Saturday, February 6, 2010

The original Nicene Creed and semantic confusion.


As many know, the creed labeled “the Nicene Creed” that is recited by Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox churches, Anglicans, and many Protestant confessional churches, is actually NOT ‘the’ Nicene Creed, but rather, it is the creed promulgated at the regional council of Constantinople, convoked by emperor Theodosius in 381 A.D. (with Catholics and most confessional churches of the West adding, without ecumenical warrant, the controversial filioque). Having explored some of the historical ‘difficulties’ acknowledged and delineated by patristic scholars concerning the relationship between the original Nicene Creed and what is now ‘traditionally’ termed the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed in our last two threads, I would now like explore, in greater depth, some of the controversial content of the original Nicene Creed. [Note: this new thread has been ‘inspired’, in part, by certain comments made by “Lvka” HERE, which in turn was a response to comments I had made earlier HERE.]

Countless books, essays, etc. have been written on the council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed, but I am going to focus primarily on the contributions provided by R.P.C. Hanson in his The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God. [Note: quotes from this work will be from Hanson’s 1988 edition; to save space, I am providing the following links for the full English-1, English-2, and Greek and Latin texts of the NC creed.]

[02-07-10 UPDATE: Discovered an exhaustive site today that has numerous early Church texts in English, Greek and Latin HERE; link to the Nicene Creed of 325 in English, Greek and Latin HERE.]
The original NC contained: “of the substance of the Father” (deleted in the NCC of 381). Concerning this phrase, Hanson wrote:

To say that the Son was ‘of the substance’ (εκ της ουσιας) of the Father, and that he was ‘consubstantial’ with him were certainly startling innovations. Nothing comparable to this had been said in any creed or profession of faith before. Neither Alexander nor the recent Council of Antioch had described the Son’s relation to the Father by introducing ousia or its cognates. (pp. 166, 167)

Not only was the phrase, “of the substance of the Father”, deleted in the NCC of 381, but as I have already noted in my last two threads, so too were the anathemas. Concerning this additional deletion, Hanson continued with:

The other really remarkable point about N is the condemnation in the anathemas at the end of the view that the Son is ‘of another hypostasis or ousia’ from the Father. This can only have been a highly ambiguous and extremely confusing statement. By the standard of later orthodoxy, as achieved in the Creed of Constantinople of 381, it is a rankly heretical (i.e. Sabellian) proposition, because the Son must be of a different hypostasis (i.e. ‘Person’) from the Father. (p. 167)

A bit later he adds:

But we must remember that for at least the first half of the period 318-381, and in some cases considerably later, ousia and hypostasis are used as virtual synonyms, not in one sense only but in two. (p. 183) [Note: Hanson here is explicitly at odds with Lvka’s comments, linked to above.]

In my post that I linked to above, I penned:

In the later anathemas of the original N, we find that “hypostasis”/person and “ousia”/substance are treated as identical. If we allow the creed formulated at Constantinople to be a correction/clarification of N, then the omission is a ‘considerable’ one (as Tanner suggests). How so? We have later historical issues that arose which may very well be related to this omission, and the “semantic confusion” that surrounded the Nicene period (see Hanson, ch. 7, pp. 181-208).

I then provided a probable example from the 13th century. I would now like to suggest another—this time from the late 4th century. From Jerome’s letter to Pope Damasus we read:

Just now, I am sorry to say, those Arians, the Campenses, are trying to extort from me, a Roman Christian, their unheard-of formula of three hypostases. And this, too, after the definition of Nicaea and the decree of Alexandria, in which the West has joined. Where, I should like to know, are the apostles of these doctrines? Where is their Paul, their new doctor of the Gentiles? I ask them what three hypostases are supposed to mean. They reply three persons subsisting. I rejoin that this is my belief. They are not satisfied with the meaning, they demand the term. Surely some secret venom lurks in the words. “If any man refuse,” I cry, “to acknowledge three hypostases in the sense of three things hypostatized, that is three persons subsisting, let him be anathema.” Yet, because I do not learn their words, I am counted a heretic. “But, if any one, understanding by hypostasis essence, deny that in the three persons there is one hypostasis, he has no part in Christ.” Because this is my confession I, like you, am branded with the stigma of Sabellianism.

If you think fit enact a decree; and then I shall not hesitate to speak of three hypostases. Order a new creed to supersede the Nicene; and then, whether we are Arians or orthodox, one confession will do for us all. In the whole range of secular learning hypostasis never means anything but essence. And can any one, I ask, be so profane as to speak of three essences or substances in the Godhead?… Let us keep to one hypostasis, if such be your pleasure, and say nothing of three. It is a bad sign when those who mean the same thing use different words. Let us be satisfied with the form of creed which we have hitherto used. Or, if you think it right that I should speak of three hypostases, explaining what I mean by them, I am ready to submit. But, believe me, there is poison hidden under their honey; the angel of Satan has transformed himself into an angel of light. They give a plausible explanation of the term hypostasis; yet when I profess to hold it in the same sense they count me a heretic. Why are they so tenacious of a word? Why do they shelter themselves under ambiguous language? If their belief corresponds to their explanation of it, I do not condemn them for keeping it. On the other hand, if my belief corresponds to their expressed opinions, they should allow me to set forth their meaning in my own words
. (Jerome, Letter XV.3, 4 – NPNF 6.19.)

Further examples of confusion concerning the content of N can be provided, but the above from Jerome should suffice to confirm Hanson’s cogent reflections.


Grace and peace,

David

80 comments:

Chris said...

Hi David,

If the meaning of the term hypostasis shifted between 318 and 381, then might it not be fair to say that the creed promulgated in 381 was the same creed, but updated to reflect the semantic shift? I'm just trying to understand your point. Thanks,

-Chris

Chris said...

I guess maybe you're saying (with Jerome) that the meaning of the term did not really shift-- the Arians claimed it did, but this was more rhetorical ploy than substance. In which case the Constantinopolitan version succumbed to this Arian tactic and compromised an essential aspect of the creed. Is that more or less what you're getting at?

Strider said...

I'm sorry, but I honestly do not understand what you are claiming. Are you claiming that the creed of Constantinople contradicts the creed of Nicaea? If so, then you need to present an argument that this is so.

David Waltz said...

Hello Chris and Strider,

The point I believe Hanson is attempting to make is that the original Nicene Creed is fundamentally flawed. Hypostasis in 325 could be understood (and was) in two different senses: person or substance/nature. The manner in which it is attached to ousia in the anathema forces a Sabellian interpretation of the Godhead, “because the Son must be of a different hypostasis (i.e. ‘Person’) from the Father. If one insists that hypostasis must mean substance/nature and not person, then the Greek speaking world is left with only prosōpon to describe the distinctions between the Father, Son and HS; unfortunately the modalists (e. g. Sabellius, Praxeas, Noetus) had already attached the meaning “mask” to prosōpon, making it virtually impossible for Trinitarians to make use of the term and still avoid the charge of Sabellianism. But if one insists that hypostasis means person, the NC then explicitly affirms that the Son is NOT a different person than the Father. So, it seems to me that the only recourse the Fathers gathered at Constantinople had, to avoid the charge of Sabellianism, was the removal of the “hypostasis or ousia” clause.


Grace and peace,

David

Martin said...

Others can comment more intelligently than I, but it seems you are describing the development of doctrine. a council says something, people are confused, a second council clarifies.

Also it seems you are still hiding -your- objections.

"The point I believe Hanson is attempting to make is...."

Forget Hanson, what is David Waltz's point? Where is/are the cracks you see?

Richard Froggatt said...

David,

I'm probably not catching on but it seems that there's much ado about nothing. If the church tried to hide or do away with the Nicene Creed then I could see your objections but they didn't, they only clarified (as Martin says above).

I think this from one of the links you posted sums up the NC pretty well "As the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity stands midway between Tritheism and Sabellianism, so the Chalcedonian formula strikes the true mean between Nestorianism and Eutychianism."

Sorry if I'm completely missing something.

Edward Reiss said...

Dave W,

I do not read Greek, but the condemnation at the end of Nicea 1 seems to say that an anathema is uponthose who state that the Son is of a different hypostasis than the Father.

"ἢ ἐξ ἑτέρας ὑποστάσεως ἢ οὐσίας φάσκοντας εἶναι"

If this is true, it does seem to be a serious issue because what was later orthodoxy is anathematized.

David Waltz said...

Hi Martin,

Thanks for responding; you posted:

>>Others can comment more intelligently than I, but it seems you are describing the development of doctrine. a council says something, people are confused, a second council clarifies.>>

Me: There is no question that DD is taking place.

>>Also it seems you are still hiding -your- objections.>>

Me: Not quite clear as to what you mean. These last three threads are pretty much historical in nature—informational. Lord willing, I will continue to add more information.

