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Title: Monophysitism Past and Present - A Study in Christology
Author: Luce, A. A. (Arthur Aston), 1882-1977
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A. A. LUCE, M.C., D.D.















J. S. ASSEMANI, "Bibliotheca Orientalis," especially the Introductory
Dissertation to Vol. II.

A. HARNACK, "History of Dogma," translated by Speirs and Millar.

J. C. ROBERTSON, "History of the Christian Church."

WINDELBAND, "History of Philosophy," translated by Tufts.

WRIGHT, "Short History of Syriac Literature."

H. BERGSON, "Les données immédiates de la conscience," "Matière et
Mémoire," "L'évolution créatrice."




Monophysitism was a Christological heresy of the fifth century.  It was
condemned by the church in the middle of that century at the council of
Chalcedon.  Surviving its condemnation it flourished in the East for
several centuries.  Its adherents formed themselves into a powerful
church with orders and succession of their own.  Although the
monophysite church has long since lost all influence, it is still in
being.  The Coptic and Jacobite churches of Egypt and Mesopotamia,
respectively, preserve to this day the doctrines and traditions of the
primitive monophysites.

The history of the sect, however, does not concern us here.  The
writer's purpose is to review its doctrine.  Monophysitism is a system
of religious thought, and, as such, its importance is out of all
proportion to the present or even the past position of the churches
that professed it.  Its significance lies in its universality.  It is
grounded in the nature of the human mind.  It is found in West as well
as East, to-day as well as in the early centuries of our era.  Wherever
men bring intellect to bear on the problem of Christ's being, the
tendency to regard Him as monophysite is present.

An examination of the heresy is of practical value.  Our subject-matter
is not an oriental antique or a curiosity of the intellect, but a
present-day problem of vital moment to the Faith.  If we are concerned
with a half-forgotten heresy, it is because a study of that heresy
serves both as a preventive against error and as an introduction to the
truth.  The doctor studies disease to ascertain the conditions of
health; pathological cases are often his surest guide to the normal;
just so the study of heresy is the best guide to orthodox Christology.
It was in conflict with monophysitism that the church of the fifth
century brought to completion her dogmatic utterances about Christ; and
the individual thinker to-day can gain the surest grasp of true
Christology by examining the monophysite perversion.

With this practical purpose in view, we now proceed to an analysis of
the heresy.  Monophysitism is a body of doctrine.  It is a dogmatic
system, in which the individual dogmata are controlled by a principle
or dominant idea.  As all the particular doctrines of monophysitism
depend on this principle, and, as it is not properly a theological
concept, but one borrowed from philosophy, we may call it "the
metaphysical basis of monophysitism."  An intelligent grasp of this
basic principle is necessary to an appreciation of the whole system.
Accordingly, our first concern is to ascertain and exhibit this
metaphysical basis.  In subsequent chapters we shall analyse in detail
the doctrines specifically monophysite and trace the Christological
errors back to their source in metaphysic.


The following considerations prove the necessity of this procedure.
Two methods of examining the being of Christ can be distinguished.
According to the one method the facts of His life are reviewed as they
are presented in the New Testament, and a formula is then constructed
to fit them.  The other method starts from the concept of a mediator
between God and man.  It supposes that concept actualised, and asks the
question, "Of what nature must such a mediator be?"  These methods may
be distinguished, but they cannot be separated.  No one, however
scientific, can come to a study of the life of Jesus with an absolutely
open mind.  Presuppositions are inevitable.  Similarly, as the _a
priori_ thinker develops his concept of a mediator, he compares the
results of his thinking at every stage with the picture presented in
the Gospel story, and that picture unavoidably modifies his deductions.
Both diphysite and monophysite used a combination of these two methods.
Each party took the recorded facts and interpreted them in accordance
with their notion of what a mediator should be.  Both parties studied
the same facts; but the _a priori_ of their thought differed, and so
their conclusions differed.  In the realm of Christology this _a
priori_ of thought is of paramount importance.  Preconceived opinions
inevitably colour our mental picture of Christ.  Readers of the Gospel
narrative find there the Christ they are prepared to find.  On this
well-recognised fact we base our contention that an examination of any
Christological system must begin with the philosophy on which the
system rests.  That philosophy supplies the _a priori_, or the
presupposition, or the metaphysical basis, whichever name we prefer.

We do not suggest that theologians have consciously adopted a
metaphysical principle as the basis of their beliefs, and then have
applied it to the special problem of Christology.  That is a possible
method but not the usual one.  In most cases the philosophic basis
remains in the background of consciousness; its existence is
unrecognised and its influence undetected.  If Christian thinkers took
the trouble to analyse the basis of their beliefs about Christ, they
would not halt, as they so often do, at the stage of monophysitism.  If
they laid bare to the foundations the structure of their faith, the
danger of error would be reduced to a minimum.  Viewed from the
standpoint of timeless reason, monophysitism is based on a definite
metaphysical idea.  Not all monophysites have consciously adopted that
basis; many, had they recognised its presence, would have rejected it.
But it was present as a tendency.  A tendency may be neutralised by
counteracting causes; but it has its effect, and sooner or later it
will produce positive results.


The same truth holds of the other Christological systems.  A different
metaphysical idea lies at the root of each.  Nestorian, monophysite,
catholic, these three were the main types of Christologian in the fifth
century.  Each studied Christ's life.  After studying it, the Nestorian
said of Him, "There are two persons here."  "Not so," said the
monophysite, "I see but one incarnate nature of God the Word."  The
catholic replied, "You are both wrong; there is one person in two
natures."  All three types deserve close study.  The thinkers were
devout and sincere, and, for the most part, able men.  There is no
question here of superficial uninformed thought, nor of moral
obliquity.  The disagreement was due not to their vision but to their
view point, not to the object of their thought or the process of their
thinking, but to their different presuppositions and starting points.

Presented in this way the monophysite and other Christological
controversies of the fifth and sixth centuries become phases of the
cosmic problem.  They thus regain the dignity which is theirs by right,
and which they lose in the ordinary church histories.  The heat of
passion they aroused becomes intelligible.  It was no battle about
words.  The stakes were high.  The controversialists championed
far-reaching principles with a decisive influence on the course of
thought and conduct.  Unfriendly critics usually portray the
Christologians as narrow-minded and audacious.  So, no doubt, they
were, but they were not wrong-headed.  If the matters in dispute
between theist, deist, and pantheist are trivialities, then and then
only can we regard the enterprise of the Christologians as chimerical
and their achievements as futile.  The different formulae represented
attitudes of mind fundamentally opposed.  No peace between catholic and
monophysite was possible.  They had conflicting conceptions of ultimate


We mentioned above the two other chief Christological systems, the
Nestorian and the catholic.  No analysis of monophysitism which omitted
a reference to these systems would be complete.  They were three nearly
contemporary attempts to solve the same problem.  The comparison is of
special interest when, as here, fundamental principles are under
examination.  It demonstrates the closeness of the connection between
the Christological and the cosmic problems.  In each of the three cases
we find that a school of philosophy corresponds to the school of
theology, and that the philosopher's dominant idea about the cosmos
decided the theologian's interpretation of Christ.

This connection between philosophy and Christology is of early date.
From the nature of both disciplines it had to be.  Even in apostolic
days the meaning of the incarnation was realised.  Christ was
apprehended as a being of more than national or terrestrial importance.
The Pauline and Johannine Christologies gave cosmic significance to His
work, and so inevitably to His Person.  Theologians made the tremendous
surmise that Jesus of Nazareth was no other than the Logos of the
Neo-Pythagoreans or the Wise One of the Stoics.  That is to say, He
stands not only between God and man, but between Creator and creation.
He is the embodiment of the cosmic relation.  From early days, then,
philosophy and religion were working at the same problem; their paths
met at the one goal of the Ideal Person who satisfied both head and
heart.  The systematic Christology of the fifth century was, therefore,
a completion of the work begun in the first.


The essence of the Christological problem is the question as to the
union of natures in Christ.  Are there two natures divine and human in
Him?  Is each distinct from the other and from the person?  Is the
distinction conceptual or actual?  The incarnation is a union.  Is it a
real union?  If so, what did it unite?  We have seen that such
questions cannot be approached without presuppositions.  What these
presuppositions shall be is decided in the sphere of a wider problem.
This wider problem is known as the cosmic problem.  The solution given
to it prescribes the presuppositions of any attempt to solve the
specialised problem.  We shall proceed to sketch the cosmic problem,
and to indicate the three main types of answers given to it.  It will
then be evident that these three answers find their respective
counterparts in the Nestorian, monophysite and the catholic solutions
of the Christological problem.

As man's intellectual powers mature, two supreme generalisations force
themselves on his consciousness.  He conceives his experience as a
whole and calls it the world; he conceives the basis of his experience
as a whole and calls it God.  To some minds the world, to some minds
God, is the greater reality; but both concepts are present in varying
proportions wherever thought becomes self-conscious.  Here we have in
its lowest terms the material for the ontological question, the first
and the last problem of philosophy.  God and the world, at first dimly
conceived and scarcely differentiated, gradually separate and take
shape in the mind as distinct entities.  The concepts become
principles, fixed by language and mental imagery.  The gulf between
them widens until they stand at opposite poles of thought.  In their
isolation they constitute a standing challenge to the mind of man.  If
he thinks the world in terms of time, he must postulate a creator.  If
he thinks the world out of time, he is forced to conceive a ground of
the world's being.  The world cannot be thought without God nor God
without the world.  The one necessitates the other.  Yet when the
thinker tries to define the terms, he can at first only do so by
negatives.  The world is what God is not, and God is what the world is
not.  The two primary concepts thus attract and repel each other.  The
mind's first task is to grasp them in their difference.  It cannot rest
there, but must proceed to attempt to reunite them and grasp them in
their unity.  Thus the main problem of philosophy is to conceive and
find expression for the relation between God and the world.
Christology attacks essentially the same problem.  Christology is an
attempt to define the relation between God and the world in terms of

This relation has been conceived in three modes.  According to the
level of thought reached, or, as led by their disposition and
education, men have made their choice between three mediating concepts.
Hence derive three divergent types of thought and three outlooks on
life fundamentally opposed.  We shall take them in their logical
sequence for convenience of treatment.  The historical connection is of
no importance for our present purpose, but it is noteworthy that the
time order both of the schools of philosophy and of the corresponding
Christological systems follows approximately the logical order.


The first attempted solution of the cosmic problem is best expressed in
the concept "co-existence."  God _and_ the world co-exist.  God is, and
the world is; their relation is expressed by an "and."  "God and the
world" is the truth, all that man can and need know.  This solution is
verbal.  It leaves the problem more or less as it finds it.  The two
principles remain ultimates; neither is reduced to the other.  God
still stands outside the world and the world outside God.  Neither can
explain the other.  This dualism is the lowest stage of ontological
thought.  The thinker sees the problem, only to turn away from it.  He
surmises that there is some relation between the two; but he cannot
define it, and it remains ineffectual.  This was Plato's early
standpoint.  He established the idea as the truth of the thing, but he
failed to find expression for the relation between idea and ideate.  He
took refuge in symbolical language, and spoke of the thing as a "copy"
of the idea or as a "participant" in it.  But as there was no causation
on the one side or dependence on the other side, all that the earlier
Platonic philosophy achieved was in its ideal world to duplicate the
real.  Plato's heaven simply co-exists with the world, and the relation
between them is merely verbal.

This metaphysical idea survived Plato and Plato's system, and passed
into common currency.  It found and still finds expression in numerous
speculative and practical systems.  In religious ontology we find it in
deism.  According to the deist there was once at a definite point of
time a relation between God and the world, the relation of creation.
But, creation finished, the relation ceased.  In other words, God
created the world, and then withdrew into Himself, leaving the world to
work out its own salvation.  The deist believes in God; but his is a
self-contained God, who does not interfere in the course of things or
continue creating.  Such a conception of God is useless for religious
purposes, because it represents Him as out of all relation with the


The Christological counterpart of dualism and of deism is Nestorianism.
The Nestorians halt at the lowest stage of Christological thought.
They admit Christ to be the meeting-point of God and man, but they
nullify the admission by introducing dualism into the person of Christ.
They set out to find the solution of the cosmic problem in Christ; they
endeavour to express the relation between God and the world in terms of
His personality.  They bring the two concepts together, but they do not
weld them.  Faith and courage fail them at the critical moment.  They
substitute an association for a union.  They leave God and man
co-existing in Christ, but not united there.

Nestorianism is a halfway house on the road from Arianism to
Christianity.  It is a weak compromise.  The deity in Christ is
admitted, but its unity with humanity denied.  The divine remains
external to the human nature.  According to the doctrine ascribed to
Nestorius two persons, the son of God and the son of Mary, at the
Baptism were mysteriously associated.  The union consists partly in
identity of name, partly in the gradual deepening of the association.
As Jesus grew in spiritual power and knowledge and obedience to the
divine will, the union which at first was relative gradually deepened
towards an absolute union.  Divinity was not His birthright, but
acquired.  Thus throughout His life the two personalities remained
external to one another.  The divine worked miracles; the human
suffered.  The Nestorian could pride himself on having preserved the
reality of the divine and the reality of the human; he could worship
the one and imitate the other.  But his system was non-Christian,
because it excludes the element of mediation.  A dual personality could
never make atonement or redeem humanity.  God and man in Christ were
brought into nominal contact, but there was provided no channel by
which the divine virtue might pass into the human.  The Nestorian
remains content with his solution, because the background of his
thought is dualist.  The thinker's attitude to the cosmic problem
decides his attitude to the Christological problem.  Content to couple
God and the world by an "and," he similarly couples by an "and" the
Logos and Jesus Christ.  Dividing God from the world, he divides
Christ.  Abandoning metaphysical relation between the cosmic
principles, he despairs of finding, or, rather, has no motive for
seeking a personal relation between God and man in the being of Christ.


The second solution given to the cosmic problem is of special
importance for our thesis.  It had a direct influence on monophysitism,
and may be regarded as supplying the metaphysical basis for that
heresy.  It represents an advance to a higher stage of thought, just as
monophysitism, which depends on it, is an advance on Nestorianism, and
has always been regarded as a more venial heresy.

The mind finding no satisfaction in dualism advances to monism.  The
spectacle of two unrelated ultimate principles impels it to seek and,
if necessary, to invent some mode of reconciling them.  Explain it as
we may, the craving for unity, for synthesis, for mediation is radical
in human thought.  The mind cannot rest at anything short of it.  God
and the world, held asunder conceptually or only nominally united,
constitute a contradiction _in excelsis_, and, as such, provide an
irresistible motive for further and deeper thought.

As is natural, the swing of the pendulum carries the mind to the
opposite extreme.  Co-existence failing to supply the required
solution, the key is sought in identity.  God and the world are thought
as identical.  The terms are connected by the copula.  God _is_ the
world, and the world _is_ God.  This is the truth of being, for the
monist.  The two principles are merged in one, and the contradiction
solved by an assertion of the identity of the contradictories.  Monism
takes two forms.  It may be either materialist or spiritual.  One term
must be selected as the reality, and the other written off as an
illusion.  If the thinker's bent of mind be scientific, he is disposed
to make the material world the only objective reality, and God becomes
simply a working hypothesis or a creation of the subjective mind.  It
would be beside our purpose to do more than mention this phase of
monism.  Spiritual monism, however, requires lengthier treatment; it is
of vital importance to our subject.  In this case the mind takes sides
with God as against the world.  God is the reality and the world the
illusion.  The world is God, in spite of appearances to the contrary.
As world it has no substantive reality; it has no existence for self.
It is the shadow of God, an emanation from Him, or an aspect of Him.
Like dualism, monism is only a sham solution of the cosmic problem.  It
fails to keep prominent the idea of relation.  A relation must relate.
If its terms are merged, the relation falls to the ground.  A relation
must be such that, while the terms are unified, they are preserved as
realities.  It must both unify and keep distinct.  To abandon either
God or the world is a counsel of despair.  To detract from the reality
of either is treason to fact and tantamount to a shelving of the cosmic


The systems that identify God and the world range from the crude
materialism of Democritus to the lofty spiritualism of Plotinus.  Stoic
cosmology occupies an intermediate position.  The Stoic was nominally a
pantheist, but he seems to have oscillated between a spiritual and a
materialist explanation of the universal being.  The monist system that
prepared the soil for monophysitism and constantly fostered its growth
was Neo-Platonism.  In the hands of Plotinus all the main elements of
spiritual monism were worked up into a speculative philosophy with a
profound bearing on practical life.  The world and the human spirit,
for Plotinus, were simply manifestations of God.  He taught that, as
light issues from the sun and proceeds forth on its way, growing
gradually dimmer till it passes into darkness, so the world of thought
and thing has no true being apart from God, from whom it proceeded and
to whom it returns.  Spiritual monism found in Alexandria a congenial
home.  Blending there with oriental mysticism it produced a crop of
gnostic speculative systems, in all of which Acosmism or a denial of
the world was the keynote.  Whether the problem was conceived in terms
of being or of value, the result was the same.  The world has no true
being.  Its appearance of solidity is a sham.  It has no value.
Compared with God, it is negligible.  It is but the shadow cast by the
eternal sun.

The monophysite tenets traceable to monism will be considered in detail
in later chapters.  Here our concern is to show that monism supplies
the metaphysical principle on which the heresy is based; that, as
dualism provides the _a priori_ of Nestorian thought, monism provides
the _a priori_ of monophysite thought.


The essential doctrine of monophysitism is the assertion of the
absolute numerical unity of the person of Christ.  It carries to
extremes its denial of the dual personality maintained by the
Nestorians.  All vestiges of duality were banished from His being;
there were not two persons: there were not even two natures.  There was
in Christ only the one nature of God the Word.  The human nature at the
incarnation was absorbed into the divine.  It no more has substantive
existence than has the world in a pantheistic system.  This is monism
in terms of personality.  Its presuppositions are those of a mind
imbued with an all-powerful feeling for unity.  It is faced with the
problem of reconciling God and the world in the person of Jesus Christ.
It brings to that problem a prejudice against the real being and the
real value of the world.  Hence it is led to draw the false conclusion
that humanity, which is part of the world, is not a permanent element
in the highest truth; that even perfect humanity, humanity
representative of all that is noblest in the race, cannot be allowed
true existence in the Ideal.

