Tuesday, March 27, 2012
5 propositions concerning God and the Godhead, as related to John Henry (Cardinal) Newman's reflections on the patristic doctrine of the Trinity
In the combox of the previous thread (link), I provided a selection from an important essay of John Henry Newman ("The Causes of the Rise and Success of Arianism") , which he penned back in 1872 (seven years prior to his being made a Cardinal).
Subsequent to that posting of mine, Dave Armstrong, who was laboring under the impression that I, "seem[ed] to see a contradiction between Newman's statement of 1833 and his later 1872 observations" (I did not, nor do not), provided further selections from the same essay, selections that contain nothing I would disagree with. In fact, I went back and reread the essay, and I can say with a high degree of confidence, that I agree with at least 90% of the entire treatment. Now, before 'digging deeper' into this essay, I would like to provide a couple of links to online (and free) sources for it:
TRACTS - Theological and Ecclesiastical (1895 edition)
TRACTS - Theological and Ecclesiastical (Newman Reader)
[Throughout the rest of this opening post, I will be using the 1895 edition of the essay, which is identical in content and page numbers, with my 1974 printed copy.]
What I hope to accomplish in the rest of this thread is an apologia of sorts concerning my position on theology proper (i.e. the doctrine of God), and where I might be at odds with what Newman presented in his essay (I say might, because the difference/s may boil down to mere semantics, though I believe it runs deeper). The following is my position in 5 propositions:
I. There is but one God, the Father.
II. There are in the Godhead three (not mere names or modes) truly distinct persons (hypostases)—the Father, the Son or Word of God and the Holy Ghost.
III. These three Persons are 'one' in ousia, essence ('one' used here in a generic sense)—i.e. the three Persons are ὁμοούσιος (homoousios), not μονοούσιος (monoousios).
IV. There is but one beginning/cause (μοναρχία, monarchia), one font/fountain or principle of Divinity (πηγὴ θεότητος), God the Father, Who alone is aὐτόθεος, God of and from Himself; the Son and Holy Spirit deriving their Divinity (ousia, essence) and personhood from Him; the Son by generation, and the Holy Spirit by procession.
V. Because the Son and Holy Spirit derive both their Divinity (ousia, essence) and personhood (hypostasis), from God the Father, this derivation is not limited only to the person of the Father, or the Divinity of the Father; but rather, from both the person and Divinity of the Father.
Now, let's turn to what Newman penned:
No subject was more constantly and directly before the Christian intellect in the first centuries of the Church than the doctrine of the Monarchia. That there was but one First Principle of all things was a fundamental doctrine of all Catholics, orthodox and heterodox alike; and it was the starting-point of heterodox as well as of orthodox speculation. To the orthodox believer, however, it brought with it a perplexity, which it did not occasion to the adherents of those shallow systems which led to heresy. Christianity began its teaching by denouncing polytheism as absurd and wicked; but the retort on the part of the polytheist was obvious:—Christianity taught a Divine Trinity: how was this consistent with its profession of a Monarchy? on the other hand, if there was a Divine Monarchia, how was not Sabellius right in denying the distinction of Persons in the Divine Essence? or, if not Sabellius, then Arius, who degraded Son and Spirit to the condition of creatures? Polytheists, Sabellians, Arians, it might be objected, had more to say for themselves in this matter than Catholics.
Catholic theologians met this difficulty, both before and after the Nicene Council, by insisting on the unity of origin, which they taught as existing in the Divine Triad, the Son and Spirit having a communicated divinity from the Father, and a personal unity with Him; the Three Persons being internal to the Divine Essence, unlike the polytheism of the Greeks and Romans, the tritheism of Marcion and the Manichees, and the Archical Hypostases of Plotinus. Thus Hippolytus says: "I say, 'Another,' not two Gods, but as light from light, as water from a spring, or a ray from the sun." And Hilary, in the fourth century, confirms him, saying, "The Father does not lose His attribute of being the One God, because the Son also is God, for the Son is God from God, One from One, therefore One God, because God from Himself." De Trin. iv. 15. And Athanasius, "We preserve One Origin of Divinity, and not two Origins, whence there is properly a Monarchy." Orat. iv. I.
It was for the same reason that the Father was called God absolutely, while the Second and Third Persons were designated by Their personal names of "the Son," or "the Word," and "the Holy Ghost;" viz. because they are to be regarded, not as separated from, but as inherent in the Father. (John Henry Newman, ("The Causes of the Rise and Success of Arianism", in TRACTS - Theological and Ecclesiastical, 1895, pp. 167-168 - bold emphasis mine.)
