Moses Stuart on Nicea

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Moses Stuart (1780-1852) was a brilliant American Bible scholar and theologian, who has been called the father of exegetical studies in America. He wrote commentaries, debated a famous unitarian, and in the very engaging and carefully reasoned Letters on the Eternal Generation of the Son, he argued that the patristic doctrine of eternal generation of Son by Father was (1) without biblical support, and (2) inconsistent with the true or full divinity of the Son, which implies self-existence (and so not being in any sense derived from or caused by another).

Stuart is a trinitarian, and I would call him a negative mysterian. But he is very learned, and despite this expresses himself very clearly. The book is full of insights about historical theology. His discussion of early patristic views relating to the “eternal generation” of the Logos is very careful, and very helpful. (pp. 14-76)

Here’s a particularly insightful passage about the Arian controversy, which is a good balance to the partisan catholic accounts which are still being written.

I would not intimate a doubt that the Nicene fathers meant… to oppose the doctrines of Arius. But in what respects was the opposition made? …The answer is not difficult to any one who reads attentively and understandingly the history of those times…  …that the Son of God, in respect to his nature as Logos, was a derived Being, both parties fully acknowledged. In regard to Arius, this will not be questioned; and in regard to his opponents, the Nicene creed is demonstrative evidence of this. The point mainly disputed was, whether Christ was derived from God by generation and from eternity; or whether he was produced by creative power, and was “the beginning of the creation of God.”

[I don’t] call in question the comparative superiority of the Nicene doctrine, over that of Arius, in respect to spiritual ideas of the divine nature; or in respect to consistency. Both believed Christ to be the creator of the world, and the object of religious worship. …While both parties, then, acknowledged a derived Divinity; while both agree to call him God; and to represent him as the creator of the world, and the object of religious worship; and only disputed about the manner and time of his generation; I have felt it to be no presumption to say, that Arius and the Nicene fathers differed much less, in real sentiment, than is generally supposed.

What was wanting in respect to cause of dispute, however, they supplied by vehemence of manner, and warmth of feeling. Both parties were bent on carrying their point. That the Nicene fathers succeeded, is a matter of sincere joy to me. …But after all, to represent [the Logos] as derived and dependent; what is this but to stop short of assigning full, essential, supreme divinity to the Logos? (pp. 158-9, original italics, bold added)

Earlier Stuart opines that “A subordinate God is, to my mind, a contradiction in terms; unless the word God is used in a metaphorical sense.” (p. 157) Given the context of monotheism here, where by a God we mean a perfect self, it is hard to disagree, for aseity or independence seems an important perfection. To spell out Stuart’s contradiction: a subordinate God would be both independent (because a God) and not (because subordinate, i.e. eternally or temporally generated by another), or equivalently, both independent and dependent.

Interestingly, some present evangelicals follow Stuart. Whereas many trinitarians think the generation and procession claims are very important, and the key somehow to the Three being one God, some trinitarinas nowadays reject these as unsupported by the Bible and inconsistent with the “full divinity” of Christ.

I’d have to agree, on both scores. The old patristic proof-texts for eternal generation as procession are surprisingly flimsy.

Did those early “fathers” just not notice that such derivation seems to make the Father somewhat greater than the other two?

No – to the contrary!  Many of them insisted on the point, for this is how they defended their theory as truly monotheistic. The one true God, they argued, just was the Father, aka YHWH. These other two, yes are called “Gods” and are addressed as “God,” and do various things for God, but the one true God, for them, was the Father.

I’d have to agree with this last point as well.

I’m feeling mighty agreeable today.

About Dale

Dale Tuggy is a Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.

29 Responses to Moses Stuart on Nicea

  1. villanovanus says:

    Let’s cut to the chase.

    The real question is: under the assumption of monotheism, is aseity essential for being God, in the full and proper sense of the word God?

    Moses Stuart affirms that the position of Arius and of the Church Fathers before him (say, Justin, Origen ad Tertullian, just to name three relevant ones) is not so different, because all of them affirmed that the Logos/Son was derived from the Father, and they ONLY differed on the modality of this derivation: eternal geeration for the pre-Arian Fathers (although only Origen explicitly formulated the doctrine), vs. creation for Arius.

    Arius precipitated the issue of Monotheism, by confronting the Church with this stark question: is Subordiationism (tacitly or explicitly advocated by the Church Father before him, and also, well into the Arian Controversy, by Eusebius of Caesarea ad Eusebius of Nicomedia, just to name two of the most relevant) compatible with Monotheism?

