Christianity became Mystery Cult
Early on and through the centuries, Christianity functioned as a cult, with secrets only given to initiates (Catechumen). This is illustrated in Michael Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology a book that has long been regarded as a standard source of Orthodox theology. After its publication in Russian in 1963, it was used as a textbook at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, New York, at which Fr. Michael taught. These quotes are very telling of the cult-like practices of early Roman Catholicism / Eastern Orthodoxy.
“One must keep in mind that the ancient Church carefully guarded the inward life of the Church from those outside of her; her Holy Mysteries were secret, being kept from non-Christians. When these Mysteries were performed — Baptism or the Eucharist.” (Pomazansky, Fr. Michael. Orthodox Dogmatic Theology . St. Herman Press. Kindle Edition.)
This secret society behavior is affirmed by Ct. Cyril of Jerusalem in the 4th century.
In undertaking Christian instruction for those who had not yet expressed a final decision to become Christians, the hierarch precedes his teachings with the following words: “When the catechetical teaching is pronounced, if a catechumen should ask you, ‘What did the instructors say?’ you are to repeat nothing to those who are without (the church). For we are giving to you the mystery and hope of the future age. Keep the Mystery of Him Who is the Giver of rewards. May no one say to you, ‘What harm is it if I shall find out also?’ Sick people also ask for wine, but if it is given at the wrong time it produces disorder to the mind, and there are two evil consequences: the sick one dies, and the physician is slandered” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 4th century)
Another quote from St. Basil attests to an Apostolic Tradition consisting of secret traditions “handed down in secret”
“Of the dogmas and sermons preserved in the Church, certain ones we have from written instruction, and certain ones we have received from the Apostolic Tradition, handed down in secret. Both the one and the other have one and the same authority for piety, and no one who is even the least informed in the decrees of the Church will contradict this. For if we dare to overthrow the unwritten customs as if they did not have great importance, we shall thereby imperceptively do harm to the Gospel in its most important points. (St. Basil the Great)
St. Basil further speaks of unspoken teachings preserved in silence, indicative of a Mystery cult.
By what Scripture, likewise, do we bless the water of Baptism and the oil of anointing and, indeed, the one being baptized himself? Is this not the silent and secret tradition? And what more? What written word has taught us this anointing with oil itself? Where is the triple immersion and all the rest that has to do with Baptism, the renunciation of Satan and his angels to be found? What Scripture are these taken from? Is it not from this unpublished and unspoken teaching which our Fathers have preserved in a silence inaccessible to curiosity and scrutiny, because they were thoroughly instructed to preserve in silence the sanctity of the Mysteries? For what propriety would there be to proclaim in writing a teaching concerning that which it is not allowed for the unbaptized even to behold?” (On the Holy Spirit, chap. 27).
Early Trinitarian philosophers were influenced by the Alexandrian Philosophical School
The philosophy that flourished at Alexandria in the early centuries of the Christian era and that was chiefly concerned with attempts to interpret different and especially Hebrew religious beliefs in the light of Greek philosophy (i.e., Philo)
The Alexandrian school is a collective designation for certain tendencies in literature, philosophy, medicine, and the sciences that developed in the Hellenistic cultural center of Alexandria, Egypt during the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
Alexandrian school is also used to describe the religious and philosophical developments in Alexandria after the 1st century. The mix of Jewish theology and Greek philosophy led to a syncretic mix and much mystical speculation. Schools of biblical interpretation in the early Christian church incorporated Neoplatonism and philosophical beliefs from Plato’s teachings into Christianity, and interpreted much of the Bible allegorically. The founders of the Alexandrian school of Christian theology were Clement of Alexandria and Origen.
What is Neoplatonism?
Platonism was modified in later antiquity to accord with Aristotelian, post-Aristotelian, and eastern conceptions that conceives of the world as an emanation from an ultimate indivisible being.
The term “Neoplatonism” refers to a philosophical school of thought that first emerged and flourished in the Greco-Roman world of late antiquity, roughly from the time of the Roman Imperial Crisis to the Arab conquest, i.e., the middle of the 3rd to the middle of the 7th century.
In effect, they absorbed, appropriated, and creatively harmonized almost the entire Hellenic tradition of philosophy, religion, and even literature
A grandiose and powerfully persuasive system of thought that reflected upon a millennium of intellectual culture and brought the scientific and moral theories of Plato, Aristotle, and the ethics of the Stoics into fruitful dialogue with literature, myth, and religious practice.
