Chalcedonian Entanglements

English: A diagram showing the Monophysite vie...
English: A diagram showing the Monophysite view of Christ: One nature, which is neither fully human, nor fully divine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, many today seem to insist upon the finality of our modern ideas. If it is new, it is without suspicion. If it is old, historic, or another adjective used to immediately cast doubt upon its value, then it is pointless. It is disproven. It is antiquated. Thus, many seek to find value in the ever changing thought processes of our modern society. They miss so much.

Yesterday, I was challenged to ponder something by world renowned theoretical physicist and Orthodox scholar, Richard Rohr. He writes,

Jesus was fully human, just as he was fully divine at the same time, but dualistic thinkers find that impossible to process, so they usually just choose one side or the other (Jesus is divine and we are human, missing the major point of putting them together!). Matter and Spirit must be found to be inseparable in Christ before we have the courage and insight to acknowledge and honor the same in ourselves and in the entire universe. Jesus is the Archetype of Everything.

He then quotes an actual Orthodox Scholar (Olivier Clément) who would believe and understand Chalcedonian theology. But, Rohr goes on.

Unfortunately, at the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451), this view–the single, unified nature of Christ–was rejected for the “orthodox” belief, held to this day by most Christian denominations, that emphasizes two distinct natures in Jesus instead of one new synthesis. Sometimes what seems like orthodoxy is, in fact, a well-hidden heresy!

Say what now?

Here is a Catholic Priest (Rohr) who has sworn to uphold Catholic doctrine calling Chalcedon a “well-hidden heresy.” Truth be told, I was never really a fan of Chalcedon and somewhat follow N.T. Wright on the matter. However, I am not a Catholic nor an Orthodox, and specifically I am not a priest sworn to uphold the doctrinal and liturgical teachings of those ancient communions.

Rohr goes on (and up?) into quantum physics, something I’m not sure he is uniquely qualified to do. He writes:

Perhaps quantum physics can help us reclaim what we’ve lost because our dualistic minds couldn’t understand or experience the living paradox that Jesus represents. Now science is confirming there is no clear division between matter and spirit. Everything is interpenetrating. As Franciscan scientist and theologian Ilia Delio says, “We are in the universe and the universe is in us.” Christ’s very nature mirrors this universal reality, that we are all one, just as he is one within himself. The Church formally believed in “The Indwelling Spirit” (e.g., Romans 5:5, John 14:17), but for most Christians no dynamic or practical theology of the Holy Spirit was ever developed. S/he remained the forgotten person of the Blessed Trinity, and God remained external and foreign to the human experience.

You can read the total writing here. 1

There is an issue with the use of quantum physics. No, not that science and religion is at odds, but that I think Rohr is using it wrong. There are notions of quantum entanglements that contradicts Rohr’s assumptions:

Individual subatomic particles, such as photons, do not exist in single, well-defined states like on-off light switches. Rather, they exist as a superposition of states. Experiments show, for example, that prior to observation (i.e., definitive interaction with a large-scale system) a photon can actually have more than one polarization at once and be in more than one place at once. Not only can individual particles exist in superposed or ambiguous states prior to observation, but the superposed states of pairs, triplets, or larger groups of particles can be related to each other by means of entanglement. Entanglement arises because the superposed states of particles that have interacted directly retain a definite, permanent relationship even after the particles have separated. Two entangled photons, for example, may be sent to two different detectors, A and B. Individually the photons do not, while in transit, have definite polarizations. When the polarization of one of the photons is collapsed to a definite value by measurement at detector A, however, photon, bound for detector B, instantly takes on the opposite polarization. There is no delay; the effect is truly instantaneous.

Rather than Rohr, what about Dr. Holder, astrophysicst and priest,

Quantum holism, as demonstrated by the EPR [Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen] thought experiment, is analogous to this. The electron and positron, though distinct and widely separated, yet form a unified quantum system (Polkinghorne 2004, 73ff.; 2010).