    After a struggle that lasted for the best part of the 4th century, the final and conclusive answer of the Church was: NO.

    The trouble is that, instead of moving (back) in the direction of Strict Mootheism, the solution concocted by the Cappadocian scoundrels (Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nissa and their mutual friend Gregory of Nazianzus) was mysterian trinitarianism: co-equal, co-eternal, tri-personal.

    By all evidence, God has so far permitted this abomiation to subsist as the “majority consensus” …

    MdS

  2. Dale says:

    I wouldn’t put it exactly this way. The 4th c. councils were not addressing the abstract question, is subordinationism compatible with monotheism. (Arguably it is, because sub. is a variety of unitarianism!) Rather, they were making up new theological requirements for being catholic, first this contentious, previously rejected term “same substance” and then the idea that this meant the equal divinity of the persons – despite the generation and procession claims. Eventually, they started talking of a triune God, as opposed to “the Trinity” being God, the Son of God, and the Spirit of God.

    Is that late 4th c. consensus mysterian? Yes – I think in both the senses I’ve discussed, though primarily negative.

    Is it an abomination? I wouldn’t go that far… But it is confused and confusing, and arguably not well founded on the sources.

    Is it a majority consensus? Sort of – the formulas are ruthlessly enforced, typically, by the elites. But there’s not really an agreed upon interpretation of those formulas, and among the folk, I don’t think Christian faith has ever been fully trinitarian. Theologians now bemoan this, but in my view, it’s a good thing, showing the continuing influence of the NT on Christians’ actual beliefs.

  3. Interesting piece. I had never heard of Moses Stuart before.

    FYI: I have just published a couple of blog pieces on this question of subordination and the divine monarchy, with particular reference to St Gregory Nazianzen and Met John Zizioulas. You may find them of interest:

    St Gregory the Theologian and the One God (three parts)

    The Importance of the Monarchy of the Father for John Zizioulas

    Needless to say, I believe that the 4th century dogmatic developments as defined by the Council of Nicaea and the 1st Council of Constantinople faithfully represent the truth of Holy Scripture. Arianism was an unstable half-way house between biblical monotheism and paganism. There are no degrees of divinity. There is God and there is everything he has made. If Jesus and/or the Spirit fall into the latter category, they cannot be adored nor can they truly save. This is the soteriological motive behind these developments. IMHO, of course. :) Cheers.

  4. villanovanus says:

    @ Dale [#2, February 21, 2013 at 10:06 am]

    [a] The 4th c. councils were not addressing the abstract question, is subordinationism compatible with monotheism. [b] (Arguably it is, because sub. is a variety of unitarianism!) Rather, they were making up new theological requirements for being catholic, first this contentious, previously rejected term “same substance” and then the idea that this meant the equal divinity of the persons – despite the generation and procession claims. [c] Eventually, they started talking of a triune God, as opposed to “the Trinity” being God, the Son of God, and the Spirit of God.

    [d] Is it [the late 4th c. mysterian consensus on the “trinity”] an abomination? I wouldn’t go that far… But it is confused and confusing, and arguably not well founded on the sources.

    [e] Is it a majority consensus? Sort of – the formulas are ruthlessly enforced, typically, by the elites. But there’s not really an agreed upon interpretation of those formulas, and among the folk, I don’t think Christian faith has ever been fully trinitarian. Theologians now bemoan this, but in my view, it’s a good thing, showing the continuing influence of the NT on Christians’ actual beliefs.

    [a] Whether the Fathers at Nicea were aware of it or not, this is precisely the question with which Arius was confronting them. For himself, he had already answered it, by breaking the “Emanationist bond” between the Father and the Son, and boldly affirming that “there was [a time] when he was not”, and therefore, that the Son was NOT generated BUT created. The Fathers of Nicea, tried to oppose (what they saw as the) the novelty introduced by Arius resorting to the (unscriptural) homoousios, which, as well known, was proposed, or rather imposed by Emperor Constantine (see The Word “Homoousios” from Hellenism to Christianity, by Pier Franco Beatrice, 2002). All this is well established. But because the decisions of Nicea were soon overcome by a predominant “homoiousian mood”, and there was a strong opposition between the Western Latins (plus Athanasius of Alexandria, Marcellus of Ancyra and others) and the (predominantly Subordinationist) Eastern Greeks, the only way out was either a clear-cut victory of one of the two parts, or a compromise. In the end a compromise between “neo-Niceans” and the “semi-Arians” was brought about, mostly thanks to the “Cappadocian scoundrels” (and with the acquiescence of Athanasius, and with the isolation of Marcellus), which implied, on the one hand, the thorough rejection of Subordinationism (except for many Germanic tribes, which, thanks to the missionary Ulfilas, adopted a diluted form of semi-Arianism), and, on the other hand, the acceptance of the “three hypostases” by the Western Latins (interestingly, Athanasius of Alexandria always insisted on the “one hypostasis“).

