Monothelitism and Polyconfusionism: Jonathan McLatchie’s Comments Considered Further

I suspect Jonathan may have evolved his thoughts on the number of wills Jesus has after the discussion with Mansur which precipitated online chatter. A few months ago, Jonathan did produce a blog post in response to the 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” so he builds his arguments on shaky ground.

Jonathan McLatchite persists with 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).

pope-honorius-i

Monothelitism was either endorsed or tolerated by Pope Honorius (625-638)

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 time he’s saying it’s [tantamoun to] Nestorianism (a heresy) to say that 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 Dr White’s comments to Robert Sungenis, Jonathan’s comments to Dr Costa, Dr Costa’s comments to Paul Williams and Mansur’s dialogue with Jonathan at Speakers Corner.

If you want to read about Monothelitism here’s a link to the New World Encyclopedia

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Categories: Islam

31 replies

  1. Jonathan’s article in full

    Does Christ Have Two Wills, or Just One Will?
    I was recently asked at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park about whether Christ has two wills or just one will. One must of course always be careful when talking about the nature of God, since — according to both the Bible and the Qur’an (Surah 42:11, 112:4) — God is not like any created thing and thus analogies and comparisons to things in creation are notoriously problematic.

    We have no experience of any single person possessing two natures, and so have little idea of what exactly that would entail. Nonetheless, Scripture affirms that the person of Christ has two natures. He is fully human and yet fully deity. In the person of Christ, the fullness of the divine essence has been poured into a physical body (Colossians 2:9).

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Jesus demonstrates that His will is perfectly congruent and in alignment with the will of the Father. In John 10:30, He asserts that “I and the Father are one”. Given the context, it is apparent that He is speaking of a oneness of purpose or will in bringing about the salvation of God’s people. It is certainly true to say that Christ had a human mind. Nonetheless, His will was always to be about His Father’s business (Luke 2:49).

    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.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a bit comedic that he insults Br. Mansoor, but then wonders why the Da’wah groups in the UK collectively reject him.

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    • To be honest,i think br mansur couldn’t reach the conclusion because jonathan was a bit restless.Br mansur usually takes the ‘step by step’ way of discussing issues,jonathan just wanted to reach the conclusion,which is probably why he ended up getting annoyed and leaving instead of answering the questions.

      Like

    • Agreed, I think there was a bit of that at play as Mansur is quite methodical. I also think Jonathan just saw Mansur was taking the Trinitarian position out to deep water and Jon saw a hazard or two in the distance hence his desire to end it.

      Like

  3. So much for the ‘God is not the author of confusion’.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ijaz,

    I think it’s a common debate trait in online apologetics to put the other person’s knowledge base down (Mansur was accused of not understanding Christian theology) as it’s essentially saying to the audience “I’m the authority here so listen to me”. Issues of pride and debate tactics aren’t going to go away any time soon. This tactic is common when the Trinity doctrine is being discussed, how many times have you heard, “oh you don’t understand the Trinity” in a debate?

    So I don’t think Jonathan’s comment to Mansur can be considered a weighty offence when contextualised.

    What is important here is the reluctance in online apologetics of folks admitting a lack of knowledge or “error” (with repect to their tradition). Jonathan would have been better off just saying, yep folks I made a comment that was not in-step with modern orthodox Trinitarian teachings on an area that is obscure amongst 99.99% of Christians” rather than trying to justify his statement by appealing to ill-defined terms and loose language

    But surely you saw the comments by that Newcastle Uni chess guy saying Jonathan, upon being quizzed on his statements on Muslims and Islam, expressed a different sentiment on Muslims and Islam than what he said publicly. To make public corrections of oneself is difficult as it takes more humility.

    The problem of pride – it gets us all. Muslims and Christians.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “I think it’s a common debate trait in online apologetics to put the other person’s knowledge base down (Mansur was accused of not understanding Christian theology) as it’s essentially saying to the audience “I’m the authority here so listen to me”. Issues of pride and debate tactics aren’t going to go away any time soon. This tactic is common when the Trinity doctrine is being discussed, how many times have you heard, “oh you don’t understand the Trinity” in a debate”- yahya

    ” I don’t think he has researched or thought it through himself”- yahya

    You are right, issues of pride and debate tactics are a problem. There also may be a log in your eye- go see a physician

    Like

    • Luke, thanks.

      My post is not part of a debate, simply my thoughts on what happened and what was said. I’ve posted a link to this on a FB discussion group to get feedback. I haven’t had anybody point out any flaws in the points being made thus far. I’m looking for a bit of critical engagement.

