Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Recommendation - Christopher Beeley's, The Unity of Christ - Continuity and Conflict in Patristic Tradition

This is the second book of Christopher Beeley's published works that I have now read. I first became aware of Dr. Beeley via a link provided by Iohannes in THIS COMMENT. [See also this Google Books Preview.]

I was thoroughly impressed by his, Gregory of Nazianzus on the Trinity and the Knowledge of God, so when I discovered The Unity of Christ during some recent online research, I knew I had to obtain it—I was not disappointed—this book has reinforced my opinion that Dr. Beeley is firmly establishing himself as one of the most gifted Patristic scholars of the early 21st century.

In The Unity of Christ, Dr. Beeley delves into the theology of the following Church Fathers: Origen of Alexandria, Eusebius of Caesarea, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, and Leo the Great, with an emphasis on development of doctrine and the formation of the early creeds produced by the councils of Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381) and Chalcedon (451).

Though all the chapters of the book are quite good, I particularly appreciated the one devoted to Eusebius of Caesarea (chapter 2, pp. 49-104). For a number of years now, I have felt that Eusebius' theological contributions have been either ignored or significantly under appreciated by most patristic scholars. Dr. Beeley is of the same opinion; he demonstrates that Eusebius offers much more than his valuable history of the Church, and that he was a major contributor concerning the issue of the monarchy of God the Father.

Anyway, I wanted to bring this excellent book to the attention of readers who have an interest in patristic studies. Selections from the book can be read online via this, Google Books Preview.

For those who make the decision to purchase the book, I would be very interested in hearing from you once you have had the opportunity to read it.

Grace and peace,


Monday, July 18, 2016

Justin Brierley's simple, yet insightful, argument for the existence of God

Justin Brierley, the host of Premier Christian Radio's show, Unbelievable? (link), recently presented the following argument for the existence of God:

Grace and peace,


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Augustine - on the causality of the Son from the Father and the monarchy of God the Father

Back on March 8, 2013, I published a thread under the title: Which Augustine ???. In the opening post, I wrote:

Keeping in mind the distinction between the Latin/Western and Greek/Eastern approaches to the doctrine of the Trinity drawn by a number of patristic and theological scholars of the last few decades, one will find that the following selections are more in line with the Greek/Eastern approach.

In addition to the contrast mentioned above, many of those scholars who have sided with the so-called 'Greek/Eastern' approach, also included some harsh criticisms of Augustine's elucidations on the doctrine of the Trinity. However, beginning with my aforementioned post on Augustine, I started to notice some serious flaws with those who maintained such views. One defect is the failure to realize that a good deal of semantic confusion existed among many post-Nicene Church Fathers. I have come to discern that many of the supposed distinctions entail little more than a lack of precision on the part of those CFs who were actually attempting to defend/explain the same concepts. One such concept was the eternal generation of the Son of God from the God the Father.

To my knowledge—unlike a number of modern Evangelical scholars who deny the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son from the Father (see THIS THREAD for some examples)—every post-Nicene Church Father who wrote in depth on the doctrine of the Trinity affirmed the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son of God by/from God the Father; it wasn't until the Reformation period that this centuries old doctrine was denied by some Trinitarians (the important/relevant debates over eternal generation are intra-Trinitarian, for all non-Trinitarians deny it).

When the concept of the generation of the Son of God from God the Father is affirmed, one cannot avoid the implication of causality. But if one affirms the causal relationship between the Father and the Son, how does one avoid the charge of either Arianism or Tritheism? A number of post-Nicene CFs avoided such charges by embracing three important concepts: first, the generation of the Son of God from the God the Father is an eternal begetting, not a temporal creation; second, this eternal begetting includes the full communication of the Father's ousia/essence/substance to the Son without any loss—or as the original Nicene Creed phrases it, 'born/begotten from the essence/substance of the Father'; and third, the affirmation of God the Father as the fount/source of divinity. [It is important to point out these three concepts form the foundational aspects of what I have termed, 'Nicene Monarchism'—more commonly known as the monarchy of God the Father—and importantly, all three entail causality.]

