What truth was there behind Theodoret’s suspicions? In the formal accusation that Cyril was an Apollinarian, none. But in the implication that Cyril learned a great deal from Apollinarius, much—far more, indeed, than Cyril himself had any notion, for the document from which Cyril constantly quoted, as an authentic letter of his spiritual father, Athanasius, was undoubtedly composed by Apollinaris in person. Moreover, there existed some justification for Theodoret’s underlying resentment at the treatment measured out to Nestorius, and at the aspersions cast on the teaching of his own master, Theodore. Cyril judged Theodore and Nestorius, not by what they said, after comparison of one point with another, but by the effect produced, or likely to be produced, by one aspect of their teaching, taken in isolation from the rest. Though the whole Christian world outside Antioch shared in the misunderstanding, and through his own thought was similarly misrepresented, Cyril’s attitude was both prejudiced and unfair. He fixed a meaning on Nestorius’s phrases which their author plainly rejected, and laid himself open to a charge of positive misquotation (Loofs Nestoriana p. 205).
Cyril’s own writings convict him of unfairness. He protested repeatedly against the use of the word ‘conjunction’ to express the union between Christ’s two natures, suggesting that it was an innovation, and claiming that Nestorius used it to imply moral association instead of a real identity of person (ad Nest. 3, 71A; quod unus 733A, B). But in fact it had been employed in a fully orthodox sense by Athanasius (c. Ar. 2.70), Basil (ep. 210.5), Gregory of Nyssa (c. Eun. 3.3. 66 Migne 705c) and even by Apollinaris (de un 12; frag. 12). Language capable of bearing an orthodox meaning in these writers was neither new nor necessarily unorthodox in Nestorius. Again, Cyril objected to the description of the Incarnation as the ‘assumption of man’ (apol. c. Thdt. 232c, D, E, cf. hom. pasch. 27, 232B), forgetting that in his own pre-Nestorian treatise he had written: “The Word was in the beginning, and far later in time became high priest on our behalf, assuming the woman-born man or shrine like a robe” (thes. ass. 21, 214B). And though he strongly deprecated the Nestorian use of ‘two hypostasis’ and ‘indwelling’ and union ‘by good pleasure,’ he was quite ready to use all such phrases under proper safeguards in his own explanations of his faith (e.g. ad Acac. 116C, thes. ass. 32, 317D; ad Succens. 1, 137A); indeed, in 435 extreme members of his own party were openly suspecting him of having gone over to the Nestorians during his negotiations for a settlement. Yet so resolute was his conviction of the heretical depravity of his principle opponent, that language which was orthodox in Cyril acquired a tinge of heresy merely from passing through Nestorius’s lips. It was useless for anyone to discuss the fact of what Nestorius really taught when so perverse a critic was upholding the other side of the debate.
Cyril himself was just as badly treated. In one passage of the “Bazaar” (p. 229) Nestorius actually for a moment lighted on the truth of what Cyril was trying to express by the phrase ‘hypostatic union’, only to stumble again off the firm ground of fact into the loose and slippery shale of formal polemics. What Cyril plainly meant was the concurrence of the divine and human forms into one person, so that whether as God or as man or as both Christ constituted a single objective reality (hypostasis); just as by his phrase ‘physical union’ he indicated a personal unity in which the two elements severally expressed different embodiments of a single ‘physis’ or personal existence. But Nestorius and Theodoret were alike convinced that Cyril’s language implied a fusion of deity and the humanity into a hybrid compound, neither wholly divine or wholly human, under pressure of a physical or natural law of mechanical combination entirely opposed to all conceptions of personal or voluntary action (cf. Theodoret on Cyril’s 2nd and 3rd anathematisms and Nestorius Bazaar passim). They were right in so far that the word ‘physical’ in Greek could quite well mean ‘mechanical’, and was frequently associated with the idea of a fixed law of behaviour imposed on objects by their natural constitution: where they went wrong was in their failure to perceive that the word could not possibly mean anything of the kind in which Cyril used it. The whole void which made a reasonable understanding attainable between Cyril and the Antiochenes was nothing more nor less than a chasm of mutually omitted contexts.
Cyril’s main contention was that the personal subject of the godhead and of the manhood was identical; only so could the unity of God the Word and ‘man’ be positively conceived, and only so, therefore, could redemption be maintained as having been effected both in man, through human channels, and by God, through divine agency. Theodore and Nestorius were content to leave the union of the two natures a complete mystery; Cyril saw that misconceptions and heresies were bound to recur until theology had supplied a positive doctrine of the one Lord Christ. Cyril insisted, then, that all the experiences of the incarnate life were experiences of the divine Person. God the Son Himself, and no other, was born and lived on earth under human conditions and suffered and rose from the dead, not, of course, in His heavenly nature, but in the “form of a servant” to which, for the purposes of the incarnation, He condescended to limit His experience and action. It was God who suffered in the flesh and was crucified in the flesh and, because even within the limitations to which He reduced Himself He remained the true stuff and source of life, because the first-born from the dead (anathem. 12). The manhood represents the conditions to which the action of God the Son was scaled down for the purposes of human existence. God learned through personal condescension what it is to be a man.
This explains the reluctance which Cyril showed to concede more than he could help of human ignorance to Christ. He never could forget that whenever Christ spoke it was God speaking, even though His speech issued through human lips and was conditioned by human faculties. That is why he represents the Saviour’s moral and intellectual growth as a voluntary unveiling of the divine mind (cf. Sellers Two Ancient Christologies, 103ff.); Athanasius had treated it in precisely the same way (cf Ath. c. Ar., 3.52-53); and, looked from the aspect of His deity, that is what it was. Cyril is little interested—too little interested—in Christ’s moral effort and His human apprehension of truth; that is where, as Dr Sellers rightly claims (op cit., pp. 200f.), the Antiochenes have the better of him. The one fact which Cyril never will let go is that God was learning and deciding in His manhood, “economically”—that is to say, within the sphere and terms of the incarnation (in Greek, ‘economy’)—what He already knew and had decided from all eternity as God. “Sometimes He discourses as man, economically and manwise; sometimes He makes His utterances with divine authority, as God” (ad Succens. 1, 137B). The lips are always human lips, but the authority, when authority is asserted, is that of one who was God as well as man. That sort of claim for the authority of Christ’s teaching is one which the extreme Antiochenes, with their deficient theory of the union of natures, had no strict right to put forward.