    [b] This is what you like to think and have repeated many times. Not only the expression “Subordinationist Unitarianism” is manifestly absurd, but your position makes the genesis of full-fledged “trinitarianism” (co-equal, co-eternal, tri-personal) totally incomprehensible. Whether you realize it or not, 381 Constantinopolitan “trinitarianism” is an odd mix of Sabellianism and of Tritheism, obtained by merging them both in a “mystery”, supported by the authority of the Church.

    [c] Where is the “opposition” between a “triune God” and “the Trinity”? If God is affirmed to be (NOT a single person, BUT) tri-personal, I see no “opposition” whatsoever.

    [d] You speak of “consensus”. The proper word is (theo-political) compromise. That it is “not well founded on the sources” is a rather amusing understatement, if by sources we mean the ONLY relevant ones, that is the Scriptural texts, rather than the later elaborations of the Church Fathers. Finally, I consider the “trinity” an abomination because, with the “trinity”, it is (Valentinian) Gnosticism that creeps into Christianity, and Hermeticism (see Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), ‘On The Holy Church': Text, Translation and Commentary, by ABH Logan, 2000).

    [e] I fully agree that ” there’s not really an agreed upon interpretation of those formulas [of the ‘trinity’]”, and the reason is quite obvious (at least to me): the “trinity” is an unstable mix of Sabellianism and of Tritheism, obtained by merging them both in a “mystery”. If the “mysterian mix” is fully exposed to the light of reason, it collapses (precipitates) into its constituent parts. It is still an enigma to me why, in the 16th century, only Michael Servetus saw this (Unitarianism is another kettle of fish), whereas ALL Protestant Reformers, although they were free from Rome’s authority, opposed the debunking of the “mystery of the trinity” as thoroughly unscriptural.

    Also, I fully agree that “Christian faith has [n]ever been fully trinitarian” (in spite of the “bemoaning” of the theologians). I fully agree that this situation is “a good thing, showing the continuing influence of the NT on Christians’ actual beliefs”. I would go as far as saying that, IMO, God has so arranged things, in His Wisdom, that the “simple ones” are unaffected by theological spin, whereas the “smart ones” are condemned precisely because they practice and/or follow that spin.

    MdS

  5. villanovanus says:

    @ Fr Aidan Kimel [#3, February 21, 2013 at 10:21 am]

    … I believe that the 4th century dogmatic developments as defined by the Council of Nicaea and the 1st Council of Constantinople faithfully represent the truth of Holy Scripture. (…) There are no degrees of divinity. There is God and there is everything he has made. If Jesus and/or the Spirit fall into the latter category, they cannot be adored nor can they truly save.

    Care to explain how you reconcile your manifest advocacy of Monarchianism with the claim that “[t]here are no degrees of divinity”?

    More explicitly, and with direct reference to what you say, how do you reconcile …
    A. Though rarely noted by trinitarian Christians, the [Nicene-Constantinopolitan] creed specifies, not the Holy Trinity, but the Father as the one God. [so, apparently, ONLY the Father is declared God]

    B. There is God and there is everything he has made. If Jesus and/or the Spirit fall into the latter category, they cannot be adored nor can they truly save. [so, presumably, the Son and the Spirit are ALSO God, on a par with the Father]

    … the two above statements of yours?

    If by “generation” and by “procession”, respectively, the Son and the Spirit are absolutely equal to the Father (that is co-equal, co-eternal and fully personal), then, I do not see how you can affirm A.

    If, OTOH, by “generation” and by “procession”, respectively, the Son and the Spirit are, “subordinated” to the Father’s Monarchy, then, I do not see how you can affirm B. (Or rather, hint at the presumable implication)

    MdS

  6. “Care to explain how you reconcile your manifest advocacy of Monarchianism with the claim that ‘[t]here are no degrees of divinity’?”

    First, I have to register my objection to your use of the word “Monarchianism” to describe the Eastern construal of trinitarian doctrine. “Monarchianism” is typically employed to refer to “a set of beliefs that emphasize God as being one person” (Wikipedia). Clearly that is not how either the Cappadocians or the Eastern Church today understands God the Holy Trinity. In other words, there is a crucial difference between “Monarchianism” and the Eastern formulation of the monarchy of the Father, as I hope to have made clear in my articles on St Gregory Nazianzen and Met John Zizioulas. But perhaps those articles were not as clear as I intended.