Monism abandons the universal relation by abandoning one or other of
the terms to be related.  Monophysitism cuts a similar knot in a
similar fashion.  It jettisons redemption by excluding from the
Redeemer all kinship with that which He came to redeem.  Nominally
admitting human nature into union with deity, it destroys the reality
of that transaction at a stroke by making the two natures identical.
So the incarnation, for the monophysite, becomes a myth; no change in
the nature of the Logos took place at it, and, consequently, no change
in the nature of the Man Christ Jesus.

We may trace the likeness between the cosmic and the Christological
problems still further.  Monism is forced to attempt to give some
account of the world's apparent reality.  Similarly monophysitism had
to try to explain those facts of Christ's life which on the face of the
Gospel narrative are human and normal.  The explanation offered is
essentially the same in both systems.  The monist asserts that the
world exists only in the mind of the thinker.  It is an illusion of the
senses.  The duty of the philosopher is to overcome the illusion by
turning away from the world of sense and fixing his mind on true being;
by ascesis and contemplation he endeavours to attain the ecstatic
state, in which the illusion of the world's reality disappears, and the
potential identity of man with the universal spirit becomes actualised
in experience.  Similarly, for the monophysite, the humanity of Christ
was a creation of the senses.  Christ's body was a phantom, and His
human mind simply an aspect of Him.  They were impressions left on the
minds of His contemporaries.  Having no substantive existence, no
reality in fact, they were to be ignored in Christological dogma.  They
were not to be considered as part of the true Christ; they were not to
be worshipped.  No spiritual value attached to them.  They were
hindrances rather than helps to the religion that aimed at entire
abandonment of self and absorption in the divine.


We come now to the third and last solution of the cosmic problem.  As
we develop it, we shall endeavour to show that it supplies that
metaphysical idea which forms the basis of catholic Christology.  The
two previous solutions failed.  They do not satisfy the philosopher and
they mislead the theologian.  The one separates God from the world; the
other merges them.  Thus both, in effect, abandon the original
enterprise.  They destroy the relation instead of expressing it.  The
concepts both of co-existence and of identity have proved fruitless in
the speculative problem, and in Christology have given rise to heresy.
The third school of thought takes as its starting point neither God,
nor the world, nor the two as co-existing, but the relation of the two.
It makes that relation such that the terms related are preserved in the
relation.  Neither identity nor difference is the full truth, but
identity in and through difference.  God is not the world, nor is the
world God.  God is, and the world is.  Each are facts.  In their
separateness they are not true facts.  It is only as we conceive the
two in their oneness, a supra-numerical oneness, that we can give their
full value to each.  The world is God's world; therefore it has being
and value.  The cosmic relation then is expressed not by an "and," nor
by an "is," but by an "of."  The God "_of_" the world is the key
concept that unlocks the doors of the palace of truth.

It was in the prominence given to this concept that Aristotle's system
made a great advance on that of his predecessor.  Plato had established
a world of ideas with the idea of the Good as its centre, but he left
it unrelated to the world of experience.  Aristotle insisted on
relating the ideal and the real.  His concept of relation was that of
form and matter.  The world apart from God is matter apart from form.
It has only potential reality.  When it becomes united to its form, it
becomes actual.  Its form makes it a fact--what it has in it to be.
Aristotle conceives different grades of being.  Unformed matter is the
lowest of these grades, and God the highest.  Each grade supplies the
matter of which the next highest grade is the form.  Ascending the
scale of being at last we reach pure form.  Thus the ladder of
development is constructed by which the world rises to its realisation
in God.  Aristotle gave to humanity the conception of a God who
transcends the world, and yet is immanent in it, as form is in matter.
Thus Greek philosophy in Aristotle attained that spiritual monotheism
which supplied the foundation for the edifice of Christian doctrine.

The effect of Aristotle's teaching was felt by all the ecclesiastical
parties in the fifth century.  As we shall see in a later chapter, some
of the subsidiary elements of his philosophy are reflected in
monophysitism.  The dominant ideas, however, of the system, the
conception of God and the world and the relation between them, were
taken over by the catholic theologians, and incorporated into their
Christology.  We need not here inquire whether Aristotle's influence
was direct or indirect.  No doubt many of the theologians who
constructed Christian doctrine had read his works.  Whether that is so
or not, they must have unconsciously assimilated his central doctrine.
It was common property.  The determination to keep God a reality and
the world a reality and yet relate the two became the controlling
motive of their thinking.

Aristotle in theory and application of theory has always a feeling for
fact.  The individual thing and the world of individual things are, for
him, never negligible.  Realised matter, life, the human spirit, human
nature, are actualities and have their value as such.  They are not all
on the same level of being; they do not occupy the same rank; and it is
the philosopher's business to determine their respective positions in
the scale of being and value.  But he cannot have his head in the
clouds of contemplation, unless he have his feet on the earth of fact.


Catholic Christology has caught the spirit of Aristotle's teaching.  It
is not primarily speculative.  It is in close touch with fact.  It is
the outcome of a deep-felt want.  Redemption is the first demand of
religious experience; so it is the motive and theme of all Christology.
The soul views itself as a member of a world of souls estranged from
God, and for its own peace and welfare seeks to effect a union between
God and the world.  Such a union, to be effective, must preserve the
being and value of the world.  If there were no world or only a
valueless world, there would be nothing to redeem, or nothing worth
redeeming.  Seeking that union in personality, and in the most
marvellous personality of history, the orthodox theologians by a true
instinct ascribed to Him both divine and human natures.  He is the
cosmic unity of opposites.  His person is the cosmic relation.  In that
person the lower term of the relation has true being and full value.
Thus the Church steered a middle course between the Scylla of
co-existence and the Charybdis of identity.

These _a priori_ deductions as to the being of Christ were verified by
a reference to fact.  The life-story of the historic Christ comprises
two distinct groups of experience.  There are thoughts, deeds, and
words attributed to Him that only God could have thought, done, and
said.  There are as well thoughts, deeds and words of His that only a
man could have thought, done and said.  Hence the diphysite doctrine
was verified _a posteriori_.  Again, in both groups of experience there
is a never-failing connecting link.  There is a unity lying deeper in
His consciousness than the duality.  Christ, the Agent, is the same in
both parts.  Whether as God or man, He is never out of character.
Hence the unity of the person also was established _a posteriori_.
Thus, to the orthodox Christologians, the expectation that the human
Ideal would be a unity, comprising divinity and humanity, was justified
by historical fact.

They found a further verification on applying the test of practice.
Orthodox Christology satisfies the requirements of the soul.  Man's
chief spiritual need is access to God through "a daysman that might lay
his hand upon both."  An exemplar, even though perfect, is not adequate
to his need.  The _unio mystica_ can only be experienced by the
leisured few.  Man demands a religion of redemption, a redemption that
allows value to labour, to endeavour, to human thought, that recognises
the reality of pain and sorrow and sin, a redemption that redeems
humanity in all its phases and in the wealth of its experiences.  An
Agent that has not shared to the full those experiences is useless for
the purpose.  Redemption must be the work of One who knows God and
knows man, of One who has the touch of sympathy; for to such a touch
alone can humanity respond.  The Christology that makes Christ Jesus
consubstantial with God and with man satisfies man's deep-felt need.


We have taken a triad of ontologies and a triad of Christological
systems, placed them side by side, and examined them.  The result of
that examination is a triple correspondence.  The metaphysical
principle is found in each case worked out in a corresponding
Christology.  The comparison is of general interest.  It reveals
Christology as intimately connected with the workings of intellect, as
in the main stream of the current of human thought, as capable of
philosophic treatment.  Further than that, the comparison is vital to
the main argument of this essay.  It provides the clue to the heart of
our subject.  The scientist, who wishes to understand a botanical
specimen, pays as much attention to what is in the ground as to what is
above ground.  The seed and roots are as full of scientific interest as
are stem, leaf and flower.  Similarly, to understand the monophysite
heresy, to be able to detect it and expose it, we must take it in the
germ.  We may push the illustration further.  The properties of a
botanical specimen are best studied in connection with organisms of
allied species.  We cannot isolate unless we compare.  By comparison
the essential features, functions and properties of the specimen under
examination are elucidated.

It is by isolating the three germinal ideas of these three
Christological systems and comparing them, that a full comprehension of
monophysitism in all its stages, from seed to flower, is reached.  We
have used this method, and have found that the roots of the heresy lie
in spiritual monism.  In subsequent chapters we shall analyse its
origins as a historical system, its specific tenets and its practical
consequences.  It will then be seen that the spirit of monism pervades
the whole system.



The monophysitism of the fifth century had its roots in the past as
well as in the _a priori_.  In the previous chapter we treated it as a
phase of philosophic thought and reviewed the metaphysic on which the
heresy rests.  In the present chapter its relations as a historical
system of religious thought are to be exhibited.  As such, it owes much
to outside influences.  Much in the monophysite mode of thought and
many of its specific doctrines can be traced either to other
ecclesiastical heresies or to pagan philosophies.  The fact of this
double derivation deserves to be emphasised.  It refutes the charge of
inquisitorial bigotry, so frequently levelled against the theologians
of the early centuries.  The non-Christian affinities of the heresy
account for the bitterness of the controversy to which it gave rise,
and, in large measure, excuse the intolerance shown by both parties.
Heresies were not domestic quarrels.  Contemporaries viewed them as
involving a life and death struggle between believers and unbelievers.
Christianity can afford to be tolerant to-day.  It has an assured
position.  Its tenets are defined.  Christians can almost always
distinguish at a glance errors that threaten the essentials of the
Faith from those that do not.  In the fourth and fifth centuries the
case was otherwise.  Christianity was then one among many conflicting
systems of religion.  Its intellectual bases were as yet only
imperfectly thought out.  Any doctrinal error seemed capable of
poisoning the whole body of belief.  Heresy, so the orthodox held, was
of the devil.  No charitable view of it was allowable.  That
uncompromising attitude was, to a large extent, justified because many
articles of the heretical creeds were of purely pagan origin.  Given
similar conditions to-day, our easy tolerance of opinion would
disappear.  If Islam, for instance, were to-day a serious menace to the
Faith, Christians would automatically stiffen their attitude towards
monophysite doctrines.  Toleration of the false Christology would,
under those circumstances, be treason to the true.  The Church of the
fifth century was menaced from many sides.  Monophysitism was the foe
at her gates.  That heresy was not a variety of Christianity.  It was a
semi-pagan theosophy, a product of Greek and oriental, as well as of
purely Christian speculation; therefore it was anathema to the orthodox.


We propose to begin the study of the antecedents of monophysitism by
examining those of a Christian or semi-Christian character.  For that
purpose it will be necessary to give a brief sketch of the early
heresies in so far as they bear on the Christological problem.

The two primitive forms of doctrinal error, to which the Church, even
in apostolic days, was exposed, were docetism and ebionitism.  These
are the elemental heresies.  All the later Christological heresies are
refinements of one or other of these two.  They constitute the extremes
of Christological thought: between them runs the _via media_ of
orthodoxy.  Each of the two sees but one aspect of the two-fold life of
Christ.  Docetism lays an exclusive emphasis on His real divinity,
ebionitism on His real humanity.  Each mistakes a half truth for a
whole truth.

The docetists denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh.  His
body, they taught, was an apparition.  He ate and drank, but the
physical frame received no sustenance.  He appeared to suffer, but felt
no pain.  The reality behind the semblance was the divine spirit-being,
who conjured up the illusion in order to elevate the thoughts of
mankind.  This docetic theory commended itself to many of the Greek
Christians.  They were familiar with the notion of "the gods coming
down to them in the likeness of men."  Greek mythology abounds in
instances of docetic incarnations.  The gods of the popular religion
constantly assumed visible form during their temporary manifestations.

The ebionites threatened the Faith from the opposite quarter.  They
taught that Christ was real man and only man.  According to them, the
whole value of His life and work lay in His moral teaching and His
noble example; there is no mystery, no contact of divine and human in
Christ; what He attained, we all may attain.  The ebionites were
recruited from the Jewish element in the Church.  The rigid monotheism
of the Jews made it hard for them to conceive an intermediary between
God and man; they were naturally disposed to embrace a humanistic
explanation of Christ.

Docetism was elaborated by Valentinus, Manes and other gnostics and
adopted into their systems, while ebionitism provided the basis for the
Christologies of Paul of Samosata, of the Photinians and Adoptionists.
In contact with these heresies orthodox beliefs, originally fluid,
gradually hardened.  The dogma "Christus deus et homo" had from the
beginning been held in the Church.  Its full implications were not
realised and formulated until the conflict with error came.  The
controversies of the third and fourth centuries threw into bold relief
the unity of the person and the perfection of the divinity and of the


The manner of the hypostatic union then became an urgent problem.  The
Church of the fifth century was called upon to attempt a solution.  Any
reading of the Gospels compelled the recognition of divine and human
elements in Christ; but speculative theology found it difficult to
reconcile that fact with the equally important fact of the unity of

The theologians of the previous century had bequeathed little or no
guidance.  The fifth-century Christologians were pioneers in an
unmapped region.  Athanasius' great treatises on the incarnation are
hardly more than eloquent defences of the true deity and true humanity
of Christ.  They contain little or no constructive Christology.  Their
theme is, _autòs enênthrópêsen_, _hína hêmeis theôpoiêthômen_.  He
maintains the fact, but does not deal with the "how."  He uses the
phrase "natural union" (_hénôsis physiké_), but does not attempt to
define the mode of that union.


Apollinaris was, as far as we know, the first theologian to approach
this subject.  We may note in passing that, though he was bishop of
Laodicea in Syria, Alexandria was his native place.  His father was an
Alexandrian, and he himself had been a friend of Athanasius.  The fact
of his connection with Alexandria deserves mention, because his
doctrine reflects the ideas of the Alexandrian school of thought, not
those of the Syrian.  Apollinaris set himself to attack the heretical
view that there were two "Sons"--one before all time, the divine Logos,
and one after the incarnation, Jesus Christ.  In doing so he felt
constrained to formulate a theory of the union of natures.  He started
from the Platonic division of human nature into three parts, rational
soul, animal soul, and body.  He argued that in the statement "the
Logos became flesh," "flesh" must mean animal soul and body.  He urged
in proof that it would be absurd to suppose the Logos conditioned by
human reason; that rational soul was the seat of personality, and that
if it were associated with the Logos, it would be impossible to avoid
recognising "two Sons."  He expressly asserted that the humanity of
Christ was incomplete, contending that this very defect in the human
nature made possible the unity of His person.  According to
Apollinaris, then, the union was a composition.  The Logos superseded
the human reason, and was thus united to body and animal soul.

Apollinarianism was a form of docetism.  In ascribing imperfection to
the human nature of Christ it _eo ipso_ denied its reality.
Apollinaris, in fact, said of Christ's reason what the early docetists
said of His body.  The system is more ingenious than convincing.  It is
highly artificial.  It provides no intellectual basis for a living
faith in an incarnate Christ.  The theory, however, was very
influential in its day, and was intimately connected with the rise of
monophysitism.  Eutyches, the "father of the monophysites," was
condemned by a local synod at Constantinople in A.D. 448 on the ground
that he was "affected by the heresy of Valentinus and Apollinaris."[1]
Harnack goes so far as to say that "the whole position of the later
monophysites, thought out to all its conceivable conclusions, is
already to be found in Apollinaris."  Apollinarianism was condemned at
the second general council, and there the Church made her first
declaration, a negative one, on the subject of the hypostatic union.
In conflict with the heresies which arose in the next two generations,
she evolved a positive statement of the truth.


Opposition to Apollinarianism gave rise to the Nestorian heresy.  The
original ebionitism had died away, but its spirit and central doctrine
reappeared in Nestorianism.  Nestorianism might be described as
ebionitism conforming to the creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople.  The
leaders of the opposition to the Apollinarists of the fifth century
were their own Syrian countrymen whose headquarters was at Antioch.
The Antiochians differed from the Apollinarians in the starting-point
of their Christology and in the controlling motive of their thought.
While Apollinaris had constructed his Christology on the basis of the
doctrine of the Trinity, the Antiochians started from the formula
"perfect alike in deity and humanity."  The reasonings of Apollinaris
were governed by the thought of redemption.  The fundamental question
of religion for him was, "How can the closest union between divine and
human be secured?"  The tendency of the Antiochians, on the other hand,
was to neglect the interests of Soteriology and to emphasize the
ethical aspect of Christ's life and teaching.  They put in the
background the idea of the all-creating, all-sustaining Logos, who took
man's nature upon Him and in His person deified humanity.  Their
thought centred on the historic Christ, the Christ of the evangelists.
They did not revert to crude ebionitism, but they explained the Nicene
creed from an ebionitic stand-point.  They maintained as against the
Apollinarians the completeness of Christ's human nature; with equal
vigour they maintained the essential deity of the Logos.  The "poverty"
(ebionitism) of their doctrines consisted in their paltry view of the
hypostatic union.  The union, according to the Nestorians, was
subsequent to the conception of Jesus.  It was not a personal, but a
moral union.  It was a conjunction of two co-ordinate entities.  They
taught that the more the man Jesus acted in accordance with the divine
promptings, the closer became his union with the Logos.  That is to
say, the union was relative not absolute.  Thus the union between
divine and human in Christ differed only in degree from the union of
the same elements in any good man.  The unity of the Son of God and the
Son of Mary consisted solely in the identity of name, honour and


Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, led the opposition to Nestorius.  He
declared that the moment of conception was the moment of the union, and
that the notion of incarnation involved much more than an association
of natures.  He maintained that the incarnation was a hypostatic union
(_hénôsis physiké_).  He endeavoured to guard against an Apollinarian
interpretation of his teaching; but in this attempt he was not
altogether successful.  He asserted the perfection of Christ's humanity
and the distinction between the two natures.  The perfection, however,
is compromised, and the distinction rendered purely ideal by his
further statement that there were "two natures before, but only one
after the union."  He cited in proof the words of Athanasius, "one
incarnate nature of God the Word."

