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The Coming of the Impassible God: Tracing a Dilemma in Christian Theology


This book describes the development of the Christian understanding of God from the second to the eighth century as witnessed by major theologians who gradually realized that the Incarnate Word made flesh was not the God of the philosophers. They helped construct the great dogmas of the Christological councils. Beginning with the Apologists and ending with Maximus Confessor, the theological tradition overcame the notion of impassible deity in favor of the humble God of Christian faith, the Word made flesh.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-59333-792-6
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Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Jun 27,2013
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 224
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-59333-792-6
$139.00
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This book tells a theological story about the development of the Christian understanding of God from the second to the eighth century as witnessed by major theologians of the Christian tradition. Philosophers held that God could not change or suffer. Christian apologists in the second and third century defended belief in the Incarnation against philosophers with whom they shared a similar view of the divine being. Because of the astonishing insight of Athanasius in the fourth century, a shift occurred: unless Christ is divine we cannot be saved! The council of Nicea dogmatized this view. Another great Alexandrian, Cyril, argued that the Word made flesh truly experienced all things human, including suffering on the Cross. Because of the early influence of Platonism in Christian theology, these insights created a theological dilemma for the Fathers captured in various Christological heresies. Since the divine by nature cannot suffer, how are we to conceive of the Incarnation? Can the Son of God truly suffer? Can a suffering Logos be fully divine? In the West Tertulllian, then Augustine later raised similar questions. For Augustine, Christians believe in a deus humilis, a humble God unknown to philosophers. The story is finally brought to a resounding conclusion in the work of Maximus the Confessor who is the last and greatest patristic Christological writer. By carefully constructing an apophatic theology of Christ Maximus refutes the final Christological heresies and resolves the dilemma of divine suffering.

Joseph M. Hallman is Emeritus Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. He holds degrees from Marquette and Fordham Universities, and has written extensively on the Christology of the Fathers, especially on the question of divine suffering.

This book tells a theological story about the development of the Christian understanding of God from the second to the eighth century as witnessed by major theologians of the Christian tradition. Philosophers held that God could not change or suffer. Christian apologists in the second and third century defended belief in the Incarnation against philosophers with whom they shared a similar view of the divine being. Because of the astonishing insight of Athanasius in the fourth century, a shift occurred: unless Christ is divine we cannot be saved! The council of Nicea dogmatized this view. Another great Alexandrian, Cyril, argued that the Word made flesh truly experienced all things human, including suffering on the Cross. Because of the early influence of Platonism in Christian theology, these insights created a theological dilemma for the Fathers captured in various Christological heresies. Since the divine by nature cannot suffer, how are we to conceive of the Incarnation? Can the Son of God truly suffer? Can a suffering Logos be fully divine? In the West Tertulllian, then Augustine later raised similar questions. For Augustine, Christians believe in a deus humilis, a humble God unknown to philosophers. The story is finally brought to a resounding conclusion in the work of Maximus the Confessor who is the last and greatest patristic Christological writer. By carefully constructing an apophatic theology of Christ Maximus refutes the final Christological heresies and resolves the dilemma of divine suffering.

Joseph M. Hallman is Emeritus Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. He holds degrees from Marquette and Fordham Universities, and has written extensively on the Christology of the Fathers, especially on the question of divine suffering.

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Contributor Biography

Joseph Hallman

Joseph M. Hallman is an Emeritus Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Mn. He holds degrees from Marquette and Fordham Universities, and has written extensively on the Christology of the Fathers, especially on the question of divine suffering.

  • Table of Contents (page 7)
  • Preface (page 9)
  • Acknowledgments (page 13)
  • Abbreviations (page 15)
  • 1. The Background, Modern and Ancient (page 17)
    • The Modern Situation (page 18)
    • Karl Rahner (page 20)
    • The Philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, Celsus, and Plotinus (page 27)
    • Aristotle (page 32)
    • The Metaphysics (page 34)
    • Middle Platonism: Celsus (page 36)
    • Plotinus (page 38)
  • 2. Alexandrians, Apologists, and Gregory the Wonderworker (page 43)
    • Apostolic Fathers (page 49)
    • Apologists of the Second Century (page 50)
    • Clement of Alexandria (page 52)
    • Origen of Alexandria (page 56)
    • Origen on Divine Suffering (page 59)
    • Ad Theopompum (page 62)
  • 3. Tertullian and his Heirs (page 65)
    • God’s Goodness (page 69)
    • God’s Justice (page 71)
    • Deus Incarnatus (page 74)
    • De carne Christi (page 75)
    • Novatian (page 79)
    • Arnobius (page 81)
    • Lactantius (page 82)
    • Conclusion (page 85)
  • 4. Arians and Orthodox: The Logos Suffers but God Does Not (page 87)
    • The Crucified God of the Arians (page 89)
    • Athanasius (page 92)
    • Gregory of Nyssa (page 95)
    • ?p?qeia (page 98)
    • The Incarnation (page 99)
    • The Tura Commentary: An Obscure Contribution (page 101)
    • The Incarnation (page 105)
  • 5. The Latins: Hilary and Augustine (page 109)
    • Augustine on Divine Immutability (page 112)
    • God’s Wrath (page 114)
    • God’s Repentance (page 116)
    • Divine Jealousy (page 118)
    • God’s Love and Mercy (page 119)
    • Divine Mercy (page 121)
    • Augustine on the Incarnation (page 123)
    • The Communication of Idioms (page 128)
  • 6. Cyril and Nestorius (page 135)
    • Cyril of Alexandria (page 136)
    • The Early Cyril (page 137)
    • Divinisation in the Commentary on John (page 138)
    • Disputed Fragments in Book Eight (page 140)
    • Fragments from Book Seven (page 142)
    • The Logos Feels Emotion (page 143)
    • The Ephesus Period (page 144)
    • The Late Cyril (page 147)
    • Nestorius (page 150)
    • The Book of Heracleides (page 152)
    • Conclusion (page 156)
  • 7. Theodoret and the Eranistes (page 159)
    • Eranistes (page 162)
    • Theodoret’s Commentaries (page 167)
    • Communication of Idioms? (page 171)
  • 8. Severus of Antioch and Philoxenus of Mabbug (page 177)
    • Philoxenus of Mabbug (440–523) (page 181)
  • 9. The Christological Solution: Leontius of Jerusalem and Maximus the Confessor (page 189)
    • Leontius of Jerusalem (page 190)
    • Maximus Confessor (page 191)
    • Peric?rhsij (page 197)
  • Conclusion (page 205)
  • Bibliography (page 207)
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