Our Blessed Mother & The Saints

Aliusmodi Christus - An Open Letter to Eric Svendsen Regarding Certain Christological Questions Surrounding the Title “Mary, Mother of God”

by John Pacheco

Dr. Eric Svendsen:

I have endeavored to provide you with some thoughtful reflections of my Christological views surrounding the title Mary, Mother of God.   This letter to you is in response to your theological assessment of my alleged heretical beliefs surrounding Christ’s person.  In my estimation, you are grievously mistaken on this issue, and the piece below has manifested the inaccuracies and misapplications of your treatment on this subject.  Hopefully, my comments will make your errors and illogic more conspicuous to you so that you may come, by God’s grace, to a candid and clear resolution of this matter.  I hope you will reflect on them prayerfully and realize your errors.  You will never advance, in fact you will only depreciate, the cause of Christ by demoting His Mother to something less than she is.  You will see, quite clearly, that those who attack the Mother’s identity end up attacking  the traditional belief in the Triune God.

Part A -  Apollinarianism
Part B -  ‘Human and Divine Person’
Part C -  Fully Man
Part D -  St. Augustine
Part E -  God died.

PART A - Apollinarianism

In one of the articles in question, “The ‘Mother of God’ and the New Roman Catholic Apollinarimonophysites” you said this:

“Simply put, the view espoused partly by Apollinaris and partly by the Monophysites, and condemned by the fifth-century church, is identical to the view of modern Roman Catholic e-pologists who argue that Jesus was a divine person with a human nature (Apollinarianism), and that what may be said of the human nature may also be said of the divine nature (e.g., God was born of Mary; Monophysitism).”

It should come as no surprise to you, or anyone else for that matter, that I will categorically deny this allegation because, in the first place, your approach to the question is flawed and is based on faulty presuppositions; and in the second place, the allegation is prima facie untrue since professing Roman Catholics are not permitted to hold to either heresy.  It is, therefore, rather comical to suggest that elements of Apollinarianism, much less Monophysitism, can be tagged on either myself, Mario Derksen, or Phil Porvaznik.

But, you will say, it is not the explicit rejection of Apollinarianism that is the issue here, but rather the logical consequence of propositions which I accept that lead to accepting the heresy.  Now, admittedly, there is something to be said for that technique, and I will use it myself against you a little later on, but the imminent question here is:  does your allegation of  Apollinarianism hold?

Apollinaris’ position was that Christ possessed a human flesh while “the lower animal soul” was the principle of its sensitive movements.  [This animal soul, however, should not be confused with what we understand to be a human soul or spirit.]  On the subject of the human soul, for instance, Apollinaris claimed that Christ’s rational, human soul, the part that is cognizant and chooses, was absent.  Apollinaris denied that Christ possessed this soul in His humanity but claimed that it was only present in His divinity.

“Psychologically, Apollinaris, considering the rational soul or spirit as essentially liable to sin and capable, at its best, of only precarious efforts, saw no way of saving Christ's impeccability and the infinite value of Redemption, except by the elimination of the human spirit from Jesus’ humanity, and the substitution of the divine Logos in its stead. For the constructive part of his theory, Apollinaris appealed to the well-known Platonic division of human nature: body (sarx, soma), [animal]soul (psyche halogos), spirit (nous, pneuma, psyche logike). Christ, he said, assumed the human body and the…principle of animal life, but not the human spirit. The Logos Himself is, or takes the place of, the human spirit, thus becoming the rational and spiritual centre, the seat of self-consciousness and self-determination.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908, cf. Apollinarianism).  In other words, Apollinaris taught that in  Jesus, the human spirit otherwise known as the rational soul or ‘nous’ was absent, and in its place was the Logos, or the second person of the Trinity.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I read your summary of Apollinaris’ teaching:

“In short, Apollinaris' view was that Christ was a body of flesh formed and animated by a nous (spirit and intellect), but that the nous was not human, but rather divine. What Apollinaris means by nous is "person." This view of Apollinaris was directly opposed by Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus and Athanasius, was rejected by the Western church in 377 A.D., by the Eastern church a decade later, and was eventually condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. All of these reasoned that a person who lacks a human nous (spirit and intellect) cannot truly be a man.”

Come again? In the first line you say, that ‘nous’ is a spirit (or human rational soul), but in the second line you say ‘nous’ is a person.  Well then, if nous is a soul and nous is a person, then the transitive rule dictates that soul is a person.  Yet how can that be since Jesus is a person who at the same time possesses a human soul?

The other point I wish to dispute is the charge that we ‘e-pologists’ are not holding to the teachings of the previous Ecumenical Councils regarding Apollinarianism.   Besides my contention about what you think Apollinarianism is, there is the issue of submission to an Ecumenical Council whose definitive teachings all Catholics must accept.  Unlike you who can choose which dogmas to accept or reject from the Ecumenical Councils, we, as a faithful Roman Catholics, do not have that option.  So, it is indeed remarkable how you can accuse us of not submitting to our own Church’s definitive and constant teaching against Apollinarianism.

“So, following the saintly fathers, we all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards His divinity…” (Council of Chalcedon, Definition of the Faith - Decrees, 451 A.D.)

