trinitarian or unitarian? 2 – Irenaeus on Jesus’ ignorance

Jesus-prayingTrinitarian or unitarian?

You decide.

This time, more Irenaeus (d. c. 202). He doesn’t say the various odd things many later “fathers” say about this passage!

But, beyond reason inflated [with your own wisdom], ye presumptuously maintain that ye are acquainted with the unspeakable mysteries of God; while even the Lord, the very Son of God, allowed that the Father alone knows the very day and hour of judgment, when He plainly declares, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, neither the Son, but the Father only.”[Mark 13:32] …the Son was not ashamed to ascribe the knowledge of that day to the Father only

…if any one should inquire the reason why the Father, who has fellowship with the Son in all things, has been declared by the Lord alone to know the hour and the day [of judgment], he will find at present no more suitable, or becoming, or safe reason than this (since, indeed, the Lord is the only Master), that we may learn through Him that the Father is above all things. For “the Father,” says He, “is greater than I.” [John 14:28] The Father, therefore, has been declared by our Lord to excel with respect to knowledge; for this reason, that we too, as long as we are connected with the scheme of things in this world, should leave perfect knowledge, and such questions [as have been mentioned], to God, and should not by any chance, while we seek to investigate the sublime nature of the Father, fall into the danger of starting the question whether there is another God above God. Against Heresies II.28.6,8, pp. 401, 402.

Is the Father greater than the Son? (unitarian)

Or is the Son as divine as and as great as the Father? (trinitarian)

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.

27 Responses to trinitarian or unitarian? 2 – Irenaeus on Jesus’ ignorance

  1. villanovanus says:

    Is the Father greater than the Son? (unitarian)

    Or is the Son as divine as and as great as the Father? (trinitarian)

    I see that Dale insists undeterred with his shenanigan that, unless trinitarianism is “co-equal, co-eternal and tri-personal”, it is “mere” Subordinationism, and “therefore” akin to “unitarianism”.

    One day, perhaps, he with (try to) explain to us why the Arian Controversy arose at all …

    … and was so devastating for the Church …

    … and took more than 60 years before it was settled, also thanks to the play on words (or, if he prefers obscure scholarly words, paronomasia …) invented by the Cappadocian scoundrels (“one ousia in three hypostases“) … :/

    MdS

  2. Dale says:

    MdS – your comment is a head scratcher. If you wish to present a counterexample to either of my definitions, please do so. In my view, they should be accepted by all sides.

    And it would also be helpful if, after explaining why one of those definitions is wrong, you gave a better one.

  3. villanovanus says:

    Dale,

    I frankly don’t see what about my comment (and I am sure, many other similar ones …) you find a “head scratcher”.

    Just in case you are still not aware (and you should) many other commentators here do not agree with your overextended definition of “unitarian” and, OTOH, narrow definition of “trinitarian”, to the point that even three-hypostatic subordinationists like Origen would be “unitarians” and a clear (subordinationist) trinitarian like Swinburne would be, according to you, an “inconsistent trinitarian” (see “Swinburne on analytic vs. continental philosophy”, comment #8).

    And it would be helpful (perhaps to you, first and foremost) if you explained, from your POV, why, if that between “created at the (or even before) beginning of time” and “eternally generated” was such a trifling difference, the Arian Controversy was so devastating, and HAD to be concluded with an obscure formula that disguises a “political” compromise.

    MdS

  4. Dale says:

    MdS,

    I don’t understand your demand about Nicea at all.

    As to my request for an objection, you have stated that the definition of “unitarian” is too wide, because it lets in Origen. Yes, it does. It also lets in Samuel Clarke, and John Biddle, and for the same reason (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/unitarianism.html#16t17tCenSocUni) but that is correct – those are universally considered unitarians. So should Origen and company.

    Then you said that the definition of “trinitarian” is too narrow, because… I’m not sure why. (Other than that it would exclude Origen – but see above.) To me, the definition is vague exactly in the way trinitarianism is, but it includes necessary and sufficient conditions to which all trinitarians would agree.

    May I guess at what’s going on here? Your’e a unitarian of a Socinian sort (Jesus not divine, not pre-existent, and the Holy Spirit a power or God or an exercise of his power, or a way just referring to God/the Father), and you want to label theologies you don’t like, ones unduly Hellenized as “trinitarian.” ‘Cause those are the bad guys.