The Neoplatonists shared with the majority of intellectuals of the ancient world, that mindful consciousness (nous, often translated as thought, intelligence, or intellect) is in an important sense ontologically prior to the physical realm typically taken for ultimate reality (Mind over Matter). Following a tradition of Mind over Matter, Neoplatonism turned out to be an idealist type of philosophy.
Neo-Platonism presupposes preexistence
Plato’s interest in nature is dominated by a teleological view of the world as animated with a World-Soul, which, conscious of its process, does all things for a useful purpose. . .he believes the [human] soul to have existed before its union with the body. [Plato’s] whole theory of Ideas, in so far, at least, as it is applied to human knowledge, presupposes the doctrine of pre-existence.” (Plato and Platonism, The Catholic Encyclopedia)p
Greek Philosophy was further misappropriated as applied to speculation of Hypostatic Union
Plato and Aristotle were the ones who first formulated the terms ousia (substance or essence) and hypostasis (individual subject/person) in a philosophical sense. Plato did not make any treatises; it was his student Aristotle who was the first to deal with substance (ousia) in a systematic way. While Orthodox Theologians employ Aristotelian metaphysics, in doing so they interpret ousia (substance) in a Platonic sense. Plato thought that reality is to found principally in the ideas: hence, for Plato tree-kind is more real than individual trees. (See, for instance, Plato’s Phaedo 78c–79a, and 100b–101d.) Not so for Aristotle.
This distinction becomes important when it is applied to Trinitarian theology and Christology, because those who formulated that theology were fundamentally Platonists, not Aristotelians.
Orthodox Philosophers affirm four meta-physical categories without which they think that any explication of the Trinity is futile: person, substance, and nature, and energy.
- Person = who (subject) is it?
- Substance = what is it?
- Nature = what attributes does it have?
- Energy = what does it do? (what activities and operations does it engage in?)
Below is a statement regarding the contrast between man and God:
- Adam is man, who has a human nature with human energies (engaged in human operations/activities)
- YHWH (the Father) is God, who has a divine nature with divine energies (engaged in divine operations/activities)
Nature of a Man (creation, limited in power/knowledge/wisdom, subject to death)
Nature of God (eternal, unlimited in power/knowledge/wisdom immortal and unchangeable)
Metaphysics fulfills the role of underwriting the whole façade of human knowledge and occurs by way of a reduction to first principles, like the principle of non-contradiction.
The appropriate application of Neoplatonism is to define a person as “an individual substance of a rational nature”
This was affirmed by Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, commonly called Boethius (477 – 524 AD). He was a Roman senator, consul, magister officiorum, and philosopher of the early 6th century known for “The Consolation of Philosophy,” a philosophical treatise on fortune, death, and other issues, which became one of the most popular and influential works of the Middle Ages. As the author of numerous handbooks, and translator of Plato and Aristotle from Greek into Latin, he became the main intermediary between Classical antiquity and the following centuries.
Trinitarian Philosophy is a violation of the conventional use of Metaphysics of a person being defined as “an individual substance of a rational nature”. The altered Trinitarian Philosophical system flips this on its head by postulating that a single person (God the Son) can have two natures.
Metaphysics, is a science that takes common being (ens commune) as its subject and is explicitly contrasted to revealed theology (i.e., sacra doctrina). The Orthodox doctrine of the hypostatic union, by contrast, is revealed teaching (i.e., dogma of the church). When conflating God and man in the person of Jesus, Neoplatonic Christian Theologians misappropriate metaphysics as a science reduced from first principles. Trinitarian Philosophers modified the normal conventions to fit their dogmatic presumptions.
The dogma of the Hypostatic Union results in some difficult questions:
- How can a ‘person’, canonically defined by Boethius as an “individual substance of a rational nature,” have two natures?
- How Christ’s human nature is real while not grounding a person, which is left to the divine nature?
- How many existences are there in Christ? One, as from his person, or two, as from his two natures?
Problems that arise from the divine side of the hypostatic union, like how God can be simple while Christ, who is fully God, seems to be a composite of human and divine natures or how divine immutability is compatible with God becoming a man. Boethius’s definition of ‘person’ seems to exclude a person belonging to or having two natures and, according to our ordinary ways of thinking, there is no basis in logic to postulate that an individual substance could have two natures.
Orthodox Christianity is the belief that Jesus’ humanity was impersonal—Anhypostasis
How is it that one person can have two natures? When the Son of God took on humanity, did that not mean that he was taking to his divine person a second (human) person as part of that humanity? Is he not two persons, if he as two natures?