In truth, I am totally baffled as to how you can accuse us ‘e-pologists’ of holding to a heresy that the Church has always condemned before AND after Chalcedon:
We pronounce anathema against them who say that the Word of God is in the human flesh in lieu and place of the human rational and intellective soul. For, the Word of God is the Son Himself. Neither did He come in the flesh to replace, but rather to assume and preserve from sin and save the rational and intellective soul of man.” [Council of Rome, 381 A.D., Pope Damasus; (see also Synod of Alexandria, 362 A.D.;  Second Council of Constantinople, 381 A.D.)].

“It, moreover, anathematizes, execrates, and condemns every heresy that suggests contrary things….. It anathematizes also Manichaeus with his followers, who, thinking vainly that the Son of God had assumed not a true but an ephemeral body, entirely do away with the truth of the humanity in Christ. Arius also, who asserted that the body assumed from the Virgin lacked a soul, and would have the Godhead in place of the soul. Also Apollinaris, who, understanding that there was no true humanity if in Christ the soul is denied as giving the body form, posited only a sensitive soul, but held that the Godhead of the Word took the place of a rational soul. It also anathematizes Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius who assert that humanity was united with the Son of God through grace, and hence there are two persons in Christ, just as they confess that there are two natures, since they were unable to understand that the union of humanity with the Word was hypostatic, and so refused to accept the subsistence of God.” [The Council of Florence from the Bull "Cantate Domino", February 4, 1441]

Based on your web-article, your charge of Apollinarianism rests on my assertion that  Christ's divine and human natures are hypostatically joined in His divine person.  This, according to you, is what you believe Apollinaris taught.  You stated: “It is not the case, as Apollinaris believed, that Christ is a divine person with a human nature.” Yet, a mere cursory reading of the definition provided earlier, or better still, a review of  the Concilliar decrees indicate above, elucidates that this was not all that Apollinaris was saying, and it certainly was not the aspect of the teaching that was condemned.

The Council of Chalcedon declared against what Apollinaris taught; namely, “that the Word of God is in the human flesh in lieu and place of the human rational and intellective soul.”  Now that’s hardly the same thing as saying that Christ’s natures are joined in His divine person.   We are dealing with distinct and separate subjects here:  nature, person, and soul.  Yet, you inter-equate a combination of these subjects (without explaining the theological basis for doing so), and hence extract an erroneous and groundless interpretation of Apollinaris and Chalcedon to suit your groundless conclusion. Your accusation of Apollinarianism, therefore, is a thoroughly gross misapplication of the historical and theological record on this question.

PART B - Divine and Human Person

Now then, what is your real difficulty with Catholic teaching?  Well, as far as I can gather, you wrongly assume that the mere presence of the divine person somehow excludes or nullifies the existence of a human soul in Christ.  In order for your charge of Apollinarianism to stick, this is the rule you must hold to for your case to have any merit whatsoever.  Does it?  Let us proceed slowly so we can appreciate what the real issues are.

You will agree with me, as a Trinitarian, that Christ was a divine person in heaven before the incarnation.  We can agree to this formulation since Christ who, like The Father and the Holy Spirit, was also a divine person in the Trinity.  The Trinity is, of course, God subsisting in three divine persons.  Furthermore, we both acknowledge that it would be impossible for the Son to be anything other than a divine person since he was not ‘human’ in any way before the incarnation.  Hence, He could only be a divine person at that time.

You have also stated on your website that, after the incarnation, Christ was something more than a divine person; ostensibly,  a ‘human and divine person’ because of His human and divine natures.  You make the following remark:  “First, the instant one uses the phrase ‘divine person’, one has already violated the distinction above: "Divine person" is just another way of saying ‘person with a divine nature’.  Yet, the instant the incarnation occurred, the "person" in question was something more-namely, he was a "person with a divine nature and a human nature"; and it was to this person Mary gave birth.” And furthermore you state:  “what is instead "heretical" (biblically and historically) is the e-pologist's notion that Jesus was not a human person.”

So then let us see where these propositions lead us….

1) If Christ’s divine person, by assuming a human nature (including a human soul, will, and body) at the incarnation, has changed to being a person OTHER THAN a ‘divine person’, then that means that Christ’s person is mutable - by definition.  It has now been ‘changed’ into a ‘human and divine person’ (as you believe) from a ‘divine person’.   However, the Synod of Rheims (1148) and the Council of Florence (1441) both affirmed that everything in God is God.  In fact, the Synod of  Rheims declared:  “that there are no realities in God, whether they be called relations (i.e. persons) or properties or singularities or unities or other such, which exist from eternity, and which are not identical with God.”  (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, p.69-70).

So then, if a divine person is a ‘reality in God’, then that reality or substance (i.e. *THAT* person) IS GOD and cannot become another person or other substance - which is, in effect, the proposition you are advancing.   If Jesus’ person is indeed immutable and since that person was, at least before the incarnation, a divine person, then it cannot change to being a person other than what it was; namely, a divine person.  So now you have a problem, Dr. Svendsen.  It appears therefore that you have really only two options for this "human and divine person" construction:

A) Create two persons (a human person and a divine person), thereby preserving the immutability of divinity as Nestorius did.

B) Make God mutable and succumb to Relativism.

You no doubt reject Alternative A, but you have failed to recognize that you are proposing we accept Alternative B, which is even worse.