    Bizarrely, this is the mirror image of what many trinitarian theologians do. They see that Origen, Ireneaus, Justin etc. were in the catholic camp, and they see how their theories in various ways laid down claims on which trinitarian claims (properly speaking) could develop. So they want to count them as trinitarians – ’cause those are the good guys. But seeing that they can’t really be trinitarians, they then hedge by casting them as proto- or semi- or quasi- trinitarians, or ones groping towards it, blah blah blah.

    But this is not how we classify things for scholarly purposes – based on party loyalties. We classify by getting to the defining general features of each sort of view, and let the groupings fall where they may.

    Hellenization is one thing, and I don’t deny that it was and is a big problem. But it’s another matter whether one believes in a God who just is a great self or in one which is somehow tripersonal.

  5. villanovanus says:

    @ Dale [#4, March 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm]

    [a] I don’t understand your demand about Nicea at all.

    [b] As to my request for an objection, you have stated that the definition of “unitarian” is too wide, because it lets in Origen. Yes, it does. It also lets in Samuel Clarke, and John Biddle, and for the same reason (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/unitarianism.html#16t17tCenSocUni) but that is correct – those are universally considered unitarians. So should Origen and company.

    [c] Then you said that the definition of “trinitarian” is too narrow, because… I’m not sure why. (Other than that it would exclude Origen – but see above.) To me, the definition is vague exactly in the way trinitarianism is, but it includes necessary and sufficient conditions to which all trinitarians would agree.

    [d] May I guess at what’s going on here? Your’e a unitarian of a Socinian sort (Jesus not divine, not pre-existent, and the Holy Spirit a power or God or an exercise of his power, or a way just referring to God/the Father), and you want to label theologies you don’t like, ones unduly Hellenized as “trinitarian.” ‘Cause those are the bad guys.

    [e] Bizarrely, this is the mirror image of what many trinitarian theologians do. They see that Origen, Ireneaus, Justin etc. were in the catholic camp, and they see how their theories in various ways laid down claims on which trinitarian claims (properly speaking) could develop. So they want to count them as trinitarians – ’cause those are the good guys. But seeing that they can’t really be trinitarians, they then hedge by casting them as proto- or semi- or quasi- trinitarians, or ones groping towards it, blah blah blah.

    [f] But this is not how we classify things for scholarly purposes – based on party loyalties. We classify by getting to the defining general features of each sort of view, and let the groupings fall where they may.

    [g] Hellenization is one thing, and I don’t deny that it was and is a big problem. But it’s another matter whether one believes in a God who just is a great self or in one which is somehow tripersonal.

    [a] That was already more than evident from your reply, comment #2, to my comment #1 at thread “Moses Stuart on Nicea”…

    b] Only if one resorts, as you do, to the ploy that three-personal, as long as it is “Subordinationist”, would be “unitarian”. The fact that you are the author of the SEP article on Unitarianism does not change the sheer simplistic obfuscation of your equation of Subordinationism and Unitarianism.

    [c] I don’t understand of what you are “not sure why”. Once again, not only you resort to the ploy that thee-hypostaticism (like that of Origen) would not be “trinitarianism” as long as it is “subordinationist”, but even a clear (subordinationist) trinitarian like Swinburne would be, according to you, an “inconsistent trinitarian” (see “Swinburne on analytic vs. continental philosophy”, comment #8). What still escapes you?

    [d] As your guess is largely off, let me put you on the right track. As my nick should have suggested to you, I am a –rather competent– student and admirer of Michael Servetus, from Villanueva de Sijena, but, perhaps, and even more a –rather competent– student and admirer of Marcellus of Ancyra (the “other” champion of Nicea, who, unlike Athanasius, did NOT compromise with homoiousians and semi-Arians under the aegis of the Cappadocian scoundrels).

    Jesus is NOT personally pre-existent, while, OTOH, he is the literal Son of God (Luke 31:35), the Messiah, “whom the Father set apart and sent into the world” (John 10:36) and the incarnation of God’s eternal Logos (John 1:1-18), which (which …) until the Incarnation is NOT a person (in the obvious sense of the word), BUT an etenal attribute of God (the other being God’s Spirit, and the two, together, being “God’s hands (or arms)” – see Deut 33:27 and Psalm 33:6).

