Monday, September 28, 2015

Two provocative posts worth reading

Yesterday, Randal Rauser, "a systematic and analytic theologian of evangelical persuasion", published an interesting post under the title: "If the God of Calvinism exists, would you worship him?" (LINK)

His conclusion comes as a bit of a surprise, given the fact that Randal is not a Calvinist.

Fr. Alvin Kimel (an Eastern Orthodox priest), takes issue with Randal's conclusion in, THIS POST.

The two posts are certainly worth reading, as well as the numerous comments they have generated.

Personally, I have yet to determine which conclusion one should side with...

Grace and peace,


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Finger of God" = "Spirit of God"

While reading the Gospel of Luke in Greek, a certain phrase in a well known discourse of our Lord stood out. From Luke 11:20 we read:

But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. (ASV)

εἰ δὲ ἐν δακτύλῳ θεοῦ ἐγὼ ἐκβάλλω τὰ δαιμόνια, ἄρα ἔφθασεν ἐφ' ὑμᾶς  βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ. 

This same discourse was recorded by Matthew:

But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. (Matthew 12:28 - ASV)

εἰ δὲ ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ ἐγὼ ἐκβάλλω τὰ δαιμόνια, ἄρα ἔφθασεν ἐφ' ὑμᾶς  βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ. 

Now, the phrase which stood out for me in Luke 11:20 was "the finger of God" (δακτύλῳ θεοῦ). To my knowledge—within the pages of the New Testament—this particular phrase occurs only once, making it quite unique. And to make it even more unique, in the parallel passage of Matthew 12:28, "the finger of God" is substituted with the phrase, "the Spirit of God" (πνεύματι θεοῦ).

I am not going to dwell on which phrase which was actually spoken by Jesus in its original context (scholars are divided on this issue, though I think it is the Lukan passage), but rather I want to focus on the fact that God, through His Holy Spirit, wanted us to realize that "the finger of God" is "the Spirit of God".

The phrase, "the finger of God", brought to mind a very special event recorded in the following two verses from the Old Testament:

And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18 - ASV)

And Jehovah delivered unto me the two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which Jehovah spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly. (Deuteronomy 9:10 - ASV)

We know from 2 Tim. 3:16 and 2 Pet. 1:21 that all Scripture is inspired by God through His Holy Spirit; and in the above two verses, we learn that the Holy Spirit (i.e. "the finger of God") literally wrote Scripture.

There is also the unique event recorded in Daniel chapter 5, when:

...the fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace... (verse 5)

I sincerely wonder if it would be a 'stretch' to equate, "the fingers of a man's hand", with a manifestation/work of the Holy Spirit?

Anyway, just wanted to share some of my random musings...

Grace and peace,


Friday, September 18, 2015

The Monarchy of God the Father and the Trinity - selections from Eastern Orthodox scholars/theologians

Over the past few years, I have provided a number of selections from Eastern Orthodox scholars/theologians concerning 'the monarchy of God the Father' and the doctrine of the Trinity. In this post I expand some of the excerpts, and add a few more.

Boris Bobrinskoy (The Mystery of the Trinity, 1999) -

The paternity of the Father is unique, ineffable, perfect, not only the mystery of the relation between the Father and the Son, but also the archetypal foundation of all human fatherhood, source of the perfect grace coming from on high, from the Father of lights (Jm 1:17): "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Page 262).

Following the Cappadocians, the patristic tradition differentiates in the mystery of the Father between His "absolute," negative property of being ungenerated, and His "relative" and positive property of Paternity.

The proprium of the Hypostasis of the Father is to be "without cause," without "beginning." These negative terms carry all the weight of the Uniqueness of the Father, who is the only one not to receive His origin in the divinity from another Hypostasis. But these terms do not suffice, and the concept of "Ungenerated" specifies still more the unique character of that One who does not have origin.

"The Father is uncaused (anaitios) and ungenerated (agennētos); He is not from another, but He has being from Himself [i.e. autotheos]; and whatsoever He has, He does not have from another." [3]

3. St. John Damascene, De fide orthodoxa, I.8, PG 94:821D. (Page 263)

...the Father is not only "uncaused" and "ungenerated," but he is the "cause," the "principle" (archē) not only of the being of creatures, but also of the trinitarian Hypostases of the Son and of the Spirit. (Page 264)

St. Gregory Nazianzen said, "I want to call the Father greater (than the Son); this expression "greater" refers to cause, not to essence, because to those who are like essence (tōn homoousiōn) there is no greater or less in the point of essence.) [5]

5. Oratio XL., In sanctum baptisma, 43, PG 36:419BC. (Page 264)

Causality, then, belongs properly to the Father. This is the fundamental principle of the "monarchy". (Page 265)

The Monarchy of the Father proclaims, by necessity, the nontemporal origin of the Son and the Spirit. (Page 265)

