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

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.