Tag Archives: Nestorius

How the Incarnation and God’s sacramental presence in all creation put our everyday work in a new light


English: Icon of Jesus Christ

Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What follows are two short theological-historical reflections on our daily work that ended up on the cutting-room floor when I handed in 6,000 words for a 3,500 feature on Christian thought about vocation that will appear in next month’s Leadership Journal. Since I still like these, I’m posting them here. The first is on what the Incarnation means to our work, with special reference to vocations in the arts. The second is on how God is present and communicating to us in every part of the created world in a way analagous to, though not the same as, his real presence in the sacraments.

Resources on work in early and medieval Christian thought

The Incarnation

Luther and other Reformers certainly did advance Christian reflection on work and calling. But if we turn again to the early and medieval church and look beyond the clerical and monastic usurpation of the term “vocation,” we will find some important theological resources for thinking about ordinary work—resources that Protestants today are in danger of losing entirely.

The appearance of Christ on the scene as a human being, with all the physical needs, skills, and temptations we all share, inserts a crucial principle into our thinking about work. The Incarnation meant that the church could not fall into the error of the Gnostics, calling the material world evil and thus leaving God out of consideration when we interact with the material world. In the second century such pastor-teachers as Irenaeus led the charge against this error, leading the church to reject Gnosticism as heresy.

Today we are in danger, not of viewing the material world as evil (most Western folk are little tempted to that error!), but of marginalizing our time-bound material existence as “non-spiritual.” Continue reading

Controversies about Christ in the early church, part V: The toll of schism and a long-overdue healing


Cover of "Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs...

The latest from book-a-year wonder Philip Jenkins

This post follows from “Who do you say that I am: Controversies about Christ in the early church,” , , and

But now we have to descend from the ideal, abstract world of ideas and remember the other result of the Council of Chalcedon: The worst schism the church had ever faced. The reaction was violent. Christian citizens were robbed, there were riots, leaders were deposed, Christians killed each other. The anti-Chalcedon reaction became the religion of Egypt: monophysitism. Later: the Coptic church. In Syria, many Christians became monophysites. The story of all of this is told in a new book by the prolific and clear writer Philip Jenkins, called Jesus Wars. Continue reading

Controversies about Christ in the early church, part III: The werewolf Jesus and the third council


The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most ven...

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most venerated of Orthodox Christian icons of the Virgin Mary

This post follows from “Who do you say that I am: Controversies about Christ in the early church and .

I acknowledge with gratitude the teaching of Susan Keefe of the Duke Divinity School. Much of what appears in this series comes from Dr. Keefe’s lectures on this topic.

At the Council of Ephesus (431), Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, was accused of dividing the two natures of Jesus in a way that made the Virgin Mary the mother of Christ, but not of God. His leading opponent, the patriarch Cyril of Alexandria, taught the full unity of Christ’s natures. Cyril’s views triumphed, with the support of the Roman pope, and the Nestorian party was condemned. It remains open to debate whether Nestorius did in fact hold the views attributed to him. In a sense, the view attributed to Nestorius made Jesus into a sort of werewolf, doing things as a man at one point, and as divinity at another time, turning on and off like a light-switch. We’ll see how that worked in a moment. Continue reading