    Second, you ask how I reconcile the monarchy of the Father and the distinct hypostatic identities with the claim that there are no degrees of divinity. That, of course, was the task of the 4th century orthodox Fathers and the councils of Nicaea and Constantinople. The trinitarian doctrine—with its (1) assertion of the difference between uncreated and created and rejection of degrees of divinity; (2) its assertion of the substantial unity between the Father, Son, and Spirit; and (3) the eternal hypostatic processions—is simply the attempt to hold these fundamental truths together in mystery. If this appears illogical, then all I can say is that it’s not about logic. I know that is an unsatisfactory reply in your eyes, but it’s the best I can do. I take solace in the fact that it was also the best Athanasius and the Cappadocians could do.

  7. Dale, having read your Stanford Enyclopedia article, I can’t figure out whether I’m a negative or positive mysterian. I seem to be a mystery to myself. :)

  8. villanovanus says:

    @ Fr Aidan Kimel [#6, February 22, 2013 at 8:58 am]

    If this appears illogical, then all I can say is that it’s not about logic. I know that is an unsatisfactory reply in your eyes, but it’s the best I can do. I take solace in the fact that it was also the best Athanasius and the Cappadocians could do.

    I take good notice that you attempted to answer my general question (being fully aware that your answer “appears illogical”), and carefully avoided to confront my exposure of your contradictions.

    As for Athanasius, he was, most of all, a smart politician, but you may be interested to know that he NEVER gave up his commitment to the “one hypostasis” of God.

    As for the Cappadocians they were … well … scoundrels, who smartly concocted a compromise between neo-Nicenes and semi-Arians, with mystical mumbo-jumbo like the following:

    No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Them than I am carried back to the One. When I think of any One of the Three I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of That One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the Rest. When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the Undivided Light. – Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 40, On Holy Baptism, Preached at Constantinople Jan 6, 381

    MdS

  9. “As for Athanasius, he was, most of all, a smart politician, but you may be interested to know that he NEVER gave up his commitment to the “one hypostasis” of God.”

    I’m not sure what you are claiming. Are you suggesting that Athanasius was really a Monarchian or Sabellian? Clearly that is not the case. Athanasius asserted both the homousion of the Son with the Father and the homoousion of the Spirit with the Father. Athanasius simply did not have the vocabulary to express the hypostatic distinctions; but he understood that his position was compatible with that of St Basil and the homoiousians (see Tomus ad Antiochenos).

  10. villanovanus says:

    @ Fr Aidan Kimel [#9, February 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm]

    Athanasius simply did not have the vocabulary to express the hypostatic distinctions; but he understood that his position was compatible with that of St Basil and the homoiousians (see Tomus ad Antiochenos).

    That “Athanasius simply did not have the vocabulary to express the hypostatic distinctions” is just another way of saying that the words hypostasis and ousia which, in the anathema appended to the original Nicene Creed of 325 were used interchangeably, were artificially split (mostly thanks to the Cappadocian scoundrels) so as to provide a compromise between the neo-Nicenes and the semi-Arians.

    The doctrinal statement of the Western Council of Sardica (342 or 343), in which both Athanasius and Marcellus participated, affirmed that “We have received and being taught and we hold this catholic and apostolic tradition and faith and confession: there is one hypostasis (which is termed “essence” [ousia] by the heretics) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

    MdS

  11. MdS, you are quite right. As I understand the matter, for Athanasius, and for many others in the fourth century, ousia and hypostasis were synonymous, which is why both words were rendered by substantia in Latin. This doesn’t make Athanasius a Sabellian or even a Marcellian, as a reading of Athanasius’ Letters to Serapion well demonstrates. Like everyone else in the 4th century Athanasius is struggling to find a way to speak about the one God who is also Three. His own theological reflection evolved and developed in the years succeeding the Council of Nicaea. Thus he writes:

    “The Trinity is holy and perfect, confessed as God in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, having nothing foreign or extrinsic mingled with it, nor compounded of creator and created, but is wholly Creator and Maker. It is identical with itself and indivisible in nature, and its activity is one. For the Father does all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit. Thus the oneness of the Holy Trinity is preserved and thus is the one God ‘who is over all and through all and in all’ preached in the Church–‘over all,’ as Father, who is beginning and foundation; ‘through all,’ through the Son; and ‘in all’ in the Holy Spirit” (Ep Serap 1.28)

    “It is Trinity not only in name and linguistic expression, but Trinity in reality and truth. Just as the Father is the ‘One who is,’ so likewise is His Word the ‘One who is, God over all.’ Nor is the Holy Spirit nonexistent, but truly exists and subsists” (Ep Serap 1.28).

