Here’s the context behind my recent post on Rushdoony. I participated on a facebook thread where several kinist-reconstructionists were attacking Eastern Orthodoxy. That put me in an odd decision, for I, too, have criticized EO. But their arguments were just bad. Like if people used these in a debate with a formidable EO apologist, they would get massacred and people would probably leave (rightly) for EO.
So I went to play Devil’s Advocate. I did this for several reasons. Outside of selected texts from Rushdoony and Van Til, recons read little to nothing outside their own tradition. And also given the current evangelical debacle on the Trinity, I want to show that we should spend more time on Patristics questions than getting angry about big gubbment. So I asked the question:
Isn’t Rushdoony a Nestorian because he separated the flesh of Christ from the worship due to the Divine Person?
Correct Answer: Yes. Rushdoony said that and Ephesus condemned that.
And this point there answers revolved around several charges:
- You are a monophysite for accusing us of nestorianism.
- Rushdoony didn’t say there were two dudes in Jesus.
- Nestorius didn’t really believe that because Harold OJ Brown said he didn’t.
- If you disagree with (3) then that’s just your opinion.
I’m just glad it was me and not Jay Dyer or Perry Robinson. It would have been a massacre of colossal proportions. So let’s look at the charges.
~1. I asked them repeatedly to prove where I mixed the two natures of Christ. No answer.
~2. Never said he did, but that’s not the problem with Nestorianism. Until John Robbins and Gordon Clark, no one thought Nestorius posited two dudes in Jesus.
~3. Brown was a great guy and a fine ethicist. He just wasn’t a patristic scholar and the guys I referenced (McGuckin et al) have read the original texts from Nestorius and Theodore of Mopsuestia. Nestorianism posits two acting agents in Jesus. Not two dudes in Jesus. It also separates the Person of Jesus, which is what Cyril condemned and what Rushdoony did.
~4. So I asked them to show where my reading of Nestorian sources was wrong and why a non-specialist has them right. No answer.
So here is what the debate looked like:
Jacob Aitken Okay, tired of defense. Now on the offense: Did Rushdoony worship Nestorian Jesus?
Recon 1: No. Jesus died in His Manhood, not His Godhood. Just like He slept in His Manhood, but not in Godhood.
Jacob Aitken But did not Rushdoony say that you must separate the flesh of Christ from his deity? He writes,
<<But the Council made it clear that only God could be worshipped; not even Christ’s humanity could be worshipped, but only His deity. The humanity of Christ is not nor ever could be deified” (Foundations, 41).>>
This is precisely what the 3rd Council rejected, as Cyril notes., “he Only-begotten Son, to be honored with one-adoration together with his own flesh.”” Rushdoony unwittingly quoted this on p. 40. But even Berkhof cndemns Rushdoony (not by name) on this point. This means that the human nature of Christ, from the very first moment of its existence, was adorned with all kinds of rich gifts, as for instance…the grace and glory of being united to the dinive nature of the Logos, also called the gratia emenentiae, by which the human nature is elevated high above all creatures, and even becomes an object of adoration…[that’s deification, as we say] (p. 324)
Recon 2.. have you read Harold O. J. Brown’s “Heresies?” He offers a different take on Nestorianism.
Jacob Aitken. Long ago. Prof Brown was my ethics prof. I understand what he is getting at, but the modern understanding of what Nestorius taught is fairly well established. He believed in two-acting subjects in the incarnation. Cyril and the Christian faith believed in one acting agent.
Recon 1. Did Jesus sleep in His Godhood?
Jacob Aitken Question doesn’t make sense. The divine person slept. You can’t abstract the natures, which is what Rushdoony did. And for what it is worth, that’s also Reformed Christology, too.
Recon 2: I think charges of Nestorianism are going to be forever the complaint of those who nestle in Eutychianism. And Brown tells us that Nestorious was falsely charged though some of his followers may have been guilty of the charge.
Jacob Aitken And with all due respect to my professor, he is incorrect. Nestorius taught two acting agents in the Incarnation. He held that the hypostasis was the synthesis of two prosopa.
Recon 2: Says you. I’ll stick with Brown’s assessment.
Me: Well, it is what every scholar on NEstorius and Cyril says. I don’t know what else to tell you. Brown was a genius at ethics but he is no Patristics scholar. That doesn’t mean the scholars are right. But if someone labors hard in Syriac and such,t hen they probably are.
Recon 2: Shrug ^ … you don’t come to truth by counting “scholar” noses.
Jacob Aitken No, but by examining the documents, which is what McGuckin et al have done.
Recon 2: Come on … I shouldn’t even have to type this. Scholars differ and disagree upon examining the texts. It’s why this game is so fun.
Jacob And if you can point out where McGuckin and Fairbairn interpreted the texts incorrectly, and where Brown interpreted the same texts correctly, then I’m open to revision.
Recon 2 I’ll get right on that. Nothing else on my calendar except to rescue a facebook thread.
Jacob: rescue the thread or don’t. You are the one that asserted something. You can back it up or not.
Recon 3: Jacob: aye, but there is a direct correlation in your wavering between Eutychianism and Reformed theology. Perhaps you can’t perceive it, but it is there. Has much learning made thee mad?
Me: WEll, then point it out to me. Because I don’t see you really keeping up with te arguments. Where have I posited a mixing of the natures? Be specific.
Recon 3: You might be surprised, but this thread isn’t all I had planned for today. Trying to multitask a bit here. Hyperfocused individuals aren’t the most productive ones, I’ve noticed.
Me: You are the one that accused me of flirting with a heresy.
Recon 3: Yeah, well, reading 1,000 books a month, a body has a tendency to float in between doctrines. Ever read Lovecraft? Most of his protagonists were destroyed by their lust for knowledge as well.
Jacob Aitken So I take it you can’t back up your insinuations?
Recon 3: Hey, you were the one who came on this thread as an EO apologist, Jacob. If the shoe fits…
Jacob: So, no, then?
The rest of the debate is glossing WCF 8, but doesn’t add anything new to the discussion.
4 thoughts on “The recons flee defeated on Christology”
I love the reference to Lovecraft (a lapsed-Puritan??) as rebuke and the “I’m not actually Scottish, but pretend to live in the 17th century” use of “aye”. Maybe next time you should just quote Conan the Barbarian to settle your arguments:
“Ha! Crom laughs at your Confession!”
“Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women”
9 times out of 10 I just ignore these guys. They are on the extreme fringe of the Reformed world (which is already very small).
Anyone who could bring themselves to write, “the heresy of love is the major menace of our time” had some serious problems.
I like Rushdoony, he had some great insights into biblical law and its relevance today, but I agree with Fr. Kimel: God’s love is unconditional. If you say it’s not, then the common earthly father is better than the heavenly one. Much of the language of the OT is anthropomorphism and metaphor.
I agree with you, but I think what Rush was getting at was that the term “love” doesn’t mean all that much today. It could mean either God’s “chesed” or a crying moment on the Kardashians.