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The Christological Errors Of Monophysitism


We leave here the area of theology and come to that of Christology. We
have exhibited the monophysite errors with respect to the doctrine of
primal deity; we now proceed to analyse their views with respect to the
incarnate Christ. The former subject leads the thinker into deep
water; the layman is out of his depth in it; so it does not furnish
material for a popular controversy. It is otherwise with the latter
subject. Here the issue is narrowed to a point. It becomes a question
of fact, namely, "Was Christ a real man?" The question and most of the
answers given to it are readily intelligible, and they naturally gave
rise to heated controversy. Theopaschitism is, as we have shown, a
tendency inherent in the heresy, but one slow to come to the surface,
and one easily counter-acted and suppressed by the personal piety of
the monophysite. Its docetism, the assertion of the unreality of
Christ's human nature, lies on the surface. No amount of personal
piety can neutralise it. It has had, and still has, a crippling effect
on the faith of devout Christians. Even where it is not carried to the
length of formal heresy, it spreads a haze of unreality over the gospel
story, and dulls the edge of belief.

The second count of Leo's charge against the monophysites was, it will
be remembered, that their presentation of Christ made Him "homo
falsus." Under this heading "homo falsus" may be classed a wide group
of erroneous tenets, ranging from the crudities of early docetism to
the subtleties of Apollinarianism. We propose to sketch those of major
importance. No attempt will be made to take them in their historical
order or historical setting. Further, it is not implied that they all
formed part of the official doctrine of the monophysite church. The
standard of belief in that communion was constantly varying, and the
history of its dogma would need a work to itself. We shall deal with
those Christological errors, which, whether part of the official
monophysite creed or not, are logical results of the monophysite

Unreality may be predicated of Christ's human nature as a whole, or in
respect of its parts. Consubstantiality with humanity may be denied of
the whole of his human nature; or deficiency in one or other of the
essential constituents of human nature may be alleged. We shall deal
first with those errors that concern the entire nature, coming later to
the errors in respect of one or more of its several parts.

Suspicion of the reality of Christ's human nature as a whole is
characteristic of all monophysite thought. This suspicion, not always
formulated or expressed, is everywhere present. If the monophysites
admitted the fact of His true manhood, they denied or neglected the
religious value of that fact. Their spurious spirituality rebelled
against a dogma which seemed to tie the infinite down to a point in
history. The fact that the Son of God lived a perfect human life
contained no inspiration for them. They idealised the incarnation. It
was not for them a historical event. This is a corollary to the
proposition, maintained by their great champion, Philoxenus, that "no
addition to His person took place." It is tantamount to saying that
the union of divine and human in Christ is purely conceptual. When the
monophysite faced the question, "What change in Christ did the
incarnation effect?" his formula constrained him to reply, "It made no
change." The deity of the person was not denied. The pre-existent
Logos and the Christ who walked in Galilee were admittedly one and the
same. The second person of the trinity and Jesus of Nazareth were one
personality. If Bethlehem made no change in that personality, it was
purposeless, and the import of the incarnation disappears.

Next: The Monophysite Theory Of A Composition Of Natures

Previous: Monophysitism And Islam Sabellianism The Connecting Link

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