    In these two passages, as Khaled Anatolios observes, Athanasius is distinguishing his own position “from the kind of modalism of which Marcellus was accused” (*Retrieving Nicaea*, p. 144).

    And of course, as you well know, Athanasius did in fact eventually acknowledge the different trinitarian vision of Basil as orthodox, even though he never employed “hypostasis” himself to designate the divine persons. There are differences between the Alexandrian and Cappadocian presentations of the Trinity, but it would be going much too far to say that they are incompatible or contradictory.

    Anyway, thanks for the conversation. Cheers.

  12. villanovanus says:

    @ Fr Aidan Kimel [#11, February 23, 2013 at 11:26 am]

    “… Thus the oneness of the Holy Trinity is preserved and thus is the one God ‘who is over all and through all and in all’ [Eph. 4:6] preached in the Church–’over all,’ as Father, who is beginning and foundation; ‘through all,’ through the Son; and ‘in all’ in the Holy Spirit”. (…) It is Trinity not only in name and linguistic expression, but Trinity in reality and truth. Just as the Father is the ‘One who is,’ [Ex 3:14] so likewise is His Word the ‘One who is, God over all.’ [Rom 9:5] Nor is the Holy Spirit nonexistent, but truly exists and subsists” (Ep Serap 1.28).

    In these two passages, as Khaled Anatolios observes, Athanasius is distinguishing his own position “from the kind of modalism of which Marcellus was accused” (*Retrieving Nicaea*, p. 144).

    I see that you have omitted all the three –critical– scriptural citations from the quoted passage, that are well present in the referred quotation by Khaled Anatolios. If he had looked at them carefully, he (and, perhaps, you with him …) would have realized that:

    The quotation from Exodus (Ex 3:14), is most appropriate, BUT refers to the One and Only God YHWH);

    The first Pauline quotation (Eph 4:6) explicitly and only refers to the “one God and Father of all”: only Athanasius’ fantasy makes him invent that those “through all” and “in all” refer, respectively, to two distinct (co-eternal … co-equal …) “persons”, “God-the-Son” and the “God-the-Holy-Spirit”;

    The second Pauline quotation (Rom 9:5) is a total misunderstanding of the Pauline language on the part of Paul: that theos eulog?tos eis tous ai?nas am?n is an obvious doxology, referred to the One God.

    BTW, to accuse Marcellus of “Sabellianism” was a standard ploy of the Eusebii, and, more in general, of the “three-hypostatic-subordinationists”.

    Anyway, enjoy your mysterian mix that you are obviously so fond of.

    Cheers to you.

    MdS

  13. John says:

    Fr. Aiden , Villanovanus,l,
    I think the footnotes to the NAB bible put Romans 9:5 in its correct perspective-

    “Some editors punctuate this verse differently and prefer the translation “Of whom is Christ according to the flesh, who is God over all.
    However Paul’s point ,which is that God who is over all aimed to use Israel, which had been entrusted with every privilege to outreach to the entire world through the Messiah”

    As you will have seen the main text in the NAB bible renders Romans 9:5 as
    ” according to the flesh ,it is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever”

    Fr. Aidan and Villanovanus, I have thoroughly enjoyed your dialogue. A great pleasure!

    Every Blessing
    John

  14. villanovanus says:

    @ John [#13, February 23, 2013 at 11:56 pm]

    As you will have seen the main text in the NAB bible renders Romans 9:5 as ”according to the flesh, it is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever [. Amen]”

    The problem (for Athanasius, for Khaled Anatolios and for the NAB) is probably due to Paul’s Greek which, in Rom 9:5, is far from impeccable and crystalline, BUT the NAB certainly overdid it in the other direction:

    As I have already commented, it was a blunder on the part of Athanasius not to treat that qeos euloghtos eis tous aiwnas amhn as an obvious doxology, referred to the One God, which, BTW, as the NAB rightly notices, has the same structure as the one at Rom 1:25 and echoes also the Hebrew of Ps 41:14;

    OTOH, the phrase ho wn epi pantwn (“who is over all”) is a relative clause that most certainly refers to the preceding ho xristos (“the Christ”).

