Shades of Popular Nestorianism, by Pr. Klemet Preus

(This is the final post in a seven part series on Christology.)

 

If you have read my last six blogs you may be asking. What if I have never heard of Ulrich Zwingli, was born in 1960 and never really knew what Seminex was all about, have never read anything in the old CTM and certainly nothing about secularization theology, believe that Kent Hunter is a radical and does not represent the church growth movement in Missouri, attend a church which practices closed communion and have always believed that Christ’s body and blood are received and consumed by all who commune? Further, I find all this obscure theology rather boring and esoteric? So why are you bugging me with this weird stuff? What’s with the incessant purification?

 

I am bugging you because bad theology always somehow trickles down and affects the Christian in the pew as well as the mission message of the church. The most famous Nestorian of the last 500 years was Ulrich Zwingli. Zwingli’s Christology dominates the ecclesiastical scene in America. It is a theology where we worship the God Jesus and confine the man Jesus to our own limitations.

 

That’s what always happens when you divide the two natures. Then you have to explain the human nature. You can no longer simply assert that the human nature has received divine qualities. Rather you have to make him a super-hero, a sports hero, a great psychologist or a cultural sensitivity exert. He is no longer allowed to be “true God begotten of the Father from eternity and true man born of the virgin who is my Lord.” He is no longer allowed to be depicted as a good shepherd, a man riding on a donkey, praying in garden or dying on the tree.            

 

There is a strong tendency these days to create the human Jesus in our image rather than accept him as he is – the son of Mary who lived and breathed at a certain time.

This is not benign. The old St. Louis seminary and Seminex made Jesus into a man who had exegetical questions based on faulty knowledge – just like them. The Charismatics make Jesus a two experienced, spirit-filled miracle worker just like them. Kent Hunter makes Jesus a culturally sensitive man willing to live out of his comfort zone for the sake of his purpose which was to multiply his work – just like Hunter. Many who practice open communion make Jesus someone who was intentionally vague or indifferent about the manner of his presence in the sacrament just like them.

 

Similarly, today you have images of Jesus which show him as a football player, a guy playing with his niece’s kittens, a boxer with long hair and bulging muscles or some such figment of your imagination. In all these cases there is the divine Jesus and the human Jesus. We can’t change the divine so the human Jesus must suffer constant redefinition at the hands of his fickle church. And we often even find it charming to let people simply imagine Jesus any way they want. These contemporary flights of fancy are not at all similar to the depictions of Jesus which most Christian artists have made throughout the years which were honest attempts to paint Jesus as he was. Rather they are attempts to make Jesus something other than the man he was.

 

And these fanciful creations are not harmless. Jesus does not want to be taught different than he is. He was not a boxer or a football player or some type of contemporary hero sacred or profane. He has given us plenty of information about the actions of the human nature. We don’t need to change Him to fit us.

 

God did not take on flesh so that we could imagine him as we want. He became man so that he could reveal Himself as we need.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

Shades of Popular Nestorianism, by Pr. Klemet Preus — 13 Comments

  1. It kind of takes me back to the Athanasian Creed. Which states that if you believe God The Father, God The Son, and God The Holy Spirit the Blessed Trinity are something different then you believe in heresy and your salvattion is in danger.

    This is why theology is so important because like you said it trickles down and puts peoples souls in danger because of false doctrine and heresy.

  2. Our Lord, Jesus, told Peter to “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Furthermore, there is an old adage which states, “You are what you are fed,” and shepherds who feed their flock poison, kill them.

  3. Has the author of these articles seriously considered the possibility that the language of Hunter is being misinterpreted by failing to understand that he is not being exhaustive in his definitions? For example, a person could say “Jesus is God.” Does that mean he is advocating latent Doceticism? Has the author attempted to make personal contact with Hunter to verify that his understanding of Christology is correct before making bold accusations that Hunter is teaching Nestorian theology? Has Klemet Preus gone to his Bishop to request charges of doctrinal heresy be charged? If not, than why not?

