Hippolytus (c. 170-236) is an interesting, if obscure character. He was a presbyter in Rome, and on some reports, was a bishop of Rome – either a pope on an anti-pope, depending on how you look at it (he would have been a rival bishop, if this is true, to either Zephyrinus or Callistus). (See the entry on him in this book, pp. 164-5)
He was especially concerned to combat “monarchian” theology. In my view, it is a huge undertaking to get clear what on just what “monarchian” theology was all about. In any case, it is clear that the Hippolytus re-asserts the two-stage logos theory against it, the same sort of theory we saw in Ireneaus. He may have been a disciple of Irenaeus.
God, subsisting alone, and having nothing contemporaneous with Himself, determined to create the world. …but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality. For He was neither without reason, nor wisdom, nor power, nor counsel. And all things were in Him, and He was the All. When He willed, and as He willed, He manifested His word in the times determined by Him, and by Him [the Word] He made all things. …He begat the Word… And thus there appeared another beside Himself. But when I say another, I do not mean that there are two Gods, but that it is only as light of light, or as water from a fountain, or as a ray from the sun. …And this is the mind which came forth into the world, and was manifested as the Son of God. All things, then, are by Him [the Son] and He alone is of the Father. (Against the Heresy of Noetus 10-1, p. 227, original italics, bold added)
At the end here, he uses Philo’s analogies – his point being that this Word is of the same nature as God – and yet not so as to make a second God. His divinity is of a lesser sort – he comes from God, whereas God doesn’t come from anything.
Unless you think that a mighty self could have once been a mere attribute of something, this implies that the Son began to exist a finite time ago. Again, we see the sort of “subordinationism” for which the “Arians” were later pilloried. Really, only the language is different (the Son here comes to be out of God rather than out of nothing – which is all the same, for he’s not made by re-arranging pre-existing material either way – and is not called a “creature”). However you label it, though, this making-to-exist is a free act of the Father. Thus, we do not have two equal beings, eternally sharing an essence, in this theology.
But you will say to me, How is He [the Son/Logos] begotten? In your own case, you can give no explanation of the way in which you were begotten, although you see every day the cause according to man; neither can you tell with accuracy the economy of His case. …you are asking an account of the generation of the Word, whom God the Father in His good pleasure begat as He willed. …Is it not enough for you to learn that the Son of God has been manifested to you for salvation if you believe…? (16, p. 229, bold added)
All of this implies that he is not a trinitarian. But is he a unitarian – a Christian who identifies the one God with the Father (and not also with the Son or Spirit)?