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 th
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.