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Are icons Nestorian?

Recently I have been hearing that icons are Nestorian, which was an argument placed against the church in the 7th century by the iconoclasts, who, through their Nestorian Christology, got things backwards. Here is a great post on Icons by Perry Robinson of Energetic Procession.

“Even according to the council and the emperor, the issue was Christological-the iconoclastic objections depended on a rather Nestorian/Eutychian confusion which took the hypostasis of the incarnate Christ to be the product of the union. If the hypostasisis composite in that way, then surely to make an image of Christ would be to either confuse or separate the natures. But that is not Chalcedonian Christology, but Nestorian and Eutychian Christology. What about thosewho saw Christ? Is vision essentially idolatrous? Taking a picture of me doesn’t abstract my soul from my body or my person from either or both. Last I checked my soul and my hypostasis weren’t empirically detectable so that no image of my body could separate them from my body in any case. Further, at best, the only way to make that old canard of an argument work is to suppose that the persona of Christ is the product of the union of the two natures. An attempt then to portray one will entail portraying the other since the persona per se is constituted by the two natures. But of course that isn’t Chalcedon, so the objection depends on the objector assuming a Nestorian Christology. Besides, if the reality of Christ’s death, separating his human soul from his body didn’t separate either of them from his divine person, a picture certainly can’t. And beyondthat why suppose that an attempt is made to separate the matter of Christ’s body from his divine person and put into the painting? It certainly isn’t the case when someone takes a picture of me. So why can’t the humanity of Christ stay where it is so to speak and still be represented in a picture? Unless of course Jesus no longer has a genuine physical body as the iconoclasts supposed.(Does Turretinfanwish to agree with this?) This is why they spoke of Christ’s humanity as “uncircumscribed” during the incarnation and after the ascension. The problem is the Reformed departure from Chalcedon’s teaching with their notion of the persona mediatoris. This departure is documented in Richard Muller’s Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins.”


Reformed pastor leaves for Orthodoxy


About two years ago I was going through the transformation from Calvinism to Orthodoxy and I felt very much alone, low and behold, only 20 minutes away from where I attended every Sunday as a reformed minded person, another man was going through the same exact thing as I was. He was the assistant pastor at Anaheim Christ Reformed church, and a contributor to the Academy held at Anaheim Christ Reformed church. From what I understand, he was considered by some to be the next Horton in the making, only to be called to teach a series on church history which gave him enough time to dive into the patristic fathers of Christianity and find out that something was desperately wrong with the faith he held to at that time. He now is an Orthodox Christian and has decided to start a blog about all things Orthodox.

His blog

I will also be adding it to the side bar of my blog

Robert Letham (reformed) on icons

Robert Letham ,not to far back, wrote a book on Eastern Orthodoxy in an attempt to educate the Western reformed world of what Orthodoxy was all about, and some of the major issues that divide Orthodoxy and reformed theology. While I have not read the book completely, I have read parts, since certain chapters are scattered throughout reformed websites in promotion of his insights on Orthodoxy. If anything, I know the background of how this book was written, and people who influenced him to try to answer the claims against reformed theology, in which he in many places shows his ignorance because of his interest in a fast answer. I hope that some will go into more detail about the history of how this book was written in the comments

I recently came across Letham’s thoughts on the Iconoclast controversy on Sproul’s website, and read through Letham’s thoughts on the subject. If anything, Letham pulls some bad manipulation in certain areas,  where he is not making something up out of thin air, but is not presenting the full truth in regards to history, and what we now know what is historically true or not.  Read carefully

Letham writes:

“In the previous century, images were increasingly seen as windows to the spiritual world”   Letham is speaking of the century before the 7th ecumenical council.

Letham quickly implies that in the years before the 7th ecumenical council, images were becoming increasingly popular, alluding to the idea that he has a grasp on some historical evidence of such a fact, but never cites it.

He also notes:

” From 726–730, John of Damascus emerged as the chief iconodule theologian. He carefully distinguishes between adoration (latreia) — due to God alone — and veneration (proskunesis) in its various degrees, a sign of the subordination and lowliness of the venerator. John insists that we worship only God.”

Notice what Letham is doing here. He is setting up an argument without clearly stating it. What Letham is working off of here is Calvin’s view of the Iconoclast controversy, in which Calvin writes:

“If the authority of the ancient church moves us in any way, we will recall that for about five hundred years, during which religion was still flourishing, and a pure doctrine thriving, Christian Churches were commonly empty of images. Thus, it was when the purity of the ministry had somewhat degenerated that they were first introduced for the adornment of churches” (Institutes 1.11.13).

