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The Nestorian controversy

July 9, 2011

As I tread through the book Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy, things have started to become extremely clear to me. Things such as Christology, as the center point in theology for all things, and that Christology is only done one way, much like the title Theotokos for Mary. St Cyril is extremely clear, that any other title other than Theotokos is heresy, and his persistence in the face of Rome to write up his own 12 anathemas in order to leave no wiggle room for Nestorius, or anyone in the future. It is a clear illustration of the Constitutional mindset in St. Cyril.  The idea that Christology is the main grid for everything is also clear for St. Maximos the confessor, who believed that every fiber of salvation was intertwined in Christology: “All Christians are called to the ascetic life broadly understood, insofar as every believer must aspire, through disciplined practice, and contemplation, exercising  every level of the life of the soul and the body, to participate in the transfiguration of the cosmos-indeed, to be a miniature demonstration of its realization- and thereby share actively in Christ’s mediation of the new creation” On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: St Maximos the Confessor page 38

For St Maximos, as well as St Cyril, Christology is our salvation. St. Maximos’s defense of the two wills of Christ against the Monothelites entails Theosis, in which Chalcedon defends such a synergistic method, and why the reformed are jumping ship from the councils one by one, rather than deny their Nestorianism

This is why I think reformed people have a hard time seeing what is so incredible about Orthodoxy. For them, they believe that the ecumenical councils are just general views held by all of the major church in the world, and that soteriology is a separate issue all together. For them, sola fide seems to have no opposite in Orthodoxy, but it is our Christology.  For us, Christ is our salvation, in every single way we think.

What is important is proper Christology

The interesting thing to point out with Nestorius, is the parallel in reformed commitments and Nestorius’s commitments, that both Nestorius, and the reformed feel no need to address the Christological issues, because they see their points of interest as something separate. Nestorius denied that he taught two personal subjects, as do the reformed, but both ultimately come down to teaching the same thing the Pharisees and the Muslims teach, in that Jesus Christ could not be fully God.

St. Cyril in his explanation of his 12 anathemas cites this parallel between Nestorius and the pharisees  “They (Nestorians)  have risen up against Christ like those ancient pharisees and are ceaselessly crying out  “why do you who are a man make yourself God?” (Jn.10.21) Explanation of the twelve chapters

Nestorius certainly did not think he was denying Christ, as do the reformed, which is another parallel.  Certain terms though can be used to weed out the Nestorians in our time, just as they were used in Nestorius’s time.

Anathema 12

“If anyone does not confess that the word of God suffered in the flesh, was crucified in the flesh, and tasted death in the flesh, becoming the first born from the dead, although as God he is life and life giving, let him be anathema. “ Saint Cyrils 12 chapters

I can’t tell you how many people I talk to about this fact today, become almost angry when I state the fact, that unless you believe that the Son of God suffered and died on the cross, you are first a Nestorian, and secondly align yourself with the pharisees and the Muslims, who deny that God can become like us at all. This is the dividing line.  Either God suffered and died on the cross, or someone, or something else did.

The reformed are famous for trying to avoid this question. It is because of their doctrine of Christ in the “person of the mediator” which entails a Nestorian Christ, in that the subject who was murdered on the cross was a separate subject. This can be also proven in asking if in their view, did the Son of God suffer in hell, or was it Christ? This clearly is a question to get the Nestorians to raise their hands.


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  1. Btw, if you can find the part where Nestorius delayed responding to the Emperors’ requeset, which allowed Cyril to start the council early, let me know what page that is on.


  2. Eric Castleman permalink

    Baroque, do you want me to type out the page so you can reference it, or do you just want the page number?

  3. just the page number, please.


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