The Kingdoms of Christ and of God


Two Kingdoms

In Praktikos 2 and 3 Evagrius distinguishes between two kingdoms it seems: the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of God:

THE Kingdom of Heaven is apatheia (dispassion) of the soul together with true knowledge of beings.

THE Kingdom of God is knowledge of the Holy Trinity, coextensive with the capacity of the nous (mind/intellect) but surpassing it in incorruptibility.

Julia Konstantinovsky has recently given much attention to this distinction. She quite correctly points out that Evagrius is here speaking in terms of spiritual progress. But, writes Konstaninovsky, there is more! The two kingdoms also make a Christological point:

This categorisation bears important implications for Evagrius’s Christology. It and Evagrius insistence that Christs’s dominon is the kingdom of heaven, the material knowledge and the second natural contemplation, seems to generate a deduction that Christ’s authority is in some sense limited to the material knowledge and extends no further. This appears to strengthen the prima facie hypothesis that it is God and not Christ who is the Lord of the first natural contemplation and the knowledge of God himself.

Julia Konstantinovsky, Evagrius Ponticus the Making of a Gnostic, Chapter 5, section d (Kindle edition).

For Konstantinovsky it is clear that the two kingdoms imply and give support to the idea that there is a “metaphysical distinction” between Christ and God. We are not far removed here from Theophilus’s allegation against Origen of having taught Christ ceases to be God. Fr. Gabriel Bunge, however, interprets Evagrius very differently. He explains that Evagrius is not so much positing a metaphysical distinction between Christ and God as he is considering the Son of God under different aspects.

Konstantinovsky explains that for Evagrius, being a Platonist, it is inconceivable that there should be direct contact between the pure spirituality of God and the stuff of which the world is made. If that holds true it would mean that in the incarnation it could not possibly be God who becomes flesh. To explain what it is that incarnates the Christ-Nous is invoked. This is a Nous (spirit or intellect) which mediates between the Son and the body. Strictly speaking it is therefore the Christ-Nous which incarnates and not the Second Person of the Trinity. Evagrius’ christology is dualist and even subordinationist. The 15 Anathemas of Justinian reference precisely this idea in their condemnation.

But the question is whether Evagrius did indeed distinguish between a Christ-Nous and the Second Person of the Trinity. Answering this question will be the subject of the next installment.

 

Fr. Gregory Wassen

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About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
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