Enter the theological term anhypostasis. The Greek word hypostasis had come to refer in the early church discussions to what we’d call personhood—whether in the Trinity or in the two-natured person of Jesus—and so the negating an- prefix was added to signify that, considered on its own (apart from his divinity), Jesus’ humanity is impersonal.
Donald Macleod summarizes well the doctrine of anhypostasis in his book The Person of Christ:
Christ took human nature, but he did not take a man. He took the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7), but not a servant. He did not even take an existing human genotype or embryo. He created the genotype in union with himself, and it’s ‘personality’ developed only in union with the Son of God . . . [H]e is a divine person who, without ‘adopting’ an existing human person took our human nature and entered upon the whole range of human experiences. (p. 201)
Heinrich Heppe also captures it nicely: “The humanity taken up into the person of the Logos is, then, not a personal man but human nature without personal subsistence” (Reformed Dogmatics, 416).
Anhypostasis is a “negative” doctrine, so to speak. It says where Jesus’ singular personhood does not come from. But there is a “positive” doctrine to complement it.
Regarding impersonality of the human nature of Christ, Schaff acknowledges this is a difficult point but a necessary link in the orthodox doctrine of the one God-Man; for otherwise, we must have two persons in Christ.
“The center of personal life in the God-Man resides unquestionably in the Logos, who was from eternity the second person in the Godhead, and could not lose his personality. He united himself, as has been already observed, not with a human person, but with human nature.” (p. 1653)
“And the human nature of Christ had no independent personality of its own, besides the divine.” (p. 1654).
An article on www.catholic.com on Is Jesus a Human Person by Deacon Steven Greydanus frames the discussion this way:
“Consider that all living human beings are persons, but person is not part of the definition of what it means to be fully human. The definition of what a human being is pertains to the what or the nature of a human being. So there is no reason why we couldn’t have a being that was truly human, or, more accurately, possessed a human nature, but was not a human person. There is nothing in the definition of a human that requires it to be a human person. Thus, even though this only actually happens in the case of Christ, there is nothing unreasonable about positing the possibility. The actual possession of two natures in one person only occurs in Christ just as the possession of a human nature without a human person only occurs in Christ. But the point is, this is both biblical and entirely reasonable.
The Catholic faith confesses one God in three Persons, made known by Jesus Christ who is true God and true man, with the fullness of divinity and the fullness of humanity. Both the Trinity and the Incarnation are great mysteries, and in the unfolding of these mysteries Catholic thought has come to some surprising conclusions. One that surprised me decades ago, as a reasonably well-formed creedal Protestant converting to Catholicism, was while the traditional formula is that Jesus is a divine Person with both divine and human natures, we do not call Jesus a “human person.”
This is, indeed, one of the more counterintuitive implications of Catholic theology. I resisted it myself when it was first proposed to me over a quarter century ago as I was converting to Catholicism. It seems counterintuitive because Jesus is a Person with both a divine nature and a human nature, and if being a Person with a divine nature makes him a divine Person, then shouldn’t being a Person with a human nature make him a human person (or human Person)?
The Reformed Protestant Matt Slick of the popular apologetics website CARM, makes the following statements in an article on The Trinity, The Hypostatic Union, and the Communicatio Idiomatum:
In the incarnation, Jesus was made for a while lower than the angels (Heb. 2:9) and under the law (Gal. 4:4). This means that Jesus cooperated with the limitations of being a man (Phil. 2:5-8). In other words, He really was a man and as a man exhibited the proper restrictions of His humanity such as growing taller, eating, growing in wisdom, etc., which would be expected of a real human being.
As a man, Jesus cooperated with the limitations of His humanity, was made lower than the angels (Heb. 2:9), talked about position, and was under the Law (Gal. 4:4), signifying Him being under legal obligations. Therefore, Jesus would sleep, grow in wisdom, and say the Father was greater than He. But, these do not negate that Jesus was divine since they reference His humanity and not His divinity.
This is vitally important when we look at the atonement. Jesus’ sacrifice was divine, as well as human, in nature. Jesus died. But, we know that God cannot die. So, if the divine nature did not die, how can it be said that Jesus’ sacrifice was divine in nature? The answer is that the attributes of divinity, as well as humanity, were ascribed to the person Jesus.
