As we have seen previously, William Lane Craig holds to a view which he calls Neo-Apollinarianism. Although he claims that this is only a proposal, and thus claims a sort of theological immunity regarding its heretical implications, I don’t believe we should let him off the hook quite so easily.
To briefly review, Neo-Apollinarianism is a slight modification on the classical heresy named after Apollinaris, Apollinarianism. The primary difference rests in the fact that Craig, contra Apollinaris, does not hold to a view in which natures exist. This view is called realism, which postulates that underlying every concrete entity lies a metaphysical substance called nature. These natures determine what kind of hypostasis or person a given entity is. This is what explains the fact that two humans are actually two of the same kind rather than two similar things of a slightly different kind.
Craig, on the other hand, holds to a view which is classically known as nominalism. Although there are some variations, his view is not different in the most important ways, but he prefers to call it Anti-Realism. In his view, there is no underlying metaphysical substance, and instead, we categorize things exclusively by the properties they bear. Thus, what the Son takes on in the incarnation is not a second metaphysical substance, but a set of additional properties (which include a physical body, among other things).
Craig disagrees with Apollinaris on a number of points, but the point that I want to focus on today was that Christ lacked a distinct human rational soul. This is point two of his proposed Neo-Apollinarianism. Craig (and Moreland) write “We postulate with Apollinarius [sic] that the Logos was the rational soul of Jesus of Nazareth.” 1 For Craig, the Logos possesses a certain set of properties, and some of these properties it shares in common with human creatures. Thus, by adding the properties of a human creature that the Logos does not possess to himself, he constitutes a hypostasis that is both fully divine (ie, possessing all of the properties of an entity in the category of divine, or for Craig, is a component of the Godhead) and fully human (ie, possessing all of the properties of an entity in the category of human). Now, I will write about this at a future time, but this results in a sort of Monophysitism, which is also heretical. However, I want to focus on a different implication.
The Passible Logos
There is a third component to Craig’s Neo-Apollinarianism, which is not often discussed. He writes “We postulate that the divine aspects of Jesus’ personality were largely subliminal during his state of humiliation.” 2 You see, traditional Reformed Christology accounts for the apparent limitations that are displayed during Christ’s incarnate ministry by agreeing with the Councils that Christ is a single person who possesses two minds. This intellectual capacity, along with some other spiritual faculties, is contained within the human rational soul. Since there is this duality in Christ, we are able to say, using the language and logic of Chalcedon, that the Son knew all things according to divine nature (Omnisciently), but did not have knowledge of all things according to human nature. Craig, however, cannot hold to this as there is no distinct human rational soul of Jesus. Beyond the logic of Chalcedon, this view was further affirmed at the Third Council of Constantinople, which Craig simply dismisses without much in the way of argumentation. 3
However, this leads to a position in which Christ suffers as God on the cross. The logic is relatively simple. If we affirm that Christ suffered both physically and spiritually (or even mentally) during the crucifixion, then it is unavoidable on Craig’s view that the Son suffered according to divinity. The reason for this is easy to see… there is no distinct human rational soul in which the Son could suffer. The human soul of Jesus is the Logos. Craig is literally saying that it was the eternal divine Logos which suffered on the cross, and explicitly not the Son according to a second distinct human nature.
Further, since the Logos is a component part of the divine nature, then God himself suffers. Remember, for Craig, only the Trinity as a whole is, properly speaking, God. Each person simply constitutes a part of that whole. If I injure a part of my body, say my foot, then it is proper to say that Tony —as a single being— am injured. Thus Craig is forced by his own distorted theology to say that when Jesus dies on the cross, the Trinity dies on the cross. When the Son suffers spiritual pain on the cross, the Godhead suffers spiritual pain on the cross. Although, this should not surprise us greatly since Craig believes that a God who suffers is “greater if He is not impassible,” since “impassibility is actually a weakness.” 4
At this point, Craig has rejected elements of the Nicene Creed as “a vestige of the primitive Logos Christology.” 5 He has embraced the worst elements of the theology of Apollinaris which was rejected at the Council of Constantinople. He has articulated an ontology which results in an error denied at the Council of Chalcedon and rejects the logic employed to maintain two distinct natures in Christ. He has rejected divine impassibility and argued that the Godhead suffers, and thus rejected the fifth ecumenical council, and he has dismissed the conclusions of the sixth ecumenical council. What early Christian heresy is there left for him to embrace at this point?
Craig, William Lane. #213 Divine Impassibility and the Crucifixion. May 16, 2011. https://www.reasonablefaith.org/question-answer/P110/divine-impassibility-and-the-crucifixion (accessed April 14, 2018).
—. #27 Is God the Father Causally Prior to the Son? October 22, 2007. https://www.reasonablefaith.org/question-answer/P20/is-god-the-father-causally-prior-to-the-son (accessed April 14, 2018).
Moreland, JP, and William Lane Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christain Worldview. 2nd Edition. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2017.