>>"The point I believe Hanson is attempting to make is...."

Forget Hanson, what is David Waltz's point? Where is/are the cracks you see?>>

Me: At this very early stage, I would say that the “cracks” pertain to the process/method the early Church was using to build a consensus of orthodoxy. Certainly, one can argue that the “cracks” are taken care with further development; but at this stage, once again, I am just exploring the history without attempting to form any theory yet.

Grace and peace,

David

Steve said...

I'm not really qualified to get involved in this discussion, but I have been trying to follow it, and I find myself a bit confused by the following:

Hypostasis in 325 could be understood (and was) in two different senses: person or substance/nature. The manner in which it is attached to ousia in the anathema forces a Sabellian interpretation of the Godhead, “because the Son must be of a different hypostasis (i.e. ‘Person’) from the Father. If one insists that hypostasis must mean substance/nature and not person, then the Greek speaking world is left with only prosōpon to describe the distinctions between the Father, Son and HS; unfortunately the modalists (e. g. Sabellius, Praxeas, Noetus) had already attached the meaning “mask” to prosōpon, making it virtually impossible for Trinitarians to make use of the term and still avoid the charge of Sabellianism.

ISTM that given the context and purpose of the original Nicene Creed, the word *hypostasis* is being used as an equivalent for *substance*. As far as I can tell all that the Fathers of the council were trying to communicate in the creed is that the Son is uncreated, and therefore of the same substance of the Father, and therefore equally divine as the Father. Distinctions in *Person* was not something they were even attempting to address. Perhaps if their focus was different so as to address both unity of *substance*, AND distinction in *Person* they would have chosen their words a bit more carefully. However, for the purposes of communicating the full divinity of the Son, what they wrote appears completely orthodox to me. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see anything that necessitates a Sabellian interpretation of the anathema when a charitable approach to the purpose of the Creed is used.

I will be praying for you,
Steve M.

David Waltz said...

Hi Richard,

Appreciate your post; you wrote:

>> I'm probably not catching on but it seems that there's much ado about nothing. If the church tried to hide or do away with the Nicene Creed then I could see your objections but they didn't, they only clarified (as Martin says above).>>

Me: I don’t think that the church was attempting to “to hide or do away with the Nicene Creed”; what I think the early church saw (and this within less than 60 years) is that creed promulgated in 325 had portions that were defective; but as a whole, it was sound. As such, the Fathers who formulated the new creed in 381 deleted portions of N, added clarifications, and expanded the treatment of the Holy Spirit.

>>I think this from one of the links you posted sums up the NC pretty well "As the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity stands midway between Tritheism and Sabellianism, so the Chalcedonian formula strikes the true mean between Nestorianism and Eutychianism.">>

Me: Agreed.

>>Sorry if I'm completely missing something.>>

Me: I am sure that I am at fault here; I have been studying the Church Fathers for nearly 30 years now and have a tendency to overlook the need to bring others ‘up-to-date’, so please feel free to ask as many questions as you would like.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello Edward,

You posted:

>>I do not read Greek, but the condemnation at the end of Nicea 1 seems to say that an anathema is uponthose who state that the Son is of a different hypostasis than the Father.

"ἢ ἐξ ἑτέρας ὑποστάσεως ἢ οὐσίας φάσκοντας εἶναι">>

Me: Exactly.

>>If this is true, it does seem to be a serious issue because what was later orthodoxy is anathematized.>>

Me: That was Hanson's point.


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. What type of Greek font did you use? When I copied and pasted it to Microsoft Word, a number of the characters were not displayed.

David Waltz said...

Hello Steve,


Seems my communication skills in this new thread are woefully defective—I sincerely apologize for any confusion.

Though a strict reading of NC does not necessitate “a Sabellian interpretation of the anathema when a charitable approach to the purpose of the Creed is used” (as you pointed out), the difficulty lies in the fact that there contemporary “Catholic” bishops who were essentially Sabellian and promoted the NC as such. IMO, the Arians did the Church a big favor in pointing out the flaws of the original NC—the Eastern Fathers gathered at Constantinople in 381 took care of those flaws.

>>I will be praying for you,
Steve M.>>

Thanks Steve, I deeply appreciate your prayers.


God bless,

David

Reginald de Piperno said...

David,

Your blog is encoded in UTF-8 (ASCII is one encoding; UTF-8 is another, more complete one that includes many/most non-Latin character sets). The Greek characters in Edward’s post are included in UTF-8; the other thing that’s required is a font that includes support for them. Presumably this means that the default font you’re using in Word doesn’t support all of UTF-8. You might have better luck changing the font Word is using to something like Arial, Verdana, Georgia, Trebuchet, or Tahoma (no guarantees, though).

RdP

Edward Reiss said...

Favid,

Try the fonts found here:

http://www.bibleworks.com/fonts.html

Iohannes said...

Hi David,

How important do you think the terminological change was to the fathers? That is, what did they think they were doing at Constantinople? At times they seem to have been flexible about words, provided they were satisfied the right idea was there. e.g. St Athanasius thought the so-called semi-Arians like Basil of Ancyra were orthodox as to what they believed; they just misunderstood how homoousion was being used. Fr Behr also notes that the Cappadocians themselves rarely used the "three hypostases one ousia" formula we associate with them. He concludes that "Trinitarian theology, let alone Nicene orthodoxy, cannot be reduced to this formula."

Best,

John

Lvka said...

By the standard of later orthodoxy, as achieved in the Creed of Constantinople of 381, it is a rankly heretical (i.e. Sabellian) proposition, because the Son must be of a different hypostasis (i.e. ‘Person’) from the Father. (p. 167)


1) This is not the only refinement done to the original Nicene Creed: other redundant expressions, such as "God from God" were also deleted (because it was repeated once again in the phrase "true God from true God"). -- the same here, since the same idea is expressed again later in "consubstantial with the Father". [Apart from deleting such repetitons, they also added phrases which reenforce older ones without repeating the same words: such as "of all things seen and unsees" after "Maker of heaven and earth", etc].

2) If Hanson imples that the Son is born from a different Person than the Father, then he's wrong, obviously. (Maybe he wanted to say the Son is a different Person than the Father, not that He is OF a different Person than the Father?)


Not only was the phrase, “of the substance of the Father”, deleted in the NCC of 381, but as I have already noted in my last two threads, so too were the anathemas.


Uhm... the anathemas were not part of the Creed... they were the dogmatical pronouncements of the Council, refering to ortho-doxy (as opposed to the twenty canons of the same council, which are not part of the creed either, and who refer to ortho-praxy).

This, and the fact that EACH one of the Seven Synods always upholds ALL the canons and anathemas and decrees and decisions of ALL the precedent ones... and they do so explicitely.


------------------------------

The problem with Jerome's Latin word persona is that its original meaning was not the modern-day term 'person', but rather 'social standing', being borrowed from the Etruscan 'pharsu', meaning 'mask': hence the suspicion of Sabelianism directed against him.

Lvka said...

This article might also prove helpful concerning the whole hypostasis/ousia thingy, and so might this one.

Steve said...

David W.,

Sorry for being dense, but as far as I could tell your response to me did not demonstrate any flaws in the original NC, per se.

Steve M.

David Waltz said...

Hi John,

Always a pleasure to read your contributions; you asked:

>>How important do you think the terminological change was to the fathers?>>

Me: IMO probably not quite as important as it should have been in this important period; though it sure seems to me some maturation was occurring due to the growing sophistication of the newer “Arian” schools (e.g. Anhomoian/“Neo-Arian”, Homoian, and Homoiousian/“Semi-Arian”), and neo-Sabellians.

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Lvka,

Thanks much for the links! I own, and have read, Zizioulas’, Being As Communion (though not an easy read, it is worth it IMHO). I was actually planning to use the letter from Gregory in an upcoming thread, but it is good that you introduced it now.

BTW, were you aware that Jerome met Gregory of Nyssa in 380, and began study with Gregory of Nazianzen in the same year? I am sure that the two Gregory’s were of great assistance to Jerome concerning the Greek language.


God bless,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Steve,

It is I who may be the dense one! Hope you keep reading, I will try to make improvements...


God bless,

David

Richard Froggatt said...

Hi David,

How important to the discussion is the creed and the fathers understanding of it?

Re: Sabellianism Athanasius wrote the following.

For neither do we hold a Son-Father as do the Sabellians, calling him of one but not of the same essence, and thus destroying the existence of the Son.(Statement Of Faith, Chapter 2)

Dave Armstrong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Armstrong said...

