Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Pernicious Heresy of Nestorianism Raises Its Ugly Head Again

I was informed that someone had started a thread about me on Steve Ray's Catholic Message Board. So I wandered over there to see what the latest salvo against me consisted of. At least this wasn't a personal attack . But it contained something infinitely worse than an attack upon me: it blasphemed our Lord Jesus Christ by asserting a sort of Nestorianism. I joined up to write this post, and maybe a few more before I leave and resume my usual policy of avoiding discussion boards. Here is what I wrote there (my critic's words will be in blue):
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Hi Folks,

I normally don't post on discussion boards anymore (for various reasons), but I wanted to clarify just a few things about "Lojahw"'s post:

Whatever Nestorius' actual opinions (scholars differ), Lojahw's opinions are indeed heretical. He wrote:

Mary indeed contributed to Jesus His human nature, His weakness. As the writer of Hebrews declared:

Heb 4:15 One who has been tempted in things as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus, the unique God-man, inherited his human nature, and thus the ability to be tempted, from his mother. [The same was not, nor could it be, claimed for Jesus’ mother. Jesus uniquely claims this.] For as James tells us:

Ja 1:13 for God cannot be tempted by evil…

It was Jesus’ human nature, that which could be tempted, which Mary contributed to Jesus, not His sinlessness. Jesus’ divine nature, of course, came from His heavenly Father.

Heaven help us! Where to begin? To believe that Jesus could be tempted in the sense of having interior doubt or mulling over the temptation as if the possibility of succumbing existed, is ludicrous from an orthodox Christian (and especially a Catholic) perspective (and ultimately blasphemous). He could not be tempted in exactly the same way as we are because He wasn't subject to original sin and the result of concupiscence. That's why He couldn't doubt (our fault which causes us to be tried when temptations come) and He couldn't possibly give in to the temptations, because He was God. Jesus has, therefore, no "weakness" in the sense which Lojahw contends.

God cannot possibly sin, because that would be a self-contradiction and contrary to the very Being and Essence of an All-Holy God. Mary certainly could possibly sin, but chose not to, by God's grace. That's the intrinsic difference between God and a creature, even a holy, sinless one like the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The devil can attempt to tempt God (both the Father and the Son), but he can't possibly succeed in either case. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. But he is a non-fallen man, and not subject to the concupiscence which is a result of the Fall. That's what unorthodox Protestants of the quasi-Nestorian-type, like Lojahw, don't seem to comprehend. Man is not essentially a "weak, fallen" creature. The fall distorted that. But fallen man is not the man that God created. Fallen man has original sin and the tendency to actually sin throughout one's life. Jesus has no sin, no concupiscence, and no weakness. He could suffer, but He couldn't give in to the devil's temptation.

Jesus had no "ability to be tempted" anymore than God the Father had. The devil could try to tempt Him and make Him sin (because the devil was too stupid to know that Jesus couldn't possibly sin, being God), but he also tried that with God the Father. We know this from Holy Scripture itself. In Acts 15:10 (KJV), St. Peter rebuked the Judaizers, saying:

Now therefore why tempt ye [RSV: "make trial of"] God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples . . .


The Greek word for tempt here is pirazo (Strong's word #3985): the same exact word used in Hebrews 4:15, which informs us that Jesus was "tempted in things as we are." God the Father tells us that the ancient Jews tried to tempt Him in the wilderness (Hebrews 3:9; same Greek word again).

So sure, the devil could tempt Jesus, just like he tries to tempt us. The difference is that Jesus is not tempted, in the sense of being weak and able to give in to these temptations (as we are). Therefore, He was tempted exactly like God the Father was tempted (which is why the same word is applied to both!): it was a failed attempt which was destined to failure. God the Father and God the Son are no different in this respect. Lojahw tries to make out that they are somehow different, which is Nestorian heresy and blasphemy.

Either Jesus is God or not. All Nicene Christians agree that He was. He was 100% God and 100% man. James 1:13 tells us that God cannot be tempted by evil (i.e., He can't succumb to it). Jesus is God, so this verse applies to Him, too. God the Father and God the Son are one. There's no way out of it; one would have to deny the deity of Christ. Lojahw has a simplistic view of both temptation and the fall, and the Two Natures of Christ. The context of James 1:13 makes it clear that it is discussing something entirely different than Hebrews 4:15 (which Lojahw tried to compare to it). What is it trying to express? It's clear in the next two verses:

but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.
In other words, concupiscence is being discussed. God cannot be tempted in this sense, because He cannot give into it. Men can because they are fallen, sinful creatures. Jesus is a man but not a creature, and not a fallen man. And He is God. Hebrews 4:15 makes it clear that He is tempted without sin (i.e., the devil tries to tempt Him and fails). Therefore, it is senseless, unbiblical and blasphemous to try to make out that Jesus is more like us in this respect than like His Father, with Whom He is one.

Jesus could not doubt and "mull over" the lies of Satan, or be tempted by them in some sense of internal, existential agony -- as if He were actually influenced by Satanic lies -- He who possessed all knowledge and holiness (with no concupiscence), as a function of His Divine Nature. Even in His human nature, He possessed the Beatific Vision which all who go to heaven will one day possess. And He possessed infused knowledge.

