The Divine and Human Nature of Christ in Orthodoxy

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

For your information: Over the years the Orthodox Church dealt with numerous heresies that threaten the unity and harmony of the Church. "Throughout history, heretics have been a lot like modern-day quacks". "A heretic was someone whose doctrines were not Orthodox and whose doctrines consequently hindered him from reaching purification and illumination. Orthodoxy, however, offers this cure and can guide the believer to purification and illumination" (Protopresbyter John S. Romanides).

The Ecumenical Councils of the Church dealt with the various heresies that threaten the Orthodox Christian faith, i.e., Arianism was a 4th century heresy named after Arius (250-336 A.D.), a presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt, who taught that the Son of God was not co-eternal and consubstantial with His Father, but rather a created being with a definite origin in time. This led to the calling of the First Ecumenical Council, which condemned it and it authored and established the Orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Today the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormon sects are accused of being Arian. Also, some forms of modern Protestantism appear to espouse a form of Arianism, referring to Jesus Christ as essentially distinct from God in terms which suggest that, as the Son, He is ontologically distinct from, and inferior to, the Father.

Another heresy was Nestorianism, a Christological heresy which originated in the Church in the 5th century out of an attempt to rationally explain and understand the Incarnation of the Divine Logos (Word), the Second Person of the Holy Trinity as the man Jesus Christ. Nestorianism teaches that the human and divine essences of Christ are separate and that there are two persons, the man Jesus Christ and the Divine Logos (Word), which dwelt in the man. Thus, Nestorians reject such terminology as "God suffered" or "God was crucified", because they believe that the man Jesus Christ suffered. Likewise, they reject the term Theotokos (Giver of birth to God) for the Virgin Mary, using instead the term Christotokos (giver of birth of Christ) or Anthropotokos (giver of birth of man). The Assyrian church of the East is a Nestorian boy with jurisdiction in Iraq and Eastern Iran. It is sometimes referred to as the Assyrian Orthodox church, not to be confused with the Syriac Orthodox Church or the Orthodox Church of Antioch.

In their refusal to venerate the Ever-Virgin Mary, modern Evangelical Protestants deny the use of the term Theotokos (Mother of God). In defending this, many Evangelical Protestants argue that the Virgin Mary could not have given birth to God but only to the man Jesus. They thus again separate in the Theandric God-man Jesus a human and a Divine person and teach Nestorianism.

The error of this thinking lies in the failure to understand the intricacies of Christology and the doctrine of Incarnation. A proper understanding of Jesus Christ. If Mary is not Theotokos, then Christ is not God-man. Likewise, if Christ is God-man, then Mary is Theotokos. If Mary is not Ever-Virgin, then Christ did not become God Incarnate. If Christ became God Incarnate, then Mary is Ever-Virgin. If Mary is not the Queen Mother, then Christ is not King; if Christ is King, then Mary is Queen Mother.

Not only did the Orthodox Church defend the True Christian faith but it continues to do so today. It is therefore my intent to make all of you aware of the dangers, threats and continued concerns that exist today. Here then is what the Orthodox Christian Church has believed for 2,000 years about Who Jesus Christ is:

The Divine and Human Nature of Christ
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Canada

The Holy Scripture speak of the Divine nature and Divinity of Christ in many places, but we will refer to only a few. Let us begin with Thomas, who had doubted His Divine nature. However, in John, 2:28, Thomas proclaims without any reservation or doubt, "My Lord and my God!" Christ is Lord and God. Saint John characteristically states, "In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  The Son and Word of God is truly God. We will make only one more reference, to Saint Paul, who states, "God was revealed in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).

With absolute faith, the Church Fathers preached the Divinity of Christ. Saint Eirinaeos, emphasizing that his faith was received from the Holy Apostles and their disciples, believes, "in one God, Father Almighty, and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, Incarnate for our salvation." And he confirms that the Son of God is truly God. And he continues, "If man had not been joined to God (i.e., united in Christ), he would not have been able to partake of incorruption."

We find the same teaching about the Divinity of Christ--His Divine nature--in Saint Gregory of Nyssa, in Saint Basil the Great, in Saint John Chrysostom, in Saint Cyril of Alexandria, in Saint Athanasius the Great, and in many other holy Fathers of the Church. The Holy Fathers explain that the Son is not the same Person as the Father, and that with His Incarnation, the Son did not suffer "change or alteration." He remains perfect God and perfect man.

Let us now look a bit at the human nature of Christ. We must first emphasize that He is the Son and Logos (Word) of God made man. Saint John clearly tells us, "The Word was made flesh" (John 1:14). Saint Paul tells us, that the Incarnate Word is in all things like us human beings, with a soul, body, rationally uncorrupted passion, hunger, thirst, fatigue, etc., "similar in all things to us" but "without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Christ Himself calls Himself "the Son of Man," in this way declaring that He is perfect man. He also acknowledges that He is descended from David. In the Epistle to the Hebrews (2:10-15), Saint Paul tells us, among other things, "since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death He might destroy him who had dominion over death, that is the Devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage." Since human beings are comprised of flesh and blood, so likewise the Son and Word of God assumed the same elements. Saint Paul tells us further that Christ assumed flesh and blood also that by His death as man, He could defeat the Devil, who has the power of death; so that He could destroy death, "by death trampling down death."

The Church Holy Fathers Saints Gregory Nazianzen, John Chrysostom, John Damascene, and Athanasius the Great in their teaching agree that Christ "became man in nature and in truth and assumed human nature with all of its properties." Not another kind of flesh, but the same with which we are all afflicted."

This scriptural teaching about the human nature of Christ and His condescending to humanity is summarized in the Third Article of the Nicene Creed, which states, "Who for us and our salvation descended from Heaven and became Incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man."

We must state here in very simple terms that although the Son and Word of God became Perfect Man, He became truly perfect, which means He became man without sin, just as Adam and Eve were originally created as sinless beings. Christ has no connection with sin, which entered man through the intervention of Satan.

Although the Son and Logos (Word) of God became man and is God-man, His two natures remain distinct. One does not absorb the other. The two natures are distinct and separate, united in the same Person, Christ. He is "dual in nature, but one Person." Two natures, One Person.

His human nature united with His Divine nature becomes itself divinized, without, of course, passing beyond its limits or ceasing to be human. In this way, united with Christ we become divine in the moral sense and are saved. Our human nature becomes divine, without, of course, it being altered, or participating in the divine nature.

Keeping the above in mind and in particular that the divine nature remains unchanged, we understand why the Ever-Virgin May is called the Mother of God (Theotokos). She truly gave birth to God. How could this be? Only through a miracle: "Whenever God will, He overthrows the order of nature."

O Jesus, You Who are God-man, Your mercies are unfathomable. Great is Your condescension to us. Unfathomable is Your Incarnation. We accept all of these as Your true Children. Only our faith--and even this is Your gift to us--brings us to the beginning of the comprehension of this Great Mystery. With faith and humility, we beseech You to receive us. Take us with You. Cleanse us of every stain and impurity. Restore us to our ancient glory, to be like Adam before his disobedience and fall. Make us godly. Make us Yours. Grant us eternal life in Your Kingdom. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George