    One reason that I believe that Hunter is being misinterpreted is that Theodore Jungkuntz teaches the following about Christology:

    “…it follows that through personal union the entire fullness of the Spirit (as the ancient Fathers say) is communicated to Christ according to the flesh that is personally united with the Son of God. This fullness demonstrates and manifests itself spontaneously and with all power in, with, and through the human nature.”

    “On this basis (personal union and communion of the natures) Christ performed all his miracles and manifested his divine majesty according to his good pleasure, when and how he wanted to.”

    So what is wrong with those two statements? These quotes come from the very same Concordia Journal article that Klemet uses as a source to make allegations that Jungkuntz is teaching Nestorian theology. I don’t know where Klemet is coming from, as these quotes seem to be very compatible with Lutheran Christology to me.

  4. Anonymous asks: “So what is wrong with those two statements?”

    First of all, the phrase “entire fullness of the Spirit” does not appear in Scripture and is thus subject to all sorts of interpretations. Although I could not find the referenced Concordia Journal article to find out the premise upon which his conclusions (“…it follows that…”) are based, it would appear from some of his other writings that Jungkuntz teaches a Spirit baptism apart from water baptism. This is heresy.

    In addition, these statements seem to imply that Christ does not possess divine attributes in and of Himself; rather, the divine attributes of the Spirit are communicated to Christ’s human nature. In other words, Christ Himself does not possess “the entire fullness of the Spirit,” making Him a subordinate deity. This, too, is heresy.

    In the Athanasian Creed, we confess that “So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty.” We also confess that “He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.” Jungkuntz has invented a convoluted Christology that denies this truth in order to support his charismatic “theology.”

    Hope this helps.

    DCO Tom W.

  5. “Christ Himself does not possess ‘the entire fullness of the Spirit,’ making Him a subordinate deity. This, too, is heresy.”

    It is not heresy. On the contrary, you are actually appearing to advocate a form of Eutychian Christology in which the human is absorbed beyond recognition in the Divine nature.

    Instead acting like a Lutheran Pharisee and condemning others as heretical, you might want to actually read the Lutheran Confessions for yourself. You will be shocked to find out that the quotes from Jungkuntz are taken directly from the Lutheran Confessions and can be found in the Formula of Concord. See: http://www.bookofconcord.org/sd-person.php

    By the way, a few years back, Theodore Jungkuntz wrote a scholarly book on the Formula of Concord called, “Formulators of the Formula of Concord: Four Architects of Lutheran Unity.” You can still get from Concordia Publishing House. I suspect Dr. Jungkuntz has done far more research in understanding the Christology of the authors of the Formula of Concord than you have.

    By the way, where exactly does Jungkuntz teach a “Spirit baptism apart from water” baptism? In the Concordia Journal article that is cited, Jungkuntz describes being “baptized in the Holy Spirit” (verbal form) as distinct from sacramental regeneration, but not separated. It is a metaphorical equivalent to being filled with the Holy Spirit.

  6. Anonymous:

    Please explain how the clear teachings of Scripture and the Confessions promote “a form of Eutychian Christology in which the human is absorbed beyond recognition in the Divine nature.”

    “But we believe, teach, and confess that God the Father has so given His Spirit to Christ, His beloved Son, according to the assumed humanity (on account of which He is called also Messias, i.e., the Anointed), that He has not received His gifts by measure as other saints. For upon Christ the Lord, according to His assumed human nature (because, according to His divinity, He is of one essence with the Holy Ghost), rests the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge [and of the fear of the Lord, Col. 2:3; Is. 11:2; 61:1], not in such a way that on this account, as a man, He knew and could do only some things, as other saints know and can do by the Spirit of God, who works in them only created gifts, but since Christ, according to His divinity, is the second person in the Holy Trinity, and from Him, as also from the Father, the Holy Ghost proceeds, and thus is and remains His and the Father’s own Spirit to all eternity, not separated from the Son of God, therefore (as the Fathers say) the entire fulness of the Spirit has been communicated by the personal union to Christ according to the flesh, which is personally united with the Son of God.” (FC SD VIII, 72-73)

    “[I believe in] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father…” (Nicene Creed)

    “For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.” (Athanasian Creed)

    “Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood; Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ: One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God” (Athanasian Creed)

    “[Jesus Christ:] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:6-7)

    Jesus Christ is Almighty God. He is eternal. He possesses the Divine nature (the “fulness of the Spirit,” if you will) from eternity. He communicates the attributes of His Divine nature to His human nature. To teach otherwise is to teach contrary to the catholic faith.

