The Nestorian Controversy


Have you ever been accused of being a Nestorian? I have. I was discussing a title which Papists apply to Mary – ‘Mother of God’ – with a Romanist and he accused me of being Nestorian. My mind went back over the theology books I’ve read and I struggled to recall who Nestorius was.  I was guessing I was not ‘Nestorian’, but I couldn’t recall what exactly that was.

The proposition my friend was trying to defend was that (1) as Jesus was conceived fully divine, and (2) Mary was Jesus mother, therefore (3) Mary was the ‘Mother of God.’ Syllogisms are never air tight and this one is no exception. Truth must be qualified.

My simple argument was that if Mary was and is the ‘Mother of God’ then (by the power of syllogism) Jesus’ synagogue instructors could rightly retain the title – ‘Teacher of God’. Jesus’ employers could retain the title – ‘Boss of God.’  I was not trying to be cute, but rather trying to show the absurdity of such logic (or lack thereof), without explaining what such a phrase means. This particular phrase, of course, has been used by Satan to bring all manner of ungodly idolatry into what purports to be a ‘christian church’.

Says Charles Hodge (on Mary as ‘mother of God’):

…there is a sense in which Mary was the Mother of God, and a sense in which such a designation is blasphemous, everything depends on the real meaning attached to the terms.

Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople (c. 430s), was objecting to the second use of the phrase – the dangerous heretical one. Some of his advocates later used his argumentation to deny the first use – the biblical one and descended into heresy. Modern lay Romanist apologists have seized upon this to accuse Protestants of the same heresy because we refuse to worship Mary. It seems such baseless accusations are not new for lay Romanist and Eastern ‘Orthodox’ apologists.  Some recent (and a couple not-so-recent) blog debates that have been sparked by this controversy are linked below:

Lane’s references to Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology are below:

If you have friends involved in such anti-christian and sacrilegious blasphemy, you may want to read one or more of these exchanges or the referenced theology text.

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2 thoughts on “The Nestorian Controversy

  1. My simple argument was that if Mary was and is the ‘Mother of God’ then (by the power of syllogism) Jesus’ synagogue instructors could rightly retain the title – ‘Teacher of God’. Jesus’ employers could retain the title – ‘Boss of God.’ I was not trying to be cute, but rather trying to show the absurdity of such logic (or lack thereof), without explaining what such a phrase means. This particular phrase, of course, has been used by Satan to bring all manner of ungodly idolatry into what purports to be a ‘christian church’.

    Respectfully, I think you have yet to prove any “absurdity” here.

    Merely asserting that it is absurd to refer to Jesus’ hypothetical employer as the “Boss of God” does not “prove” that this is the case. I don’t think that’s absurd at all. On the contrary, it would seem absurd, in my feeble estimation, to have any hesitation about preserving and proclaiming the Truth about the Person of Christ as one of the Holy Trinity.

    Beyond this fact, I wonder why you seem to have such reservations when it comes to calling Jesus Christ “God.” In the Eastern Tradition (hymns, liturgics, prayers, etc.) we often say “Christ our True God” and other similar such phrases, so as to carefully emphasize the Divinity of Christ as the Divine Person (the “God-Man” and Incarnation of the Logos of God).

    I also don’t believe that you understand the historical importance of this distinction, and why there was so much controversy over it in the Church (leading to a general synod of bishops that was received as an Ecumenical Council). It is rare to find Protestants that will deny the importance and/or validity of the first four Ecumenical Councils, but it seems that you are calling into question their necessity. Perhaps some further investigation on your behalf would be fruitful, as far as early Church history and the context of these debates and discussions? Understanding Christ is crucial in understanding everything else in “theology,” and especially the Church, as the Church is the Body of Christ. If you “get” Christ wrong, you get everything else wrong, by deduction.

    I don’t know what “idolatry” you are referring to, either, but again, I would encourage you to investigate these things and not simply repeat the polemics of your own traditions of men.

    In peace,
    Vincent

    • Respectfully, I think you have yet to prove any “absurdity” here.

      Uh…no! It is patently absurd!

      …it would seem absurd, in my feeble estimation, to have any hesitation about preserving and proclaiming the Truth about the Person of Christ as one of the Holy Trinity.

      Feeble indeed. I have no hesitation in affirming the Trinity. Did you even bother to read what I wrote?

      I wonder why you seem to have such reservations when it comes to calling Jesus Christ “God.”

      I don’t. Again, what are you even responding to?

      It is rare to find Protestants that will deny the importance and/or validity of the first four Ecumenical Councils, but it seems that you are calling into question their necessity.

      When did I do that?

      I would encourage you to investigate these things and not simply repeat the polemics of your own traditions of men.

      I suppose you would have me to follow your man-made traditions?

      No thanks, I will content myself with the Sacred Scriptures.

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