Refuting Modern Day Nestorianism (by Sonny Hernandez)
Modern day Nestorians will slavishly argue that Christ is not one person, but two distinct hypostases, and they will reject the Chalcedonian teaching that “…the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one person.” But when challenged, Nestorians will use the same arguments to defend their two-person Christ doctrine, and their assertions are easy to refute.
First, Nestorians maintain that the early church councils never defined person, but they completely ignore the fact that the Bible unequivocally does, or they will argue that a person “is a composite of propositions,” which is basically parroting Gordon Clark. Plagiarizing Clark and saying that the early church councils never defined person does not prove the points that Nestorians have alleged; all it proves is that they can cite popular apologists and will thus rely on his philosophical arguments, without being able to substantively provide a biblical definition of their own.
Biblically, a person can be defined as a self-aware, rational, and moral individual. Regarding the Godhead, all three persons can be distinguished by personal properties. For example, Jesus spoke in the first person (“My”) about the Holy Spirit and the Father in the third person (John 14:26), and the Holy Spirit is called “He” (John 16:13), and says, “Me,” and “I” (Acts 13:2). The Bible also teaches that the Spirit loves and has fellowship (Rom. 15:30; 1 John 1:3); the Spirit commands (Acts 10:19-20; 13:2), and the Spirit grieved (Eph. 4:30).
The persons of the Trinity are distinct, not divided, and the distinction of persons does not interfere or cause discord in the Godhead, but constitutes a most perfect unity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who can be distinguished by their personal properties: the Father is neither begotten or proceeding, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father before all ages (John 1:14, 18), and the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son (John 15:26; Gal. 4:6).
Moreover, modern day Nestorians are notable for saying the following, “if Christ is one person + two natures, then did a nature or His person die? This is why Christ is two-persons. Therefore, which person do you deny?”
These questions are easy to answer and refute. The person of Christ died on the cross, and Christ is the God-Man (divinity/humanity inseparably united), who has two distinct and unmingled natures, not persons. Remember, Christ “was” [Gk. ēn; lit. always was, predates time and space] in the beginning and is fully God [Theos is an anarthrous predicate nominative that describes the ontological nature of the Logos in John 1c], and He literally “became flesh” [Gk. egeneto; lit., to come into existence].
Therefore, when a modern day Nestorian asks, “which of these [persons] do you deny,” Christians cannot say that they reject His human person or His divine person because He is not two-persons; the person (not persons) of Christ has two-natures that are indissolubly united. The second person (not persons) of the Trinity died on the cross, but it is with respect to His humanity (not divinity) that He died, and it is with respect to His divinity (not humanity) that He conquered death and resurrected.
The Bible teaches that the Logos, who predates time and creation, is completely one in the unity of His person, without confusing His natures. Thus, Christians are correct for following the present debates surrounding the ESS, EFS, and ERAS controversies, but they should not neglect their responsibility to oppose Nestorianism. This is because many professing Christians still embrace Nestorianism, despite the fact that it was condemned as heresy at the Council of Ephesus in 431, but also at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.