    Anonymous: “I suspect Dr. Jungkuntz has done far more research in understanding the Christology of the authors of the Formula of Concord than you have.”

    So what? The devil quoted Scripture to Jesus, as I recall.

    Anonymous again: “By the way, where exactly does Jungkuntz teach a Spirit baptism apart from water baptism?”

    In his article “The Nestorianism of the Charismatic Movement,” Pr. Preus quotes Jungkuntz thus: “He (Jesus) did not perform miracles by the occasional use of his rightful power, as the question in Schwan’s edition of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism maintains…, but rather by virtue of the fact that He had received the power of the Holy Spirit when He was baptized. This model suggest further that believers today receive the same Spirit and are supposed to be able to do the works that Jesus did and thus continue His ministry on earth in its fullness.” Pr. Preus states further: “Jungkuntz then goes on to discuss the importance of experiencing the Baptism of the Spirit with its charismatic gifts.” In addition, you yourself state: “In the Concordia Journal article that is cited, Jungkuntz describes being ‘baptized in the Holy Spirit’ (verbal form) as distinct from sacramental regeneration, but not separated. It is a metaphorical equivalent to being filled with the Holy Spirit.”

    No matter how you slice, dice, and analyze this, it comes down to the Spirit working apart from the means of grace. Jungkuntz and those of his ilk will always divide Christians into two distinct camps: those who have received Spirit baptism (or those who are Spirit-filled or whatever weasel-worded terminology you prefer) and those who haven’t. You may claim that this “baptism” is “distinct… but not separated” from sacramental baptism, but that doesn’t make it so. The work of the Spirit is to testify of Jesus (John 15:26). Water baptism IS Spirit baptism. We need nothing more than that.

    By the way, I have read the Confessions, your condescension notwithstanding. And if rejecting the claims of the charismatics, neo-Pentecostals, enthusiasts, and Schwaermerei makes me a Lutheran Pharisee, then I will bear that mantle with pride. (I may even have tee shirts and coffee mugs made up.)

    DCO Tom Wemlinger

  7. Thank you Tom W for dispelling the supposed “gotcha” and for doing so brilliantly. Here I was just going to say in Preus’ defense that “I think he is pointing out that Jungkuntz wrongly believes in the second baptism.” You did it much more eloquently and decisively than I could have done.

    I’ll take two mugs and a 2X T-shirt please.

    Pastor Rossow

  8. Pastor Rossow

    You missed the fact that Tom W made the very strong allegation that the following quote was heretical:

    “…it follows that through personal union the entire fullness of the Spirit (as the ancient Fathers say) is communicated to Christ according to the flesh that is personally united with the Son of God. This fullness demonstrates and manifests itself spontaneously and with all power in, with, and through the human nature.”

    Tom said this concerning the quote, thinking that it was only the opinion of Jungkuntz:

    “the phrase ‘entire fullness of the Spirit’ does not appear in Scripture and is thus subject to all sorts of interpretations…In addition, these statements seem to imply that Christ does not possess divine attributes in and of Himself; rather, the divine attributes of the Spirit are communicated to Christ’s human nature. In other words, Christ Himself does not possess “the entire fullness of the Spirit,’ making Him a subordinate deity. This, too, is heresy.”

    It was a “gotcha” moment for Tom. Look up the Formula of Concord in the section on Christology and you will see that it is an exact quote taken from the Lutheran Confessions!

    I might add that Klemet quotes Jungkuntz, concerning the miracles of Jesus, that the Lutheran Confessional, “writings do not rule out the possibility that the Baptism by the Spirit was a major source of His power.”