    In spite of your cheap sarcasm, the Scriptural notion of God was truly polluted by its contact with Hellenism. More specifically, by the heathen-philosophical (in particular Philonian) understanding of the Logos as deuteros theos.

    Besides, in spite of my citation of Beatrice’s and Logan’s papers, you are obviously unfamiliar with the Hermetic-Gnostic origin of the doctrine of the three hypostases.

    [e] Sadly, you don’t realize that the full-fledged (co-eternal, co-equal, tri-personal) “trinity” (Anthony Buzzard’s “Christianity’s self-inflicted wound”) is only the final step of the “original sin” of treating the Logos as “second god” (deuteros theos)

    [f] Amazing that you don’t realize how your are simply deluding yourself that scholars would be exempt from bias and (even collective) misconceptions …

    Maybe you would benefit from reading Contra Marcellum: Marcellus of Ancyra and fourth-century theology, by Joseph T. Lienhard, 1999.

    [g] Origen and Tertullian, just to name two, certainly believed in a God “which is somehow tripersonal”. In fact, more than somehow: the former spoke of three (hierarchically subordinated) hypostases; the latter spoke of tres personae

    MdS

  6. Mark says:

    MdS,

    Show me one place that Origen believes God is tripersonal. That is impossible.

  7. Mark says:

    MdS.

    To make it clear, NONE of the pre-Nicene fathers believed God is tripersonal, NO, NOT ONE, GOD IS THE FATHER, not even Sabellius believed that. No one, tripersonal means person is an attribute of the essence, that only appeared in Augustin. Period. Tripersonal means person is not the real person or individual, it meas an eternal mode.

  8. Dale says:

    Letters are good. I’m not sure if you’re here to insult or to seriously discuss, but I’ll keep going for now.

    [b] the sheer simplistic obfuscation of your equation of Subordinationism and Unitarianism.

    I don’t equate them! Rather, I draw a distinction between two general kinds of unitarianism. I see the essential thesis as the one true God being numerically identical to the Father, and to no one else. Origen affirms that as much as Socinus does. What you go on to say about the Son is another matter, for in any case he won’t be another God *in the same sense the Father is*.

    [c] you resort to the ploy that thee-hypostaticism (like that of Origen) would not be “trinitarianism” as long as it is “subordinationist”

    “Three-hypostaticism” – I take it you mean that Origen posits three persons within the divine nature, or sharing the divine nature. I don’t see it that way. That Father has the divine nature, for him, and eternally, mysteriously emanates out Son and Spirit, which are because of that, somehow, similar to him. But this doesn’t put them in any sense within the one God, and it doesn’t make them divine in the way that God is.

    [d] Jesus is NOT personally pre-existent…

    Mds, I agree with this whole paragraph of yours! You’ve been shooting at your own side. I call this sort of view “humanitarian unitarianism”.

    [e] the Scriptural notion of God was truly polluted by its contact with Hellenism. …Besides, in spite of my citation of Beatrice’s and Logan’s papers, you are obviously unfamiliar with the Hermetic-Gnostic origin of the doctrine of the three hypostases.

    Mds, I’m not familiar with those papers. If you care to provide a link or citation, that would be helpful. Myself, I can’t dismiss a view simply because of its origin. I only exclude what is incompatible with the scriptures and/or other evidence. I do agree, though, that certain Greek doctrines have had a very bad influence on Christian theology, e.g. impassibility. The Greeks were right about some things.

    [e] Sadly, you don’t realize that the full-fledged (co-eternal, co-equal, tri-personal) “trinity” (Anthony Buzzard’s “Christianity’s self-inflicted wound”) is only the final step of the “original sin” of treating the Logos as “second god” (deuteros theos)

    I’m well familiar with Mr. Buzzard’s work, and to a large extent agree with it. But as Jesus points out, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with calling beings other than God “god” or “gods”. But monotheism is true and important. There is a sense of “God” – I think defined in Isaiah in particular, in which a Christian can only believe in one. But there is a generic conception of a god which is found in all cultures – the concept of a self which is more powerful than any human. Those – Christians can and do believe in. Thus, in the OT, “elohim” can be used for angels, or even great or mighty people. So when Justin calls Jesus “a god” – that’s right or wrong, but if he doesn’t mean it in the same sense that Yahweh’s a God, then it’s not imcompatible with monotheism. Monotheism is incompatible with belief in the existence of any number of gods – in the above, thin sense. And a monotheistic God will by definition be a god as well.

