History of the christian church



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The practical aspect of the controversy is connected with the nature of the Redeemer and of redemption, and was most prominent with the leaders. The advocates of Monotheletism were chiefly concerned to guard the unity of Christ’s person and work. They reasoned that, as Christ is but one person, he can only have one will; that two wills would necessarily conflict, as in man the will of the flesh rebels against the Spirit; and that the sinlessness of Christ is best secured by denying to him a purely human will, which is the root of sin. They made the pre-existing divine will of the Logos the efficient cause of the incarnation and redemption, and regarded the human nature of Christ merely as the instrument through which he works and suffers, as the rational soul works through the organ of the body. Some of them held also that in the perfect state the human will of the believer will be entirely absorbed in the divine will, which amounts almost to a pantheistic absorption of the human personality in the divine.

The advocates of Dyotheletism on the other hand contended that the incarnation must be complete in order to have a complete redemption; that a complete incarnation implies the assumption of the human will into union with the pre-existing divine will of the Logos; that the human will is the originating cause of sin and guilt, and must therefore be redeemed, purified, and sanctified; that Christ, without a human will, could not have been a full man, could not have been tempted, nor have chosen between good and evil, nor performed any moral and responsible act.

The Scripture passages quoted by Agatho and other advocates of the two-will doctrine, are Matt. 26:39 ("Not as I will, but as Thou wilt"); Luke 22:42 ("Not my will, but thine be done"); John 6:38 ("I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me"). For the human will were quoted Luke 2:51 ("he was subject" to his parents); Phil. 2:8 ("obedient unto death"), also John 1:43; 17:24; 19:28; Matt. 27:34; for the divine will, Luke 13:34; John 5:21.

These Scripture passages, which must in the end decide the controversy, clearly teach the human will of Jesus, but the other will from which it is distinguished, is the will of his heavenly Father, to which he was obedient unto death. The orthodox dogma implies the identity of the divine will of Christ with the will of God the Father, and assumes that there is but one will in the divine tripersonality. It teaches two natures and one person in Christ, but three persons and one nature in God. Here we meet the metaphysical and psychological difficulty of conceiving of a personality without a distinct will. But the term personality is applied to the Deity in a unique and not easily definable sense. The three Divine persons are not conceived as three individuals.

The weight of argument and the logical consistency on the basis of the Chalcedonian Dyophysitism, which was acknowledged by both parties, decided in favor of the two-will doctrine. The Catholic church East and West condemned Monotheletism as a heresy akin to Monophysitism. The sixth oecumenical Council in 680 gave the final decision by adopting the following addition to the Chalcedonian Christology:7

"And we likewise preach two natural wills in him [Jesus Christ], and two natural operations undivided, inconvertible, inseparable, unmixed, according to the doctrine of the holy fathers; and the two natural wills [are] not contrary (as the impious heretics assert), far from it! but his human will follows the divine will, and is not resisting or reluctant, but rather subject to his divine and omnipotent will.8 For it was proper that the will of the flesh should be moved, but be subjected to the divine will, according to the wise Athanasius. For as his flesh is called and is the flesh of the God Logos, so is also the natural will of his flesh the proper will of the Logos, as he says himself: ’I came from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the Father who sent me’ (John 6:38). … Therefore we confess two natural wills and operations, harmoniously united for the salvation of the human race." 609

The theological contest was carried on chiefly in the Eastern church which had the necessary learning and speculative talent; but the final decision was brought about by the weight of Roman authority, and Pope Agatho exerted by his dogmatic epistle the same controlling influence over the sixth oecumenical Council, as Pope Leo I. had exercised over the fourth. In this as well as the older theological controversies the Roman popes—with the significant exception of Honorius—stood firmly on the side of orthodoxy, while the patriarchal sees of the East were alternately occupied by heretics as well as orthodox.

The Dyotheletic decision completes the Christology of the Greek and Roman churches, and passed from them into the Protestant churches; but while the former have made no further progress in this dogma, the latter allows a revision and reconstruction, and opened new avenues of thought in the contemplation of the central fact and truth of the divine-human personality of Christ.