Nothing in God can be anything other than divine.  So God’s persons must be divine; God’s will must be divine; God’s nature must be divine.  The joining of the human nature to Christ’s divine nature does not affect His divinity since it is, by definition, only hypostatically united with His divine nature - there is no mixture or sharing of the TWO natures with one another.  That is why the Church insisted on separating the natures of Christ - to protect both the immutability of God and the redemption of man.   You, on the other hand, allow the natures of Christ to change the person from being ‘divine’ only to being ‘human and divine’ which is impossible since the Son is ‘in God’ and everything ‘in God’ is God.  How then can adding a human nature to Christ’s person change something which is unchangeable?

We can summarize it this way:

i)  A person is the individual substance of a rational nature. (Boethius)

ii) This particular substance called 'person' is not the nature itself, but only bares the nature.

iii) In the Trinity, each person shares the same nature also known as essence.

iv) Everything in God is divine. There is no thing in God that is not divine. Therefore, each person in the Trinity is divine and shares in the common divine nature (substance, being, essence). Hence, the Second person of the Trinity is properly called a 'divine person' since this person, like the others, subsists within God and must therefore be divine.

v) But, something that is divine must be immutable since Divinity is, by its very essence, unchangeable. God says: "I the LORD do not change." (Malachi 3:6)

Conclusion: Since, therefore, Jesus' person is divine and not subject to change, then He cannot become, as you say, a 'human and divine person' since that would make Jesus' divine person something other than divine. That is, there would be something in His person that was not divine, but in God ALL things must be divine.

You will agree with me that ‘nature’ is separate from ‘person’ so that possessing a nature does not necessitate possessing a person (the rejection thereof, obviously, would require assent to Nestorianism).   Now, then, if possessing a nature does not require another person to be ‘present’, then there can be no objection to a divine person with a human nature since a human person need not be ‘attached’ to the human nature, notwithstanding of course, that He still had to be *a* person in order to take on any nature whatsoever.   For instance, God the Father is God all by Himself.  He does not need the other two persons to be God. If the other two persons ceased either to be persons or the divine nature ceased to subsist in their persons, God the Father would still be divine by virtue of his *nature*, although he would cease to be a person.  However, if the three persons retained their opposition but lost their divine nature, they would be....well....non-divine persons. But if that is true, then 'personhood' is not something which is limited by any particular nature but can transcend natures i.e. human or divine.   That is why we as humans can be persons.  To be fully human or fully divine, therefore, is not predicated on being a person but possessing the nature.

3)  You also continue to  insist that if Christ was only a divine person, then that divine person (or His Divinity) *must necessarily* exist in place of Christ’s human soul.   Yet, where is the justification for such a novel theological speculation?  Your proposition is nothing more than a simple false alternative.  Again, are you saying that a person and a soul are the same thing?  If they are, then why do we have different words and classifications for them?  Why is Christ a ‘person’ who, at the same time, possesses a ‘soul’?  If person and soul are not the same, then why is it, in your position, that Christ’s human person does not replace His human soul, but Christ’s divine person does replace His human soul?  Under both formulas -  the ‘human and divine person’ and ‘divine person only’ - Christ is still properly a person.  Now then, the question I have for you, Dr. Svendsen is this:  why does a divine person necessarily have to be in place of a human soul in Christ but a human person does not have to be in place of a human soul?  In other words, without engaging in special pleading, what is your theological rationale for excluding a divine person with a human soul while at the same time accepting a human person with a human soul, ESPECIALLY considering the other astounding unions (nature, wills, substances, etc.) of the divine and human in Jesus?

4)  As a divine person in God, the Son is immutable so, along with the substance of His nature, the substance of His person is immutable as well.  As I already exposed your false construction on the advancement of Jesus’ person from being ‘divine only’ to being ‘divine and human’, there is no need to revisit it again here in great length.  However, as a courtesy to you, I would also like to draw your attention to the new substance you have created for Christ.   What is a ‘human and divine person’?  According to your website, you say He was a ‘person with a divine nature and a human  nature.’  So, in other words, the natures of Christ determine His personhood.  But this is not in line with Trinitarian theology which holds that God is one according to His nature, but He is three according to His person.  The natures of Christ determine His Divinity and His Humanity NOT His personhood.  His personhood is determined by the opposition of relation within the Trinity.  All is one except for the relations.   The natures of Christ CANNOT determine His person because He shares the SAME, EXACT divine nature with the other two persons.  To maintain such a proposition is to effectively say that the Son IS the Father and the Son IS the Holy Spirit without opposition.

Now then, in the case of Christ’s person we have essentially four options presented to us:

We can posit that Christ is two persons - one divine and one human;
We can posit that Christ is a human person only;
We can posit that Christ is a ‘divine and human’ person;
We can posit that Christ continues to be a divine person only.

Option A separates Christ into two persons which nullifies the Redemption.
Option B denies the divinity of Christ.
Option C has definite elements of Sabellianism and Modalism.
Option D is the orthodox belief.