The Antiochenes had done their best to draw the manhood of ‘the man’ closely around the person of God the Son, by declaring that Christ’s ‘man’ was no causally selected human being, but one designed, prepared and fitted for the sole purpose of being united with God the Son; that he was in fact so united form his first moment of existence in the Virgin’s womb (Theodore in Swete ii. pp. 298, 308, 339; Nestorius in Loofs Nestoriana p. 354, Bazaar p. 267; Theodoret on Isaiah xi. 1, 249B, C). Cyril affirms the union still more boldly and unequivocally in the crucial statement that the flesh of Christ was the flesh of God: “the body that tasted death was by a genuine union His very own” (apol. c. Thdt. cap. 12, 2240A). The same theme runs through the Twelve Articles. Emmanuel was in truth God and therefore the holy Virgin was the Mother of God, for she bare in flesh God the Word made flesh (aneth. 1). The man assumed is not to be worshipped and glorified alongside God the Word, as if one were dwelling in the other, but a single worship is to be addressed to Emmanuel inasmuch as the Word has become flesh and man like us; not another man born of woman separately apart form Him (anath. 10). The Lord’s flesh is life-giving and belongs to the Word Himself who is out of God the Father; it does not belong to some one other than Him, conjoined to Him by merit or merely enjoying a divine indwelling (anath. 11). The Word of God suffered in flesh (anath. 12).
Cyril carefully disclaimed Apollinarianism, but following in the footsteps both of the Alexandrine and of the Cappadocian theologians he maintained insistently that Christ’s manhood was a true and individual expression of his divine person in human terms. “We do not say that the nature of the Word was changed in order to become flesh, nor that it was transformed into a complete man of soul and body: but rather this, that the Word united to Himself in an objective reality, ineffably and incomprehensibly, flesh ensouled with a rational soul, and thus became man” (ad Nest. 3 70A). “He Himself, who is the Son Begotten of God the Father and is God only-begotten, though He is impassible in His own nature, suffered in the flesh for us according to the Scriptures; and in the crucified body He was making His own, united to manhood like ours, He could, impassibly, endure human sufferings in flesh that was His own” (de rect. fid. 163E). “He made His own a body which was able to suffer in order that He might be said to suffer in that which had a passible nature, although He remained impassible in His own nature” (apol. c. Thdt. cap. 12, 239D). Neither Christ’s sufferings nor His ignorance belonged to the divine nature; but the whole object of the incarnation was that they might be made the actual experience of God in a human embodiment.
Nor was the humanity a mere bundle of abstract attributes with no more than a paper existence, as the Antiochenes feared that Cyril meant. Cyril denies this expressly, asserting that the humanity was as real and substantive a thing or fact as the deity; a genuine incarnation implies “a concurrence of actual things or real objects (apol. c. Thdt 1, 260C). Nevertheless, though the medium and the conditions of each experience were concrete, he is very careful to deny that this admission involves two personal subjects. He distinguishes clearly between the divine experience and the human experience, while maintaining that the one undivided Christ is subject to both. If there is one Jesus Christ our Lord and one faith in Him and one baptism, there must be only one person of Him; and if the same person is at once both God and man, it follows beyond the possibility of criticism that He should speak “at once both in a divine and in a human fashion;” everything proceeds from the one Christ, both the divine manifestations and the human (apol. c. Thdt 4, 217A, B). The human utterances are not to be referred to another person, to a son separately and independently conceived, but to the condition of His manhood (ib. D). According Cyril rejects every attempt to ascribe the Redeemers actions to anything resembling a distinct personification of either nature. It is untrue that God the Word and not ‘the man’ raised Lazarus form the tomb; it is untrue that the assumed man and not God the Word was wearied in His travels and was crucified and died; that is simply to misunderstand the truth of the incarnation: the Word of God became man, and every word and act must be ascribed to Him Himself; for since the same person is both God and man at the same time., His speech displays both divine and human qualities, and His actions likewise are both divine and human (resp. ad Tib. 390B, c, Pusey v. 586; Athanasius had made exactly the same point ad Serap. 4.14, in language of unambiguous luminosity). In other words, Cyril will have nothing to do wit any theory of alternation between divine and human functions in the Redeemer; the effect of the two natures is concurrent; the Redeemer’s acts are the acts of a man who is God and of God who has, within the sphere of operations undertaken for human redemption, effectively made Himself a man.
Nothing could be much plainer than this: and Cyril repeats with great consistency substantially the same clear doctrine in everything he writes on the subject. But he no only has a firm grasp of conclusions; he also holds definite ideas about the conditions under which the incarnation has been brought to pass. His notion of the nature of man was precisely that of Apollinaris, with the one significant exception of Apollinaris’s error—and, it may be added, precisely that held implicitly by Athanasius. Apollinaris defined man as “consciousness to be subjected to human limitations; a fully divine and unreduced consciousness, unconditioned by its association with the flesh and operating the flesh like a mechanical instrument, satisfied both his definition of human nature and his theory of the incarnation. Cyril did not fall into that mistake. He saw that a human consciousness is subject to special conditions and limitations, dependent on its association with its physical organism, and he improved the definition accordingly. “Where else,” he asked,” is the nature of manhood accept flesh consciously ensouled, in which we assert that the Lord suffered ‘in flesh’?” (ad Succens. 2 145D). To deny the human soul is to eliminate the conditions which make the consciousness genuinely human. Christ, then, had a human soul. Or more strictly, just as deity is something that God is, rather than something which He has, so a soul, or a finite consciousness, is really something that a person is, rather than a possession that he owns; and as Christ became a man, rather than took possession of a man, so it would be truer to say that He subjected His divine consciousness, within the incarnate sphere, to the limitations involved in a physical existence. He adapted Himself to “flesh consciously ensouled”, voluntarily limiting the range and action of His divine mind to physical conditions, and Himself, thus limited, becoming the soul of His “ensouled flesh.”
This view, which is what Cyril’s teaching really amounts to, involves a number of corollaries. It implies the real continuity of the human soul of Christ with His divine consciousness, on which, as we have seen, Cyril laid great stress. It further involves the conception that man is not a combination of two disjunct elements of soul and body, regarded as almost independent and unrelated factors, so much as a mind physically conditioned—psychologically a far more satisfactory definition. It requires the assumption that Christ’s human life was a real addition to His eternal life, yet an addition characterised by a new mode of action than by fresh content: what was always within His range as God He now experienced over again as man. It argues that in His earthly life He made Himself less than He eternally was, reducing and contracting His infinite eternal compass. And it assumes that human nature has certain definite constitutive principles, to the scale and limits of which He confined His human action. These points need some brief illustration.
