Hints of Heresy?

Timothy Pawl has a written a brilliant book defending the coherence of conciliar Christology, In Defence of Conciliar Christology: A Philosophical Essay. It is particularly interesting on how we can ascribe contradictory (the technical term is ‘complementary’, I guess akin to its use in set theory) predicates to the same Christ. Think for example of the predicates that are ascribed both with and without ‘im-‘ at the beginning: mutable and immutable, passible and impassible, mortal and immortal. How can the same Christ be both in each case? Pawl has a fascinating fresh answer which I will explore on our next study day (details here: https://www.pastorsacademy.org/ways-to-study/study-days/doctrine/).  

Pawl’s book is, as James Arcadi says in a review, a text with which all serious Christologists will have to reckon, much like the earlier work of Thomas Morris. Near the end of the book Pawl makes a striking appeal, perhaps particularly relevant to the world of blogs and social media. He notes how casually people can make half-accusations of heresy with phrases such as ‘hinting of Nestorianism’ or ‘low-grade Nestorianism’. He points out how serious such an accusation is for someone bound by a confession and invites us to recast it: ‘replace the word “Nestorianism” with “adultery” in the quotations, and ask yourself whether it would be permissible to accuse, without explicit justification, a person’s actions of “hinting of adultery” or of being “low-grade adultery” or “light adultery.”’ He offers a ‘friendly suggestion’: ‘if you are going to charge someone as a heretic, then you ought to take the time to show it. And if you can’t show it, it is better not to say it at all.’ This is not of course a refusal to diagnose heresy; a book devoted to defending conciliar Christology could hardly be used to justify doctrinal indifference. His point, vitally important in a febrile age, is that we should check ourselves before making such serious accusations, and should only make them with actual evidence and argument.

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