Monothelitism -- I need retraining


I just found out that what I have been believing, that Jesus has only one will, is a heresy called Monothelitism. I know that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and is infallible, and so I am wrong and the Church is right. I do here publicly recant my heresy. I will be going to confession about this as well.

But it’s also not that simple. I need to come to UNDERSTAND orthodoxy, which right now doesn’t make sense to me. It seems to me that if Jesus were to have two wills, it would make him two persons. I just don’t understand. I need help.

Is there anyone here who will with patience and love help me come fully back to orthodox belief? I may ask a lot of questions.


Here’s my MX$2. I am not a philosopher, and do not play one on television, but am just a sinner.

Our LORD was a human being. As such, He had a human will. He’d need that to use His limbs, or even mind.

But as a divine person, He had a divine will.

Now for Him, they were **never **in conflict, but were distinct.



This is related:

I’m in a spot where I’m wondering how Christ’s natures could be fully God and fully man and yet fully united. Why can’t Jesus be a vague union between God and man?


Because a human being is not “vague” and neither is God; so a “vague Union” is not both, but neither!





St. Alphonsus Liguori answers two similar objections on pages 207 and 208 of his book “The History of Heresies and Their Refutation,” Volume 2.

Before I quote him, I’m going to try to put the same arguments he uses in modern language, because he uses 1700s language and it sounds a bit weird to people like me. So here is my attempt to use St. Alphonsus’s exact same arguments but write them in modern english:

Free will is one of the powers of human nature. It is also one of the powers of the divine nature. There is a divine nature And a human nature in Jesus. Now, the above three statements logically imply that there must be two wills in Jesus. That’s just basic logic: human nature has a free will, the divine nature has a free will, Jesus has both natures, therefore Jesus has two free wills.

Now, when you said in your opening post that having two wills would seem to make Jesus two persons, you seem to misunderstand what a person is. A person is just the user of an object. If I using two things, that doesn’t make me two persons. Philosophers say the person is the Subject and the nature is the Object which the subject uses, or wields. Our bodies, for example, are objects, and they are used or wielded by a person, us, the subjects. Now, just as a person can theoretically use two objects at once, for example two hammers, so a person can theoretically use two free wills at once. Those are just different objects, and the same principle applies.

A free will is just a power, like intellect and like breathing. There’s no need for two wills to have two different people wielding them. The Trinity is proof that there is not a 1-to-1 ration between wills and people, because the Trinity has one will and they are three Persons. Since there is no 1-to-1 ratio between wills and people, it is just as possible for one Person to wield two wills as it is for three Persons to wield one will.

Okay, so here is what St. Alphonsus says, referring to the arguments of the monothelites: They say…that there being only one Person there must be only one will, because, the Mover being but one, the faculty by which he moves the inferior powers must be but one likewise. We answer, that where there is but one Person and one Nature there can be only one will and one operation, but where there is one Person and two Natures, as the Divine and human nature in Christ, we must admit two wills and two distinct operations, corresponding to the two Natures.

… [The] will and the operations are not multiplied according as the Persons are multiplied, for in the case where one Nature is the term of several Persons, as is the case in the Most Holy Trinity, then in this Nature there is only one will and one operation alone, common to all the Persons included in the term of the Nature. … But it is quite otherwise when the Person is one of the two Natures, for then the Mover, although but one, has to move two Natures, by which he operates, and, consequently, he must have two wills and two operations.

… They make a third objection. [Two wills], they say, belong to two Persons, and, consequently, when the Person is but one, the [will] must be but one likewise. We answer, that it is not always the case that when there is but one Person that there is but one [will]… [Nor,] when there are more Persons than one, [must] there [be]…more than one [will]. There are three Persons in God, but only one [will] common to all three, because the Divine Nature is one and indivisible in God. But as in Jesus Christ there are two distinct Natures, there are, therefore, two wills, by which he operates, and two operations corresponding to each Nature; and, although all the operations, both of the Divine and human Nature are attributed to the Word, which terminates and sustains the two Natures, still the will and operations of the Divine Nature should not be confounded with those of the human nature; neither are the two Natures confused because the Person is one. source I hope that makes sense. Please let me know. God bless!