The definition of human nature accepted by Cyril was stated in principle by Origen, who says (de princ. 4.2.7), “by men I mean souls employing bodies.” Athanasius implies the same idea when he mentions (Ad Epict. 6) that while Joseph wrapped our Lord’s body in linene and laid it in the tomb, “He Himself” went and preached to the spirits in Hades. Basil affirms it clearly. He distinguishes between the self, and its properties, and its identical attachments: “Our soul and mind ‘are’ our self, inasmuch as we have been made in the image of the Creator; the body and the sensations and the rest of life’s furniture are ‘attached to us’ ” (in illud Attende tibi ipsi 3, ed Ben ii. 18C). Elsewhere he notes the difference between experiences occurring to mere flesh, such as laceration; to animate flesh, such as physical weariness; and to “a soul employing a body,” such as grief (ep. 261.3): and in yet another passage he claims, on the ground that the Saviour was “not animate [i.e. soulless] flesh but deity employing animated flesh,” that ignorance can rightly be attributed “to Him who accepted everything in incarnate fashion and progressed in wisdom and grace’ (ep. 236.1).
Chrysostom again, a thorough Antiochene, states in Platonic language that the relation of the soul to its “earthly vessel” is the same as that of a driver to his chariot or of a musician to his instrument (de angust. port. 1 ed. Ben iii. 25D). Finally Nemesius, the philosophical bishop of Emesa in Syria, who was roughly a contemporary of Chrysostom, observes the contrast between Aristotelian and Platonic ways of regarding humanity. Aristotle, he says, regards mind as only potentially created with a man, actual mind being a later development of personal existence; whereas Plato “does not appear to mean that a man is a soul and a body both, but a soul employing a particular body,” intending that “we should consider the soul to be our self and pursue only the goods of the soul” (de nat. hom. 1). Hence in spite of frequent statements, made without any qualification, that man is a compound animal consisting of two members, a soul and a body, there is a long succession of Christian thinkers who picture the relations between the two elements not as that of a finite consciousness, not as subsisting between two equal and parallel components, but as that of a finite consciousness, which is the true self, to the physical conditions that permanently determine its character. Cyril is simply building on that tradition when he puts forward the self of God the Son, appropriately limited and conditioned, as the personal subject of the manhood of Christ.
The same idea is possibly in the mind of Gregory Nazianzus, when he says that God was united to flesh through medium of a soul, the two divergent factors being linked together by the medium’s affinity to both (or. 2.23); or, more simply, that God became associated with flesh through the medium of the mind (or. 29.19). Both Gregory and Cyril exhibit the same sense that three distinct terms are involved, and that the central term provides the key to the Christological problem. In descending order we are presented with the infinite Mind of God, a finite human consciousness, and the material envelope in which the human consciousness or soul is embodied. Gregory, following Origen (de princ., 2.6.3), saw that the human soul must be the true point of union between God and a physical organism, because of its double affinities: it has kinship on the one hand to God, since the soul though finite resembles God in being a rational consciousness; and on the other hand to physical bodies, with which it is regularly associated in the order of natural existence. Gregory, and still more Cyril, improved on Origen’s statement that the divine Son identified Himself with a particular soul, till the doctrine is clearly implied that God the Word became a finite soul. The relation between Christ’s divine and human consciousness was not, as the strict two-nature school was bound to say, if pressed, that He took to Himself a second mind, but that within the sphere of the incarnation He caused His own mind to be physically conditioned and limited. That is the point of Cyril’s ruthless war on Nestorius. Christ was “not two different persons, though He acted in two different ways” (frag. hom. 15, Pusey v. p. 474). Cyril had no problem in confessing one Christ in two natures he was adamant: against any possibility of two separated natures constituting two separate Sons, of splitting into two sections the single personal being and action of the Saviour, or of doubling the solemn act of redemption between Christ and a human understudy.
It is a commonplace of fourth-century theology that the manhood of Christ was an “addition” which He “took”. Such a statement was necessitated in order to avoid assuming that His deity was changed or impoverished by the incarnation; what He experienced in the flesh had to be something outside the scope of His divine experience, unless its limitations were to be reckoned as limitations of infinitude and transcendence of God. Hence comes the constant repetition of such phrases as “the addition (proslepsis) of the flesh,” “Christ’s incarnation or addition,” “not altering (metabalon) what He was but abiding (proslabon) what He was not” (Ath. c. Ar. 1.41; Greg. Naz. or. 21.3; Ath. c. Ar. 1.47; Greg. Naz. or. 40.45, or. 39.13). At first sight this looks like an attempt to extend infinity by tacking on to it something in which infinity itself was deficient, and if that has really been intended, the result would equally have been to attribute limitation to the godhead, and let in Arianism by the back door. But the doctrine of human addition to Christ has to be balanced by the doctrine of divine kenosis or contraction, by which Christ made Himself on earth what might be called a miniature of His eternal self; and when the two doctrines are put together it becomes plain that the so called addition was nothing but a repetition , on a smaller scale, and in a limited sphere, of what Christ already was eternally.
This is hinted at by Gregory (or. 37.2), who collocates the contraction and the addition; “what He was He emptied and what He was not He added.” An addition, of which the very nature is that it is a contraction, involves a new method of operation, but no enlargement of the divine infinitude. Cyril sees the facts clearly. “What sort of process is the emptying? It means becoming subject to the addition of flesh . . . the assimilation to us of Him who in His own nature is not like us” (quod unus 742B). “He became subject to the addition of the flesh consciously ensouled . . . by Himself becoming flesh, that is, a man” (ib. 743E). The incarnation had already been described as “a condescension to the humiliation and weakness of manhood” (Basil in ps. 44.5); as an act, “not nature, but of grace and condescension and emptying” (Chrys. in Heb. 7.2). It added nothing to the godhead; it was only in the manhood that anything was added.
In the manhood, however, the word addition is strictly applicable; as man, Christ could pray to the Father and receive gifts from the Father. What Cyril says about the glorifying of the Redeemer is typical of his whole attitude to the incarnation. “The Son, as Word, stands in no need of glory or of any other accession; though He asks from the Father or is said to receive, He does so under the terms of the incarnation; He receives in human manner owing to the fashion of His assimilation to us” (thes. ass. 23, 226E). “Since He took flesh which is need of being glorified, and that flesh became His and no one’s else, it is in keeping for Him to make His own the experiences that befall it or concern it; and as man He lacks and receives from the Father what He possesses in His own nature as Son and God” (ib. 227B). The ‘addition’, then, is in its essence a subtraction, and all that was ever strictly added was the gradual restoration, so far as was appropriate to the conditions of the human experience, of endowments which, while retained and unimpaired in the divine life, had been voluntarily discarded in the act of the incarnation. The ‘added’ flesh means nothing more than the physical conditions which God the Son was pleased to impose on the self-emptied consciousness of His human experience.
