Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
(From a paper given at the first Paideia Conference, on May 7, 7531 [May 20, 2023 on the civil calendar], at Antiochian Village in Bolivar, Pennsylvania)
Summary: Monothelitism is a heresy that asserts that Jesus Christ has only one divine will, not divine and human wills united by His Person, as Orthodoxy teaches. Thus it devalues the Incarnation, its relation to embodied human salvation, and human free will. This paper argues that in the modern “Global West” a “spiritual but not religious” form of monothelitism holds sway, in which the will of the individual is claimed to be all-divine and the human ignored. This is the source of racialist and sexualist techno-identitarianism in our Artificial Intelligence age, and a sign of the spirit of Anti-Christ, demeaning embodied life and sobornost or spiritual unity in the Church as the Body of Christ. The result is a narcissistic spiritualized hyper-individualism, which feeds global cultural totalitarianism today. Just as monoenergism echoed monothelitism in ancient times, so too the type of technocracy developing in AI reflects this new self-centered monoenergism. Orthodox apologetics needs to address these reemergent ancient heresies and is well-equipped to do so from Holy Tradition.
- Identity Narcissism as a Global Pandemic
Raskolnikov the double-murderer dreams feverishly near the end of the Orthodox Christian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, of a plague spreading globally. “Some new trichinae had appeared, microscopic creatures that lodged themselves in men’s bodies. But these creatures were spirits, endowed with reason and will. Those who received them into themselves immediately became possessed and mad. But never, never had people considered themselves so intelligent and unshakeable in the truth as did these infected ones. Never had they thought their judgments, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions and beliefs more unshakeable… Everyone became anxious, and no one understood anyone else; each thought the truth was contained in himself alone, and suffered looking at others, beat his breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know whom or how to judge, could not agree on what to regard as evil, what as good. They did not know whom to accuse, whom to vindicate. People killed each other in some sort of meaningless spite. They gathered into whole armies against each other, but already on the march, the armies would suddenly begin destroying themselves…. In the cities the bells rang all day long: everyone was being summoned, but no one knew who was summoning them or why, and everyone felt anxious. The most ordinary trades ceased, because everyone offered his own ideas, his own corrections, and no one could agree…. Here and there people would band together, agree among themselves to do something, swear never to part—but immediately begin something completely different from what they themselves had just suggested, begin accusing one another, fighting, stabbing…. Everyone and everything was perishing.” (547)
(Above) Raskolnikov dreaming: A type of the modern digital Global Westerner.
Raskolnikov’s dream might be taken as symbolic of materialistic nihilism. But more than that I think it prophesies a spiritual problem of which extremely materialistic individualism is but a symptom. Raskolnikov’s dream symbolizes today’s identity politics in the West, in what used to be called proudfully Christendom. Here former dreams of progress, technological solutions, colonialism, racialism, sexism, and cultural supremacy lie tattered but morph zombie-like into even more soulfully dangerous self-assertiveness that is spiritualized in a sense but which hyper-accelerates elements of all the aforementioned past sins of so-called Western civilization. It is a spiritualized narcissism comprised currently of race and sex narcissism that meld with a type of techno-narcissism in which the enticing mirrors of technologies such as AI threaten to swallow us up in a sea of twisting and entwined conforming transgression. This hyper-narcissism—racialist, sexualist, and pan-techno all at one–is more dangerous because it is a portal for AntiChrist as understood by our holy elders and Church fathers.
