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Tuesday, November 11, 2014


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I may be misunderstanding, but I think premise 1 implies that Incarnation in a human nature is a necessary feature of the Logos , i.e in all possible worlds. Would that not imply that the Logos cannot exist prior to the Incarnation, and that the Logos would then be a contingent being?

I am also not certain that your direct conflation of Logos and Christ is completely orthodox, as the Logos was present before aught else was made, but Christ was only present from 4-6 BC onwards. The Chalcedonian definition does not say (to my view) that the Logos has a human and divine nature, but that Christ has a human and a divine nature (this being the Logos), which is slightly different.

Thanks, Bill. The argument is formidable. Here’s a question and some comments to examine (1) and (8):

(1) states “If N is a nature of substance s, then s cannot exist without having N.” This is true in Aristotelian ontology. But can’t N exist without s? It seems N, as a set of essential properties for s, can exist if s does not exist.

Moreland and Craig suggest that the pre-incarnate Logos possesses the archetype of humanity: all the properties necessary for being a human self. (Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, 608-610). I’m trying to understand the M-C position. Assume an archetype is an original form or pattern. So an archetype of human nature would be an original form of the set of essential properties for a human being.

If the archetype of humanity is itself an individual human nature, and if the Logos has the archetype in every possible world, hence in a world in which He refrained from creating a natural universe with human beings, then it seems a Christian theist could reject premise 8.

What do you think?

Hi Pedro,

Premise (1) merely articulates a general principle of Aristotelian ontology. But the argument does lead to the subconclusion that the Incarnation is not contingent. For if the Logos has a human nature, then it has it in every world in which it exists, which is to say: in every world!

I don't think you appreciate the force of the argument. Of course the doctrine is that there were times before the Incarnation and worlds in which there is no Incarnation. The point of the argument is that this does not square with the Chalcedonian formulation when this is understood in Aristotelian terms.

There is one person with two natures. Now who is that one person? Not Jesus, but the 2nd person of the Trinity. The latter is the suppositum or hypostasis of both natures.


Well, for Aristotle and the scholastics there are no extramental universals and no Platonica at all, including sets.

I am going to have to consult the M-C volume. They appear to be diverging from Aristotle in a Platonic direction. I don't think my argument touches them.

Sounds like the M-C archetype is not a nature in A's sense but a property supported by the Logos that is exemplified in some worlds but not in others.

I'm not clear on the 'archetype' language and will have to think about it. On another thread, I believe it was pointed out that the position of M-C was that an archetype of human nature did exist, but *without* a body?
I suppose that almost all would agree that the very material human brain is part of the body? And that without a brain, whatever is left does not have a 'human nature'? It did have a human nature, it was a human being, but no longer is. It is now a dead human body without a brain. The nature is "gone" Somewhere.
But the same could be said about the heart, lungs, liver etc. Is, then, the human nature a supposit one of more of the major organs? (Yes I am being facetious.)
A brain-dead human being would be considered a human being by most people, and accorded the dignity and legal rights of a living human, and I would suggest still has a 'human nature'.

I suppose we can give to the word 'archetype' any definition we choose, but I'm suggesting, in my fuzzy-thinking way, that to have a human nature necessitates having a living human body, and without that body, there is no individual human nature.
Because I had a simple (and successful) out-patient procedure this morning - endoscopy - and had to be 'put under' - I am really fuzzy-thinking this afternoon, recovering from the anesthetic. But even in reduced mental circumstances, I think I can hold to the above very simple argument. :-)

I think I would say that perhaps (7) and (8) were logical contradictories, but they ain't no more. If the Logos must exist in every possible world, then HN must exist in every possible world as well.

HN is an individualized human nature, a man body and soul, a rational animal. Do you want to say that this animal exists in every possible world?

If the Logos must exist in every possible world, and if the Logos is now conjoined with an individualized human nature, then an individualized human nature exists in every world. Yes, I am willing to say that.

'Conjoining' is I think at issue in this thread? What would that term mean, I wonder? 'Inhabits the same body'? That would mean the same brain (and other organs?) But according to Chalcedon, as to the 'two natures':
"We teach . . . one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, known in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation."
The 'natures' cannot be confused (mixed) but also cannot be divided, nor changed (altered).
Another aspect of this is the initial biological one - the moment of conception. There have been a number of explanations of the two nature problem that were branded heretical - adoptionism, docetism among others - and many of them stated that the Christ nature descended on the man Jesus - perhaps at the baptism with John, or some other point - but in any case ignored the orthodox position that it was at conception that the miracle happened.
Now that would perhaps take us too far afield so I won't elaborate. But the fact remains that we are dealing with physical stuff and that stubborn issue will not go away.