Or in other words…

Option A) is Nestorianism.
Option B) is Subordinationism
Option C) is Semi-Nestorianism
Option D) is Trinitarianism

5)  In your discussion with Mario Derksen, you postulated the following: "'divine person' is just another way of saying 'person with a divine nature'. Yet, the instant the incarnation occurred, the "person" in question was something more-namely, he was a 'person with a divine nature and a human nature'".   Consequently, you believe that since Jesus had a human nature and a divine nature, He is something more than just a divine person.  He is, according to you,  a ‘human and divine’ person.  But, humor me for just a moment, won’t you?  Can you please cite one Pope, one Council, one Church Father (or any heretic for that matter), one Reformer, or anyone in history who held or holds to the explicit formula that you are proposing; namely, that Jesus was a ‘human and divine person’? [The orthodox belief, of course, while not explicitly mentioning ‘divine person’ prior to the ninth century, still implicitly recognized this truth in its concilliar decrees.  That explains, of course, why this belief has survived to this day unopposed within the Church.]

6)  Even under your new construction of Christ as a 'human and divine person', that new formulation does not detract from His full divinity. Jesus is still a FULLY DIVINE person under your own formula - albeit not only a fully divine person.  In other words, His human person does not detract from His divine person; that is,  His human nature does not detract from His divine nature.

Now then, if Jesus is a truly divine person and Mary is the Mother of this 'human and divine person', then she is, by your own formulation, still the Mother of God. If she gave birth to Jesus, then she also gave birth to His person since ‘Jesus’ and His person cannot be dissolved.  Yet, the numerical identity of His person is one not two! So either Mary gave birth to His person and what is joined in it (even if the divine nature is remotely generated by God Himself) or she did not.  To say that she did not give birth to His person is absurd; to say that she did necessitates giving birth to His fully divine person means that Mary is truly the Mother of God.

Moreover, you said:  “Yet, the instant the incarnation occurred, the "person" in question was something more-namely, he was a 'person with a divine nature and a human nature'  Fine then.  The person was something more, but He was certainly NOT LESS!!!!  In other words, Mary gave birth to something more than God; namely, a human, but this fact does not impugn or diminish the Divinity of Jesus. Consequently, Mary is still the Mother of God.

Indeed, it is rather amusing that you are under the false impression that St. Augustine somehow supports your view and opposes mine.   This is made apparent by your selective citations of St. Augustine’s comments of the Gospel of John, which, you allege, are refuting Apollinarianism and hence my position.  Although this is obviously bunk on both counts as I will show later on, it was with extreme glee that, whilst reading one of his chapters, I came across what I just finished telling you in the preceding paragraph:

“When we see, therefore, such deeds wrought by Jesus God, why should we wonder at water being turned into wine by the man Jesus? For He was not made man in such manner that He lost His being God. Man was added to Him, God not lost to Him.” (Tract. in Ioannem, Tractate VIII (3))

In light of your position on this question, I really don't think you understood what the Catholic Church taught by its definition of the "theotokos", at least not before you started to engage us 'e-pologists', because, if you had, you never would have said this:

“Mary in no way gave birth to Jesus' divine nature, and hence, cannot legitimately be called 'mother of God'.”

“…Evangelicals rightly reject this syllogism based on the distinction between Jesus' humanity (which was "mothered" by Mary) and Jesus' divinity (which had no mother).”

If you mean ‘mother’ to be the generator of Jesus’ divinity, then the Catholic Church rejects this teaching (obviously).  If you mean ‘mother’ to be the bearer/birther of Jesus’ divinity, then the Catholic Church affirms this belief.  The Church has never taught that Mary generated the divine nature so the distinction you postulate between Evangelicals and Catholics is irrelevant to this discussion.  If you believe that the Church has taught this, then please provide the evidence.  The fact is:  the Catholic Church has never taught this…ever.  What the Catholic Church teaches is that, by virtue of the hypostatic union which could never be dissolved, Mary gave birth to the Immutable and divine person of Jesus Christ, who, because He had both a human and divine nature, was fully God and fully Man.  By virtue of this fact alone, she is properly the Mother of God and not, as you say, because she 'gave birth to Jesus' divine nature'.  Hence, your comment reveals a complete misunderstanding, or worse - a ridiculous caricature, of the Church's teaching on the subject which, sorry to say, does not reflect well on your scholarship.

“Therefore, because the holy virgin bore in the flesh God who was united hypostatically with the flesh, for that reason we call her mother of God, not as though the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh (for "the Word was in the beginning and the Word was God and the Word was with God", and he made the ages and is coeternal with the Father and craftsman of all things), but because, as we have said, he united to himself hypostatically the human and underwent a birth according to the flesh from her womb.”  (Council of Ephesus, Third letter of Cyril to Nestorius, 431 A.D.)

7) A question for you, Dr. Svendsen:   Did Mary give physical birth to the Son of God?  If she did, then does that make her the ‘Mother of the Son of God’?  If she did *not* give birth to the Son of God, to whom did she give physical birth?

PART C - Fully Man

In regards to guarding Jesus’ full humanity, you offered these comments:

“…a person who lacks a human nous (spirit and intellect) cannot truly be a man. And if Jesus is not truly a man, but merely God with a "human" nature, then He does not qualify to atone for our sins. The substitutionary atonement requires that Jesus is fully man--flesh, intellect and spirit--not simply God in a "human flesh" suit (or the inadequate phrase, "God cloaked in human flesh").