The Father is the sole cause of the Godhead... (Page 266)

Thus, the oneness of God is placed not only on the level of the nature common to the Three, but on the basis of the personal relation or origin from the Father. (Page 266)

Vladmir Lossky (Orthodox Theology, Eng. trans. 1978, 2nd ed.) -

The term "monarch" for the Father is current in the great theologians of the fourth century. It means that the very source of divinity is personal. The Father is divinity, but precisely because he is the Father, He confers it in its fullness on the two other persons. The latter take their origin from the Father, μόνη ἄρχή, single principle, whence the term "monarchy," the divinity-source," as Dionysius the Areopagite says of the Father. It is from this indeed that springs—this that is rooted—the identical, unshared, but differently communicated divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Page 46)

John Meyendorff (Byzantine Theology, 2nd ed, 1983) -

The same personalistic emphasis appears in the Greek Fathers' insistence on the "monarchy" of the Father. Contrary to the concept which prevailed in the post-Augustinian West and in Latin Scholasticism, Greek theology attributes the origin of hypostatic "subsistence" to the hypostasis of the Father—not to the common essence. The Father is the "cause" (aitia) and the "principle" (archē) of the divine nature, which is in the Son and in the Spirit. What is even more striking is the fact that this "monarchy" of the Father is constantly used by the Cappadocian Fathers against those who accuse them of "tritheism": "God is on," writes Basil, "because the Father is one." (Page 183)

John Zizioulas (Being As Communion, 1985) -  

Among the Greek Fathers the unity of God, the one God, and the ontological "principal" or "cause" of the being and life of God does not consist in the one substance of God but in the hypostasis, that is, the person of the Father. The one God is not the one substance but the Father, who is the "cause" both of the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit. (Pages 40, 41)

John Behr -

So how can Christians believe in and worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and yet claim that there is only one God, not three? How can one reconcile monotheism with trinitarian faith?

My comments here follow the structure of revelation as presented in Scripture and reflected upon by the Greek Fathers of the fourth century, the age of trinitarian debates. To avoid the confusion into which explanations often fall, it is necessary to distinguish between: the one God; the one substance common to Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and the one-ness or unity of these Three.

The Father alone is the one true God. This keeps to the structure of the New Testament language about God, where with only a few exceptions, the world “God” (theos) with an article (and so being used, in Greek, as a proper noun) is only applied to the one whom Jesus calls Father, the God spoken of in the scriptures. This same fact is preserved in all ancient creeds, which begin: I believe in one God, the Father…

“For us there is one God, the Father… and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 8:6).

The proclamation of the divinity of Jesus Christ is made no so much by describing Him as “God” (theos used, in Greek, without an article is as a predicate, and so can be used of creatures; cf. John 10:34-35), but by recognizing Him as “Lord” (Kyrios).

Beside being a common title (“sir”), this word had come to be used, in speech, for the unpronounceable, divine, name of God Hiself, YHWH. When Paul states that God bestowed upon the crucified and risen Christ the

“name above every name” (Phil 2:9),

this is an affirmation that this one is all that YHWH Himself is, without being YHWH. This is again affirmed in the creeds.

“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God… true God of true God.”

According to the Nicene creed, the Son is

“consubstantial with the Father.”

St Athanasius, the Father who did more than anyone else to forge Nicene orthodoxy, indicated that

“what is said of the Father is said in Scripture of the Son also, all but His being called Father” (On the Synods, 49).

It is important to note how respectful such theology is of the total otherness of God in comparison with creation: such doctrines are regulative of our theological language, not a reduction of God to a being alongside other beings. It is also important to note the essential asymmetry of the relation between the Father and the Son: the Son derives from the Father; He is, as the Nicene creed put it, “of the essence of the Father” – they do not both derive from one common source. This is what is usually referred to as the Monarchy of the Father.

St Athanasius also began to apply the same argument used for defending the divinity of the Son, to a defense of the divinity of the Holy Spirit: just as the Son Himself must be fully divine if He is to save us, for only God can save, so also must Holy Spirit be divine if He is to give life to those who lie in death. Again there is an asymmetry, one which also goes back to Scripture: we receive the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead as the Spirit of Christ, one which enables us to call on God as “Abba.” Though we receive the Spirit through Christ, the Spirit proceeds only from the Father, yet this already implies the existence of the Son, and therefore that the Spirit proceeds from the Father already in relation to the Son (see especially St Gregory of Nyssa, To Ablabius: That there are not Three Gods).

So there is one God and Father, one Lord Jesus Christ, and one Holy Spirit, three “persons” (hypostases) who are the same or one in essence (ousia); three persons equally God, possessing the same natural properties, yet really God, possessing the same natural properties, yet really distinct, known by their personal characteristics. Besides being one in essence, these three persons also exist in total one-ness or unity.