Clearly, what Stroh is saying is heretical, for reasons already given.

Hi Bill,

I think the Aristotelian who wants to maintain Chalcedonian Christology could deny 1 and affirm a nearby proposition:

1’: For any one-natured substance, S, if N is a nature of substance s, then s cannot exist without having N.

Adding the antecedent I’ve added to your 1 here allows for us to say that 1’ remains true in the case of Christ, since the antecedent is false. 1’ does all the work that the Aristotelian would want 1 to do, since every case we think of in mundane (non-christological) situations is a case where the thing in question is single-natured. I wouldn’t think the Aristotelian has any evidence for 1 that would not count as evidence for the revised 1’ as well.


Hi Tim,

Thanks for your comment. We are in agreement: to adhere to Chalcedon, one must reject (1). I take it you found the rest of my argument --premises and inferences -- unobjectionable.

My problem with your (1')is that it is ad hoc. (1') is formulated precisely for the purpose of saving the Chalcedonian formulation: it lacks independent, non-theological, motivation.

But how bad is *ad hocery*? This leads to several deep and vexing questions which I hope to take up in a subsequent post.

Thanks again for your comment. I will try to get to the other two before long.



Proposition 6 seems like the obviously false one. Just as the world is freely created through the Logos, so human nature is freely assumed by the Logos. And therefore to say the Logos is united to human nature in every possible world is to tie the Incarnation necessarily with creation itself--and this is opposed to the ffreedom involved in this act.

Now if proposition 6 necessarily follows from the ones above, then 1 is the problematic premise. It is clear the human nature does not belong to the Logos in such a way that the Logos cannot be without human nature.

I would like to say in defense of the Aristotelian Chalcedonian, that it Aristotle would never speak in possible-worlds language. I'm not familiar enough with the terminology to evaluate (1) too closely, but it seems to call it an "Aristotelian" proposition is inaccurate.

One more comment:
This post came out of a comment on an earlier post where you clarified that you were considering the Chalcedonian doctrine in a "broadly Aristotlian framework." Even if (1) is rejected the key point of Aristotle's doctrine at play here is his account of nature as a principle of activity. This is clear by Leo's Tome (the Chalcedonian text on this issue) which repeatedly refers to the fact that Christ performs human and divine activities and therefore has human and divine natures.

I also want to suggest "Disputation with Pyrrhus" by Maximus the Confessor, a 7th century neo-Chalcedonian who seems to have an Aristotelian background. His opponents want to identify the will with the person, and so posit one will in Christ. He rejects this for a number of reasons (many "ad hoc" as you would say, or for soteriological reasons as another reader suggested), but also adds the simple Aristotelian reason that activity follows nature: two natures means two voluntary activities, so two wills. Or if the monothelites are right, then you are stuck with one nature on account of the one will--and this one-naturism is the doctrine condemned at Chalcedon.

Hi Bill,

I just noticed that you said that I've said something heretical. I don't think I have. Before the Incarnation, HN was contingent. Since the Incarnation, HN is necessary. I don't think that is heretical.

Dear Bill,

Thanks for your response.

Why think that (1’) is ad hoc?

Compare: the scientists that I believe are reliable authorities on the issue tell me something about matter, or space, or time, such that, in order to account for that new empirical data, I revise some of my metaphysics. Such a revision of my metaphysics would lack independent, non-scientific, motivation. Is my revision in light of the new empirical data ad hoc? I wouldn’t think so. But then why is revision in light of new theological data ad hoc?



What you say is too vague for me to evaluate. I would have to be told which empirical datum would justify the revision of which metaphysical proposition. I would also have to know what you understand by 'ad hoc' and whether you think any revision of any theory has ever been ad hoc.


Thanks for the reply. All I need for my case is the possibility that some empirical datum disclosed by experts could be sufficient reason to revise a philosophical theory. I said metaphysics earlier, but let it be some other theory, provided that you think that there could be a philosophical issue such that new empirical data, provided by experts, would be sufficient to revise the theory. I'm wondering whether you think that newly disclosed empirical data could, in principle, alone be non-ad-hoc motivation to revise a philosophical thesis, but newly disclosed theological data could not be. If so, I'm wondering why that is.