      Here are a couple of interesting responses though:

      Just a little snippet from Aquinas, something to ponder perhaps.

      Whatever was in the human nature of Christ was moved at the bidding of the Divine will; yet it does not follow that in Christ there was no movement of the will proper to human nature, for the good wills of other saints are moved by God’s will, “Who worketh” in them “both to will and to accomplish,” as is written Philippians 2:13. For although the will cannot be inwardly moved by any creature, yet it can be moved inwardly by God, as was said in I:105:4. And thus, too, Christ by His human will followed the Divine will according to Psalm 39:9; “That I should do Thy will, O my God, I have desired it.” Hence Augustine says (Contra Maxim. ii, 20): “Where the Son says to the Father, ‘Not what I will, but what Thou willest,’ what do you gain by adding your own words and saying ‘He shows that His will was truly subject to His Father,’ as if we denied that man’s will ought to be subject to God’s will?”

      I didn’t know he had a shift in his position, thanks for the update (should have gleaned that from your article). As for ‘two wills’ having a relationship with Nestorianism I agree, and what makes that connection even stronger is the Orthodox belief that Christ’s two natures lead to their defense that Christ has ‘two minds’ (one divine, one human). These two propositions put together (for me) logically entail nestorianism which means Christ cannot be one person. It depends what you define as fundamental to personhood. For me ‘one mind/one will’ is normative for ‘a person’, so anyone arguing something other than that (something more) has the burden of proof to demonstrate that one person can have two minds/two wills and also has the burden of proof to explain how that does not equate to two persons/natures. Even the claim that something has two distinct natures appears to infer that each nature would have it’s own set of conditions, boundaries and states of development entailing two personages. Consider the same set of consciousness even in two distinct human bodies (even two males, doesn’t have to be female or two distinct species), the question would be how could that each body possibly develop in the exact same way resulting in an identical personality? If we acknowledge that all the external variables of personality don’t really constitute the characteristics of personhood, then what is supposedly the same? – Just food for thought.

      Like

  6. The debate with Dr. Sungenis and Dr. White on Papal Infallibility is priceless. It refuted the “Pope Honorius refutes Papal Infallibility” canard. Ironically, even though White was thoroughly refuted, he still uses that argument and acts like its the silver bullet against Papal Infallibility, even though Sungenis owned him on it and he knows it.

    Like

  7. Christian apologists need to realize that muslim – and other atheist/agnostic worldviews – are presenting something of a red herring when they focus on the minutiae of the trinity.

    The gospels are about god’s love, and hence, about who god is, how much he loves his creation and fallen humans, and his perfect mercy and love. Since both the old and new testaments clearly show a plural god, any arguments about the specifics of the trinity are somewhat moot.

    If jesus has one or two natures is really a secondary issue – he is clearly shown to be divine in the NT, the holy spirit is shown to be divine (what else could god’s holy spirit be???), and god the father is above. Yet, there is only one god but, no problem since the gospels are about god’s love.

    This is why christians often fail to fully describe the trinity – it is not the main focus of the Good News and christians don’t realize that islam is the opposite.

    The main thrust of the quran is to point out that allah is “one”, but doesn’t (according to islamic theology) tell anything about allah’s nature. In islam allah is an unknown and unknowable being – merely saying that he “is” anything is blasphemy.

    So islam is about worshiping a being whose fundamental nature cannot be known – so, we cannot know if allah is fundamentally good or evil, or if his hope for creation is benign or malevolent.

    Islam argues that allah is “one” which carries no intrinsic meaning or insight into his nature, but is absolutely central, christianity argues that god is perfectly loving and merciful with a secondary focus on his being.

    Like

    • Polyconfused HS inspiration?

      Like

    • typical trinitarian nonsense preaching about self inflicted misguidance

      Like

    • Kev, you wrote:
      “The gospels are about god’s love”
      Let me remind you,
      That “all loving God” kept teaching his the most beloved people to keep his commandments to be holy/saved, and he kept warning them that he’d punish them severely if they didn’t ( and that happened many times to israelites ) while that “all loving God” had already known that no one can be holy/saved by keeping the commandments except by his death on the cross!
      It seems for me, that “all loving god” had shackled his the most beloved people for more than 1500 years, while he commanded them repeatedly to swim via vast deep ocean! ,and If they failed, he would punish them severely.
      So I’m just wondering what kind of love is that?