Cyril prevailed.  Nestorius was condemned and the Antiochian school
discredited.  Cyril's victory, however, was of doubtful value to
orthodoxy.  His ardent but unbalanced utterances bequeathed to the
Church a legacy of strife.  His writings, particularly the earlier
ones, furnished the monophysites with an armoury of weapons.  His
teaching could not with justice be styled docetic or Apollinarian, but
its mystic tone was so pronounced that it proved a propaedeutic for
monophysitism.  The shibboleth of orthodoxy, quoted above, "one
incarnate nature of God the Word," passed rapidly into the watchword of
heresy.  Athanasius had used the word "nature" in a broad sense.  The
monophysites narrowed it down to its later technical meaning.  Thus
they exalted Christ into a region beyond the ken of mortal man.  The
incarnation became a mystery pure and simple, unintelligible, calling
for blind acceptance.  The monophysites, following Cyril, heightened
the mystery, but, in doing so, they eliminated the reality and the
human appeal of the incarnate life.  They soon began to argue that,
since Christ is monophysite, the properties of deity and humanity in
Him are interchangeable; that therefore, while yet a Babe in the
manger, He ruled the world with the omniscience and omnipresence of the
Logos; that while He hanged upon the Cross, His mighty power sustained
and ordered the universe.  The monophysites professed great jealousy
for the honour due to the Redeemer.  But the ascription of such
attributes to Jesus Christ detracts from His honour.  If the nature
that suffered on the Cross be not distinct from the nature that cannot
suffer, then the Crucifixion was a sham.  Monophysitism is docetism
elaborated.  It abandons the Christ of history.  It rules out His
_prokopé_.  It ignores a fact, vital to Christology, namely the
_kénôsis_ or divine self-limitation.  Thus it throws a veil of
unreality over those facts on which the Christian Faith is built.


The foregoing sketch of the early Christological heresies exhibits
monophysitism as a product of two opposite intellectual currents.  A
man's convictions are settled for him partly by acceptance, partly by
rejection of what tradition offers or his mind evolves.  The mass mind
works similarly.  It accepts and rejects, approves and disallows.  The
stabilisation of a body of mass opinions, such as a heresy, is thus
determined by opposite forces.  It was so with monophysitism.  Its
Christian antecedents comprised positive and negative currents.  The
positive current was docetism, the negative ebionitism.  Docetism,
originating in apostolic times, passed through many phases, to provide,
at the end of the fourth century, in its most refined form,
Apollinarianism, the immediate positive cause of monophysitism.
Ebionitism, related to docetism as realism to idealism, possessed equal
vitality and equal adaptability.  It showed itself in various
humanistic interpretations of Christ.  Of these the most elaborate was
Nestorianism, which exerted the most insistent and immediate negative
influence on the early growth of monophysitism.


We leave here the subject of the influence of other heresies on
monophysitism, and proceed to exhibit its affinities with non-Christian
thought.  At Alexandria, the home of the heresy, two systems of
philosophy, the Aristotelian and the Neo-Platonist, were strongly
represented.  Both of these philosophies exercised a profound influence
upon the origins and upon the later developments of monophysite
doctrine.  We propose to take, first, the Aristotelian, and then the
Neo-Platonist philosophy, elucidating those leading ideas in each on
which the monophysite thinker would naturally fasten, as lending
intellectual support to his religious views.


Aristotle was held in high estimation by the monophysite leaders,
particularly in the sixth and seventh centuries.  His works were
translated into Syriac in the Jacobite schools.  The West owes much to
these translations.  For it was largely by this agency that his
metaphysic reached the Arabs, who transmitted it to the West in the
Middle Ages.

The Aristotelian logic was widely known among the monophysites.  It
seems to have formed part of their educational curriculum.  Taken apart
from the rest of the system, the logic produces a type of mind that
revels in subtle argumentation.  It exalts the form of thought at the
expense of the matter.  It had this effect on the monophysite
theologians.  They were trained dialecticians.  They were noted for
their controversial powers, for their constant appeal to definition,
for the mechanical precision of their arguments.  These mental
qualities, excellent in themselves, do not conduce to sound theology.
Formal logic effects clarity of thought often at the expense of depth.
It treats thoughts as things.  Procedure, that is proper in the sphere
of logic, is out of place in psychology and theology.  Concepts such as
person and nature must be kept fluid, if they are not to mislead.  If
they are made into hard and fast ideas, into sharply defined
abstractions, they will be taken to represent discrete psychic
entities, external to one another as numbers are.  The elusive, Protean
character of the inter-penetrating realities behind them will be lost
to view.  The most signal defect of monophysite method is its
unquestioning submission to the Aristotelian law of contradiction.  The
intellectual training that makes men acute logicians disqualifies them
for dealing with the living subject.  The monophysite Christologians
were subtle dialecticians, but the psychology of Christ's being lay
outside their competence.


Leaving the formal element in Aristotle's system, we come to its
material content.  Some of the prominent ideas of the Aristotelian
cosmology and psychology reappear in the heresy we are studying.  We
shall take first the rejection of the Platonic dualism.  Aristotle's
repeated criticism of his master's theory of ideas is not merely
destructive.  It formed the starting-point for his own metaphysic.  The
ideas, he says, simply duplicate the world of existent things.  They do
not create things or move them; they do not explain genesis or process;
they merely co-exist with the ideates.  The participation which Plato's
later theory postulated is inadequate.  A more intimate relation is
required.  The theory of ideas confronts God with a world, and leaves
the relation between them unformulated and inexplicable.

This criticism is of first importance for theology.  Faith as well as
reason demands a real relation between idea and ideate.  The Christian
student in the fifth century, familiar with Aristotle's criticism of
Plato, would inevitably apply it in Christology.  Any theory of
redemption that ascribed duality to the Redeemer would seem to him to
be open to the objections that Aristotle had urged against the theory
of ideas.  The Nestorian formula, in effect, juxtaposed the ideal
Christ and the real Jesus, and left the two unrelated.  This was
Platonism in Christology.  Aristotle's attack on Plato's system
provided a radical criticism of Nestorianism.  The monophysite
theologians were blind to the difference between the Nestorian position
and that of the orthodox.  They saw that Aristotle had placed a
powerful weapon in their hands, and they used it indifferently against
both opposing parties.


We turn now to Aristotle's psychology.  We must give a brief sketch of
it in order to establish the fact that the Aristotelian and the
monophysite science of the soul labour under the same defect.  It is a
radical defect, namely, the almost complete absence of the conception
of personality.  The principle of Aristotle's psychology, like that of
his metaphysic, is the concept of form and matter.  The soul of man
comes under the general ontological law.  All existence is divisible
into grades, the lower grade being the matter whose form is constituted
by the next highest grade.  Thus there is a graduated scale of being,
starting from pure matter and rising to pure form.  The inorganic is
matter for the vegetable kingdom, the vegetable kingdom for the animal
kingdom; the nutritive process is material for the sensitive, and the
sensitive for the cognitive.  Man is an epitome of these processes.
The various parts of his nature are arranged in an ascending scale;
form is the only cohesive force.  The animal soul is the form of the
body, born with it, growing with it, dying with it; the two are one in
the closest union conceivable.  Besides the soul of the body, there is,
says Aristotle, a soul of the soul.  This is reason, essentially
different from animal and sensitive soul.  It is not connected with
organic function.  It is pure intellectual principle.  It is
immaterial, immortal, the divine element in man.  This reason is not a
bare unity.  As it appears in human experience, it is not full-grown.
Potentially it contains all the categories, but the potentiality must
be actualised.  Consequently reason subdivides into active and passive
intellect.  The action of the former on the latter, and the response of
the latter to the former, constitute the development of the mind, the
education of the truth that is potentially present from the beginning.

This hierarchy of immaterial entities contains nothing corresponding to
our idea of personality.  There is in it no principle that is both
individual and immortal.  Aristotle allows immortality only to the
universal reason.  The psychic elements are condemned to perish with
the body.  There is no hope for the parts of the soul which are most
intimately connected with the individual's experience.

Monophysite Christology shares this fundamental defect.  The
monophysite thinker attempted to express the union of two natures
within one experience.  But his psychology, not containing the notion
of personality, could furnish no principle of synthesis.  An agent in
the background of life, to combine the multiplicity of experience, is a
_sine qua non_ of a sound Christology.  Personality was to the
monophysites a _terra incognita_; and it was in large measure their
devotion to Aristotle's system that made them deaf to the teaching of
the catholic church.


After this sketch of the Aristotelian features recognisable in
monophysitism, we turn to the other great pagan philosophy that
assisted in the shaping of the heresy.  Intellectualism and mysticism
are closely allied; the two are complementary; they are as mutually
dependent as are head and heart.  It is not then surprising that
monophysitism should possess the characteristics of both these schools
of thought.  The intellectualism of the heresy was largely due, as we
have shown, to the Aristotelian logic and metaphysic; its mystic
elements derive, as we proceed to indicate, from Neo-Platonism and
kindred theosophies.

Alexandria had been for centuries the home of the mystics.  The
geographical position, as well as the political circumstances of its
foundation, destined that city to be the meeting-place of West and
East.  There the wisdom of the Orient met and fought and fused with
that of the Occident.  There Philo taught, and bequeathed to the
Neo-Platonists much of his Pythagorean system.  There flourished for a
while and died fantastic eclectic creeds, pagan theosophies
masquerading as Christianity.  Gnosticism was a typical product of the
city.  Valentinus and Basilides and the other gnostics made in that
cosmopolitan atmosphere their attempts to reconcile Christianity with
Greek and oriental thought.  There Ammonius Saccas, after his lapse
from the Christian faith, taught and laid the foundation of
Neo-Platonism.  Plotinus was the greatest of his disciples, and, though
he taught at Rome for most of his life, it was in the spirit of
Alexandria that he wrought his absolute philosophy, the full-orbed
splendour of the setting sun of Greek thought.  Neo-Platonism did not
die with Plotinus.  In the middle of the fifth century, when
monophysitism was at its zenith, Proclus was fashioning an intellectual
machinery to express the Plotinian system.  The story of Hypatia
evidences the dominant position of Neo-Platonism in Alexandrian
culture.  The violence of Cyril's measures against her shows what a
menace to the Church that philosophy was.  Cyril was not a monophysite,
but much that he said and did promoted their cause.  Dioscurus, his
nephew and successor in the see of Alexandria, championed monophysitism
at the council of Chalcedon.  In later generations Alexandria always
offered an asylum to exiled monophysite leaders.

These facts render it impossible to regard the connection between
Alexandria and monophysitism as fortuitous.  They further suggest that
Neo-Platonism was the connecting link.  Such in fact it was.
Monophysitism, we might almost say, was Neo-Platonism in Christian
dress.  The ethos of the two systems is the same, and the doctrinal
resemblance is marked.  It was natural that the home of pagan mysticism
should cradle the kindred system of heretical Christian mysticism.


The representative figure amongst the Neo-Platonists is Plotinus.  His
comprehensive mind gathered up the main threads of Alexandrian thought,
and wove them into the fabric of a vast speculative system.  The system
is as much a religion as a philosophy.  It is the triumph of
uncompromising monism.  The last traces of dualism have been
eradicated.  God, for Plotinus, is true being and the only being.  He
is all and in all.  God is an impersonal Trinity, comprising the One,
the cosmic reason and the cosmic soul.  The One is primal, ineffable,
behind and beyond all human experience.  All we know of Him is that He
is the source and union of reason and soul.  Creation is effected by a
continuous series of emanations from God.  Emanation is not an
arbitrary act of divine will; it is a necessary consequence of the
nature of the One.  God must negate Himself, and the process is
creation.  The further the process of negation is carried, the less
reality does the created object possess.  Last in the scale comes
matter, which has no self-subsistence, but is the absolute
self-negation of God.  We referred in the last chapter to Plotinus'
favourite illustration.  We may be allowed, perhaps, to repeat it here.
As light, he says, issues from the sun and grows gradually dimmer,
until it passes by imperceptible degrees into the dark, so reason
emanates from God and, passing through the phases of nature, loses its
essence gradually in its procession, until finally it is derationalised
and becomes its opposite.


Human souls are at an intermediate stage of this cosmic process.  Like
the ray of light which touches both sun and earth, they have contact
with God and with matter.  They stand midway in creation.  They are
attracted upwards and downwards.  Reason draws them to God; sense
chains them to earth.  Their position decides their duty.  (Here the
philosophy becomes a religion).  The duty of man is to break the
sensuous chains and set the soul free to return to its home in God.
This return of the soul to God is attained by the path of knowledge.
The knowledge that frees is not speculative; for such enhances
self-consciousness.  It is immediate consciousness indistinguishable
from unconsciousness.  It is intuitive knowledge.  It is vision in
which the seer loses himself, and what sees is the same as what is
seen.  It is the absorption of the soul in the world reason, and so
with God.

The Neo-Platonist took practical steps to attain this mystic state.  He
submitted to rule and discipline.  By mortification of the flesh he
endeavoured to weaken sensuous desire.  The arts of theurgy were
employed to wean the mind from sensuous knowledge, and to fix
aspiration on unseen realities.  Contemplation and self-hypnotism were
widely practised.  In ecstasy the mystic found a foretaste of that
blissful loss of being, which is the goal and crown of philosophic


When we compare monophysitism with the system of Plotinus, several
points of resemblance appear.  There is first the impersonal character
of the deity.  Monophysitism was not a Trinitarian heresy, and the
Catholic doctrine of the three persons in the godhead was the official
creed of the heretical church.  But their theologians refrained from
laying emphasis upon the distinct personalities of Father, Son and Holy
Ghost.  Their sympathies were Sabellian to the core, and Sabellian
heresies were constantly recurring within their communion.  The
impersonal Trinity, such as Plotinus taught, was thoroughly in keeping
with their Christology.  They lacked a clear conception of personality
in the second Person of the Trinity.  It was inevitable that they
should overlook the same element in the incarnate Christ.

The Neo-Platonic view of matter finds its counterpart in monophysite
theory.  The monophysites, without formally denying its real existence,
nursed a Manichean suspicion of it.  It was, to them, the seat of
illusion; it was an obstacle to spirit, the enemy of spiritual
development.  If not unreal, it was at any rate unworthy.  The
association of Christ with matter through His body and through His
human nature was, in their eyes, a degradation of deity.  That Christ
took matter up into His being as a permanent element, that He dignified
the body and glorified human faculties, these facts seemed to the
monophysite mind improbable, and, if true, devoid of religious
significance.  It came natural to him to explain Christ's body as a
phantom.  He was prepared to regard the human nature as unsubstantial.
The mystic's view of matter, of sense and human existence characterises
the whole monophysite outlook.

In the spirit of Plotinus the monophysites conceived the incarnation as
the supreme example of the _unio mystica_.  The _unio mystica_ was a
state of rapture, abnormal and temporary in earthly experience, in
which the identity of the mystic was actually merged in the cosmic
reason.  The lower nature disappeared completely into the higher.  It
was absorption.  This word "absorption" was in common use among the
heretics.  It was a trite saying among the first generation of the
monophysites that "the human nature of Christ was absorbed in the
divine, as a drop of honey in the ocean."  They conceived His thought
as lost in the universal reason, His will as surrendered to the will of
God, His human affections as fused in the fire of divine feeling, His
body as a phantom.  They could not admit that He lived the real life of
a real man.  They could not see the value of such a life.
Neo-Platonism had paralysed their optic nerve.  Thinkers such as the
Christologians of Alexandria, imbued with the spirit of Neo-Platonism,
had no motive for preserving the distinct subsistence of Christ's human
nature.  It was their boast that their Ideal had faced and overcome and
trampled on the lower elements of His being.  He was a proof from fact
that body and sense and all that is distinctively human could be
sublimated into the universal substance, which is the primary effluence
of the Plotinian One.  In a word, the incarnate Christ was, to them,
the personification of the Neo-Platonist _unio mystica_.

We may conclude this comparison of monophysitism with Neo-Platonism by
pointing out that the two systems had a similar bearing on the conduct
of life.  Neo-Platonism was a religion.  Its speculative aspect was
subordinate to its practical.  A knowledge of the soul's position in
creation and of its destiny laid the philosopher under strict
obligation.  Fasting and self-denial were essential preliminaries to
the higher mystic practices.  Ecstasy could not be reached until body
and sense had been starved into complete submission.  Monophysitism
adopted this tradition, and made ascesis the central duty of the
Christian life.  The monophysite church became celebrated for the
length and rigidity of its fasts.  The monastic element dominated its
communion.  Indeed, it is hardly too much to say that the monophysite
movement, on its external side, was an attempt to capture the Church
for monastic principles.  The heresy drew its inspiration from the
cloister.  The Christ of the monophysites had withdrawn from the market
to the wilderness; so His followers must needs go out of the world to
follow in His steps.

[1] Harnack, "History of Dogma," vol. iv. chap. ii. p. 160.



The distinctive doctrine of monophysitism, that from which the name of
the heresy is taken, is the assertion that there is but one nature, the
divine nature, in Christ.  There existed some difference of opinion
among the monophysites as to whether any degree of reality might be
ascribed to the human nature.  Some were prepared to allow it
conceptual reality; they would grant that Christ had been diphysite
momentarily, that He was "out of two natures."  But that admission is
quite inadequate.  It amounts to no more than the paltry concession
that Christ's human nature before the incarnation is conceivable as a
separate entity.  All monophysites united in condemning the diphysite
doctrine that after the incarnation Christ was and is "in two natures."
Such a Christ they would not worship.  It was "the image with two faces
that the Council of Chalcedon had set up."[1]  They adopted the
Athanasian phrase, "One incarnate nature of God the Word," as their

Monophysitism can make out a strong _prima facie_ case.  It is
attractive at first sight.  The heretical formula seems simpler and
more natural than the catholic.  The unity of nature appears a
corollary of the unity of person.  Human personality is ordinarily
assumed to be monophysite; so it is natural to make the same assumption
as to divine personality.  The simplicity of the doctrine is, however,
all on the surface.  It will not bear examination.  As a definition of
Christian faith it is useless.  It cannot account for the recorded
facts of Christ's life.  The facts of His body, of His mind, of His
sufferings refuse to fit into it.  It affords no foundation for belief
in His transcendent work.  No intelligible doctrine of redemption can
be built upon it.  It contains no germ of hope for mankind.  Therefore
the Church in the name of Christ and on behalf of humanity rejected it.

Although the heresy has been officially condemned, it should none the
less be studied.  It is improbable that any one in our time will defend
the formula, or openly profess the doctrines that follow from it.  But,
though not recognised as such, it is an ever-present and instant menace
to the Faith.  Monophysite tendencies are inherent in religious
thought.  The metaphysical idea, on which it rests, still has a
powerful hold over the human mind.  Spiritually-minded men are
especially liable to this form of error.  It is a mistake to think that
Christological questions were settled once and for all in the fifth
century.  Each generation has to settle them afresh.  Accordingly, to
exhibit the consequences of the monophysite formula, to show how wrong
abstract ideas develop into wrong concrete ideas and falsify Christian
practice, is a task of practical and present-day importance.