According to the Chalcedonian definition, our Lord Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He is one person, the Son of God, but with two natures, divine and human. This reminds us of the wave-particle duality of subatomic particles discussed above. An electron is one thing but possesses both particle and wave properties. (Rodney Holder, The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity220-230)

Now, let me borrow the words of an actual theoretical physicist and Anglican priest, John Polkinghorne:

Others have wished to break the Chalcedonian bounds and to speak of Jesus in human terms as a man inspired by God, and in obedient union with God, to an unparalleled degree. The difference between him and us then becomes a question of intensity rather than ontological distinction. This leads to a kind of functional Christology in which the purpose of Jesus is on the one hand to allow the divine love and power so to transfigure his life that God’s nature is made visible to us (“a window into God”) and on the other hand so to show us the possibilities of a human life truly lived in communion with God that we are led to seek to share in this experience. This is a view that has appealed to some scientist-theologians, often phrased in evolutionary language. Jesus is described as “the new emergent,” the pioneer of the latest development in the upward unfolding of human possibility. Ian Barbour writes in this way and to some extent so does Arthur Peacocke.

There are echoes here of some of the language used in the epistle to the Hebrews (for example, Heb. 2:10, but note also 1:3), but I do not find this way of thinking to be adequate to the witness of the New Testament as a whole. I believe that the insights of a functional Christology ask some of the relevant questions but they do not provide the right answers. The work of Christ (what he achieves) is certainly the clue to the nature of Christ. A scientist framing a theory has first to decide what are the phenomena that must be included and explained. The same is true for Christology. Its agenda is set by the functions that Christ fulfils, but a list of these functions is not itself a Christology. (40–41)

And suddenly, I am Chalcedonian. I admit, I am on a journey into orthodoxy (or maybe even Orthodoxy?). As such, I find myself learning new things. For instance, the lack of a solid Chalcedonian foundation could allow for us to see Jesus as nothing more than human — or as not human at all. Indeed, fundamentalists often forget just how human Jesus was.

Thus, the Chalcedonian definition is necessary so as to avoid either a bifurcated Jesus or a Jesus devoid of either his humanity of his Godhead. Indeed, Rohr is mistaken. Chalcedon does not promote dualism, but ends it:

If the person of Christ is the highest mode of conjunction between God and man, God and the world, the Chalcedonian ‘without confusion’ and ‘without separation’ shows the right mean between monism and dualism, the two extremes between which the history of christology also swings. The Chalcedonian unity of person in the distinction of natures provides the dogmatic basis for the preservation of the divine transcendence, which must always be a feature of the Christian concept of God. But is also shows the possibility of a complete immanence on which the biblical doctrine of the economy of salvation rests. The Chalcedonian definition may seem to have a static-ontic ring, but it is not meant to do away with the salvation-historical aspect of biblical christology, for which, in fact, it provides a foundation and deeper insights. (Aloys Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, p. 491.)

This song below always calls me to remember the humanity of Jesus. And it is bluegrass. If you don’t love bluegrass, you don’t love Jesus.

  1. By the way, Ilia Delio relies on and heavily promotes the work of Teilhard de Chardin, a Roman Catholic Priest now with the Church Triumphant. I would classify him as a mystic, no less — and wonder if in a few centuries we will not recognize him next to Bruno and Eckhart.

Considering forsaking the #UMC for the #ACNA to preserve “Wesleyan Traditionalism?”

Recently, a former UMCer-turned-North-American-Anglican suggested that the “traditionalists” (if a schism were to occur) could find a home in the Anglican Church in North America, even if it meant women could not be ordained. Sure, they could minister, but the full ordination must be prevented. I lol’d his statement because a Wesleyan Traditionalist should uphold the equal ordination of men and women. He quickly blocked me.

It you notice, he mentions the possibility of a split in the ACNA due to women’s ordination. However, he has no issue bringing in Wesleyan Traditionalists from a schism into the ACNA.

Out of the pot, into the frying pan, I guess.

But, in the meantime – before the split in the ACNA, all you have to do is to give up the right for women to be ordained.

By the way, the ACNA does allow women’s ordination to be considered a local matter. They can be ordained — if the male bishop decides to allow such a process in his jurisdiction — to either the diaconate or the presbytery but not as a bishop. This is against Wesleyan Tradition, by the way.

But, I want to bring in another facet. Anglicans (and Wesleyans, Evangelicals, and others) count as one of their theological heroes the former Bishop of Durham, the Rev. N.T. Wright. Indeed, while I may disagree with him on a few things, I view him as someone who is essential to my own development as a believing scholar and as quintessential in the redevelopment of the Western church (someone pick Jim West off the floor).

He has a new book out: Surprised by Scripture. In it, he takes to task those who would read Scripture against the prospect of ordaining women into the ministry. You have to remember, Wright was the largest proponent of forcing the Church of England into ordaining women.