    So, the ONLY appropriate (literal) translation of Romans 9:5 is:

    To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent [lit. ‘what is according to the flesh’], [came] the Christ, who is over all, God [be] blessed forever! Amen.

    MdS

  15. villanovanus says:

    P.S. For the sake of full clarity:

    wn hoi pateres kai ec wn ho xristos to kata sarka ho wn epi pantwn qeos euloghtos eis tous aiwnas amhn

    To them [the Israelites] [belong] the patriarchs, and from them [came] the Christ by human descent [lit. ‘what is according to the flesh’], who is over all, God [be] blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 9:5)

    MdS

  16. John says:

    Hi Villanovanus,
    As you know I am not well versed on these matters – but the Greek you quote is based on “Textus Receptus”
    Could this explain your ‘differences’ with the NAB Bible.?
    Best Wishes- and blessings
    John

  17. villanovanus says:

    @ John [#16, February 25, 2013 at 12:13 am]

    … the Greek you quote is based on “Textus Receptus”
    Could this explain your ‘differences’ with the NAB Bible?

    The NAB translation is ALSO based on the Textus Receptus, BUT they (wrongly) refer the relative clause ho wn epi pantwn (“who is over all”), to the following qeos (“God”), whereas a relative clause, in Greek, refers to what is preceding, that is, in this case, ho xristos (“the Christ”).

    Compare the difference:

    [NAB translation] … theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.

    [proper translation] … theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah, who is over all. God be blessed forever. Amen.

    The Messiah is above all the Israelites (who are “God’s chosen people”), above all the patriarchs. In fact, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, the Messiah is God’s Son, even superior to Angels …

    MdS

  18. Mark says:

    Professor Stuart’s assessment is very accurate, although he rejected the Patristic notion, but he is honey in preserving their real teaching.

    The pre-Nicene fathers are so clear in the teaching of One God being the Father, and the Son is another divine person derived from the Father, who is dependent on the Father, and in this sense the Father is greater than the Son, thus preserving monotheism while still maintaining the divinity of the Son. This is the Nicene trinitarian theology.

    The theology of Augustine is a notion which the One God is an abstract essence, who suffers no distinction of nature and will, whose attributes are metaphysically the same, and in the essence, there are three modes of subsistences, so there are not really three distinct persons or individual minds, but only three modes of the one and simple divine essence.

  19. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark [#18, February 25, 2013 at 8:23 pm]

    The pre-Nicene fathers are so clear in the teaching of One God being the Father, and the Son is another divine person derived from the Father, who is dependent on the Father, and in this sense the Father is greater than the Son, thus preserving monotheism while still maintaining the divinity of the Son. This is the Nicene trinitarian theology.

    One can speak of “Nicene trinitarian theology” ONLY in the loose sense that the original Nicene creed of 325 (that is, before the amendments and amplifications introduced at Constantinople in 381) speaks of “one God, the Father Almighty”, of “one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God” and of ” the Holy Spirit”.

    BUT the original Nicene creed of 325 does NOT have the clause (present in the Constantinopolitan version of 381) before all worlds (or “ages”) appended after begotten of the Father.

    NOR does the original Nicene creed of 325 say anything about the “Holy Spirit”, except that “we believe in it”: NOT that it is God, NOT that it is personal.

    MdS

  20. Mark says:

    MDS,

    I agree with you, when I say the Nicene Trinity, I simply mean One God the Father, One Lord Jesus Christ and One Holy Spirit, a triad.

    “BUT the original Nicene creed of 325 does NOT have the clause (present in the Constantinopolitan version of 381) before all worlds (or “ages”) appended after begotten of the Father. ”

    It has in the anathema something on the metaphysical pre-existence of Christ, aka, there was not a time that he is not.

    “NOR does the original Nicene creed of 325 say anything about the “Holy Spirit”, except that “we believe in it”: NOT that it is God, NOT that it is personal.”

    Agree. But from the writing of Justin, Ignatius, Origen, Eusibius, the Spirit is a separate being, thus I claim they taught a triad.

  21. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark [#20, February 26, 2013 at 9:50 pm]

    It [the original Nicene creed of 325] has in the anathema something on the metaphysical pre-existence of Christ, aka, there was not a time that he is not.

    The anathema against affirming that “there was [a time] when [he] was not” are clearly and specifically against Arius, who had upset the (Subordinationist, Emanationist) status quo when, with his letter to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria (318?) he ignited the controversy that is named after him by affirming precisely what was then anathematized at Nicea.