Though all the Catholic/Orthodox post-Nicene CFs who wrote at length on the doctrine of the Trinity clearly affirmed the doctrine of eternal generation, the same clarity concerning the latter two concepts were not always as transparent—this is where the aforementioned semantic confusion comes into play—but with that said, I am now convinced that even though some post-Nicene CFs did not explicitly affirm the last two concepts, they actually did so via terminology that can be confusing if one does not take into account all of what they wrote concerning the issues at hand. The rest of this post will focus on Augustine, and whether or not his overall theology affirms that the Son is, 'born/begotten from the substance of the Father', as well as the Father as the fount/source of divinity. I have chosen Augustine because my earlier readings of his writings—influenced by the consensus of modern patristic scholars who upheld the so-called distinction between the Latin/Western and Greek/Eastern approaches to the doctrine of the Trinity—led me to believe that he denied the third concept, and probably the second. However, my more recent readings have reversed these conclusions—I am now convinced that Augustine's overall theology upholds the Nicene teaching that the Son is 'born/begotten from the essence/substance of the Father' (not just from His 'person'), and that the Father is the fount/source of divinity. As such, I have also come to the conclusion that Augustine was also an advocate of the monarchy of God the Father.

Now, it is relatively straightforward to demonstrate that Augustine taught the Son is 'born/begotten from the essence/substance of the Father', for in a number of places in his writings he explicitly says so. I shall begin with a quote I already provided in the above mentioned thread, adding the Latin text, and two more English translations:

Naturalis ergo Filius de ipsa Patris substantia unicus natus est, id existens quod Pater est; Deus de Deo, Lumen de Lumine. (De Fide et Simbolo, 4.6)

Thus, then, the Son according to nature (naturalis filius) was born of the very substance of the Father, the only one so born, subsisting as that which the Father is, God of God, Light of Light. (On Faith and the Creed, 4.6 -NPNF 3.324 - bold emphasis mine.)

Only one natural Son, then, has been begotten of the very substance of the Father, and having the same nature as the father: God of God, Light of Light. (On Faith and the Creed, 4.6 - FC 27.323 - bold emphasis mine.)

Being Son by nature he was born uniquely of the substance of the Father, being what the Father is, God of God, Light of Light. (Faith and the Creed 4.6 - LCC, Augustine: Earlier Writings, p. 357 - bold emphasis mine.)

And from his On the Trinity we read:

...the Father is not anything unless because He has the Son; so that not only that which is meant by Father (which it is manifest He is not called relatively to Himself but to the Son, and therefore is the Father because He has the Son), but that which He is in respect to His own substance is so called, because He begat His own essence. (VII.1 - NPNF 3.105 - bold emphasis mine.)

For the love in the Father, which is in His ineffably simple nature, is nothing else than His very nature and substance itself,—as we have already often said, and are not ashamed of often repeating. And hence the "Son of His love," is none other than He who is born of His substance. (XV.37 - NPNF 3.105 - bold emphasis mine.)

Wherefore the logic of Eunomius, from whom the Eunomian heretics sprang, is ridiculous. For when he could not understand, and would not believe, that the only-begotten Word of God, by which all things were made, is the Son of God by nature, i.e. born of the substance of the Father... (XV.38 - NPNF 3.105 - bold emphasis mine.)

And so, we see that Augustine explicitly affirmed the teaching from the original Nicene Creed (325) that the Son is, 'born/begotten from the essence/substance of the Father'.

But Augustine's elucidations on the causality of the Son also include phraseology which strongly suggests that Father is the fount/source of deity/divinity, which means that he was also an advocate of the monarchy of God the Father. IMO, the following selections—when reflected on objectively—support my assessments:

That then which the Lord says, "Whom I will send unto you from the Father," shows the Spirit to be both of the Father and of the Son; because, also, when He had said, "Whom the Father will send," He added also, "in my name." Yet He did not say, Whom the Father will send from me, as He said, "Whom I will send unto you from the Father," showing, namely, that the Father is the beginning (principium) of the whole divinity, or if it is better so expressed, deity. He, therefore, who proceeds from the Father and from the Son, is referred back to Him from whom the Son was born (natus). (On the Trinity, IV.29 - NPNF 3.85 - bold emphasis mine.)

...we understand that the Son is not indeed less than, but equal to the Father, but yet that He is from Him, God of God, Light of light. For we call the Son God of God; but the Father, God only; not of God. (On the Trinity, II.2 - NPNF 3.38 - bold emphasis mine.)

For the Son is the Son of the Father, and the Father certainly is the Father of the Son; but the Son is called God of God, the Son is called Light of Light; the Father is called Light, but not, of Light, the Father is called God, but not, of God. (On the Gospel of John, XXXIX.1 - NPNF 3.38)

Partly then, I repeat, it is with a view to this administration that those things have been thus written which the heretics make the ground of their false allegations; and partly it was with a view to the consideration that the Son owes to the Father that which He is, thereby also certainly owing this in particular to the Father, to wit, that He is equal to the same Father, or that He is His Peer (eidem Patri æqualis aut par est), whereas the Father owes whatsoever He is to no one. (On Faith and the Creed, 9.18 -NPNF 3.328-329 - bold emphasis mine.)