§ 111. History of Monotheletism and Dyotheletism.
The triumph of Dyotheletism was the outcome of a bitter conflict of nearly fifty years (633 to 680). The first act reaches to the issue of the Ekthesis (638), the second to the issue of the Type (648), the third and last to the sixth oecumenical Council (680). The theological leaders of Monophysitism were Theodore, bishop of Pharan in Arabia (known to us only from a few fragments of his writings), Sergius and his successors Pyrrhus and Paul in the patriarchal see of Constantinople, and Cyrus, patriarch of Alexandria; the political leaders were the Emperors Heraclius and Constans II.

The champions of the Dyotheletic doctrine were Sophronius of Palestine, Maximus of Constantinople, and the popes Martin and Agatho of Rome; the political supporter, the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus (668–685).

1. The strife began in a political motive, but soon assumed a theological and religious aspect. The safety of the Byzantine empire was seriously threatened, first by the Persians, and then by the Arabs, and the danger was increased by the division among Christians. The Emperor Heraclius (610–640) after his return from the Persian campaign desired to conciliate the Monophysites, who were more numerous than the orthodox in Armenia, Syria, and Egypt.0 He hoped, by a union of the parties, to protect these countries more effectually against the Mohammedan invaders. The Monophysites took offence at the catholic inference of two energies (ejnevrgeiai) in the person of Christ. The emperor consulted Sergius, the patriarch of Constantinople (since 610), who was of Syrian (perhaps Jacobite) descent. They agreed upon the compromise-formula of "one divine-human energy" (miva qeandrikh; ejnevrgeia). 611 Sergius secured the consent of Pope Honorius (625–638), who was afterwards condemned for heresy. Cyrus, the orthodox patriarch of Alexandria, published the formula (633), and converted thousands of Monophysites. 612

But Sophronius, a learned and venerable monk in Palestine, who happened to be in Alexandria at that time, protested against the compromise-formula as a cunning device of the Monophysites. When he became patriarch of Jerusalem (in 633 or 634), he openly confessed, in a synodical letter to the patriarchs, the doctrine of Dyotheletism as a necessary part of the Chalcedonian Christology. It is one of the most important documents in this controversy.3

A few years afterwards, the Saracens besieged and conquered Jerusalem (637); Sophronius died and was succeeded by a Monotheletic bishop.

In the year 638 the Emperor issued, as an answer to the manifesto of Sophronius, an edict drawn up by Sergius, under the title Exposition of the Faith (e[kqesi" th'" pivstew"), which commanded silence on the subject in dispute, but pretty clearly decided in favor of Monotheletism. It first professes the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and incarnation in the Chalcedonian sense, and then forbids the use of the terms "one" or "two energies" (miva or duvo ejnevrgeiai) since both are heretically interpreted, and asserts one will (qevlhma) in Christ.4

2. Two synods of Constantinople (638 and 639) adopted the Ekthesis. But in the remote provinces it met with powerful resistance. Maximus Confessor became the champion of Dyotheletism in the Orient and North Africa, and Pope Martinus I. in the West. They thoroughly understood the controversy, and had the courage of martyrs for their conviction.

Maximus was born about 580 of a distinguished family in Constantinople, and was for some time private secretary of the Emperor Heraclius, but left this post of honor and influence in 630, and entered a convent in Chrysopolis (now Scutari). He was a profound thinker and able debater. When the Monotheletic heresy spread, he concluded to proceed to Rome, and passing through Africa be held there, in the presence of the imperial governor and many bishops, a remarkable disputation with Pyrrhus, who had succeeded Sergius in the see of Constantinople, but was deposed and expelled for political reasons. This disputation took place in July, 645, but we do not know in what city of Africa. It sounded all the depths of the controversy and ended with the temporary conversion of Pyrrhus to Dyotheletism.5

About the same time, several North-African synods declared in favor of the Dyotheletic doctrine.