    [f] simply deluding yourself that scholars would be exempt from bias

    This is the very opposite of what I said. Because I speculated that you were looking through a polemical lense, I was not implying by that that I think scholars are unbiased. Quite the contrary! That’s in fact part of the point of this whole series of posts.

    [g] Origen and Tertullian, just to name two, certainly believed in a God “which is somehow tripersonal”. In fact, more than somehow: the former spoke of three (hierarchically subordinated) hypostases; the latter spoke of tres personae …

    I disagree, and I’ve worked pretty hard on understanding both. You have to get the 4th c. notions out of view, and try to understand what they mean by those terms. The point is clearer with Origen than with Tertullian, because of T’s muddy speculations about the divine nature and other things. But both clearly identify the one God with the Father. (Keep in mind what I mean by “identify” here – not associate, but rather assert them to be numerically one.) The do not identify the one God with the Trinity. Nor are their persons equally divine. I have posts on both forthcoming.

    Thanks for the Marcellus book recommendation; I’ve read reviews of that and have meaning to get it. I see it’s available cheaply now. Here’s a recommendation for you: Alvan Lamson’s The Church of the First Three Centuries – the enlarged edition, after 1875.

  9. John says:

    All

  10. John says:

    Sorry about foregoing!
    This debate has been enormously insightful for me!
    I am a little concerned with a certain ‘abrasiveness’ which has entered into it of late!.
    Villanovanus is obviously extremely well versed in the subject matter – but a little less ego would be helpful.!
    I have grave concerns that the ‘Erasmian dream’ will ever be realised.
    Issues need to be debated in a spirit of brothely love, and if consenses is not reached, put on the ‘back burner’ until new information or insights are forthcoming.
    Every Blessing
    John

  11. villanovanus says:

    @ Mark

    [#6, March 1, 2013 at 7:39 pm] Show me one place that Origen believes God is tripersonal. That is impossible.

    Not only it is perfectly possible, in fact it is a … fact. Herebelow, several quotations from Origen’s On First Principles/De Principiis:

    For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds the comprehension not only of temporal but even of eternal intelligence; while other things which are not included in it [quæ sunt extra trinitatem] are to be measured by times and ages. (DP, Book IV, Ch. 3, § 28)

    Having, then, briefly restated these points regarding the nature of the Trinity, it follows that we notice shortly this statement also, that “by the Son” are said to be created “all things that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him; and He is before all, and all things consist by Him, who is the Head.” [Col. i. 16–18] (…) And David, intimating that the mystery of the entire Trinity was (concerned) in the creation of all things, says: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the Spirit of His mouth.”[Ps. xxxiii. 6] (DP, Book IV, Ch. 3, § 30)

    For it is one and the same thing to have a share in the Holy Spirit, which is (the Spirit) of the Father and the Son, since the nature of the Trinity is one and incorporeal. And what we have said regarding the participation of the soul is to be understood of angels and heavenly powers in a similar way as of souls, because every rational creature needs a participation in the Trinity. (DP, Book IV, Ch. 3, § 30)

    The above should be enough. References to the “trinity” are also found in De Principiis I.5.4, I.6.2, that I can quote, if you like …

    [#7, March 1, 2013 at 7:41 pm] To make it clear, NONE of the pre-Nicene fathers believed God is tripersonal, NO, NOT ONE, GOD IS THE FATHER, not even Sabellius believed that. No one, tripersonal means person is an attribute of the essence, that only appeared in Augustin. Period. Tripersonal means person is not the real person or individual, it meas an eternal mode.

    This is truly appalling! First we have Dale, who makes Subordinationism part of “unitarianism”, now (even more spectacular) you make Sabellianism/Modalism part of “trinitarianism”!

    What other bizarre oddity are we going to see next?

    MdS

  12. villanovanus says:

    @ John [#10, March 2, 2013 at 1:15 am]

    I have grave concerns that the ‘Erasmian dream’ will ever be realised.
    Issues need to be debated in a spirit of brotherly love, and if consensus is not reached, put on the ‘back burner’ until new information or insights are forthcoming.