Two classes of erroneous beliefs result from a misconception of the
relation between God and man in Christ.  There arise, on the one hand,
false opinions about the deity of Christ, and on the other, false
opinions as to His manhood.  We shall adopt this classification as we
investigate the doctrinal consequences of the monophysite formula.  It
is the method followed in one of the earliest systematic criticisms of
the heresy.  Leo's Tome, or letter to Flavian, contains a lucid
statement of the catholic doctrine of the incarnation, and an acute
analysis of the system of Eutyches, the heresiarch.  He summarises the
errors of Eutyches under two heads; there are two main counts in his
indictment of the heresy.  Eutyches, he contends, makes Jesus Christ
"deus passibilis et homo falsus."  Eutyches and his followers
compromised both deity and humanity.  The deity becomes passible, the
humanity unreal.  All the monophysite misbeliefs can be classified
under one or other of these two heads.


We shall take first those errors that compromise the nature of the
deity, and shall preface our analysis by an explanation of the meaning
of the term "deus impassibilis."  The impassibility of God is the
corner-stone of spiritual monotheism.  Christianity owes it, as a
philosophic doctrine, largely to Aristotle.  He conceived deity as
"actus purus," as the One who moves without being moved, a "causa sui."
The popular gods of Greece were passible; they were possible objects of
sense; they were acted on largely as man is acted on.  They had a
beginning, and were subject to many of the processes of time.  They
were swayed by human motives.  They were, at times, angry, afraid,
unsatisfied, ambitious, jealous.  Aristotle gave to the world the
conception of a transcendent God, a being who is real and yet is
"without body, parts and passions," who cannot receive idolatrous
worship, and is not an object of sense.  Impassibility was one of the
highest attributes of this being.  The attribute does not involve or
imply absence of feeling.  Originally it had no reference to feeling,
in the psychological sense of that word.  It certainly excludes
incidentally the lower, specifically human feelings, feelings caused by
external stimuli, feelings due to want or to lack of power.  It does
not exclude the higher affections from the deity.  Even in the _nóêsis
noêseôs_ of Aristotle, there is room for the transcendent bliss of
divine self-contemplation.  Much more in the Christian God is there
room for spontaneous feeling, springing from His own nature, the
necessary concomitant of thought and will.  Impassibility is a
comprehensive attribute.  Originally negative, it soon acquired a rich
positive connotation.  An impassible God is one who is outside space
and time.  The attribute connotes creative power, eternity, infinity,
permanence.  A passible God is corruptible, _i.e._ susceptible to the
processes of becoming, change, and decay.  If to-day theists have to be
on their guard against debased conceptions of deity, in the plausible
garb of an "invisible king," of a finite or suffering God, much more
was such caution necessary in the early centuries of the Christian era.
Christians who came daily and hourly into contact with polytheistic
beliefs and practices had to be very jealous for the concept of
impassibility.  It represented to them all that was distinctive in the
highest region of their Faith.

Monophysitism, as we proceed to show, compromised this article of the
Faith.  Its adherents did not, perhaps, do so intentionally.  In fact,
the first generation of monophysites maintained that their definition
safeguarded the impassibility.  It was zeal for the honour of the Son
of God that induced them to deny Him all contact with humanity.  Their
good intentions, however, could not permanently counteract the evil
inherent in their system.  In later generations the evil came to the
surface.  Theopaschitism, the doctrine that openly denies the
impassibility of the godhead, flourished in the monophysite churches.


The metaphysical basis of monophysitism made this result inevitable.
Extremes meet.  Extreme spirituality readily passes into its opposite.
It cuts the ground from under its own feet.  It soars beyond its
powers, and falls into the mire of materialism.  Illustrations of this
fact can be found in the history of philosophy.  The Stoics, for
instance, contrived to be both pantheists and materialists.  Coming
nearer to our own time, we find Hegelianism explained in diametrically
opposite ways.  After Hegel's death his disciples split into opposing
camps; one party maintained that the real was spirit, the other that it
was matter.  Each party claimed the authority of the master for their
view.  The divergence is easy to explain.  From spiritual monism it is
a short step to materialistic monism.  For the monist, all is on one
level of being.  He may by constant effort keep that level high.  But
gravity will act.  We are more prone to degrade God to our level, than
to rise to His.  The same truth can be put _in abstracto_.  Unless the
relation between God and the world be preserved as a true relation, the
higher term will sooner or later fall to the level of the lower, and be
lost in it.  This rule holds as well in movements of religious thought.
The monophysite strove for a lofty conception of deity but achieved a
low one.  He undermined the doctrine of impassibility by the very
measures he took to secure it.

In the technical language of Christology the monophysites' debased
conception of deity was a consequence of "confounding the natures."
Attributes and actions, belonging properly only to Christ's humanity,
were ascribed recklessly to His divinity.  The test phrase "theotokos,"
invaluable as a protest against Nestorianism, became a precedent for
all sorts of doctrinal extravagancies.  The famous addition to the
Trisagion, "who wast crucified for us," which for a time won
recognition as sound and catholic, was first made by the monophysite
Bishop of Antioch.[2]  Both these phrases have scriptural authority,
and they are justified by the _communicatio idiomatum_.  But they are
liable to misuse and misinterpretation.  All depended on how they were
said and who said them.  The monophysite meant one thing by them, the
catholic another.  The _arrière pensée_ of the monophysite gave them a
wrong turn.  He was always on the look-out for paradox in Christ's
life.  He emphasised such phrases as appeared to detract from the
reality of His human experiences.  He spoke of Christ as "ruling the
universe when He lay in the manger," or as "directing the affairs of
nations from the Cross."  The catholic can approve these phrases; in
the mouth of a monophysite they have a heretical sound.  They suggest a
passible God; they degrade the infinite to the level of the finite.
The monophysite confounds the natures, and so he has no right to appeal
to the _communicatio idiomatum_.  Unless the _idiomata_ are admitted as
such, unless they are preserved in their distinctness, there can be no
_communicatio_ between them.  If they are fused, they cannot act and
react upon each other.  The monophysite, by identifying the natures,
forfeits the right to use the term "Theotokos" and the Trisagion
addition.  On his lips their inevitable implication is a finite
suffering God.


Monophysitism was not originally or _per se_ a Trinitarian heresy.
Equally with catholics and Nestorians its adherents accepted the Nicene
definition.  They professed to believe in one God in three co-equal
persons.  This belief, firmly held in all that it involves, would have
kept them from attributing passibility to the Godhead, and ultimately
have neutralised the errors of their Christology.  But their
Christology corrupted their theology.  Abandoning all vital relation
between God and man in Christ, they abandoned the relation in the
Godhead.  The internal and external relations of the Godhead are
mutually dependent.  If there be no trinity of persons, the incarnation
is impossible.  Were God a bare monad, He could not impart Himself and
remain Himself.  The fact that there are related persons in the deity
is the only justification for the use of the phrases discussed in the
previous paragraph.  When the catholic says, "God was born, suffered,
died," he is right, because his presupposition is right.  When the
monophysite uses the same words, he is wrong, because his
presupposition is wrong.  The catholic preserves in the background of
his thought the distinction between the _ousía_ and the threefold
_hypóstasis_, between the essential godhead and the three persons.  So
he is in no danger of ascribing passion to the essence or to the
persons of Father or Holy Spirit.  When he says "God was born," he is
compressing two statements into one.  He means "Christ was born, and
Christ was God."  Not in respect of what He has in common with the
other persons of the Trinity, but in respect of His property of sonship
did He lower Himself to the plane of suffering.  The catholic holds not
a suffering God, but a suffering divine person.  He maintains an
impassible God, but a passible Christ.  A dead God is a contradiction
in terms; a Christ who died is the hope of humanity.

Monophysite theology became involved in further embarrassments.
Unwillingness to attribute passibility to God, coupled with the desire
to remain in some sort trinitarians, forced many of the monophysites
into the Sabellian position.  Deity, they said in effect, did not
suffer in the second person of the trinity, because there is no such
person.  The persons of the trinity are simply characters assumed by
the monadic essence, or aspects under which men view it.  On this
showing, the Logos, who was incarnate, had no personal subsistence.
The relation between God and man ever remains impersonal.  Christ,
_qua_ divine, was only an aspect or effluence of deity.  This, for the
monophysite, was the one alternative to the doctrine of a passible God.
He was faced with a desperate dilemma.  If he retained his belief in a
transcendent God, he must surrender belief in a triune God.  He could
choose between the two; but his Christology permitted no third choice.
For him, the only alternative to a finite God was a lone God.  As a
result monophysite theology oscillated between denial of the
impassibility of God and denial of his three-fold personality.  In
either case the orthodox doctrine of the godhead was abandoned.

One of the stock questions propounded by the catholics to the
monophysites was, "Was the trinity incomplete when the Son of God was
on earth?"  The question is crudely expressed, as it ignores the type
of existence proper to spiritual personality; but it contains a
sufficiently sound _ad hominem_ argument.  The monophysite could not
say "yes," or he would then be driven to assert a passible God.  If he
said "no," his reply was tantamount to the assertion that the whole
essence of the Godhead was incarnate.  The logic of this dilemma was so
cogent that not a few monophysites succumbed to it, and adopted a
position similar to that of the earlier Patripassianists.  These
seceded from the monophysite church, and founded an independent sect,
called the Theopaschites.  As often happens, the sect is, doctrinally,
more representative than the parent body.  The Theopaschites were the
thinkers who had the courage to push the monophysite doctrines to their
logical conclusions.  Those who did not secede, unable to defend their
own doctrinal position, retaliated with the counter-charge of
tetratheism.  This stroke was simply a confession of weakness.  Monism
was strangling their Christianity at every turn.  Instead of breaking
free from it, they pretended that their opponents were polytheists.
The catholic, however, was neither monist nor pluralist.  The
incarnation was not the addition of a fourth divine being to the
trinity.  The essence of the godhead remained complete, unchanged and
impassible; while the hypostatic union of God and man in Christ made
possible the assumption of a passible nature by the person of the Son
of God.


It is in place here to point out the somewhat intimate connection that
existed between monophysitism and Islam.  The monophysites held the
outposts of the Empire.  Mahomet came into contact with them, and it
was probably from them that he formed his conception of Christian
doctrine.  The later history of the monophysite churches shows that
they often secured a large measure of toleration at the hands of the
Caliphs, while the diphysites were being rigorously persecuted.  Lapses
to Islam were not infrequent, and in some periods apostasy on a large
scale occurred.  Cases are on record even of monophysite patriarchs who
abjured their faith and joined the followers of the Prophet.  The
connection between monophysitism and Islam was not fortuitous.  There
was a doctrinal affinity between them.  Both systems were rigidly
monotheistic.  Both degraded the notion of deity by a perverse attempt
to exalt it.  Both cut redemption and mediation out of their religion.

The family likeness between the two systems does not extend beyond the
realm of the doctrine of supreme deity.  In other respects the religion
of the sword and the religion of love have little or nothing in common.
Crescent and Cross are poles asunder.  The monophysites as a body
remained nominally and in intention Christians and trinitarians.  But
in the doctrinal area specified the resemblance holds.  It could hardly
be otherwise.  Sabellian tendencies were always present and powerful in
the monophysite communion, and Sabellianism is a long step in the
direction of Islam.  Sabellius taught in effect, "Allah is one."  The
three persons, for him, were only aspects of the one indivisible deity.
There are no distinct entities corresponding to the names of Father,
Son and Holy Spirit.  Sabellianism is intimately associated with monism
in all its phases.  Monophysitism being essentially monist could not
escape the taint.  Whether Sabellianism made the heretics monophysites,
or monophysitism made them Sabellians, we need not inquire.  The two
creeds are bound up in the same bundle by the tie of monism.  The
relation of the Son to the Father and the relation of the Son to
humanity are vitally connected.  Misconception of the one relation
entails misconception of the other.  Denial of relation in the godhead
goes hand in hand with denial of relation in Christ.  If the theologian
reduces the latter to bare unity, he does the same for the former.
Catholic Christology is thus a necessary deduction from trinitarian
dogma.  Nicaea necessitated Chalcedon.  To safeguard the distinction of
persons in the godhead, a distinction in the natures of Christ was
essential.  To preserve intact the latter distinction, the proprium of
the Son and His personal subsistence had to be kept distinct from the
proprium and subsistence of the Father.


We leave here the area of theology and come to that of Christology.  We
have exhibited the monophysite errors with respect to the doctrine of
primal deity; we now proceed to analyse their views with respect to the
incarnate Christ.  The former subject leads the thinker into deep
water; the layman is out of his depth in it; so it does not furnish
material for a popular controversy.  It is otherwise with the latter
subject.  Here the issue is narrowed to a point.  It becomes a question
of fact, namely, "Was Christ a real man?"  The question and most of the
answers given to it are readily intelligible, and they naturally gave
rise to heated controversy.  Theopaschitism is, as we have shown, a
tendency inherent in the heresy, but one slow to come to the surface,
and one easily counter-acted and suppressed by the personal piety of
the monophysite.  Its docetism, the assertion of the unreality of
Christ's human nature, lies on the surface.  No amount of personal
piety can neutralise it.  It has had, and still has, a crippling effect
on the faith of devout Christians.  Even where it is not carried to the
length of formal heresy, it spreads a haze of unreality over the gospel
story, and dulls the edge of belief.

The second count of Leo's charge against the monophysites was, it will
be remembered, that their presentation of Christ made Him "homo
falsus."  Under this heading "homo falsus" may be classed a wide group
of erroneous tenets, ranging from the crudities of early docetism to
the subtleties of Apollinarianism.  We propose to sketch those of major
importance.  No attempt will be made to take them in their historical
order or historical setting.  Further, it is not implied that they all
formed part of the official doctrine of the monophysite church.  The
standard of belief in that communion was constantly varying, and the
history of its dogma would need a work to itself.  We shall deal with
those Christological errors, which, whether part of the official
monophysite creed or not, are logical results of the monophysite

Unreality may be predicated of Christ's human nature as a whole, or in
respect of its parts.  Consubstantiality with humanity may be denied of
the whole of his human nature; or deficiency in one or other of the
essential constituents of human nature may be alleged.  We shall deal
first with those errors that concern the entire nature, coming later to
the errors in respect of one or more of its several parts.

Suspicion of the reality of Christ's human nature as a whole is
characteristic of all monophysite thought.  This suspicion, not always
formulated or expressed, is everywhere present.  If the monophysites
admitted the fact of His true manhood, they denied or neglected the
religious value of that fact.  Their spurious spirituality rebelled
against a dogma which seemed to tie the infinite down to a point in
history.  The fact that the Son of God lived a perfect human life
contained no inspiration for them.  They idealised the incarnation.  It
was not for them a historical event.  This is a corollary to the
proposition, maintained by their great champion, Philoxenus, that "no
addition to His person took place."  It is tantamount to saying that
the union of divine and human in Christ is purely conceptual.  When the
monophysite faced the question, "What change in Christ did the
incarnation effect?" his formula constrained him to reply, "It made no
change."  The deity of the person was not denied.  The pre-existent
Logos and the Christ who walked in Galilee were admittedly one and the
same.  The second person of the trinity and Jesus of Nazareth were one
personality.  If Bethlehem made no change in that personality, it was
purposeless, and the import of the incarnation disappears.


For the consistent monophysites, then, the human nature, as a psychic
entity with peculiar properties, did not survive the incarnation.  They
did, however, allow it a verbal reality.  They admitted a composition
of natures, and this composition provided for them whatever degree of
reality the incarnation possessed.  On this point their Christology
passed through several stages of development, the later stages showing
progressive improvement on the earlier.  They distinguished three
senses of the word "composition."  First, they said, it might mean
"absorption," as when a drop of water is absorbed in a jar of wine.
Second, it might imply the transmutation of constituent particles, as
when a third unlike thing is formed from two.  Thirdly, there is
composition when, from the association of two whole and entire things,
a third whole and entire compound thing is formed without loss to the
components.  They illustrated the third mode of composition by the
union in man of soul and body.  The pre-Eutychian monophysites regarded
the hypostatic union as a composition in the first sense of the word.
They spoke of Christ's human nature as absorbed in the divine, as is "a
drop of vinegar in the ocean."  Eutyches adopted the term in its second
sense.  He taught that the Word became flesh[3] "as the atmosphere
assumes bodily form and becomes rain or snow under the influence of the
wind, and as water becomes ice by reason of the cold air."  Philoxenus
in a later generation saw that both these positions were wrong and the
similes misleading.  He taught a hypostatic union totally devoid of
confusion or loss or commutation of the elements of the two natures.
To illustrate his meaning he used the simile supplied by the
"Athanasian" creed, "as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so
God and Man is one Christ."  This position is a vast improvement on
that of the original monophysites.  It was ground gained to secure the
admission that in any sense Christ was very man.  But the monophysites
never learned the true manner of the union, namely, that Christ was
"one; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the
Manhood into God; one altogether; not by confusion of Substance but by
unity of Person."

Read in this connection the assertion that God and man is one Christ,
"as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man," is orthodox; read apart
from this context, it is ambiguous.  If the simile be kept as a simile,
as a mere suggestion or hint as to how, in general, two may compose one
and yet remain two, then no exception can be taken to it.  If, however,
the clause be interpreted as a proportion sum, assigning corresponding
values to the different terms, then it savours strongly of
Apollinarianism.  Most monophysites, like many moderns, probably
understood it in the mathematical sense.  Christ, they argued, was God
and man, just as man is rational soul and body; the terms are in
proportion; therefore the divine nature was the rational soul, and the
human nature was the body.  They forgot that the free act of the whole
divine person in assuming man underlies the union and makes it
efficacious; they gave _sárx_; the narrow meaning of _sôma_, they set
before themselves the picture, not of the infinite robing in the
finite, but of the union of mind and matter.  Consequently they
habitually spoke of the Logos, as assuming, not man or a human nature,
but a body.

Such in its varying phases was the monophysite doctrine of composition.
At its worst, it contained a direct denial of the real humanity of
Christ.  At its best, it falls far short of the catholic doctrine of
His real, perfect and complete humanity.  The permanent assumption of
human nature into the transcendent personality had no meaning for the
heretic party.  If it had taken place, it was, they thought, merely
momentary, with no after-effects, the passing of a summer cloud across
the face of the sun.