Just as the Father has life in himself, so he has also granted the Son to have life in himself (Jn. 5:26). As he had, as he gave; what he had, he gave; he gave the same king he had; he gave as much as he had. All the things which the Father has are the Son's. Therefore, the Father gave to the Son nothing less than the Father has. The Father did not lose the life he gave to the Son. By living, he retains the life he gave by begetting. The Father himself is life, and the Son himself is life. Each of them has what he is, but the one is life from no one, while the other is life from life. (Answer to Maximinis the Arian, II.7 - The Works of Saint Augustine, vol. 1.18, Arianism and other Heresies, p. 284 - bold emphasis mine.)

I firmly believe the above selections from Augustine demonstrate that he must be included with other CFs (e.g. Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Hilary) who affirmed the monarchy of God the Father. But, I suspect that some folk will need further confirmation to convince them; as such, I am including the assessment of a highly respected 20th century patristic scholar—the Catholic theologian, Yves Congar, d. 1995—which supports my view. Note the following from his third volume of, I Believe in the Holy Spirit:

Clearly Augustine must be mentioned first, because he had such a deep influence on Western thinking and, although he did not initiate the idea, continued to be the major source in the question of the Filioque. He said, for example: 'The Father is the principle of all-divinity or, to be more precise, of the deity, because he does not take his origin from anything else. He has no one from whom he has his being or from whom he proceeds, but it is by him that the Son is begotten and from him that the Holy Spirit proceeds.'[19] Later in the same treatise, he reaffirms this conviction: 'The Son has all that he has from the Father; he therefore has from the Father that the Holy Spirit (also) proceeds from him.'[20] This 'also' is my insertion, not Augustine's. Augustine, on the contrary, expresses the monarchy of the father in the following words: 'It is not in vain that God the Father is called the one by whom the Word is begotten, and from whom the Holy Spirit principally proceeds. I have added principaliter, "principally", because the Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Son. But it is the Father who gave it to him.'[21]  This principaliter has very strong import—it expresses the idea of the first and absolute source. (I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Volume III - The River of the Water of Life (Rev. 22:1) Flows in the East and the West, pp. 134, 135 - bold emphasis mine.)


19. Augustine, De Trin. IV, 20, 29 (PL 42, 908); this text is frequently quoted, for example, by Peter Lombard, I Sent., 29, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas and even Leo XIII, in his encyclical Divinum illud munus of 9 May 1897 (DS 3326).
20. De Trin. XV, 26, 47 (PL 42, 1094).
21. De Trin. XV, 17, 29 (PL 42, 1081); 26, 47 (PL 42, 1095, principaliter); Contra Maxim. II, 14 (PL 42, 770). The word also occurred in Tertullian; see Adv. Prax. III, 3. Tertullian used it to affirm the of the Father in begetting the Son. (Ibid. 141.)

Though I have been aware of Augustine's somewhat famous phrase, "The Father is the principle of all-divinity" (totius divinitatis...principium pater est), for a number of years now (and that it was referenced by Peter Lombard, Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas), I was not aware this phrase was quoted by Leo XIII. And further, it wasn't until I had read Congar's assessment that I fully equated this phrase with the monarchy of God the Father. With that said, I would like to suggest to those who read this thread that they seriously reflect on the evidence that has been presented, and then ask themselves if my reassessment of Augustine is accurate.

I shall bring this post to an end by acknowledging that my research into certain elements of Augustine's Trinitarian thought since my March 8, 2013 thread has not been an 'easy' endeavor; but, it has certainly has been an informative and rewarding one. I sincerely hope that others will find some value in my continued efforts.

Grace and peace,


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Augustine - an excellent website containing his entire Latin corpus

I had hoped by now that I would have published a new thread I have been working on concerning Augustine and the monarchy of God the Father. But, my research continues—I keep adding, and rewriting, material for it. During some online research I came upon an outstanding website that has greatly enhanced my studies. As my writing and research on the thread continues, I wanted to share this site with my readers, for I suspect that those who have an interest in Augustine, and can read Latin, will find it as invaluable as I have:

Grace and peace,


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

An important event for Christendom

Yesterday, Nick—who blogs at Nick's Catholic Blog—brought to my attention an ongoing event (June 18-27, 2016) that is sure to have both current, and future, ramifications for Christ's visible Church:

There are "six items on the agenda of the Council" (link):

1. The mission of the Orthodox Church in the contemporary world;
2. The Orthodox diaspora;
3. Autonomy and the manner of its proclamation;
4. The sacrament of marriage and its impediments;
5. The importance of fasting and its observance today;
6. The relationship of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world.

