Thursday, September 20, 2018

Unity and the Christian Church: Part 3 - the Catholic Tradition


The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed was forged by the first Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. Towards the end of the creed, a declaration is made, consisting of four 'marks' or 'notes' by which the Christian Church  can be identified : μίαν ἁγίαν καθολικὴν καὶ ἀποστολικὴν—one, holy, catholic [i.e. universal] and apostolic. The unity of the Christian Church is inextricably linked with all four, not just the first mark. The essence of all four marks can be found in the New Testament; and beginning in the second century, one can find descriptions of those marks in the writings of the Church Fathers. One of those Church Fathers is Irenaeus of Lyons—the following selections contain examples of those marks that would later be enshrined in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed [note: the 'marks' in bold brackets are mine]:

 1. The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world [Catholic], even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles [Apostolic] and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,”and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send “spiritual wickednesses,” and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy [Holy], and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.

2. As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart [One], and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth [One]. (Against Heresies, I.10.1, 2a - ANF pp. 330, 331.)

At the end of the same chapter, we read:

...the Catholic Church [Catholic] possesses one [One] and the same faith throughout the whole world [Catholic], as we have already said. (Against Heresies, I.10.3 - ANF pp. 331, 332.)

In book three of Against Heresies, Irenaeus mentions a number of heretics by name—Simon, Valentinus, Marcion, Cerinthus, Basilides—who have rejected "the only true life-giving faith", replacing it with a "diversity" of "doctrines and successions" which are "perverse teachings". He then adds:

But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. (Against Heresies, III.1.1.2a - ANF p. 415.)

Irenaeus then delineates how one can identify "the tradition of the apostles"; note the following:

1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles [Apostolic] manifested throughout the whole world [Catholic]; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to “the perfect” apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things [Holy], whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity.

2. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition [Apostolic] has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere [Catholic]. (Against Heresies, III.3.1.2 - ANF pp. 415, 416.)

Irenaeus then provides the complete list of bishops who held the episcopate of Rome from the time of Peter to the present—a total of twelve—following this succession of bishops with:

In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles [Apostolic], and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith [One], which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth. (Against Heresies, III.3.1.3 - ANF p. 416.)

This identification of the unity of the Christian Church with the four 'marks' continues within the Catholic Tradition from the second century until our present day. I shall now provide two examples; first, from the pen of Cardinal Gibbons (19th century):

By unity is meant that the members of the true Church must be united in the belief of the same doctrines of revelation, and in the acknowledgment of the authority of the same pastors. Heresy and schism are opposed to Christian unity. By heresy, a man rejects one or more articles of the Christian faith. By schism, he spurns the authority of his spiritual superiors. That our Saviour requires this unity of faith and government in His members, is evident from various passages of Holy Writ. In His admirable prayer immediately before His passion. He says : " I pray for them also who through their word shall believe in Me ; that they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us ; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me." Here Jesus prayed that His followers may be united in the bond of a common faith, as He and His Father are united in essence, and certainly the prayer of Jesus is always heard. (The Faith of Our Fathers, 10th revised edition - 1879, pp. 21, 22 - PDF copy available online HERE)

And second, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Paragraph 3. THE CHURCH IS ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC, AND APOSTOLIC

811 "This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic." These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. the Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities.

812 Only faith can recognize that the Church possesses these properties from her divine source. But their historical manifestations are signs that also speak clearly to human reason. As the First Vatican Council noted, the "Church herself, with her marvellous propagation, eminent holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in everything good, her catholic unity and invincible stability, is a great and perpetual motive of credibility and an irrefutable witness of her divine mission." (LINK)

Shall end here for now; hope to have part 4 up in a few days, the Lord willing.


Grace and peace,

David

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Unity and the Christian Church: Part 2 - the New Testament


In part 1 of this series on, "unity and the Christian Church" (link), the speaker opened his discourse by reading 1 Cor. 1:10-2:5. Clearly, the unity of Christ's Church is emphasized in this extended passage. Though Paul's epistle was written to the Christian Church at Corinth, the principle of unity applies to the entire Christian Church—to, "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours" (1 Cor. 1:2).

Now, beyond calling, "upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord", Paul stresses other aspects of the unity that is to exist among the members of Christ's Church. First, "that ye all speak the same thing"; second, "that here be no divisions among you"; third, "that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."

Some claimed to be "of Paul", some "of Apollos", and some of "Cephas"; to which Paul responded with: "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?"