The Apostle John described the spirit of AntiChrist’s identifying mark as the denial that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh as God, and thus a denial of his message in the theologian’s same epistles that God is love. It might be assumed that this denial would come in the form of extenuated outgrowth of Arianism, that is a humanistic view of Jesus that led to blasphemous denial of His divinity. Yes, this is of course part of the cultural story of the modern so-called global West. But more subtly it is a type of monophysitism that is the danger, because it is less detected. It is a monophysitism that sets up a counterpart vacuum or focus space for the coming of AntiChrist to be that Monophysite futile enemy of Christ. It is less detected because the vehicle is the setting up of the individual will as a false melding of a self-divinity and the human, in which the human claims to be subsumed by the self-divinity. A specific vehicle for this is a modern version of Monothelitism, or the heresy that in ancient times held falsely that Christ had only one will, thus negating His two natures, taught by the Church to be unconfused yet united by His Person. What has happened is that the divine Will, taken to be all-encompassing and erasing of human will in Unitarian Theism and its offspring scientism in the West, has become without God a narcissistic and ultimately demonic spiritualism. The successor heresy to Monothelitism, Monoenergism, both targets of Ecumenical Church Councils in the first millennium of the Church, finds representation too in the technocracy of our age such as AI.
The modern roots of this, as pointed out by the Orthodox philosopher Seraphim Foltz in his paper so well at this year’s first Paideia Conference (5/20/23), are traceable to Rousseau in eighteenth-century France, the great proponent of a romantic narcissism, a high-minded type of idealism coupled appropriately but grossly with masturbation. For Rousseau, each of us has an untouched deep core of purity and goodness with which we need to get in touch, which helped give rise to what Charles Taylor followed by Carl Trueman call expressive individualism, both considering this trajectory (from Catholic and Presybterian traditions respectively) deeply un-Christian. There were earlier roots, of course, though, for this individualizing of the cosmos, which traces back all the way to the Garden of Eden through the Tower of Babel and Noah’s Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah and Cain’s legacy. The medieval rise of neo-Aristotelian Catholic Scholasticism had paved the way for Rousseauian-style Romanticism by emphasizing the individual substance of things, including people, in ways that would be idolatrous for earlier foundational Church Fathers of Orthodox Tradition, such as St. Ephraim the Syrian, St. Dionysius the Areopagite, and St. Maximus the Confessor. Galilleo took this further, Foltz observes, by projecting geometry onto a world stripped of its own subjectivity, and opened in theory to the grid-making individual will, ultimating in our twenty-first century sense of the world as not a link to a spiritual reality but a coded mathematical cipher to be manipulated by our individual will. Thus, Foltz noted, the world lost the ability “to bear the weight of theophany.” Nature as a book, instead of St. Anthony the Great’s Orthodox Christian meaning, became for Galileo a conceptualized tract to be deciphered by a “great mind” such as himself, Foltz noted.
But let’s return to the familiar problem of identitarian-narcissism in our society today, descended from Aquinas, Galileo, and Rousseau. Its global trajectory is summed up in the title of Ethan Watters’ 2010 book, The Globalization of the American Psyche: Crazy Like Us. Watters, a journalist, traveled to various countries in Asia and Africa to explore how Western psychological systems have been replacing indigenous expressions of mental health and madness. Watters wrote this: “Our golden arches do not represent our most troubling impact on other cultures; rather, it is how we are flattening the landscape of the human psyche itself. We are engaged in the grand project of Americanizing the world’s understanding of the human mind” (1). He concludes: “…in other places in the world, cultural conceptions of the mind remain more intertwined with a variety of religious and cultural beliefs as well as the ecological and social world. They have not yet separated the mind from the body, nor have they disconnected individual mental health from that of the group.” (255) Meanwhile we all are on our individualized devices yet so conformist in ways we are being molded into online mass culture. This claims to be the global norm.
Literally this can be seen as a fulfillment of Raskolnikov’s nightmare. Social scientists have coined an acronym to describe it, namely WEIRD, meaning Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1601785). This is a bias noted in modern social science research, which takes secular Western culture as a false universal norm. Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist in his two-volume 2021 study The Matter with Things has described the virus in this way: “As a society, we pursue happiness and become measurably less happy over time. We privilege autonomy, and end up bound by rules to which we never assented, and more spied on than any people since the beginning of time…. Everywhere that management ‘culture’ holds sway… when things go wrong it is never that we have been travelling in the wrong direction, only that we have not gone far enough… [which] helps make clear the relationship with the left hemisphere mindset, not only because of its relatively blinkered vision, but bedause of its preferenc for simple linear algorithms and procedures that ‘logically must’ lead to a certain outcome. Those who have such procedures think they must be in the right, even when the outcome ought to compel them to the opposite conclusion.” (vol. 2, 1313, 1315) The conceptualized virtual reality, which has taken on new life now in AI, becomes more important than the real world, as if an extreme form of autism has become the new psychology of global humanity. Charles Taylor earlier described the development in modernity of a buffered or distanced self, as opposed to the permeable self of premodern cultures.