We have considered the monophysites' view of Christ's human nature,
regarded as an integral psychic entity.  It is evident that they either
undervalued it or denied its existence.  The more consistent thinkers
of their party maintained that the incarnation had made no difference
in the being of Christ, and that therefore His human nature had no
objective reality.  Those who shrank from carrying the doctrine to that
length conceded to the orthodox that the incarnation had to some extent
modified the being of Christ, that its net result was a composition.
Further analysis showed that this concession was rendered nugatory;
that in whatever sense the word "composition" was taken, it was
inadequate to express the hypostatic union; that the composition proved
in its first significance illusory, in its second, hybridous, in its
third, Apollinarianist.  We pass on now to review the human nature in
its constituent parts, and it will be seen that the heretical formula
undermines faith in respect of each several part.


From the standpoint of psychology human nature is divisible into parts.
The division must not be taken as absolute; for the whole is a unity,
and the parts are not discrete _quanta_.  The division is rather a
classification of psychic states according to predominating features.
The classification corresponds, however, to the facts of experience,
and so psychology is justified in making use of it.  We shall adopt it
in our investigation of the psychology of Christ.  The sharpest
dividing line is that between immaterial and material, between soul and
body.  The states of the soul fall into three well-marked groups,
thought, will, and feeling.  The physical and the psychic are not
always distinguishable.  Still more uncertain and tentative is the
identification in the psychic of cognitive, volitional, and emotional
faculties.  But in every man these parts are found.  They are
constituents of human nature.  There may be other elements as yet
unanalysed; but there can be no complete humanity that is deficient in
respect of any of these parts.  We propose to take them singly in the
above order, to show their existence in the historic Christ, and to
expose the monophysite attempts to explain them away.


It is obvious to an unprejudiced reader of the gospels that Christ's
pre-resurrection body was real and normal.  It was an organism of flesh
and blood, of the same constitution and structure as ours.  It occupied
space, and was ordinarily subject to the laws of space.  It was visible
and tangible.  It shared the natural processes of birth, growth, and
metabolism.  At the resurrection a catastrophic change took place in
it.  It was still a body.  It was still Christ's body.  Continuity was
preserved.  The evidences of continuity were external, and so strong as
to convince doubters.  We cannot fathom either the change or the
continuity.  What we know is that after the resurrection the body was
not so subject as before to the laws of space.  It was, it would seem,
of finer atoms and subtler texture.  It had reached the height of
physical being, and development apparently had ceased.  It was the
entelechy of the human body.  It was still real, though no longer
normal.  To employ paradox, it was natural of the species
"supernatural."  It was the natural body raised to a higher power.  It
was natural to human denizens of a higher world.  Body's function is
two-fold.  It both limits the soul and expresses it.  It narrows the
activity of the person to a point, and thus serves as a fine instrument
for action upon matter.  At the same time it draws out the
potentialities of the soul and fixes its development.  The
post-resurrection body was apparently less limitative and more

The foregoing considerations may be summed up in the form of three
dogmata, all of which orthodox Christianity teaches.  These are, first,
that Christ's pre-resurrection body was real and natural; second, that
His resurrected and ascended body is real and supernatural; third, that
there was a real continuity, whether by development or by epigenesis
between the two.  In all these points the monophysites missed the
truth.  Their presuppositions misled them.  As monists they were
inclined to regard matter as sinful.  They could not conceive the
infinite donning a soiled robe.  "Our body with its hateful wants"
could not, they thought, be a tabernacle for the Logos.  The idea of
the native dignity of the human frame and of its being ennobled by the
King's indwelling was completely foreign to the monophysites' ways of

Since such was the background of their thought it was inevitable that
definitely heretical doctrines should result.  In the first place we
meet the flat denial of the reality of Christ's body.  Even in
apostolic days those who held this heresy were found.  They denied that
Christ had come in the flesh.  They were styled docetists or
phantasiasts.  According to them the body had no objective reality.  It
was a phantom.  Its reality was entirely subjective.  It was the effect
produced on the perceptions of those who associated with the mysterious
spirit-being.  The Logos, as viewed by the phantasiasts, at the
incarnation struck His being into the bounds of time, but not of space.
Divine personality, they thought, did not require and could not use a
material medium.  This doctrine was not part of the official
monophysite creed; but, as pointed out in the previous chapter,
monophysitism was a lineal descendant of docetism, and always showed
traces of its lineage.  The saying that, "Christ brought His body from
heaven," was commonly attributed to Eutyches.  He denied having said
it, but, at any rate, the general feeling of his followers was that
Christ's physical nature was divine and therefore not consubstantial
with ours.

Such doctrines destroy the discipline of faith in the resurrection.
The radical difference between the natural and the resurrection body is
blurred by them.  The immense change is abolished.  The resurrection
becomes purely a spiritual change, which even a non-Christian could
accept.  The body, according to the tenor of monophysite teaching, was
spirit before the resurrection and spirit after it.  Thus the ascension
too becomes purely spiritual.  It is shorn of half its significance.
The Christian's hope for the human body rests on the fact that Christ
returned to heaven with something that He did not bring from heaven,
namely, a glorified human body.  If He brought that body with Him from
heaven, the main significance of His human dispensation falls to the
ground.  The incarnation becomes unreal, illusory, impotent.

An offshoot of docetism that flourished among the monophysites is the
aphthartodocetic heresy.  This is of considerable historical
importance.  Large numbers of the Syrian and Egyptian monophysites
embraced it, and seceded from the parent church.  It became part of the
official creed of Armenian Christianity, and that church has not
repudiated it to this day.  There are good, though hardly conclusive,
grounds for holding that the emperor Justinian, profound theologian and
life-long champion of orthodoxy, was converted to the heretical theory
in the last few months of his life.[4]  Aphthartodocetism, affirming
the reality of Christ's body, denies that it was subject to the wear
and tear of life.  The body, as this heresy taught, was superior to
natural process; it was neither corrupted nor corruptible.  The term
"corruptibility" has the wide significance of organic process, that is
the lot of all created living things.  A milder form of the heresy
asserted that Christ's body was corruptible but was not corrupted.
Aphthartodocetism springs from a spurious spirituality, from a
fastidiousness that has no place in true religion.  It is symptomatic
of Manicheanism, which associates matter with sin.  Christians affirm
sinlessness of Christ's humanity; they do not affirm immateriality of
His body.  The monophysites, in abandoning the true Christology, were
predisposed to the infection of this heresy.  A being in whom organic
process was present seemed to these heretics no fit object of worship.
They called the orthodox Ctistolatrae or Phthartolatrae, worshippers of
the created or corruptible.

Monophysites of all shades of opinion united in condemning the practice
of worshipping Christ's human nature.  That practice was in their eyes
both idle and injurious; idle, because the human nature did not exist
as a separate entity; injurious, because it fixed the mind of the
worshipper on the finite.  In consequence they were much opposed to all
observances based on a belief in His humanity.  Images or other
representations of Him in human form seemed to them idolatrous.  The
monophysite church was not directly concerned in the iconoclastic
controversy, but their doctrines were indirectly responsible for it.
In fact the great monophysites, Severus and Philoxenus, have been
styled "the fathers of the iconoclasts."


Such were the difficulties and errors into which their Christology
forced the monophysites with respect to Christ's body.  Difficulties
equally great and errors equally fatal attended their attempt to
conceive the conjunction of psychic elements with the divine person.
Their formula was too narrow.  It compelled them to shut their eyes to
one outstanding fact, namely, the duality of Christ's earthly
experience.  This fact confronts the reader on every page of the
gospels.  The duality is deep-seated; it extends to each psychic
element, yet stops short of the personality.  In the world of Christ's
nature there are two hemispheres.  His experiences are on two planes.
In both of these hemispheres or planes we find thought, will, and
feeling.  His thought on the higher plane is radically different in
mode and scope from His thought on the lower plane.  The two are of a
different order.  The same difference holds with respect to the other
two psychic elements.  We propose to exemplify this assertion, first,
in the case of cognition, and then in the case of will and feeling.
This procedure will simplify the task of exposing the further
consequences of the monophysite Christology.


The duality of Christ's intellectual experience is evident to a New
Testament student who has any acquaintance with psychology.  We find in
Christ two cognitive faculties with two dominant universes of thought
and knowledge.  On occasions He speaks and acts as if He read at a
glance all the secrets of nature and the human heart, as if all time
past, present, and future was an open book to him, as if He were in the
counsels of the Most High.  On those occasions divine intuition
superseded in Him the slow and faulty methods of human intelligence;
thought was vision, intellect intuition, knowledge omniscience.  Thus
His divine nature cognised and knew.  That, however, is only one half
of the picture.  On other occasions his mind appears to have been
perfectly human.  His intelligence and perceptive faculties differed
not essentially from ours.  He asked questions and sought information.
He used human categories.  He progressed in wisdom.  The development of
His mind was gradual.  His knowledge was relative to His age and
surroundings.  Memory and obliviscence, those complementary and perhaps
constituent elements of soul-being, attention, sensation, recognition,
and discursive reasoning, all these exhibitions of the workings of the
normal mind appeared in Christ.  In this manner His human nature
cognised and knew.


The Catholic welcomes these evidences of the duality of Christ's
intellectual life.  On the theoretical side, they confirm the central
dogma of orthodox Christology.  On the practical side, they give him
authority for seeking Christ's sympathy in matters intellectual.  He
realises that since Christ understands the education of the mind and
can share his intellectual difficulties, there is hope for the
redemption and regeneration of the highest part of his nature.  The
monophysite finds neither support for his dogma, nor inspiration for
life, in the fact that Christ had a human mind.  He is blind to the
fact.  He has seen half the picture and regards it as the whole.  His
ideal is a being in whom intuition supersedes intellect, whose
knowledge is immediate, absolute, and complete.  The orthodox who held
that Christ had and, at ordinary times, used a human reason, perfect of
its kind, but still human in all the implications of the word, were in
his eyes Agnoëtae; they were unbelievers who asserted the ignorance of
Christ and set bounds to the vision and knowledge of the infinite.  The
monophysite would modify his opinions and approach the catholic
position on other doctrinal points, but never on this.  He might be
persuaded to admit that Christ's body and "animal soul" were real and
human, but to the consubstantiality of Christ's mind with man's he
would not subscribe.  The Apollinarian strain in monophysitism was
persistent.  The later monophysites never succeeded in banishing it
from their system.  By Apollinarianism the humanity of Christ is
crippled in its highest member.  It is a realm shorn of its fairest
province.  According to Apollinaris, all that Christ assumed was an
animated body.  His theory is like an ingenious system of canal locks
for letting divine personality descend from the upper to the lower
waters.  The ingenuity displayed in it condemns it.  It is an
artificial makeshift.  The psychology on which it rests is antiquated.
The picture of Christ it presents does not correspond to the recorded
facts of His life.  Christ's human nature, as chiselled by the
Apollinarian sculptor, is a torso.  Such an image fails to satisfy the
demands of religious feeling, and the doctrines, Apollinarian and
monophysite, that enshrine it are therefore valueless.


We here leave the subject of cognition and pass to that of volition.
Orthodoxy teaches that Christ had two wills.  This doctrine has a
double basis.  In the first place, it is a corollary of the doctrine of
two natures.  In the second, it is established by the recorded facts of
the gospel narrative.  To take first the _a priori_ argument.  A nature
without a will is inconceivable.  A cognitive faculty without the
dynamic of the volitional would be a machine without driving force.
The absurdity of the supposition, indeed, is not fully brought out by
the simile.  For we can consider the machine at rest; it would then
have existence and potential activity.  Will, however, is essential to
the existence as well as to the activity of thought.  The connection
between them is vital to both.  The psychologist distinguishes the
respective parts each plays in life and marks off faculties to
correspond to each.  But his distinction is only provisional.  The two
develop _pari passu_, they are never separable; they act and re-act on
one another.  Without some degree of attention there is no thought, not
even perception of external objects.  Attention is as much an act of
will as of thought.  Man does not first evolve ideas and then summon
will to actuate them.  In the very formation of ideas will is present
and active.  Accordingly from the duality of Christ's cognitive nature
the psychologist would infer that He had two wills.  There is in Christ
the divine will that controlled the forces of nature and could suspend
their normal workings, the will that wrought miracle, the eternal will,
infinite in scope and power, that was objectified in His age-long
universal purpose, in a word, the will that undertook the superhuman
task of cosmic reconstruction and achieved it.

It is not easy for us to conceive the co-existence of two wills in one
person.  The difficulty is part of the discipline of faith.  Christ's
human will is no less a fact than His divine will.  The former played
as large a part in His earthly experience as the latter.  It was
present in all its normal phases, ranging from motor will to psychic
resolve.  The lower forms of volition, motor impulse, desire and wish,
the higher forms, deliberation, choice, purpose and resolve.  He shared
them all with humanity.  There is in Him a human will, limited in
scope, varying in intensity, developing with the growth of His human
experience, a will like ours in everything, except that it was free
from moral imperfection.  It was a finite will, inasmuch as the
conditioning cognition was finite, perfect of its kind, adequate to its
task, never faltering, yet of finite strength.  The two wills have each
their own sphere.  They operate in perfect harmony.  Only at crises,
such as the Agony, is there any appearance of discord.  The opposition
there is only apparent.  The human will reaches its limit, and the
superhuman will interposes to perform the superhuman task.

The reality of the two wills, established for the orthodox both _a
priori_ and by an appeal to fact, is denied by the monophysite.  He
regards will as the fundamental psychic state and makes it an attribute
of personality.  Two wills, he says, would necessitate two persons.  He
does not see that personality lies deeper than will, and that will and
cognition are co-ordinate attributes of nature.  If Christ had but one
nature, it follows that He had but one will and operation.  The
monophysite thinks of two wills as necessarily antagonistic, as are
conflicting motives in man; so he sees no ethical value in dithelite
doctrine.  As a matter of fact the moral influence of Christianity
would be much weakened by an abandonment of the doctrine of two wills.
The belief in Christ's human will prevents men from despairing of their
will.  Human will cannot be wholly warped, or wholly misdirected, or
utterly powerless, since Christ in His life has shown that it can work
along the same lines as the divine will, that the two can co-operate,
and that where the lower reaches its limit, the higher can step in and
perfect the work.

From the historian's point of view the monothelite controversy is quite
distinct from the monophysite.  So we need only take a glance at it
here.  It originated in an attempt to win back the monophysites to the
orthodox communion by a doctrinal compromise.  The emperor Heraclius
endeavoured to unite catholic and monophysite on the basis of the
formula, "two natures with one will and operation."  That formula will
not bear analysis, and the emperor's attempt to use it as an eirenicon
was a complete failure.  Imperial pressure induced a few monophysites
to modify their doctrine so far as to admit "one theandric operation;"
but the concession of "one will" from the orthodox side failed to win
from the monophysites the expected concession of "two natures."  The
monophysites were quite consistent here.  To deny will of nature is an
elementary mistake in psychology.  Only a tyro in introspection will
ascribe will directly to personality.  A one-willed two-natured
personality is little short of a psychological monstrosity.  An attempt
to rally Christendom round such a figure was bound to fail.  The only
lasting result of the emperor's activity was the formation of a new
sect, the Maronites.


We come now to the third element in the human spirit.  It is only in
modern psychology that feeling has secured recognition as a distinct
constituent of man's nature; so it is not surprising that the question
as to its position in the incarnate Christ was not raised in former
days.  Now, however, the psychology of feeling has come into its own,
and it has become important to consider whether in this particular,
too, Christ shared our human experience.  Here, again, the argument for
maintaining the duality of Christ's emotional experience is twofold.
It follows, on the one hand, from the duality of the other parts of His
nature; and, on the other hand, it is proved by the facts of His life
as recorded in the gospels.

Human nature involves feeling, and two natures involve two universes of
feeling.  Divine personality cannot be conceived as devoid of feeling.
With men feeling lies in the depths of being; it is the dynamic of
life.  Feeling is the inner reflex of acts of thought and will.  It
invariably accompanies cognition and volition.  If thought and will be
attributed to the supreme being, the attribute of feeling cannot be
left out.  When the God in Christ acted, divine feeling accompanied the

This surmise is proved correct on reference to the records of His life.
We find there two distinct emotional zones.  Christ has all the
blameless feelings natural to man.  There are in Him the feelings
accompanying sensation; physical pleasure and pain, hunger, thirst,
weariness, and, in addition, the higher grades of feeling, aesthetic,
sympathetic, and ethical.  He experienced wonder, surprise, righteous
anger, the sublime, joy and love.  A life rich in emotion was the life
of the Man Christ Jesus.  When, however, we look more closely into His
experience, we catch glimpses of feeling such as no man could know.  We
see there transcendent passion, great sorrow, great joy, so great that
they would break a human heart.  We may instance the deep emotion
accompanying His resolve to go to meet His fate at Jerusalem, the
rejoicing in spirit at the success of the apostles' mission, His Agony
and His universal love.

The monophysites could not recognise this duality in Christ's emotional
nature.  Hunger and thirst, and even the higher human feelings they
considered derogatory to the Son of God.  Even when they admitted that
He suffered, they threw a veil of mystery over His sufferings.  They
idealised the Passion.  They made it seem as if His flesh was
privileged, as if His omnipotence excused Him from the emotional
experiences of humanity.


We have examined the doctrine of one nature, and exposed its chief
consequences.  We have considered its effects in respect of the deity
of Christ and in respect of His manhood.  We have applied the doctrine
to the human nature as a whole, and to the several parts that compose
it.  The result of the examination may be summarised in brief.
Monophysitism destroys what is divine in the deity and what is human in
the humanity.  It offers to Christians a Christ who is not sufficiently
above man to be able to help them by His power, nor sufficiently man to
be able to help them by His sympathy.  The monophysite Christ is
neither very God nor very man, but a composition in which all traces of
the original entities are lost to view.

[1] "The Chronicle of Zachariah of Mitylene," translated by Hamilton
and Brooks, chap. iii. p. 46.

[2] This addition to the Trisagion was officially condemned at the
close of the 7th century owing to its monophysite associations.

[3] "Chronicle of Zachariah of Mitylene," translated by Hamilton and
Brooks, ii. 2, p. 21.

[4] The question of Justinian's orthodoxy has been debated by Bury and
Hutton.  See _Guardian_, March 4th and April 15th, 1896.