Dr. Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, is a standard reference work of Catholic teaching:
The dogma (hypostatic union) asserts that there is in Christ a person, who is the Divine Person of the Logos, and two natures, which belong to the One Divine Person. 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. (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentalssals of Catholic Dogma, p.144)
Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks the same way (§466ff):
Christ’s humanity has no other subject than the divine person of the Son of God … Thus everything in Christ’s human nature is to be attributed to his divine person as its proper subject … Christ’s human nature belongs, as his own, to the divine person of the Son of God … The individual characteristics of Christ’s body express the divine person of God’s Son … Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person…
It should be noted the Church of Rome rejected the idea that Christ, being one person had only one will (Monotheletism). The Church of Rome also rejected the idea that Jesus was a combination of two persons: one human and one divine (Nestorianism).
The question that any reasonable person must as is why is the complete humanity of Jesus, which has every single thing any human person has, down to a human mind and soul and will, not a complete, distinct human person like any other human person?
According to the mystical world of Trinitarian philosophy, “Substance,” like “personhood,” turns out to be impossible to define or describe in terms of its attributes, for it has no attributes per se: All attributes by definition are part of the “appearances” or the “nature.” To accept this, you have gone deep down the rabbit hole or are perhaps versed in scholastic Philosophy. The Catholic Encyclopedia is quoted in a Catholic blog on www.ncregister.com in Is Jesus a Human Person as saying.
To understand the discussion, one must needs be versed in scholastic Philosophy. Be the case as it may in the matter of human nature that is not united with the Divine, the human nature that is hypostatically united with the Divine, that is, the human nature that the Divine Hypostasis or Person assumes to Itself, has certainly more of reality united to it than the human nature of Christ would have were it not hypostatically united in the Word. The Divine Logos identified with Divine nature (Hypostatic Union) means then that the Divine Hypostasis (or Person, or Word, or Logos) appropriates to Itself human nature, and takes in every respect the place of the human person. In this way, the human nature of Christ, though not a human person, loses nothing of the perfection of the perfect man; for the Divine Person supplies the place of the human.
Christology according to the Orthodox view of the Hypostatic Union
- Jesus is the incarnation of a preexisting divine person
- Jesus was not a human person (not a human being)
- Jesus’ humanity is not personal (his humanity is impersonal. Early theologians affirmed that Jesus’ humanity is impersonal)
- Jesus had two wills (a divine will and a human will)
- Jesus had two natures (a divine nature and a human nature)
- Death on the cross was not the death of the divine person who is Jesus
- Death on the cross was the death of Jesus’ human nature.
- Jesus will always have two wills and two natures into eternity
- A person didn’t die on the cross – a human nature died
- God did not die for us (He cannot)
Communicato Idomatum is further convolution
Communicato Idomatum (Latin for “communication of properties”) is a doctrine that the properties of the Divine Word can be ascribed to the man Christ and that the properties of the man Christ can be predicated on the Word (2nd Person of the Trinity). It is the teaching that the attributes of both the divine and human natures are ascribed to the one person of Jesus. That is, the properties of the Divine Word can be ascribed to the man Christ, and the properties of the man Christ can be predicated of the Word.
It is a license to blur the lines with respect to humanity and divinity like a policy of permissible double speak. It permits people to speak in an idiomatic way about things that are untrue in a literal sense.
Examples of permitted idiomatic statements that are not literal
- The Word became flesh
- Eternal wisdom became man
- God emptied himself
- God became man (was a man)
- God suffered as a man
- God died for us
There are many cautions and prohibitions in applying Communicato Idomatum. The Church authorities have been very dogmatic in terms of how it can be applied (the range of permissible use) It is only allowed to be used in a way that presupposes incarnation. For Example, prohibitions are:
- A man was made God (as God)
- Christ had a beginning (was a creation)
- Christ was inferior to (less than) God / The father
- God lessened himself
The dogma of the Hypostatic Union is obscure in the sense that person of the Word never subsisted in the human nature (the human nature was impersonal) Accordingly, Communicato Idomatum is a crafty way to assert that because there is no human subject, the human attributes must be attributed to the divine subject. But the divine subject cannot suffer the limitations of a human subject.
As Trinitarian Dogma was developed in the 4th through 7th centuries, Orthodox forms of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, transformed from a Mystery Cult to a Philosophy Cult. Scholastic Trinitarian Philosophy took a departure from the rational use of metaphysics and, through misappropriation, created a system where irrational dogma prevailed over a conventional approach to arrive at first principles. The Trinitarian Philosophical system is irrational, convoluted, and contradictory. The Hypostatic Union is a work of science fiction. Trinitarian Doctrine is the doctrine of men (compromised Philosophers). Trinitarianism, as embraced by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Trinitarian Protestants, is not the faith of the Apostles.