In the year 648 the Emperor Constans II. (642–668) tried in vain to restore peace by means of a new edict called Typos or Type, which commanded silence on the subject under dispute without giving the preference to either view.6 It set aside the Ekthesis and declared in favor of neutrality. The aim of both edicts was to arrest the controversy and to prevent a christological development beyond the fourth and fifth oecumenical councils. But the Type was more consistent in forbidding all controversy not only about one energy (miva ejnevrgeia), but also about one will (e{n qevlhma). Transgressors of the Type were threatened with deposition; if clergymen, with excommunication; if monks, with the loss of dignity and place, of military or civil officers.

3. An irrepressible conflict cannot be silenced by imperial decrees. Pope Martin I., formerly Apocrisiarios of the papal see at Constantinople, and distinguished for virtue, knowledge and personal beauty, soon after his election (July 5th, 649), assembled the first Lateran Council (Oct., 649), so called from being held in the Lateran basilica in Rome. It was attended by one hundred and five bishops, anathematized the one-will doctrine and the two imperial edicts, and solemnly sanctioned the two-will doctrine. It anticipated substantially the decision of the sixth oecumenical council, and comes next to it in authority on this article of faith. 617

The acts of this Roman council, together with an encyclical of the pope warning against the Ekthesis and the Type, were sent to all parts of the Christian world. At the same time, the pope sent a Greek translation of the acts to the Emperor Constans II., and politely informed him that the Synod had confirmed the true doctrine, and condemned the heresy. Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, and Paulus had violated the full humanity of Christ, and deceived the emperors by the Ekthesis and the Type.

But the emperor, through his representative, Theodore Calliopa, the exarch of Ravenna, deposed the pope as a rebel and heretic, and removed him from Rome (June, 653). He imprisoned him with common criminals in Constantinople, exposed him to cold, hunger, and all sorts of injuries, and at last sent him by ship to a cavern in Cherson on the Black Sea (March, 655). Martin bore this cruel treatment with dignity, and died Sept. 16, 655, in exile, a martyr to his faith in the doctrine of two wills.

Maximus was likewise transported to Constantinople (653), and treated with even greater cruelty. He was (with two of his disciples) confined in prison for several years, scourged, deprived of his tongue and right hand, and thus mutilated sent, in his old age, to Lazica in Colchis on the Pontus Euxinus, where he died of these injuries, Aug. 13, 662. His two companions likewise died in exile.

The persecution of these martyrs prepared the way for the triumph of their doctrine. In the meantime province after province was conquered by the Saracens.
§ 112. The Sixth Oecumenical Council. a.d. 680.
Constans II. was murdered in a bath at Syracuse (668). His son, Constantine IV. Pogonatus (Barbatus, 668–685), changed the policy of his father, and wished to restore harmony between the East and the West. He stood on good or neutral terms with Pope Vitalian (6 57–672), who maintained a prudent silence on the disputed question, and with his successors, Adeodatus (672–676), Donus or Domnus (676–678), and Agatho (678–681).

After sufficient preparations, he called, in concert with Agatho, a General Council. It convened in the imperial palace at Constantinople, and held eighteen sessions from Nov. 7, 680, to Sept. 16, 681. it is called the Sixth Oecumenical, and also the First Trullan Synod, from the name of the hall or chapel in the palace.8 The highest number of members in attendance was one hundred and seventy-four, including three papal legates (two priests and one deacon). The emperor presided in person, surrounded by civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries. The acts are preserved in the Greek original and in two old Latin versions. 619

After a full discussion of the subject on both sides, the council, in the eighteenth and last session, defined and sanctioned the two-will doctrine, almost in the very language of the letter of Pope Agatho to the emperor.0 Macarius, the patriarch of Alexandria, who adhered to Monotheletism, was deposed.

The epistle of Agatho is a worthy sequel of Leo’s Epistle to the Chalcedonian Council, and equally clear and precise in stating the orthodox view. It is also remarkable for the confidence with which it claims infallibility for the Roman church, in spite of the monotheletic heresy of Pope Honorius (who is prudently ignored). Agatho quotes the words of Christ to Peter, Luke 22:31, 32, in favor of papal infallibility, anticipating, as it were, the Vatican decision of 1870. 621

But while the council fully endorsed the dyotheletic view of Agatho, and clothed it with oecumenical authority, it had no idea of endorsing his claim to papal infallibility; on the contrary, it expressly condemned Pope Honorius I. as a Monotheletic heretic, together with Sergius, Cyrus, Pyrrhus, Paulus, Petrus, and Theodore of Pharan.