Jesus is not only a divine person with a divine nature.  In addition to His divine and human natures, He has a human body, soul, and will.   As previously discussed, your difficulty, Dr. Svendsen, is in failing to grasp that a divine person may possess a human nature, soul, will, and body, and it is these elements, apart from a ‘human person’, that determine the fullness of humanity.

To be ‘fully human’, therefore, is not dependent on the existence of a human person.  In principle, being 'fully human' or 'fully divine' is predicated on the nature of the being in question - not on His personhood.  God the Father would still be God (albeit not the Father) if there were no other persons in the Trinity precisely BECAUSE of His NATURE.  So, it is His nature (or substance) which determines the fullness of His divinity or humanity, not the existence (or lack thereof) of a person (which signifies an opposition of relation only). Likewise, then, in the case of humans, it is the nature, not the necessity of being a person, that makes him "fully human". 

PART D - St. Augustine

In response to my rebuttal of your submission to the Nestorius Challenge, you said this:  “The author of the "challenge" (John Pacheco of Robert Sungenis' Catholic Apologetics International) goes to great lengths to refute and chastise Augustine and Gregory the Great (classifying Augustine and Gregory the great among "those who wish to arbitrarily dissolve the hypostatic union at the birth of Christ," and using "tactics" that "separate the divinity of Christ from His person"; of being "Un-Trinitarian," and of "contradicting Scripture") without being aware of just who he is chastising--He even goes so far as to refer to Augustine (though he doesn't know it is Augustine) as "our Protestant brother"! Indeed : ).”

Cheeky and cute.  I like that.  But I hope you can take it as good as you can give it.   I took the time to read the entire chapter of the largest source you cite:  St. Augustine’s commentary on St. John, Chapter 8.  Far from ‘refuting’ St. Augustine, I happened to agree with him on everything he says if read in context.  After all,  he was a Catholic Bishop and is venerated as a Great Doctor of the Church.  I particularly like this comment of his:

“…had Jesus then come to the marriage in order to dishonor His mother, when marriages are celebrated and wives married with the view of having children, whom God commands to honor their parents? (Tract. in Ioannem, Tractate VIII (5))

You continue:  “Our challenger then hits Augustine with a barrage of questions to point out his "error." I fully expect, now that the cat's out of the bag that it was Augustine he was "correcting," that the response will now be modified in some way. All interested parties should hurry there if they want to be certain they are reading the original response.”

I do not wish to digress from my theological discussion into debating what Augustine did or did not believe. However, since you are providing our readers with such an unsuccessful attempt to massage St. Augustine’s commentary on St. John by using selective writings as a pretext for a position that St. Augustine never held, it is incumbent on me to provide at least some brief context to his remarks.

Augustine addresses in detail and in substance:  Manichĉism, Donatism, Pelagianism, and Arianism which were all heresies alive and well during his time, but there is nothing at all on Apollinarianism.  On the other hand, however, there is much evidence of him engaging the other heresies during his time.   Here is a brief summary of his writings on them:

Controversies with Heretics

1) Against the Manichĉans:
"De Moribus Ecclesiĉ Catholicĉ et de Moribus Manichĉorum" (at Rome, 368);
"De Duabus Animabus" (before 392);
"Acts of the Dispute with Fortunatus the Manichĉan" (392);
"Acts of the Conference with Felix" (404);
"De Libero Arbitrio" -- very important on the origin of evil;
various writings Contra Adimantum";
against the Epistle of Mani (the foundation);
against Faustus (about 400);
against Secundinus (405), etc.

2) Against the Donatists:
"Psalmus contra partem Donati" (about 395), a purely rhythmic song for popular use (the oldest example of its kind);
"Contra epistolam Parmeniani" (400);
"De Baptismo contra Donatistas" (about 400), one of the most important pieces in this controversy;
"Contra litteras Parmeniani,"
"Contra Cresconium,"
a good number of letters, also, relating to this debate.

3) Against the Pelagians, in chronological order, we have:
412, "De peccatorum meritis et remissione" (On merit and forgiveness);
same year, "De spiritu et litterâ" (On the spirit and the letter);
415, "De Perfectione justitiĉ hominis" -- important for understanding Pelagian impeccability;
417, "De Gestis Pelagii" -- a history of the Council of Diospolis, whose acts it reproduces;
418, "De Gratiâ Christi et de peccato originali";
419, "De nuptiis et concupiscentiâ" and other writings (420-428);
"Against Julian of Eclanum" -- the last of this series, interrupted by the death of the saint.

4) Against the Semipelagians:
"De correptione et gratiâ" (427);
"De prĉdestinatione Sanctorum" (428);
"De Done Perseverantiĉ" (429).

5)  Against Arianism:
"Contra sermonem Arianorum" (418) and
"Collattio cum Maximino Arianorum episcopo" (the celebrated conference of Hippo in 428).

So now we come to the selective references you have provided from your website, mostly from St. Augustine’s commentary on St. John.  I am unclear as to why you have situated St. Augustine’s comments within your charge of Apollinarianism since these comments are irrelevant to the heresy of Apollinarianism.   Perhaps you are aware of this, and you just included St. Augustine’s comments without any context.  Or worse, you did indeed intend his comments to address Apollinarianism.  Regardless, your selection hardly refutes the Catholic view in either case.