Some queerly interesting passages can be quoted to illustrate the general notion that God the Son reduced Himself, as it were, in size when He became man. One comes from the Syriac Doctrine of Addai, as cited in Greek by Eusebius (h. e. 1.13.20): “I will preach about the coming of Jesus; . . . about His littleness and humiliation; how He humbled Himself, and laid aside and stunted His deity, and was crucified.” Methodius compares Him, in an involved argument, to a subdivided number because He has been “lessened and resolved into His factors,” “without ever having been diminished from His integral value” (symp. 8.11, 202). Eusebius suggests that “He receded from His deity and stunted Himself from His natural bigness” (dem. ev. 6.9.1). “He emptied the ineffable glory of His deity,” says Gregory of Nyssa, ” and stunted it with our diminutiveness; so that what He was remained great and perfect and incomprehensible, but what He took was of equal size with our scale of nature” (adv. Apoll. 20). From this point of view the manhood of Christ is presented as deity viewed through the wrong end of a telescope. The lens consists of the constitutive principles of human nature: used in an ordinary way they point through the highest that exists in man towards the nature of God in whose image man is made; if reversed, they show how diminutive God made Himself when He Himself became man. So, for Cyril, “Christ reduced Himself in diminution, that is, under our conditions (Ad Acac. 116C).
But the normal expression for the divine condescension is kenosis or ’emptying,’ and the reason for its prevalence is, as nearly always, that it was taken from the Bible (Phil. 2.7). When St Paul said that Christ emptied Himself, he seems to have meant no more than He poured out His divine prerogatives on to the ground like wine out of a bowl; he had in mind an act of self-denying generosity. Origen developed the idea, as he did so many other ideas, giving the kenosis positive expression in the actual circumstances of the incarnate life (in Jer. 1.7), insisting that it made the humanity a mirror of the divinity (de princ.1.2.8), and claiming that what was left as the result of the process of emptying was still the wisdom of God (in Jer. 8.8). While St Paul had been thinking of the unreserved self-sacrifice of Christ, Origen sees in His self-emptying the method of His contraction from an infinite to a finite scale. Origen’s conception was accepted with general, if with rather casual, approval. It was left to Cyril to give the intense prominence, and to connect the emptying, repeatedly and emphatically, with the ‘measure’ and ‘scale’ (metron) or the ‘terms’ and ‘principles’ (logoi) of humanity.
He harps perpetually on this theme. The emptying was a voluntary reduction to our level, undertaken as an act of pure love (in Joh. 970B). “The method of the voluntary emptying, involving as it necessarily did the fashion of humiliation, makes the only-begotten God appear, through the manhood, in circumstances meaner than those those in which the Father is” (ib. D). The emptying in this sense was not absolute; it is defined by reference to the standards to which God the Son was reduced. “He who fills all things lowered Himself to emptying’; “He who is above all principality is within the measures of manhood” (hom, pasch. 27, 324C). “We assert that the very Word out of God the Father, in an act by which He is said to have been emptied for our sake by taking on the form of a slave, lowered Himself within the measures of manhood” (c. Nest. 63C). “He who lowered Himself for our sake to a voluntary emptying, on what ground could He reject the principles of proper emptying?” (ad Nest. 3, 73D). To “become flesh” is the same thing as to “make the human scale His own” (apol. c. Thdt. cap. 3 212D).
In spite of everything that may be said in criticism of Cyril’s treatment of the Saviour’s mental and moral development as a human soul, he admits unequivocally the reality of His entire human experience. “He makes His own all that belongs, as to His own body, so the the soul, for He had to be shown to be like us through every circumstance both physical and mental, and we consist of rational soul and body: and as there are times when in the incarnation He permitted the soul to experience its own affections, so again He permitted the soul to experience proper affections, and He observed the scale of the emptying in every respect (de rect. fid. 176C, D). Again since Christ is in one and the same person both human and divine, “it will be entirely true of Him both that He knows and yet that He appears to be ignorant; He divinely as the Father’s wisdom, but since He has subjected Himself to the scale of ignorant manhood He makes this also His own, as well as everything else, within the incarnation, although He is ignorant of nothing and knows everything in company with the Father” (apol. c. Thdt. cap. 4, 218B, C). “The only-begotten Word of God has worn, with the manhood, everything appertaining to it, sin alone excepted: it may reasonably be held that one characteristic of the measures of manhood is ignorance of the future: accordingly, considered as God He knows all that the Father knows, but as being likewise man he does not repudiate the appearance of ignorance, owing to the properties of manhood; but just as He received physical nourishment, not despising the scale of the emptying, though He is Himself the source of life and power . . . so although He knows everything He does not blush to attribute to Himself the ignorance proper to manhood; for everything appertaining to manhood became His, sin alone excepted” (resp. ad Tib. 4, Pusey v. 585). St John, says Cyril, “in introducing the Word as having become flesh, represents Hims as allowing, in the incarnation, His own flesh to proceed through the laws of its own nature; and it appertains to manhood to advance in age and wisdom, and I should say also in grace, as the individual intelligence springs upward, as it were, in correspondence with the measure of the body.” Infants and children and adults display different characteristics. It would not have been antecedently inconceivable for the body of the divine Word to have shown adult characteristics in infancy, nor for Him to have manifested miraculous wisdom from the cradle; “but for such an event would have been not far removed from occultism, and out of keeping with the principles of the incarnation.” Accordingly, he concludes, the Word “permitted the measures of the manhood to prevail over Himself in the way of the incarnation,” since He made His own what appertains to us, seeing that He became like us (quod unus 760A-C).
Cyril sums up his Christology in the formula which he adopted, as he thought, from Athanasius, but in reality from Apollinaris (ad Jov. 1), “the one personality of God, the Word, and it made flesh.” The Greek word here translated ‘personality’ is physis. Physis means the way in which a thing grows and functions, hence its ‘nature’; applied to the universe at large it means ‘natural law.’ But it is also frequently applied to the actual thing that grows and functions—such as Nature, in the concrete sense of ‘the natural world,’ or some particular creature or subject, regarded always from the standpoint of its function or behaviour, as an individual embodiment of some specific character. Hence in connection with personal beings physis can mean either their constitution and behaviour, or a concrete ‘personality.’ There is no doubt that whatever that, as a description of God the Son, divine and incarnate, Cyril meant physis in this last sense. The ‘physis of God the Word’ is nothing else than God the Word Himself, the personal subject of all His actions and experiences.
Cyril shows this by the significant explanation which he adds after quoting the formula in his treatise against Nestorius. After the union, he says, there is one incarnate personality of God the Word Himself, as might be said of any human compounded of the diverse elements of soul and body. “But it is necessary to supplement this with the statement that the body united to God the Word was ensouled with a rational soul. And we may usefully add that the flesh was distinct from the Word out of God according to the principle of its own nature, and again the nature of the Word Himself was distinct in substance; yet although the above-mentioned elements must be conceived as different and apportioned to distinct natures, one Christ is conceived as out of both” (c. Nest. 31C, D).