Of particular interest to me is #6 on the agenda. Directly related to this issue, is the following informative post at Eclectic Orthodoxy:

Anyway, I thought others might share my interest in this ongoing event.

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Father is greater than I (John 14:28): The Patristic witness that is ignored by many contemporary Evangelicals

Over the weekend, I came upon an ongoing "civil war" (Dr. Michael Bird used the phrase "civil war" in one of his numerous posts on a number of issues germane to this thread - see his posts listed under THIS LINK)*, between a good number of contemporary Evangelical theologians (most of whom are also Calvinists). I first gained knowledge of this "civil war" via a blog post published by Dr. Mike Ovey, Principal of the Oak Hill College in London, England, under the title: "Should I Resign?" (LINK)

This "civil war" seems to have begun over the divide between the complementarian and egalitarian camps over gender roles. For reasons I don't fully understand, it was broadened to include the issue of 'the eternal subordination' of the Son to the Father. It is this latter issue that will be the focus of this thread—without further reference to the gender issue.

From what I have gathered, the main disagreement is over whether or not the Son of God is eternally subordinate to God the Father. Those who affirm, usually do so via the concept of 'functional subordination' and/or 'relational subordination'; while those who deny, relegate all talk of subordination of the Son to the Father in terms of the Incarnation.

Since I hold to the doctrine of the Monarchy of God the Father, I side with those who affirm that the Son of God is eternally subordinate to God the Father. But, with that said, a key element concerning this eternal subordination has been pretty much ignored in this contemporary debate: the issue of etiology—i.e. the causality of the Son from the Father. [IMO, the issue of etiological subordination within the Godhead is even more important than 'functional subordination' and 'relational subordination'.]

As with most issues concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, I think it is imperative that one examine closely what the Church Fathers had to say. In my studies of the Church Fathers, I have found that the interpretation of one verse in particular was quite significant in determining what a good number of the Church Fathers believed about the issue of the subordination of the Son of God to God Father: John 14:28. The selections I will be providing clearly show many CFs understood that the phrase, "the Father is greater than I", should not be relegated exclusively to the Son's incarnation; but rather, it also speaks to the Son's eternal causation from God the Father. Note the following:

Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria -

We have learnt that the Son is immutable and unchangeable, all-sufficient and perfect, like the Father, lacking only His "unbegotten." He is the exact and precisely similar image of His Father. For it is clear that the image fully contains everything by which the greater likeness exists, as the Lord taught us when He said, 'My Father is greater than I.' And in accordance with this we believe that the Son always existed of the Father ; for he is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His Father's Person.' But let no one be led by the word 'always' to imagine that the Son is unbegotten, as is thought by some who have their intellects blinded : for to say that He was, that He has always been, and, that before all ages, is not to say that He is unbegotten...

Therefore His own individual dignity must be reserved to the Father as the Unbegotten One, no one being called the cause of His existence : to the Son likewise must be given the honour which befits Him, there being to Him a generation from the Father which has no beginning ; we must render Him worship, as we have already said, only piously and religiously ascribing to Him the 'was' and the 'ever,' and the 'before all ages ;' not however rejecting His divinity, but ascribing to Him a perfect likeness in all things to His Father, while at the same time we ascribe to the Father alone His own proper glory of 'the unbegotten,' even as the Saviour Himself says, 'My Father is greater than I.' (Epistle of Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, to Alexander, Bishop of Constantinople, from Theodoret's, Ecclesiastical History, I.III - NPNF 3.39, 40.)

Athanasius -

But since he has here expressly written it, and, as has been above shewn, the Son is Offspring of the Father's essence, and He is Framer, and other things are framed by Him, and He is the Radiance and Word and Image and Wisdom of the Father, and things originate stand and serve in their place below the Triad, therefore the Son is different in kind and different in essence from things originate, and on the contrary is proper to the Father's essence and one in nature with it. And hence it is that the Son too says not, 'My Father is better than I,' lest we should conceive Him to be foreign to His Nature, but 'greater,' not indeed in greatness, nor in time, but because of His generation from the Father Himself", nay, in saying 'greater' He again shews that He is proper to His essence. (Against the Arians, I.58 - NPNF 4.340.)

Basil -

For since the Son's beginning/origin ( ảρχή) is from the Father, according to this, the Father is greater, as cause (ἀίτιος) and beginning/origin (ảρχή). Therefore the Lord said, My Father is greater than I, clearly because He is Father. Indeed, what else does the word Father mean unless the cause (τὸ αἰτία) to be/exist [Latin: esse] (εἶναι) and beginning/origin (ἀρχὴ) of that which is begotten of Him? (Against Eunomius,  I.25 - translation mine.)

