How Far is the East from the West? (Part 2)

Catedral Metropolitana de Panama courtesy of Jasperdo and Flickr
Catedral Metropolitana de Panama courtesy of Jasperdo and Flickr

Historical Theology:

The Christian world had long been divided along theological boundaries, but by this point they were also divided on land boundaries as well. The east had departed from the west and there became two Christian worlds at play. While the west debated ecclesiology and soteriology, the east continued to debate christology. As three groups emerged (Dyophysites, Monophysites, and Neo-Chalcedonians) there was one that caused the greatest issues of all.
Supported by Severus of Antioch and Timothy Aelurus, the Bishop of Alexandria, the monophysites were able to gain a footing that would force  issues into greater detail. They had three primary arguments against what came out of Chalcedon:
  1. They had issue with the exclusion of the phrase “one incarnate of the divine logos” because they saw it as crucial to prevailing against Nestorianism.
  2. They also noted that the affirmation excluded a definition of the hypostatic union.
  3. Finally, they took issue with the fact that the confession excluded “out of two – one.”
As the monophysites continued to raise issues it created division that threaten the stability of the church in the region and thus, Justinian intervened.
In the east, emperors saw themselves with extreme authority over the church. For Justinian, emperor of the time, concern over how division in the church may create division in the empire, he desired unity. It was Justinian that agreed to call another council and he appointed Leontius of Byzantium to oversee.
In AD 553 the Second Council of Constantinople commenced and Justinian had instructed Leontius that the goal would be to impart a definition of the hypostatic union that was consistent with Chalcedon while bridging the gap between opposing groups.
While little is known about Leontius, we do know that he proposed that the human nature of Christ was made personal through His divinity in one of three ways:
  • The two exist side by side.
  • The two mixed together to create a third nature.
  • The two were so united into one that a person could hardly define the distinct natures because of the overlap.
It was the third explanation that Leontius supported and compelled as the statement necessary to bridge the gap. At this point, the Second Council of Constantinople affirmed the wording to be that the two natures confessed as part of Christ’s nature were united into one nature.
Present Study:
The Second Council of Constantinople was meant to bridge the gap between opposing groups. The reality is though, history repeats itself. When one council was called, it was inevitable that another would have to be called afterwards. It seems the more things were defined, the more they were not defined. It simply created more questions.
Eventually those questions caused division between opposing groups, of which the only solution would be to call another council to clarify that. Thus, history embarked on an endless cycle in which the constant defining and clarification of positions would never be sufficient. Clarification only lead to a need for more clarification.
The same is said of today. When an issue seems to be solved, those opposed will always create more questions. These questions have several effects:
  • They are meant to undermine the integrity of orthodox teachings.
  • They create a distraction from the real issues.
  • They create long-term divisions.
While one answer may be given, it never satisifies for long. My point is this, it is never enough. We will never satisfy opponents to our position because they will always demand more. We must ensure we stand on the truth and clarity of what Scripture teaches knowing that our words will not convince one of the truth of God. Only the work of the Holy Spirit will do that.

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