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Monism Entails A Debased Conception Of Deity


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

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 arriere pensee 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.

Next: Monophysitism And The Doctrine Of The Trinity

Previous: Classification Of Monophysite Errors

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