He expounds his meaning with great care in the two letters to Succensus. “The flesh is flesh and not deity, even though it has become God’s flesh; similarly the Word is God and not flesh, even though He the made the flesh His own by way of incarnation;” consequently it is both right to allow that the “concurrence into union” was effected out of two ‘natures’ (that is, personal characters determined by their respective spheres), and also necessary to deny that after admitting the fact of their union we should separate the ‘natures’ from one another and partition the undivided Son into two Sons; “we assert one Son and, as the Fathers have stated, one incarnate personality [‘nature’] of God the Word” (ad Succens. 1, 137D). “There is no ground for alleging that He suffered in respect of His own (i.e. divine) nature, if we admit after the union one incarnate ‘nature’ of the Son. That might properly have been alleged, if there had not existed within the principles of the incarnation something constituted to undergo suffering; for had that something not existed and possessed the capacity to suffer, it would necessarily have followed that the suffering affected the nature of the Word. But by the term ‘incarnate’ the whole principle of the ‘economy’ with flesh is brought in; for He was incarnate in no other way than by taking hold of the seed of Abraham and being made like in all respects to His brethren” (ib. 2, 142B, C). “When we say that there is one only-begotten Son of God, incarnate and made man, He is not thereby intermingled, as they suppose; neither has the nature of the Word deviated into the nature of the flesh, nor that of the flesh into that of the Word; each continues and is recognised in its own natural character . . . and ineffably and indescribably united He displays to us one ‘nature’ of the Son, but, as I say, incarnate” (ib. 143A, B). Cyril is implying exactly what Theodore and Nestorius attempted to express: the deity has its personality and the manhood also has its personality, but the two personalities are identically one and the same. The Antiochene leaders left the matter there as a mere assertion, unsupported by any attempt at explanation. Cyril adds the vitally important link: the reason why the two are identical is because the human personality is simply that of the divine subject under submission to physical conditions.
Cyril gave one final indication that by the ‘nature’ of God the Word he meant the Divine Word in person, through the variations which he introduced into the terms of the formula as found in the original document. Sometimes he substitutes for ‘physis’ the term ‘hypostasis:’ “all the utterances recorded in the Gospels must be attributed to one individual (prosopon), the one incarnate ‘object’ of the Word (ad Nest. 3, 73D; cf. c. Nest. 51D). Sometimes again he changes the gender of the participle ‘incarnate’, making it refer directly to the Son, as of one person, but Him made man and incarnate (ad Acac. 115E). Leontius of Byzantium, a century later, struggling to reconcile the formula of Apollinaris and Cyril with the truth as it appeared from his own two-nature standpoint, rashly observed that to make the participle agree with the divine Word instead of the nature is to counterfeit the true coin of the Father’s teaching (c. Monoph. 42): because he failed to see that by ‘nature’ Cyril meant personality, he imagined that the ascription of one nature to the incarnate Word, without even the implicit mention of an incarnate nature, involved the Monophysite heresy. Unfortunately for Leontius, Cyril committed this indiscretion more than once, as if to show expressly that it made no difference to the sense of the phrase whether he said God the Son, or His personality, or His objective reality was incarnate; the three expressions were exactly equivalent; that which, exhibited in terms of deity, is God the Son, is also, when exhibited in terms of His manhood, Jesus Christ. If His ‘nature’ be regard from an abstract point of view, as illustrating the terms which constitute or condition Him, then it must be admitted to be two-fold; the terms of deity are quite distinct from those of manhood, and so remain. But if it be regarded from the concrete point of view, as the person, being, or subject embodied and expressed in the terms, then He is one Christ, both God and man.
Cyril had far too deep a religious apprehension of the awesome profundity of Almighty God to think that he could dissect the tremendous mystery of the union of Natures in detail, and serve it up filleted for a logicians breakfast. Intellectual pride was much more typical of the temper of Nestorius. To Cyril, “the manner of the union is entirely beyond human understanding” (quod unus 736A). But the fact and even the purpose of the union were revealed with quite sufficient clearness for all practical Christian needs. No fusion or intermingling, he insists, is implied in the confession of one ‘nature’ of the Son, and Him incarnate and made man: if people say there is, do not attend to them, but to the inspired Scripture. If they infer, from the fact that human nature is as nothing compared with the divine transcendence, that in Christ the manhood was “filched and squandered away”—a clear reference to the Monophysite teaching later to be popularised by Eutyches—then “they err through not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” God, who loves mankind, was not incapable of finding a way to manifest Himself in a manner that the measure of manhood can “tolerate.” So he quotes the instance of the Burning Bush: Christ appeared to Moses in the likeness of fire, and the fire blazed in the thicket, but the wood was not consumed—”the combustible substance was tolerant of the inroads of flame.” The incident is meant to illustrate the way in which the measures of manhood can be made tolerant of the divine ‘nature’ of the Word, “while He so wills” (ib. 737A-C). The last words are important. They show that on Cyril’s view the incarnation depends on a continuous act of the divine will, and bar out any element of mechanical necessity such as the Antiochenes dreaded. The incarnation is much more than a metaphysical problem; fundamentally it is a condescension, a moral and personal dispensation, of the loving kindness of God.
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4.5) was a test frequently on Cyril’s lips. the vindication of the first member of this dogmatic trinity was the lifework to which he was providentially called. The task was vital. Christianity is neither a doctrinal construction nor a moral law, but the relations of persons to a Person. Yet theology is both inevitable and essential, since the object served by theological orthodoxy is the maintenance of a right balance of thought about God, to preserve the truth about His action in creation, redemption and grace. If the balance is upset, the ultimate consequence is seen in the prevalence of wrong ideas of human life and duty, in superstition and idolatry, in neglect of the primary obligation of mankind to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Christianity certainly upholds a system of ethical principles: “but the mere ethical teaching, however important, is the least important, because the least distinctive part of Christianity . . . Its distinctive character is, that in revealing a Person it reveals also the principle of life (Lightfoot, Philippians, 1908 edtn., p. 328). The primary purpose of theology is to keep the vision of that Person clear and its meaning unmistakable.