    Erasmus may have had his peaceful “dreams”, but the harsh reality is that Servetus was burned at the stake in Geneva (October 27, 1553), thanks to that bloodthirsty “christian”, John Calvin.

    Thank goodness (and thanks to Illuminism and the American and French Revolutions …) this would be impossible, today. Nevertheless is not with a hotchpotch of (misunderstood) “unitarianism” and (misunderstood) “trinitarianism” that truth is being affirmed … ;)

    MdS

  13. villanovanus says:

    @ Dale [#8, March 1, 2013 at 7:59 pm]

    Letters are certainly good, because they help itemize quotations and relative comments. Unfortunately you skipped the very first letter, [a]. So, let me reformulate it for you for the umpteenth-umpteenth time, hoping to make it foolproof.

    If (as Moses Stuart substantially affirms – and you with him, I believe?) the position of Arius and of the Church Fathers before him (say, Justin, Origen ad Tertullian, just to name three relevant ones) was 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 generation for the pre-Arian Fathers (although only Origen explicitly formulated the doctrine), vs. creation for Arius, then why did the Arian Controversy arise at all …

    … and was so devastating for the Church …

    … and took more than 60 years (318 to 381) before it was eventually somehow settled, also thanks to the play on words (or, if you prefer obscure scholarly words, paronomasia …) invented by the Cappadocian scoundrels (“one ousia in three hypostases“)?

    If something still escapes you, rather than not answering at all, please explain what is unclear to you in my question.

    (I will put on hold the rest of the items, from b to g, until we have settled this first and fundamental one …)

    MdS

  14. Dale says:

    “and you with him, I believe?”

    You’re not listening, friend. Please see my reply to your [d] above.

    “why did the Arian Controversy arise at all”

    Because catholic Christianity had become full of mean, arrogant dogmatists, who were willing to excommunicate people over fine points of theory. Since Irenaeus, people had speculated that unless Jesus were truly divine, then he couldn’t accomplish any salvation – and not so much by his life, teaching, and death, but more by the incarnation itself, contrary to the New Testament. Also, the matter became intensely politicized, and involved a struggle for catholic churches, and for the favor of the emperor, since they had entangled church and state, and started to think of him as the patron of Christ’s true church. You seem to think everything hangs on that Arian controversy, but I claim that theologically, this is not so. It did, eventually, though, lead to the switch from unitarian to trinitarian theology – not by the new term “homoousios” that the one side latched onto, but rather because of where speculations about the Son and Spirit had, over the course of two hundred years, reached. In other words, unitarian theology was by that time much bloated with Greek speculations, and yes, triads were in the air, so to speak. But you don’t see widespread, real trinitarianism until closer to the second, 381 council.

  15. Dale says:

    Re: Origen on the Trinity – For him, the one true God is *a member of* the Trinity, the founding member, as it were. Thus, he does not believe in a triune God. He does believe that the three share a *universal* nature. But he doesn’t think that makes them one God. And rightly so – if there’s such a thing as the universal human nature, you and I have it equally, but that doesn’t make us one man. I’ll provide relevant quotes to show all this in future posts.

    All early “Trinity” talk is like this – so you can’t jump at it and say “Aha! There’s a trinitarian!” The term “Trinity” changed in meaning, from referring to an interrelated group of deities, one of which is the source of the others, and who is the one deity properly so called, to referring to a triune deity, a single God containing three “hypostases”.

    Again, unitarians like Biddle or Clarke, who accept the personhood and lesser divinity of the Son and Spirit, can also talk about “the Trinity.” But everyone, professed trinitarians and professed unitarians, considers them to be unitarians. Bizarrely, when we then switch the subject to Origen, he’s a sort-of or half-way trinitarian, people think. But no, his views are not significantly different from theirs. Century shouldn’t matter, when we’re classifying theories.

  16. Dale says:

    John – thanks for your kind words.

    Yes – we must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Sometimes that’s harder on the Internet!

  17. villanovanus says:

    @ Dale

    [#14, March 2, 2013 at 7:34 am] You’re not listening, friend. Please see my reply to your [d] above.

    You are obviously confusing and conflating too completely different questions:

    1. “Humanitarian unitarianism” which (correct me if I am wrong), is your avowed personal position, and which is so radical as not to adequately account for the Scriptural data (in particular Luke 31:35, John 10:36, John 1:1-18), because it leaves largely unanswered the question of Jesus’ nature, divinity and mission.