He has numerous statements littering the internet about this very thing. Such as this,

This above video is representative of what is said in the book. See Scot McKnight’s take here. Wright has and does and will always argue for an ad fontes! in respect to women’s equality in the Church. And I believe he is correct.

While a more “traditional” (i.e., conservative — they aren’t the same thing) church may be favored by some in the UMC, to do so you have to actually forsake the tradition of Wesley. We can trace our views on women’s equal service in the church to Wesley himself. Our Methodist predecessors ordained women. It is enshrined in our Methodist DNA. To forsake such a thing is one thing, but it is entirely grievous to both God and ourselves to suggest that women should be satisfied to be allowed to be paid and to minister but to never achieve equality.

So, before you go, conservative Methodists, take a look to where you are going. Understand what you have to give up — some of the very things that make you Wesleyan — in order to protect what you think is Wesleyan.

Farewell, N.T. Wright – Or, can we have him back from the American Evangelicals now?

My book on scripture’s authority, Scripture and the Authority of God, makes clear where I stand. I take the whole of scripture utterly seriously, and I regret that many who call themselves “inerrantists” manage to avoid the real challenge at its heart, that is, Jesus’ announcing that in and through his work God really was “becoming king” over the world in a whole new way. So I don’t call myself an “inerrantist” (a) because that word means what it means within a modernist rationalism, which I reject and (b) because it seems to me to have failed in delivering a full-blooded reading and living of what the Bible actually says. It may have had a limited usefulness as a label against certain types of “modernist” denial, but it buys into at least half of the rationalist worldview which was the real problem all along.

via N.T. Wright on the Bible and why he won’t call himself an inerrantist | On Faith & Culture.

He’s said this before — numerous places; however, it is nice to see him affirming it again. Read the whole interview.

in the mail from @fortresspress – Paul and the Faithfulness of God

Whether or not you hate him or love him, Tom Wright has made a solid impact on 20th and 21st century New Testament studies. He leads the charge in the New Perspective(s) on Paul as well as uniting Athens and Jerusalem. I am looking forward to digging into what is going to be a massive tidal wave of Pauline scholarship mixed with Wrightian theology.

This highly anticipated two-book fourth volume in N. T. Wright’s magisterial series, Christian Origins and the Question of God, is destined to become the standard reference point on the subject for all serious students of the Bible and theology. The mature summation of a lifetime’s study, this landmark book pays a rich tribute to the breadth and depth of the apostle’s vision, and offers an unparalleled wealth of detailed insights into his life, times, and enduring impact.

Wright carefully explores the whole context of Paul’s thought and activity— Jewish, Greek and Roman, cultural, philosophical, religious, and imperial— and shows how the apostle’s worldview and theology enabled him to engage with the many-sided complexities of first-century life that his churches were facing. Wright also provides close and illuminating readings of the letters and other primary sources, along with critical insights into the major twists and turns of exegetical and theological debate in the vast secondary literature. The result is a rounded and profoundly compelling account of the man who became the world’s first, and greatest, Christian theologian.

Not a single statement, Ken? Surely you jest @AiG

David and Bathsheba by Jan Matsys, 1562, Louvre
David and Bathsheba by Jan Matsys, 1562, Louvre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, in a rant against scholastic investigation into Scripture, Ken Ham makes the startling statement:

Now, there is not a single statement in Scripture affirming polygamy…

Hold up there, Kenny. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. Unless, of course, you are going to redefine words.

Are statements affirming polygamy found in Scripture?

I mean, we have 2 Samuel 12.1-11 where God chastises David through the Prophet Nathan about the incident with Bathsheba. Several statements affirm polygamy is God’s gift to David (2 Samuel 12.8) and that the removal of polygamy from David is a sign of God’s anger (2 Samuel 12.11).

Then, you have the book of Hosea wherein God commands the prophet to marry two women with no mention of divorce.

Finally, God is pictured in Jeremiah 3.8 as married to Israel (the Northern Tribes) and Judah (the Southern Tribes).

Of course, maybe Ken is right. There is no single statement affirming polygamy, only a few.

(Also, by the time you get to the New Testament, polygamy was more than frowned upon, but the point of the post is to slightly mock the guy who doesn’t read Scripture, phd or not. In a previous offering, N.T. Wright shows how we understand polygamy as a biblical practice but how monogamy is the ideal — Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today)

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