Calvin states that not until the 6th century did images “degenerated” the church, which is false, seeing that in the 3rd century we can see in Eusebius’s Church History that images were not just around in the church, but were passed down from the time of the apostles. This is something historians have taken note of for a long time now, and have stated that Calvin missed because he was relying on the Latin works, or he just decided to not mention the fact that the early church talks about images way earlier than the 6th century.

Whatever the case, Letham is clearly arguing from his understanding of Calvin, even though it has been proven false by historians, yet he does not mention that his framework is from such a false idea.Letham implies that after the 5th century images increased, which is false, and then quotes St. John of Demascus in the 8th century in part, to imply that the theology of icons was a doctrinal error that developled.This can be also proven in his argument against images with St. Gregory of Nyssa’s comments on God, where Letham writes:

“Before this, Gregory of Nyssa, in the fourth century, had argued that the visible revelation of God in creation is superior to verbal revelation, since he thought language inherently ambiguous and so inappropriate to describe God.”

So there we have it. Letham makes the classic mistake Calvin did in his assertion of icons in Christian tradition. He implies that images are a heretical development starting after the 6th century, identifies a 8th century person (John of Demascus) as proof of its development after the 6th century, and then argues from a 4th century person (St Gregory of Nyssa) in defense of his iconoclast position. Letham is just using Calvin’s bad historical standpoint, and nothing else

So from this point, we can see where Letham is getting his insights from, and see that he is going to just let his tradition interpret things for him rather than the facts. Yet, we are the ones who are false for doing that, right?

Also, Letham’s decision to exclude any of the important historical facts that might help the reader make a conscience decision one way or the other is telling. He leaves out the fact that the ones who held to icons were being killed by the people he agrees with, and he leaves out that the Muslims were of heavy influence on Leo IV, in that they denied the Incarnation, and images of God. He also fails to mention, as does Calvin (ironic) that the first “council” that said icons were heretical, was not in fact a council. The bishops that did attend did not constitute a council, and the bishops that did attend, did so at the threat of death. Also, he leaves out that the person who was able to destroy the false council was Leo IV’s wife (Irene of Athens) who even during the time of the false council, hid icons from Leo IV, in fear of her life.

These issues are very important, in that they give us a clear understanding of force being used where there was no argument, much like the Muslims historically. Also, it gives us insight into the influence of Muslim thought on Leo IV, in that images were horrible heresy to those who denied the Incarnation.

What Letham then goes on to state, which is my favorite part, that Eastern Orthodox Christians are Nestorian for our icon veneration, and he states the same argument the Muslim influenced iconoclasts did against icons.  He writes:

” However, to make an icon of Christ is to abstract His humanity from His person (the eternal Son), and so to fall into Nestorianism. Here the Eastern Orthodox, who vehemently deny Nestorianism, argue that the person of God the Word in the flesh appears on the image and that this is not a depiction of God, since the Word is visible as man. “

This is all Letham gives us to entertain. Earlier in Letham’s article, he notes that the only icon that is for us to worship is the Eucharist, and notes it said by the Leo IV. However, it seems as though Letham has no clue why Leo IV believes such a thing, and in some ways leaves that idea on the table, as if it supports reformed worship, however, the reason the Eucharist is defended by the Iconoclasts as a true image, was because St. Cryil famously argues against Nestorius with the reality of Christs real presence in the bread and wine. So, an image destroys the idea of two subjects in Christ, yet, icons can only be Nestorian, outside of the Eucharist?  Also, Cyril’s argument does not entail the idea that the Eucharist is an image, but that it is really Christ’s flesh. When I look at the Eucharist, am I a Nestorian?

Finally, the problem with the accusation Letham makes about Orthodoxy and Nestorianism is nothing but classic, well, Nestorianism. The main issue in Nestorianism is the idea that there were two personal subjects in Christ incarnate, and interestingly enough, this same argument was made by Nestorius himself against Cyril’s Christology. Funny, Nestorius denies Nestorianism, and a Nestorian argues against Nestorianism by presupposing a Nestorian Christology. This is always the way it works. When St Cyril argued against Nestorius, Nestorius argued that Cyril divided Christ’s humanity, because for Nestorius, it was the two nature that came together to make up one Christ, just as it is for Letham in his argument against Icons.  Ultimately, the problem with Nestorianism results in denying that God could assume an image, just like the Jews who deny that God can be a man (Cyril points this out in his 12 anethemas 2 paragraph) and the Muslims, who interestingly enough, gave weight to the ideas in Leo IV’s head, and the argument Letham is working with.