    Note that for Jungkuntz a “major source” does not mean the “only source.” Nor, does it mean that the other members of the Trinity were not involved in the divine economy. The fact is we don’t know to what extent and also how Jesus humanity, divinity and the personal union with both the Father and the Spirit were separately sourced in doing miracles. Jungkuntz just expressed an “opinion” based upon an inference from Scripture passages that talk about the Holy Spirit’s presence. For example, John 5:19, 30a says,

    “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. . . . I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.'” (NASB)

    Paul writes about Jesus in Philippians 2:6-7:

    “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (NASB)

    Consider also how in Matthew 12:28, Jesus said, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God,” as indeed He did. Jesus, then, performed this specific miracle (demon expulsion) by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Jungkuntz pointed out in his article that Klemet cites, that the Confessional Lutheran theologian Edmund Schlink argued that there is a distinction to be made in Christology between “divine majesty” and “prerogatives and privileges.” For example, according to the Formula of Concord, the human nature of Jesus Christ:

    “…was not placed in complete possession (Latin, possessionem, being translated as ‘completed exercise.’) of the divine nature until after the resurrection and ascension.” (FC, SD VIII, 26)

    So no, Jungkuntz is not by any stretch of the imagination a Nestorian. It is a false accusation.

  9. Anonymous conveniently leaves out the statements in the Formula that precede “..it follows that…” Those statements are extremely important, for they are foundational to what “follows.” Of Christ, they state thus: “…according to His divinity, He is of one essence with the Holy Ghost.” I will say it again: The Son possesses divine attributes in and of Himself. His power to do miracles does not depend upon the divine attributes of the Spirit being communicated to His human nature.

    Anonymous accuses me of claiming that the Formula is heretical in its statements regarding the nature of Christ. This is not true. I did claim that Jungkuntz’s conclusions, based as they are upon a faulty interpretation of the Formula’s statements on “the entire fulness of the Spirit,” are incompatible with the catholic faith as confessed in the Athanasian Creed.

    The Formula is clear in its teaching that the “entire fulness of the Spirit” rests on the Son by virtue of His being of one essence with the Holy Spirit. It is a direct reference to His Godhood. As Pr. Preus states, “To say that his miracles or his ability to shine like the sun was because he was anointed by the Spirit is implicitly a denial of his deity.”

    Pr. Rossow:

    You got ’em. I’ll start working on the design.

    DCO Tom W.

  10. (Put me down for a couple of those shirts too.)
    On point though: Having been to a “Baptsim of the Holy Spirit” service led by Pr. Jungkuntz in the 70’s, I can attest that he did teach and profess a “second” baptism seperate and unique from water baptism. Anyone at Valpo in the late 70’s knows from whence I write.

  11. “The Son possesses divine attributes in and of Himself. His power to do miracles does not depend upon the divine attributes of the Spirit being communicated to His human nature.”

    Jesus could do miracles by his divine attributes and perhaps even by his sinless human (preternatural) nature, but he chose at least once to do miracles through the Spirit of God. For example, Jesus says, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28)

    Klemet states, “To say that his miracles or his ability to shine like the sun was because he was anointed by the Spirit is implicitly a denial of his deity.”

    Klemet is in theological error and is way to harsh in both condemning Jungkuntz and Hunter. Jungkuntz says nothing in his article about Christ’s ability to shine like the Son was exclusively because of the Spirit of God. Why did Klemet not post the Jungkuntz article along with his critique? I suspect, if he had, it would have shown how distorted and ungrounded Klemet’s allegations really are.

    Christ himself attributed his ability to cast out demons by the Spirit of God and that attribution did not implicitly convey a denial of his divinity, as Matthew 12:28 clearly indicates. Klemet is in big error in suggesting that it is an implicit denial of Christ’s deity to suggest that a miracle of Christ “was because he was anointed by the Spirit.”

    The Lutheran Confessions clearly state that the “entire fullness of the Spirit (as the ancient Fathers say) is communicated to Christ according to the flesh that is personally united with the Son of God. This fullness demonstrates and manifests itself spontaneously and with all power in, with, and through the human nature.”