Wrong URL. 2nd try:

---------------

Hi David,

One more foray of mine into this whole thing; extensively documented (based on many public utterances that are, by that fact, "open game"):

Is Former Catholic Apologist David Waltz Following a Theological Trajectory That Will Ultimately End Up in Mormonism?

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/02/is-former-catholic-apologist-david.html

You and anyone else are welcome, of course, to comment on my blog.

God bless,

Dave

Chris said...

David,

Thank you for your helpful clarifications. So if I may attempt to summarize the situation, it would go something like this.

The ecumenical council of Nicea, which is supposedly infallible, used language that demands a Sabellian interpretation.

The not-quite-ecumenical (and thus not-quite-infallible) council of Chalcedon then claimed that it was affirming the faith of Nicea, but subtly eliminated the Sabellian language, and in fact anathematized that very language.

Thus we have a situation that does not quite fit the rules of development, for the following reasons:

1) An infallible council apparently made a pretty serious mistake in a matter of faith,
2) The council that corrected it did not technically have the authority to do so,
3) The correction was a contradiction rather than a logical expansion of what had gone before, and perhaps also
4) The correcting council was not entirely forthcoming about what it had done.

Does that more or less encapsulate the situation?

While this is not the example I would have chosen to show the problems with infallibility, but I can certainly understand why-- given the Creed's centrality to your faith-- this example might bother you more than some others.

I wish you the best on your journey,

-Chris

CrimsonCatholic said...

>>If this is true, it does seem to be a serious issue because what was later orthodoxy is anathematized.>>

Me: That was Hanson's point.


But hasn't this been more or less entirely discredited by the subsequent scholarship? Certainly, everyone admits that this was a possible interpretation, and even some of the bishops who voted for it thought that it was the correct interpretation. But they were factually wrong, because if that interpretation were in fact true, it would render the entire Creed self-contradictory. Obviously, the homoiousians didn't know that, and it's questionable whether even St. Basil did, but it's a fact nonetheless. For the Creed to be meaningful, it HAD to be interpreted as Constantinople interpreted it. That is essentially what the Cappadocian theology proved.

Though a strict reading of NC does not necessitate “a Sabellian interpretation of the anathema when a charitable approach to the purpose of the Creed is used” (as you pointed out), the difficulty lies in the fact that there contemporary “Catholic” bishops who were essentially Sabellian and promoted the NC as such.

Why is that a difficulty? Everybody knows this (or at least, everybody who has been paying attention to what was written in the last 20 years knows this). It's simply a question of which interpretation counts as authoritative, and it just begs the question to count this interpretation as authoritative. Indeed, that's exactly why no one buys Hanson's interpretation anymore.

David Waltz said...

Hi Chris,

An excellent summation! The only portion I would qualify is the following:

>>The ecumenical council of Nicea, which is supposedly infallible, used language that demands a Sabellian interpretation.>>

Me: The Fathers who actually drafted the NC of 325 understood what THEY meant by the language they employed, so for them a Sabellian interpretation is not necessarily demanded. But, that solves nothing, for every other theological school of the day (including many of the bishops who attended Nicea and signed off on the NC) could not help but read the “not of a different hypostasis or ousia” clause in anything but a Sabellian sense.

You also posted:

>>While this is not the example I would have chosen to show the problems with infallibility, but I can certainly understand why-- given the Creed's centrality to your faith-- this example might bother you more than some others.>>

First, what example would you have chosen? Second, I began with the above example only because I wanted to use the examples I am aware of in chronological order

Grace and peace,

David

Chris said...

Hi David,

I have always considered the Great Schism to be one of the more particularly problematic cases.

Peace,

-Chris

David Waltz said...

Hi Jonathan,

I would be very interested in having you provide a list/bibliography of the works you have read (written after 1988), which contradict Hanson’s assessment.

Now, while I await your list, I am, perhaps foolishly, going to state that I currently see only two interpretive options for the “not of a different hypostasis or ousia” clause. First, hypostasis to the Fathers who penned it meant ‘person’, which: “By the standard of later orthodoxy, as achieved in the Creed of Constantinople of 381, it is a rankly heretical (i.e. Sabellian) proposition”.

The second option is that hypostasis was understood to be synonymous with ousia which compelled/demanded the Greek speaking Fathers to employ the term prosōpon to account for the use of Father, Son and HS in Scripture. Unfortunately, the modalists had already ‘polluted’ this term, such that the non-modalist Fathers/bishops (including the 3 “Arian” schools, and the ‘Eusebians’) did not want to “touch it with a 10-foot pole’.

Have I missed something?


Grace and peace,

David

Richard Froggatt said...

Hi Dave,

If the council wasn't clear for some, and this is a problem for you (assuming I'm understanding correctly), then where does that leave scripture, which is also not clear to some?

David Waltz said...

Hi Richard,

You asked an excellent question. The important distinctions between Scripture and all subsequent tradition for me (and here I follow the consensus of the early Church Fathers) is first, ALL Scripture is inspired (i.e. “God-breathed), tradition is not; and second, though I believe that some tradition can be infallible, one certainly cannot say the same for ALL tradition.

One of the important questions currently at the forefront of mind is: if uninspired Church councils and creeds have failed to unite Christendom, why not rely primarily on the SOLE inspired source that ALL conservative Christians agree upon? Truth be known, there is a spiritual ‘feeling’ I get from reading Scripture that I have never gotten from the reading of the canons, creeds, and decrees forged in the councils. But, admittedly, that is just me…


God bless,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Dave,

About 30 minutes ago, I finished reading through the new thread you linked to—WOW, I am sincerely impressed. I am currently not at home; taking care of some friends cats who left on a 2 week vacation Sunday, and on nice days like today, I let the ‘boys’ outside, which means I could be here for a few more minutes, or a few more hours! Anyway, I am away from not only my library, but also my desktop computer. I deplore typing of any length on my laptop, so I probably will not respond until tomorrow.

I do, as always, appreciate your concerns…


God bless,

David

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi David,

I am happy that you were not offended. I do indeed have concerns, but I haven't been able to persuade you of any of my opinions yet, and don't expect to be able to! :-)

Ken said...

So, David Waltz - are you becoming a Mormon?

Dave A. has amazed a lot of evidence that points to that.

I also remember in some of our discussions here from 2007-2008 ?; how you defended TOm the Mormon's views of thinking that Irenaeus believed in many gods and that we become gods - now that DA put so much together, I can see how he thinks this.

Amazing stuff.

Ken said...

David,
Do you know anything about why the Eastern languages - Peshitta, Syriac-Aramaic chose "Uqnoom" ( from the Greek "Gnomon" to translate "hupostasis" ??

This is the word that carried into Arabic and Farsi for "hypostasis".

Ken said...

oops!

Dave A. has amazed a lot of evidence that points to that.

should have been:

Dave A. has amassed a lot of evidence that points to that.

Ken said...

اقنوم (uqnoom)
Came from Greek, γνώμη
(Gnome)
Which meant, “mind, purpose, judgment, opinion, counsel, will, consciousness, thought”
This is the word that the eastern churches (Syrian, Assyrian) (today, most of the Eastern and Roman Catholic Churches use this in Arabic (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Coptic Church in Egypt) and Farsi ( Iran)) chose for “hupo-stasis”
In all your massive reading, have you come across this or know why they did this?

Dave Armstrong said...

should have been:

Dave A. has amassed a lot of evidence that points to that.


Or how about: "Dave A. has amassed a lot of amazing evidence . . . "

:-)

Richard Froggatt said...

I think Dave is leaning towards an Evagelical Free church.

Dave Armstrong said...

The point of my documentation of all this stuff (I want to make clear) is not to say,

"David is [theologically] nuts because he has entertained some Mormon ideas and will certainly become one now"

but rather:

"IF David Waltz becomes a Mormon in due course, it is nothing that should surprise anyone, given all of this prior indication, NOR would it be due to some perceived radical deficiency in Catholic teaching, since the issues that would lead to such an eventuality were in place in Mr. Waltz's thinking from even before the time he became a Catholic. The fundamental issues involved, in other words, do not directly involve the question of Catholic truth claims, and are just as much related to things held in common with Protestants and Orthodox."

Ken said...

Or how about: "Dave A. has amassed a lot of amazing evidence . . . "

Yes, that is probably why I typed it wrong, now that I think about it.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi David,

Another thing that occurs to me in all this is the following dilemma:

I've read where you said that it took you a good seven years and tons of reading to figure out that trinitarianism was true, over against Arianism. And even then, you stated that Scripture alone would have been insufficient to convince you of trinitarianism and dissuade you from Arianism. You necessarily had to have the aid of apostolic succession and authoritative tradition and the Church.