I can’t wait to get my hands on this book this week. One of my friends who has read the book (when he was still reformed) commented on other interesting issues that pop up in Letham’s book. He writes:

“In the final chapter where he is demarcating the differences between the Reformed and the Orthodox, Letham makes several revealing statements. He acknowledges that Calvinism’s commitment to monergism seems to entail mono-energism, which is a form of the monothelite heresy. Letham shows himself very aware of the deep Christological issues. However, he says that it doesn’t entail mono-energism/monotheletism because Calvinism believes man does have a will and that God simply woos it (or overrides it). Unfortunately, though, this is not different from what the monothelites actually believed. As the leading scholar on monotheletism makes clear (Demetrios Bathrellos, The Byzantine Christ), monotheletism acknowledges a human will, but qualifies it by saying it is overridden by the divine will.”

If Letham does say that, he needs to read St. Maximos the Confessor. St. Maximos the Confessor’s arguments against the Monothelites is clearly proving that The divine will and the human will in Christ work freely from each other, and are made to will by the person  (The Son). Clearly if Letham does argue for the Divine will overriding the human will in Christ, he is confusing nature and person, in that the natures are the movers of the will (two subjects) or he is a Monothelite, which is just another branch of Nestorianism, and a confusion nature and person.

I will end this post with that.

The Nestorian controversy

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.

Pope Vigilius’s excommunication

Found this on a Orthodox forum, and thought I would post it here on my blog, so that others can read it. The author of this thread I only know by the name Papa Gregorio, which I assume is his forum name. Anyways. Enjoy -Eric Castleman


The following comes from a cordial dialogue I had with an Eastern Catholic on CAF on a very interesting and crucial topic. I’ve included just my main points to get across the fact that, not only did the Church believe a pope could espouse heresy, but that an Ecumenical Council could also anathematize him and render him accountable to the Council, without of course minimising the sense of importance and esteem given to the See of Rome.

On Vigilius’ excommunication:

You might find it compelling that a prominent Jesuit papal scholar will have no problems in acknowledging this fact:

“Pope Vigilius (537-555), who had very little backbone in conflict situations, first gave way and condemned the three chapters in his Iudicatum of 548. Faced with a storm of protest in the West, where the pope was accused of betraying Chalcedon, he made an about-face and retracted his condemnation (Constitutum, 553). The emperor in turn called a council at Constantinople (the Second Council of Constantinople, 553) made up only of opponents of the three chapters. It not only condemned those three chapters but even excommunicated the pope. This was a unique case of an ecumenical council setting itself clearly against the pope and yet not suffering the fate of Ephesus II. Instead, over time it was accepted and even recognized as valid by the pope. The council got around the papal opposition by referring to Matthew 18:20 (“Where two or three are gathered in my name…”): no individual council could therefore forestall the decision of the universal Church. This kind of argument was invalid, of course, because the pope was not alone; the entire West was behind him, and yet it was not represented at the council. Broken in spirit, Vigilius capitulated after the end of the council and assented to its condemnation of the three chapters. The result was a schism in the West, where the pope was accused of having surrendered Chalcedon. A North African synod of bishops excommunicated the pope, and the ecclesial provinces of Milan and Aquileia broke communion with Rome….The Spanish Church did not separate from Rome, but throughout the Middle Ages it refused to recognize this Council. The authority of the papacy in the West had suffered a severe blow with regard to dogma as well” (Schatz, Klaus, Papal Primacy. From Its Origins to the Present, 1996, Liturgical Press: Collegeville, p. 53).

