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Quick Thoughts on Christ’s Two Wills and Impeccability

The Garden Struggle

While having a Facebook discussion, the issue of Christ’s two wills came up. It’s not an area I’ve looked into much. But I have come in contact with many related Christological topics. So the following is a rough summary of my reading, which I gave to someone who asked me to chime into the discussion:


(Part 1/2) Okay Alex, here is my rusty shot at trying to attempt to explain: First the distinction between person and nature must be held. It’s a trinitarian and christological necessity. There are no rational natures sans persons or persons sans natures, but a person is not reducible to their nature. So Jason is not just an instance of human nature that exists which we have decided to call Jason. He’s a person who possess a rational human nature. Kind of hard to think about, but the idea of personhood in this manner was revolutionary at the time. So to make it more concrete, the Trinity are of one essence. Which means there are not three natures in a category we call God, but rather one nature, enhypostesized/concreted/made real/possed of three persons. So anything common to the three is nature, anything specific to one is a personal property. So the Father possess the property of Unbegotteness, the Son is Begotten and the Spirit has Spiration (proceeding from the Father). This is what distinguishes them. So they all share one will, one essence, one energy. At the incarnation then we see Christ alone being the subject. Which means that the person =/=nature otherwise anything attributed to Christ must be attributable to the other 2. Or one would posit that the nature was divided for Christ to be incarnated. So hold firm the person nature distinction in your head.


Second, the idea of the “gnomic” will must be understood. All nature is oriented towards the various ends that God has for them. And since God is good, then so are the proper ends of those natures he creates. And the rational nature has the ability/power of willing which is towards those ends. For to be rational requires the ability to will. And since willing is common to all rational natures and not specific to one person, it is a natural property. This ability to will is *utilised* by the person (so it is not nature choosing). This power of willing is geared towards the natural ends of the nature which are good. The natural will. So every choice you make will always be towards a perceived good. However there is the gnomic will. Rather, the gnomic “mode” of willing. This is the state of any created person who must form character/virtue by *properly* willing towards the natural ends for which they were created. Think of a new driver being given a car. The car may work fine, and is designed to meet the proper ends of the vehicle. But the one driving must still gain experience. So that driving becomes second nature. This too is the gnomic mode of willing, that state of uncertainty and inexperience, where we are yet free to form a good or bad character which will become second nature/habit to us. Each being solidified eternally in their state at the last judgement. That’s why sanctification matters. It’s also why even though Adam and Eve were created with perfect natures (brand new cars) they still needed to obey God and by doing so grow in virtue (form good driving habits). The goal is ultimately to lose this gnomic will. To have our mode of willing in line with the natural will. And have our character fixed. So while we’ll still have libertarian free will, all the options will only be good options.


Now to Christ. Christ is a divine person who had to take on a human nature and become consubstantial with us. He took on all that we are so that we could be united to him and redeemed. So there is nothing human that he could not have. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. (Luke 2:5)” We do not attribute wisdom and stature here to his physical body. But rather the human soul that Christ had. For as a person possessing the divine essence, he did not have to grow. But as one possessing the fullness of human, including the soul and its faculties, the natural will/power of willing that comes with human nature is present too. The quality of his human soul, being the result of his personal usage of its faculties grew. But unlike us, Christ did not have a gnomic mode of willing. The personal property of his character still carried over. So his human mode of willing was always in keeping with the ends that God had for human nature. Thus there was never a conflict between his will as a human being and his will as a Divine person. Since the natural ends in their proper manner are according to God’s will (since he designed it) and Christ only ever humanely willed in such a manner, his divine will was never against His human will. Christ being the ultimate example of humanity, shows how we are supposed to live in a synergistic relationship. Since it was one person with two wills, the divine will never subdued the human. His existence was not just a divine activity/energy, but a divine and human activity, thus synergy. That’s why monoenergism (a forerunner to monergism) was condemned by the Church.


(Part 2/2)
But the question comes to Gethsemane. Didn’t Christ’s human will oppose the Divine will? Not at all. Christ was not struggling between choosing a sin and choosing good. Rather, Christ by his human will wanted a bone fide, God ordained end; to live. Death is unnatural (in regards to our proper end) for humans. At the same time, he wanted another good according to the divine will; the salvation of the world. The struggle was for Christ to *freely* bring his human will under the obedience of his divine will. So Christ willed both goods, with his two wills in a way that meant none of them would lose. He willed the Cross *and* to live at the same time. But his end of living would come through a different way, by resurrection. He would do it according to the divine will. So the question was not a choice between good or evil. But of arranging the priority of goods. And wrestling to go through the tremendous task he had ahead.


So in sum, Christ having two wills would not mean he was in danger of living a schizophrenic type of life. Since he had no gnomic will. So he always willed humanely the way humans were meant to will, which always lines up with the Divine will. St Augustine famously said something to the likes of “Love God and do what you want”.


Also, Christ having a complete human nature lacking nothing would not entail that there are therefore two people. That’s equating nature with person and thus falling into Nestorianism. One doesn’t have to take away something from human nature in order to avoid having two people (like Apollinarism). Rather one must remember that there are no rational natures that exist sans being enhypostasised/conreted by a person/hypostasis. So Christ had a full human nature united to his Hypostasis (hence the Hypostatic union). Thus he was one person with two natures. Natures don’t act, but persons do. Natures only provide the capacities.


A great book on the issues of libertarian free will of Christ and the Redeemed in Heaven, the two wills, nature person distinction and how it’s all related the eastern view of God (making a distinction between his divine essence which is unknowable, and his divine energies which are knowable and can be participated in). Here it is free:…/come-and…/

For what is essentially a long summary of said book:…/anglicans…/

St Maximos the Confessor is the real heavy weight who sorted out the issues of the two wills and such which were codified at the 6th Ecumenical council. There was a point in time in which pretty much everyone was going for Monothelitism, but he stood his ground against it.

For a link specifically on this issue…/three…/

Closely related Part 1 and part 2:…/simplicity…/

But really, Perry Robinson’s site is solid for anything to do with Christology and Triadology.


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