      Like

    • Abullah

      God promised the ancient israelites prosperity in the land if they obeyed his laws – not redemption. You have it wrong.

      But you have completely ignored my main points – the trinity is not central to the Good News, although a significant part of it. Tawheed is central to the quranic message, although it is fundamentally a trite point – allah is “one”……and????

      So what? Allah is “one”, but what else? In islam, nothing. You cannot know if allah’s fundamental nature is good or evil, nor can you know if his plans for creation are benign or malevolent.

      Just who and what is allah, and what does he want, and why?

      Like

    • I was asking about the central point that you pointed to ( i.e god’s love). Why did tha all loving god keep punishing his beloved people for breaking something which is not meant to be kept in the first place!? God demanded from them to be holy ? How while he had not died on the cross yet?!
      Did not that all loving god know as your prophet paul taught that the law is a curse without god being dead on the cross?!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Abdullah

      Like I said…..

      God promised the ancient israelites prosperity in the land if they obeyed his laws – not redemption. You have it wrong.

      Your point is moot.

      Now answer the points I raised about the absurdity of muslims worshiping a being whose only attribute they claim to be sure of is his “oneness” – and attribute that is trite, and says nothing about allah’s intrinsic goodness/evil or whether his plans for creation are benign or malevolent.

      Allah could be intrinsically evil for all you know.

      Like

    • I know God does not create man intrinsically evil. I know human beings are not totally depraved by nature.

      That’s what your philosophical concept “God” – the one “What” you worship – does.

      Like

    • Burhanuddin1

      No one says that humans were created intrinsically evil.

      Why don’t you address my points? The “oneness” of allah is a trite revelation that tells you nothing about who it is. What can you know about allah? Is it evil? If the answer is “no”, how can you be sure?

      Like

    • what points

      Like

    • These ones….

      The “oneness” of allah is a trite revelation that tells you nothing about who it is. What can you know about allah? Is it evil? If the answer is “no”, how can you be sure?

      Like

    • @Kev,

      I do not recognize what you are describing as the Islamic position. You said that Allah is unknown and unknowable.

      We can know Allah through looking at His signs in creation as well as pondering over His revelations.

      Watch this video of just one Surah from the Quran to maybe understand how Muslims think about this subject..

      (Note the translation is a human attempt to communicate the message)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Kev, in your opinion what makes God “knowable”, the idea of an incarnation?

      Like

    • “Your point is moot”
      Oh Really? So what was the point from all writings of your prophet Paul when he kept comparing between keeping the law and believing in Jesus? What was the point from (Roman 8:3)?

      Also, forget about the redemption! You still have the problem when that “all loving god” kept punishing his beloved people for breaking soemthing which cannot be kept in the first place.

      Like

    • Fawaz

      What you are saying is that islam is about speculating about allah. Let’s be honest here – none of allah’s attributes accurately describe its nature, they merely describe actions that it can, might, or has done and that’s all. Hence, allah cannot be known and by extension it cannot be trusted.

      Like

    • Abdullah

      More questions?

      Romans 8:3 is clearly talking about sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin – affirming jesus as god incarnate for the purpose of redemption.

      Now, how about addressing my points? Allah is capricious and whimsical and possibly evil. The god of Abraham reaches out to humanity in his perfect mercy and perfect love, while islam demands worship rituals that your god couldn’t even be bothered to reveal in his supposed holy revelation, and had to be patched together years and years and years after the 7th century by human beings who weren’t around at the time of mohammed.

      SO we know that allah is “one”, but, again, so what? Who or what are you bowing down to? No one knows, no one can know.

      Like

    • @Kev,

      Allah’s attributes include Mercy, Love, Forgiveness, Justice, Power, Knowledge etc.

      We believe that the Creator actually does forgive sins when one sincerely repents. He is near to us when we call upon Him.

      In Islam, we are like the people of Nineveh or the prodigal son in the sense that we are forgiven due to repentance. God forgives sins truly. He does not simply extract punishment from someone else. The guidance of God that he sends through His prophets is a great blessing. It is proof of His Rahma(Mercy/compassion).

      The God of Abraham even according to the Bible rejects that anyone should be worshipped along side him especially a created being that depends on food for sustenance.

      “They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.” [Psalms 106:20]

      We do not worship a person with limits to his knowledge. [See Ezekiel 28:3 and Mark 13:32]

      Like

  8. “Polyconfusionism” excellent, word of the year 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  1. Missionary Mishap: Jonathan McLatchie | Calling Christians
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