Take a major example of this virtual reality of self today in the sexual realm. It became a common precept that people are born LGBTQ+ in whatever variety, to justify same-sex marriage and legal protections. Then practically all expressions of sexuality became legalized and promoted in America and exported now globally. What happened? Looking at just one measure, according to the US Census Bureau Household Plus Survey, the rate of Gen Z women identifying as men in the US has skyrocketed to about twice that of Gen Z men identifying as women, flipping formerly male-dominated statistics for gender dysphoria. This is roughly quadruple the rate of millennial women who identified as male. In fact, according to recent surveys, almost 1 in 30 Gen Z women now identify as men, and a further 1 in 25 identify as nonbinary. Gender dysphoria went from a problem diagnosed for a small less-than-one-percent percentage of the population to what some researchers describe as social contagion. Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a survey that three out of five teenage girls felt persistent sadness or hopelessness in 2021, an upsurge that significantly out-raced any increase in such feelings among teenage boys, while the phenomenon of transgender identification skyrocketed among women as well. From the category of homosexuality, which the CDC a generation ago had defined as perhaps involving 2.5 percent of the U.S. population, today a fifth of young people identify with being somewhere on the broadened LGBTQ+ spectrum according to some surveys. All this is not a biological phenomenon but a cultural one.
A second related example is obsession with racialist narcissism in the global West. Today race is seen both as a social construct and an essential identity grouping with mystical significance, solidified by martyrdom and scapegoated otherness. Categories of race are now flipped from earlier Enlightenment-based biases in the West. A mystical essentialist grouping of “people of color” or “voices of colors” is made superior and in effect infallible, due to historical victimization, even when any finely grained personal experiences of “Latinx” people or “Black” people, let alone “people of color,” reveals distinctions that following biblical expectations would be impossible to agglomerate. The suburban tenured high-salary immigrant university administrator “of color” whose children are on track to Ivy League educations and cultural ratification in elite corporate or other bureaucratic-style professional leadership positions is not comparable either to the African-American tradesman dealing with high crime and bad schools experienced by him and his children in an urban neighborhood or to the white-working-class small-town mechanic struggling to find his children a place in the new economy. Class war is replaced by racialist and sexualist cultural and economic war in the ideological mysticism of this cultural Marxism, a term used both by proponents and decried by opponents as shorthand for an anthropology blaming Christian tradition and traditional family structure for racist and sexist “patriarchal oppression.” It seeks to replace embodied realities known to longstanding cross-cultural organic traditions with conceptual grids that lump people into categories of the elect and the damned, while utilizing technology to keep them in those categories. It ignores cycles of tragedy in history, whether the Islamic-African slave trade or Communist slavery, in its presentism. Its shaming and scapegoating has, in relevance to the Orthodox Christian diaspora (which experienced the greatest persecution of Christian history in the twentieth century at the hands of secular zealots under Communism and Turkish nationalism), generated explicitly Russophobic attitudes that predate the Ukraine conflict, because they lean heavily on antipathy toward Orthodox Christian anthropology and cosmology of sex and family, which are presented in Russian contexts as existential threats to the global West.