That's really all that is necessary to annihilate Lojahw's argument: all right from explicit teachings in Scripture. Nor is this only Catholic teaching. It's not: it is the orthodox Christology of historic Protestantism, as well as of Orthodoxy. Thus, the Lutherans Bob and Gretchen Passantino wrote in a review of The Last Temptation of Christ (which was an entire movie based on the same error Lojahw is expressing):

The Last Temptation (and many critics of the protesters) think that "without sin" only means that he didn't perform sinful acts, but that true temptation would allow him to have sinful feelings and inclinations. What hypocrisy! Here is a philosophy that says matter is more Man and spirit is more God, matter is less important and spirit is more important, and yet the sins of the spirit are not sins, but the sins of the flesh are! Jesus pierced the sham of hidden sins when he said, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man." When The Last Temptation Jesus looked at a woman and wanted to have sex with her, but was afraid to, he fulfilled Jesus' definition of a sinner.


This is more than enough extremely serious error. But I would like to point out one other portion of Lojahw's jeremiad that I found funny and surprising, as to what I supposedly have and haven't done, in my apologetics. He cites my words: "Nothing in Scripture is contradictory to the Immaculate Conception." Then he replies:

How about Rom 3:23, for starters? "All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory."

In his next comment, he adds:

Neither does he have a credible answer for Rom 3:23.

I don't?! That's news to me, seeing that I have posted a paper, "All Have Sinned . . . " (Mary?) , specifically designed to answer this particular charge and this very verse. I see that I wrote this paper in 1996, so it was probably posted on my website early on, possibly from the beginning in 1997. That's eight years! All Lojahw had to do was look on my Mary Page or the Mary section in my Super-Link Page to locate this paper. But instead he would rather claim that I haven't offered any "credible answer" to the supposed argument of Romans 3:23 (by alleged implication) that Mary was a sinner.

. . . Because this involved a very serious matter of Christology, I made an exception to my policy concerning discussion boards. I'm sure there are many here who can pick up where I left off, if Lojahw is foolish enough to keep obstinately setting forth his heretical views on our Lord Jesus Christ. In some rare cases people actually accept correction. Let's hope this will be one of them. I'm only speaking for all major historic orthodox Christian groups, not myself.

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"Lojahw" responded again, and I replied:

I certainly defended Jesus’ divinity. His divine nature could not be tempted; yet His human nature was tempted “in all things as we are” according to Hebrews. All Christians believe that Christ, the unique God-man was not born with original sin, being the Eternal Word of God. Yet, in His identification with us by His human nature, he was tempted.

If you say it was impossible for Jesus, having human nature to sin, I think you miss the point. It’s no big deal for someone who can’t fall not to fall.

This continues to be Nestorian heresy and blasphemy (as proven by the portion in red). Jesus could not fall into sin, being God. Period. End of sentence. It doesn't matter if He had a human nature or not. You are fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of the Incarnation.

It is entirely possible that Adam and Eve could have never fallen and rebelled against God. The fall wasn't inevitable or predestined. There is such a thing (theoretically) as an unfallen race. In fact, it exists, because the angels never fell. The demons rebelled and fell but the good angels never did, so they are unfallen, uncorrupted creatures.

That was a possibility for man too, but we blew it. Now, Jesus was God before He became man. And God cannot fall into sin. We fall because we are tempted and have an inherent weakness. The inherent weakness now is the fall, and specifically concupiscence, or the tendeny to sin and to move toward sin in our desires and will. But that comes from the Fall itself, and is a sinful tendency. The origial weakness before the fall was our limitations of knowledge, being creatures and not God. Therefore, the devil could deceive us and lead us to rebel. God has no limitations of knowledge, and cannot rebel against what He is. He is necessarily what He is, and cannot be otherwise. Since we are different from God, and creatures, and limited because of same, we can rebel against Him and fall into sin.

Since Jesus didn't fall and had no original sin, He had no concupiscence, hence He could not have any desire to be enticed by temptation, as we do. He is still God, and God can't sin. Becoming a man as well doesn't change that. Sin is, therefore, impossible for Him. But you imply that it is possible for God to sin. It's not.

Adam and Eve could have possibly not fallen. But Jesus could not possibly have fallen, even in His human nature. That's the difference, even though He was indeed a man like us. It's not possible because He is God, and God is perfectly holy, and cannot contradict Himself or be other than what He is: a perfect and perfectly Holy Being.

Are you denying that Jesus experienced human weakness of all kinds? Did He not get physically exhausted, did He not thirst, did He not bleed, did He not die on the cross?

Of course He did all that, but that is exactly the sort of weakness He could experience, because these are merely the limitations of having a physical body (these limitations resulted from the kenosis; described in Philippians 2:5-8). They are not moral limitations. It's when you ascribe the possibility of moral error to the Incarnate God that you greatly err and blaspheme (though I'm sure you don't mean to; it simply follows from the position you take).

There's nowhere else to go with this. You need to renounce and retract this very serious theological error, for the sake of your soul and truth.

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