This is also backed up by JND Kelly:

“In reprisal, at the seventh session of the council (26 May) he [Justinian] humiliated Vigilius by revealing his secret correspondence condemning or promising to condemn them [the three chapters]. He then ordered the pope’s name to be struck from the diptychs, making it clear, however, that he was severing communion with him personally, not with the holy see”. (Kelly, J.N.D., Oxford Dictionary of Popes; 1986, Oxford University Press: Oxford, p. 62)

It’s sufficient to note that the undeniable facts herewith presented are not in dispute by the most reputable Church historians, papal or otherwise. I don’t regard the pleadings to the argument of a corruption of the MSS as one worthy of much consideration since, in addition to no sources being cited by you, many figures in the history of the RCC have attempted to employ the same desperate measures and have failed. One reference I can provide for further research comes from the [ccel] website. Notice that the Sixth Ecumenical Council is one reference point to the authenticity of the acts which you dispute:

“From all this it would seem that the substantial accuracy of the rest of the acts have been established by the authority of the Sixth Synod, and Hefele and all recent scholars follow Mansi’s Paris ms. It may be well here to add that a most thorough-going attack upon the acts has been made in late years by Professor Vincenzi, in defence of Pope Vigilius and of Origen.  The reader is referred to his writings on the subject:  In Sancti Gregorii Nysseni et Originis scripta et doctrinam nova defensio; Vigil., Orig., Justin. triumph., in Synod V. (Romæ, 1865.)  The Catholic Dictionary frankly says that this is “an attempt to deny the most patent facts, and treat some of the chief documents as forgeries,” and “unworthy of serious notice.”

Vigilius was caught between a rock and a hard place as he was facing strong pressure from two opposing factions – those loyal to the Council who tried to express the faith according to a more Cyrillian way in attempt to bring back the Oriental Orthodox to full communion with the Greek (Roman) Orthodox, and those loyal to the so-called “diophysite” theology of Chalcedon. His actions even led to his excommunication by the North African churches.

…your argument that the Council and Vigilius were of one mind is only a half-truth, because his reconciliation came only when heeding:

“the advice of the Council, and six months afterwards wrote a letter to the Patriarch Eutychius, wherein he confesses that he has been wanting in charity in dividing from his brethren.  He adds, that one ought not to be ashamed to retract, when one recognises the truth, and brings forward the example of Augustine.  He says, that, after having better examined the matter of the Three Chapters, he finds them worthy of condemnation.  “We recognize for our brethren and colleagues all those who have condemned them, and annul by this writing all that has been done by us or by others for the defence of the three chapters.” (

Again, the facts of the Council reveal that Vigilius’s faint-heartedness left him outside of the communion of the Church until he reconciled himself to the Council. How is this a “sensationalist interpretation” of the Acts when it is merely historical fact? The session in question is the third:

It is clear that most of the time of the first two sessions was consumed by attempts to bring Pope Vigilius to the council. At the third session a confession of faith was made which was based on the introductory speech by Justinian. To this there was added an anathema against anyone who separated himself from the Church — it is obviously Vigilius to whom they refer. (florovsky, Georges, the Byzantine Fathers of the sixth to eighth century,

It logically stands and there is no getting around the fact that:

“These things prove, that in a matter of the utmost importance, disturbing the whole Church, and seeming to belong to the Faith, the decrees of sacred councils prevail over the decrees of Pontiffs, and that the letter of Ibas, though defended by a judgment of the Roman Pontiff, could nevertheless be proscribed as heretical.” (

It is true that the Council finally honoured the pope as “head, father and primatus” and I’m happy that you brought this up, because it vindicates Orthodox doctrine that papal primacy depends on a right-believing pope and adds further weight to this fundamental insistence. If you had previously accounted for the Orthodox denial of papal primacy solely on its faithfulness to the conciliar model of the early Church, let me remind you of St. Symeon of Thessalonica:

“One should not contradict the Latins when they say that the Bishop of Rome is the first. This primacy is not harmful to the Church. Let them only prove his faithfulness to the faith of Peter and to that of the successors of Peter. If this is so, let him enjoy all the privileges of pontiff…Let the Bishop of Rome be successor of the orthodoxy of Sylvester and Agatho, of Leo, Liberius, Martin and Gregory, then we also will call him Apostolic and the first among the other bishops; then we also will obey him, not only as Peter, but as the Saviour Himself” (Meyendorff, J., ed., the Primacy of Peter, 1992, SVSP: Crestwood, p. 86).