    2. What Moses Stuart substantially affirms, viz. that the position of Arius and of the Church Fathers before him (say, Justin, Origen ad Tertullian, just to name three relevant ones) was 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 generation for the pre-Arian Fathers (although only Origen explicitly formulated the doctrine), vs. creation for Arius. If this “minimal difference theory” was true, then it would leave totally unexplained why the Arian Controversy arose at all, and why it wasn’t resolved simply by reverting to ante-Nicene Subordinationism (which, immediately after Nicea, turned out to be a largely shared position, especially in Eastern Christianity) …

    Please, ignore no. 1 above, for the moment.

    Is no.2 a fair description of Moses Stuart’s position? If not, why not? Is it ALSO a fair description of your understanding of the positions of Arius vs the Ante-Nicene Fathers? If not, why not?

    [The Arian Controversy arose] [b]ecause catholic Christianity had become full of mean, arrogant dogmatists, who were willing to excommunicate people over fine points of theory. Since Irenaeus, people had speculated that unless Jesus were truly divine, then he couldn’t accomplish any salvation – and not so much by his life, teaching, and death, but more by the incarnation itself, contrary to the New Testament. Also, the matter became intensely politicized, and involved a struggle for catholic churches, and for the favor of the emperor, since they had entangled church and state, and started to think of him as the patron of Christ’s true church. You seem to think everything hangs on that Arian controversy, but I claim that theologically, this is not so. It did, eventually, though, lead to the switch from unitarian to trinitarian theology – not by the new term “homoousios” that the one side latched onto, but rather because of where speculations about the Son and Spirit had, over the course of two hundred years, reached. In other words, unitarian theology was by that time much bloated with Greek speculations, and yes, triads were in the air, so to speak. But you don’t see widespread, real trinitarianism until closer to the second, 381 council.

    Your historical-theological reconstruction of the reasons for the Arian Controversy makes it largely incomprehensible. In particular it leaves totally unexplained why Arius would have been so sternly opposed at Nicea, with full support from the Emperor, but then the Nicene Creed of 325 would have been shelved for nearly 60 years, and Arius officially pardoned by Constantine, and Athanasius and Marcellus would have been (repeatedly) exiled instead … until Athanasius chose to broker a political compromise between the neo-Nicenes and the semi-Arians, more than fully supported –in fact ultimately overtaken– by the Cappadocian scoundrels.

    Here are few specific comments.

    Whether Jesus (who was the Son of God) enjoyed, alongside his humanity, a divinity that was the same in essence (homoousios) as that of God, the Father Almighty, or whether, instead, he was some sort of “inferior deity” is hardly a “fine point of theory”: it is the very essence of the issue at stake at Nicea, 325.

    What you are saying about “speculations since Irenaeus” leaves totally unexplained why no less that God’s very Son was necessary to achieve salvation, rather than, say, a merely human figure, like a new Moses and/or a new Elijah.

    Your claim that the Arian Controversy is not so central and important shows, once again, your incapacity to perceive that it was a watershed. Once again, your peculiar interpretation leaves totally unexplained why, OTOH, it would “eventually, though, lead to the switch from unitarian to trinitarian theology” – as you admit.

    It is rather diminutive to affirm that, by the time of Nicea 325, “theology was … much bloated with Greek speculations, and … triads were in the air, so to speak”. In Greek-speaking Christianity, Origen (184-254) had already systematically applied the term “trinity” to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and had already referred systematically to the three as hypostases. More, he had explicitly affirmed that the Son is “eternally generated” by the Father. In Latin-speaking Christianity, Tertullian (160-225) had firmly opposed Modalism and introduced the word trinitas, again referred to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    It is evident that you have formulated your own “interpretative dogma”, viz. that unless and until the “trinity” is “co-eternal, co-equal”, it is not “proper trinity”. Good for you.

    [#15, March 2, 2013 at 7:41 am] For him [Origen], the one true God is *a member of* the Trinity, the founding member, as it were. (etc. etc. etc.)

