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Two Wills In Christ


We here leave the subject of cognition and pass to that of volition.
Orthodoxy teaches that Christ had two wills. This doctrine has a
double basis. In the first place, it is a corollary of the doctrine of
two natures. In the second, it is established by the recorded facts of
the gospel narrative. To take first the a priori argument. A nature
without a will is inconceivable. A cognitive faculty without the
dynamic of the volitional would be a machine without driving force.
The absurdity of the supposition, indeed, is not fully brought out by
the simile. For we can consider the machine at rest; it would then
have existence and potential activity. Will, however, is essential to
the existence as well as to the activity of thought. The connection
between them is vital to both. The psychologist distinguishes the
respective parts each plays in life and marks off faculties to
correspond to each. But his distinction is only provisional. The two
develop pari passu, they are never separable; they act and re-act on
one another. Without some degree of attention there is no thought, not
even perception of external objects. Attention is as much an act of
will as of thought. Man does not first evolve ideas and then summon
will to actuate them. In the very formation of ideas will is present
and active. Accordingly from the duality of Christ's cognitive nature
the psychologist would infer that He had two wills. There is in Christ
the divine will that controlled the forces of nature and could suspend
their normal workings, the will that wrought miracle, the eternal will,
infinite in scope and power, that was objectified in His age-long
universal purpose, in a word, the will that undertook the superhuman
task of cosmic reconstruction and achieved it.

It is not easy for us to conceive the co-existence of two wills in one
person. The difficulty is part of the discipline of faith. Christ's
human will is no less a fact than His divine will. The former played
as large a part in His earthly experience as the latter. It was
present in all its normal phases, ranging from motor will to psychic
resolve. The lower forms of volition, motor impulse, desire and wish,
the higher forms, deliberation, choice, purpose and resolve. He shared
them all with humanity. There is in Him a human will, limited in
scope, varying in intensity, developing with the growth of His human
experience, a will like ours in everything, except that it was free
from moral imperfection. It was a finite will, inasmuch as the
conditioning cognition was finite, perfect of its kind, adequate to its
task, never faltering, yet of finite strength. The two wills have each
their own sphere. They operate in perfect harmony. Only at crises,
such as the Agony, is there any appearance of discord. The opposition
there is only apparent. The human will reaches its limit, and the
superhuman will interposes to perform the superhuman task.

The reality of the two wills, established for the orthodox both a
priori and by an appeal to fact, is denied by the monophysite. He
regards will as the fundamental psychic state and makes it an attribute
of personality. Two wills, he says, would necessitate two persons. He
does not see that personality lies deeper than will, and that will and
cognition are co-ordinate attributes of nature. If Christ had but one
nature, it follows that He had but one will and operation. The
monophysite thinks of two wills as necessarily antagonistic, as are
conflicting motives in man; so he sees no ethical value in dithelite
doctrine. As a matter of fact the moral influence of Christianity
would be much weakened by an abandonment of the doctrine of two wills.
The belief in Christ's human will prevents men from despairing of their
will. Human will cannot be wholly warped, or wholly misdirected, or
utterly powerless, since Christ in His life has shown that it can work
along the same lines as the divine will, that the two can co-operate,
and that where the lower reaches its limit, the higher can step in and
perfect the work.

From the historian's point of view the monothelite controversy is quite
distinct from the monophysite. So we need only take a glance at it
here. It originated in an attempt to win back the monophysites to the
orthodox communion by a doctrinal compromise. The emperor Heraclius
endeavoured to unite catholic and monophysite on the basis of the
formula, "two natures with one will and operation." That formula will
not bear analysis, and the emperor's attempt to use it as an eirenicon
was a complete failure. Imperial pressure induced a few monophysites
to modify their doctrine so far as to admit "one theandric operation;"
but the concession of "one will" from the orthodox side failed to win
from the monophysites the expected concession of "two natures." The
monophysites were quite consistent here. To deny will of nature is an
elementary mistake in psychology. Only a tyro in introspection will
ascribe will directly to personality. A one-willed two-natured
personality is little short of a psychological monstrosity. An attempt
to rally Christendom round such a figure was bound to fail. The only
lasting result of the emperor's activity was the formation of a new
sect, the Maronites.

Next: The Duality Of Christ's Emotional Experience

Previous: Monophysitism Entails The Apollinarian View Of Christ's Human Nature As Merely An Animated Body

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