Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Jonathan McLatchie's Comments on the Apologetics Academy: Orthodox or Heretical?

I suspect Jonathan may have evolved his thoughts on the number of wills Jesus has after the discussion with Mansur. A few months ago, Jonathan did produce a blog post in response to some chatter around his statement to Mansur (i.e.  Jesus has "one will, not two"). In his blog article he has conflated “will” with “desire/urge”.
He has the same mistaken conflation in his discussion with Dr Tony Costa and Paul Williams as highlighted in the clip of him  presenting his thoughts (after Paul Williams had left the room) to Dr Tony Costa. Yes, I know Dr Costa agreed with him but he’s mistaken too albeit his “yes” in agreement with Jonathan seemed a bit unsure. Perhaps he didn’t quite catch Jonathan’s misunderstanding.
In any case, I strongly suspect Dr Costa, in his preparation for his recent debate with Robert Sungenis, watched Dr White’s debate with Robert Sungenis and thus repeated Dr White in asserting the belief Jesus has two wills is orthodox – I don’t think he has researched or thought it through himself (which is not a criticism as this is a very little-known area in Trinitarian Christian theology).
I’ve clipped all the relevant comments in the new video below including Dr James White’s comments clearly teaching the idea of Jesus having two wills is orthodox (and the idea of one will is unorthodox).
Let’s go through some bits from Jonathan McLatchie’s article whilst we’re at it.
JM: I believe that, in one sense, Jesus could be said to have two wills; in another sense, Jesus could be said to have only one will. If by saying that Jesus possesses two distinct wills you mean that He possesses two separate centers of consciousness which conflict in their intentions and will, then such a view collapses into Nestorianism, a well known fifth century heresy which maintains that Jesus is two persons.  At Speaker's Corner, Muslim polemicist Mansoor Ahmed asked me whether the human will of Jesus worships the divine will of Jesus. Thus, it was clear to me that by saying that Jesus possesses two wills, Mansoor meant it in the heretical Nestorian sense. In this sense, Jesus only possesses a single will. Yes, he most definitely possesses two natures. But to suggest that Jesus has two separate and conflicting wills seems to me to be virtually indistinguishable from Nestorianism.
What you’re doing here, Jonathan, is mixing up definitions and terms. It’s really loose language. To say Jesus has only “one will not two” to Mansur just to express the idea that the two wills don’t conflict is careless use of language to say the least To express your idea, why not just say “I believe he has two wills, one divine and one human, but those two wills agree with each other”?  (NOTE: Jonathan later puts forward an example from the NT showing the wills don't agree with each other).
That would avoid all the finger-pointing and cries of “heretic”, right?
And I don’t think it’s clear Mansur was driving at the wills not being in agreement so I have reservations when it comes to your reasoning explaining why  you said what you did did to Mansur. I think Mansur was driving at the same point Dr Bart Ehrman hints at. Bart Ehrman writes the following when asked why there was such an opposition in the first 1000 years of Christianity to the idea of Jesus having one will and one nature:
The problem was that he had to be fully human and fully divine, not half of each. Otherwise, it was thought, he wasn’t “really” either, but a kind of hybrid. [Bart Erhman]
Herein is the issue. If one maintains there are two natures with respect to Jesus then each nature will be said to have a separate consciousness (i.e. will) otherwise the natures (both human and divine) would be considered incomplete. Quite perceptively, this seems to be one of the observations Mansur brings to the fore in his discussion with Jonathan.
JM: In another sense, however, Jesus can be said to have two wills. This is clearly seen, for instance, at Jesus' temptation (Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4), in which Jesus, according to Hebrews 4 "in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." One might ask, if I am saying that Jesus possesses only one will, then how can He have been tempted? After all, God cannot sin. In response to this, I would point out that even a single person can have a complexity of will. For example, a sailor drifting at sea might desire to drink the sea water in order to quench his thirst, and yet at the same time know that drinking the salt water will only worsen his thirst. In a similar way, Christ -- being fully and completely human -- possessed human desires, such as the desire to not be hungry. At the same time, however, he knew that it would be sinful for him to turn the stones into bread as the Devil has tempted him to do, and so he did not succumb to the temptation. Thus, insofar as it is possible for a single person to possess a complexity of will, Jesus possessed a complexity of will.
