Thursday, March 26, 2009
In the comment section of the recent thread, Apologetics against inferior opponents, our Reformed brother in Christ, Ken Temple, expressed a certain skepticism concerning subordinationism in the writings of the ante-Nicene Church Fathers. While reading a quote from John Thiel’s, Senses of Tradition, which I had cited in THIS THREAD, Ken noticed that Dr. Thiel had not provided references for certain deductions he had made from the writings of Justin Martyr, Theophilus, Tertullian, and Origen. I suspect that Dr. Thiel was of the opinion that his readers would be conversant enough with the literature he was drawing from, that he did not see a need to provide references. Such speculation aside, I shall now remedy Dr. Thiel’s neglect.
First, Justin Martyr, of whom he wrote, “whose reliance on the Middle Platonism of his day led him to portray Christ as a ‘second God’”.
Justin did not actually use the exact phrase “second God” (Gr. deuteros theos) in reference to Jesus. However, he did use a couple of equivalents: “another God and Lord” (Gr. theos kai kurios eteros), and “second place” (Gr. deutera chōra).
Then I replied, “I shall attempt to persuade you, since you have understood the Scriptures, [of the truth] of what I say, that there is, and that there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things; who is also called an Angel, because He announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all things — above whom there is no other God — wishes to announce to them.” (Dialogue With Trypho, ch. 56 – ANF 1.223.)
Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judaea, in the times of Tiberius Caesar; and that we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove. For they proclaim our madness to consist in this, that we give to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all; for they do not discern the mystery that is herein, to which, as we make it plain to you, we pray you to give heed. (First Apology, ch. 13 – ANF 1.166, 167; see also ch. 60.)
Second, Theophilus, “whose strongly Jewish Christianity avowed the creation of the logos by God”.
IMHO, Dr. Thiel overstates what Theophilus actually wrote. Theophilus wrote that God “begat Him [the Logos], emitting Him [the Logos] along with His own wisdom before all things”. (See To Autolycus, 2.10 – ANF 2.98). But, such language exhibits, in very real sense, subordinationism. Theophilus in the same chapter later calls the Logos an “instrument” of God, and “one brought up with Him”.
Third, Tertullian, “who still spoke of the created generation of the Son from the Father even as he struggled to maintain the unity of the Father and Son and creaturely difference between the Son and the universe”.
Let Hermogenes then confess that the very Wisdom of God is declared to be born and created, for the especial reason that we should not suppose that there is any other being than God alone who is unbegotten and uncreated. For if that, which from its being inherent in the Lord was of Him and in Him, was yet not without a beginning, — I mean His wisdom, which was then born and created, when in the thought of God It began to assume motion for the arrangement of His creative works, — how much more impossible is it that anything should have been without a beginning which was extrinsic to the Lord! But if this same Wisdom is the Word of God, in the capacity of Wisdom, and (as being He) without whom nothing was made, just as also (nothing) was set in order without Wisdom, how can it be that anything, except the Father, should be older, and on this account indeed nobler, than the Son of God, the only-begotten and first-begotten Word? (Against Hermogenes, ch. 18 – ANF 3.487.)
For before all things God was alone — being in Himself and for Himself universe, and space, and all things. Moreover, He was alone, because there was nothing external to Him but Himself. (Against Praxeas, ch. 5 – ANF 3.600.)
Listen therefore to Wisdom herself, constituted in the character of a Second Person: “At the first the Lord created me as the beginning of His ways, with a view to His own works, before He made the earth, before the mountains were settled; moreover, before all the hills did He beget me;” that is to say, He created and generated me in His own intelligence. (Against Praxeas, ch. 6 – ANF 3.601.)
Then, therefore, does the Word also Himself assume His own form and glorious garb, His own sound and vocal utterance, when God says, “Let there be light.” This is the perfect nativity of the Word, when He proceeds forth from God — formed by Him first to devise and think out all things under the name of Wisdom — “The Lord created or formed me as the beginning of His ways;” then afterward begotten, to carry all into effect — “When He prepared the heaven, I was present with Him.” (Against Praxeas, ch. 7 – ANF 3.601.)
I confess that I call God and His Word — the Father and His Son — two. For the root and the tree are distinctly two things, but correlatively joined; the fountain and the river are also two forms, but indivisible; so likewise the sun and the ray are two forms, but coherent ones. Everything which proceeds from something else must needs be second to that from which it proceeds, without being on that account separated: Where, however, there is a second, there must be two; and where there is a third, there must be three. Now the Spirit indeed is third from God and the Son; just as the fruit of the tree is third from the root, or as the stream out of the river is third from the fountain, or as the apex of the ray is third from the sun. Nothing, however, is alien from that original source whence it derives its own properties. In like manner the Trinity, flowing down from the Father through intertwined and connected steps, does not at all disturb the Monarchy, whilst it at the same time guards the state of the Economy. (Against Praxeas, ch. 8 – ANF 3.603.)
I sense that this post is getting a bit too lengthy, so I shall reserve Origen for another time.
Grace and peace,