There are three characteristics ways in which this unity is described by the Greek Fathers. The first is in terms of communion:

“The unity [of the three] lies in the communion of the Godhead”

as St Basil the Great puts it (On the Holy Spirit 45). The emphasis here on communion acts as a safeguard against any tendency to see the three persons as simply different manifestations of the one nature; if they were simply different modes in which the one God appears, then such an act of communion would not be possible. The similar way of expressing the divine unity is in terms of “coinherence” (perichoresis): the Father, Son and Holy Spirit indwell in one another, totally transparent and interpenetrated by the other two. This idea clearly stems from Christ’s words in the Gospel of John:

“I am in the Father and the Father in me” (14:11).

Having the Father dwelling in Him in this way, Christ reveals to us the Father, He is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15).

The third way in which the total unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is manifest is in their unity of work or activity. Unlike three human beings who, at best, can only cooperate, the activity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one. God works, according to the image of St Irenaeus, with His two Hands, the Son and the Spirit.

More importantly,

“the work of God,” according to St Irenaeus, “is the fashioning of man” into the image and likeness of God (Against the Heretics 5.15.2),

a work which embraces, inseparably, both creation and salvation, for it is only realized in and by the crucified and risen One: the will of the Father is effected by the Son in the Spirit.

Such, then, is how the Greek Fathers, following Scripture, maintained that there is but one God, whose Son and Spirit are equally God, in a unity of essence and of existence, without compromising the uniqueness of the one true God. (From the online article, The Trinity: Scripture and the Greek Fathers - link - bold emphasis added)

Thomas Hopko -

... in the Bible, in the creeds, and in the Liturgy, it’s very important, really critically important, to note and to affirm and to remember that the one God in whom we believe, strictly speaking, is not the Holy Trinity. The one God is God the Father. In the Bible, the one God is the Father of Jesus Christ. He is God who sends his only-begotten Son into the world, and Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Then, of course, in a parallel manner, the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is the Spirit of God, that the Holy Spirit, being the Spirit of God, is therefore also the Spirit of Christ, the Messiah, because the Christ is the Son of God, upon whom God the Father sends and affirms his Holy Spirit. (From the online transcript of the podcast, The Holy Trinity - link)

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pavlos D. Vasileiadis and the Tetragrammaton

There is a question that has troubled me for most of my adult life: "did Jesus and his early disciples use God's personal name"?

Note the following from Exodus 3:15 -

And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. (ASV)

John 17:6 -

I manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them to me; and they have kept thy word. (ASV)

John 17:11b, 12 -

Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are. While I was with them, I kept them in thy name which thou hast given me: and I guarded them, and not one of them perished, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. (ASV)

And John 17:26 -

... and I made known unto them thy name, and will make it known; that the love wherewith thou lovedst me may be in them, and I in them. (ASV)

Since 1975, I have acquired and studied numerous articles and books which explore this question; and as with so many important Bible related issues, scholars are divided, with some affirming, and others denying. Earlier today whilst engaged in some online research, I came across two extraordinary resources, that I had no prior knowledge of, by one Pavlos D. Vasileiadis, an associate professor at the Aristotle University of Thessalonki, which are germane to my question:

Vasileiadas provides the following conclusions towards the end of the first paper:

In this article it was attempted to demonstrate that,

(a) Despite the various reasons that led to the silencing of the sacred Tetragrammaton, it long remained an utterable name, at least in some circles;
(b) A more systematic investigation of the various Greek renderings of the Tetragrammaton provides a better understanding of the methods that were used;
(c) There is no unique or universally “correct” rendering of the Hebrew name in Greek;
(d) The two Greek renderings of the Tetragrammaton presented for the first time here, namely Γεχαβά (early 13th century) and Ἰεοβάχ (early 17th century) are both following the /e–a|o–a/ vocalic pattern; and
(e) According to the available indications, a vocalic rendering pronounced /i.e.o.'a/ (/i.o.'a/), or /i.e.u.'a/ might probably have been the proper pronunciation of the full Tetragrammaton in Greek during the Second Temple period. (Page 71)

And just a bit later, he provides some beautiful color plates of Hebrew and Greek uses God's name in ancient manuscripts. (Pages 83-88)

In addition to Vasileiadas' above contributions, I would like to provide a few links to other online resources that I have found to be useful in my studies:

JBL article by, George Howard -

Masters thesis by, Joëlle Alhadef-Lake -

"Greek Transcriptions of the Tetragrammaton", G. Adolf Deissmann (in, Bible Studies, pp. 319-336) -

Enjoy !!!