Am I correct in saying that your major premise in this argument consists of the Roman Catholic view that communion with the pope is an unconditional precept of being in communion with the Church? In that case, were those who excommunicated Vigilius at Constantinople II in communion with the Church? If not, then they committed a schismatic act and all sessions subsequently held without the pope automatically become schismatic acts. If yes, then the edifice immediately collapses, taking with it the Vatican I’s defined dogma of papal supremacy. Now as regards the African churches’ excommunication of Vigilius after the Council (as well as that of the churches of Milan and Aquileia), these actions were clearly a case of the rejection of a pope whose orthodoxy had been vindicated by the Council after his denunciation of the heretical Three Chapters. There would be no question, therefore, that these churches can be considered to have been outside Orthodoxy.

I’m beginning to see a pattern akin to that observable in many of the ultra-montane sympathisers throughout history: modern Roman Catholic doctrine is the standard by which the authenticity of any historical document should be judged. It is a trait of the works of Dom Chapman, it is also a trait of the ultra-montane party at Vatican I (some of whom refused to acknowledge that the Sixth Ecumenical Council was in fact “ecumenical” because it had condemned pope Honorius! The lengths people will go in their subservience to papacy…) Granted, the injurious slanders to the memory of pope Vigilius had been established as forgeries, but you have not made any compelling case that we should equally consider the proven authentic acts of the excommunication of Vigilius as forgeries aside from your opinion. Once again I refer you to the statement of the Catholic Dictionary that this is “an attempt to deny the most patent facts, and treat some of the chief documents as forgeries,” and “unworthy of serious notice.”

The following citations are from a work by the French historian Claire Sotinel. In it, the author discusses the perimeters of church authority during the time of Justinian and seeks to define the relationship between Church and imperial authority in the period leading up to and following the Fifth Ecumenical Council. When discussing the relevance of Vigilius’ excommunication to her topic, she quotes Justinian’s letter in which Vigilius is clearly singled out. Remember that at this stage, Vigilius had retracted his condemnation of the three chapters:

“Le très religieux pape de l’ancienne Rome [s’est rendu lui-même] étranger à l’Église catholique en défendant l’impiété des chapitres et, d’autre part, en se séparent de lui-même de votre communion […]. Puis donc qu’il s’est rendu étranger aux chrétiens, nous avons jugé que son nom ne sera pas récité dans les saints diptyques, afin que nous ne nous trouvons pas, par ce moyen, en communication avec les impieties de Nestorius et de Théodore […]. L’unité avec le siège apostolique, nous la servons et vous la gardez, ceci est certain. La transformation de Vigile, ou de qui que ce soit d’autre, ne peut en effet nuire à la paix des Églises.” ” (Sotinel, C 2000, Le concile, l’empereur, l’évêque, in ‘Orthodoxie, Christianisme, histoire’, ed. Elm, S et al, École français de Rome, p. 294).

“The most religious pope of Old Rome [has made himself] a stranger to the catholic Church in defending the impiety of the chapters and, moreover, in separating himself from your communion by his own initiative […].  Thus, since he has made himself a stranger to Christians, we have judged that his name will not be recited in the holy diptychs lest, by this means, we find ourselves in communion with the impieties of Nestorius and Theodore […]. One thing is certain:  we serve unity with the apostolic see, and you maintain it.  Vigilius’ transformation, or anyone else’s, cannot, in fact, harm the peace of the Churches”.

To which the council responds:

Les projets du très pieux empereur sont conformes (congrua sunt) aux travaux qu’il a accomplis pour l’unité des saintes Églises. Que nous servions donc l’unité avec le siege apostolique de la sacrosainte Église de l’ancienne Rome en accomplissant tout selon la teneur du rescrit imperial (apex) qui vient d’être lu. (Sotinel, ibid., p.294-5)

“The plans of the most pious emperor are in conformity with his actions undertaken for the unity of the holy Churches. Let us therefore serve unity with the apostolic see of the all-holy Church of Old Rome by fulfilling everything according to the terms of the imperial decree which has just been read” (I am indebted to Fr. Andrew Wade from Fr. Ambrogio’s parish for editing my translations).

“Ainsi, la réalité de l’importance de Rome n’est pas entièrement evacuee, mais le statut particulier du siege apostolique n’est en rien le garant de l’orthodoxie de son titulaire aux yieux de l’empereur ou des pères du concile.” (Sotinel, ibid., p.295)

“As such, the reality of the importance of Rome is not entirely dispensed of, but the particular status of the apostolic see in no way guarantees the orthodoxy of her incumbent in the eyes of the emperor and the fathers of the council.” (My translation).