McGilchrist calls out the obsessive left-brain nature of this modern individualism for its disconnect of concept from reality, creating a virtual reality of manipulation. This is seen too internationally in the many deaths and great destruction currently ongoing in Ukraine. The West decides that Ukraine needs democracy and helps to overthrow its elected government. Then the West decides that it must uphold peace in Europe through Ukraine, and draws the new Ukraine into its economic and military circles to defend its own spheres of influence. This actually intrudes on Russia’s longstanding sphere of influence in Ukraine. Then a terrible war erupts in which the West insists on warfare as its tool for peace and prosperity globally, even as so many are killed, Ukraine is laid waste, and nuclear war is risked. The virtual reality does not match the real world situation. The day before our conference, May 17, was international Day Against Homophobia, and the Secretary General of NATO addressed the world on Youtube declaring that NATO fights homophobia. You know this term is applied consistently now globally to traditional Christian practice and teaching of anthropology and cosmology basic to our faith. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0BM0hr1i_Y
2. Leviathan and the Spirit of AntiChrist
Long before the Ukraine conflict, the controversial Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, in his studies of Heidegger, called the emerging virtual reality of the global West an historical misidentification of beings with Being, and of ideas with beings, and thus the particular with the universal, leading toward a kind of cultural genocide project against any multipolar sense of the world. Dugin argued that the twenty-first-century global West has sought to impose psychology or optics based on Western individualism onto the whole globe regardless of different cultures and traditions. This is much like the old illustration of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan in that work’s original frontispiece, in which a body packs together all people within it.
(Above) The frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651)
The administrative corporate-government-techno-cultural system in the West has become that Leviathan in an infinitely more extensive way, seeking to operate within our heads as a giant psyops project. The controversial but insightful anti-dystopian paleocon Sam Francis’ work Leviathan and its Enemies, appropriately feature the Hobbesian illustration on the cover of its dissection of the modern administrative state; a parallel critical model of the modern corporate-state system was projected into the digital era from the Left end of the political spectrum by Shoshona Zuboff’s The Era of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. From an Orthodox Christian perspective, the body of Leviathan, as its biblical use suggests, is a Satanic parody of the Body of Christ detailed in St. Hilarion Troitsky’s most rewarding study, On the Dogma of the Church.
Within the false body of the digital Leviathan system today, given sophisticated control and behavior modification, it seems strange to see the emergence of racialist and pansexual norms that appear so tribal in nature and so primitive in narcissism, and immaturely masturbatory at their core. Yet that is woven into the phenomenon. The social construction of identity is integrally bound to the objectification of identity, amplified by technology such as AI, which atomizes society while binding it into categories divorced from God the Logos and hence irrational. The lie of individual autonomy promoted by Satan in the Garden of Eden cannot sustain itself in real or psychological terms, but must become subsumed in collectivism cloaked in self-serving concepts such as “voices of color” or “queer people,” which themselves claim to materialize into a Leviathan body of transgressiveness of norms of Christian family and anthropology that is nonetheless the ultimate in conformity. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s colleague Igor Shafarevich in his study The Socialist Phenomenon traced collectivist virtual realities back to ancient biblical times and called them ultimately the expression of what Freud called the death drive, a drive toward self-destruction within the human psyche.
3. A New Monotheletism
Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun, as Ecclesiastes tells us, and this global psychological contagion, vividly foreshadowed by the pandemic dream of Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov, can be seen to be a new version of ancient heresy, produced by so-called Old Christendom in a West of schismatics and heterodox-heretics, in a way that it could not have emerged from less Christianized or more Orthodox Christian cultures. It is significant in this regard that Raskolnikov’s name itself comes from raskolnik, meaning “schismatic.” Richard Pevear notes this means “one who has split away from the body of the Church’ but he is also divided against himself.” As Konstantin Mochulsky noted, Raskolnikov is “a demon embodied in a humanist.” (xv)
The ancient heresy of Monothelitism emerged during the era of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, an expression of the Monophysite heresy, which also echoed on in Monoenergism. It was addressed specifically in the Sixth Council but the antidote to it emerged from the Fifth Council also and in writings of St. Maximus the Confessor that bridged the two councils. St. Maximus’ writings in this were an unfolding expression of the teachings of the One Holy and Catholic Apostolic Church from the start, based in the inspired teachings of the Councils. The Fourth Council, the Council of Chalcedon, had formulated the Person of Christ as one Person with two Natures, unconfused and undivided. Non-Chalcedonians understood the Person of Christ wrongly as emerging from the union of the Word and human nature, rather than correctly understanding in Orthodox terms how the Person, God the Logos, effects the union of the divine and the human in our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. As with all such distinctions in Orthodox dogmatic theology, this mystery has great significance, as do deviations from it. The heresy of Monothelitism emphasized one Will denigrating the distinction between the divine and the human in Christ. What may seem esoteric condemnation of heresy to us from the past has proven prophetic.
