Friday, January 21, 2011

Did Sixth Council condemn "later" Western Theology? No.

The Sixth Ecumenical Council is the Third that was held in Constantinople.

Anyone who knows the story of Pope Honorius' compromise in the Monothelite affair, knows he was condemned by the Council. Of course this has been used to attack Papacy as defined by Vatican I. And that so long ago that the answer is already there in Catholic Encyclopedia:

Some have maintained, with Pennacchi, that he was indeed condemned as a heretic, but that the Oriental bishops of the council misunderstood the thoroughly orthodox (and dogmatic) letter of Honorius; others, with Hefele, that the council condemned the heretically sounding expressions of the pope (though his doctrine was really orthodox); others finally, with Chapman (see below), that he was condemned

because he did not, as he should have done, declare authoritatively the Petrine tradition of the Roman Church. To that tradition he had made no appeal but had merely approved and enlarged upon the half-hearted compromise of Sergius. . . Neither the pope nor the council consider that Honorius had compromised the purity of the Roman tradition, for he had never claimed to represent it. Therefore, just as today we judge the letters of Pope Honorius by the Vatican definition and deny them to be ex cathedra, because they do not define any doctrine and impose it upon the whole Church, so the Christians of the seventh century judged the same letters by the custom of their day, and saw that they did not claim what papal letters were wont to claim, viz., to speak with the mouth of Peter in the name of Roman tradition. (Chapman)


Now, more recently "the Orthodox" have launched another attack against the West. This time the point is that the Council defined the divine essence and divine energies as distnct from each other and therefore condemned the "Western" doctrine - ok, maybe it really is Western, I do not claim to know - of Absolute Simplicity of God. When St Thomas Aquinas wrote De Simplicitate Dei he would have been then condemned beforehand by that Council. This would be the "central" so to speak "Western heresy" taken up from Plotinus by Platonising writers like Origen and Fathers like St Augustine. From it "double procession of Holy Ghost" would be a valid but condemned conclusion, as would be denial of free will (Luther Calvin) or indeed of possibility to know God (Maimonides, quoted and refuted by St Thomas Aquinas, Barlaam, refuted by Gregory Palamas ... and a loadful of more modern ones).

Now, the Sixth Ecumenical Council was about one dogmatic issue: condemning Monotheletism.

Monotheletism clamied that:

  • Yes, concurring with Chalcedon, Christ had one real divine essence and one real human essence;
  • No, differring from Nestorius, Christ's divine will and his human will, his divine operation and human operation are all one.


The Sixth Council answered:

  • Yes, concurring with Chalcedon, Christ had one real divine essence and one real human essence;
  • Yes, according to that his divine will and his human will are really distinct, and his divine operation and human operation are really distinct, BUT:
  • No, differring from Nestorius, Christ's divine will and his human will, his divine operation and human operation are in total harmony, but not one single will or one single operation.


The distinction between essence and will and operation in the humanity of Christ is mere commonsense. It was not denied by either party. The distinction between divine and human on both sides was defined. Whether there was a distinction in God between what He is and what He does, what He is and What he wills was not at all the issue.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Emmaüs Agora/Paris I
21/I/2011

1 comment:

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Later Western Theology does not include Protestantism or Liberal Theology, obviously.

That is so not Theology. Same goes for any kind of Judaism, though that is not exactly Western.