Yet NOW, having rejected the binding magisterial authority of the Catholic Church, and having adopted private judgment and reliance on your own discernment and judgment as your primary methodology (hence all these questioning threads) in order to ascertain theological truth, do you really think that finding truth on your own (the Protestant method), or discovering what tradition is the apostolic one (if Catholicism isn't), will be any easier than attaining the truth of trinitarianism?

If it was THAT hard for you to arrive at the Trinity, and only because of the Church, what makes you think that you can figure out the vexed authority issue on your own? Based on the "priesthood of scholars"? By reading a thousand more books? Do you really think that will be easier than the issue of the nature of the Godhead?

But then, we have seen (in what I documented) that you freely questioned Catholic teachings about the nature of the Godhead, even while being a Catholic. So I seriously question whether you ever gave up private judgment totally, at any time.

It was too entrenched in your thinking to have been overcome by the act of becoming a Catholic. Hence, you're back in the same private judgment boat now, trying to figure everything out on your own.

Do you not see the massive disconnect there? You're trying to raise yourself by your own bootstraps, or raise yourself out of a pit without even any sides to pull yourself up with.

You can't say on the one hand that authoritative apostolic tradition is needed in order to arrive at truth, and then exhibit on the other hand a contradictory notion that you stand outside all such possible candidates for the one true tradition, figuring out which one is the true one with your private judgment. The two notions violently clash with each other.

The only solution gets back to supernatural faith, as I have been stressing all along. If you pray and ask God, and seek truth (as I think you want to do), He will guide your path, and the doubts that seem to constantly plague you, wherever you are, will be vanquished once and for all. The Bible can be a key to that, too, if you will only come to accept that it is a lot more clear than you have been thinking all these years. Your inability to see the worship of Jesus as God clearly taught in Scripture is a prime example of that.

Your private judgment is leading you to many places of falsehood, and you yourself know, I think, down deep, why that is, because of your own writing about the futility of finding truth without a true Church to guide one.

And here I am back in the discussion again (SIGH), and not getting other things done that I need to do. But I just had this thought that I wanted to express; wanted to get it out before I forgot it . . .

I heartily thank you, David, for remaining a perfect gentleman, even when subjected to my fairly strong criticisms. I do greatly admire that.

Dave Armstrong said...

One of the important questions currently at the forefront of mind is: if uninspired Church councils and creeds have failed to unite Christendom, why not rely primarily on the SOLE inspired source that ALL conservative Christians agree upon?

But of course that does not resolve the "problem" either, since we all know that Scripture Alone as the Rule of Faith has done anything BUT "unite Christendom." It's not just Protestants over against Orthodox and Catholics, but Protestants at constant war with themselves over the true interpretation of what all agree are inspired documents.

Since the Bible always has to be interpreted, we're back in the exact same boat: who has the authoritative interpretation, to put an end to debate? And then you have to grapple with Church authority and tradition again.

Protestants, in effect, simply adopt the position that the general teaching and approach of Luther or Calvin or whomever the initial Big Cheese is, dominates the subsequent interpretive tradition (with some exceptions, but not many). But then it has to be asked: what gave them the authority to overturn existing tradition, developed over hundreds of years?

Look at how Protestants can't figure out, e.g., a doctrine such as baptism. I think Scripture is quite clear enough (regenerative baptism, including infants), but Protestants on the Scripture Alone basis have not figured it out yet, being divided, as they are, into at least five major camps:

1) infant, regenerative (e.g., Lutherans, traditional Anglicans).

2) infant, non-regenerative (e.g., Presbyterians).

3) adult, regenerative (e.g., Church of Christ).

4) adult, non-regenerative (e.g., Baptist, Assemblies of God).

5) No baptism (Quakers, Salvation Army).

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Nice to see you back. You posted:

>>So, David Waltz - are you becoming a Mormon?>>

Me: No.

>>Dave A. has amazed a lot of evidence that points to that.>>

Me: The evidence is dated, and is no longer an accurate reflection of my view.

>>I also remember in some of our discussions here from 2007-2008 ?; how you defended TOm the Mormon's views of thinking that Irenaeus believed in many gods and that we become gods - now that DA put so much together, I can see how he thinks this.>>

Me: Irenaeus certainly believed in a full-blown deification, but what he taught and believed has NO current adherents (at least to my knowledge).


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello again Ken,

Interesting information on the Peshitta, Syriac-Aramaic translation of hypostasis. Most of the time us children of the Latin and Greek traditions fail to note what the early Syriac Fathers had to say.

You asked:

>> In all your massive reading, have you come across this or know why they did this?>>

Me: This is the first time I have heard of this, and as to the “why”, I have no idea; I am unaware of any Greek usage that would have lead them to do so.

What are your thoughts on the “why”?


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Richard,

You said:

>> I think Dave is leaning towards an Evagelical Free church.>>

Me: At this point, I cannot rule out the ‘free church’ tradition. I have always had difficulties with the evolutionary rise of the graded, hierarchical church. The emergence of the metropolitan sees is well documented, and it was not ‘pretty’.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Dave,

You posted:

>> The point of my documentation of all this stuff (I want to make clear) is not to say,

"David is [theologically] nuts because he has entertained some Mormon ideas and will certainly become one now"

but rather:

"IF David Waltz becomes a Mormon in due course, it is nothing that should surprise anyone, given all of this prior indication, NOR would it be due to some perceived radical deficiency in Catholic teaching, since the issues that would lead to such an eventuality were in place in Mr. Waltz's thinking from even before the time he became a Catholic. The fundamental issues involved, in other words, do not directly involve the question of Catholic truth claims, and are just as much related to things held in common with Protestants and Orthodox.">>

Me: An excellent, and accurate, assessment based on the somewhat ‘older’ data you complied. However, I have come to realize that the way I was approaching the authority issue was heavily influenced by my JW upbringing. If I would have consistently applied the basic principles that led me to my “it’s either the Catholic of the Mormon church” position, while I was still a JW, I would never have left. Right or wrong, I left the JWs because of the Bible—I don’t know exactly when it occurred, but at some point the Bible came to replace the authority of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society.

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello again Dave,

You said:

>>But of course that does not resolve the "problem" either, since we all know that Scripture Alone as the Rule of Faith has done anything BUT "unite Christendom." It's not just Protestants over against Orthodox and Catholics, but Protestants at constant war with themselves over the true interpretation of what all agree are inspired documents.

Since the Bible always has to be interpreted, we're back in the exact same boat: who has the authoritative interpretation, to put an end to debate? And then you have to grapple with Church authority and tradition again.>>

Me: Much of what you say it true, but I would like you to reflect a bit on two important observations on my part: first, as I said earlier, if I had NOT adopted the “Scripture Alone as the Rule of Faith” (sometime in the late 70s), I would have remained a JW; and second, I have come to realize that conservative Christians have a lot more in common that most are willing to admit—I see a certain work of the Holy Spirit among conservative Christians that I cannot deny.

Grace and peace,

David

P.S. Will check out the thread that you linked earlier tomorrow, I am heading back outside again, it is just too nice of a day to stay indoors!

Ken said...

David W. -
So glad to hear you are
not becoming Mormon; and
that it was the Scriptures that lead you out of Jehovah's Witnesses and
that you are not ruling out a church tradition like the Evangelical Free.

Very encouraging!

On the Uqnoom / Gnoma issue in Syriac/Peshitta - I was hoping you would know. I should add that I only know that "Uqnoom" is the word for "hypostasis" in theology of the Trinity, "one nature; three Uqnooms", since that is not a Biblical term for the Trinity, it does not occur for person in the Scriptures; the Peshitta being the Syriac translation. I only added the word Peshita to identify the community.

Maybe their choice of words has something to do with the easterners having more trouble with the person and will issues. (Monothelitism (one will); and Jesus' two natures; hence Monophysitism or what they prefer Mia-physitism (one nature) )

Lord bless you; I always enjoy your thoughtful and historical blog entries.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi David,

if I had NOT adopted the “Scripture Alone as the Rule of Faith” (sometime in the late 70s), I would have remained a JW

But what I read of your remarks today (I was directed to them by Ken Temple), it was NOT Scripture alone that made you change your mind. You wrote the following on your blog, on 7-6-09: just seven months ago (not in 1999, or 2004, etc.):

"My movement from an Arian position to a Trinitarian one took over 7 years of deep study to achieve. In that process, I read the best material (available in English) on the topic including such authors as the two Hodges, Shedd, Warfield, Barth, Bavinck, Berkhof, Berkouwer, Calvin, Dabney Edwards, Erickson, and Fortman, to name just a few. However, is wasn’t until I started my studies of the Church Fathers, that the ‘balance’ tipped in favor of the Trinitarian position. Without the benefit of the “400 years or more to flesh out the details of how to put it all together”, I may have remained Arian. . . . something that is CLEAR, should not take over 400 years to develop; nor should it take thousands of pages to defend. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that the doctrine is indefensible, but rather, that it is only implicit in the Scriptures, and not explicit."