A bit later, Paul warns his readers that, "your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men". And towards the end of the epistle we read:

That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. (1 Cor. 12:25)

And:

Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (1 Cor. 13:11)

Certainly, Paul has given us much to ponder in his first epistle to the Corinthians. But there is more from Paul; note the following:

From the 4th chapter of Paul's epistle to the Ephesians we learn that Christians are to endeavor "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (4:3); that there is only "one body" (Eph. 4:4); and "one faith" (Eph. 4:5). Paul then writes:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ... (Eph. 4:11-13)

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel... (Phil. 1:27)

Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (Phil. 2:2)

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Rom. 16:17)

As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine... (1 Tim. 1:3)

Paul's emphasis on unity was certainly not unique to his writings. Not the following from our Lord's lengthy prayer to the Father before his arrest and crucifixion:

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. (John 17:11)

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:20, 21)

Clearly, the unity between the Father and the Son is a perfect one, with no division. And though this unity prayed for has a spiritual sense, one cannot exclude a visible sense which will give cause even to "the world [that] may believe that thou hast sent me."

Shall end here for now. Hope to have part 3 up in a couple days, the Lord willing.


Grace and peace,

David

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Unity and the Christian Church: Part 1 - an excerpt from a thought provoking discourse


During the course of my current research into the issue of "unity and the Christian Church", I came across a discourse I had yet to read. It is my belief that this particular discourse will serve as an excellent introduction to this planned multi-post series on "unity and the Christian Church." For now, I am going to keep the speaker of this discourse anonymous—in a later post, I will reveal his identity. From the discourse we read:

I will read to you a portion of the first chapter of Paul's epistle to the Corinthians. After his salutation to the Church in Corinth, the Apostle said:

  Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
  For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house  of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
  Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
  I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
  Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
  And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
  For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
  For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
  Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
  But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
  For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
  That no flesh should glory in his presence.
  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
  That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Unfortunately some clumsy hand has here closed the chapter. The opening verses of the second chapter properly belong to the words I have just read, hence I continue:

  And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
  For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
  And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
  That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

It is not always that we preface are remarks by reading a chapter from the Scriptures; it is not always that we take a text which we desire to expound; but I thought it proper on this occasion to read this Scripture to you, and I think it proper now to call your attention to one or two verses that perhaps may be regarded as a text for that which I desire in my heart to say:

    Every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
  Is Christ divided?

This was the great question which the Apostle of the Gentiles propounded to those Saints in Corinth, among whom divisions began to appear. These divisions, however, were incipient as compared with those which exist in Christendom today; and if those divisions existing in the primitive Church at Corinth called forth this stern reproof from the great Apostle of the Gentiles, I sometimes wonder what he would say to torn, distracted Christendom of today! Would he not with increased emphasis demand of this Babel that exists now in Christendom, an answer to the question, Is Christ divided?

The plain inference of this Scripture, of course, is that Christ is not to be divided; that men are under condemnation who say that they are of Paul, or of Cephas, or of Apollos. It plainly declares that the Church of Christ is to be one.

Part 2 of this series will be posted shortly, the Lord willing.


Grace and peace,

David

Monday, August 27, 2018

Pope Francis and the cover-up concerning the Cardinal McCarrick sex abuse scandal


Over the weekend, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former apostolic nuncio to the United States, released an 11-page statement that implicates Francis and a number of high-ranking Cardinals concerning the Cardinal McCarrick sex abuse scandal. The entire "Testimony" in English can be accessed via THIS LINK.

If Viganò's accusations are true, it sure seems to me that a massive cleansing of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church needs to be implimented.


Grace and peace,

David

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: President Russell M. Nelson's recent official statement


Six days ago, the current President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, released the following official statement:

The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months. (LINK ; alternate source HERE)

From the Newsroom topic, "Style Guide - The Name of the Church", we read:

• In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

• When a shortened reference is needed, the terms "the Church" or the "Church of Jesus Christ" are encouraged. The "restored Church of Jesus Christ" is also accurate and encouraged.

• While the term "Mormon Church" has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use. Thus, please avoid using the abbreviation "LDS" or the nickname "Mormon" as substitutes for the name of the Church, as in "Mormon Church," "LDS Church," or "Church of the Latter-day Saints."

• When referring to Church members, the terms "members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" or "Latter-day Saints" are preferred. We ask that the term "Mormons" not be used.

• "Mormon" is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon or when used as an adjective in such historical expressions as "Mormon Trail."

• The term "Mormonism" is inaccurate and should not be used. When describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the term "the restored gospel of Jesus Christ" is accurate and preferred.