Monophysitism originated in a monastery.  Eutyches, "the father of the
monophysites," was a monk.  The monastic temperament is peculiarly
susceptible to this heresy, and the monastic element has always been
dominant in the monophysite churches.  The cloister is the natural
habitat of the doctrine of the one nature.  Monasticism is applied
monism.  If the world's existence be a sham, if its value compared with
God be negligible, it becomes a religious duty to avoid all influences
that heighten the illusion of the world's real existence and intrinsic
value.  The monist, like the monk, must renounce all secular interests
and "go out of the world."  The path of renunciation had an additional
claim on the Christological monist.  In his universal ideal, as
manifested in time, the human elements were sublimated into the divine.
Consequently his ideal of conduct imposed a negative attitude towards
the world and a merging of his ego in the universal spirit.  These are
the ruling elements in the spirit of the cloister, and these are the
characteristics of the monophysite ethos.

Those men, to whom God is the sum of all reality and the world merely a
cosmic shadow, regard worship as the sole worthy activity of the human
spirit.  In worship union with God is sought, a union so close that the
personality of the worshipper is absorbed into the being of the
worshipped.  His experience of God is so intimate that his experience
of the world is reduced to insignificance.  As an overpowering human
love welds two beings into one, and identifies their thoughts, wills,
springs of action and even feelings, so the _amor dei_ identifies man
with God and makes possible a deification of humanity.  Deeply
religious natures in all ages have heard this mystic call.  To lose
their ego in the divine spirit is the height of their religious
ambition.  The conception is lofty, but it is not the Christian ideal
of life and duty.

Mysticism and monophysitism are twin systems.  Both are religious
phases of pantheism.  As, to the intellect, acosmism is the corollary
of pantheism, so, to the heart, asceticism follows from mysticism.
Whether conceived in terms of existence or of value, the world for the
mystic is an obstacle to the _unio mystica_.  It snares the mind
through the senses and creates a fictitious -appearance of solid
reality in sensuous objects.  It makes pretensions to goodness and
attaches to itself a spurious value.  The only remedy is self-denial,
denial of existence to the world, denial of credence to the senses,
denial of gratification to the passions, desires, and inclinations.
The monophysites were mystics.  They were the rigorists of the eastern
church.  They formed the "no compromise" party.  They stood for a
thorough-going renunciation of the world and the flesh.  Though they
did not officially lay down the inherent evil of matter, Manicheanism
is latent in their system.  They did not explicitly identify matter
with the spirit of evil, but they had the spiritual man's suspicion of
matter and his contempt for the body of the flesh.  Abstinence,
mortification of the flesh, and all ascetic practices flourished in
their communion.  Art and culture were suspect; they had no eye for
natural beauty.  Some of their hymn-writers possessed considerable
poetic taste; but poetry was discouraged by their leaders.  Several of
the extant letters of Severus of Antioch show that that patriarch did
his best to banish that art from his church.  His attitude may be
gathered from the following quotation.[1]  "As to Martyrius, the poet,
... I wish you to know that he is a trouble to me and a nuisance.
Indeed in the case of the others also who follow the same profession,
and were enrolled in the holy clergy of the Church that is with us, I
have debarred them from practising such poetry; and I am taking much
trouble to sever this theatrical pursuit from ecclesiastical gravity
and modesty, a pursuit that is the mother of laxity and is also capable
of causing youthful souls to relax and casting them into the mire of
fornication, and carrying them to bestial passions."  The result of
this asceticism was a jaundiced and inhuman outlook on life.  There was
much piety among the monophysites, but it was confined to a narrow
channel.  Their zeal for purity of doctrine amounted to fanaticism;
their hatred of the Nestorian and of the Melchite at times reached a
white heat.  Toleration was almost unknown in their communion.

The claims of humanity appeal less to a monophysite than to other
Christians.  He places all life's values in the other world.  He has no
motive for trying to ameliorate the lot of his fellow-men.  Social
service has to him little or no divine sanction or religious value.  We
are speaking only of general tendencies.  No follower of Christ,
however perverted his views, could be totally indifferent to the
welfare of other men; but it came natural to the monophysite to think
that it does not matter much how a man lives in this world of shadows,
provided he holds communion with the world of unseen realities.  The
same motive accounts for the rapid decline of missionary activity in
their communion.  The Nestorians were far more active propagandists.
Worship is a very high type of service; but worship becomes selfish and
sickens into sentiment, if it neglects the inspiring tonic of contact
with human need.  The monophysite Christology encouraged that form of
self-sacrifice, whose goal is Nirvana, which lapses lazily into the
cosmic soul and loses itself there in contemplation and ecstasy.  It
supplies no motive for that finer piety which manifests itself in
ethical endeavour and practical philanthropy.  His Christ had not
partaken of the cup of suffering.  His Christ's advance to human
perfection was illusory.  So the monophysite could not look for the
sympathy of Christ in his own struggles, nor could he appeal to
Christ's example in respect of works of human charity.  Monophysitism
considers only the religious nature of man, and takes no account of his
other needs.  We must therefore characterise the system as unsocial,
unlovely, unsympathetic.

The uncompromising attitude of the individual monophysites was
reflected in their ecclesiastical polity.  We cannot but admire their
sturdy independence.  The monophysite church stood for freedom from
state control.  Her principles were the traditional principles of the
Alexandrian see.  Alexandria would not truckle to Constantinople, nor
let religion subserve imperial policy.  She would allow the catholic
party to be Melchites (King's men) and to reap all the temporal
advantages accruing to the established church.  In this matter the
monophysites took a narrow view; but their narrowness evinces their
piety.  They felt the evils attendant on Constantine's grand
settlement, and they made their ill-judged protest.  They made it for
no unworthy motive.  There are always such thinkers in the church.  A
spiritual enthusiast despises the outward dignity that the church gains
from an alliance with the State, and is often blind to the spiritual
benefits conferred on the nation by that alliance, while he
concentrates his gaze on incidental evils.  To connect with Christology
such an attitude towards the principle of Establishment may seem forced
at first sight.  The connection, however, exists.  Independence of the
temporal power is symptomatic with that unworldliness which, as we have
shown above, characterises monophysitism.  Its adherents paid no
respect to the human as such.  They attached no value to merely human
institutions, and made no attempt to see or foster the divine that is
in them.  The argument that because the State is a human institution it
should have no voice in ecclesiastical policy is typically monophysite;
it is the argument of one who could draw no inspiration from the human
life of the Son of God.

Mysticism and rationalism have much in common.  They both are elements
in the mental composition of almost every serious thinker.  The
sterility of logic often drives him to seek a higher and surer
instrument of knowledge.  So there is no inconsistency in further
characterising the monophysites as rationalists.  The intellectuals of
the eastern church were found mostly in their communion.  Theirs was
the formal logic point of view.  Christ, they urged, was one and not
two; therefore His nature was one and not two.  They could not see that
He was both.  In Bergsonian language, they used exclusively mechanical
categories.  Intelligence, an instrument formed by contact with matter,
destined for action upon matter, they used on a supra-material subject.
Their thinkers were highly trained logicians; they revelled in abstract
argument; theirs was a cold intellectual metaphysic, unwarmed by flesh
and blood empiricism.

Their narrow outlook on life, their religious zeal and their
rationalist philosophy combined to produce in them sectarianism of an
extreme type.  Party spirit ran high among them.  They fought the
catholics; they fought the Nestorians; they fought one another.  The
list of schisms that occurred in their communion is of amazing length.
The letters of Severus of Antioch make sad reading.  They show us that
the patriarch had constantly to interfere in cases of disputed
succession to bishoprics.  At almost every vacancy in the provincial
dioceses there were parties formed each with their own nominee, ready
to schismatise if they could not secure recognition and consecration
for him.  It is evident that monophysitism does not foster the
generous, tolerant, humane virtues of Christianity.  It is the creed of
monks, mystics, and intellectualists.

[1] E. W. Brooks, "Select Letters of Severus of Antioch," vol. ii. pp.
88, 89.



Christology divorced from empirical psychology is a barren science.
Abstract discussions about person, nature and union of natures soon
degenerate into logomachies.  If personality is a psychic entity, and
nature another distinct psychic entity, then the question at issue
between diphysite and monophysite is worth debating.  If they are
concepts merely, the debate is hollow and of purely academic interest.
A study of psychology clothes the dry bones with flesh.  It puts life
and meaning into these abstractions.  It shows that they represent
entities, that something corresponding to the terms "person" and
"nature" is actually part of the being of every man, and that therefore
their existence in Christ is a proper and practical subject for
investigation.  In so doing psychology provides the _rationale_ of the
Christological controversies.  It justifies the church in her
determined adherence to the precise expression of the truth.  No
Christian with powers of introspection, who can distinguish in his own
being personality and nature, can be indifferent to the Christological
problem.  The problem is one of fact, not theory.  The terms and the
formula are only of importance as expressing or failing to express the
true facts of Christ's being.  In a word, the psychology of the central
figure of human history is the matter at issue.

Reference to psychological fact is what one misses in the records of
the old controversies.  The disputes read as if they were about
shadows.  No doubt that was often the case.  Catholics and
non-Catholics were often agreed as to the substance of belief, while
owing to their devotion to words and formulae the agreement went
unrecognised.  Had the disputants made clear to themselves and to each
other what they meant by their abstract terms, had they translated them
into their concrete psychological equivalents, heresy and schism would
have been less frequent.  It was, however, almost impossible for them
to do so, because in their day theology was far more highly developed
than psychology.  Systematic observation of the workings of spirit was
almost unknown.  There existed no science of psychology as we know it.
No clear notions attached to the terms "person" and "nature."  They
represented abstractions necessary to discursive reason rather than
concrete psychic facts.  All parties shared this defect.  Among
catholics and Nestorians as well as among monophysites knowledge of the
constituents of human nature was of the most rudimentary character.
The catholic party, however, by keeping close to the facts recorded in
the gospels, achieved a Christological formula that is psychologically
intelligible; while the heretical parties were led by their
preconceived opinions to fashion a Christ, whose features are
unrecognisable as God or man, a psychological monstrosity.


Without claiming finality for the findings of modern psychology, we can
consider some results of the science as established.  They are
sufficiently well established, at any rate, to provide a starting-point
for our investigation.  In particular the brilliant observations and
theories of M. Bergson throw, so it seems to the writer, a flood of
light on Christology.  We propose to outline the two key doctrines of
the Bergsonian psychology and show how they confirm the truth of the
orthodox formula and expose the monophysite fallacy.  These key
doctrines are, first, the interpenetration of psychic states, and,
second, the distinction between deep-seated and superficial


It is, says Bergson, characteristic of psychic states that they do not,
like material things remain external to one another.  They
inter-penetrate.  Cut up by human intelligence into discrete elements,
in their own nature they remain a continuum.  States of mind appear
successive and external to one another, because age-long association
with matter has accustomed men to material modes of thought.  Man's
intelligence is a by-product of activity.  For purposes of action it is
the externality of things that matters.  The inner connection is
relatively unimportant.  Men act with precision on matter, because
perception cuts up the continuum of matter into bodies, defined bodies
no two of which can occupy the same space.  Intelligence originating
thus by contact with matter naturally prefers mechanical categories.
These categories applicable to matter when applied to higher forms of
existence mislead.  We naturally conceive psychic states as external to
one another, and their interpenetration seems an abnormality.  At this
stage of thought experience is pictured as a line of indefinite length,
infinitely divisible, whose divisions correspond to the moments of
consciousness.  This spatial picture of mind is misleading in many
ways, not the least in that it can offer no reasonable theory of the
subconscious.  Thinkers who materialise mental experience have no room
in their theory for the sub-conscious.  It is for them bare
non-consciousness, a psychic vacuum.  When, however, we start from this
unique characteristic, that mind possesses, of remaining one and
indivisible throughout the greatest appearance of diversity, the
sub-conscious falls naturally into the scheme.  No part of our
experience perishes.  It is essentially self-perpetuating memory.  The
needs of action relegate the greater portion of it to the
sub-conscious, but it is there, always linked to our conscious
experience, and only awaiting the occasion to emerge into the full
light of consciousness.  Past penetrates into the present.  One portion
of our present penetrates into the other portions.  Conscious and
unconscious, past and present, combine to form one wonderful whole.


Such in outline is Bergson's theory of the interpenetration of psychic
states.  If this psychology be adopted, the abstract character of the
catholic doctrine of Christ's being in large measure disappears.  It
becomes easy to conceive the interpenetration of two natures in one
Christ.  Further, the Bergsonian psychology furnishes a standpoint from
which criticism of monophysitism is easy.  Psychology at the
monophysite stage of thought conceives the moments of Christ's
consciousness in their mutual externality; they follow each other as do
the ticks of a clock.  They are discrete elements strung along on a
hypothetical ego.  Christ's experience is conceived as unilinear.  All
that He did, suffered and thought is regarded as having taken place on
one and the same plane of experience.  This psychology has no room for
another plane of experience.  It has no room for a positive
sub-consciousness.  Consequently that one plane must be the one divine
nature, which, as the monophysites taught, absorbed the human.

The one-nature theory is not true to the facts.  It overlooks the
complexity of Christ's experience.  His experiences lie on two
different planes.  He has different universes of thought, different
actuating wills and sets of feelings.  Christ is not in one nature.
The phases of His consciousness are twofold.  His experiences fall
naturally into two groups.  While one group is in consciousness, the
other is below the level of consciousness.  Now the human experiences,
now the divine, are uppermost.  Both are always present.  Life under
such conditions is inconceivable, unless full recognition be accorded
to the fact that conscious states interpermeate.  If each state fall
outside the other, and consciousness be a chain of successive ideas or
emotions, a twofold nature within the one experience is meaningless.
The view of conscious states as discrete leads inevitably to
determinism.  The place of one state in the chain is conditioned by its
predecessor.  There is no room for the spontaneity and the creative
power which characterise conscious life.  Associationism cannot
countenance the unforeseen and incalculable.  So it is out of sympathy
with Christian psychology.  A function of the divine in Christ is to
introduce the element of the unforeseen and incalculable into His
normal and human experience.  The Bergsonian psychology thus supplies
an intellectual basis for belief in the possibility of two natures in
Christ.  When ideas are regarded as psychic entities whose essential
property is mutual penetration, the ground is prepared for the catholic
formula.  Where this truth is not recognised, there arises inevitably
the tendency to assert that Christ had and must have had but one
uniform level of experience, and that assertion is the essence of


Bergson's psychology throws further light on a central doctrine of
catholic Christology.  It not only makes conceivable, as we have shown
above, the co-existence of the two natures, but it lends support to the
belief in the independent reality of His personality.  Person and
nature of Christology find their modern equivalents in the Bergsonian
"deep-seated" and "superficial" states of consciousness.  Bergson draws
a sharp line of distinction between these two.  The deep-seated states
constitute the kernel of being.  They are the man's existence turned
inwards.  They are independent, free, creative.  They are a unifying
force.  Always present, they only rarely make their presence felt.
Only at moments of deep experience do they interfere with the surface
self.  The superficial states form the outward-regarding existence of
man.  They represent consciousness relaxed into moments of clock-time,
moments more or less external to one another.  They are not truly free.
They are conditioned by the material environment.  Whatever be thought
of the metaphysic of this system, recognition cannot be refused to that
part of it which rests on the solid foundation of psychological fact.
Self-analysis discloses a two-fold experience in man.  The stream of
his life contains both current and undercurrent.  The current is
nature, the under-current personality.


This distinction is of paramount importance in Christology.  Diphysites
hold fast to the distinction.  They maintain a human nature in Christ,
but they do not humanise His person.  The person cannot be humanised.
It remained divine after the incarnation, as it was before.  Though He
became man, the depth of His being was unchanged.  The rain from heaven
and the waters from the earthly spring mingle in one stream, but
beneath the surface the deep undercurrent of being flows on unchanged.
The monophysite in effect abandons this distinction.  This is where his
psychology is most seriously at fault.  He confuses person and nature.
Deep-seated and superficial states of soul are all one to him.  He does
not see the duality in the being of his fellow-men; so he cannot see it
in the ideal man.  This is a consequence of monophysitism which has not
attracted the attention of theologians, and which the monophysite
himself did not intend.  The doctrine that rules out the human nature
of Christ rules out the divine nature also, by confusing it with the
personality.  The monophysite affirms the divine nature while denying
the human.  Such affirmation is purely verbal.  It is completely void
of significance.  The contrast between the divine and human natures is
needed to throw personality into relief.  Take away the human nature,
and that contrast disappears, and with it goes the distinction between
divine person and divine nature.  Then, instead of a transcendent
personality in whose portrait divine and human features are distinctly
limned, we have a blur.  Where God planned a unique though intelligible
psychic harmony, we find a psychic medley.


This assertion is justified by an appeal to human experience.  Men
become sure of their own or of other people's personality by
experiencing strong contrasts of natures in themselves or by observing
them in others.  For instance, a sudden and violent change of
occupation establishes personality as a distinct entity.  The civilian
turns soldier.  Almost immediately all parts of his nature are
affected.  He feels the development, as it were, of a second nature
within him.  His faculties are transformed.  He enters a new universe
of thought.  His range of knowledge narrows in one direction, widens in
another.  His volitional nature is altered.  His will narrows in scope,
but increases in intensity.  Nor does his emotional nature escape the
change.  Aesthetic values are reversed.  He no longer feels pleasure
and pain at the old objects.  Physical desires play a much larger part
in his life, and he loses taste for intellectual pleasures.  The
soldier returns to civilian life and, as it were, with his civilian
attire he resumes his former nature, and all his old thoughts and
feelings and impulses come flooding back.  Such an experience is of
considerable psychological interest.  It exemplifies the
interpenetration of different states of thought and activity.  The
contrasts bring home to a man the fact that his spirit is a synthesis
of heterogeneous elements.  They force him back on himself.  They rouse
in him the dormant sense of personal being.  It is the apprehension of
strong contrast in his experience of himself, the apprehension of the
plurality of his being, that accentuates the deep-lying unity.  The
more violent the change in the walks of life, the clearer becomes the
concept of the continuity.  Civilian or soldier, the man, the person is
the same.

Personality is thrown into relief not only by change of occupation, but
also by moral contrasts.  Conflicting passions, opposing motives and
internal debate serve to make a man realise himself.  Strong
personalities are often those in whom the conflict between good and
evil is most acute.  It is the very opposition of natures which brings
out the personal element into the full light of conscious recognition.