    It is evident that, just as a lot depends on the proper understanding of Nicea, a lot depends on the proper understanding of Origen, as chief representative of all those Church Fathers who, one way or another, affirmed a “triad” (trias, trinitas) of eternal (albeit hierarchically subordinated) entities, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Unfortunately for all these “happy subordinationists”, Arius broke the status quo by explicitly affirming that the “Son” was not eternal, not “eternally generated”, BUT that “there was [a time] when [he] was not”.

    MdS

  18. Helez says:

    Mds, that the pre-Arian Fathers affirmed eternal generation is largely your own imagination. It is true for Origin, but it’s certainly not something that can be generally concluded for all or even most of them.

    For example, Ignatius shows that the Son was not eternal as a person but was created, for he has the Son saying: “The Lord [Almighty God] created Me, the beginning of His ways.” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, page 108)

    And Tertullian said: “We should not suppose that there is any other being than God alone who is unbegotten and uncreated. . . . How can it be that anything, except the Father, should be older, and on this account indeed nobler, than the Son of God, the only-begotten and first-begotten Word? . . . That [God] which did not require a Maker to give it existence, will be much more elevated in rank than that [the Son] which had an author to bring it into being.” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III, page 487)

    The controversy was not because there was anything new about Arius denying Christ’s eternality.

  19. Helez says:

    Though I agree that the difference between eternal generation vs. creation in regard of the Son was not something considered to be only minor and rightly so.

  20. villanovanus says:

    @ Helez [#18, March 3, 2013 at 7:47 pm AND #19, March 3, 2013 at 8:10 pm]

    Apparently, your quotes would provide evidence that, while Origen certainly affirmed the “eternal generation of the Son”, this is not so for other (earlier) Church Fathers.

    Let’s see.

    As for Ignatius, you should be aware that the quotation that you have provided is from the Letter to the Tarsians, which is universally considered by the scholars one of the Spurious Epistles of Ignatius.

    As for your quotation from Tertullian, you have taken it, out of context, from his Against Hermogenes, a painter and amateur “theologian”, who held the (heathen-stoic) opinion that matter is eternal, and therefore equal with God. The whole point of Tertullian was to argue that, if Hermogenes makes matter co-eternal with God, “Hermogenes puts Matter even before God, by putting it before the Son” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III, end of page 487).

    Finally, your two statements …

    The [Arian] controversy was not because there was anything new about Arius denying Christ’s eternality.

    Though I agree that the difference between eternal generation vs. creation in regard of the Son was not something considered to be only minor and rightly so.

    … of which the latter corrects the former, leave ultimately unexplained why, if that between “created at the (or even before) beginning of time” and “eternally generated” was such a trifling difference (as Dale claims), the Arian Controversy was so devastating, and HAD to be concluded, after more than 60 years of strife (318 to 381 AD) with the obscure formula of the Cappadocian scoundrels (“one ousia in three hypostases”) that poorly disguises a “political” compromise.

    MdS

  21. Helez says:

    MdS,

    The concept of a prehuman Jesus being created by God must somehow be completely new for it not to be only a trifling issue?

    Why would you even assume that the Apostolic Fathers and Church fathers generally affirmed eternal generation? It it is certainly not something that is apparent from their writings. Again, I think its mostly something you read into their writings.

    Thank you for providing some context of Tertullian statements. However, he still says that the Father is older than the Son and that no other being than God alone is unbegotten and uncreated and that the Son was brought into being by God as the only-begotten and first-begotten Word.

  22. villanovanus says:

    @ Helez [#21, March 4, 2013 at 11:45 am]

    [a] The concept of a prehuman Jesus being created by God must somehow be completely new for it not to be only a trifling issue?

    [b] Why would you even assume that the Apostolic Fathers and Church fathers generally affirmed eternal generation? It is certainly not something that is apparent from their writings. Again, I think its mostly something you read into their writings.

    [c] Thank you for providing some context of Tertullian statements. However, he still says that the Father is older than the Son and that no other being than God alone is unbegotten and uncreated and that the Son was brought into being by God as the only-begotten and first-begotten Word.

    [a] It is a fact that “[t]he concept of a prehuman Jesus being created by God” (and therefore, by definition, not only subordinated to God, the Father Almighty, but certainly NOT “of the same substance” as the Father) was what deflagrated the Arian Controversy. You still have not even tried to explain this HUGE fact.

