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The Existence Of Modern Monophysitism


Is there such a thing as modern monophysitism? To this question the
preceding paragraph supplies the answer, "There must be." Heretical
tendencies will be found in the Christian community in every
generation, and the religious thought of individual Christians will
pass through heretical phases. Such heresy is rather an intellectual
than a moral fault; but the possibility of being the heirs, without
knowing it, of the opinions of Nestorius and Eutyches throws on
thinkers to-day the responsibility of examining their Christological
beliefs and of testing them by the canon of orthodoxy. Not a few
leaders of religious thought, in intention orthodox, in fact remain
monophysites, through inability to analyse their beliefs or through a
false sense of security, founded on the opinion that the age of heresy
is past.

It is commonly supposed that belief in the deity of Christ constitutes
Christianity. That supposition is wrong. Arius was not the only
heresiarch. To transcend the Arian standpoint is only the first step
in the long discipline of faith. There are other heresies, other
half-truths scarcely less pernicious than the Arian. The recognition
of Christ as God represents a great intellectual and moral advance, and
is the first essential step in religion; but to rest content with the
taking of that step is to remain on the lowest rung of the ladder of
faith. It is little use to form a lofty conception of Christ, if in
doing so we insulate Him from the world of things and souls. That is
what monophysitism does, and because disguised monophysitism is
prevalent in the church to-day, Christianity's grip is weak and the
fire of devotion low.

We may picture faith as a battlefield. Doubt is the enemy entrenched
in depth. Arianism holds the first line of trenches. Echeloned behind
Arianism are the other heresies in a network of fortified redoubts,
strong points and support trenches. The church militant must make the
furthest line her objective. If her advance stays at an intermediate
point, she is exposed to cross-fire from the support trenches of the
subsidiary heresies. The ground gained by the first assault proves
untenable. The position won can only be secured by pushing home the
attack to the final objective and consolidating her line there in the
might of full catholic doctrine.

A thorough and systematic advance of this sort was made by the orthodox
Christologians of the fifth century. The campaign was fought and won
then. It has, however, to be fought anew in each generation and in the
experience of individual thinkers. Monophysitism is commonly regarded
as a vagary of oriental thought, killed once and for all by a church
council in the fifth century. That is a superficial view.
Monophysitism is a hydra growth, and no Hercules can be found to
exterminate it. It reappears in each succeeding age, in West as well
as East. The structure of the human intellect is such that, whenever
men begin to investigate the being of Christ, the tendency to regard
Him as one-natured is present. The church of the fifth century exposed
that doctrine; it was beyond her power to kill it.

Next: Reasons For The Prevalence Of Monophysitism

Previous: Monophysitism In The Present Day

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