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Christological Monism Monophysitism


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.

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