It is the attraction of the will overcoming reality that lies behind tendencies in heterodox Western Christianity first toward a Monothelitism in its view of deity, and then toward transferring that abstract sense of higher reality to the interiorized individual will and a mystical sense of group identity, such as today people of color and queer people. The first phase tended toward Unitarian Theism and a legalism evident in movements such as Puritanism, represented by figures such as John Milton and Isaac Newton, which morphed into Unitarianism as seen in the wholesale conversion over time of historic Puritan buildings and colleges in New England to Unitarianism. Sole fide and sole scriptura encouraged a Unitarian theistic and fideistic view of Deity divorced from the Orthodox Church’s Apostolic Tradition, further encouraging individualistic and heterodox faith. The changes in this over time can be seen in what could be called (in terms of Old Testament focus by heterodox Christianity) Judaizing aspects of Protestantism, emphasizing cultural exceptionalism and colonialism, construction of a utopian matrix erasing the reality of Creation, and a kind of Dispensationalism that became politically allied with Zionism in supporting the state of Israel but in anticipation of a Protestant sense of the end times on earth. This was all based in heterodox Christian misreading of the Old Testament through monothelistic tendencies, while emphasizing Masoretic texts over the Septuagint used by the Apostles and the Orthodox Church. The Masonic movement and American Transcendentalism grew from and encouraged Unitarian Deism, which shaped an individualistic sense of spirituality that paradoxically became both rationalistic and romantic, expressing the individual will. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously posited himself as an invisible eyeball, setting a false philosophical basis for our AI age in the spirit of AntiChrist. He wrote, “I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part of God.” The expression of the counterfeit of divine will through the individual outside the Church and not including the realities of God’s Creation shaped a utopianism on earth that is a lie, and demonic, not expressive of the Incarnation and the Body of Christ.
It was St. Maximus’ speaking out and writing against Monothelitism, when it appeared as a supposed imperial compromise between Chalcedonians and the Monophysites, that resulted in his persecution and cruel torture resulting in removal of his tongue and right hand, making him a Confessor physically silenced but still powerful in his writings and intercession. The Fifth Ecumenical Council whose findings later were championed by St. Maximus, had upheld the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos and not merely the Christotokos, and also condemned any notion that the Theotokos ever lost her virginity. It thus further supported the Orthodox dogma of the Incarnation. It also had condemned Origenist doctrines of pre-existence and universalism, which undermined a distinct human created state involving free will by promoting false notions of mystical agglomeration of the divine will superseding and erasing the human, thus setting a basis for Monothelitism.
The Council in condemning such false doctrines also anathematized Origen, indicating the seriousness with which it took the danger of heretical tendencies tending in future toward Monothelitism. Indeed, universalism and Unitarianism are rightly seen as paired heresies today. Coming out of the Fifth Council, the two natures defined at Chalcedon became further articulated as two sets of attributes possessed by the Person of Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity. At the same time, Origen’s self-castration became an illustration of false substitution of so-called divine will for the human in Creation as falsely filtered through fallen individual will outside of Church Tradition, which canonically forbids self-mutilation as desecration of the image of God in human beings as embodied icons of Christ, our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit. That has special relevance today amid the spread of so-called transgenderism and its mutilation of bodies including those of children.
