Preserving the whole theological system: Maximus the Confessor’s dyothelitism as a bulwark for trinitarian theology, christology, and soteriology

Kevin M. Clarke

Ave Maria University


This paper examines Maximus the Confessor’s thought concerning the pressing urgency of his day, namely, the threat posed by monothelitism and monenergism. What were the theological stakes, as he saw them, for orthodoxy that prompted such stark resistance to imperial attempts at a doctrinal compromise? The paper focuses first on the mode of union in the Incarnation and the manner of the assump­tion of the human nature, including a human will and a human operation. Maximus also manages to rescue orthodoxy’s fathers, especially Gregory Nazianzen, Cyril of Alexandria, and Dionysius and from his opponents’ interpretations of various ¢por…ai. The second section considers Maximus’s presentation of the synthetic heterodoxy and its inevitable result, namely that one composite will in Jesus Christ – in isolating Christ from the Godhead on the one hand and from true humanity on the other – ultimately destroys all of theology. How can Christ save or divinize man if he is no longer like man? He cannot, says Maximus. Instead, Christ would become a sort of tertium quid, neither God nor man, in one movement unraveling Trinitarian theology, Christology, and soteriology. The concluding section briefly considers the immediate impact of Maximus from his martyrdom, including the matter of Constantinople III’s strange failure to mention Maximus in the conciliar text. Finally, this section explores Maximus in our own time, especially how the theology that developed in the seventh century through Maximus is a sort of an­swer to some of the difficulties of post-Enlightenment modernity.


Council of Chalcedon, Council of Constantinople III, Cyril of Alexandria, Dionysius the Areopagite, Gregory Nazianzen, Maximus the Confessor, Pyrrhus of Constantinople, monenergism, monothelitism

An Early Syriac Life of Maximus the Confessor, transl. S. Brock, AnBol 91 (1973) fasc. 3, 299-346.

Basilius Caesariensis, Adversus Eunomium, ed. B. Sesboüé – G.M. du Durand – L. Doutreleau, vol. 1, SCh 299, Paris 1982, vol. 2, SCh 305, Paris 1983.

Concilium Constantinopolitanum III (680-681), Definitio de duabus in Christo voluntatibus et operationibus, Denzinger 553-559.

Dionysius Areopagita Pseudo-, Epistulae, PG 3, 1065-1124.

Dionysius Areopagita Pseudo-, De divinis nominibus, PG 3, 586-996.

Disputatio Bizyae cum Theodosio, ed. and transl. P. Allen – B. Neil: Dispute at Bizya with Theodosius, in: Maximus the Confessor and his Companions: Documents from Exile, Oxford 2004, 76-119.

Gregorius Nazianzenus, Epistulae, PG 37, 21-388.

Gregorius Nazianzenus, Orationes 27-31, ed. P. Gallay, SCh 250, Paris 1978.

Joannes Damascenus, De fide orthodoxa, PG 94, 789-1228.

Maximus Confessor, Ambiguorum liber, PG 91, 1031-1417, transl. N. Constas: Maximus Confessor, On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua, vol. 1-2, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 28-29, Cambridge (Ma) 2014.

Maximus Confessor, Disputatio cum Pyrrho, PG 91, 287-353.

Maximus Confessor, Epistulae, PG 91, 362-650.

Maximus Confessor, Liber asceticus, PG 90, 911-958.

Maximus Confessor, Opuscula theologica et polemica, PG 91, 9-286.

Maximus Confessor, Quaestiones ad Thalassium, PG 90, 244-785.

Relatio motionis factae inter dominum abbatem Maximum et socium eius atque principes in secretario, PG 90, 109-129.

Anatolios Kh., The Soteriological Grammar of Conciliar Christology, “The Thomist” 78 (2014) 165-188.

Balthasar Urs H. von, Cosmic Liturgy: The Universe According to Maximus the Confessor, transl. B.E. Daley, San Francisco 2003.

Berthold G.C., Did Maximus the Confessor Know Augustine?, StPatr 17 (1982) fasc. 1, 14-17.

Berthold G.C., Dyothelite Language in Augustine’s Christology, StPatr 70 (2013) 357-364.

Berthold G.C., Maximus the Confessor: Selected Writings, Classics of Western Spirituality, New York 1985.

Blowers P., Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus on Gnomic Will (gnèmh) in Christ: Clarity and Ambiguity, “Union Seminary Quarterly Review” 63 (2012) 44-50.

Blowers P., The Dialectics and Therapeutics of Desire in Maximus the Confessor, VigCh 65 (2011) 425-451.

Booth P., Crisis of Empire: Doctrine and Dissent at the End of Late Antiquity, Berkeley 2014.

Börjesson J., Augustine on the Will, in: The Oxford Handbook of Maximus the Confessor, ed. P. Allen – B. Neil, Oxford 2015, 212-234.

Börjesson J., Maximus the Confessor’s Knowledge of Augustine: An Exploration of Evidence Derived from the Acta of the Lateran Council of 649, StPatr 68 (2013) 325-336.

Daley B.E., Making a Human Will Divine: Augustine and Maximus on Christ and Human Salvation, in: Orthodox Readings of Augustine, ed. G.E. Demacopoulos – A. Papanikolaou, Crestwood (NY) 2008, 101-126.

Daley B.E., Maximus Confessor, Leontius of Byzantium, and the Late Aristotelian Metaphysics of the Person, in: Knowing the Purpose of Creation through the Resurrection: Proceedings of the Symposium on St. Maximus the Confessor, Oct. 18-21, 2012, Belgrade, ed. Bishop M. Vasiljević, Belgrade 2013, 55-70.