So far, so good, the above exposition/s denies modalism, polytheism, and " the Archical Hypostases of Plotinus".
It is what immediately follows, that is a bit troublesome to me (we may be dealing merely with semantic difference/s, but I suspect it is more than that):
In this enunciation of the august Mystery they were supported by the usage of Scripture, and by the nature of the case; since the very notion of a Father carries with it a claim to priority and precedence in the order of our ideas, even when in no other respect he has any superiority over those on whom he has this claim. There is One God then, they would say, "not only because the Three Persons are in one usia, or substance (though this reason is good too), but because the Second and Third stand to the First in the relation of derivation, and therefore are included in their Origin as soon as named; so that, in confessing One Father or Origin, we are not omitting, but including, those Persons whom the very name of the One Father or Origin necessarily implies." At the same time it is plain, that this method of viewing the Unity as centered in its Origin, and the Monarchia as equivalent to the Monas, might be perverted into a Semi-Arian denial of the proper divinity of Son and Spirit, if ever They were supposed, by reason of Their derivation, to be emanations, and therefore external to the Essence of the Father.
Nor is this all that has to be said upon this point. St. John translates our Lord's words (for the vernacular in which He spoke can only be conjectured), "I and the Father are one," by the neuter "Unum;" and he himself, if the passage be his, says: "These Three are one (unum)." In like manner Tertullian says: "They are all one (unum), by unity of substance." Other Fathers say the same. But this use of the neuter had this inconvenience, that it seemed to imply a fourth reality in the Divine Being, over and above the Three Persons, of which the Three Persons partook; as if the Divine Unity were a physical whole; or, if not that, a logical species, which implies Tritheism. This is what the Antiochene Fathers, in the case of Paulus, seem to have feared would follow from the use of the word homoüsion, which in consequence they put aside; and we may understand their feeling on the subject, from the harshness with which Eusebius's statement falls upon the ear, when, in the passage quoted above, p. 157, he speaks of the Triad as attached or belonging to (ἐξηρτημένη) One Divine Nature. (Ibid. p. 169, 170 - bold emphasis mine.)
I detect a very subtle expansion of what the terms "One God" and "Monarchia" originally meant—a 'door' is opened', so to speak, for the advent of the 'traditional' Latin/Western view of the Trinity—it seems that God the Father is no longer, "God absolutely", but rather, that the "One God" now includes the Son and the Holy Sprit; the clear distinction between the "One God" (a person) and the 'Godhead' (essence/nature), is becoming somewhat 'blurred'.
This "subtle expansion", becomes more definitive with a change made by Augustine. Newman (pages 169-172) notes that the Latin used to translate "one" in the Biblical phrase, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30), was the neuter unum, which is in line with the Greek, ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν (ἕν also being neuter). Tertullian also used the neuter unum when writing on the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, Augustine changed the neuter unum to the masculine unus. Newman continues with:
The subtlety of inquiry which is demanded by this high theological dogma is the consequence of the fundamental mystery that the Three Persons are Each really identical with the One Divine Essence, that is, Each really and entirely God, yet Each really distinct from the Other. However it is plain that to view the Person of the Father as the same as the Divine Essence, and to refer the Son and the Spirit to Him as the representative of that Divine Essence, was to ascribe a Monarchia or Principatus to the Father in a very emphatic way, and a sort of subordination to the Son and the Spirit, which, scriptural though it was, became a handle to Semi-Arianism, or even a suggestion of it. Therefore, I believe it was that, after the experience of that heresy, for Tertullian's "The Three are Unum," which was inconvenient on the one side, was substituted by St. Augustine, not "The Three are summed up in the First of them," which was inconvenient on the other, but the phrase "The Three are Unus," in which "unus" stands indeterminately for Either of the Three, somewhat in the sense of an individuum vagum. (Ibid. p. 172 - bold emphasis mine.)
And there it is, the subtle, but fundamental change from the unity (unum; ἕν ἐσμεν ) being grounded in the Divinity (ousia, essence) which has its sole source in/from God the Father, Who alone is aὐτόθεος, God of and from Himself—which said Divinity (ousia, essence) the Son and Holy Spirit possess by derivation—to, "The Three are Unus."
It sure seems to me that this change was a corruption, and not a legitimate development of doctrine; but, I could be wrong (though I doubt it), and am willing to listen to those who may differ with my assessment.
Grace and peace,