There are dangers, subtle and profound, in a theology which overelaborates its dogmas; which concentrates notice too much on secondary issues, so distracting the mind from God rather than making Him the centre of attention; which makes no adequate distinction between immediate and necessary inferences, and those which follow on with remoter force and more uncertain validity, so raise speculation to the level of revelation; or which so identifies itself with the thinker’s quest for intelligible truth as to sacrifice the universal need for religious faith, and to petrify the Word and Wisdom of God with intellectual incrustation. Dogmatic forms, said Lightfoot, are the buttresses or the scaffold poles of the Gospel, not the building itself. But, he continued, “in the natural reaction against excess of dogma, there is a tendency to lay the whole stress of the Gospel on its ethical precepts. For instance, men will often tacitly assume, and even openly avow, that its kernel is contained in the Sermon on the Mount. This conception may perhaps be more healthy in its impulse and more directly practical in its aim; but in fact it is not less dangerous even to morality than the other: for, when the sources of life are cut off, the streams will cease to flow. Certainly, this is not St. Paul’s idea of the Gospel . . . Though the gospel is capable of doctrinal exposition, though it is eminently fertile in moral results, yet its substance is neither a dogmatic system nor an ethical code, but a Person and a Life” (op. cit. p. ix). To set forth that Person in a scriptural and intelligible theology, which should serve to maintain undimmed the vital features of His eternal love and majesty, was the principle aim of Cyril’s long and active career.
If there be one Lord, there should in substance be also one faith. That does necessarily mean that doctrinal formulations must necessarily preserve universal identity of phrasing throughout Christendom. In fact, the more fully theologians enter into detail, the greater is likely to be the need of complementary version of Christian belief, to ensure that the whole theological ground is adequately covered and that the effects of special illumination to too restricted an area, so ministering to a one-sided appreciation of truth: the school of Antioch certainly had something vital to contribute as a supplement to the Christology of Cyril, fundamentally right as Cyril’s teaching was. But agreement must be conscious in order to be effective, and the real tragedy of the fifth century controversy was that through lack of conference the opportunity was lost of reaching something like an agreed and inclusive statement of the theological significance of Christ, which would cover all the points elaborated in the divergent schools.
If all parties had been bent on conciliation, and had, without abating anything of substance of their own convictions, made a genuine effort to understand one another, the task might well have been accomplished and the Nestorian and Monophysite schisms averted, at any rate on any serious scale. An Athanasius might have succeeded in consolidating Christian thought and preserving Christian unity. But neither Cyril nor Nestorius was an Athanasius; none of the chief figures combined has strong grasp of truth with his sympathetic penetration into the minds of others and his large-hearted charity; they each lacked something essential to that great and exceptional synthesis of character. So fatal precedents were set, and in the still more critical and complicated circumstances of the sixteenth century the example was followed, not of the council of Alexandria in 362, but of 431 and 451. Theology, which should have been united, proved an instrument of division; not because it tried to mirror Christ in human thought, but because it failed to pursue its work to the very end with unrestricted breadth of vision and unflinching thoroughness of method.
What were the causes making for division? It might be suggested that Cyril’s comparative lack of interest in the human life of Christ obscured form his vision the tenderness and consideration which, without minimising Christ’ tolerance of evil, coloured all his treatment of persons. Cyril’s private life was blameless and devoted, but he showed, on occasion, a baneful truculence and precipitancy. But Nestorius was equally intolerant, and Theodoret, though a pattern of conciliation among his own flock, thought and apparently continued to think the worst of Cyril; and these were the very advocates of a fully human Christology. Or it might be argued that prolonged controversy about Christ had diverted attention from the full doctrine of His Holy Spirit of truth, and blotted out of memory that earlier insistence, so conspicuous, say, in Irenaeus, on the love and joy and peace which it is part of His mission to transfer from Christ and to reproduce in the hearts and conduct of Christ’s followers. There is probably considerable substance in this argument. Cyril and his leading contemporaries had a genuine zeal for truth, often for intensely real aspects of truth; but few of them displayed a sufficiency of that particular form of divine truth which God the Holy Ghost draws from the well of Christ’s evangelical gentleness.
Feeling had grown embittered and moral tone relaxed through the long persecution relentlessly conducted by the Arian leaders and their imperial State allies. Athanasius indeed protested against the whole principle of coercion in matters of religion. The part of true godliness was to persuade, not to compel (hist. Ar. 67); persecution is a device of the devil” (apol. de fug. 23, cf. hist. Ar. 33). But experience soon demonstrated only too well the efficacy of persecution if it is applied without scruple and without remission for a long enough time; the example was set and the leaven of malice and wickedness was working. Athanasius himself spoke plainly and forcibly about the Arians; both their behaviour and their theology had been fundamentally anti-Christian, and he made no scruple of saying so. He even adopted the nickname ‘Ariomaniacs,’ already attached to them by the astringent tongue of Eustace of Antioch (ap. Thdt. h. e. 1.8.3, 759B). There was profound justification for all that Athanasius said about the Arians; they were trying to displace the Gospel in favour of a set of thoroughly pagan ideas, and in doing so they employed the essentially pagan method of brute force. On the other hand, he always declined to condemn those whose errors appeared to him superficial or venial, such as Marcellus of Ancyra: when Epiphanius questioned him about Marcellus’s orthodoxy, the tolerant old warrior refused either to defend or to attack him, answering only with a smile, which Epiphanius took to signify that Marcellus had sailed very near the wind, but had cleared himself (Epiph. haer 72.4).
The case was very different in the next century. The issue then did not lie between Christianity and paganism, but between divergent Christian interpretations of Christian facts which all parties equally acknowledged. But the habit of denunciation, acquired in the life-and-death struggle with the Arians, was carried over into these later controversies; and the invocation of secular coercion, by which deposed bishops were imprisoned in insanitary dungeons or banished to unhealthy wildernesses, unhappily survived also. What should have been no more than fraternal disputes, designed to give Christendom a two-eyed stance and secure a complementary vision, assumed the tone and proportions of a civil war. Each side in its own assurance of possessing the truth, assumed that it possessed the whole truth, and read into the other all the vice and venom of heathenism, where no heathenism lay, but only, at worst, an undue concentration of emphasis on one particular part of the problem. The leaders of several schools seriously regarded themselves as prophets, and so in some degree they were. It is the business of prophets to denounce falsehood; but they should make very certain of the falsehoods before they start denunciation; and that is just what none of these champions took proper pains to do.
The ecclesiastical atmosphere was not wholly vitiated. Chrysostom, while still a priest at Antioch, where he had the opportunity of estimating the effects of religious faction, protested strongly against the popular habit of pronouncing anathema on theological opponents: try to convert the brother who has fallen into heresy, he said, act without rancour or persecution; anathematise heretical opinions but not heretical persons (de anath. 694B, C; 696A). (By the word ‘anathematise’ he meant forestall the judgment of God, consign to perdition and deny the hope of salvation, ib.693A; he had, and could have, nothing to say against putting wrong-doers under discipline, cf. in 1Cor. 15.2, 127C-E, or depriving heretical teachers for their bad theology; he had, shortly before this very sermon, bidden his hearers avoid the company of heretics, de incompr. 2.7, 462B, and elsewhere he claims that Scriptures act as a sure gate to bar heretics against entry into the sheepfold, in Joh. 59.2, 346D.) But his plea for moderation was robbed of its appeal when, as archbishop, he showed himself as unconciliatory as any other prophet of reform. It is important to observe how, even at that period, recognition was accorded to ideals of consideration and humanity. But when occasion arose for combining firmness and kindness, it was all too easy for prejudice to take the floor and crowd consideration out of the window. Perhaps the worst fault of the whole age was the ingrained habit of suspicion, with which even good men became infected. The Lord God is a jealous God, but His power of exercising a wholly righteous jealousy for truth is given few men to share: consequently, the false prophets are always likely to outnumber the true.
