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:
- Nestorianism? (Lane Keister)
- Schaff, Hodge, and Murray on Jesus’ Natures (Lane Keister)
- Are Calvinists Nestorians? (Triablogue)
- Bryan Cross Spouts Nonsense (Triablogue)
- The Christology of the New Testament (Triablogue)
- A Few Older Debates from the Blog of Turretin Fan
Lane’s references to Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology are below:
- Hodge, Systematic Theology, Volume 2, Chapter 4, Section 3 – ‘Nestorianism’
- Hodge, Systematic Theology, Volume 3, Chapter 3, Section 5 – ‘Mariolatry’
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.