Thursday, January 6, 2011
In the recent Articuli Fidei thread, The Trinity: a 'clear; Biblical teaching, or a post-Biblical development?, one of the tributaries that the combox headed down was a robust discussion concerning the Eastern Orthodox understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. Posts and links concerning the reflections of three modern era EO theologians (Behr, Hopko, and Myendorff) were provided and discussed; however, much remains in this genre (IMHO), and I would like to continue the dialogue in this new thread, beginning with the following from the pen of Iohannes/John, which he posted back on January 3, 2011:
Since the discussion here is going in different directions, would you prefer to make your next comment into a new post? I'd be very interested in your take on Meyendorff. His use of agency language, by the way, is very similar to Hopko's, who quotes S. Ireneaus on the Word and Spirit as the Father's hands.
Blessings in Christ,
PS the full text of Meyendorff is accessible here.
The above post followed selections provided by John and myself from the book, Byzantine Theology - Historical Trends & Doctrinal Themes (Dr. John Meyendorff, 1974, 1979 - LINK TO ONLINE EXCEPTS). To provide context for my upcoming comments on Meyendorff (as requested by John), I would first, like to once again, produce those selections:
==...from Fr. John Meyendorff's Byzantine Theology, p 183.
By accepting Nicaea, the Cappadocian Fathers eliminated the ontological subordinationism of Origen and Arius, but they preserved indeed together with their understanding of hypostatic life, a Biblical and Orthodox subordinationism, maintaining the personal identity of the Father as the ultimate origin of all divine being and action.==
==...the incarnate Logos and the Holy Spirit are met and experienced first as divine agents of salvation, and only then are they discovered to be essentially one God. It is well known that, during the theological debates of the fourth century, the Cappadocian Fathers were accused of tritheism, so that Gregory of Nyssa was even obliged to issue his famous apologetic treatise proving that "there are not three gods." It remains debatable, however, whether he succeeded in proving his point philosophically. The doctrine of the three hypostases, adopted by the Cappadocian Fathers to designate the three divine Persons had definite Plotinian and Origenistic associations, which normally implied substantial differentiation.==(John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology - Historical Trends & Doctrinal Themes, 1983 reprint, pp. 180, 181.)
A bit later:
==The Latin West adopted a different approach to Trinitarian theology, and the contrast has been well expressed by Théodore de Régnon: "Latin philosophy considers the nature in itself first and proceeds to the agent; Greek philosophy considers the agent first and passes through it to find the nature. The Latins think of personality as a mode of nature, the Greeks think of nature as the content of the person."==(Ibid. p. 181.)
The above selections point to one of the primary distinctions between the Augustinian/Latin/Western (ALW) understanding of the Trinity and that of the Byzantine/Greek/Eastern (BGE) churches: the former places an emphasis on the one divine nature, while the latter on the agent/person. This emphasis has led to a finer distinction, namely, that the ALW view understands the phrase "the one God" with reference to the Trinity and/or divine essence, while in the BGE view, it is God the Father alone who "the one God".
Fr. Thomas Hopko in his podcast, "The Holy Trinity" (LINK) made the above distinction quite clear; at the 12:40ff mark he said:
The one God is NOT the Holy Trinity...The one God is God the Father.
Now, contrast Fr. Hopko with the following that Ken Temple (a Reformed Baptist) recently wrote:
The only God is the Trinity, the One God in nature/substance/essence, who has always existed in eternity past, three persons in a perfect love relationship.(LINK)
It sure seems to this beachbum that the supposed adherent of sola scriptura is relying much more on tradition here than our Eastern Orthodox father...
Grace and peace,