Concerning what I mean by 'ad hoc', I meant to mean by it whatever you meant by it in your charge against (1'). It is your term in your objection. I'll defer to your definition of it.



I need to write a separate post on this issue. Maybe tomorrow. Then we can see if we can come to some agreement. Thanks for your comments.

I think that Chalcedon tried to accomplish what epicycles accomplished, but failed (i.e., 'saving the appearances'). An explanation of a Mystery by means of an incoherent formulation is certainly not as useful as the incorrect - but coherent - theory of the epicycles. $.02

Tim's term 'newly disclosed theological data' is an interesting one. At Chalcedon, at least, there was no new 'data' as such - there was a pressing politico-religious situation (politics and religion were joined hip and thigh at the time) that needed to be 'solved', and powers were brought to bear to come up with a solution, and one was found. It had the advantage that noone really understood it, but it seemed to do the job for awhile. :-)

Thanks for the reply, Dave.

By "newly disclosed theological data" I meant the data, now disclosed to the Church, that the Holy Spirit had led the Church in declaring this new Christology, to be accepted by all the faithful. That Christology, provided by the reliable process of an ecumenical council, is the data that the Catholic or Orthodox Christian metaphysician sees as non-ad-hoc motivation for tweaking metaphysical theses.

I don't see that the formulation of Chalcedon is incoherent. And I don't believe that no one really understood it. Was Leo really ignorant of the content of his Tome? Why think that - if you do think that (the smiley makes me unsure)?

Tim, I think that sometime you and I could have a long and enjoyable discussion about this, really.
I'm sure Leo understood the content just fine - but 'understanding' does not imply that one is understanding something 'true'. Remember the epicycles!
(As a religious matter - I am leery of 'new revelations' of any kind, since the closing of the canon, especially those that demand acceptance (keyword: demand). But I know that we come from different traditions).
Also it is difficult for me to accept that the Holy Spirit would communicate something incoherent, which is why this thread is so interesting to me.
While I'm typing this, there is a news story on Fox about a man seeing a picture of a bearded Jesus in his wife's fried chicken!
I do believe our discussion here is on a different - dare I say, higher? - level. :-)

Backing up Tim here, I will also contend that people understood at least to some extent. Otherwise the "Second Council of Ephesus" held in 449 would not have been entirely overturned by Chalcedon two years later, and Egyptian monks wouldn't have killed Flavian, the (intended) recipient of Leo's venerable Tome, and so on. Admittedly it took another 230 years (and two more ecumenical councils) to work out all the kinks (like how it is that Cyril taught one nature in Christ, and yet agrees with Leo...), but the Alexandrians certainly understood the Chalcedonian formula well enough to know that it disagreed with their understanding of Cyril's teaching--thus the Oriental Orthodox Churches that exist to this day.

And as for religio-political comment: Pope Leo is indeed among the more theologically astute Western Fathers, often returning to the teaching of Chalcedon in his homilies on the great feasts.

To Tim, in a theological sense, you would avoid speaking of any new data of revelation: the common teaching is that all revelation was complete by the death of the last apostle, and that councils only affirm and clarify what is contained in the "deposit of faith". But if by "datum", you mean a clear proposition you can reason from, then that seems fine to say the councils provide us with these.

I have great respect for the 'Orthodox' and indeed have been helped immeasurably by Fr. Ware's series on Orthodox Psychology.

However, I do not think that it is heretical to ask: what does this Mean? That's what we are asking here: is it coherent? I believe that Leo et.al. MAY have come up with a coherent explanation, but I've yet to see it demonstrated, and under my own steam I've been unable to find an explanation that does use the very terms that are under question.

I don't quibble with Tradition per se; but I recognize it AS tradition, not as a demand on my faith as a Christian. How we are to think about God is, for many of us, THE question, and not for me a question to be settled by appeal to Tradition.

Correction: the statement " but I've yet to see it demonstrated, and under my own steam I've been unable to find an explanation that does use the very terms that are under question."

Should have the word 'Not' inserted:
" but I've yet to see it demonstrated, and under my own steam I've been unable to find an explanation that does NOT use the very terms that are under question."

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