Greek text:

Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἡ ἀρχὴ τῷ Υἱῷ, κατὰ τοῦτο μείζων ὁ Πατὴρ, ὡς αἴτιος καὶ ἀρχή. Διὸ καὶ ὁ Κύριος οὕτως εἶπεν· Ὁ Πατήρ μου μείζων μου ἐστὶ, καθὸ Πατὴρ δηλονότι. Τὸ δὲ, Πατὴρ, τί ἄλλο ση μαίνει ἢ οὐχὶ τὸ αἰτία εἶναι καὶ ἀρχὴ τοῦ ἐξ αὐτοῦ γεννηθέντος; (Migne, PG 29.568)

Gregory Nazianzen -

As your third point you count the Word Greater ; and as your fourth. To My God and your God. And indeed, if He had been called greater, and the word equal had not occurred, this might perhaps have been a point in their favour. But if we find both words clearly used what will these gentlemen have to say? How will it strengthen their argument ? How will they reconcile the irreconcilable? For that the same thing should be at once greater than and equal to the same thing is an impossibility; and the evident solution is that the Greater refers to origination, while the Equal belongs to the Nature ; and this we acknowledge with much good will. But perhaps some one else will back up our attack on your argument, and assert, that That which is from such a Cause is not inferior to that which has no Cause ; for it would share the glory of the Unoriginate, because it is from the Unoriginate. And there is, besides, the Generation, which is to all men a matter so marvellous and of such Majesty. For to say that he is greater than the Son considered as man, is true indeed, but is no great thing. For what marvel is it if God is greater than man ? Surely that is enough to say in answer to their talk about Greater. (Orations, 30.7 - NPNF 7.312—see THIS THREAD for more detail.)

Hilary of Poitiers -

But perhaps some may suppose that He was destitute of that glory for which He prayed, and that His looking to be glorified by a Greater is evidence of want of power. Who, indeed, would deny that the Father is the greater; the Unbegotten greater than the Begotten, the Father than the Son, the Sender than the Sent, He that wills than He that obeys ? He Himself shall be His own witness :The Father is greater than I. It is a fact which we must recognise, but we must take heed lest with unskilled thinkers the majesty of the Father should obscure the glory of the Son. Such obscuration is forbidden by this same. (On the Trinity, III.12 - NPNF 9.65.)

If, then, the Father is greater through His authority to give, is the Son less through the confession of receiving? The Giver is greater : but the Receiver is not less, for to Him it is given to be one with the Giver. If it is not given to Jesus to be confessed in the glory of God the Father, He is less than the Father. But if it is given Him to be in that glory, in which the Father is, we see in the prerogative of giving, that the Giver is greater, and in the confession of the gift, that the Two are One. The Father is, therefore, greater than the Son: for manifestly He is greater, Who makes another to be all that He Himself is, Who imparts to the Son by the mystery of the birth the image of His own unbegotten nature, Who begets Him from Himself into His own form, and restores Him again from the form of a servant to the form of God, Whose work it is that Christ, born God according to the Spirit in the glory of the Father, but now Jesus Christ dead in the flesh, should be once more God in the glory of the Father. When, therefore, Christ says that He is going to the Father, He reveals the reason why they should rejoice if they loved Him, because the Father is greater than He. (On the Trinity, IX.54 - NPNF 9.174.)

I have chosen the above Church Fathers for two very important reasons: first, all of them wrote in Greek, for Greek was their mother tongue; and second, all of them wrote their above reflections on John 14:28 with Arianism in mind. If there ever was a period in the history of Christianity for one to limit John 14:28 to the incarnation of the Son of God it was the period from Arius through that of the Homoians and Anhomoians (i.e. Neo-Arians); and yet, their exegesis of the Biblical text compelled them to refrain from doing so.

In addition to the above CFs, I would like to add John of Damascus—the Church Father I recently introduced to readers of AF (LINK)—who wrote the following concerning John 14:28:

So then, whenever we hear it said that the Father is the origin of the Son and greater than the Son, let us understand it to mean in respect of causation. (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book I, Chapter 8 - NPNF vol. 9, page 9, second section.)

In ending, I think that when one considers John 14:28 and its relationship to the subordination of the Son of God to God the Father, one should seriously keep in mind the reflections from the Church Fathers quoted above.

Grace and peace,


*UPDATE (06-15-16): Because the post where Dr. Bird used the phrase, "civil war", has already moved to page 2 of the link I provided above, I thought it wise to provide a DIRECT LINK to it.