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The Three Typical Christologies


The same truth holds of the other Christological systems. A different
metaphysical idea lies at the root of each. Nestorian, monophysite,
catholic, these three were the main types of Christologian in the fifth
century. Each studied Christ's life. After studying it, the Nestorian
said of Him, "There are two persons here." "Not so," said the
monophysite, "I see but one incarnate nature of God the Word." The
catholic replied, "You are both wrong; there is one person in two
natures." All three types deserve close study. The thinkers were
devout and sincere, and, for the most part, able men. There is no
question here of superficial uninformed thought, nor of moral
obliquity. The disagreement was due not to their vision but to their
view point, not to the object of their thought or the process of their
thinking, but to their different presuppositions and starting points.

Presented in this way the monophysite and other Christological
controversies of the fifth and sixth centuries become phases of the
cosmic problem. They thus regain the dignity which is theirs by right,
and which they lose in the ordinary church histories. The heat of
passion they aroused becomes intelligible. It was no battle about
words. The stakes were high. The controversialists championed
far-reaching principles with a decisive influence on the course of
thought and conduct. Unfriendly critics usually portray the
Christologians as narrow-minded and audacious. So, no doubt, they
were, but they were not wrong-headed. If the matters in dispute
between theist, deist, and pantheist are trivialities, then and then
only can we regard the enterprise of the Christologians as chimerical
and their achievements as futile. The different formulae represented
attitudes of mind fundamentally opposed. No peace between catholic and
monophysite was possible. They had conflicting conceptions of ultimate

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