Immediately after the close of the council, the emperor published the decision, with an edict enforcing it and anathematizing all heretics from Simon Magus down to Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Pope Honorius, who in all was their follower and associate, and confirmed the heresy.2 The edict forbids any one hereafter to teach the doctrine of one will and one energy under penalty of deposition, confiscation, and exile.

Pope Agatho died Jan. 10, 682; but his successor, Leo II., who was consecrated Aug. 17 of the same year, confirmed the sixth council, and anathematized all heretics, including his predecessor, Honorius, who, instead of adorning the apostolic see, dared to prostitute its immaculate faith by profane treason, and all who died in the same error. 623
§ 113. The Heresy of Honorius.
J. von Döllinger (Old Cath.): Papstfabeln des Mittelalters. München, 1863. The same translated by A. Plummer: Fables respecting the Popes in the Middle Ages; Am ed. enlarged by Henry B. Smith, N. York, 1872. (The case of Honorius is discussed on pp. 223–248 Am. ed.; see German ed. p. 131 sqq.).

Schneemann (Jesuit): Studien über die Honoriusfrage. Freiburg i. B, 1864.

Paul Bottala (S. J.): Pope Honorius before the Tribunal of Reason and History. London, 1868.

P. Le Page Renouf: The Condemnation of Pope Honorius. Lond., 1868. The Case of Honorius reconsidered. Lond. 1870.



Maret (R.C.): Du Concil et de la paix relig. Par. 1869.

A. Gratry (R.C.): Four Letters to the Bishop of Orleans (Dupanloup) and the Archbishop of Malines (Dechamps), 1870. Several editions in French, German, English. He wrote against papal infallibility, but recanted on his death-bed.

A. de Margerie: Lettre au R. P. Gratry sur le Pape Honorius et le Bréviaire Romain. Nancy, 1870.

Jos. von Hefele (Bishop of Rottenburg and Member of the Vatican Council): Causa Honorii Papae. Neap., 1870. Honorius und das sechste allgemeine Concil. Tübingen, 1870. (The same translated by Henry B. Smith in the "Presbyt. Quarterly and Princeton Review, "N. York, April, 1872, p. 273 sqq.). Conciliengeschichte, Bd. III. (revised ed., 1877), pp. 145 sqq., 167 sqq., 290 sqq.

Job. Pennachi (Prof. of Church Hist. in the University of Rome): De Honorii I. Romani Pontificis causa in Concilio VI. ad Patres Concilii Vaticani. Romae, 1870. 287 pp. Hefele calls this the most important vindication of Honorius from the infallibilist standpoint. It was distributed among all the members of the Vatican Council; while books in opposition to papal infallibility by Bishop Hefele, Archbishop Kenrick, and others, had to be printed outside of Rome.

A. Ruckgaber: Die Irrlehre des Honorius und das Vatic. Concil. Stuttgart, 1871.

Comp. the literature in Hergenröther; Kirchengesch., III. 137 sqq.
The connection of Pope Honorius I. (Oct. 27, 625, to Oct. 12, 638) with the Monotheletic heresy has a special interest in its bearing upon the dogma of papal infallibility, which stands or falls with a single official error, according to the principle: Si falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. It was fully discussed by Catholic scholars on both sides before and during the Vatican Council of 1870, which proclaimed that dogma, but could not alter the facts of history. The following points are established by the best documentary evidence:

1. Honorius taught and favored in several official letters (to Sergius, Cyrus, and Sophronius), therefore ex cathedra, the one-will heresy. He fully agreed with Sergius, the Monotheletic patriarch of Constantinople. In answer to his first letter (634), he says: "Therefore we confess one will (qevlhma, voluntas) of our Lord Jesus Christ."4 He viewed the will as an attribute of person, not of nature, and reasoned: One willer, therefore only one will. In a second letter to Sergius, he rejects both the orthodox phrase: "two energies," and the heterodox phrase: "one energy" (ejnevrgeia, operatio), and affirms that the Bible clearly teaches two natures, but that it is quite vain to ascribe to the Mediator between God and man one or two energies; for Christ by virtue of his one theandric will showed many modes of operation and activity. 625 The first letter was decidedly heretical, the second was certainly not orthodox, and both occasioned and favored the imperial Ekthesis (638) and Type (648), in their vain attempt to reconcile the Monophysites by suppressing the Dyotheletic doctrine. 626

The only thing which may and must be said in his excuse is that the question was then new and not yet properly understood. He was, so to say, an innocent heretic before the church had pronounced a decision. As soon as it appeared that the orthodox dogma of two natures required the doctrine of two wills, and that Christ could not be a full man without a human will, the popes changed the position, and Honorius would probably have done the same had he lived a few years longer.

Various attempts have been made by papal historians and controversialists to save the orthodoxy of Honorius in order to save the dogma of papal infallibility. Some pronounce his letters to be a later Greek forgery.7 Others admit their genuineness, but distort them into an orthodox sense by a nonnatural exegesis. 628 Still others maintain, at the expense of his knowledge and logic, that Honorius was orthodox at heart, but heretical, or at least very unguarded in his expressions. 629 But we have no means to judge of his real sentiment except his own language, which is unmistakably Monotheletic. And this is the verdict not only of Protestants, 630but also of Gallican and other liberal Catholic historians. 631

2. Honorius was condemned by the sixth oecumenical Council as "the former pope of Old Rome," who with the help of the old serpent had scattered deadly error.2 This anathema was repeated by the seventh oecumenical Council, 787, and by the eighth, 869. The Greeks, who were used to heretical patriarchs of New Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria, felt no surprise, and perhaps some secret satisfaction at the heresy of a pope of Old Rome.

Here again ultramontane historians have resorted to the impossible denial either of the genuineness of the act of condemnation in the sixth oecumenical Council, 633or of the true meaning of that act. 634 The only consistent way for papal infallibilists is to deny the infallibility of the oecumenical Council as regards the dogmatic fact. 635 In this case it would involve at the same time a charge of gross injustice to Honorius.

3. But this last theory is refuted by the popes themselves, who condemned Honorius as a heretic, and thus bore testimony for papal fallibility. His first success or, Severinus, had a brief pontificate of only three months. His second successor, John IV., apologized for him by putting a forced construction on his language. Agatho prudently ignored him. 636 But his successor, Leo II., who translated the acts of the sixth Council from Greek into Latin, saw that he could not save the honor of Honorius without contradicting the verdict of the council in which the papal delegates had taken part; and therefore he expressly condemned him in the strongest language, both in a letter to the Greek emperor and in a letter to the bishops of Spain, as a traitor to the Roman church for trying to subvert her immaculate fate. Not only so, but the condemnation of the unfortunate Honorius was inserted in the confession of faith which every newly-elected pope had to sign down to the eleventh century, and which is embodied in the Liber Diurnus, i.e. the official book of formulas of the Roman church for the use of the papal curia. 637 In the editions of the Roman Breviary down to the sixteenth century his name appears, yet without title and without explanation, along with the rest who had been condemned by the sixth Council. But the precise facts were gradually forgotten, and the mediaeval chroniclers and lists of popes ignore them. After the middle of the sixteenth century the case of Honorius again attracted attention, and was urged as an irrefutable argument against the ultramontane theory. At first the letter of Leo II. was boldly, rejected as a forgery as well as those of Honorius; 638but this was made impossible when the Liber Diurnus came to light.

The verdict of history, after the most thorough investigation from all sides and by all parties remains unshaken. The whole church, East and West, as represented by the official acts of oecumenical Councils and Popes, for several hundred years believed that a Roman bishop may err ex cathedra in a question of faith, and that one of them at least had so erred in fact. The Vatican Council of 1870 decreed papal infallibility in the face of this fact, thus overruling history by dogmatic authority. The Protestant historian can in conscience only follow the opposite principle: If dogma contradicts facts, all the worse for the dogma.

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