• When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, it should be stated that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not affiliated with polygamous groups. (LINK)

Concerning Nelson's official statement, and the related information provided in the online "Style Guide - The Name of the Church", I would like to share a couple of my initial thoughts:

First, this seems to be a 'conservative' development advanced by the current leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Personally, I find it to be somewhat refreshing, given what I have perceived to be a liberal/progressive trend among a good number of Latter-day Saints—especially by many of their scholars—over the last couple of decades.

Second, I suspect that the implementation of the guidelines delineated in the "Style Guide - The Name of the Church" will take a good deal of time, due to the fact that the positive use of the terms which are now to be avoided—e.g. LDS, Mormon, Mormons, Mormonism—has been a long held tradition among many Latter-day Saints, including General Authorities.

Now, with the above in mind, I have made the decision to adopt the guidelines presented within the "Style Guide - The Name of the Church" for future posts concerning The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here at AF.  I have also changed the 'LABEL', "Mormonism" to "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Grace and peace,

David

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mormonism and Margaret Barker - Part 6


In my five previous posts under the label, "Margaret Barker", I have referenced a number of Barker's interpretations of the Bible that directly conflict with promulgated Mormon doctrine. In this sixth installment of the series, I bring to the attention of AF readers a thread from a website that I discovered earlier today:


The above contribution is an excellent supplement to the third installment of this series, and brings back to mind the somewhat odd obsession that many Latter-day Saints have with Margaret Barker.


Grace and peace,

David

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Augustine's Trinity: modalistic, semi-modalistic, or pro-Nicene Trinitarianism ???


Back on July 10, 2018 I became engaged in a discussion with Andrew Davis at his blog Contra Modalism. Andrew had published a thread under the title, 'Do You Believe in the Son of God ?' (link), which caught my eye. From the opening post we read:

[Quotes from Andrew will be in GREEN; my combox comments from Andrew's blog will be in BLUE; excerpts from Augustine and scholars in RED]

To believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then, is manifestly required for salvation. The confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” is central to the true Christian faith (Matt 16:16).

Yet tragically, many professing Christians deny the Son of God. They do this by embracing Augustinian trinitarianism.

Surely such a statement must seem shocking to many. But consider this- if one believes that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Supreme God, the one God, the Almighty, rather than His Son, then a person does not truly believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Towards the end of the post, Andrew boldly states that, "Augustinian trinitarianism, then, or semi-modalism, as I prefer to call it, is not simply some innocuous error."

In the combox, I asked Andrew for some further clarification as to what he meant by "Augustinian trinitarianism" and "semi-modalism". He replied with:

I’m using “Augustinian Trinitarianism” here to refer to his beliefs as expressed in his books on the Trinity, and in his debate with Maximinus, a Homoian, that God, the one God, is by definition the Trinity. Its this identification of God with the Trinity instead of identifying God as the Father in particular that logically leads to a denial that Christ is the Son of God. Whatever monarchy and causality of the Son by the Father there is in this view, since it is within God, the Trinity, it ultimately doesn’t change this. The problem as I see it is not a lack of affirmation of the monarchy of the Father, but the identification of the one God with the Trinity rather than the Father. (July 10, 2018 at 9:35 pm)

And:

Semi-modalism says that the one God is one individual who is ontologically three persons of Father, Son, and Spirit. From there there is considerably more variety depending on who you talk to, ranging from a breakdown of the relationship between those persons are one defined by ontologically causality of the Son and Spirit from the Father, to a mere economic choice among those three persons to effectively role-play as Father, Son, and Spirit. (July 15, 2018 at 4:37 am)

Augustine believed that, "the one God is one individual"?  That assessment did not, and does not, seem to be an accurate understanding of what Augustine actually taught. The rest of this post will build upon my following combox response to Andrew:

My understanding of Augustine is that though he terms the Trinity (the Three) “one God”, he does not say that the Trinity (the Three) is “one individual”. Augustine states, “‘the Three are One’, because of one substance”; and, “hath one and the same nature”—not “one individual”.

IMO unus Deus (one God) with reference to the Trinity in Augustine’s mature thought has Deus being used in a qualitative sense. This understanding makes sense of the “God from God’ phraseology—found throughout Augustine’s writings, and, of course, in the Nicene Creed.