Interestingly, the Sixth Ecumenical Council, which actually condemned Monothelitism, also anathematized as part of that the Pope of Rome Honorius II, thus prophetically also rebuking the heretical later Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. The link between Monothelitism and hyper-individualism as exemplified in the figure of the Catholic Pope was thus highlighted. The heretical doctrine of the filioque in the West accordingly also supported the development of false notions of individual autonomy. This is because in effect the filioque tended toward a melding or merger of the Father and the Son in the Trinity, placing the Holy Spirit in a subordinate or instrumentalist role, similar to the way in which secular Monotheletism ultimately would shape a sense of Creation as instrumentalist to the will of the super-individual in the West.
It is worth noting here that the false doctrine that had affected Raskolnikov as a schismatic by name and deed involved seeing himself both as a super-human along Nietzschean lines and a potential super-historical individual figure like Napoleon. While the Nietzschean notion lent itself to a ruthless revolutionary like Lenin, and might be unacceptable to modern middle-class and neoliberal/neoconservative feelings, the aspiration to dream big and go for your dreams even unto the point of being a “success” (however dubiously) like Napoleon could be as acceptable as a Disney movie or careerist ethos today among the most activist Gen-Z social justice activists, showing underlying paradoxical affinities between secular monothelitsm in the modern West on both the Left and the Rgiht.
Correlative with the Fifth Council, St. Justinian’s hymn still used in the Divine Liturgy after the Second Antiphon significantly upheld the human nature together with the divine nature of Christ, in Theopaschist terms. “Only-Begotten Son and Immortal Word of God, Who for our salvation didst will to be incarnate of the holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary; Who without change didst become man and was crucified; Who art one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit: O Christ our God, trampling down death by death, save us!”
4. St. Maximus the Confessor’s Witness
St Maximus in his texts On Difficulties in the Church Fathers, known as The Ambigua, articulated significant Orthodox theological, anthropological, and cosmological arguments against Monothelitism, in support of positions of the acts of both the Fifth and Sixth Councils, written in the era between them. He wrote of Creation that in the Incarnation God “recapitulated in Himself, in a manner appropriate to God, all things, showing that the whole creation is one, as if it were another human being… according to one, unique, simple, undefined, and unchangeable idea: that it comes from nothing.” (ii 41.9; 115) This expresses the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as the Body of Christ, and also man as described in Genesis 1, made according to the image of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Genesis 1 we are told man is so made, and then that man is made by God male and female.
St. Maximus wrote of the overcoming of the difference and division of male and female as part of that recapitulation begun in the Incarnation, together with the overcoming of the division of uncreated and created nature, of the intelligible and the sensible, and between heaven and earth, and between Paradise and the inhabited world or oikumene. The overcoming of these binary divisions by Christ in His Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, Ascension, and in His Second Coming to come, expresses what in Slavonic is called sobornost, a noun formed from a medieval gloss on the term “catholic” in the Holy Symbol of Faith. It involves catholicity that is not only spatial as in modern Western understanding, but through time, and inclusive of all aspects of human identity, body and soul.
The sobornost of overcoming division in the Incarnation, discussed by St. Maximus, does not involve a negating of the archetypes of male and female as living embodied symbols of Christ and His Church. But as in the mystery of marriage it involves a recognition that such differences had been instituted by God in anticipation of the Fall for the cosmic theosis to come, which was to be made possible by the Incarnation of Christ. Just as it is rightly said to have God as our Father we must have the Church as our Mother, so too the mystery of Christian marriage in the Church embodies the intimate love of God for His people, and reciprocal sacrifice that overcomes any divisions, as ultimate in the Eucharist.