We must now examine human personality in greater detail; we must
indicate its functions and show how it differs from human nature.  Only
by coming to grips with this psychological problem is it possible to
appreciate the points at issue in the Christological question and to
judge between catholic and monophysite.


Kant distinguished the noumenal from the phenomenal ego.  The former he
regarded as an idea, the latter as a reality in time.  The distinction
corresponds roughly to that between person and nature.  The phenomenal
ego is the nature of man.  It bears the brunt of the struggle of life.
The noumenal ego is the transcendent personality of the individual--an
idea which pure reason necessarily forms and which practical reason
establishes.  Though the Kantian philosophy no longer carries
conviction, it is interesting to see that Kant felt and admitted a
double current in man's being.  He recognised that the superficial self
is not the true being of the man.  It is not necessary, however, to go
as far as Kant went.  We need not with him relegate the core of
personal being to the realm of idea.  Granted that personality is not
part of our normal experience as nature is, there are times when the
depths of being are stirred.  Moments of crisis drive a man deeper than
will and thought and even feeling, and make him conscious of himself as
a psychic unity, permanent and of infinite value.  Personality normally
remains in the recesses of the subconscious.  It is the hidden basis of
life.  It is active, though its activities are for the most part
underground.  It does not, however, lie altogether outside the ken of
consciousness.  It may be experienced; it is experienced when great
emotion rends the surface fabric of the man and discloses the true self.


What is human personality?  It is a psychic entity whose most important
function is to unify the parts of a man's nature.  It is the principle
of unity and the instrument of unity.  A man's thought, will and
feeling are distinct and real entities.  His intelligence takes various
forms from perception to abstract thought; it may be directed to
outward things, to thoughts of things, or to pure idea.  He wills many
things, and wills them in different modes and with varying degrees of
intensity.  A wide range of feeling is found in him, from physical to
mental, from organic to ideal feeling.  His nature is tripartite.  Each
part admits of variation in itself and in its interaction with the
other parts.  Each of the three expresses the man at the moment.  No
one of the three gives the whole account of his being.  Nor do the
three taken together.  Though his nature is tripartite the man himself
cannot be resolved into component parts.  He has his faculties and
states, but he is more than their sum.  He may lose himself in thought
or activity, or abandon himself to feeling, but when he is fulfilling
his true function, when he is most himself, all parts of his nature are
concentrated to a point.  Partial activity of thought, will, or feeling
is then replaced by activity of the personality.  Personality is the
synthetic unity of all parts of a man's nature.  It has the wonderful
power of compressing to a point a medley of psychic elements.  Moods
and memories, perceptions and ideas, wishes and purposes, it tensions
them all up, merges them and expresses them in characteristic acts
representative of the man.

Personality differs from nature also in respect of relation to
environment.  It is relatively independent of circumstances.  Habit and
education mould the nature, but if they touch the person they do so
only indirectly.  The nature must be deeply affected before a change in
the person is registered.  Personality is not synonomous with inherited
disposition; but it bears a similar relation to nature as inherited
disposition does to acquired habit.  It is to nature what character is
to action.  It is to nature what in Weismann's theory the germ plasm is
to the somatic cell.  Changes in it are mediated by nature and are
almost imperceptible in a life time.

Again, nature is the superficies of the soul.  It is the part that
comes in contact with the world of things and people.  A man's nature
is what he is for other people; what he is in and for himself alone is
personality.  There is a substance or self-existence of the psychic
states.  Thought, will and feeling have all and each an external
reference.  The internal reference of the whole is the core of being.
Our perception of personality in other people is a subtle thing.  In
the ordinary give and take of life we are not aware of it.  It is when
we realise the subject as a self-existent unity that we recognise
personality.  We judge a man's nature by his thought or will or
feelings as conveyed through the ordinary channels of communication.
Personality is felt.  It is a magnetism that influences, but remains

Person and nature differ also in respect of relation to the body.  The
co-existence of heterogeneous natures in the same body is a fact of
experience.  Different universes of thought, different levels of will
and feeling can be lodged in one organism.  The higher the development
of the individual, the more clearly marked is the duality or plurality
of nature.  It is otherwise with personality.  In normal cases no two
personalities can tenant the one body.  The unity of the organism is
the outward expression and guarantee of the unity of the person.  There
are of course pathological cases which form exceptions to this rule.
Such cases, however, only serve to emphasise the distinction between
person and nature.  In cases of dual personality the occupancy of the
one body is not simultaneous.  Jekyll alternates with Hyde.  Dual
personality is a totally different phenomenon from duality of nature.
Duality of nature is relatively superficial.  In dual personality the
divergence in mental and moral outlook is so radical that
responsibility for the acts of the one entity cannot attach to the
other entity.

Personality then is the synthetic principle in man's being.  Psychology
reveals it as unifying the parts of a man's soul and welding into an
indivisible whole the various elements of conscious and subconscious
experience.  The student of Christology welcomes this account of
personality, but he requires more.  He seeks a parallel for the union
of two whole and perfect natures.  He demands some reason for holding
the central dogma of the incarnation to be intelligible and probable.
The next step in the argument accordingly is to ask, "Why limit the
synthetic power of personality?"  If personality can synthesise parts
of a nature, why should it not also synthesise natures?  If human
personality can unify such heterogeneous psychic elements as thought,
will and feeling, and present them as a harmonious whole, is it not
credible that divine personality should carry the synthesis a step
further and harmonise in one being the thoughts, wills and feelings of
God and man?  The hypostatic union of natures in Christ is a phenomenon
not psychologically improbable, and one which can be paralleled from
human experience.  There is in man what is tantamount to a conjunction
of the two natures.  Man is rather diphysite than monophysite.  We
pointed out above the extensive modifications that can be produced in a
man's nature by environment.  There is in him a deeper duality which we
can only characterise as an association of divine and human.  Man is an
inhabitant of the earth, of earthly descent and finite destiny; yet the
divine is not totally foreign to him.  He has hopes of heaven, moments
of supraconsciousness, at times vision, resolve and emotion that are
supra-normal.  The divine is an element in him.  It is more than an
aspect of his nature.  Its influence operates often in opposition to
the human element.  He is, as Bergson puts it, at the meeting-point of
the upward and the downward currents.  He can know God, can do the will
of God, can be filled with the love of God.  Here are the three factors
of his nature, raised to a higher power.  His experience may lie and
often does lie on two planes.  He is "double lived in regions new."

In applying this human analogy to the ideal man caution is necessary.
The duality of natures is a fact in both cases, but there is one
essential difference.  The personal substratum of the natures in one
case is human, in the other case divine.  In man the divine element is
part of his nature, but not part of his person.  The ego remains human
through all spiritual development.  "The best of saints is a saint at
the best."  The secondary element in him is a fact, but it is part of
his nature, not of his person.  It is otherwise in the case of Christ.
He came from the ideal world and returned there.  The background of his
experience was and is divine.  The secondary element in Him was the
human, the primary the divine.  He shared man's experience and shared
it really, but it did not form part of the core of His being.  When He
thought or willed or felt as a man, it was a _kénôsis_, a limiting of
his natural mode of self-expression.  Divine and human are both present
in the experience of Christ and of mankind, but with this
difference--man rises to the divine; Christ condescended to the human.


Person and nature are then real and distinct psychic entities.  They
are real alike in God and man.  The distinction between them is not
artificial or verbal; it is perhaps elusive, but it is genuine and
capable of proof from experience.  The synthetic faculty of personality
manifests itself in uniting without confusing, first, parts of the
nature, second, entire natures.  These theses supply what is requisite
for an intelligent appreciation of Christology.  Without them
Christology is a battle of shadows; with them it becomes a practical
problem of first importance for religious minds.  The psychology which
justifies orthodox Christology is that which proclaims the
interpenetration of psychic states, and which distinguishes between the
surface states of a relaxed consciousness, and the deep-seated states
which are ever present, but of which we are conscious only at moments
of tension.

The catholic mind conceives the person of Christ as an eternal
self-existent synthetic unity that has combined in an indissoluble
union the natures of God and man.  Human parallels make intelligible
the co-existence of the two natures in the one person and the one body.
What is normal in man is surely possible in the ideal man.  Heretical
Christologies err in their psychology.  In Nestorian Christology Christ
is presented as a dual personality, an abnormal association in one body
of two distinct self-existent beings.  Thus a pathological case would
be elevated to the rank of mankind's ideal.  The monophysite psychology
plunges men into the opposite error.  An undiscriminating craving for
unity among the phenomena of psychic life prevents any recognition of
the dual character of experience.  Monophysitism is blind to the
difference between person and nature because it places all psychic
experiences on the one level.  Determined to find unity in its ideal,
it seeks an inappropriate unity, the mathematical unity, the unity that
excludes plurality.  To the monophysite the major part of the gospels
is a sealed book, because the major part of the facts there recorded
about Christ could not possibly have happened to a one-natured Christ.
His human knowledge, normal, limited, progressive, His human will,
natural, adequate to the human, inadequate to the superhuman task, his
human feelings, his body consubstantial with ours are to the
monophysite merely shadows or symbols or aspects of something greater.
They are dwarfed into nothingness.  They are lost in the divine
omniscience, omnipotence and transcendent love.



"To believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ" is an
ideal that the thoughtful Christian strives to attain.  He expects to
find the solution of high moral and speculative problems in that union
of divine and human.  The right faith is not easily reached.  It is an
elusive prize.  There are conditions moral and intellectual attaching
to its possession.  The moral conditions may take a lifetime to fulfil.
Even on its intellectual side faith is a long process.  No sudden
mental grasp of the whole truth can be attained.  It dawns on the mind
gradually.  The discipline of faith in the incarnation consists in a
gradual and laborious advance from stage to stage.  The various stages
are half-truths or inadequate conceptions of Christ.  They are
objectified in the Christological heresies.  These heresies arrange
themselves in a sequence so strict and so logical that one could almost
say that they are deducible _a priori_ from the concept "divine-human."
Certainly the subjective fancies of the heresiarchs do not provide the
whole account.  There is something of the universal in these heresies.
They are in the main current of religious thought.  As the chief
historic systems of philosophy repeat themselves in each generation and
in the intellectual development of individual thinkers, so do the
Christological heresies recur.  There is considerable truth in Hegel's
contentions that the development of a man's mind is one with that of
the general consciousness, that the individual reason is a miniature of
the universal reason, that in fact the history of a philosopher's
thinking is an abstract of the history of philosophy.  The same holds
good in the field of religious thought.  Without much artificiality,
without forcing the facts, a rational scheme of the Christological
heresies might be drawn up.  They might be pictorially represented as
the rungs of a ladder, which the truth-seeking mind scales rung by
rung, pausing at the lower phases of Christological thought, and then
resuming the ascent till the highest truth is attained.  The instrument
of thought is much the same in all centuries; the objects of thought
vary very little; so it is intelligible that the products of
speculative and religious thought should remain the same to-day as in
the fifth century.


Is there such a thing as modern monophysitism?  To this question the
preceding paragraph supplies the answer, "There must be."  Heretical
tendencies will be found in the Christian community in every
generation, and the religious thought of individual Christians will
pass through heretical phases.  Such heresy is rather an intellectual
than a moral fault; but the possibility of being the heirs, without
knowing it, of the opinions of Nestorius and Eutyches throws on
thinkers to-day the responsibility of examining their Christological
beliefs and of testing them by the canon of orthodoxy.  Not a few
leaders of religious thought, in intention orthodox, in fact remain
monophysites, through inability to analyse their beliefs or through a
false sense of security, founded on the opinion that the age of heresy
is past.

It is commonly supposed that belief in the deity of Christ constitutes
Christianity.  That supposition is wrong.  Arius was not the only
heresiarch.  To transcend the Arian standpoint is only the first step
in the long discipline of faith.  There are other heresies, other
half-truths scarcely less pernicious than the Arian.  The recognition
of Christ as God represents a great intellectual and moral advance, and
is the first essential step in religion; but to rest content with the
taking of that step is to remain on the lowest rung of the ladder of
faith.  It is little use to form a lofty conception of Christ, if in
doing so we insulate Him from the world of things and souls.  That is
what monophysitism does, and because disguised monophysitism is
prevalent in the church to-day, Christianity's grip is weak and the
fire of devotion low.

We may picture faith as a battlefield.  Doubt is the enemy entrenched
in depth.  Arianism holds the first line of trenches.  Echeloned behind
Arianism are the other heresies in a network of fortified redoubts,
strong points and support trenches.  The church militant must make the
furthest line her objective.  If her advance stays at an intermediate
point, she is exposed to cross-fire from the support trenches of the
subsidiary heresies.  The ground gained by the first assault proves
untenable.  The position won can only be secured by pushing home the
attack to the final objective and consolidating her line there in the
might of full catholic doctrine.

A thorough and systematic advance of this sort was made by the orthodox
Christologians of the fifth century.  The campaign was fought and won
then.  It has, however, to be fought anew in each generation and in the
experience of individual thinkers.  Monophysitism is commonly regarded
as a vagary of oriental thought, killed once and for all by a church
council in the fifth century.  That is a superficial view.
Monophysitism is a hydra growth, and no Hercules can be found to
exterminate it.  It reappears in each succeeding age, in West as well
as East.  The structure of the human intellect is such that, whenever
men begin to investigate the being of Christ, the tendency to regard
Him as one-natured is present.  The church of the fifth century exposed
that doctrine; it was beyond her power to kill it.


Monophysitism is in our midst undetected to-day.  It is not hard to
account for its prevalence.  The clergy are for the most part unable to
expound Christology, and the laity are impatient of exposition.
Anything savouring of precise theology is at a discount.  So pulpit and
pew conspire to foster the growth of the tares.  The "Athanasian" creed
is in disrepute, and its statement of dogmatic Christology is involved
in the discredit attaching to the damnatory clauses.  The clergy are
perhaps rather glad to leave the subject alone.  They know it is a
difficult subject, and they are afraid of burning their fingers.  The
laity rarely hear any reference to the two natures of Christ.  If they
do, they are not interested; they do not think that the question makes
any difference to faith or practice.  The whole extent of the
Christological knowledge possessed by the average churchman is
comprised in the formula, "Christ is God and man."  He cannot apply the
formula nor reconcile it with common sense.  He occasionally hears from
the pulpit the phrase "God-man"; but it is a mere phrase to him; it is
not translated for him into a language that he can understand.  So he
registers the doctrine mentally as an impenetrable mystery and gives it
no further attention, or perhaps turns away in disgust from the system
whose central figure is so unintelligibly presented by its authorised
exponents.  The bare statement that Christ is God and man, though true,
is not adequate.  It carries no conviction to thinking minds to-day.
The full definition of the council of Chalcedon should be published
broadcast, and so studied by theologians in the light of modern
psychology that they can present it as a reasonable dogma, intelligible
to-day and touching modern life.

In the absence of such teaching the spread of false, unbalanced or
inadequate conceptions of what Christ was and of what He is is
inevitable.  Our concern here is to exhibit those of a monophysite
character.  Monophysite tendencies of the present day may be grouped
according as they affect Christ's being or His work or Christian
practice.  We propose to take them in that order.


Monophysitism in respect of Christ's being shows itself to-day in
negative rather than positive ways.  To its subtle influence is
traceable the capital defect of modern presentations of Christ, namely,
that they make no appeal to the outsider.  Christ is proclaimed as the
solution of moral, social and industrial problems.  As a rule in such
cases the name "Christ" is used as a synonym for Christian principles.
Such appeals are addressed to the head; they do not touch the heart and
fire the imagination; they do not kindle that personal devotion to the
Man Christ Jesus which has always been the dynamic of the faith.  The
historic Christ is not presented in a way that would appeal to the
unconvinced.  Christian teaching is becoming more and more esoteric.
In the language of Christology, a diphysite Christ is not preached.
His human nature is kept in the background.  It is not portrayed in
arresting colours.  If the apostles and apostolic men had preached the
impersonal redeemer of modern religious thought, they would never have
won the world for Christ.  Their imaginations and lives were fired by
contact with a Man of flesh and blood.  So they presented a Christ
whose true humanity appealed to His fellow-men.  They showed the gospel
picture to an unbelieving world, and the world responded to its appeal.

It is not easy to bridge the centuries and regain the apostles'
standpoint, but until it is done the church's message will lack
inspiration.  The phrase "the historic Christ" is commonly used, as if
it covered the whole ground.  It is certainly serviceable as a protest
against a bare logos theory of the incarnation, but in itself it is not
adequate.  What requires emphasis is the humanity of the historic
Christ.  Many Christian teachers purposely withhold this emphasis from
fear of playing into the hands of Arians and Nestorians.  No doubt if
pressed they would give intellectual assent to the dogma of the two
natures, but they shrink from following it out to its consequences.
There is a widespread feeling that it is irreverent to dwell on the
fact that Christ was a real man.  A firm grasp of catholic Christology
in its entirety is the cure for this squeamishness.  To obscure the
fact of His Manhood is not the true reply to a denial of His Deity.  A
true presentation of Christ must give full weight to the facts that He
had a human body, human mind, human feelings and human will, that His
body was in space normally subject to physical law, that His
consciousness and subconsciousness conformed to psychic law.  Wherever
a denial of these facts is found, there is monophysitism.  Wherever
they are obscured or neglected, there are monophysite tendencies.


Failure to appreciate the real humanity of Christ's life results in
comparative indifference to the tragedy of His death.  Monophysitism in
undermining belief in the reality of Christ's manhood is weakening
sympathy with His sufferings.  Calvary like Bethlehem has lost much of
its appeal.  A classical comparison will illustrate this fact.  Plato's
account of Socrates' last hour in the prison and of his drinking the
hemlock is, I imagine, to many educated men far more moving than the
story of the Passion and Death of Christ.  There is a curious
similarity in the two tragedies that invites attention and comparison.
Both sufferers were heroes and moral reformers, the victims of mistaken
zeal on the part of religious authority.  Socrates died in a ripe age
with his life work accomplished.  Jesus was cut off in His prime.
Socrates' last hours were tranquil and his passing quick and easy.
Jesus after shame and torture died a lingering death.  The dysthanasia
of Jesus should, one would opine, make a stronger appeal to men's
sympathies than does the euthanasia of Socrates.  Yet on the whole the
reverse is the case.  The difference in the respective styles of the
two narratives does not give the whole explanation.  It is true that
the Phaedo is a work of fine art while the gospel story is a plain
statement of fact.  The reason, however, for the difference in appeal
goes deeper than literary style.  The reader of the Phaedo puts himself
into the place of Socrates and suffers with him.  As we read the
Passion of Christ there rises a barrier between us and the divine
sufferer.  Unconsciously we say to ourselves, "Christ suffered, of
course, but He did not suffer as we should have suffered in His place.
His were not the real sufferings of a real man."