Augustine started to really engage the heresies of his day about the same time that Apollinarianism was dying out.  The heresy that Apollinaris initiated did not survive much past his death in 392 A.D.  “His following, at one time considerable in Constantinople, Syria, and Phoenicia, hardly survived him. Some few disciples, like Vitalis, Valentinus, Polemon, and Timothy, tried to perpetuate the error of the master…The sect itself soon became extinct. Towards 416, many returned to the mother-Church, while the rest drifted away into Monophysitism.”  (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908, cf. Apollinarianism).  Hence, it was unlikely that Augustine’s comments taken *in context* would be addressing Apollinarianism which brings me to my second point….

The selections you provided from St. Augustine do not have anything to do with Apollinarianism.
On your website you posted this selection from St. Augustine’s “Tractates on St. John” allegedly, you claim,  in support of the context of Apollinarianism:

 “Why, then, said the Son to the mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come?" Our Lord Jesus Christ was both God and man. According as He was God, He had not a mother; according as He was man, He had. She was the mother, then, of His flesh, of His humanity, of the weakness which for our sakes He took upon Him. But the miracle which He was about to do, He was about to do according to His divine nature, not according to His weakness; according to that wherein He was God not according to that wherein He was born weak. But the weakness of God is stronger than men.   His mother then demanded a miracle of Him; but He, about to perform divine works, so far did not recognize a human womb; saying in effect, "That in me which works a miracle was not born of thee, thou gavest not birth to my divine nature; but because my weakness was born of thee, I will recognize thee at the time when that same weakness shall hang upon the cross." This, indeed, is the meaning of "Mine hour is not yet come." …How then was He both David's son and David's Lord? David's son according to the flesh, David's Lord according to His divinity; so also Mary's son after the flesh, and Mary's Lord after His majesty. Now as she was not the mother of His divine nature, whilst it was by His divinity the miracle she asked for would be wrought, therefore He answered her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?". TRACTATES ON JOHN (Tract. in Ioannem), Tractate VIII (9)

Yet, can you explain to me that, if indeed the context of the above selection is Apollinarianism, why the VERY PRECEDING PARAGRAPH says it is against the Manichĉans?

“Now then, if it seem good, brethren, those men being repulsed, and ever wandering in their own blindness, unless in humility they be healed, let us inquire why our Lord answered His mother in such a manner. He was in an extraordinary manner begotten of the Father without a mother, born of a mother without a father; without a mother He was God, without a father He was man; without a mother before all time, without a father in the end of times. What He said was said in answer to His mother, for "the mother of Jesus was there," and "His mother said unto Him." All this the Gospel says. It is there we learn that "the mother of Jesus was there," just where we learn that He said unto her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come." Let us believe the whole; and what we do not yet understand, let us search out. And first take care, lest perhaps, as the Manicaeans found occasion for their falsehood, because the Lord said, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" the astrologers in like manner may find occasion for their deception, in that He said, "Mine hour is not yet come."…. TRACTATES ON JOHN (Tract. in Ioannem), Tractate VIII (8)

Is it not clear that his comments in (9) are about protecting the truth about the humanity of Jesus in light of (8)?  For, as you should know, Mani's teachings were purely Docetic in theology.  He held that all of Christ’s human actions only appeared to be human, but were really not.  One can easily see that, in order to repudiate this false view of Christ, Augustine had to use strong and rather extreme (although not inaccurate if understood in the orthodox context) language to convince Mani’s disciples that Christ was, in fact, fully human.  It is simply inexcusable for anyone to ignore the context of Augustine’s teaching against Manichĉism with its focus on defending Christ’s humanity, and THEN have the audacity to place it in opposition to the orthodox position which tries to defend His Divinity!  Really, Dr. Svendsen.  Your attempt to manufacture a fictional context has no basis in fact or history, and therefore nothing in Augustine’s commentary on St. John contradict the Church’s teaching if read in context.

PART E - God Died

“What is instead "heretical" (biblically and historically) is the e-pologist's notion that Jesus was not a human person. This same e-pologist [Mario Derksen], in the very next paragraph and in complete contradiction of Chalcedon, answers the question of whether or not Jesus' divine nature is passable:  The perhaps astounding but solidly Catholic answer to [the question of whether or not it can be said that "God died"] is YES! And I am quite surprised that throughout his sincere study of Roman Catholic theology, it is a little hothead like me who has to point out to him that this is what the Church teaches." Perhaps this is what the Roman church teaches today, but it is certainly not what the fifth-century church taught in its condemnation of the Monophysite heresy. The e-pologist, like his colleagues, has simply resurrected the Monophysite heresy and called it "[Roman] Catholicism 102." In doing so, he has placed his entire denomination under the condemnation of Augustine, Gregory the Great, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Athanasius, the Western church in 377 A.D., the Eastern church in 388 A.D., the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D.”

It never ceases to amaze me how Protestants can, on the one hand, affirm with vehement insistence that the Scriptures are the ‘sole rule of faith’, while on the other hand remain completely oblivious to the fact that they cite other authorities to ultimately and effectively define their positions which address concepts like soul, person, will, nature, substance, relations, etc. which are not explicitly and certainly not plainly taught in the bible.

