Friday, December 18, 2009

David's Relationship to God

Vox Veritatis has some thoughts on the problems with the English expression "Mother of God." (link to comments) Of course, there is an orthodox sense to the term (the orthodox sense is that Mary was the mother of Jesus, who is God incarnate), but the resultant expression is awkward at best.

The only argument for the expression is that Jesus is God, Jesus is the Son of Mary, therefore Mary is the mother of God. But Jesus is also the Son of David. Any takers for calling David "the Father of God" or the "Ancestor of God"?

Unsurprisingly, there are few takers for this kind of expression. The reason why is intuitive. It just sounds inappropriate. It similarly sounds inappropriate to call Mary the Mother of God (to those of us who have not become desensitized to the expression), since she did not provide Jesus' divinity: only Jesus' humanity was taken from Mary.

- TurretinFan

18 comments:

natamllc said...

Yes, I would, qualified.

The point is well taken and I suppose that one matter was debated as well? I don't know as I am not all that read up on the matters of the RCC and the earliest debates that brought this foul doctrine, "the Mother" of God into existence?

David was the genealogical originator or progenitor of the same substance, "born" of a woman.

Equally profound to that reference to David in Scripture is this one by Jesus too:::>

Joh 8:57 So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"
Joh 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
Joh 8:59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

I might say, if they would instantly do that to Him then, staying the course, most likely they will instantly do that to us as well!

If one would want to go deeper and have a comprehensive knowledge of these Truths, the peculiarity of what we speak about here, one might consider a couple of verses like these two that I have in mind as well:::>

Pro 2:1 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,
Pro 2:2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
Pro 2:3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
Pro 2:4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
Pro 2:5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
Pro 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
Pro 2:7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
Pro 2:8 guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.

and

1Co 15:45 Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

I would ask you the question, you that ponder these things,

How is it that Jesus was before the dust that made Him?

John Bugay said...

The Council of Ephesus did use "Mater Theou" language as a translation for "Theotokos". Of course, the latter means "God-bearer," but the former has a slightly different shade of meaning.

Here is some of the history of that:

http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Councils/ecum03.htm

This is from the second letter of Cyril to Nestorius:

"This is the account of the true faith everywhere professed. So shall we find that the holy fathers believed. So have they dared to call the holy virgin, mother of God, not as though the nature of the Word or his godhead received the origin of their being from the holy virgin, but because there was born from her his holy body rationally ensouled, with which the Word was hypostatically united and is said to have been begotten in the flesh."

And this is the response he got from Nestorius:

"Holy scripture, wherever it recalls the Lord's economy, speaks of the birth and suffering not of the godhead but of the humanity of Christ, so that the holy virgin is more accurately termed mother of Christ than mother of God. Hear these words that the gospels proclaim: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham." It is clear that God the Word was not the son of David."

Of course the Council clearly condemned him for this:

1. 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.

(That was from the "Twelve Anathemas Propose By Cyril and Accepted By the Council")

There are translation issues, but the meaning of both Cyril and the Council are clear.

Nevertheless, the Council of Chalcedon, 20 years later, retained "Theotokos" and did not use "Mater Theou" in its description of Mary.

But that little bit of reserve did not hold.

John Bugay said...

TF: You said that "Mother of God" sounds inappropriate. But there are even Reformed believers who "have become desensitized to the expression," and even cite Confessions to the effect that the Council of Ephesus (which first ruled on that phrase) are entirely legitimate. I'm wondering if you have heard anything along those lines.

Viisaus said...

Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century opposed the then-novel idea of Mary's "Immaculate Conception" on the basis that it would be highly arbitrary to give ONLY Mary an immunity to original sin.

In consistency, that immunity should be extended to all other fleshly relations of Christ as well, and thus ultimately to Adam - and THAT would mean the end of whole Original Sin doctrine! We might thus well call the IC dogma as implicitly semi-Pelagian doctrine.

Philip Schaff noted:


"225 It is characteristic that the Dominicans and Jansenists, who sympathized with the Augustinian anthropology, opposed the Immaculate Conception; while the Franciscans and Jesuits, who advocated it, have a more or less decided inclination towards Pelagianizing theories, and reduce original sin to a loss of supernatural righteousness, i.e., something merely negative, so that it is much easier to make an exception in favor of Mary. The Jesuits, at least, have an intense hatred of Augustinian views on sin and grace, and have shown it in the Jansenist controversy."

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds1.vi.viii.html

Turretinfan said...

JB:

I found Turretin's explanation the best. That, and some more discussion, may be found at the following link (link to discussion).

