What Is Dyotheletism?

Are you a dyotheletist or a monotheletist? How you answer that question would have determined whether or not you were condemned as a heretic at the Sixth Ecumenical Council or the Third Council of Constantinople in 681. Dyotheletism is the belief that Christ possesses two wills: a human will and a divine will. Monotheletism says that Christ only possesses one will. Dyotheletism sees the will as a product of a nature and since Christ has two natures, he has two wills. Monotheletism sees the will as a product of the person and since Christ is one person, he only has one will. This is not some insignificant question relegated to speculative theology, but relates to who we believe Jesus is and the relationship between his human and divine natures. At the council, Pope Honorius was anathematized as a heretic for advocating monotheletism. This incident is rather embarrassing for Catholics since they believe in papal infallibility. But that is another subject for another time.

I believe that the Bible teaches dyotheletism which states that Jesus possesses both a human will and a divine will since he has two natures. I am defining a will as the desires that spring from the attributes of a nature. Human nature requires human desires which Jesus did not previously possess before the incarnation. A will is not a “center of consciousness” or “mind” which are descriptions of a person. Monotheletists confuse “will” with “person.” At the incarnation, Jesus acquired new desires that he previously did not possess since he became human in time and has not been human from all eternity. From all eternity, he has existed as God sharing equally with the Father and the Spirit the attributes of God and became man at a point in time assuming a human nature (John 1:14; Gal 4:4; Phil 2:6-8). Since Jesus is fully and completely human, he possesses all of the desires that an unfallen man has, yet without sin. At the same time, because he is fully God, he possesses all of the desires of the one God which flow from God’s nature.

An illustration of the two wills of Christ can be seen in Matthew 26:39: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'” Luke 22:42 says the same thing: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” The monotheletist objection to these verses as used by dyotheletists is that Jesus is communicating with the Father, not his human nature with his divine nature. Of course that is true, but it misses the point of the argument: Jesus’ will, since he is God, is the same as that of the Father. Jesus always does the will of his Father perfectly because he is God: John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-40; 8:29; Heb 10:7. These holy initial desires to let the cup pass are therefore a function of his human nature and desires as a man to not die: the sinless struggles of Jesus with respect to his human nature comprehending what only he could as the sin-bearer. The desire not to die is only with respect to his human nature.

There are not three wills in God, but only one will, or else God would be divided. If the will is a function of the person as the monotheletists claim, then God would have three wills since God exists as three persons. God has one nature (monotheism) and not three natures (polytheism) and therefore he has but one will or set of desires which flow from his attributes shared equally and completely by the three persons of the Trinity.

Through the incarnation, Jesus acquired desires that he previously did not possess with respect to his human nature: eating, drinking, and sleeping that only humans have. To say that he lacked a human will and desires is to say that he is less than fully human (Heb 2:17). The human will of Christ can be seen in many passages of Scripture: being subject to parents (Luke 2:51), being obedient unto death (Phil 2:8), desiring something to drink (John 19:28), rejecting wine to drink (Matt 27:34), not desiring to suffer (Luke 22:42), and desiring to sleep (Luke 8:23). But remember, God neither sleeps nor slumbers (Ps 121:4). The desire to sleep was therefore only with respect to his human nature and not his divine nature. Did Jesus, with respect to his divine nature, desire to sleep? Jesus, as the God-man, therefore desired both to sleep and not to sleep at the same time because he possesses a human will and a divine will. His desire to sleep is only with respect to his human nature and his inability to desire to sleep is with respect to his divine nature which cannot sleep. For these reasons, dyotheletism makes the most sense of the biblical data.

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