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.

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