Hope this helps:

A fully human will is part of what it means to be made in the image of God. This natural will has not been lost in the fall, otherwise human nature has been lost, and Christ could not have assumed it. The monothelites said there was one theandric enegy in Christ: the divine will. This is precisely how the 6th council defined the two natural wills in Christ:

The Sixth Council states in its Definition of Faith:

“And these two natural wills [in Christ] are not contrary the one to the other (God forbid!) as the impious heretics assert, but his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will. For it was right that the flesh should be moved but subject to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For as his flesh is called and is the flesh of God the Word, so also the natural will of his flesh is called and is the proper will of God the Word, as he himself says: “I came down from heaven, not that I might do mine own will but the will of the Father which sent me!” where he calls his own will the will of his flesh, inasmuch as his flesh was also his own. For as his most holy and immaculate animated flesh was not destroyed because it was deified but continued in its own state and nature (ὄρῳ τε καὶ λόγῳ), so also his human will, although deified, was not suppressed, but was rather preserved according to the saying of Gregory Theologus: “His will * is not contrary to God but altogether deified.”*If He did not have a human will, could He be fully human?


I’d also read the fifth council , it would definitely help


For him to save us he must be two full natures , thus two wills , but he is one person , one existence , the two natures are always United , but not merged , and the two wills , being on one person always agree .

Hope that helps my sister , good luck with that confession :slight_smile:


First of all, let me thank you. This is exactly the sort of dialogue I need. I’m going to respond, but please know that I will also be chewing on this and on all of your responses for a very long time. Some learning doesn’t take place over night. Please don’t take my questions as arguing with you. They are my attempts to draw out the fullest answer from you. If you don’t know an answer, that’s okay, I’m not going to fall back into heresy – I believe fully in the Church’s authority.

Isn’t the user of the object the will, as the user has to will itself to use the object and how it will use the object? If the user uses two objects, isn’t it the same will, just making two decisions?

A free will is just a power, like intellect and like breathing. There’s no need for two wills to have two different people wielding them. The Trinity is proof that there is not a 1-to-1 ration between wills and people, because the Trinity has one will and they are three Persons. Since there is no 1-to-1 ratio between wills and people, it is just as possible for one Person to wield two wills as it is for three Persons to wield one will.

Wait. The whole trinity has one will, but Jesus has two? How does that add up? If Jesus has two wills, the Father has a will, and the Spirit has a will, then wouldn’t the Trinity have four wills?

Again, sorry for all the questions, and thank you for your patience.



Been there.

No matter how stupid one may think any question is, it is ALWAYS dumber not to ask the question at all.

Not sure, but probably His followers were not ready to accept that He was also divine. Do you know that one of the biggest problems that many non-Christians have with Jesus is that they cannot accept that God would not just take on human form, but fully become human?

Your welcome, and my pleasure. :slight_smile: By the way, you do not need to confess anything. Ignorance is not a sin. You have to know something is a sin, and still do it anyway, for it to be a sin.

I think you will enjoy this article. Ten minute read, but well worth the time. By the way, the whole website is a gem for Catholics.


Thank you for the link. I have so much to think about. I am learning a lot.


A very good reference for these types of questions is the book Theology for Beginners by F.J. Sheed.

I don’t know if this book covers this exact question but it is a good resource for such things.



Hi, Gracie!
Wow… your post is packed!


…you know, we all go through trials and tribulations… you’re not a heretic if you unknowingly spouse yourself with error; a heretic is one who’s ego has turned him/her from God and intentionally battles against God through assaulting His Church and by teaching heresies as sound doctrine.

It takes full humility to turn to God. It takes just as much to allow the Church that Christ Founded to Guide us!