    The problem, the real problem (the original sin, as it were) is that, since Justin Martyr, Christianity filched from Philo the heathen-philosophical abomination of the Logos as deuteros theos (“second God”). The “trinity” (eventually defined as co-eternal, co-equal, tri-ersonal) was, as Anthony Buzzard says, “Christianity’s self-inflicted wound”, in the attempt to get rid of the heathen-philosophical “original sin”.

    … from the writing of Justin, Ignatius, Origen, Eusebius, the Spirit is a separate being, thus I claim they taught a triad.

    Provide the specific references, then we can discuss them.

    MdS

  22. Mark says:

    MdS,

    Thanks for your reply, somehow, the message I typed up was lost, and I have to start over again.

    Can you show me how the Logos as second God violates any OT? 1) In the OT context, angelic beings, divine council, man, demon have all been called Elohim or El, with no harm done to the most High God; 2) Generally in the surrounding culture, there is the idea of One most high God with One agent or Baal, this is also the case in 1 Cor 8:6, One God and One Lord, although some say both of them are YHWH; 3) in the OT, we have the invisible YHWH and the angel, messenger, commander of the army of YHWH, this angel is definitely an El, so what wrong has Justin done, by calling the Logos another Elohim, if you read his context.

    With due respect to Sir. Buzzard, your understanding of Trinity (the opposing view) is that of Augustin, which is one simple essense with three modes of subsistences, one simple essence is God, while persons are special attributes of the divine essence. This cannot be mixed with the purer patristic view of the Trinity, being One God the Father, and with God his Son and his Spirit.

  23. Mark says:

    MdS,

    With respect to the Holy Spirit being a separate being/person it is very easy to show you from these writers.

    For Justin, he styles the Spirit a unique name, the prophetic spirit, and he ranked him the third place.

    “Having learned that He is the Son of the TRUE GOD HIMSELF, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third”. XIII. ANF I, 436

    For Irenaus, the Spirit is spoken so much, in many instances, to show how the heathens and pagans have corrupted the story or doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Irenaus calls the Spirit and Christ, the two hands of God.

    For Ignatius, too many instances to quote, the problem is this, many of these writers simply affirm the Holy Spirit, the problem that the Spirit is not a separate being/person seems not a problem to them at all, so if you want to proof the negative, you can show me in their writings, how they deny the Holy Spirit is a separate being.

    For Eusibius, “The One God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ can alone be called such; the Son is God only begotten who is in the bosom of the Father; the Paraclete Spirit is neither God nor Son (since He receives His origin from the Father not in such fashion as the Son does, but is one of the beings that derive through the Son: “all have come into being through Him, and apart from him has nothing came into being” Eccl. Theo. 3.6.3

    For Origen, “We who are persuaded that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are three substances, and do believe there is nothing unbegotten but the Father, do admit this Notion, as most agreeable to piety and truth, that when all things are said to be made by the Word, the Holy Spirit is the most honourable, and first in order of those beings which the Father made by Christ. ” Commentary on John

    I don’t agree with Origen in his point, but the purpose is just to show you the Holy Spirit is a separate being/person, not just a force or power, this is sufficient.

  24. Abel says:

    Several recent posts have made mention of the Irenean view that the Holy Spirit is ‘the two hands of God’

    People living more than a millenium ago seem to view God in a anthromorphic sense -thus He is said to have ‘mighty arms and wings.’

    Not many people l encounter believe view this – but tend to regard the words as metaphorical.

    Thus one would say.-
    (i)Christ is the incarnation of the Word (the Word being Gods creative self-expression, wisdom)

    (ii) The Holy Spirit is the means by which God acts in His creation.

    I find the Early Church Fathers interesting but their thoughts have been woven into tradition, and tradition is the ‘force’ which is at the root of our problems!

    Best Wishes

    Abel

  25. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark

    [#22, February 28, 2013 at 8:08 pm] Can you show me how the Logos as second God violates any OT? 1) In the OT context, angelic beings, divine council, man, demon have all been called Elohim or El, with no harm done to the most High God; 2) Generally in the surrounding culture, there is the idea of One most high God with One agent or Baal, this is also the case in 1 Cor 8:6, One God and One Lord, although some say both of them are YHWH; 3) in the OT, we have the invisible YHWH and the angel, messenger, commander of the army of YHWH, this angel is definitely an El, so what wrong has Justin done, by calling the Logos another Elohim, if you read his context.