-Turretinfan

John Bugay said...

TF: Thanks for the link and the explanation. But that raises some questions for me.

I have looked at the council of Ephesus from the standpoint that it was commandeered by Cyril, and it that it both ratified the "Mother of God" language and condemned Nestorius for his Christology. For those reasons, I have suggested that we ought to have very little respect for that council. (There are very many theologians these days who are saying that Nestorius didn't actually believe or teach what came to be known as "Nestorianism".

But I was chastised by several Reformed believers who both said that both Chalcedon and Calvin praised that council. (But to look at the events and proceedings, there is very little that is praiseworthy, and in fact, some have called its legality is "questionable" and its conduct "disgraceful."

Are you familiar with the council of Ephesus, and if so, why do you think that there are Reformed believers (including Calvin) who say that "we willingly embrace and reverence as holy....Ephesus... (Institutes 4.9.8)?

Turretinfan said...

It was a council of (as far as we know) at least mostly believers. It was a "holy council" in that sense. It wasn't infallible, and the particular issue here is one primarily of prudence, in any event. I don't recall Calvin using "mater dei" himself, though perhaps he did.

We don't consider usage of the term itself intrinsically sinful, just tending towards confusion.

-TurretinFan

John Bugay said...

I am just trying to say that there is a very large distance between the actual character of the council and the esteem with which it is held. That seems very strange to me.

Turretinfan said...

I have no idea to what extent folks like Calvin actually studied what went on at that council. If he dismissed claims of Cyril being a theological bully, then so be it. But if not, perhaps he was simply unaware of the reports.

Viisaus said...

You can read a pretty detailed description on the 431 Council of Ephesus in George Salmon's magnum opus "THE INFALLIBILITY OF
THE CHURCH". (See the link below)

Even though Salmon was an Anglican apologist, his position towards the authority of "ecumenical councils" was far from high-churchian servility. He clearly opposed Nestorianism as he understood it - but remember, modern scholarship says that Nestorius himself was not a "Nestorian":

http://www.archive.org/details/infallibilitych02salmgoog

p. 303

"We must be on our guard against the temptation to which party feeling exposes men, whether in religious or political disputes, namely, reluctance to express disapprobation of any men or any means that have helped to bring about the triumph of the right side. I feel very strongly that the side which triumphed, both at the third and at the fourth Ecumenical Council, was the right side. We of the present day are not concerned with the merely personal question, whether Nestorius was misrepresented; or whether he only expressed himself incautiously, without himself holding what we call Nestorianism. But we can heartily join in condemning that Nestorianism as being practically equivalent to a denial of our Lord’s Divinity. Breaking up our Lord’s Personality into two is a scheme which enables a man to use the loftiest language concerning the Divinity which dwelt in Jesus, while at the same time holding Jesus Himself to be a man imperfect morally as well as intellectually. If we hold that the Deity did but dwell in Jesus without being truly and properly one with him, this is to ascribe to him no exclusive prerogative. Might not the Deity thus dwell with many men? You will find that one would be able to affirm, in the same words, concerning the founder of Buddhism, everything that, according to the Nestorian hypothesis, you can affirm as to the Divinity of the Founder of the Christian religion. And if I have no sympathy with Nestorianism, neither have I any with the heresy condemned at the fourth General Council, which practically is equivalent to a denial that our Saviour was truly and properly man. But without having sympathy with either heresy, we are still free to inquire whether we can approve of the measures taken to suppress it, and whether these measures were, in point of fact, successful."


pp. 309-310

"In short, nothing could have been more violent and unfair than the proceedings at Ephesus. Nestorius may have deserved condemnation; but it is certain that he got no fair trial, and that the proceedings against him would have been pronounced null and void by any English Court of Appeal. In fact the Council was opened in the teeth of a protest made by sixty?eight bishops, because the bishop of Antioch and the bishops of the East were known to be within three days’ march of Ephesus. But because these bishops were known to be likely to vote the wrong way, they were not waited for. The Council did its work in one summer’s day; deposed Nestorius in his absence, and acquainted him with the fact in a letter addressed to Nestorius, ‘the new Judas.’ In a few days the bishop of Antioch arrived, and then the other party held what they professed to be the real Council, and deposed Cyril."

p. 311

"To quote Dr. Newman, ‘At Ephesus the question in dispute was settled and defined before certain constituent portions of the episcopal body had made their appearance, and this with a protest of sixty?eight of the bishops then present, against eighty?two. When the remaining forty?three arrived, these did more than protest against the definition that had been carried. They actually anathematized the Fathers who had carried it, whose number seems to have stood altogether at one hundred and twenty?four against one hundred and eleven, and in this state of disunion the Council ended. How then was its definition valid? By after events, which I suppose must be considered complements and integral portions of the Council.’6"

Viisaus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Bugay said...

