius, could not help, and at the 3rd Ecumenical Council in Ephesus Nestorius was deposed.
Let us not examine the terms “the divinity of child” (the canon) and “the childhood of god” (the heresy). Nestorius affirmed the first term, Cyril accused him of saying the second one. The Council in Ephesus was hold extremely scandalously, to the accompaniment of the terrible noise of the crowds of people, which were led by the monks – the followers of Cyril, and it could not examine complicated theological problems.
Emperor Theodosius II “sold” Nestorius after all. The
latter was sent to a cloister, and then to the exile in
But we must note that Nestorius’ cause did not die: Arianism in its time got a great echo in the West, among the Barbarians, and Nestorianism spread along the continent to the East. Asian peoples mostly often adopted Christianity in the interpretation of the former Patriarch.
And in 431, Cyril’s protege Maximian became the Patriarch of Constantinople. Alexandria became the strongest Church center of the Empire, and Cyril, having forgotten about caution, ceased attempts to find a “balanced” correlation of the divine and human natures in Christ and in the end of the life, started to give his view more frankly in his epistles: “We do not profess two natures (the first – worshipped, the second – not worshipped) in one Son, but one incarnated nature of the Word”.
And though Cyril specified that both natures united in Christ into something average and unique, it turned out that this unity had the divine nature – the dogma of “Trinity” had won half a century before, so what other single nature could Christ have, if not the divine one?
It turned out that Cyril, not knowing that, became the founder of Monophysitism – the teaching which asserted that Christ, though we was born of two natures – the divine and the human – had only the first one, and the human nature became an accessory of his divinity.
Immediately after Cyril’s death in 444, those ideas were developed by the Constantinopolitan abbot Eutyches, and the new Alexandrian patriarch Dioscorus. Exactly they formed Monophysitism “organizationally”, and Eutyches won over to his side a number of monks. Apropos, Monophysitism sometimes is called Eutychianism because of that.
Pope Leo I immediately opposed Monophysitism and, having united with the Constantinopolitan patriarch Flavian, achieved the condemnation of the Monophysites at the Council of Constantinople. The opponents of Monophysitism had quite serious arguments: Jesus ate, slept, prayed, doubted...
But nobody already was interested in common sense, so
Eutyches with Dioscorus managed to win the Emperor, idem Theodosius II, over
their side. In 449 so called “predatory” Council was gathered in
Pope Leo I and Alexandrian Patriarch Dioscorus pronounced an anathema against each other immediately after the Council and made the precedent for the process of the Schism, which lasted for many centuries.
After the death of Pheodosius II, the matter took
another turn. Empress Pulcheria and her co-ruler Marcian turned out to be the
opponents of Monophysitism and called the 4th Ecumenical Council in
The Council of Chalcedon was held, as usually, quite roughly, but on the basis of the epistle of the Pope, it elaborated the dogma of “two natures”, which is still used by the major Churches.
Dioscorus was displaced, and that led to the local
schism: the decisions of the 4th Concil were never accepted in
We have come to the second key dogma, which concerns the nature of Jesus of Nazareth.
The 4th Ecumenical (
The “self-justifying” tone of the decision (“is by no means done away...”) confirms that the dogma was accepted in a serious struggle.
And a number of negative features (“without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated”) arouse the suspicion that the theologians answered all questions at the 4th Council, according to the old principle “to each is own”.
Really, let us look at every key problem from
Is Christ a god or a man? Both, since the natures are not mixed and their identities are presented.
Is Christ the single person at that? Single, since the natures are not divided and separated.
Well, let us think: what is the nature? The origin?
If it had been only the origin! It is will, wish, energy and operation.
The latter assertion is not my own surmise. That was
“clarified” at the 6th Ecumenical (
And four foresaid concepts are practically exhaustive description of a person.
A tangled and casuistic determination of the 6th Council concerning the moment, when the divine will in Christ became a human wish and the correlation of divine and human operations, is not important for us. It is important that the presence of two non-mixed “wishes, wills, energies and operations” in Christ means the presence of two persons.
As a result, the same happened to the dogma of ‘two natures” as to the “Trinity” seventy years before: each part of the problem was solved separately.
The main goal was to connect the new dogma with the “Trinity”: if there is a self-dependent divine nature, then it is “God the Son”, “not made, one in Being with the Father”, “having no beginning”. And the human essence also was present in Christ, but it was not related to the divine one.
In short, separately – a god and a man (that is why the Orthodox tradition calls Christ as the “Godman”).
And as a whole, a number of paradoxes took place – like that the divine person of Christ existed eternally and knew everything, but could not “whisper” to the human person that it is no necessity to doubt about the future, to be upset and to pray in Gethsemane, and that it is necessary to preach in Asia Minor, not in Jerusalem...
As a matter of fact, in our time this is called as a split personality. At best, this means constant mental tortures, at worst – a mental disease, and depending upon its weight, an ambulatory or hospital treatment is settled.
And we read in the Gospel: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation” (Matt. 12:25).
But in the 5th century during the open struggle for power in the Church, nobody was disturbed by theological paradoxes.
Having returned from Halcedon, monophysitic priests
started the rebellion in
Emperor Zeno in 482 issued a pro-Monophysitic reconciliatory decree – so called “Henoticon” (“Union formula”), which only aggravated the situation, because the anti-monophysitic Roman Church stopped relations with the East for 35 years. It is no wonder – the domains of the Pope of Rome were surrounded by Barbarians-Arians, and it was necessary to take them into consideration. Monophysitism (the priority of the divine nature of Christ) was the full antipode for Arianism (the priority of the human nature), and the dogma of “two natures”, as we have seen, was some kind of compromise, and the legates of Pope Leo I did not insist on it in vain.
Emperor Zeno’s successor, Anastasius I, tried to
continue the reconciliatory police, but ceased his ruling in 518 quite
infamously: Monophysites started the rebellion in
After a greatly complicated mass of political
intrigues, in which the ruler of the major part of
Simultaneously the Patriarch of Constantinople was replaced. Candidatures of Arians and Monophysites were proposed, but John II, the adherent of Halcedon’s compromise, became the new Patriarch with a view to calm raging disputes.
This time the compromise triumphed relatively firmly –
for about one hundred years. Monophysites yielded their positions in
Constantinople, but Roman Empire, at that time more often named Bysantine,
We see that the discussions on the dogmas of the
“Trinity” and “two natures” turned out to be catalysts of the split of
Bysantine Empire and of the actual downfall of patriarchates of
In the 6th century thanks to Justinian, a period of relative peace came, and the 5th Ecumenical (Constantinopolitan) Council became its top. Monophysites were condemned once more at that Council, heels of Nestorianism were beaten completely, and it was decided to be possible to read an anathema against heretics posthumously (particularly, Origen was anathematized).
But in the 7th century, disputes started again. Emperors, trying to restore the unity of the empire in the face of the unsuccessful war against Persians, looked for a compromise with Monophysites.
Sergius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, under the agreement with the emperor in 619, declared that Christ, having two natures, had only one will. The new theological trend – Monothelitism – began at that.
Let us note that it was a step to common sense, but violent discussions started again. A “tree of variants” of correlation of natures, wills, energies and operations in Christ was growing and growing. Actually, every diocese in an answer to Sergius’ appeal put forward its own view on the problem, and attempts to find a new compromise took many years.
In 638 it seemed that all was done, and even Pope Honorius inclined to Monothelitism, but in this year, unfortunately, both Pope Honorius and Patriarch Sergius died.
The new Pope, John IV, declared the resolute non-acceptance of Monothelitism and the adherence to the Council of Halcedon. His successor Martin I continued that way, and therefore in 653 by the order of the emperor he was arrested, and in 655 condemned and exiled.
Philosopher Maximis the Confessor, the leader of Monothelitism’s opponents, tried to prove with typical scholasticism that since Christ had two natures, he was to have two wills. Common sense could not overcome Maximus’ speculative logic, and he preferred the martyrdom: he was condemned together with Pope Martin, lost his tongue and right hand, and was exiled in 655.
Methods of struggle took more and more radical forms. It seemed that emperors managed to achieve the triumph of Monothelitism.
That Council, on the basis of Pope’s bull, took the compromise of Halcedon to the full and complete absurd, having declared the presence of two wishes, two wills, two wills, two energies and two operations in Christ.
All major world Churches live with this dogma until now.
Contemporary Churches use for the substantiation of the dogma of “two natures” the following psychological method: the divine and human natures of Christ are substantiated separately, each with a number of references to the Holy Scripture. It seems to be evident that anyone, who is primordially inclined in favor of the dogma of “two natures”, would draw the conclusion that these natures are present in Christ “without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated”, according to the Halcedon Council’s resolution.
In actual fact, nothing is said in the Holy Scripture about such relationship of the divine and human natures of Christ.
It is said many times that Christ is a god. “Doubting Thomas” called him so (John 20:28), Jesus told much about his divine nature himself (John 8:58; 10:30; 16:28), Apostle Paul confirmed that (Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:1-3; Eph. 3:9; Rom. 8:3; 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:16 etc.)
But, so to speak, gods differ.
The task of the major Churches was to declare as gods not all people, but only Christ (of course, not “canceling” God the Father), and as a result, Jesus of Nazareth became the “second hypostase of the Trinity” and the unique being of “two natures”, and he was absolutely teared away from us by that.
But actually, as we shall see many times more, Jesus is the same god as each of us is. Consequently, the same human as each of us is. There is no fundamental and insuperable difference between the divine nature of Jesus and other people.
Adherents of the dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures” assert: if Christ was a human then he, speaking about his divine nature, deceived himself or us.
But the question is how to understand the word “human”.
If people, in accordance with the orthodox and catholic theology, are “fallen sinful creatures”, then Christ, possibly, actually deceived.
But if we put into the word “human” the humanistic understanding, which is dictated to us by the moral imperative, then Christ was a human. And he was an absolutely honest human, because all words about his divine nature he applied to all other people.
Let us read the Fourth Gospel once more.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
“At that day ye shall know that I am in my father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:20).
“Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (John 17:11).
There is even a more self-evident confirmation of the said.
“The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (John 10:34-36).
It turns out that Jesus Christ himself appealed to the divine nature of other people, referring to the Book of Psalms – “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Ps. 82:6) – to confirm his own divine nature.
And the words of Jesus – “For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” – have a symbolical nature, which is confirmed by the further dialog between him and the Jews. It was said there: “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (John 6:55-56).
This outline goes on also in Jesus’ prayer: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). The latter phrase may be interpreted only as the predestination of Christ’s mission before the creation of the world. Nothing else may be here, because in the same chapter it is said quite clearly: “...Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
Christ taught us one more fundamental subject. “Our father” is the main and, by the highest standards, the only Christian prayer. Christ considered as heathenism all other prayers (Matt. 6:7). But that is not a point. Let us pronounce only its first two words and think over: we address ourselves to our Father! This means that every human is the son of God (or the daughter).
Having remembered the prayer “Our Father”, we have turned to the first three Gospels. Exactly the human nature of Christ is accentuated there.
When Christ healed the sick man, “the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (Matt. 9:8);
Jesus said: “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God”.
Let us remember also Jesus’ phrase in the “Sermon on the Mount”: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 7:9).
To understand once and for all, that Jesus is such a god as we are, and we are such gods as he, let us note that Luke originated Jesus from God not immediately, but through Joseph, David, Abraham, Heber and Adam (Luke 3:23-38). And we all are descendants of Adam. Consequently, we are same as Christ.
Apostle Peter said: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you” (Acts 2:22).
And Peter in his Epistle by only one phrase gave up for lost all future conjectures about the “preexistence” of Jesus: he considered Christ as “foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God” (1 Pet. 1:20-21). It is difficult to disagree that foreordainment and “preexistence” are not the same.
In the teaching of Apostle Paul, the nature of Christ is interpreted quite indistinctly, so as the Old Testament’s Prophets interpreted the nature of the Messiah. But the word “Messiah”, as we know, means “Anointed by God”, i.e. it is a human, who is provided with some divine capabilities.
Nevertheless, it is unlikely that Paul was concerned by the problem of accurate definition of the nature of Christ – it was enough for him to emphasize Jesus’ messianic role.
Let us cite an illustration in point. It is considered that Paul wrote the solemn hymn: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:16).
And this means that God himself came to us in flesh. As we remember, the “Monarchian-Modalist” Sabellius expressed this point of view. But it is impossible to wait for the theologian depth in a solemn hymn, moreover the hymn of the quite doubtful authenticity (the words “Without controversy” are not the sort of Paul’s). And let Paul call Christ sometimes a god, sometimes a man – the Apostle never spoke about two natures “without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated”.
And the overwhelming majority of Paul’s phrases about our and Christ’s nature mean that Christ is such as we are. Let us quote:
“Because he (God – S.Z.) hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31);
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16);
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord
Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,
thou shalt be saved” (
“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen” (1 Cor. 15:13).
“Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you” (2 Cor. 4:14).
“Wherefore, holy brethern, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3:1). Apropos, the address “Holy” is used by Paul in all the Epistles to the Christians.
“So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee” (Heb. 5:5);
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). There is the short and clear answer to all questions in this phrase.
And let us pay attention to the words: “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7).
Soon we shall have a possibility to speak about contemporary attempts to “modernize” and “actualize” the dogma of “two natures”, and meanwhile let us state: two natures of Christ “without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated” have no basis in the Holy Scripture. The declaration of Jesus of Nazareth as the “second hypostase of the Trinity” also has no basis there.
There is no difference between the divine nature of Christ and other people.
But how could this position prevail in the Middle Ages, if the understanding of people as gods became an obstacle for the Church’s claims on political supremacy?
There is an interesting analogy. Let us ask the question: why soldiers in armies of the majority of countries are firstly humbled?
And “informal relations” have nothing to do with it – the army system itself includes humbling. First of all, as it is well-known, soldiers are taken out to a drill square, where for a long time they are taught different formations, commands like “Attention!”, “Eyes right!”, and other things, which seem to be useless in respect to common sense and military art.
Really, a soldier’s work seems to be shooting, running with fool kit, digging trenches, firing grenades etc. But why must soldiers march? To train coordination? They could creep, it is much more useful in a battle. The traditions of times, when soldiers were led to attacks in lines and formed up in squares? More than one hundred years have passed since that times, but the drill is still the same. It may be understandable for “parade” troops, but everyone in an army has to start from the drill.
And the point is that the cruel drill has the ancient basis – to make a soldier feel that he is a pawn, whose life does not belong to him and costs a little. If the command “Eyes right!” is followed by “Quick march to the better world!”, its execution must be automatic.
As it is known, state principles of ruling in the Middle Ages were similar to the army’s and were based on the cruel hierarchic compulsion.
And from that point of view, it is absolutely mistakenly to remind soldiers at a drill square that they are gods. It is much more effective to cultivate the complex of “sinful creatures” in them.
So it came out that when the Church accepted the complicated and contradictory dogmas of the “Trinity” and “two natures”, no place for the divine nature of people in the Church’s theology remained.
Sergey Zagraevsky © 2004