And again on 3-23-09:

"My 30 plus years of study into the Bible (as well as the Church Fathers and theology) has certainly taught me that the belief/statement there exists a “clear testimony of Scripture to the truth of the Trinity” is not based on objective evidence—the ‘facts’ present something quite different."

And on 11-7-09:

"Yes, Scripture is CLEAR, but only to those who embrace the Catholic regula fidei. . . . Once again, Scripture is CLEAR, but only for those who have embraced the true regula fidei."

Seems like you are saying "Scripture alone" is the thing "over here" and a more Catholic / Orthodox Rule of Faith "over there."

You gotta figure out which is superior to the other, no?

Going Protestant ain't gonna solve either your historical or (what I consider to be) biblical difficulties, . . . Scripture Alone is precisely what leads to Arianism or Mormonism, because the actual history of doctrine has to be ignored or subverted in order to suppose that it is in line with those heresies.

It is apostolic tradition and the history of orthodox teaching in the Catholic Church (or in Orthodoxy) that overcomes all of the heresy.

You can be christologically orthodox and be a Protestant, of course (I was!), but it is, I maintain, because of a selective reliance on actual Church Tradition (just as Protestants do with the canon of the Bible, save for the arbitrary exception of the Deuterocanonical books).

Ken said...

Dave A. wrote:

Scripture Alone is precisely what leads to Arianism or Mormonism,

No, John 1:1 is clear enough Scripture to keep one from going Arian; and the Ten commandments; I Cor. 8:6 and Psalm 96:6 and Mark 12:29 and Deut. 6:4 are clear enough to keep one from going Mormon. Simple and clear.

CrimsonCatholic said...

I would be very interested in having you provide a list/bibliography of the works you have read (written after 1988), which contradict Hanson’s assessment.

Off hand, Michel Rene Barnes, _The Power of God_; Richard Paul Vaggione, _Eunomius of Cyzicus and the Nicene Revolution_; Lewis Ayers, _Nicaea and Its Legacy_; and John Behr, _The Way to Nicaea_, at the very least. And you should really read Behr on deification in Irenaeus; it would be well worth your time, as would Arkady Choufrine's _Gnosis, Theophany, Theosis_.

The second option is that hypostasis was understood to be synonymous with ousia which compelled/demanded the Greek speaking Fathers to employ the term prosōpon to account for the use of Father, Son and HS in Scripture. Unfortunately, the modalists had already ‘polluted’ this term, such that the non-modalist Fathers/bishops (including the 3 “Arian” schools, and the ‘Eusebians’) did not want to “touch it with a 10-foot pole’.

Have I missed something?


No, I don't think so. Hypostasis and ousia were used to refer to the same thing, which roughly corresponded to what made a thing to be what it was. There was no analytical difference in Greek philosophy between the existence of a thing and its manner of existing, because it frankly wouldn't have served any purpose. So at the original Nicaea, the purpose of saying ousia or hypostasis was merely to convey that Jesus was not a different kind of thing than God. To read more than that into Nicaea would be an anachronistic use of terms, because the distinction to which the later technical use of terms was directed was not even contemplated at the time.

CrimsonCatholic said...

(cont.)
It was only later, when people suggested that being the same kind of thing in the case of God would mean being the same actual individual, that it became necessary to develop some term to distinguish between the two concepts (viz., individual existence itself and what causes the individual to be what it is). By this invention, orthodoxy therefore distinguished itself from Homoian (which concludes that to avoid being identical individuals, the Persons must merely be like in some sense), Homoiousianism (that they must be like in nature), and Eunomianism (that they must be unlike in nature to be distinct). As I mentioned above, there simply was no right word for this distinction, so the term with the somewhat broader semantic range that was close to what they had in mind (hypostasis) was repurposed as a technical term (sort of like what we did with using the Greek term "energy" in physics). To make this redefinition even more clear, more complicated terms like "mode of existence" (tropos hyparxeos) were used to fill out this technical usage, as was the notion of energeia (I won't repeat Barnes's analysis of the latter; it's worth the read). Prosopon was also used within that context for the same technical meaning, since it was helpful in linking to the Latin persona. But as you mentioned, the repurposing of prosopon was even more careful because it was already laden with some baggage. Also, in perhaps the first time I will have ever agreed with Ken Temple, I think he is right about the linkage between hypostasis and the concept of gnome, which conveys individuality (although that term will also later take a different meaning in the monothelite controversy)

That's all just a long way of saying that they needed a new word for the concept, because there wasn't a good one in Greek. Therefore, they had to start using an existing term that didn't include the concept in a technical way, just like we routinely do in various species of technical jargon. It doesn't make any sense reading that technical usage back into Nicaea, as if the terms were identical, any more than it would make sense to read the modern definition of "energy" into the first century use of energeia. Hanson didn't appear to grasp the conceptual evolution (and the works I cited all say so in one way or the other), so his conclusion appears to be based on exactly that sort of error.

I'm a bit distracted because of work at the moment, and I apologize for that, but I hope this is helpful. I'd really hate for you to make a decision on bad facts. Certainly, I can see why people might end up being Eastern Orthodox on the same arguments I've outlined; that's a judgment call on which my judgment simply differs. But to abandon the orthodox concept entirely seems to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Ken said...

Also, in perhaps the first time I will have ever agreed with Ken Temple, I think he is right about the linkage between hypostasis and the concept of gnome, which conveys individuality (although that term will also later take a different meaning in the monothelite controversy)

Thanks - do you know of books that go into this word "Gnome" and how it was transliterated into the Eastern languages? first Syriac/Assyrian, then Arabic and Farsi ?

Does this give us insight into why the eastern churches rejected the Chalcedonian definitions?

Does it give us insight into why the Egyptians (Coptic church) were so adamant and thinking they were honoring Cyril and Athanasius by rejecting the Chalcedonian definition?

David Waltz said...

Hi Dave,

You wrote:

>> But what I read of your remarks today (I was directed to them by Ken Temple), it was NOT Scripture alone that made you change your mind.>>

Me: I need to clarify: it was Scripture alone that got me out of the JWs, but it was my reading of the early CFs that moved me from a pre-Nicene doctrine of God (which is basically equal to the homoiousian or homoian position) to the homoousian position—and this was well before any contemplation on my part about creed/council/church infallibility. Along with my reading of the CFs, Harold O.J. Brown’s, Heresies – The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present, was influential.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks much for responding to my request. Of the list you provided, I have read Lewis Ayers’, Nicaea and Its Legacy; and John Behr’s, The Way to Nicaea.

Concerning Ayer’s, he wrote:

“In the years which followed Nicaea these bishops were to find that this was a matter still very much open to dispute. Nicaea’s terminology is thus a window onto the confusion and complexity of the early fourth-century theological debates, not a revelation that a definitive turning-point had been reached. My conclusions here are close to those of Richard Hanson…” (p. 92)

As for Behr, IMO, he offers nothing new, and it would be accurate to state that his work is a throw back to older patristic works that have been showing to be flawed (e.g., Harnack, Gwatkin, Prestige, etc.).

BTW, Dr. Michael Liccione did an excellent job in exposing Fr. Behr’s seriously flawed view of the development of doctrine in THIS POST.

As for the other works you listed, I will try to obtain them ASAP. (I do own Barnes’ Constantine and Eusebius, which I thoroughly enjoyed.)

Grace and peace,

David

Dave Armstrong said...

Must be nice to be able to buy all these expensive scholarly works [envious] . . .

Thank heavens for Google Reader . . . (and for used book sales and amazon used books).

CrimsonCatholic said...

I'm surprised that your read of Ayers is so different from mine. On the highly relevant point of substance, creation, and participation as a logical development of Logos theology, see Ch. 12, where Ayers explicitly takes issue with Hanson's conclusion that pro-Nicene theology replaced an earlier Logos theology, which is key to understand the mediating function of the nature/person categories that I outlined above. I take your assertion of a reversal between Nicaea and Constantinople as an explicit result of that reversal. ISTM that Ayers does an excellent job of chipping away at that mistaken understanding (politely, of course). I see Ayers as presenting good reasons for thinking that Ayers was wrong in the specific conclusion you cite, and while they are in general agreement on the facts, that is one area where they explicitly differ.

I agree that Behr overstates the case on the absence of development; that much should be clear from what I said above. My point is simply that there are many areas of logical consistency in the developments, so even if I don't agree with the ultimate conclusion, Behr still provides good support for the idea that this development was not in any way a reversal. Even if I don't agree with his ultimate conclusion (as I do with Ayers), various particular facts along the way appear to be sound.