From these extracts we can definitively establish two critical facts, both of which refute any attempts to both excuse Vigilius’ excommunication, and excuse it on non-dogmatic grounds. Aside from the obvious, the citations draw particular attention to the grounds of Vigilius’ excommunication. The emperor gives explicit reason for his sentence –he is preserving the Church from communion with Nestorian sympathisers, a clear indication of which, for both him and the council, was the failure to condemn the three chapters. The topsy-turvy actions of the pope, by this stage a defender of the three chapters, bring him under the condemnations reserved for the heretics.

Let’s consider for a moment what the consequences for the Church would have been had Vigilius’ papacy been informed by the prevailing dogmatic conditions of the post-Vatican I church of Rome. We would unquestionably have a Church bound to heretical teaching. That Rome’s doctrinal authority had been grievously hurt by this episode is evident in the ensuing schism between several important Sees in the West and the pungent admonitions given to successive pontiffs to avoid the fate that had tarnished the memory of Viglius. St. Columbanus did just that, lamenting how “sad it is when the catholic faith is not preserved in the apostolic see” (Schatz 1996, p. 54) gives a stern warning to pope Boniface IV lest he follow his predecessor’s lack of vigilance (ibid.).

The fact remains, and is readily admitted by the highest scholarship, that:

“L’autorité du concile est légitime s’il fait la preuve de son orthodoxie. Ce n’est pas l’institution conciliaire qui fait l’orthodoxie, mais l’orthodoxie qui qualifie le concile comme institution.” (Sotinel, p. 293)

“The authority of the council is legitimate if its orthodoxy is proven. It is not the conciliar institution which determines orthodoxy, but orthodoxy which qualifies the council as an institution.” (My translation).

Against your position that:
a) Vigilius was not excommunicated,
b) Vigilius was of one mind theologically with the Council,

we have established that:

a) pope Vigilius was excommunicated by the Council,
b) he was placed into the category of Nestorian sympathisers, making it impossible to have been theologically one with the Council (well…it seems he was of two minds with the Council considering his character!)
c) he was ultimately reconciled to the Council’s decisions.

I now pose the following questions: who was and who wasn’t in the Church during the six months of the pope’s isolation from the Council? Were those in communion with the excommunicated pope Vigilius in communion with the Petrine Office? One is obliged to admit a radical development (if one can call it that) in the doctrine of the fundamental nature of church authority on the part of the Vatican I-era church of Rome. How do you reconcile the Vatican dogma’s extraordinary powers assigned to the pope in light of the historical conscience of the Church of the first millennium clearly allowing for the possibility to call into question the pope’s doctrinal orthodoxy?

Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy

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.

I thought that I would direct anyone who visits my blog to one of my friends reviews of Richard A Muller’s “Christ and Decree”. The paragraph below I feel is a great explanation of the evolution of reformed theology, from Augustine’s notions of Absolute Divine Simplicity. I have yet to read Muller’s book, even though it is at my finger tips, but I am currently working through a few other books at the moment. Though I have read quite a few excerpts from the book.


“while Muller highlights the interconnections between various Reformed loci, and he rightly places the Reformers in their Anselmic and Augustinian contexts, he does not seem to be aware of some the main implications of an Augustinian ontology.   Augustine was famous for saying that God is his attributes. He writes, “The Godhead is absolutely simple essence, and therefore to be is then the same as to be wise” (Augustine 106).   Therefore, if God’s attributes = his essence, and his essence is immutable, then an attribute such as “will” is also immutable. Consider the argument, understanding “simplicity” to be a great “=” sign.  If A = B, and B = C, then A =D.    Further, per this Augustinian gloss, then one must come to the conclusion that “to foreknow = to predestine.”   If foreknow then equals predestine, and God foreknew the damned to reprobation, then given Augustinian simplicity one must conclude that God also predestined the damned to hell.  This forces a reevaluation of the earlier claim that election is mediate while reprobation is immediate.
Future Reformed historical theologians need to come to grips with a number of questions:   given Augustinian simplicity entails the filioque, and given that Reformed Christological and soteriological distinctives stem from said simplicity, how then does the filioque impact Reformed soteriology.    I do not fault Muller for not dealing with these questions.  The scope of his work is simple (no pun intended) enough.   Further, it is to his credit that he notes the connections between simplicity, extra-calvinisticum, and autotheos.  It remains to future Reformed historians to face the challenges to Augustinian simplicity.” – Ansgar Olav

Christ and Decree review