    If the reference of Jesus (the Incarnation of God’s Eternal Logos – see John 1:1-18) to himself as God –without qualifications and/or restrictions– had not been incompatible with the obvious understanding of his fellow Israelites (essentially determined by Deut 6:4), Jesus, when confronted by “the Jews”, would not have gone out of his way to correct their misunderstanding.

    Jesus NEVER refers to himself, purely and simply, as God. In fact, when the Jewish leaders accuse him of making himself equal to God …

    The Jewish leaders replied, “We are not going to stone you for a good deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.” (John 10:33)

    … he corrects their misconception …

    34 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If those people to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ (and the scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say about the one whom the Father set apart and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (John 10:34-36 – emphasis by MdS)

    … with unmistakable words, that only people with trinitarian glasses can mis-read as though it was written “I am god-the-son” …

    With due respect to Sir Buzzard, your understanding of Trinity (the opposing view) is that of Augustine, which is one simple essence with three modes of subsistences, one simple essence is God, while persons are special attributes of the divine essence. This cannot be mixed with the purer patristic view of the Trinity, being One God the Father, and with God his Son and his Spirit.

    My “understanding of Trinity” is most certainly NOT restricted to that of Augustine, so much so that I fully agree with you that Church Fathers like Origen, or Tertullian, or Eusebius, where full-fledged trinitarians: Subordinationist trinitarians.

    (Sorry, Dale, obviously there is such thing as “Subordinationist trinitarians”, whereas “Subordinationist unitarians” is an odd oxy-moron …)

    [#23, February 28, 2013 at 8:08 pm] With respect to the Holy Spirit being a separate being/person it is very easy to show you from these writers.

    For Justin, he styles the Spirit a unique name, the prophetic spirit, and he ranked him the third place.

    “Having learned that He is the Son of the TRUE GOD HIMSELF, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third”. XIII. ANF I, 436

    For Irenaeus, the Spirit is spoken so much, in many instances, to show how the heathens and pagans have corrupted the story or doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Irenaeus calls the Spirit and Christ, the two hands of God.

    For Ignatius, too many instances to quote, the problem is this, many of these writers simply affirm the Holy Spirit, the problem that the Spirit is not a separate being/person seems not a problem to them at all, so if you want to proof the negative, you can show me in their writings, how they deny the Holy Spirit is a separate being.

    For Eusebius, “The One God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ can alone be called such; the Son is God only begotten who is in the bosom of the Father; the Paraclete Spirit is neither God nor Son (since He receives His origin from the Father not in such fashion as the Son does, but is one of the beings that derive through the Son: “all have come into being through Him, and apart from him has nothing came into being” Eccl. Theo. 3.6.3

    For Origen, “We who are persuaded that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are three substances, and do believe there is nothing unbegotten but the Father, do admit this Notion, as most agreeable to piety and truth, that when all things are said to be made by the Word, the Holy Spirit is the most honourable, and first in order of those beings which the Father made by Christ. ” Commentary on John

    I don’t agree with Origen in his point, but the purpose is just to show you the Holy Spirit is a separate being/person, not just a force or power, this is sufficient.

    Thank you for your quotations.

    For Justin, who, filching the expression from Philo, styled the Son of God as second god, it is unsurprising that he does something similar with God’s Spirit, although it is far from obvious, from your quotation, that Justin considers God’s Spirit a person.

    For Irenaeus, the fact that he refers to God’s Word/Son and Spirit/Wisdom as “God’s Hands” doe NOT imply at all that he considered them separate beings/persons.

    For Ignatius, your own comment that “the problem that the Spirit is not a separate being/person seems not a problem” is self-commenting.

    As for Origen and Eusebius, they both were subordinationists-emanationist-trinitarians, so, once again, no surprise there …

    MdS

  26. villanovanus says:

    @ Abel [#24, March 1, 2013 at 12:56 am]

    There is no need to belittle the writers of the OT/TaNakh, assuming that they were resorting to naïve anthropomorphism: their images of God (a God who prohibited images …) were every bit as metaphoric as those of a poet.

    As long as we don’t consider what the Church Fathers wrote as an “extension” of Scripture, I see no danger in them, in spite of the many objectionable things they wrote.

    Anyway, what “problems” are you referring to, in particular?

    MdS

  27. Abel says:

    Villanovanus
    Thanks for that!
    I guess I was getting a bit ‘uppity’ about Church Fathers thoughts being given a status equal to that of scripture.
    One sees so many appeals to ‘tradition’ from Trinitarians who have ‘nowhere else to go’ – i.e. having no scriptural support for their position.
    Best Wishes
    Abel

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