Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Pernicious Heresy of Nestorianism

By Dave Armstrong (4-19-05)

To believe that Jesus could be tempted in the sense of having interior doubt or mulling over the temptation as if the possibility of succumbing existed, is ludicrous from an orthodox Christian (and especially a Catholic) perspective (and ultimately blasphemous). He could not be tempted in exactly the same way as we are because He wasn't subject to original sin and the result of concupiscence. That's why He couldn't doubt (our fault which causes us to be tried when temptations come) and He couldn't possibly give in to the temptations, because He was God. 

God cannot possibly sin, because that would be a self-contradiction and contrary to the very Being and Essence of an All-Holy God.

The devil can attempt to tempt God (both the Father and the Son), but he can't possibly succeed in either case. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. But he is a non-fallen man, and not subject to the concupiscence which is a result of the Fall. That's what unorthodox Protestants of the quasi-Nestorian-type, don't seem to comprehend. Man is not essentially a "weak, fallen" creature. The fall distorted that. But fallen man is not the man that God created. Fallen man has original sin and the tendency to actually sin throughout one's life. Jesus has no sin, no concupiscence, and no weakness. He could suffer, but He couldn't give in to the devil's temptation.

Jesus had no "ability to be tempted" anymore than God the Father had. The devil could try to tempt Him and make Him sin (because the devil was too stupid to know that Jesus couldn't possibly sin, being God), but he also tried that with God the Father. We know this from Holy Scripture itself. In Acts 15:10 (KJV), St. Peter rebuked the Judaizers, saying:

Now therefore why tempt ye [RSV: "make trial of"] God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples . . .

The Greek word for tempt here is pirazo (Strong's word #3985): the same exact word used in Hebrews 4:15, which informs us that Jesus was "tempted in things as we are." God the Father tells us that the ancient Jews tried to tempt Him in the wilderness (Hebrews 3:9; same Greek word again).

So sure, the devil could tempt Jesus, just like he tries to tempt us. The difference is that Jesus is not tempted, in the sense of being weak and able to give in to these temptations (as we are). Therefore, He was tempted exactly like God the Father was tempted (which is why the same word is applied to both!): it was a failed attempt which was destined to failure. God the Father and God the Son are no different in this respect. To make out that they are somehow different, is Nestorian heresy and blasphemy.


Either Jesus is God or not. All Nicene Christians agree that He was. He was 100% God and 100% man. James 1:13 tells us that God cannot be tempted by evil (i.e., He can't succumb to it). Jesus is God, so this verse applies to Him, too. God the Father and God the Son are one. There's no way out of it; one would have to deny the deity of Christ. The context of James 1:13 makes it clear that it is discussing something entirely different than Hebrews 4:15. What is it trying to express? It's clear in the next two verses:

but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.
In other words, concupiscence is being discussed. God cannot be tempted in this sense, because He cannot give into it. Men can because they are fallen, sinful creatures. Jesus is a man but not a creature, and not a fallen man. And He is God. Hebrews 4:15 makes it clear that He is tempted without sin (i.e., the devil tries to tempt Him and fails). Therefore, it is senseless, unbiblical and blasphemous to try to make out that Jesus is more like us in this respect than like His Father, with Whom He is one.

Jesus could not doubt and "mull over" the lies of Satan, or be tempted by them in some sense of internal, existential agony -- as if He were actually influenced by Satanic lies -- He who possessed all knowledge and holiness (with no concupiscence), as a function of His Divine Nature. Even in His human nature, He possessed the Beatific Vision which all who go to heaven will one day possess. And He possessed infused knowledge.

That's really all that is necessary to annihilate Lojahw's argument: all right from explicit teachings in Scripture. Nor is this only Catholic teaching. It's not: it is the orthodox Christology of historic Protestantism, as well as of Orthodoxy. Thus, the Lutherans Bob and Gretchen Passantino wrote in a review of The Last Temptation of Christ:

The Last Temptation (and many critics of the protesters) think that "without sin" only means that he didn't perform sinful acts, but that true temptation would allow him to have sinful feelings and inclinations. What hypocrisy! Here is a philosophy that says matter is more Man and spirit is more God, matter is less important and spirit is more important, and yet the sins of the spirit are not sins, but the sins of the flesh are! Jesus pierced the sham of hidden sins when he said, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man." When The Last Temptation Jesus looked at a woman and wanted to have sex with her, but was afraid to, he fulfilled Jesus' definition of a sinner.

This is more than enough extremely serious error.

Jesus could not fall into sin, being God. Period. End of sentence. It doesn't matter if He had a human nature or not. You are fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of the Incarnation.

It is entirely possible that Adam and Eve could have never fallen and rebelled against God. The fall wasn't inevitable or predestined. There is such a thing (theoretically) as an unfallen race. In fact, it exists, because the angels never fell. The demons rebelled and fell but the good angels never did, so they are unfallen, uncorrupted creatures.

That was a possibility for man too, but we blew it. Now, Jesus was God before He became man. And God cannot fall into sin. We fall because we are tempted and have an inherent weakness. The inherent weakness now is the fall, and specifically concupiscence, or the tendency to sin and to move toward sin in our desires and will. But that comes from the Fall itself, and is a sinful tendency. The original weakness before the fall was our limitations of knowledge, being creatures and not God. Therefore, the devil could deceive us and lead us to rebel. God has no limitations of knowledge, and cannot rebel against what He is. He is necessarily what He is, and cannot be otherwise. Since we are different from God, and creatures, and limited because of same, we can rebel against Him and fall into sin.

Since Jesus didn't fall and had no original sin, He had no concupiscence, hence He could not have any desire to be enticed by temptation, as we do. He is still God, and God can't sin. Becoming a man as well doesn't change that. Sin is, therefore, impossible for Him. But you imply that it is possible for God to sin. It's not.

Adam and Eve could have possibly not fallen. But Jesus could not possibly have fallen, even in His human nature. That's the difference, even though He was indeed a man like us. It's not possible because He is God, and God is perfectly holy, and cannot contradict Himself or be other than what He is: a perfect and perfectly Holy Being.

When you ascribe the possibility of moral error to the Incarnate God we greatly err and blaspheme (though I'm sure most who hold these positions don't mean to; it simply follows from the position they take).

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