If the passion of Christ and that of Socrates were weighed in the same
balances, there would be less indifference to-day to the gospel story.
Were Christ the Man realised as such, visualised, as other great men of
history are visualised, among his followers, the hero worship that
inspired the early church would revive.  What makes Christians
indifferent to Christ's sufferings is not the lapse of centuries nor
weakness of imagination but a subconscious monophysitism.  There is to
most minds a haze of unreality overhanging the accounts of His life and
death.  They forget that He shared human experience to the full.  They
think of Him as doing things _rhêidíôs_ like the Homeric gods.  In
point of fact, His great results were achieved only after long
laborious exertion.  His was a life of strenuous human activity,
physical and mental.  Even His miracles were accompanied by a physical
throb of sympathy; virtue went out of Him.  Redemption made it
necessary.  Enthusiastic devotion to a person must be grounded in
community of experience.  It is the human touches in the drama of
Christ's life that make the most powerful appeal to mankind.  Yet the
human element is obscured, as a rule, in modern presentations of the
gospel.  For spiritual minds it is comparatively easy to apprehend a
divine Christ.  To apprehend a human Christ makes a larger call on
their imagination and their sympathy.  Spiritual men are naturally
monophysite in their thinking.  They shrink from the mental effort that
diphysitism demands.  Their attention is focussed on Christ's
superiority to human limitations.  They scarcely see the miracle of the
human, and thus they miss the import of the divine miracle.  In the
atmosphere of monophysitism mysticism thrives, but devotion decays.  We
may instance the almost total disappearance of the crusading spirit.
The Christ to whom our thoughts usually turn is an omnipresent ideal
with no historical or local associations.  His birth-place and His
country evoke only a lukewarm sentiment.  The church's year is
neglected.  The historical facts of Christ's life are often regarded as
of only minor importance.  Piety used to consist in personal loyalty to
the Founder of a universal religion; it is now considered synonymous
with obedience to the "golden rule."


Within recent times the question as to the limitation of Christ's
knowledge was hotly debated.  That debate showed how much uncertainty
on Christological questions exists and how strong monophysite opinion
still is.  In spite of Christ's own _dicta_, in spite of the dogma of
two natures, denial of the limitation was widespread and persistent.
To many devout minds it seems impious to speak of Christ's ignorance.
This is a case in which the Chalcedonian definition is an invaluable
guide.  If one brings to an examination of Christ's nature the
preconceived notion of His omniscience, the doctrine of the limitation
of His knowledge seems an outrage on belief; but if one approaches the
question with the orthodox formula in mind, one is prepared to find
that His cognitive faculties were perfectly human and humanly perfect.
So we find it.  His knowledge and His faculties of knowledge on the
lower plane of His experience were essentially the same as ours.  He
thought in our categories.  He used our organon, perfect of its kind,
but still a human organon.  As man, inevitably, He had thoughts
uncognised; and such a mental state we call "ignorance."  His mind
passed through stages of development as ours does.  Education widened
His horizon, strengthened His faculties, and increased His knowledge.
Advance in knowledge implies a prior state of relative ignorance.  The
word "ignorance" as applied to Christ sounds very terrible; but
investigation of its meaning robs it of its terrors.  We use the word
in two senses.  On the one hand it may mean the absence of a thought,
its absolute non-presence in consciousness.  On the other it may mean
thought unrelated to experience, one whose implications are not or
cannot be fully deduced, in fact, the incomplete cognition of an idea.
In neither case does it involve imperfection in the instrument or moral
fault.  On the contrary ignorance is a mark of the normal in cognition.
If ignorance and limitation of knowledge were not found in Christ, we
should be forced to agree with Apollinaris that the divine Logos had
superseded His human intellect.

Ignorance in so far as it is a positive attribute is far from being a
mark of imperfection.  It is a true paradox that ignorance like
obliviscence forms part of the process of human cognising.  Probably in
the truth of things memory is of the essence of mind.  Thoughts
naturally and spontaneously reproduce themselves.  The past of
experience tends automatically to carry forward into the present.  The
function of the brain then, or of a mental faculty intimately
co-operating with the brain is to discriminate, to sift and select, to
prolong into present consciousness what is of importance for action and
to relegate the irrelevant to partial or total oblivion.  From this
psychological standpoint ignorance and obliviscence are seen to be
achievements of the intellect.  The presence of all facts in a human
consciousness is unthinkable.  If it were possible, it would paralyse
action.  If we exempt Christ from the law of ignorance and
obliviscence, we _ipso facto_ dehumanise his cognition.  When we say
that Jesus was ignorant of much scientific truth, or that his
prescience was limited, we do not compromise His dignity.  We simply
assert the naturalness of His intellect and the true humanity of that
element of His nature.  To do otherwise, to claim omniscience for His
human intellect is gross monophysitism.  His knowledge was deeper,
surer, more penetrating than ours, because the light of His divine
intuition streamed through the veil of sense and illumined the lower
phases of intelligence.  This is an instance of the _communicatio
idiomatum_.  The properties of the two natures act and react upon one
another.  But we must make the distinction of natures our
starting-point, or fusion will take place.  There must be _idiomata_
first, or the _communicatio_ is meaningless.


The view taken of the Christ of the past necessarily affects belief in
the Christ of the present.  It is scarcely possible to realise the
present existence of a human Christ, unless the fact of His actual
human existence in the first century of our era be grasped.  If He had
but one nature on earth, He has but one nature now in heaven.  If the
historic Christ was monophysite, so also is the Christ to whom we pray.
In this consequence consists the seriousness of modern monophysitism.
The present reality of His human nature is to-day even among His
followers doubted, obscured, or forgotten.  Christ is to many spiritual
minds merely an ideal personality, a summary of their own ethical
ideals.  They perhaps regard Him as a disembodied spirit or mysterious
influence.  They rarely attain the catholic standpoint and see the
human nature as a psychic entity actually existent to-day.  At any rate
the doctrine is not thought out to its consequences.  The "perpetual
intercession" is, it is feared, little more than a phrase.  That Christ
as man still intercedes for men is a verity not understood and only
half appreciated.  Yet the official doctrine of orthodoxy teaches that
there is a full and true continuity of existence between the Christ of
Galilee and the Christ to whom we pray.  The Church teaches that there
is somewhere, in some transcendent form of existence, a being with
perfect human mind, whose will in strength and scope is perfectly
proportioned to His knowledge, whose feelings are in perfect mutual
harmony, whose psychic nature finds outward expression in a glorified
body; that this perfect being once walked this earth, and yet had and
has the ground of His being in a divine personality.  Such a Christ the
latent monophysitism of our thinking hides from our view.


The doctrines of Christ's person and of His work are intimately
associated.  What He did depended on what He was.  Christology and
Soteriology act and react upon each other.  If Christology is crippled,
Soteriology goes lame.  Christ takes His stand in the centre of the
cosmic process in virtue of His unique being.  In that He unites deity
and humanity in His own person, He brought redemption within the reach
of mankind.  His redemption of humanity was as definite a fact as His
assumption of human nature.  Both to the Christian are objective
historical facts; if either of them falls to the ground, so does the
other; and with that collapse goes the purpose of creation and
humanity's hope.  A docetic interpretation of the human nature entails
a docetic view of redemption.  Monophysitism, as we have seen, casts
doubts upon the reality of the sufferings and humanity of Christ; in so
doing it compromises the work He accomplished.  Atonement ceases to be
a cosmic transaction completed on Calvary, and becomes a subjective
process.  Redemption is made into an attitude, or rather a change of
attitude, on the part of the individual.  That Christ wrought a power
and hope for man which man could not achieve for himself is not a
familiar doctrine to-day.  Pain, not sin, is the great modern problem.
The Cross is made to stand for sympathy, not for satisfaction.
Salvation, achieved at a definite moment of history and conferred on
believers of subsequent generations, rests for its foundations on the
objective assumption of human nature by a divine person.  If the
foundations be undermined, as monophysitism undermines them, the
superstructure crumbles.  Redemption becomes improvement by effort and
self-help, or a constant endeavour after a private ideal of conduct.


Monophysitism shows itself also in the modern tendency to narrow the
scope of redemption.  Partial salvation is offered as a substitute for
the salvation of the entire man.  This tendency is a natural result of
narrowing the import of the incarnation.  It runs counter to orthodox
Christology and the derivate doctrines.  A divine economy is traceable
in God's dealings with men; there is nothing purposeless, nothing
otiose in God's dispensation.  The Church's invariable answer to the
Apollinarians was grounded in belief in this economy.  She argued that
Christ could not redeem what He did not assume, and, conversely, that
what He assumed He redeemed.  He assumed human nature in its entirety,
thought, will, feeling and body; therefore not one of those elements of
human nature lies outside the scope of redemption.  Monophysitism
excludes some or all of those elements from the being of the incarnate
Christ, and by so doing deprives the corresponding elements in man's
nature of their rightful share in the benefit of redemption.

The feeling that some parts of human nature are more fitted to survive
than others is wide-spread to-day.  It is found within as well as
without the Church.  We constantly read of the "survival factor."  The
term implies the belief that at death part of the man's nature survives
and part perishes.  There is, however, no general agreement as to which
part constitutes the "survival factor."  The intellectualist pins his
faith to the immortality of the reason.  He is content to let death
deprive him of everything except the logical faculty.  For the aesthete
beauty alone is eternal, and his hope for the future lies in the
continuance of his aesthetic sense.  The materialist sees permanence
only in the indestructibility of the ultimate physical constituents of
his body.  The epigenesis of a spiritual body lies outside his horizon.
The volitionist finds all the value of life in the moral nature.  For
him the good will persists when all else is resolved into nothingness.
Character alone, he says, survives the shock of death.  All these
limited views of survival are symptoms of monophysite ways of thinking.
The Christian, on the contrary, holds that what is redeemed _eo ipso_
survives.  Whatever else is involved in redemption persistence
certainly is included.  Monophysitism stands for a partial redemption;
but to the orthodox who believe that Christ assumed human nature in its
entirety, each part and the whole are of infinite value.  He holds that
the strengthening, purifying, and perfecting that salvation brings
apply to the psychic and the physical natures, that no part is exempt,
that neither intellect nor will nor feeling ceases with death, that the
range of reason will be increased, and its operation made more sure,
that lofty and sustained endeavour will replace the transient energy of
the earthly will, that feeling will be enhanced, harmonised, and
purified, that a spiritual body continuous with the body of the flesh
will express man's heavenly experience.  These high far-reaching hopes
rest on the doctrines of catholic Christology.  Christ assumed our
nature complete in body and psychic parts.  He did so with a purpose,
and that purpose could be none other than the redemption of the body
and of all the psychic elements.  To the mystic, body and human
activities may seem only transient and unworthy of a place in heaven.
Such is false spirituality.  It is contrary to the tenor of catholic
teaching.  The incarnation brought divine and human together on earth.
The resurrection fixed their union.  The ascension gave humanity an
eternal place among eternal things.


We have seen above that monophysitism discredits the reality of
Christ's sufferings.  Dogmatic reasons apart, the monophysite is
motived by a repugnance to physical pain and by a wish to exclude it
from the experience of the human ideal.  To this motive we can trace
the modern tendency to transfer the doctrinal centre of gravity from
the Passion to the incarnation.  The Passion and Death used to occupy
the first place in the thoughts of Christians and formed the foundation
for all theories of atonement.  The incarnation was regarded as, for
the purposes of dogma, subsidiary.  Within recent times the position
has been reversed.  The main stress falls now on the incarnation.  The
Passion seems of secondary importance, if, as modern theology often
teaches, all purposes of redemption were secured prior to it.  In thus
changing the venue of redemption modern theology is wrong.  The mistake
is prompted largely, so it seems to the writer, by monophysitism latent
in modern religious thought; at any rate strict adherence to the
catholic doctrine of two natures would have prevented it.  The human
nature that Christ assumed had to be perfected through suffering;
otherwise it could not attain that universality and representative
character which enabled it to become the medium of universal salvation.
If it had been enough for the divine spirit to mingle with men, to show
them a pattern life, and to touch them to higher things, an apparition
would have been adequate, and no community of suffering would have been
necessary.  Since Christ not only appeared as man, but experienced in
His flesh all man's experiences, death which is the climax of human
experience fell to His lot and set the seal to the divine enterprise.
Since He who died was the flesh and blood embodiment of the cosmic
relation.  His death has cosmic significance.  The doctrinal edifice in
which Calvary is of ornamental and not of structural value has
monophysitism for its foundation.


Christ's mission is misunderstood to-day as well as His cosmic work.
In certain religious quarters where zeal is not balanced by learning,
His mission as the founder of a religious society is forgotten.  To
those who are deficient in historic sense the continuity of the Church
down the centuries seems unimportant, and institutional religion a
hindrance rather than a help to the spiritual life of the individual
Christian.  Pietism of this kind has always been present in the church;
to-day it is prevalent.  It nominally associates its piety with the
historic Christ, but actually it worships an ideal constructed by its
own ethical imagination.  Such pietists spiritualise the faith.  The
facts of the historic creed are to them little more than symbols of
religious truth.  Spiritual resurrection, spiritual ascension are the
only miracles for them.  This tendency to spiritualise everything is a
phase of monophysitism.  It results from losing sight of the person of
the historic Christ, and resolving His assumption of human nature into
the assumption of a title.


Errors in sacramental teaching necessarily accompany misconceptions of
the person of Christ.  The incarnation is a cosmic sacrament, the
meeting-point of divine and human, and the sacraments of the church are
types of the vaster mystery.  In both type and antitype it is all
important to give due weight to divine and human, and not to exalt one
element at the expense of the other.  Those who undervalue the human
nature of Christ are disposed to undervalue the outward sign in the
sacraments.  Not appreciating the hypostatic union of divine with
human, they misunderstand the sacramental union of the same elements.
Blind to the significance of Christ's humanity in the economy of
redemption, they fail to see how matter can be the channel of
sacramental grace.  Yet the discipline of faith is the same in both
cases.  The Christian enterprise is not merely to believe in the
divine, but to believe in the divine manifested in the human.

There are two divergent, almost opposing, schools of sacramental
teaching, both of which have inherited the spirit of monophysitism.
Both are instances of sacramental monism.  First, there are those who
identify the outward signs and the inward grace; second, those to whom
the inward grace is everything and the outward sign nothing.  Both
schools of thought destroy the nature of a sacrament.  The radical
error of both consists in undervaluing the human and material.  In the
first case the error takes the form of the transubstantiation doctrine,
which is exactly parallel to the extreme form of Eutychianism.
According to Eutyches, the human nature of Christ was absorbed into the
divine and lost there; the truth of His being was the divine
personality; the human element was only an appearance.  Similarly the
transubstantiation theory conceives the mutation of the _substance_ of
the material elements and the loss of their proper nature; the
appearance of reality that the _accidents_ possess is an illusion of
the senses.  We may note in passing that the opposite error to
transubstantiation finds its Christological parallel in Nestorianism.
Socinianism which separates symbol from sacramental grace is
sacramental dualism, as Nestorianism is Christological dualism.  Both
abandon a vital unity of divine and human.  The pietistic or mystical
view of the sacraments does so too, but in a different way.  This
second form of sacramental monism has much in common with the doctrine
of one nature.  To the pietist the divine seems all important, and the
material no help, but rather a hindrance to the spiritual life.  The
faith of the individual to him is the seat of the efficacy of the
sacraments; he regards matter as unreal if not sinful, and in either
case unworthy to be a channel of divine grace.  Echo after echo of
monophysite thought can be caught here.  The surest way to combat
sacramental errors on both sides is a clear and definite statement of
the catholic doctrine of Christology.


As the interval of time widens, separating Christians from the human
life of their God, the more urgent becomes the obligation to put forth
a constructive effort of the historical imagination.  The attempt to
keep that memory green grows harder and harder as the centuries pass;
but Christians must make it; otherwise the historical character of
their religion will perish.  There need be no fear that the interests
of spiritual religion will suffer.  Amongst moderns the danger of
idealising the human is greater than that of humanising the divine.  An
intelligent appreciation of Christ's human life draws out love and
kindles reverence towards the divine personality who condescended to
the level of mankind.  We may point by way of illustration to the
effect of biblical criticism.  Christians of a previous generation
dreaded the touch of criticism.  They thought it profanation.  They
refused to admit any human element in the bible.  Criticism, however,
had its way.  Bibliolatry had to go.  The result is that the bible is a
living book to us to-day.  In spite of the fears of the devout there
was little to lose and much to gain by recognising the human element in
the bible.  As with the written word, so with the living Word.  Without
a recognition of the human element in His being, a full assimilation of
His teaching and an intimate perception of His real presence are
unattainable.  If this recognition be accorded, the great past will
live again in the present.  Hostile critics study the life and
character of Christ and the records of them with a view to proving that
He was merely man.  Believers may adopt their method with a different
object.  They may undertake the same study in order to comprehend the
wonder of the Man, and so rise to some conception of the wonder of the
God.  The gospels are read mainly as a handbook of devotion; they
should be studied as the biography of a hero.  The face-value of its
incidents is often neglected, while the reader seeks allegorical and
mystical interpretations.  To form a mental picture of Christ in His
environment, to read ourselves back into His world and then into His
ways of thought, such efforts are more than ever needed to-day, and
they are more than ever absent.  Historic sense and imagination should
be allowed to play upon the recorded acts and sayings of Jesus, until a
great temple to His memory rises in the high places of the mind,
dominating thence the whole intellectual and moral life.  Such an
enterprise would infuse life and meaning into the Christological
formula, and would effect, so to speak, a reconstruction of the human
nature of the historic Christ.  The Christian's attitude towards the
Man Christ Jesus is the "acid test" of the sincerity of his faith.  No
one can bring intellectual difficulties to a being to whom cognising
was a foreign process, nor moral difficulties to one who knew no
conflict of wills, nor sorrows to one "all breathing human passion far
above."  If we picture the ideal of all mankind as thinking our
thoughts, willing as we will, feeling as we feel, we are united to Him
by an intellectual, moral and emotional bond of sympathy.  Such a
threefold cord is not quickly broken.  Communion with such a Being
leads the worshipper to the heart of the Christian religion.



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