While I have always been Reformed, I have recently been posed some challenging questions from some Eastern Orthodox friends, that I have struggled with. Chief among them, how can God’s once-for-all monergistic salvation of his elect be compatible with the idea that Jesus Christ’s two natures both perfectly served God in unity without his divine nature forcing his human nature to submit to him? In other words, how is Monergism compatible with correct Chalcedonian Christology? The Reformed position, so my friends argue, seems to fall into the heresy of Monothelitism, that Jesus’ divine nature subordinated his human nature.
We must begin our inquiry with the realization that divine logic (displayed in Scripture) is not always the same in human logic, particularly when we tend to impose human terms. In Isaiah 55:8 we read, “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD.” The OPC holds to the Westminster Standards as summarily expressing what the Scripture teaches and addressing the issues raised in former days and many of the issue raised today. As to monothelitism the Westminster Confession states:
WCF 8.2. The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature,(1) with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin;(2) being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance.(3) So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.(4) Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.(5)
(1) John 1:1, 14; 1 John 5:20; Phil. 2:6; Gal. 4:4.
(2) Heb. 2:14, 16, 17; Heb. 4:15.
(3) Luke 1:27, 31, 35; Gal. 4:4.
(4) Luke 1:35; Col. 2:9; Rom. 9:5; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Tim. 3:16.
(5) Rom. 1:3, 4; 1 Tim. 2:5
The Scripture itself, and only the Scripture, is our primary standard. There are many other antinomies set forth in the Scripture. One such antinomy is expressed in the Scripture’s teaching, on the one hand, that human beings have a free will, morally speaking, and yet all that they think and do is predestined (and thus controlled) by God. Moreover, the Scripture calls human beings to repent and believe in Christ as their Savior. How can their will be free to repent and believe when God predestinates everything? Also, how can there be only one God and at the same time there are three divine persons, each of whom is God? Again, how can God hold a human being responsible for, and consequently justly punished by God for his sin, when God has predestined that sin? How can both be true? We believe these things because we believe what God says in the Scripture.
Beyond this, we risk going into the folly of demanding that God be explained to us, so that we can comprehend him and his plans. Isaiah (cited by Paul in Romans 11) argues: “Who has measured (directed) the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand?” (Isa. 40:12). And, for our comfort, we should note that both Isaiah and Paul cite the incomprehensibility of God in the context of our marvelous salvation!
Thus, our challenge is that we believe what the Lord teaches us in the Scripture.
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