I then provided the following quote from an esteemed scholar of Augustine:

One constant strand of argument throughout the book has been that the Father’s monarchia, his status as principium and fons, is central to Augustine’s Trinitarian theology. The discussions of these central chapters of the book should, however, have also made clear that many things come under the umbrella of asserting the importance of the Father’s status as principium. For Augustine, the Father’s status as principium is eternally exercised through his giving the fullness of divinity to the Son and Spirit such that the unity of God will be eternally found in the mysterious unity of the homoousion. (Lewis Ayres, Augustine and the Trinity, p. 248.)

I am in total agreement with the above reflections from Ayres. In a previous AF thread—Augustine - on the causality of the Son from the Father and the monarchy of God the Father—I provided a number of examples which support Ayres' belief that, "the Father’s monarchia, his status as principium and fons, is central to Augustine’s Trinitarian theology". With this central teaching of Augustine in mind, I am unable to make sense out of Andrew's conclusion that Augustine's doctrine of the Trinity, "logically leads to a denial that Christ is the Son of God."

Now, Andrew is certainly not the only person to charge Augustine with embracing some degree of modalism. I first came across this notion while reading Harnack's, History of Dogma. Note the following:

We can see that Augustine only gets beyond Modalism by the mere assertion that he does not wish to be a modalist, and the aid of ingenious distinctions between different ideas. (History of Dogma, 1958 Eng. ed., 4.131.)

IMO, Harnack should have read Augustine much more closely, for Augustine definitively goes well beyond, "the mere assertion that he does not wish to be a modalist". Time and time again Augustine makes it clear that the Trinity (i.e. the Three) is composed of three distinct persons, and that the Father is the beginning/source of the Son and the Holy Spirit. As mentioned above, I have already provided a number of examples which are germane to Augustine's anti-modalistic understanding of the Trinity. The following selections will add further support that Augustine did not espouse some degree and/or form of modalism:

summe unus est Pater Veritatis, Pater suae Sapientiae (De Vera Religione, 43.81 - Sant'Agostino website)

The Father of Truth is uniquely the highest/supreme One, the Father of His Wisdom (On True Religion, 43.81 - translation mine.)

112. One God alone I worship, the sole principle of all things [unum omnium Principium], and his Wisdom who makes every wise soul wise, and his Gift [munus] whereby all the blessed are blessed. I am certainly sure that every angel that loves this God loves me too. Whoever abides in him and can hear human prayers, hears me in him. Whoever has God as his chief good, helps me in him, and cannot grudge my sharing in him. Let those who adore or flatter the parts of the world tell me this. What good friend will the man lack who worships the one God whom all the good love, in knowing whom they rejoice, and by having recourse to whom as their first principle they derive their goodness? Every angel that loves his own aberrations and will not be subject to the truth, but desires to find joy in his own advantage, has fallen away from the common good of all and from true beatitude. To such all evil men are given to be subdued and oppressed. But no good man is given over into his power except to be tried and proved. None can doubt that such an angel is not to be worshipped, for our misery is his joy, and our return to God is his loss.

113. Let our religion bind us to the one omnipotent God, because no creature comes between our minds and him whom we know to be the Father and the Truth, i.e., the inward light whereby we know him. In him and with him we venerate the Truth, who is in all respects like him, and who is the form of all things that have been made by the One, and that endeavour after unity. To spiritual minds it is clear that all things were made by this form which alone achieves what all things seek after. But all things would not have been made by the Father through the Son, nor would they be preserved within their bounds in safety, unless God were supremely good. (Of True Religion, in Augustine: Earlier Writings, 55.112, 113, p. 282 - translation by John H. S. Burleigh.) 

16. ON THE SON OF GOD

God [the Father] is the cause of all that exists. But because he is the cause of all things, he is also the cause of his own Wisdom, and God is never without his Wisdom. Therefore, the cause of his own eternal Wisdom is eternal as well, nor is he prior in time to his Wisdom. So then if it is in God's very nature to be the eternal Father, and if there never was a time when he was not the Father, then he has never existed without the Son. (The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 70 - St. Augustine, Eighty-three Different Questions, p. 45.)