You, my sister, are on the right track! :dancing::dancing::dancing:

Your questions are fully welcomed–though not to disrupt the statues of this site I urge you to maintain a theme per post (that is don’t bombard the site with question after question after question without truly slowing down to digest the responses…); you could make a personal list to ascertain that you are actually making a personal effort to learn and adapt… a question may have several parts to it but if you simply list a whole mess will learn practically nothing and your intent could well hinder others (those who are more comfortable with low-key participation).

We can start with this:

The Catholic doctrine is simple, at all events in its main lines. The faculty of willing is an integral part of human nature: therefore, our Lord had a human will, since He took a perfect human nature. His Divine will on the other hand is numerically one with that of the Father and the Holy Ghost. It is therefore necessary to acknowledge two wills in Christ.(

Jesus: True God (Divine Will)
Jesus: True man (human will)

Jesus being True God never ceases being God (John 1:1-4, Colossians 1:14-19, and Hebrews 1:3-13) and Jesus, the Word, Incarnating in St. Mary takes on the human form to fully experience human plight (experience) (Philippians 2:2-8 and Hebrews 4:14-15); maintaining that Jesus has only one will either rejects His Divinity or negates His Incarnation. This error is clearly corrected by Sacred Scriptures:

5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ: not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit which testifieth, that Christ is the truth. 7 And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one. (1 St. John 5:5-7)

Maran atha!



Me and my Dad do certain things together, we are partners on our home etc. There (since we are more fallible humans) are some things we do fully in union and some seperate. There are certain decisions in dealing with certain items we give eachother full autonomy/unity. So we can say “handle that” or choose to handle it without input from the other. Certain services, utility decisions etc… when making a call on how to progress with a company and order this/that etc. So as our wills are one in the same. Within these items we have no need to question the motive or decision making parameters of the other, and this is of fallible imperfect humans. I think of the will of God/Jesus as a super perfect version of this union, in which everything is by default both autonomous decision and perfect singular union. If that makes sense?


That is a great answer. I like where he says that a person is the user of the object. Before Jesus took on flesh he was one divine Person. And after he took on flesh he was still the same Person. But, now he has a human nature, which includes a human intellect and will. Now, think about this - it says in Scripture that Jesus grew in wisdom and knowledge. So this is Scripture stating right there he had a limited human intellect. Well, obviously, that is not the divine intellect that is learning and growing. So he must have both powers of intellect, one infinite and divine, and one limited and human. And, the human intellect being limited must learn as all humans do.


The Holy Trinity is One God, in three Persons. One divine nature includes the divine attributes and faculties. Thus though there are three Persons, each Person posseses the one divine nature, the one divine intellect, the one divine will.

In Jesus, one of those Persons—the Son—takes on a human nautre. So wheras the Trinity is one nature with three Persons, in Jesus we have one Person with two natures—divine and human. The one Person makes use of the faculties of both natures—human and divine—a divine will and a human will, a divine intellect and a human intellect.


Thank you Jcrichton. I’ll have to ponder those quotes!

I suspect that the problem may be semantical, IOW in what I think “will” means. I have always thought will is the capacity to choose, i.e. will is free will. Thus, in THAT definition, a will really isn’t divine or human, it simply is.

So perhaps a better way to word my question is, what is the Catholic definition of WILL?


Hi, Gracie!
I’m not an avid reader, with the exception of Sacred Scriptures, so I do not know the Church’s definition of “will.” Though I doubt that it bears much since the issue is the validity of Christ as the Son of God (fully Divine) and as the Son of man (fully human).

Now, the beauty of the Incarnation of the Word is that while in the human form He and the Father did not have a different mind… that is the Son’s will was to do the Father’s will. Hence, Jesus while having the freedom to do His own bidding made Himself subject to the Father, even on to death on the Cross:

27 Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause I came unto this hour. 28 Father, glorify thy name. A voice therefore came from heaven: I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. (St. John 12:27-28)

42 Saying: Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done. (St. Luke 22:42)

Maran atha!


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