It has always been asked whether the growth of intolerance should be connected with the extension of the monastic movement. Egypt, Syria and Constantinople alike overflowed with monks and solitaries: Nestorius and Theodoret and Eutyches, the Monophysite leader, were all monks; Cyril and Chrysostom had been trained by monks and favoured them. It would very ill befit an English Christian to disparage monasticism. Monks have almost always proved the best missionaries, whenever their special vocation has allowed or led them to undertake evangelisation: England wholly owes to monks her introduction to the faith—to Benedictine monks from Rome in the south, to Celtic monks from Iona in the north, to Irish or Irish-trained monks in the west, and perhaps to an unknown multitude of wandering solitaries who followed strange stars and pitched their wattle huts all over the unsettled parts of the country—not to mention the debt owed to the Greek monk Theodore from Tarsus and the Lombard monks Lanfranc and Anselm from Bec in Normandy, who gave the English Church an organising and reforming hand in times at which it was needed. Do not let us make the mistake of despising those on whom God has laid this special vocation.
Good monks live very close to God. But at the same time they live very intensely, and have the greater need for discipline and control. Their true province is in their own monasteries and amid their own peculiar ministrations; when they break out of bounds and leave their proper observance their very intensity of conviction can make them sometimes intensely dangerous to peace. During the first half of the fifth century unruly members of the brotherhood in Egypt and Constantinople were a menace to the Christian order; drawn into ecclesiastical politics by contriving prelates and employed pawns in an unlovely game, they filled the spiritual underworld with carnal passion and could always be found in the ranks of the extremists. This kind of intensity was an outrage on the monastic profession and an equal obstacle either to theological or to ecclesiastical unity. Corrupto optimi pessima. The unity of the faith, which the over-jealous zeal of theologians imperilled, was by no means cemented through the bigoted fanaticism of monks.
After one Lord and one faith comes one baptism, which is the means of entry into the Church. If the Redeemer is one, and the Christian faith is really one, so must the Church be one. Christ was God’s word in the creation of the world; He was God’s Word no less in the fresh act of creation through which human society, disintegrated by rebellion, by the blindness which thereby fell on human vision and the paralysis which overtook the human will, was designed to be refashioned on the model of the incarnate Lord. From the humanity of Christ was meant to grow a new order of redeemed men, to show the world a sanctified pattern of life lived in conformity with God’s will. Christ, said the apostle, is married to the Church: he loves it, gave Himself for it, and cherishes it even as His own flesh; and since He is no polygamist there cannot be a plurality of Churches. No one could state the reason for Christian unity more plainly than it has been put by Dr Karl Barth. “The quest for the unity of the Church,” he says, “must be a quest not for Church-unity in itself; for as such it is idle and empty.” “The quest for the unity of the Church must in fact be identical for the quest for Jesus Christ as the concrete Head and Lord of the Church: the blessing of unity cannot be separated from Him who blesses . . . and only in faith in Him can it become a reality among us.” ” ‘Homesickness for the una sancta’ is genuine and legitimate only insofar as it is disquietude at the fact that we have lost and forgotten Christ” (The Church and the Churches pp. 18, 19, 20).
The Church then is Christ’s own creation, His bride and His body. It exists as His instrument in the world; to bear His witness to the truth, to carry on the work which His Father gave Him to do, to keep His commandments, and to pray His prayers. Its soul, unless it should lose its soul, is His Holy Spirit. It is one because Christ is one, and for no other essential reason. But like Him it bears a double character, supernatural and fleshly. As He is both God and man, so the Church is an elect spiritual kingdom and also a human social institution, a communion of saints and an association of sinful men. “Ecclesiastical perfectionism—the belief that the Church in history can become a perfect society—is an error that is counterpart of secular utopianism” (Vidler, God’s judgment on Europe p. 92). Nor can any escape be found form the paradox of a sinful society acting as the organ of God’s kingdom, in distinction between the visible and the ‘invisible’ Church. “The Church is not ideally one thing and actually another, but it is really both these things at once, divine and human, full of grace and full of nature, spirit and flesh, eternal and temporal, universal and particular, immutable and mutable, the new Israel of God and an association of human individuals” (op cit. p. 93). That is both a fundamental doctrinal postulate and unevadable experimental fact which affords the only explanation of the actual course of Christian history. Illustrations of both aspects of the Church’s character may easily be drawn from facts recorded earlier in these Lectures.
The unity of millions of fellow-Christians who have never seen or met one another must obviously be a special kind of unity. The union between Christ and Christians is compared in the Bible to that of man and wife, or of head and members; that between Christian and Christian, however, resembles rather the union between different and often widely separated joints and particles in a bodily organism. It depends on two things: on the community of like flowing downward from Christ through the life-giving arteries of His Holy Spirit, and on the community of faith directed upwards in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to God the divine Saviour. To say this is only to repeat that one Church follows upon one Lord and one faith. Christian unity, unlike political unity, does not depend on general submission to one supreme organ of government or to one centre of coercive authority. That, or something perilously like it, seems to most people who repudiate the Roman claims to have become the theory of the Latin West. But speaking for myself, I can see no such evidence that such a theory was ever accepted in the ancient Church outside the West; and its approval in the West resulted from a combination of special causes. The actual manner in which Church unity was outwardly expressed in the patristic age appears rather to have been through the voluntary co-operation of regional Churches; the great sees—not to be identified wholly or exclusively with the formally recognised patriarchal sees—exercised a preponderant influence over their own immediate neighbourhood, and inter-regional unity was maintained through the agreement and intercommunion of the great sees. At times friendly relations between certain of the great sees, together with their respective dependencies, were ruptured. But nobody imagined that such domestic quarrels could be permanent, still less that the real unity of Christ’s Church was being thereby severed. The life of the one Lord continued to flow down; theological or disciplinary divisions, so long as they did not proceed from rejection of the faith of the Gospel, could be repaired. On its human side the Church was wounded, not dismembered; on its divine side it remained glorious in the unity of its Lord.