    [b] Can you cite a SINGLE Church Father that, after Origen (who certainly was an advocate of “the Trinity” made of three hierarchically subordinated hypostases), objected to the “eternal generation” of the Logos/Son from the Father? (Until Arius, of course …)

    [c] Also Origen affirms that the Father is the ONLY “unbegotten”, and that the Logos/Son is begotten from the Father. So what? The Nicene Council of 325 affirms that the “Son” is “of the same essence/substance” (homoousios) with the Father. While it is DUBIOUS that a “Son” emanated by the Father would still be “of the same essence/substance”, it is CERTAIN that a pre-existent “Son” would NOT be “of the same essence/substance”, if it was created.

    MdS

  23. Helez says:

    MsD,

    a) Dale already did.

    b) So, because I can not cite a Church Father between Origen and Arius who objected to Origen’s “eternal generation” all of the Apostolic Fathers and Church Fathers before Origen must have affirmed eternal generation as well? That is seriously your argument?

    c) You see what your want to see. If you want to believe that someone who says that the Father is older than the Son and that no other being than God alone is uncreated and that the Son was brought into being by God as the only-begotten and first-begotten Word still affirms eternal generation, that is up to you.

  24. villanovanus says:

    @ Helez [#23, March 4, 2013 at 2:50 pm]

    a) Dale already did [try to explain the Arian Controversy].

    b) So, because I cannot cite a Church Father between Origen and Arius who objected to Origen’s “eternal generation” all of the Apostolic Fathers and Church Fathers before Origen must have affirmed eternal generation as well? That is seriously your argument?

    c) You see what your want to see. If you want to believe that someone who says that the Father is older than the Son and that no other being than God alone is uncreated and that the Son was brought into being by God as the only-begotten and first-begotten Word still affirms eternal generation, that is up to you.

    [a] He tried, and he gave a totally unsatisfactory account …

    [b] My argument is that, by the time of Arius, Origen’s take on the “trinity” (the Father the ONLY “unbegotten”, the “Son” and the Holy Spirit two hypostases emanating from the Father, hierarchically subordinated to the Father) had become the status quo against which Arius’ doctrine would be measured. Otherwise, what was all the fuss about?

    [c] You got it all upside down. What I clearly affirm is that, far from being a minor difference, that between Arius and his bishop Alexander was a difference that was obviously considered intolerable, not so much because it affirmed the subordination of the “Son”, but because it unquestionably affirmed the creation of the “Son”, and THEREFORE, CERTAINLY, the essential difference between the Father and the “Son”.

    By affirming the (unscriptural) homoousios the Church, at Nicea, certainly over-reacted, but it is documented that, after trying many other formulas, that was the ONLY way they saw for making it impossible for Arius to agree to a shared creed.

    By introducing that homoousios, they started a process that, instead of reaffirming the Scriptural Strict Monotheism of the One God and Father YHWH, WITH His two essential attributes, Word/Logos/Dabar and Spirit/Pneuma/Ruwach, ended up with the mysterian concoction of the Cappadocian scoundrels, “one ousia in three hypostases“, co-eternal and co-equal.

    MdS

  25. Helez says:

    MsD,

    [b] And my point is that the fuss you are talking about wasn’t caused because the concept of a prehuman Jesus being created by God was new. (It wasn’t.) And that, based on their writings, we cannot conclude that the Apostolic Fathers and Church Fathers before Origen generally affirmed eternal generation.

    c) I did not got it all upside down. And I mostly agree with what you affirm here. Yet again, this doesn’t mean that the Apostolic Fathers and Church Fathers before Origen generally affirmed eternal generation.

    Peace to you.

  26. villanovanus says:

    @ Helez [#25, March 5, 2013 at 4:32 am]

    I can only repeat what I said: by the time of Arius, Origen’s take on the “trinity” (the Father the ONLY “unbegotten”, the “Son” and the Holy Spirit two hypostases emanating from the Father, hierarchically subordinated to the Father) had become the status quo against which Arius’ doctrine would be measured.

    If you deny this, you are obviously not very well informed. (And you leave the Arian Controversy unexplained)

    MdS

  27. Helez says:

    MsD,

    And didn’t deny it, and it certainly became the status quo since the council, but let me repeat as well: nothing of this means that the Apostolic Fathers and Church Fathers before Origen generally affirmed eternal generation.

    Peace.

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