All those Catholic expounders of the divine Scriptures, both Old and New, whom I have been able to read, who have written before me concerning the Trinity, Who is God, have purposed to teach, according to the Scriptures, this doctrine, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit intimate a divine unity of one and the same substance in an indivisible equality; and therefore that they are not three Gods, but one God: although the Father hath begotten the Son, and so He who is the Father is not the Son; and the Son is begotten by the Father, and so He who is the Son is not the Father; and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but only the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, Himself also co-equal with the Father and the Son, and pertaining to the unity of the Trinity. Yet not that this Trinity was born of the Virgin Mary, and crucified under Pontius Pilate, and buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven, but only the Son. Nor, again, that this Trinity descended in the form of a dove upon Jesus when He was baptized; nor that, on the day of Pentecost, after the ascension of the Lord, when "there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind,'' the same Trinity "sat upon each of them with cloven tongues like as of fire," but only the Holy Spirit. "Thou art my Son," whether when He was baptized by John, or when the three disciples were with Him in the mount, or when the voice sounded, saying, "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again;" but that it was a word of the Father only, spoken to the Son; although the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as they are indivisible, so work indivisibly.  This is also my faith, since it is the Catholic faith. (On the Trinity, Book I.7 - NPNF 3.20 - bold emphasis mine.)

But if the Son is said to be sent by the Father on this account, that the one is the Father, and the other the Son, this does not in any manner hinder us from believing the Son to be equal, and consubstantial, and coeternal with the Father, and yet to have been sent as Son by the Father. Not because the one is greater, the other less; but because the one is Father, the other Son; the one begetter, the other begotten; the one, He from whom He is who is sent; the other, He who is from Him who sends. For the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son. And according to this manner we can now understand that the Son is not only said to have been sent because "the Word was made flesh," but therefore sent that the Word might be made flesh, and that He might perform through His bodily presence those things which were written; that is, that not only is He understood to have been sent as man, which the Word was made but the Word, too, was sent that it might be made man; because He was not sent in respect to any inequality of power, or substance, or anything that in Him was not equal to the Father; but in respect to this, that the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son; for the Son is the Word of the Father, which is also called His wisdom. What wonder, therefore, if He is sent, not because He is unequal with the Father, but because He is "a pure emanation (manatio) issuing from the glory of the Almighty God ?" For there, that which issues, and that from which it issues, is of one and the same substance. (On the Trinity, Book IV.27 - NPNF Vol. 3.83 - bold emphasis mine.)

28. Therefore the Word of God is sent by Him, of whom He is the Word; He is sent by Him, from whom He was begotten (genitum); He sends who begot, That is sent which is begotten...What then is born (natum) from eternity is eternal... But the Father is not said to be sent, when from time to time He is apprehended by any one, for He has no one of whom to be, or from whom to proceed; since Wisdom says, "I came out of the mouth of the Most High," and it is said of the Holy Spirit, "He proceedeth from the Father," but the Father is from no one.

29. As, therefore, the Father begat, the Son is begotten; so the Father sent, the Son was sent. But in like manner as He who begat an He who was begotten, so both He who sent and He who was sent, are one, since the Father and the Son are one. So also the Holy Spirit is one with them, since these three are one...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.28, 29 - NPNF 3.85 - bold emphasis mine.)

And yet it is not to no purpose that in this Trinity the Son and none other is called the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit and none other the Gift of God, and God the Father alone is He from whom the Word is born, and from whom the Holy Spirit principally proceeds...This distinction, then, of the inseparable Trinity is not to be merely accepted in passing, but to be carefully considered; for hence it was that the Word of God was specially called also the Wisdom of God, although both Father and Holy Spirit are wisdom. If, then, any one of the three is to be specially called Love, what more fitting than that it should be the Holy Spirit ? namely, that in that simple and highest nature, substance should not be one thing and love another, but that substance itself should be love, and love itself should be substance, whether in the Father, or in the Son, or in the Holy Spirit; and yet that the Holy Spirit should be specially called Love. (On the Trinity, XV.29 - NPNF 3.216 - bold emphasis mine.)

We can ask whether we should understand the words "In the beginning God made heaven and earth" only in accord with history, or whether they also signify something in figures, and how they conform to the gospel and for what reason this book begins in this way. According to history one asks whether "In the beginning" means in the beginning of time in the principle, in the very Wisdom of God. For the Son of God said that he was the principle. When he was asked, "Who are you?" he said, "The principle; that is why I am speaking to you." For there is a principle without principle, and there is a principal along with another principal. The principle without principle is the Father alone, and thus we believe that all things are from one principle. But the Son is a principle in such a way that he is from the Father. (On the Literal Translation of Genesis, in  Fathers of the Church, vol. 84, p. 148 - bold emphasis mine.)