The case assumes a somewhat altered appearance to our modern eyes when the whole limbs are observed breaking away after 431 and 451, because, although these wounds proved to be incurable, yet the served members showed no sign of early moral decay or practical dissolution. In theory, the orthodox Great Church which excommunicated Nestorians and Monophysites regarded them as no true Christians: like the Arians, they had cast away the one faith of the Gospel and had therefore been themselves cast out of the one Christian Church. To that extent the problem of Oriental schisms was simpler than that of puritanic but theologically orthodox schisms of Novationists or Donatists, of whose position Augustine had to find a rather different elucidation. But the Eastern schismatics are in fact unlike the Arians in two vital respects. They did not die out with reasonable expedition; although the Mohammedan militancy shattered them and largely veiled their continued existence from the eyes of the orthodox, yet venerable relics of them survive to this day. And, as we begin to-day at last to realise, it is more than doubtful whether the bulk of them were heretical; they gave explanations of the faith that differed from the explanations approved by the same truths, and Athanasius has taught us that it is no heresy to mean the same thing while putting it in different words. Real heresy consists only in overthrowing the true faith.
Accordingly, there was a genuine problem of dogmatic reunion even in the ancient Church, a problem that could not be solved without some mutual recognition of the complementary views of truth held by the several divided bodies. They were separated by theological discords, that is to say, by real differences of conviction, but those discords were not so deep as to constitute ultimate diversity of faith in the Gospel; if the theologians had dug deeper they would have found that their several springs rose from the same source. As a matter of history, the only efforts made to bring about reunion were made from political motives under political pressure; and they all failed. But our present study of the fifth-century schisms strongly indicates that efforts ought to have been made from religious motives under theological pressure, and that they ought to have succeeded. The problem of the fifth century may therefore fitly serve as an introduction to the problem of the twentieth.
It is true that the modern reunion problem is immensely complicated by vital questions of Church order and institutions, which did not arise in the fifth century, because on those questions all parties held similar views and practised identical principles. This makes the problem more difficult, but does not make it essentially different, for all the serious questions about order are at bottom questions about faith. Teacher after teacher, approaching the matter from the most divergent angles of denominational loyalty, has lately been reminding us that to concentrate on Church order in and by itself is the gravest mistake. Church order is relevant to Church union only in so far as it is relevant to the doctrine of the Church; in other words, the difficulties which have to be surmounted are not merely institutional but theological, and must be theologically solved. We are brought back to the point that the unity of the Church depends on unity of the faith. The questions of faith have been settled problems of order will sort themselves; but a federation of organised Christian groups all agreeing to differ fundamentally about the real meaning of Christ’s Church and the true character of His means of grace and the right interpretation of His will for the practical union of Christians to Him and to one another, would constitute not one Church, but fifty ‘areas of discussion.’
The way of Christian reunion is the way, first of recognising facts dispassionately, then of trying to find their true significance in the light of revealed biblical truth, and thirdly of thinking and working through the stubborn crust of circumstance to the purpose and providence of God’s till the stubbornness is dissolved and the will of God is uncovered in its true form and shape. We believe that all those who are united in the true faith of Christ are in some sense united already to one another in the soul of His Church correspond outwardly to its innermost reality can be achieved only through dependence upon God’s own action, because, even on its human and earthly side, it is still His Church, and its unity is His will. The times and seasons are in His hand; and though His acts are sometimes catastrophic, they are never hurried.
When Pilate asked our Lord whether He really were a King, Christ gave an answer which implied yes and no. In the sense of governing a man-made association, expressing human desires and authority and principles, no. In the sense that “to this end have I been born and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth,” and that “everyone who belongs to the truth hears my voice” (John 18.36-37)—in that sense yes, He is a King, of a kingdom founded on revealed truth, and peopled by those who are loyal to revealed truth. Pilate was not in the least interested in kingdoms simply founded on truth; for him realities so transcendental simply did not exist—”What is truth?” He was only concerned with kingdoms established and maintained by men. So to-day many good men take Pilate’s line, and try to base the divine cause of Christian reunion on grounds of expediency—’It is vital for Christians to present a united front to the challenge of secular materialism:’ or on grounds of ecclesiastical efficiency—’We have got to prevent overlapping:’ or even on grounds of historical accident—’Since it is quite hopeless to think of reaching general agreement without some sort of episcopacy (or alternatively, without some sort of papacy), let us consent to episcopacy (or papacy) while carefully explaining that for most of us it has no meaning.’
These are not, as Origen would have said, arguments worthy of God. Not that any of them lack substance. Unity is a practical need. Inefficiency is a scandal. Reunion without a validly recognised sacramental ministry is unthinkable. But if such considerations move us, as the should move us, they ought to move us only in one way: not because the present absolute obligations in themselves—it might be conceivably God’s will, in all the circumstances, that His Church, or large portions of it, should follow Christ by dying in order to live—but because they are indications which recall us insistently and point us emphatically to the same will of God, which is that His Church should be one as God is one, and Christ is one, and as Christian faith is one. Corporate reunion accordingly is a work that man cannot effect by himself; and it can only be the work of God, to whom we must look and to whom we must pray, in one Spirit, through one Christ. To that sole most blessed Trinity, one God in three Persons, be all might, majesty and dominion, now and forever more.
Note on the teaching of Athanasius about the Two Natures of Christ.
Athanasius fourth letter to Serapion, in which the passage (cap. 14) referred above is not included in Robertson’s translation of Athanasius; but the extract is so important as to deserve reproduction here in an English version for the benefit of those to whom the text is not easily accessible.
After a prayer to God for guidance Athanasius quotes John 1.14 (The Word became flesh etc.) and Phil 2.6-7 (“being in the form of God . . . He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being found in fashion as a man,” etc). He then continues as follows:
“Therefore, since God He is and man He became, as God He raised the dead and, healing all by a word, also changed the water into wine. Such deeds were not those of a man. But as wearing a body He thirsted and was wearied and suffered; these experiences are not characteristic of the deity. And as God He said, ‘I am in the Father and the Father in me;’ but as wearing a body He rebuked the Jews, ‘Why do you seek to kill me, a man that has told you the truth which I heard from the Father?’ But these facts did not occur in dissociation, on lines governed by the particular quality of the several acts, so as to ascribe one set of experiences to the body apart from the deity and the other to the deity apart from the body. They all occurred interconnectedly, and it was one Lord who did them all wondrously by His own grace. For He spat in human fashion, yet His spittle was charged with deity, for wherewith He caused the eyes of the man born blind to recover their sight; and when He willed to declare Himself God it was the human tongue that He signified this saying, ‘I and the Father are one.’ And He used to preform cures by a mere act of His will. But He stretched forth a human hand to raise Peter’s wife’s mother when she was sick with fever, and to raise up form the dead the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue when she had already expired.”