"By after events, which I suppose must be considered complements and integral portions of the Council."

Moffett:

"In the center emerged a peace party characterized not so much by theological position as by a desire for unity. It was composed of a coalition of political and ecclesiastical moderates determined to save both church and empire from the perils of religious division. Their first step was to negotiate a theological truce in 433 between Alexandria and Antioch. Alexandria would drop its twelve anathemas against Antioch and accept "two natures" in Christ as taught in the Bible. But this represented theological surrender for the implacable Cyril and was predictably unacceptable to the Alexandrian wing. On the other hand, the compromise also stipulated that Antioch, in turn, must accept the popular phrase "Mother of God" for the Virgin and assent to the excommunication of Nestorius. And this, of course, was ecclesiastical humiliation for John and unacceptable to loyal Nestorians. Nevertheless, under great pressure, the leaders agreed. "Behold again we are friends," wrote John of Antioch to Cyril of Alexandria," and for a while at least it seemed that the shouting and the curses might be forgotten.

"But the peace fell apart at the edges. On both sides the leaders failed to carry their partisans with them into the compromise…" and the truce collapsed ("History of Christianity in Asia," pg. 178)

Chalcedon affirmed the Council of Ephesus, stating: "we also stand by … the decisions and all the formulas relating to the creed from the sacred synod which took place formerly at Ephesus, … whose leaders of most holy memory were Celestine of Rome and Cyril of Alexandria…"

This council says nothing of this "peace agreement" after the council of Ephesus, which renders what Newman "supposes" as a fairly ridiculous statement.

As Viisaus noted, Salmon was not aware of the later writings of Nestorius that were re-discovered in the late 19th century. And so, TF, it is virtually certain that Calvin was not aware of that portion of the proceedings. (Many of Nestorius's exant writings were collected and burned in his day. But as Moffett relates, Luther saw Nestorius's earlier writings, and "decided that there was nothing really heretical in them."

I've discussed this in another Reformed forum. While some agreed that Nestorius was simply the victim of political maneuvering, one individual cited the WCF (8.2) as suggesting that the verdict of Ephesus (a) was a just one and (b) was part of our own confessional heritage.

I simply do not see this. I see it as a travesty in church history, and clear evidence that even in Nestorius's day, what passed for "authority" had very serious flaws. The "Mother of God" language it adopted (and it was not "Theotokos," but "Mother of God") -- there was no hint of the discretion that Turretin described. In its condemnation of Nestorius, it was just totally "violent and unfair," as Salmon said. Yet it is one of the "four great councils" that the Reformed seem to accept.

I thank you for your consideration of this matter.

beowulf2k8 said...

The condemnation of Pelagius was also unfair, judging by his commentary on Romans, in which he does not at all suggest that people can be saved apart from grace. He simply uses a more accurate definition for grace that does Augustine. To Augustine, grace is magic that God gives you to enable you to obey his commandments and prior to receiving this grace you cannot obey. To Pelagius, grace is the mercy of God, specifically sending Jesus to the cross to die to provide the possibility of salvation. The debate wasn't really grace versus works, but a false definition of grace (Augustine's) versus the true definition of grace (the Bible's and Pelagius's).

Turretinfan said...

B2k8's comments aside, it is worth noting that Pelagianism was largely defined by one of his comrades/followers, Caelestius. Thus, even if we were to agree with B2k8, and I'm not suggesting we should, that wouldn't necessarily be a surprise.

-TurretinFan

Vox Veritatis said...

Turretinfan,

Thanks for linking to my blog on this issue. Your post got me thinking, and I've added an addendum to my original post that discusses some issues of linguistics in greater detail.

God bless,
Vox

Matt Yonke said...

Not sure if you're aware, but fwiw, the orthodox and eastern catholic churches regularly refer to the "holy and just ancestors of god" including pretty much everybody in Jesus' geneology. I'm sure that doesn't hold much water for you, but it is pretty ancient practice.

Turretinfan said...

Matt:

I have never heard that expression used in the EO churches outside of the context of "the holy and just ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna/Anne" (referring to the widespread but erroneous tradition that Mary's parents were Joachim and Anna).

It is consistent with the practice, although it should be intuitively disturbing.

-TurretinFan

Lucian said...

Any takers for calling David "the Father of God" or the "Ancestor of God"?

That's how we call him (and the other forefathers of the Lord after the flesh).