Dr. Svendsen, why don’t you just stick to the bible to defend your position?  Why is it necessary to refer to Catholic Councils, Bishops, and Popes in order to buttress the ‘orthodox view’ to which you think you espouse?  Where is ‘person’ or ‘substance’ or ‘natures of Christ’ or the ‘wills of Christ’ and their inter-relationships described in the bible?  Here is a selection of the extra-biblical sources you cite:

“The view eventually decided upon at the councils of Chalcedon and Ephesus was that God and man were indissolubly united in the person of Jesus Christ…”

“This view of Apollinaris was directly opposed by Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus and Athanasius, was rejected by the Western church in 377 A.D., by the Eastern church a decade later, and was eventually condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D.”

And on you go on….

“According to the framers of the council….’
“…the council affirms its stance against the Monophysite heresy…”
“The council expressly condemns the view that the divine nature is passable…”
“Augustine states the following…”
“Augustine here denies that…”
“Augustine shares the same sentiment elsewhere…”
“Clearly, Augustine made a distinction between…”
“Both Gregory and Augustine share the view…”
“I provided the excepts from Augustine's writings above (as well as those from Gregory the Great)…”

Thank you very much for that litany of resourceful Catholic tradition.  Now, let me share something with you from one of the Councils you cite:

 “If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore that the holy virgin is the mother of God for she bore in a fleshly way the Word of God become flesh, let him be anathema.” [Anathemas of the Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.), #1]

“So, following the saintly fathers, we all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards His divinity, and the same consubstantial with us as regards His humanity; like us in all respects except for sin; begotten before the ages from the Father as regards His divinity, and in the last days the same for us and for our salvation from Mary, the virgin God-bearer as regards His humanity; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation; at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being; he is not parted or divided into two persons, but is one and the same only-begotten Son, God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as the prophets taught from the beginning about him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ himself instructed us, and as the creed of the fathers handed it down to us.” [Council of Chalcedon, 451 A.D.]

And, I must say, I am thoroughly edified that you support those venerable Fathers of the Holy Catholic Faith, which you so generously pro-offered above, in opposing such a dangerous heresy during their time.  But now, Dr. Svendsen, won’t you now join with me in affirming what THESE SAME FATHERS affirm about Mary:

“Just as in the time of Mary, the Mother of God (theotokos)….” [St. Gregory of Nyssa, Virginity, 13-14.  St. Gregory was the younger brother of  Basil of Caesara, one of your patristic sources above.]

“If anyone does not agree that Holy Mary is the Mother of God (theotokos), he is at odds with the Godhead.” [St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Letter of Gregory to Cledonius the Priest, Against Apollinaris, 101]

“The Word begotten of the Father from on high, inexpressibly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly and eternally, is He that is born in time here below of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God (theotokos)…[St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word and Against the Arians, 8]

Since, of course, a mother is, by definition, the bearer of a subject (in this case a person), it follows that Mary is truly ‘Mother of God’ since Jesus is truly ONE person.

The following link represents my position quite well:


Please note the source.   The gentleman in question, I would suspect, is closer to your doctrinal sensitivities on the majority of other issues than he would be to mine.

But I’m getting off track here.  I digress…..

Let me address your charge that we ‘e-pologists’ believe that Jesus’ divine nature is ‘passable’.  First, let us be precise and state what the Council actually taught in this respect:

“But there are those who are trying to ruin the proclamation of the truth, and through their private heresies they have spawned novel formulas:

i) some by daring to corrupt the mystery of the Lord's economy on our behalf, and refusing to apply the word "God-bearer" to the Virgin; and

[Dr. Svendsen, are you a ‘corrupter of the mystery of the Lord’s economy’ by refusing to apply ‘theotokos’ to Mary?]

ii) others by introducing a confusion and mixture, and mindlessly imagining that there is a single nature of the flesh and the divinity, and fantastically supposing that in the confusion the divine nature of the Only-begotten is passable…

“It is opposed to those who attempt to tear apart the mystery of the economy into a duality of sons; and it expels from the assembly of the priests those who dare to say that the divinity of the Only-begotten is passable…”

So it is rather clear from the Council, as you rightly point out, that it is incompatible with the Catholic faith to believe that the divinity of Jesus is passable.  But what does passable mean?

Well, let’s start with what it CANNOT mean.

Passable cannot mean that Jesus’ hypostatic union was dissolved.  When Jesus died, His natures could not be separated from each other or His person.  What one nature ‘went through’, the other did as well.   Moreover, Jesus always beheld the Beatific vision so it is impossible that a separation from God could take place either.  Therefore, death does not and could not mean that Jesus’ divine and human natures were separated at death so that only Jesus’ human nature died.  If that were the case, the resurrection would be stripped of its significance since the Redemption of Man by the Incarnate Word would be completely saturated of its power of reconciling God and Man.  The only thing that death did was to separate Jesus’ soul from His body - and then only temporarily.  Hence, in order to hold that the divine nature must stay united with the human nature as Jesus’ soul leaves His body through death, then one is forced to conclude that God did die insofar as His divinity stayed united with His humanity.