Anyway, if you're willing to at least read through these critically (including particularly the disagreement with Hanson by Ayers), then there probably isn't much more I can do but wish you well on that endeavor. From a logical standpoint, though, I think Ayers has the upper hand on Hanson, and I'm a little surprised to see that shrugged off, or, for that matter, to see Mike Liccione's criticism accepted without accepting the belief on development that motivated it. This just seems hurried, and having seen this particular phenomenon a couple of times, I'd just encourage you to take your time and really go through the arguments in a structured way to see how robust the conclusion is. You've got time to be right.

CrimsonCatholic said...

Oops! "Ayers was wrong" should be "Hanson was wrong." I guess I should take my own advice on hurrying...

Acolyte4236 said...

David Waltz,

I have only been following the last few posts and conversations from a distance, but here are some suggestive questions that I think might help clear up some of the problems.

First, what does hypostasis mean for Aristotle and Middle and Late Platonists who used Aristotelian terms and categories? Do Aristotle and his commentators use hypostasis or substance in one and only one sense?

Second, you write that the consensus of the Fathers on Scripture is that it is inspired. How did you ascertain the consensus of the Fathers? And by inspired, did they all mean the same thing and if so, does that mean exactly what moderns mean by the term?

Third, I don’t know, but so far I haven’t seen a discussion of Athanasius’ Tomus ad Antiochenos here and the council of Alexandria in 362 A.D. Certainly Hanson as well as other scholars cover it (Kopecek, Ayres, et al.) and it seems quite germane to what is being claimed by you.

Fourth, it seems awfully strange to say that the majority of the Nicene bishops took the terms in a Sabellian sense, given that at the outset most of them were Semi-Arians of the homoiousian variety and were so out of concern over Sabellianism. And by semi-Arian I mean in the sense of Basil (the Great) who saw the error of Arianism but lacked the terminological apparatus to distinguish the persons without individuating the essence. This and the Sabellian worry goes to the pre-Nicene Hellenistic usage of terms that I mentioned above.

Fifth, you wrote that Ireneaus’ views on theosis have no current adherents. I’d beg to differ. The Orthodox certainly do. http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/contra-mundum-athanasius-and-the-lds-on-deification/

David Waltz said...

Hello Jonathan,

Thanks much for responding. Please forgive my somewhat tardy response, I took yesterday off from the computer and internet (just had too many things going on and did not want to get side-tracked). Anyway, I would like to now briefly respond to your Wednesday post—you wrote:

>>I'm surprised that your read of Ayers is so different from mine. On the highly relevant point of substance, creation, and participation as a logical development of Logos theology, see Ch. 12, where Ayers explicitly takes issue with Hanson's conclusion that pro-Nicene theology replaced an earlier Logos theology, which is key to understand the mediating function of the nature/person categories that I outlined above. I take your assertion of a reversal between Nicaea and Constantinople as an explicit result of that reversal. ISTM that Ayers does an excellent job of chipping away at that mistaken understanding (politely, of course). I see Ayers as presenting good reasons for thinking that Ayers was wrong in the specific conclusion you cite, and while they are in general agreement on the facts, that is one area where they explicitly differ.>>

Me: Ayres (not Ayers – wink) from my read (it has been well over 4 years now and I got the book through interlibrary loan due to the price—now that it is available much cheaper in pb, I will probably order it) agrees much more with Hanson than he disagrees. IMO, his disagreements with Hanson begin much earlier than chapter 12; I would argue that it is his understanding of Origen’s theology which lays the foundation for his upcoming disagreements with Hanson; and to be brutally honest, I have grave concerns with Ayres interpretation of Origen—I believe it is a ‘miss-step’ on his part.

>>I agree that Behr overstates the case on the absence of development; that much should be clear from what I said above. My point is simply that there are many areas of logical consistency in the developments, so even if I don't agree with the ultimate conclusion, Behr still provides good support for the idea that this development was not in any way a reversal. Even if I don't agree with his ultimate conclusion (as I do with Ayers), various particular facts along the way appear to be sound.>>

Me: I hope you do not think that I do not acknowledge “that there are many areas of logical consistency in the developments”, for I most certainly do; the creed promulgated at Constantinople in 381 is a “logical” development in my mind.

>>Anyway, if you're willing to at least read through these critically (including particularly the disagreement with Hanson by Ayers), then there probably isn't much more I can do but wish you well on that endeavor.>>

Me: Thanks Jonathan, I sincerely appreciate this.

>>From a logical standpoint, though, I think Ayers has the upper hand on Hanson, and I'm a little surprised to see that shrugged off, or, for that matter, to see Mike Liccione's criticism accepted without accepting the belief on development that motivated it.>>

Me: Perhaps in the near future, I will take the time to outline the difficulties I have with Ayres take on Origen, and how this affects (adversely) SOME of conclusions.

>>This just seems hurried, and having seen this particular phenomenon a couple of times, I'd just encourage you to take your time and really go through the arguments in a structured way to see how robust the conclusion is. You've got time to be right.>>

Me: I appreciate the advice, and shall embrace it—thanks again Jonathan.


God bless,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Perry,

So good to see you enter into the ongoing discussion(s); I am just now reading through your questions, once finished, will then head over to the thread you linked to, and then, the Lord willing, shall attempt to respond (hopefully later today, but it may be tomorrow).

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello Perry,

Finally have some ‘spare’ time to sit down and address the questions you posed to me—I shall do so in the order that they were asked, and one question per post.

>>First, what does hypostasis mean for Aristotle and Middle and Late Platonists who used Aristotelian terms and categories? Do Aristotle and his commentators use hypostasis or substance in one and only one sense?>>

Me: I concur with John Zizioulas, who wrote: “The history of the terms ‘substance’ (ousia) and ‘hypostasis’ is extremely complicated.” (Being As Communion, p. 38). Any assessment of the use of hypostasis prior to the Cappadocian ‘revolution’ should keep in mind Zizioulas’ broad assessment of the Greek and Roman philosophical schools inability “to create a true ontology of the person as an absolute concept”.

The combox is certainly not the place to elucidate the particulars of the use(s) of “hypostasis or substance” by “Aristotle and Middle and Late Platonists who used Aristotelian terms and categories” (and let’s not forgot the Stoics), so I will at this time state simply state that ousia and hypostasis are used in more than one “sense”. (IMHO, any comprehensive discussion on this issue should begin with Aristotle’s distinction between πρώτη ουσία and δευτέρα ουσία.)

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

>>Second, you write that the consensus of the Fathers on Scripture is that it is inspired. How did you ascertain the consensus of the Fathers? And by inspired, did they all mean the same thing and if so, does that mean exactly what moderns mean by the term?>>

Me: The consensus I spoke of has come via my own reading of the CFs, and from the assessment(s) of many patristic scholars. To summarize my take, the disputes between the various theological schools of the period that is usually termed, “the Arian controversy”, did not involve questions over the “inspiration” (or canon) of the Scriptures, but rather, the interpretation of the Scriptures.

As for precisely what the CFs understood inspiration to mean, I have never done a detailed study on this, but I do recall certain CFs stating the Scriptures are “divine”, “holy” “perfect”, “written by the Spirit of God”, “the work of the Holy Spirit”, “God’s Word”, et al.

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

>>Third, I don’t know, but so far I haven’t seen a discussion of Athanasius’ Tomus ad Antiochenos here and the council of Alexandria in 362 A.D. Certainly Hanson as well as other scholars cover it (Kopecek, Ayres, et al.) and it seems quite germane to what is being claimed by you.>>

Me: Not yet, but keep in mind, I have only just begun my reflections on councils. However, since you have raised the issue, for now, I would like to provide the following selection from Hanson:

==What gave an inevitable lack of balance to Athansius’ use of the word homoousios and his championship of it was his incapacity to define effectively what God is as Three in distinction from what he I as One…until he could come to terms with a theology which admitted the existence of three hypostases, and no longer regard the word hypostasis as a synonym for ousia, he could not fail to give the impression that he was in danger of falling into Sabellianism.

For Athanasius ousia is what God is, what makes God God. But what did hypostasis mean to him? We must answer, almost nothing. He avoids using the word as far as he can, and, at least till he wrote the Tomus ad Antichenos in 362, he treats is as a simple synonym of ousia. (Search, p. 444.)==

And interestingly enough, just a few years prior, in his De Decretis, Athanasius has the nerve to delete the term hypostasis from his “quote” of the Nicene Creed!