Jonathan, this idea of “complexity of will” is just a conflation between will and desire on your part. I think you’re basing arguments on flawed definitions and understandings of terms and words here.
I think Jonathan has a mistaken understanding of the concept of “will”, he’s confusing it with natural urges/desires.
“Will” doesn’t refer to “desire”. “Will” refers to a centre of consciousness. For a human it’s effectively the capacity to process desire (and reason) to act/think decisively.
In order to be considered fully human, orthodox Christians insist Jesus  has a human will, the same applies to the idea of his divine nature (thus they insist Jesus had a divine will too). To say Jesus only had one will would open the door to folks who maintain monophysitism and/or monothelitism as the divine and human natures  are not considered complete or full.
JM: It was in His human nature that Christ bore the temptation to sin. I believe that the divine nature of Christ would always have served as a backstop to prevent Christ from sinning. Nonetheless, Christ bore the temptation in the arm of His flesh and overcame.
I think this conflation of nature and will is Jonathan flying close to the sun. Sooner or later he will get too close to the sun and ultimately plunge into the sea of “heresy” – perhaps he has already taken a dip or two.
This  is just another example of how the Gospel authors didn’t have the same theology as Trinitarian Christians like Jonathan McLatchie. If they truly believed the “divine nature” of Jesus would ultimately prevent Jesus from sinning then how can they describe it as a temptation to sin? A temptation to do something can only be a temptation IF the means and ability is there. There’s no good somebody giving me a bike and then claiming they’ve tempted me to travel to Mars! I don’t have the ability to travel there, there’s a backstop in place, thus I can’t be tempted.According to Trinitarians,  Jesus didn’t have the ability to fall into that temptation to sin so the assumption here is either:
1. The authors of the Gospels and Hebrews didn’t believe Jesus had a “divine nature” acting as a  “backstop” preventing him from sinning.
2.The authors of the Gospels believed Jesus’s human nature didn’t know he had a “divine nature” acting as a “backstop” preventing him from sinning.
3. The authors of these books didn’t really think their words through theologically.
JM: Likewise, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus in His human nature had the desire to not experience pain or abandonment and separation from the favorable presence of God, for "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). And He knew very well what experiencing the wrath of God would entail. Hence, in Matthew 26:39 / Mark 14:36, Jesus says "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." While, since He possessed a human nature, He felt the human desire to not experience pain, He nonetheless understood full well that experiencing the wrath of God would be necessary in order to provide redemption for His people.
In summary, the idea that Christ has two wills, I believe to be in error in any sense that suggests that Christ possesses two separate centers of consciousness (Nestorianism). On the other hand, I believe it is quite valid to assert that Christ possessed a complexity of will in the manner in which individual persons can be said to possess a complexity of will.
And this is the fruit of Jonathan’s mixing of terminologies. Confusion on top of confusion.
Jonathan says Jesus can’t have two wills that conflict yet here he cites an example of Jesus’ human will not being in-line with what the Trinitarians believe to be the will of the divine.
Think about what is being said here. Jonathan cites an example of Jesus consciously asking God for something in opposition to what the Trinitarians believe to be the divine will. The idea of Jesus’ human nature consciously asking for something different to what the divine wills is not only teaching Jesus had two wills but it’s also teaching the wills aren’t in agreement! Yet at the same he’s saying it’s [tantamoun to] Nestorianism (a heresy) to say there Jesus had two conflicting wills.
Lastly, I think we need to make sure our focus is not distracted to the extent that there's no thoughts on whether this idea of dyothelitism is Biblical or not - James White couldn't give a Scriptural basis for such a belief.
Here are all the relevant clips including Jonathan's comments to Dr Costa, Dr Costa's comments to Paul Williams and Mansur's dialogue with Jonathan at Speakers Corner.

James White's Comments Rebuke Arguments of Jay Smith and David Wood

How Jay Smith, Beth Grove, Usama Dakdok and David Wood contribute to the apostasy of Christians

Notes from Sean Finnegan's interview with Patrick Navas: Is the Trinity Biblical

Tovia Singer: Does the New Testament Teach Jesus is God?

Why Islam

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