Rowan Williams: Hulsean Lectures 2016


Gotta love the plenitude of those eyebrows!

In Lecture 3 of his 2016 Hulsean Lectures (from 03:45-04:25), Rowan Williams disputes the Christological appropriateness of speaking of “two consciousnesses” (or two minds), claiming such terminology is foreign to Patristic thought. He especially rules out the possibility of understanding Maximus in this way.

I was surprised to hear this. Maximus advocated two ‘wills’, of course, on the basis of the union of two natures (divine and human) in the one person of the Logos. So the question is, in addition to the “two wills” of the Incarnate Logos, is there any indication that “two minds” is an equally appropriate claim to make? Does such talk appear in the Greek Fathers? Well, yes and no. I asked Fr John McGuckin if he knew of any “two minds” talk up to, say, Maximus. He admitted he didn’t, though it didn’t explicitly contradict Orthodox Christology. They just didn’t carry on the conversation about two natures in terms of “minds,” though they did in terms of “wills” and “energies.”

I kept poking around and ran into a reference to Maximus’ work in the Syriac version of Maximus’ Life (Syriac Life, trans. by Sebastian Brock). The author of the Life, not a fan of Maximus, writes:

And he [Maximus] wrote four books, acknowledging in them two wills, and two activities, and two minds. (emphasis mine)

However one might want to dispute this interpretation of Maximus seems irrelevant. The point is we have here an ancient example of “two minds” talk re: Christ. However one chooses to situate the mind/consciousness of Jesus (in its human limitations, ignorance, developmental states, etc.) relative to the divine mind/consciousness, the same logic that requires two “wills” would require two “minds.” One does not reduce the Logos without remainder to the constraints of Jesus’ embodied conscious states. That’s just Kenoticism. As one listens to Williams’ lectures, it doesn’t seem he does this. My only interest here was to question the idea that “two minds” talk is foreign to the Fathers.


Fully God and fully man,
Two natures in the Logos can
Bring human mind and will within
And in the union heal from sin
All who freely choose to see
In Christ their true identity.


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