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

>>Fourth, it seems awfully strange to say that the majority of the Nicene bishops took the terms in a Sabellian sense, given that at the outset most of them were Semi-Arians of the homoiousian variety and were so out of concern over Sabellianism. And by semi-Arian I mean in the sense of Basil (the Great) who saw the error of Arianism but lacked the terminological apparatus to distinguish the persons without individuating the essence. This and the Sabellian worry goes to the pre-Nicene Hellenistic usage of terms that I mentioned above.>>

Me: I think you are probably referring to the following I posted earlier:

== Me: The Fathers who actually drafted the NC of 325 understood what THEY meant by the language they employed, so for them a Sabellian interpretation is not necessarily demanded. But, that solves nothing, for every other theological school of the day (including many of the bishops who attended Nicea and signed off on the NC) could not help but read the “not of a different hypostasis or ousia” clause in anything but a Sabellian sense.==

We must keep in mind that the majority of the bishops in circa 325 were anything but strict adherents of either Arius or Alexander, and those who attended Nicea and signed off on the NC did so for reasons (political and polemical) that had little to do with their actual theological beliefs. In the end, only two bishops stood with Arius. “All the rest saluted the emperor, signed the formula, and went right on teaching as they always had. In the case of most of them, this meant a doctrine of Christ somewhere between that of Arius and that of Alexander.” (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, p. 203.)

Many patristic scholars have pointed out that homoousian was probably included in the NC because Arius detested the term, and his opponents knew that he would not sign off on the NC if it was in it. They also knew that Arius’ had endorsed the use of three hypostases in reference to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; so, for polemical purposes, hypostases and ousia were equated to further combat Arius, even though this ‘opened the door’ for a Sabellian interpretation.

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

>>Fifth, you wrote that Ireneaus’ views on theosis have no current adherents. I’d beg to differ. The Orthodox certainly do. http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/contra-mundum-athanasius-and-the-lds-on-deification/>>

Me: We are discussing Irenaeus and not Athanasius [wink]. Two important distinctions between Irenaeus and Athanasius, concerning the doctrine of deification, must be noted: first, Irenaeus was a subordinationist, Athansius was not; and second, Irenaeus’ “exchange” doctrine/theory displayed no qualifications, Athanasius’ did.


Grace and peace,

David

CrimsonCatholic said...

Ayres (not Ayers – wink) from my read (it has been well over 4 years now and I got the book through interlibrary loan due to the price—now that it is available much cheaper in pb, I will probably order it) agrees much more with Hanson than he disagrees. IMO, his disagreements with Hanson begin much earlier than chapter 12; I would argue that it is his understanding of Origen’s theology which lays the foundation for his upcoming disagreements with Hanson; and to be brutally honest, I have grave concerns with Ayres interpretation of Origen—I believe it is a ‘miss-step’ on his part.

Did I tell you I was typing fast? Maybe when my son hits a month, I'll actually have the luxury of checking for typos. ;-)

I agree that there are disagreements throughout, but Chapter 12 really gets to the heart of it. As to Ayres on Origen, what helped me understand where Origen fit in was reading about Clement. Henny Fiska Hagg's _Clement of Alexandria and the Beginning of Christian Apophaticism_ presents a good explanation of Clement's metaphysical understanding and how it plays into subsequent theology better than Origen's. Remember that Plotinus and Origen both came after Clement and extended the speculation beyond Clement's basic framework. Those speculative developments in metaphysics, which were NOT followed by orthodoxy in many cases, were the roots of the heresy of Origenism. Ayres's assessment of Origen, particularly with regard to his Platonic cosmology ultimately being at odds with his orthodoxy and unmooring his allegorical Scriptural exegesis, seems to be exactly right. Clement's more Aristotelian Middle Platonism was far more compatible with orthodoxy in that regard.

Hagg rightly points out that most of the attacks on Clement (like Photios) involve interpreting him in terms of Origen, rather than reading him in his own right. What I found most interesting is that St. Maximus identifies Clement as being the first one to actually understand the difference between the faculty of will and its operation, obviously a key distinction for later orthodoxy. It's definitely worth taking a look at the metaphysical differences between Origen and his background (particularly Clement) before forming a definitive opinion on Origen's role, because you might be surprised at the results. While Origen had great influence, there are many cases where the influence appears to be an existing background that is much broader than Origen's particular metaphysical beliefs.

David Waltz said...

Hi Jonathan,

You wrote:

>>Did I tell you I was typing fast? Maybe when my son hits a month, I'll actually have the luxury of checking for typos. ;-)>>

Me: A newborn!?! My-oh-my, sincerely hope you are a young man, for I would wager that you are not getting much sleep !!! (BTW, congratulations…)

Thanks for the heads up on Hagg’s book; a good portion is available online—I think I will wait for the pb before I order it though. (FYI: ordered Ayres book last week so I can read it again.)

My turn to recommend a book: Peter Widdicombe’s, The Fatherhood of God from Origen to Athanasius.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

David and others:
Do you thing "monogenes" originally meant "one of a kind"/ "unique"/ "one and only" in the Biblical literature?

If so, what is the meaning in the creeds, "begotten, not made" ??

What does the "eternal begotten- ness" mean ?

How can anything in the eternal past, ie, the pure spiritual reality of the Tri-une God (Father, Son, and Spirit) be "begotten" into the past?

I am asking because I am trying to formulate how to explain to Muslims, who know about the Biblical meaning of monogenes (only; unique, one and only) vs. the creedal meaning; and seek to exploit this.

Ken said...

oops -

Do you thing "monogenes" originally meant . . .

should have been

Do you think . . . ?

Acolyte4236 said...

Hullo David,

I agree that the terms are complicated and so all the more caution should be used in putting a good amount of weight on them in an argument. My point was that the plurality of uses alone helps to account for terminological and hence some conceptual confusion. That of itself doesn’t imply that some of the respective parties didn’t have the same concept in mind or as a target all along. Nor does it imply any kind of conceptual development, but just that a specific term was refined and coined to mean this thing and no longer that thing. Natural languages work that way.


As for inspiration, the term “theological schools” gets thrown around a lot without much definition. It is hardly informative. That said, while the Arian controversy didn’t revolve around a specific view of inspiration, that doesn’t imply that the respective theological parties didn’t have their views of inspiration shaped by their distinctive theological commitments. And inspiration was most certainly in view in the earlier Adoptionist heresies as well as the post Nicene Nestorian heresy. It seems implausible to me that there is some common theory neutral concept of inspiration between the various parties. Moreover, you left untouched my question on how you ascertained in a principled way the patristic consensus.


When you say that you have only begun your reflections on the councils, does this mean in terms of what you are planning to post or in terms of thinking the matter through? In either case to ignore Athanasius Tomus seems to leave a significant gap in the argument that you appear to be presenting.

As for Hanson’s work, simply quoting Hanson doesn’t establish what he says. This is true for any scholar. What does is the argument. I don’t think that a lack of “balance” (whatever that is supposed to mean) is present by Athanasius’ inability to define what God is since I don’t think God is definable. Hence I do not share Hanson’s implicit premise and I doubt that Athanasius did as well. Second, it is quite understandable why given the earlier use of hypostasis in terms of an actual essence he would have to carve out the terminological space. But it is something of a leap to argue from the need to carve out terminological space to conceptual space. I can know what I mean without being able to express it for a time. The inability to do the latter doesn’t of itself imply the vacuity with respect to the former. Something similar happens with the Nestorians with theopoiesis and the shift to theosis. In any case, what is in play here between Hanson’s assessment and Athanasius’ thought is in part a theory of language. But that aside, as Hanson himself argues, most bishops were not trained in philosophy and so it is quite understandable why there was semantic confusion. It is quite possible to use terms meaningfully while getting the referent wrong.

Acolyte4236 said...

David, (cont.)

I quite agree that the majority weren’t adherents of Arius or Alexander in terms of the terms of the debate at the outset. That is just evidence of their Modalistic and Adoptionistic worries that the terms of each side seemed to imply. But when they heard what the Arians were in fact advocating they swung over to the Alexandrian side and not out of any sympathy with Sabellianism. They may not have been clear on how it wasn’t Sabellian, but that of itself proves nothing one way or the other. The fact that most of them “went on” being semi-Arian in the sense that I sketched above seems to support the idea that while endorsing the Alexandrian party, they did so without endorsing a Sabellian view even in cases where they may not have been sure how to articulate how it wasn’t Sabellian.

As for theosis, it is important in the post that I referred you to, to note that I cited Ireneaus to show conceptual convergence with Athanasius. Secondly, I don’t grant the two distinctions you with to draw. First, Athanasius at times speaks of the Son as generated by the Father’s will. Granted he doesn’t say it often, but he does say it. Does that make Athanasius a “subordinationist?” I don’t think so and I don’t think it makes Ireneaus one, at least not in the sense that say Justin seems to have a problematic subdorinationalism. Second, even if true, it wouldn’t imply that their views of theosis in fact differed. It might imply that they should have and that one was inconsistent, but that requires a demonstration and in any case leaves my point above untouched in terms of what they in fact taught.