In this Beginning, O God, hast Thou made heaven and earth, in Thy Word, in Thy Son, in Thy Power, in Thy Wisdom, in Thy Truth, wondrously speaking and wondrously making. Who shall comprehend ? who shall relate it ? What is that which shines through me, and strikes my heart without injury, and I both shudder and burn ? I shudder inasmuch as am unlike it ; and I burn inasmuch as I am like it. It is Wisdom itself that shines through me, clearing my cloudiness, which again overwhelms me, fainting from it, in the darkness and amount of my punishment...I will with confidence cry out from Thy oracle, How wonderful are Thy works, O Lord, in Wisdom hast Thou made them all. And this Wisdom is the Beginning, and in that Beginning hast Thou made heaven and earth.  (Confessions, XI.11 - NPNF 1.166, 167.)

For it is true, O Lord, that Thou hast made heaven and earth ; it is also true, that the Beginning is Thy Wisdom, in Which Thou hast made all things. (Confessions, XI.28 - NPNF 1.183 - bold emphasis mine.)

What is it, then, that He "saith, hath given to the Son to have life in Himself" ? I would say it briefly. He begot the Son. For it is not that He existed without life, and received life, but He is life by being begotten. The Father is life not by being begotten; the Son is life by being begotten. The Father is of no father; the Son is of God the Father. The Father in His being is of none, but in that He is Father, 'tis because of the Son. But the Son also, in that He is Son, 'tis because of the Father: in His being. He is of the Father. 'This He said, therefore: "hath given life to the Son, that He might have it in Himself." Just as if He were to say, "The Father, who is life in Himself, begot the Son, who should be life in Himself." Indeed, He would have this dedit (hath given) to be understood for the same thing as genuit (hath begotten). It is like as if we said to a person, "God has given thee being." To whom ? If to some one already existing, then He gave him not being, because he who could receive existed before it was given him. When, therefore, thou hearest it said, "He gave thee being," thou wast not in being to receive, but thou didst receive, that thou shouldst be by coming into existence. The builder gave to this house that it should be. But what did he give to it? He gave it to be a house. To what did he give ? To this house. Gave it what ? To be a house. How could he give to a house that it should be a house ? For if the house was, to what did he give to be a house, when the house existed already? What, then, does that mean, "gave it to be a house" ? It means, he brought to pass that it should be a house. Well, then, what gave He to the Son? Gave Him to be the Son, begot Him to be life that is, "gave Him to have life in Himself " that He should be the life not needing life, that He may not be understood as having life by participation. (St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Tractate XIX.13, NPNF 7.127 - bold emphasis mine.)

With the above selections in mind—and those from the AF thread linked to above—I am truly baffled by Andrew's deduction concerning "Augustinian trinitarianism" and the Son of God. Here again is Andrew's conclusion:

Its this identification of God with the Trinity instead of identifying God as the Father in particular that logically leads to a denial that Christ is the Son of God. Whatever monarchy and causality of the Son by the Father there is in this view, since it is within God, the Trinity, it ultimately doesn’t change this. The problem as I see it is not a lack of affirmation of the monarchy of the Father, but the identification of the one God with the Trinity rather than the Father.

Though Augustine does in fact term the Trinity "one God", it is not to the exclusion that the Father is in a unique sense "one God", "God alone", "God only", "the Supreme One",  "sole Principle", "Principle without principle", et al. Augustine also repeatedly informs us that it is the Father alone, who is the beginning/source of the Son of God. When all the evidence is brought together—with all due respect to Andrew—I ultimately find no basis for the belief that "Augustinian trinitarianism...logically leads to a denial that Christ is the Son of God."

As for modalism, and/or semi-modalism, I just don't find any trace of it in Augustine's extant corpus; but I do find plenty of anti-modalism. So, why is it some folk maintain that some degree of modalism exists in Augustine's doctrine of the Trinity? I would like to suggest two probable reasons:

1.) The failure to recognize that Augustine uses two different senses for the term God (Deus); one with reference to the Three as being one God (i.e. one divinity/essence/substance) and not three Gods; the second with reference to the Father as being the principium and fons (i.e. monarchia) of everything else that has existence—including the Son and the Holy Spirit.

2.) A misunderstanding of what the term trinity (trinitas) meant in Augustine's time; note the following:

The word "trinitas" is more merely numerical in meaning than the English "trinity," has come almost to demand a capital T. But it means no more than "threeness," or more concretely "threesome" "a three." My inclination will be to avoid the capital T mostly, and sometimes to substitute more numbersome English words. (Edmund Hill, The Works of St. Augustine - A Translation for the 21st Century, Vol. 5, The Trinity, p. 91.)

I shall end here for now; more later, the Lord willing...


Grace and peace,

David