As the man is to be head of the family and to be obeyed by the woman, the man is to model Christ in His family even unto giving his life for his wife and family. Christian husband and wife are united in hope of salvation together but not erased. In this sense, as the Apostle Paul notes, in Christ there is neither male nor female. Commitment is not merely to one another but foundationally to Christ. In Christ Himself as archetype, there is no erasure of human and divine wills but rather their unity, overcoming any seeming division, within the Person of Christ Who brings them together. In such unity too of Christ and His Church, the free will of the human is preserved, to enter into said union with Him or not. Both marriage and the free will of each person illustrate how in God’s grace there can be a Divine Will at work and a human will through Christ, in unity through free choice, yet maintaining distinctions. However, there is no identity based on sexual-pleasure grouping, no homosexuality and no hetereosexuality or other varieties, as developed in modern sex narcissism. The fundamental Orthodox anthropology is also cosmology and ecclesiology and soteriology all in one.
St. Maximus in his Ambigua articulates this through his writing on the logoi or words of God the Logos. Logos capitalized here refers to the Logos of the opening of the Gospel of Joohn, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, Christ. Translating the Greek term Logos can involve a variety of meanings in English including harmony, story, discourse, word, reason, purpose, principle. The logoi of the Logos for example thus could be translated the harmonies of the Harmony. Within these words of the Word are found, St. Maximus writes, the many and diverse perceptions of objects in Creation. “So, too,” he writes, “when the intellect naturally apprehends all the logoi in beings and contemplates within them the infinite energies of God, it recognizes the differences of the divine energies it perceives to be multiple and – to speak truly—infinite.” (Ambiguum i 22:2; 449). He goes on to conclude that “every divine energy indicates through itself the whole of God, indivisibly present in each particular thing, according to the logos through which that thing exists in its own way.” In unity God as Logos of the logoi “is truly all things in all, never going out of His own indivisible simplicity.” Yet mortals cannot discern through their minds or concepts “even the lowermost creature in terms of the logos of its being and existence.” (Ambiguum i 22:3; 451)
If the logoi can be considered the reason and purpose for each particular person and thing in creation, yet in the logoi in beings can be contemplated the infinite and uncreated energies of God, then the logoi and the uncreated energies or divine grace are a spectrum of sorts. In them one could say that the willings of God and the willings of man can interchange in dynamic synergy. Thus virtues with God’s grace can become expressive of otherworldly grace in human life, finding fulfillment in the model of Christ ultimately through theosis. Virtue in this way could be seen as an expression of human nature engaged with the divine in the same way that the logoi could be seen as an expression of the divine engaged with the human and all creation. The virtue of the Theotokos expressed otherworldly grace in both condescension of the Holy Spirit to her and in her assent to the Annunciation and her purity to be tabernacle for the Incarnation so to speak. It is no coincidence that St. Maximos traditionally is considered author of an early life of the Theotokos. Maximus quotes St. Gregory the Theologian as saying of Christ, “This is what leads the heretics astray: the coupling of the attributes [of the divine and the human], since the attributes overlap because of the intermingling.” The intermingling, St. Maximus notes, occurs owing to the one Person of Christ. Yet, he adds, “not willing to endure such a distinction, heretics then and now do not cease to blaspheme the only-begotten Word of God, some reducing Him to the level of a creature on account of His human attributes, and others confusing the dispensation by denying the natures of which He is composed.” (ii 27.4; 29).
St. Maximus writes of “the one Logos as many logoi, indivisibly distinguished amid the differences of created things, owing to their specific individuality, which remains unconfused both in themselves and with respect to one another… seeing that all things are related to Him without being confused with Him, Who is the essential and personally distinct Logos of God the Father, the origin and cause of all things.” In this sobornost or unity of Christ and Church, man is fulfilled in being made according to God’s image and through free will in His likeness. “The essence in every virtue,” St. Maximus writes, “is the one Logos of God.” (Ambiguum 7, 95, 103). That virtue can lie in a manliness accessible to both men and women, not negating their identities, but finding realization in the man made according to Christ’s image and likeness. On the one hand, St. Maximus writes, the Logos “is neither called, nor considered, nor is, in His entirety, anything that can be attributed to anything else, since He is beyond all being, and is not participated in by any being whatsoever,” by which the Confessor means I believe God’s Essence. Yet, he adds, “when, I say, we set this way of thinking aside, the one Logos is many logoi and the many are one.” Thus, the Divine and the Human wills, exchanged in Christ, afford salvation through free will and synergy of right effort to man. In none of this Orthodox Tradition is there provision for the lies of the false so-called justice proclaimed by identity narcissism today, with its meld of racialism and pansexualism, which together claim to exalt human will, through the pleasure of skin and genitalia linked by yawning surface desire, into the divine with no God, no Christ, no logoi of the Logos, no grace, and only ultimately demonic chaos preparing a claimed vacuum for the blasphemous effort of the Antichrist to reign in futile mockery of God.
5. The Witness of Orthodox Apologetics
In all this, the denial of Christ’s Incarnation, which the Apostle John says is the mark of the spirit of Antichrist, is also denial of the Church, Christ’s Body. What should we then do as Orthodox Christians in this current cultural situation of a so-called Christendom given over to heresy beneath its façade of caring about social justice? First of course pray within our Lord’s Church, devote ourselves liturgically and ascetically to worship of Him. Be familiar with the teachings of the Church and include the refutation of secular Monothelitism in our preaching and teaching and lives. Also be aware of how I think Orthodox teaching of what is sometimes called dythletism in tandem with sobornost, against Monothelitism, relates to Orthodox social teaching of symphonia, or the proper relation between Church and State as symbolized by the double-headed eagle, not merged but harmoniously united. Today’s administrative state becomes in effect its own religion and this is a transmogrification of the West’s Caesaro-Papism, which accompanies its cultural trajectory of monotheletic individualism. In this, while clear-eyed about the current disastrous state of American and Western civilizations, sinking like Atlantis or Tolkien’s Númenor, the global West as Tower of Babel, we can also see aspects of Christian culture still embedded in the founding framework of America’s founding documents. The Declaration of Independence referenced God four times, the Constitution ends with the statement signed on the Day of our Lord, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address highlighted the idea of one nation under God linking the documents. From the monarch-like presidency to the arcane aspects of the separation of powers and checks and balances, it reflects traditions going back to classical times that the historian Anthony Kaldellis has illustrated were also present in what he called the Byzantine Republic. America with Russia is the major power with the largest Christian influence in culture, but in America of course that influence is overtly in decline and in deep structure heterodox, influenced as noted by secular monothelitism tending toward AntiChrist. Yet the attack on traditional Constitutional frameworks in the US is the equivalent of attack on Christian monarchy a century ago and for our neighbors and our worship communities and families we must do what we can to resist evils of globalization that seek to erase that legacy completely.
Our real fortress and redoubt lies not in any tattered flag of Americana but in our Lord’s Church, the Body of Christ. The late bioethicist Herman Engelhardt of blessed memory called natural law in Orthodoxy, glossing the words of St. Basil the Great, the spark of divine law within the human heart. The wonderful Orthodox apologist Ivan Andreyev of Jordanville, an alumnus of Solovetsky prison under the Soviets, a psychiatrist and philosopher, then exile seminary professor, himself ultimately a martyr of sorts to modern American urban crime, wrote of how the synergy of divine grace and the human in Christ, the antidote to the monothelitism described, can shine in our apologetic lives as Orthodox Christians with God’s grace. He wrote in his Orthodox Apologetic Theology: “As distinct from all other philosophical and religious conceptions of the world (which for the most part provide only lifeless, abstract theoretical structures) the Christian’s world view conveys a life-giving method which generates and bestows spiritual vitality upon the intellectual and ethical activity of man in the world. For this reason, the basic method of Apologetics consists, first of all, of a positive, vital representation of the basic truths of Christianity, and the ascertaining of the deep inner bond of these spiritual truths, thereby demonstrating their complete organic unity. The radiantly bright image of Christian truth, unfolding before the spiritual eyes of the listener in this manner, convinces him to a much greater degree than the more exact logical proofs.”