I also noted in that post that Ireneaus essentially qualifies his “exchange” view in the same way that Athansius does, namely no transfer of the divine essence. So this is why I referred you to it so you could read the text ;)

David Waltz said...

Hello Ken and Perry,

Once again, Blogger has failed to inform me of all the new posts—Perry’s last two posts showed up in my emails, but Ken’s did not—Blogger’s new post(s) email alert continues to be ‘hit-and-miss’…

Anyway, with that said, I would like to address Ken’s new post before Perry’s; I need to brush up a bit on some of the past research I have done on the term “monogenēs” before I respond, so please patient with me.

Perry: I somehow missed the quote from Irenaeus you made reference to in your last post; could you provide the book, chapter, paragraph?


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

On the 22nd, you posted the following:

>>Do you thing "monogenes" originally meant "one of a kind"/ "unique"/ "one and only" in the Biblical literature?>>

Me: The above definition(s) has certainly become the majority opinion of NT lexical scholars; however, not ALL are convinced that “begotten” should be dropped. For instance, Büchsel in his entry on “μονογενης” in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (pp. 737-741), writes that the apostle John, “understands the concept of sonship in terms of begetting”, and that “μονογενης probably includes also begetting by God”.

Then there is the very interesting observations made by Gordon H. Clark in his book, The Trinity. In pages 119-121, he critiques J. Oliver Buswell’s speculations (from his Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion), writing:

“…when Dr. Buswell says that the Greek fathers did not know as much Greek as we do, it must surprise the student to learn that Athanasius and a hundred Greek bishops, whose mother tongue was Greek, knew less Greek than we do, and in particular did not know that monogenēs is derived from ginomai rather from gennaō. Even so, the two verbs are themselves derived from an earlier common stem. At any rate, the genes in monogenēs derives immediately from genos. This word as a matter of fact suggests begetting and generation, as much as if it had been derived from gennaō.” (Page 120.)


>>If so, what is the meaning in the creeds, "begotten, not made" ??>>

Me: I suppose scholars can present plausible arguments for excluding “begotten” in the NT usage, but I have never been convinced that one can do so with the early creeds. I think Clark is absolutely correct here.

>>What does the "eternal begotten- ness" mean ?

How can anything in the eternal past, ie, the pure spiritual reality of the Tri-une God (Father, Son, and Spirit) be "begotten" into the past?>>

Me: The complexity of the “eternal begetting/generation” of the Son of God is evidenced by the fact that it is still being hotly debated by modern Trinitarians. I first came upon the denial of eternal Sonship (i.e. begetting/generation) back in early 80s via the writings of Walter Martin. In his Kingdom of the Cults he explicitly denies the doctrine of “eternal generation”, and states that it, “springs from the Roman Catholic doctrine first conceived by Origen” (p. 117 – 1985 ed.). Interestingly enough, John MacArthur has reversed his position on this issue: SEE THIS ARTICLE.


>>I am asking because I am trying to formulate how to explain to Muslims, who know about the Biblical meaning of monogenes (only; unique, one and only) vs. the creedal meaning; and seek to exploit this.>>

Me: A difficult task for sure. The denials of eternal Sonship/generation by some Trinitarians such as Buswell and Martin, the autotheos speculations concerning the Son by Calvin (and many of his followers), and subordinationism of the pre-Nicene Fathers, certainly speak to the complexity of this issue. I sincerely hope you will share your efforts in this matter with me…


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

David,
Thank you so much for this discussion - most of what you have written I knew or have seen before - I remember reading somewhere years ago that Gordon Clark quote and I thank you for digging it out again.

I am just asking questions the way the Iranian former Muslims do and the way other Muslims have on this issue - in order to help me improve how to talk about this issue. Listening to Muslim-Christian debates on the Trinity also conjure up these thoughts in me: "how would I explain that?".

But monogenes in Hebrews 11:17 is used of Isaac, and since Abraham had other sons - namely Ishmael, it does seem like "unique" or "one of a kind" is the right meaning.

Also, it is the word in the LXX for "lonely", "all alone" several times. Dr. White points this out in his book, The Forgotten Trinity.

What does "eternal begotten-ness" mean in the creeds? (since it is talking about Jesus' nature before the incarnation - what does "generated" or "begotten" mean? - is it like "rays coming out from the sun"? Didn't Origen come up with that? (seems like I read that somewhere also.)

In Luke 1:34-35, the Scripture says, "for this reason" He is called the Son of God - what reason?
- because of the Power of the Most High and the Holy Spirit that would come upon and overshadow Mary. It is all spiritual and invisible before the conception. He is born from the virgin Mary, and that seems to be the emphasis on Jesus as the Son of God; that God was His Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. (no physical relationship - not as some of the Mormon leaders have explained their doctrine of the incarnation)

Interesting that you talk about "ginomai" (become) and gennao (to be born or give birth) as both coming from "genos" ( kind, generation) - do you think Genesis 1 helps us here ? __ the phrase "according to their kinds" is repeated 11 times in that chapter. "God said" (creative word), "and it was so" (they became) and "they were created, "according to their kinds" (they naturally have offspring, children)

How can Jesus, before the incarnation be a "Son" ?- must be a spiritual son - emanating out from the Father. (like rays from the Sun again is conjured up by "eternally past generated")

These are the kinds of comments and questions I have gotten for the last 26 years from Muslims (Arabs, Iranians, Turks) and for the last 16 from Iranians and former Iranians who struggle with the Trinity and the eternal son-ship of Christ.

When the Scripture says, "You are My Son, today I have begotten You" - Psalm 2:7, Hebrews 1:5; 5:5, Acts 13:33, the word "today" seems to be referring to time, and His incarnation and entering into time.

The eternal logos (the word) is easier to explain to Muslims and former Muslims. But without the Father and Son terminology, the personal relationship aspects of the love within the Trinity are lost or dimished.

Is the reason God chose to use the words "Father" and "Son" to reveal Himself to us is because they help us humans understand the close relationship they have with each other in the Trinity?

That is usually what I say to Iranians in discipleship classes and getting deeper with their sincere questions.

Thanks again.

I would appreciate your thoughts on the Sun and rays question and was that illustration from Origen?

I went back and read Walter Martin's take on it. He also says the Biblical meaning was ignored from 100 Ad to 230 AD as Origen was the first to come up that.

David Waltz said...

Hello again Ken,

Don’t want you to think that I am ignoring your last post, quite the contrary; in fact, I am deeply engaged in research for a new post on the eternal generation of the Son. Hopefully, the Lord willing, I will have a substantial post up by Saturday (Monday at the latest).


God bless,

David


P.S. Perry, I have put your last posts on the ‘back-burner’ for the present, but plan to return to them after my upcoming thread on the eternal generation of the Son.

David Waltz said...

Hello Ken,

I finally finished the post, mentioned earlier, that I had started working on concerning monogenēs and eternal generation:

HERE

Sincerely hope that you find it relevant.


Grace and peace,

David

Acolyte4236 said...

David,

I apologize for the delay but I have been occupied with joustin elsewhere.

Here are two relevant passages from Irenaeus.

"Wherefore also the light which is from God does not illumine them, because they have dishonoured and despised God, holding Him of small account, because, through His love and infinite benignity, He has come within reach of human knowledge (knowledge, however, not with regard to His greatness, or with regard to His essence—for that has no man measured or handled—but after this sort: that we should know that He who made, and formed, and breathed in them the breath of life, and nourishes us by means of the creation, establishing all things by His Word, and binding them together by His Wisdom..." Against Heresies, 3.24.2

"There is therefore one God, who by the Word and Wisdom created and arranged all things; but this is the Creator (Demiurge) who has granted this world to the human race, and who, as regards His greatness, is indeed unknown to all who have been made by Him (for no man has searched out His height, either among the ancients who have gone to their rest, or any of those who are now alive); but as regards His love, He is always known through Him by whose means He ordained all things. Now this is His Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the last times was made a man among men, that He might join the end to the beginning, that is, man to God. Wherefore the prophets, receiving the prophetic gift from the same Word, announced His advent according to the flesh, by which the blending and communion of God and man took place according to the good pleasure of the Father, the Word of God foretelling from the beginning that God should be seen by men, and hold converse with them upon earth, should confer with them, and should be present with His own creation, saving it, and becoming capable of being perceived by it, and freeing us from the hands of all that hate us, that is, from every spirit of wickedness; and causing us to serve Him in holiness and righteousness all our days,in order that man, having embraced the Spirit of God, might pass into the glory of the Father." Ibid, 4.20.4.

nilesh mahapatra said...

I'm not really qualified to get involved in this discussion, but I have been trying to follow it, and I find myself a bit confused by the following: