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Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy

June 29, 2011

I am currently working my way through the book Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy. Once I am done I hope to provide a good analysis of McGuckin’s layout of Nestorius’s Christology vs St Cyril’s Christology. The former, obviously being the heretical form known as Nestorianism, and the latter becoming the Christology that is recognized as properly Christian, and good pertaining to Christ.

The importance of this work by McGuckin, and many others today on this subject, is to provide some historical clarity on the subject. It is well known that many protestant and heretical sects (Mormons etc)  attack St Cyril, and end up defending Nestorius, claiming that Nestorius’s views were not properly observed by Cyril, and the council condemning Nestorius’s thoughts as heretical. This can be found in Gordon Clark’s book entitled “The Incarnation” In which he defends Nestorius, and employs Nestorius’s Christology, and rejects St. Cyril

What is also important is getting a good grasp of Christology from St. Cyril perspective. McGuckin notes, that “the Christology of St. Cyril is the driving force of his entire theological vision. Like Ananathius before him, Cyril understands the church’s Christological doctrine to be the central point to which and from which all other comprehensions run”

As we can see, Christology is the grid for Cyril, not soteriology, sovereignty, or providence. Those subjects must flow from a proper Christological doctrine first. This is where the debate is found between Orthodox, and Western Christians.

What McGuckin has so brilliantly done, is provided a full chapter analysis of Nestorius’s Christology, and a full chapter to Cyril’s Christological thought, in order to contrast both views. He provides an in depth look into the mind of Nestorius, whom he notes tries to hold to the proper Christological formula found in the previous church writings, but ultimately falls away, and teaches that Christ is a separate subject..this is important to note, in Calvinist mindsets, who will do the same thing in their Christological attempts, but in their soteriological writings, end up being Nestorian.


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  1. Good stuff. Make sure you note that Nestorius didn’t simply believe in two persons of Christ. He didn’t. He believed in a conjunction of the two natures (or prosopa; the language is ambiguous).

    I state that way because most Calvinists don’t believe in two persons of Christ. (Some do, though). They all believe in a conjunction of the two natures.

  2. Eric Castleman permalink

    Thanks for the comment AO,

    My goal in illustrating McGuckin’s layout of Nestorius’s Christology, is to do it justice enough to where it is understandable, and also does justice to the critical issues with his Christology. As you pointed out above, my intentions in doing this are exactly in line with your point of view on where the emphasis of his thoughts should be noted, with regards to Nestorius’s Christology.

    While reading this book, I took note to Nestorius’s response to Cyril’s Christology, in which McGuckin writes “Nestorius criticized him (Cyril) for being stuffy and hard to read” To which, I wonder if I am up to the task in illustrating the issue properly lol. I guess Christology has always been difficult for some, and I hope I do at least McGuckin’s view justice.

    Funny though, Nestorius’s comments in regards to Cyril’s Christology, is the same stuff I hear from reformed types, in that Christology needs to be made a lot more elementary, in order to reach them. That seems to be why Nestorius fell into such ideas

  3. sermonwriter permalink

    Yes, please make Christology a lot more elementary… 🙂

  4. sw,

    Not possible. There is no other way to get from here to there than by study, just as there is nother way to get virtue than by struggle.

  5. sermonwriter permalink

    Perry, I think I misunderstood Eric when he says above that it is Nestorius and “Reformed types” who want Christology made a lot more elementary. For a moment there I thought that is what Eric was going to try to do. I understand it is difficult. I thought I had this topic understood 3 or 4 different times within the last 8 months but I still have failed to fully grasp it.

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