Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Councils, Christlikeness, and a Christological Glossary: Further Reflections on the 2020 Drummond-Bush Lecture

The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, recently granted a signal honor by inviting me to present the 2020 Drummond-Bush Lecture. That Lecture is entitled Christology without Christlikeness. The Drummond-Bush Lectures memorialize the academic ministries of Lewis Drummond, the fourth President of Southeastern Seminary and author of a key biography of Billy Graham, and Russ Bush, a leading evangelical apologist and philosopher as well as a personal friend and administrative mentor.

The event video, originally presented on Friday, the 2nd of October 2020, will be available online through the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture. Because the event was oversold, the Bush Center kindly made it available on Facebook Live, too. The Question and Answer period moderated by Dr. Ken Keathley, Director of the Bush Center, was enjoyable and may be particularly helpful to the uninitiated. A Christological Glossary is provided below as a quick reference guide for the important technical terms. (The Lecture alone, originally recorded by Adam Covington of The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Truett Auditorium, may be found here.)

The Lecture is a shorter version of an essay written at the request of Dr. Walter Strickland, Associate Vice President for Kingdom Diversity Initiatives and Assistant Professor of Systematic and Contextual Theology at Southeastern Seminary. The Essay, entitled “Christology in Chalcedon: Creed and Contextualization,” has since been published in the Southeastern Theological Review. The Essay may be found here.

While the shorter Lecture and the longer Essay explore the pristine theology of Chalcedon and the difficult history of the various Christian churches, both Miaphysite and Duophysite, from Ethiopia to Armenia and Rome to Persia, the most important aspect for the contemporary Christian leader will appear toward the end. The persecuting legacy of Constantinianism is challenged through an appeal to obey consistently the supremely authoritative teaching of Jesus Christ himself.

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Christological Glossary: 

  • “Miaphysitism” is characterized by the worship of the unitary nature of Jesus Christ, while retaining both the humanity and the deity of the incarnate Lord. This is a common position for Christians in Armenia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Syria.
  • “Duophysitism” also worships the one Lord Jesus Christ, while explicitly affirming both his human and divine natures. This is the position advanced by the Council of Chalcedon.
  • “Monophysitism” differs from both Miaphysitism and Duophysitism, in that it compromises the humanity of Christ. Monos indicates “only” or “alone.” Miaphysites such as Didymus the Blind of Alexandria should not be identified as Monophysite, because they worship Christ under one nature even while maintaining the two natures conceptually.
  • “Nestorianism,” which is not to be confused either with the person, Nestorius, nor with many of those who later became known as “Nestorians,” compromises the unity of the Lord’s person. In particular, Nestorianism denies the Virgin Mary is the Theotokos, “God-bearer.” 
  • “Heresy” is a term reserved for a church body’s declaration that a teaching requires repentance or excommunication. Note that heresy is determined not by individual theologians but by churches, whose one head remains the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 18:15-20; Col 1:18). Nestorianism was formally condemned as a heresy at the Council of Ephesus (431), while Monophysitism was formally condemned as a heresy at the Council of Chalcedon (451). 
  • “Orthodoxy” technically means “right glory,” with reference to the liturgy of worship, but it has come to be intellectualized as “right doctrine.” Although they differ in their terminology, many Miaphysite and Duophysite churches have in recent decades affirmed one another’s theological orthodoxy, even while retaining their distinct terminologies.
  • “Constantinianism” is that form of Christianity which combines ecclesiology with human power structures, proposing to advance the interests of the church with the coercive tools of the state. Its authority to pursue this program and its practical results have been heavily disputed both by non-Christians and by those Christian traditions affiliated with the Free Churches.

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