    That is the statement that Tom initially had problems with, saying, “these statements seem to imply that Christ does not possess divine attributes in and of Himself…“This, too, is heresy.” But, since finding out that they have been taken from the Confessions, Tom has now re-interpreted his position to claim that he never found them to be heretical in themselves.

  12. Tom writes: “Jesus Christ is Almighty God. He is eternal. He possesses the Divine nature (the “fulness of the Spirit,” if you will) from eternity. He communicates the attributes of His Divine nature to His human nature.”

    The first statement suggests a modalistic understanding of the “fullness of the Spirit.” It is a very heretical understanding of the Trinity. While I am not suggesting that Tom will burn in hell for having such a convoluted understanding of Christology, it is a serious error that needs to be corrected.

    However, the good news is that Tom seems to have reversed his position and admits in a subsequent post: “The Formula is clear in its teaching that the “entire fulness of the Spirit” rests on the Son by virtue of His being of one essence with the Holy Spirit. It is a direct reference to His Godhood.”

    When the Lutheran Confessions refer to the “fullness of the Spirit,” they are not denying that Jesus by nature was in union with the Holy Spirit. The very word, “Christ” implies being anointed by the Holy Spirit. In Luke’s Gospel account a whole host of angels say, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke also tells us Simeon saw the Lord’s Christ Jesus was alive in the Spirit and by the Spirit from the beginning of his human journey. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit. His early growth in wisdom, demonstrated at age twelve in the Temple, evidences the workings of the Holy Spirit. Luke notes this when he says, “And the child grew and became strong, he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” What the early church understood was that the “fullness of the Spirit” was also especially manifested at the Baptism of Jesus. It was this anointing that provided the following understanding:

    “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Acts 10:38

    The Formula of Concord states: “This majesty He had immediately at His conception, but laid it aside, and as Dr. Luther explains, He kept it concealed (secreto habuit) in the state of humiliation and did not employ it always (usurpavit).” For example, the death of Christ was a concealment of His majesty, and this was nothing else than the non-use of HIs majesty.

    Jungkuntz points out in his article that the Confessional Lutheran theologian Edmund Schlink argued that there is a distinction to be made in Christology between “divine majesty” and “prerogatives and privileges.” For example, according to the Formula of Concord, the human nature of Jesus Christ:

    “…was not placed in complete possession (Latin, possessionem, being translated as ‘completed exercise.’) of the divine nature until after the resurrection and ascension.” (FC, SD VIII, 26)

    So, Jungkuntz is not Nestorian and I suspect Kent Hunter is not either. He just has not clarified his views sufficiently, as has Jungkuntz. When I get some more time, I am going to check out the book by Jungkuntz on the Formula of Concord to read if he has further thoughts on the subject of Christology and the miracles of Jesus.

  13. Hello pastor Preuss,
    Can you please explain, how you are using or what you mean by term “Nestorian”?
    In the West there is a totally wrong and distorted heretage of misunderstanding of the true teachings of Nestorius. Did you ever read the parts preserved of the book of Nestorius to his own defense: “Bazar of Heracleides”? It is translated into English; you can find in internet and for further information you can have a look on the pages of http://www.nestorian.org or the webside of the “Assyrian Church of the East” in Australia. This church is the one who was not willing to condam the former Bishop Nestorius (Antiochene School) in behalf of the Alexandrine school. The quarrel in the 4th century Christology was much more about non-Christian influences in “Mariology” than about genuine Christology; Nestorius was insisting that Mary rather is to call “mother of Christ” than “mother of God”, so to prevent making an Godess of her (as following the Isis cult). As well as Jesus is Son of God (God the Word) he also is true Son of Man (born of the virgin Mary). I as a protestant (Lutheran / Reformered united) pastor find it shameful, how you (like many others) are still using the term “Nestorian” as heretical. In your sence: Nestorius was not “Nestorian” in this misunderstood and distorted sence.

    I found out that we main stream protestants have a lot in commen with the Church of the East (Assyrian Christians / “Nestorians”) and should not at all disregard or fight them. So am just trying to build bridges.

    Thanks for considering my comments and God bless!

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