Lecture 3: Apollinarianism (Monophysitism)

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Last time we talked about the two broad schools of thought in the early church concerning the person of Christ.
These are typically called the Alexandrian School (because it was centered in Alexandria, Egypt), and the Antiochean School of Christology (centered in Antioch).
Monophysite vs. Dyophysite Christology. That is to say, one-nature versus two-nature Christology.
The proponents of a Monophysite, or one-nature, Christology held that the second person of the Trinity – the Logos – possessed a single divine-human nature.
By contrast, the proponents of a two-nature Christology emphasized that in the incarnation the Logos took on not just a human body but a complete human nature and therefore both a rational soul and a human body.
Let’s look more specifically at the Monophysite Christology.

Monophysite Christology.

One of the most creative of the Alexandrian thinkers whose thought was to be very influential in the course of the Christological controversies was Apollinarius.
Apollinarius was a bishop in Laodicea who flourished in the mid-fourth century. He died in 390.
Apollinarius argued that it’s impossible for Christ to have both a complete human nature and a complete divine nature because that would simply amount to God indwelling a human being and that falls short of having a true incarnation.
He said that if in addition to the divine mind of the Logos there was also a human mind of Jesus then the Logos did not really achieve a full incarnation.
The Logos simply indwelt the man Jesus of Nazareth.
On Apollinarius’ ingenious solution to this problem of getting a real genuine incarnation he appealed to his anthropology.
Apollinarius had a tripartite anthropology.
That is to say there are three parts that go to make up human being.
The outermost part would be the human body, or soma.
In addition to the body, or soma, however there is also the animal soul or psuche.
This being merely an animal soul, it’s like the soul that other animals have, it is simply an animating principle that makes the body alive rather than a corpse.
In human beings there is a third part which is the human mind, or the nous. On Apollinarius’ anthropology, human beings are made up of a body (a soma), and animal soul (psuche), and a rational soul or mind (the nous).
On his doctrine of the incarnation the divine Logos took the place of the human nous or mind.
Thus, in Jesus there was not a human mind; rather it was a divine mind.
It was the mind of the Logos.
As a result, on Apollinarius’ Christology, you can see that the Logos was constitutionally united with human being.
The person Jesus of Nazareth was a divine person with a human body and an ordinary animal soul.
In Christ there exists a single nature which has a divine part – the Logos – and then purely ordinary human parts (the soma and psuche).
So it is a single nature which has a part that is co-essential with God (the Logos) and parts which are co- essential with us, namely the flesh and the animal spirit.
The Logos, by being constitutionally joined with humanity in this way, came to experience the world through his flesh.
He was able to act in the world by using the flesh – his body – as an instrument.
So the body for the incarnate Logos was both a means of experiencing the world and also a means of acting in the world.
Since there is only a single intellect or mind in Christ which just is the Logos, that means that Christ was without sinful desires and indeed incapable of sinning because it’s impossible that the Logos could sin.
On Apollinarius’ anthropology the seat or locus of the sinful instincts in human beings is the nous, and Jesus didn’t have a human mind or nous; instead it was the Logos and therefore he was utterly without sin and indeed incapable of sinning because the second person of the Trinity could not sin.
Apollinarianism gave us a genuine incarnation; not simply an indwelling of God in a human being, but a constitutional union of divinity and humanity.
The model that Apollinarius offered insures the unity of Christ’s person – there is only one person who Christ is, namely he is the Logos clothed with flesh.
It also explains how the Logos could participate in human suffering through his taking on of a human body.

The reception of Apollinarianism.

Let me say a few words before we close about the reception of Apollinarianism.
Despite its advantages, Apollinarianism was condemned in the year 377 by a synod in Rome.
Two deficiencies of Apollinarian Christology seemed especially serious to the church fathers.
1. A body without a mind is a truncation of human nature.
A body without a mind is not a true human nature.
By merely clothing himself in flesh, the Logos did not truly become a man for essential to humanity (to human nature) is a rational soul as well as a human body, and Christ did not have a human soul.
He was like us only with respect to his flesh, and that is a mere animal nature.
The church father, Gregory of Nyssa, accused Apollinarius of saying that the incarnation was a matter of God’s becoming an animal.
That’s all it really amounted to.
The incarnation of the Logos was God not becoming a man but becoming an animal.
Therefore Apollinarianism is unacceptable because it denies the true humanity of Christ.
2. If Christ lacked a human mind then he did not truly redeem the human mind.
This is rooted in the fundamental principle which underlay the entire incarnation, and that is the principle quod non est assumptum non est sanatum – that which is not assumed is not saved.
That is to say, if the Logos did not assume a human nature then he did not save human nature.
And he didn’t on this view assume a human nature.
He just assumed an animal nature.
Therefore human nature is not saved. Therefore the Apollinarian Christology, it was charged, would undermine the Christian doctrine of salvation.
Those are the two principal criticisms of Apollinarianism.
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