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Monophysitism And Modern Psychology


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.

Next: Bergson's Theories Throw Light On Christology

Previous: The Ethos Of Monophysitism

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