This teaching is confirmed by Ephesus:

“If anyone does not confess that the Word of God suffered in the flesh and was crucified in the flesh and tasted death in the flesh and became the first born of the dead, although as God he is life and life-giving, let him be anathema.” [Anathemas of the Council of Ephesus, 12]

Earlier I stated that the natures of Christ do not determine his personhood since that is a function of the opposition within the Trinity. However, without the subsistence of a nature, there would be no nature (substance) to the person which is an impossibility. Therefore, while personhood is determined by the opposition, it cannot exist without the nature. Hence, in a limited sense, personhood is ‘activated’ by the subsistence of a nature.   If a nature subsists in the subject and an opposition exists, then the subject is a person.  Hence, the human nature of Christ does not exist in subsistence ( per se seorsum), but only in assumption (in alio) of the divine person.  That is why the human nature of Christ is not a person:  while the humanity of Christ is complete and total because of His human nature, it is not a person since it is not a subsistence; that is, not per se seorsum subsistens.   This is the same principle, for instance, which allows us to maintain that the three persons are God because of the subsistence of God in them.  If God did not subsist in the three persons, then they would not be God.  The distinction, therefore, between subsistence of a nature and the assumption of it is a critical one in Catholic theology.  Catholicism, therefore, holds to an assumption of the human nature by the divine person and not a subsistence of it: “the human nature is assumed into the unity and dominion of the divine person, so that the divine person operates in the human nature and through the human nature as its organ.” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, p.144)

This, of course, is consistent with the language of the early councils.  That is why, for instance, the Council of Ephesus did not say that Christ’s human nature “subsisted” in His person but used language denoting “assumption” only:

“If anyone dares to say that the man who was assumed ought to be worshipped and glorified together with the divine Word and be called God along with him, while being separate from him, (for the addition of "with" must always compel us to think in this way), and will not rather worship Emmanuel with one veneration and send up to him one doxology, even as "the Word became flesh", let him be anathema.” [Anathemas of the Council of Ephesus, 8]

“He did not cast aside what he was, but although he assumed flesh and blood, he remained what he was, God in nature and truth.” [Third letter of Cyril to Nestorius -read at the Council of Ephesus and included in the proceedings]

Furthermore, there are other Trinitarian truths that must be considered:

A human soul is not a person. (Or else Christ would be two persons since he was a person before he possessed a human soul.)

A human nature is not a person. (Or else Christ would be two persons since he has two natures)

The human soul belongs to the human nature as a part of it and vice versa. (Or else there would be no way of determining what kind of ‘soul’ it was (i.e. animal, human, etc.)).

Aquinas taught the following:  “Now in the death of Christ, although the soul was separated from the body, yet neither was separated from the person of the Son of God…Consequently, it must be affirmed that during the three days of Christ's death the whole Christ was in the tomb, because the whole person was there through the body united with Him, and likewise He was entirely in hell, because the whole person of Christ was there by reason of the soul united with Him, and the whole Christ was then everywhere by reason of the divine nature.”  (See attached Appendix)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church further supports Aquinas’ view (not of course that you would accept the Catechism, but I provide it to you here as a matter of interest only):

"Christ's death was a real death in that it put an end to His earthly human existence. But because of the union His body retained with the person of the Son, His was not a mortal corpse like others, for 'divine power preserved Christ's body from corruption.'[St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 51, 3.] Both of these statements can be said of Christ: 'He was cut off out of the land of the living',[Is 53:8 .] and 'My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my SOUL to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption.'[Acts 2:26-27 ; cf. Ps 16:9-10 .] Jesus' RESURRECTION 'on the third day' was the proof of this, for bodily decay was held to begin on the fourth day after death.[Cf. 1 Cor 15:4 ; Lk 24:46 ; Mt 12:40 ; Jon 2:1; Hos 6:2 ; cf. Jn 11:39 .]" (CCC, 627)
"The Fathers contemplate the RESURRECTION from the perspective of the divine person of Christ who remained united to His SOUL and body, even when these were separated from each other by death: 'By the unity of the divine nature, which remains present in each of the two components of man, these are reunited. For as death is produced by the separation of the human components, so RESURRECTION is achieved by the union of the two.'[St. Gregory of Nyssa, In Christi res. Orat. I: PG 46, 617B; cf. Also DS 325; 359; 369.]"  (CCC, 650)

So then, it is clear.  The fact that:

Christ’s human nature and divine nature could not be separated.
Christ’s human nature could not be separated from His soul or His person. His person, natures, and soul descended to hell

Therefore, insofar as His soul separated itself from His body and insofar as His person was joined to His soul in descending into hell, it can be affirmed that God did die.

Therefore, since we have discovered what ‘passable’ cannot mean, what does it, in fact, mean?  Simply put, impassability simply means ‘immutability’.  This is the reason why the human nature did not subsist in the Son and why the Son only assumed a human nature.  Nothing can ‘penetrate’ and change God so there could be no mixture or confusion of the subsistence of the divine nature in the person of Christ.

Moreover, impassability typically refers to all those general defects associated with the body including hunger, thirst, weariness, sleep, suffering, and eventually, dissolution, death, and decay.  While both Christ’s human nature and divine nature were subject to and could experience such things, it is only the human nature that could be changed substantially by them.  Because of its immutability, the divine nature obviously could not be so affected.

Some closing remarks

Thank you for the opportunity for deepening my understanding of the splendid truths of the Catholic faith.  It was a great pleasure for me to see the Catholic faith once again vindicated and glorified in all of its magnificent thought. The preceding paper was intended as a theological critique of your position only.   No personal insults were intended.

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
July 18, 2001