Daley B.E., Word, Soul, and Flesh: Origen and Augustine on the Person of Christ, AugSt 36 (2005) fasc. 2, 299-326.

Garrigues J.-M., L’Instrumentalité Rédemptrice du Libre Arbitre du Christ chez Maxime le Confesseur, “Revue Thomiste” 104 (2004) fasc. 4, 531-550.

Heidgerken B., The Christ and the Tempter: Christ’s Temptation by the Devil in the Thought of St. Maximus the Confessor and St. Thomas Aquinas, Dayton 2015 (Ph.D. diss.).

Jankowiak M. – Booth P., A New Date List of the Works of Maximus the Confessor, in: The Oxford Handbook of Maximus the Confessor, ed. P. Allen – B. Neil, Oxford 2015, 19-83.

Jankowiak M., The Invention of Dyotheletism, StPatr 63 (2013) 335-342.

Kantzer Komline H., “Ut in illo viveremus”: Augustine on the Two Wills of Christ, StPatr 70 (2013) 347-355.

Kantzer Komline H., The Second Adam in Gethsemane: Augustine on the Human Will of Christ, REAug 58 (2012) fasc. 1, 41-56.

Larchet J.-C., Introduction, in: Sainte Maxime Le Confesseur, Opuscules théologiques et polémiques, trad. et notes par E. Ponsoye, Sagesses chrétiennes, Paris 1998, 7-108.

Léthel F.-M., La prière de Jésus à Gethsémani dans le controverse monothélite, in: Actes du Symposium sur Maxime le Confesseur, Fribourg, 2-5 septembre 1980, ed. F. Heinzer – Ch. Schönborn, Paradosis 27, Fribourg 1982, 207-214.

Léthel F.-M., Théologie de l’Agonie du Christ: La liberté humaine du Fils de Dieu et son importance sotériologique mises en lumière par Saint Maxime Confesseur, Théologie Historique 52, Paris 1979.

Lévy A., Le Créé et L’Incréé: Maxime le Confesseur et Thomas D’Aquin: Aux Sources de la Querelle Palamienne, Paris 2006.

Louth A., Maximus the Confessor, London 1996.

Louth A., St. John Damascene: Tradition and Originality in Byzantine Theology, Oxford 2002.

Madden N., Composite Hypostasis in Maximus Confessor, StPatr 27 (1993) 175-196.

Maximus the Confessor and his Companions: Documents from Exile, ed. and transl. P. Allen – B. Neil, Oxford 2004.

McFarlandI.A., “Willing Is Not Choosing”: Some Anthropological Implications of Dyothelite Christology, “International Journal of Systematic Theology” 9 (2007) fasc. 1, 3-23.

McFarlandI.A., The Theology of the Will, in: The Oxford Handbook of Maximus the Confessor, ed. P. Allen – B. Neil, Oxford 2015, 516-532.

On God and Christ, transl. L. Wickham, Crestwood (NY) 2002.

Sherwood P., Annotated Date-list of Maximus’ Works, Studia Anselmiana 30, Roma 1952.

Sherwood P., St. Maximus the Confessor: the Ascetic Life, the Four Centuries on Charity, Ancient Christian Writers 21, New York 1955.

Studer B., Zur Soteriologie des Maximus Confessor, in: Actes du Symposium sur Maxime le Confesseur, Fribourg, 2-5 septembre 1980, ed. F. Heinzer – Ch. Schönborn, Paradosis 27, Fribourg 1982, 239-246.

Thunberg L., Man and the Cosmos: The Vision of St. Maximus the Confessor, Crestwood (NY) 1997.

Thunberg L., Microcosm and Mediator: The Theological Anthropology of Maximus the Confessor, Lund 1965.



Clarke, K. M. (2018). Preserving the whole theological system: Maximus the Confessor’s dyothelitism as a bulwark for trinitarian theology, christology, and soteriology. Vox Patrum, 68, 479–500.

Kevin M. Clarke 
Ave Maria University


Zgodnie z regulacjami prawnymi zawartymi w ustawie o prawie autorskim i prawach pokrewnych z dnia 4 lutego 1994 r., autor przekazuje autorskie prawa majątkowe dotyczące składanego dzieła wydawcy czasopisma "Vox Patrum". Przeniesienie praw autorskich do składanego dzieła następuje na wszystkich polach eksploatacji, w szczególności tych wymienionych w art. 50 ustawy o prawie autorskim i prawach pokrewnych: 1. W zakresie utrwalania i zwielokrotniania utworu – wytwarzanie określoną techniką egzemplarzy dzieła, w tym techniką drukarską, reprograficzną, zapisu magnetycznego oraz techniką cyfrową. 2. W zakresie obrotu oryginałem albo egzemplarzami , na których dzieło utrwalono – wprowadzanie do obrotu, użyczenie lub najem oryginału albo egzemplarzy. 3. W zakresie rozpowszechniania utworu w sposób inny niż określony w pkt. 2 – publiczne wykonanie, wystawienie, wyświetlenie, odtworzenie oraz nadawanie i reemitowanie, a także publiczne udostępnianie utworu, aby każdy mógł mieć do niego dostęp w miejscu i czasie przez siebie wybranym.

Za zgodą Redakcji czasopisma artykuły i recenzje opublikowane w półroczniku "Vox Patrum" mogą być przedrukowywane w innych publikacjach.

Autor, w celach niekomercyjnych, może w dowolny sposób, bez zgody Redakcji, rozpowszechniać swój tekst w wersji elektronicznej.

Redakcja publikuje teksty on-line na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 4.0 Międzynarodowe.