Last week I posted three blogs on love (August 26-28). I began to show why love is eternal. The reason is to be clearly rooted in the eternal mystery of the biblical truth: “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Today I want to take another example that demonstrates my affirmation – the person of Christ.
Nestorius believed in Christ and followed him as a deep thinker. He insisted that the eternal God could not truly be born of a woman. He thus denied that Mary was “The Mother of God.” (This language, which troubles some modern readers who can say Mary was the mother of Jesus, but not the mother of God, must be properly understood in its original doctrinal development and context.) When this affirmation was originally made it was intended to underscore the fact that Jesus was fully human. He could only be fully human if he was conceived in the womb of a real woman, namely Mary. And he had to be birthed in a normal human way. (Remember, the idea of the virgin birth is generally misnamed since the church really confessed a virginal conception!) Why did all this matter? Because God was truly in Jesus, and Jesus was in all ways true human flesh. To say that Mary was “The Mother of God” was important in order to make this singular point clear: Christ’s humanity, contra Nestorianism, was totally real.
Later another controversy arose regarding human freedom and salvation. Pelagius insisted that we are free, so free that we could work out our own salvation by keeping the law. We were not mortally wounded by the fall thus we were fully able to make our own effort and (in essence) save ourselves. This error was another denial of paradox. The Manicheans tried to solve this difficult problem I will address later about God’s love and the existence of evil. They embraced a form of philosophical dualism, thus solving the problem of God’s goodness and the presence of evil by teaching that there were really two gods. One god was responsible for the good and the other for the evil.
On and on we could go surveying the rise of ancient Christian errors but here is the important point. Each one of these Christian heresies arose inside the church, under different forms and with many differing labels. But in every case the mainstream Christian tradition eventually emphasized that the church should hold to both sides by embracing the paradox of the faith.
But doesn’t this kind of thinking, and the language that goes with it, deny human logic? The church answered, over time. In effect it said that all truth has elements of paradox in it. Such paradox points us to the totality of the Mystery, the mystery of our faith. These are not contradictory truths but “partial glimpses of the One Unknowable and Inexpressible Truth” (Who Is God?, Irma Zaleski, 74). Divine truth, including the great truth of all –“God is love – can never completely convince our rational minds and answer all our questions. Your life is “a journey into the unknown, incomprehensible and often frightening reality of God. We must accept this fact of our life of faith and learn the art of unknowing” Irma Zaleski (Who Is God?, Irma Zzaleski, 74).