Grace and peace,


Addendum - I forgot to include the following essay by Gérard Gertoux:

Gertoux, is also the author of the following book:

The Name of God Y.eH.oW.aH

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dr. Sam Waldron on the Monarchy of God the Father, Eternal Generation, and the Filioque

Back on October 11, 2011, I published a thread (link) which provided information on Dr. Sam Waldron's online series, "Who Tampering With the Trinity?" At that time, he had published 11 posts in the series, but since then, he has added another 7 threads. The following are the links to all 18 parts:

I am sure that those who read the first 11 parts will be interested in the subsequent 7 posts. For those who have yet to read Dr. Waldron's series, I highly recommend that you do so, for this Reformed Baptist professor has provided some thought provoking reflections on the Monarchy of God the Father, the Eternal Generation of the Son, and the Filioque.

Enjoy !!!

Grace and peace,


Friday, August 14, 2015

The Early Church Fathers on autotheos

Ryan—a Reformed brother in Christ, whose blog, UNAPOLOGETICA,  I have followed for a number of years now—has just published a lengthy compilation of early Church Fathers who affirmed the doctrine that God the Father is the only person of the Godhead who is autotheos (i.e. God in and of Himself).

The actual document is, "74 pages of quotes by 20 early church fathers"; introduction and link to the compilation HERE.

Anyone who has interest in Christian theology, and the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, will certainly appreciation Ryan's contribution.

Grace and peace,


Sunday, August 9, 2015

"The monarchy of the Father as the most fundamental issue of Trinitarian theology" - an insightful assessment of Thomas F. Torrance's and John Zizioulas' contributions on the Trinity

Dr. Thomas F. Torrance and Dr./Fr. John Zizioulas are two of the most important Trinitarian theologians of the late 20th and early 21st centuries (a period recognized by many as one which has seen a significant increase of interest in the doctrine of the Trinity). I have read a number of the works produced by both men; and came to realize, quite early, that though there are some common elements in their Trinitarian thought, there are also some very important differences.

A couple of days ago, I came across an excellent article/paper by Nikolaos Asproulis in the online journal, Participatio (link), which focuses on one of those differences—the monarchy of God the Father. The following is the abstract of Asproulis' contribution:

The disagreements between T. F. Torrance (1913-2007) and John Zizioulas (1931-) regarding the reading of the patristic (especially Cappadocian) doctrine of the monarchy of the Father bear implications for fundamental issues of theological method which require careful study. In the present article, questions regarding the transcendent and immanent Trinity, historical revelation as a starting point of Christian theology and the interpretation of the Cappadocian Fathers will be discussed in connection with a critical comparison of the way these two eminent theologians, who belong to different traditions (Torrance, Reformed; Zizioulas, Eastern Orthodox), interpret the monarchy of the Father as the most fundamental issue of Trinitarian theology. (Page 162.)

As noted in the above abstract, "the reading of the patristic (especially Cappadocian) doctrine of the monarchy of the Father bear implications for fundamental issues of theological method which require careful study" [I would certainly add Athanasius to the Cappadocians.] Asproulis goes on to demonstrate that Torrance's patristic interpretations bear some significant differences from those of Zizioulas, especially concerning the monarchy of God the Father. [Interestingly enough, Keith W. Goad's readings, as found in is doctoral dissertation, Trinitarian Grammars, are quite similar to those of Torrance—who he cites a number of times—for a link to the dissertation, and some of my musings, see THIS THREAD.]

Torrance places a heavy emphasis on the being/substance/essence (Gr. ousia) of God; and as Asproulis points out, he has a, "preoccupation with the term homoousian"(p. 164). But, Zizioulas' focus is quite different; note the following from Asproulis:

Since the beginning of his career Zizioulas has focused on the importance of the concept of personhood both as a conceptual tool for the conceptualization of the doctrine of the Trinity and as the very soteriological reality of Christian faith, the fulfillment of theosis. As he puts it, “the concept of person with its absolute and ontological content was born historically from the endeavor of the Church to give ontological expression to its faith in the Triune God.” (Page 166.)

A bit later in the article, we read:

Torrance is known for his robust critique of the “Cappadocian settlement,” which identified the monarchy exclusively with the person of the Father and introduces causal relations within the Holy Trinity: the Cappadocians “sought to preserve the oneness of God by insisting that God the Father, who is himself without generation or origination, is the one Principle or Origin and Cause of the Son and the Spirit.” (Page 172.)

This is followed by:

According to Torrance, the introduction of such a hierarchical and subordinationist structure, following from the priority of the person of the Father as the “cause” of the Godhead and the one principle of Trinitarian unity, constitutes the main thrust of the Cappadocian teaching. (Ibid.)

Torrance's rejection of the “Cappadocian settlement”—in contrast to Zizioulas' emphatic acceptance—establishes the wide difference between their respective understandings of the monarchy of God.

Personally, I side with Zizioulas on this "most fundamental issue of Trinitarian theology", and would be interested in hearing from others as to which side they take.

Grace and peace,