Saturday, November 10, 2012

Questions concerning the Monarchy of God the Father


During the past couple of years, I have produced over a dozen threads focusing on the doctrine of the 'Monarchy of  God the Father' (link to germane threads).

There seems to be a growing number of Christians who are embracing this important doctrine, having discerned the early Church Fathers and councils retained the clear Biblical teaching, and that beginning in the late 4th century, there was a movement away from the established teaching of the Monarchy of God Father to the Monarchy of an essence/ousia—i.e. the 'one God' of the Bible and early Church was no longer a person, but a thing/what.

For sometime now, I have been pondering over what additional assistance could be provided to those who have taken the time to read through the threads linked to above (threads which have included links to important contributions made by others—e.g. Ryan and Drake), but have not yet embraced the important doctrine of the Monarchy of God the Father; and yesterday, the thought of a body of pointed questions came to mind. I have chosen the following questions—with relevant Biblical references—for interested persons to reflect on.

Does/is the 'One God' of the Bible:

Owe their existence to another? (John 5:26; 6:57)

Do the 'will' of another? (John 5:30; 6:38)

'Taught' by another? (John 5:19; 8:28; 12:49)

'Sent' by another? (John 5:30, 36; 12:49; 14:26)

The 'image' of another? (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3)

Have a 'God'? (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 20:17; 1 Cor. 3:23; 11:3; Rev. 3:2, 12)
 

To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.


Grace and peace,

David

25 comments:

Ryan said...

A series of posts focusing on biblical support for the doctrine would definitely be a good idea. While the doctrine of the Trinity is a pretty clear instance of progressive revelation, I am wondering, given our privileged status of being able to know the whole canon of Scripture, if you think there are any indications of the Monarchy of the Father in the OT and, if so, which those would be.

For instance, our being able to identify Jesus as the angel of Jehovah would be, in my mind, one such indication, as the Son is at once distinguished from Jehovah and is further said to be His messenger.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ryan,

Thanks much for taking the time the comment. In your post you wrote:

==A series of posts focusing on biblical support for the doctrine would definitely be a good idea.==

Agreed. Drake and I have provided a number of pertinent Biblical texts in support of the doctrine of the Monarchy of God the Father, but we have yet to provide an actual series devoted to this genre.

==While the doctrine of the Trinity is a pretty clear instance of progressive revelation, I am wondering, given our privileged status of being able to know the whole canon of Scripture, if you think there are any indications of the Monarchy of the Father in the OT and, if so, which those would be.==

I touch a bit on this in the following two threads:

The Messiah: King, Prophet, Priest, Lord and God

Back to the Bible

==For instance, our being able to identify Jesus as the angel of Jehovah would be, in my mind, one such indication, as the Son is at once distinguished from Jehovah and is further said to be His messenger.==

The "angel of Jehovah" is a complex and deep subject; which, as you probably know, has produced a number of varied interpretations.

Personally, I am convinced that the "angel of Jehovah" is the pre-incarnate Son of God. I also believe the same holds true for Michael the Archangel; a position which a number of Reformed folk have embraced—e.g. John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, David Chilton.

IMO, when studying this topic (i.e. the OT and the Monarchy of God the Father), Philo's reflections need to be taken seriously.

I also think you may find the following book of interest:

Two Powers In Heaven

Anyway, thanks again for your post. Would like to know if you have any further suggestions concderning a Biblical series on this issue.


Grace and peace,

David

Ryan said...

Thanks for the links. The second one was especially helpful.

Ken said...

Ryan,
What did you think of what I wrote in those threads?
Ken T.

Ken said...

I meant the "Back to the Bible" threads and links and com boxes on those.

Ryan said...

Ken,

I would not presume to respond to each and every argument you made in a comment thread of that size, but having myself just completed a 500+ comment thread on facebook with a number of other Calvinists, I can say I disagree with the mainstream Reformed position for reasons I mention in the posts on my blog to which David linked in the OP (among others). I suspect the main areas of disagreement would be:

- I don't think the Scriptural use of the word "God" ever designates a set of attributes (cf. Berhof, Clark, etc). I certainly don't think persons are predicable of natures, so I would object to using terminology like "Triune God" or "God is three persons." Rather, I think it can either mean 1) a "divine person" in general or 2) the Father in particular, insofar as He is preeminent among the divine persons as the sole one who is autotheos. I think that "God" has various meanings is evident in the fact Jesus is referred to as the Son of God; obviously, Jesus is not the Son of Himself, and yet in another sense He is God. I'm a Trinitarian because there are three divine persons, monotheist because there is one Father.

- I don't think the Son or Spirit are autotheos or self-existent, though each are divine. Rather, I think that the Father communicates the divine nature to each in eternal generation and procession in a manner analogous but obviously not strictly parallel to a human father's generation of a son. This was the primary objection I faced when I discussed with other Calvinists, some of whom ended up agreeing with me, others who were, shall we say, less than pleased with me. They argued aseity and being autotheos were divine attributes rather than a personal property of the Father. But I think a subordination of the persons of the Son and Spirit to the person of the Father according to the manner in which each may be said to possess a divine nature is the best way to account for the fact Scripture refers to the Father alone as the "one" or "only true" God.

- I don't think the persons of the Trinity share one "being," a word which is perhaps too vague for a discussion which requires exactitude. Rather, I think the persons share a common genus. The Father, Son, and Spirit are each divine in the same sense you, David, and I are each human; that is, of each of us, a set of attributes may be predicated according to which we may each be called species of the genus "divine" or "human." Thus, I advocate generic unity rather than Augustinian numeric unity. Each person of the Trinity has His own mind, will, moral character, etc., just like you, David, and I do.

We can discuss particular passages if you like, though. The "I AM" passages were also appealed to quite a bit in the discussions I have had, and yet as David points out in the OP, one of the passages you use to support that Jesus is the "I AM" says in the same sentence that Jesus was taught by the Father (John 8:28). On the other hand, I am not necessarily opposed to the argument that Jesus can bear this or any other name usually designated of the Father (e.g. YHWH) insofar as He is the perfect image of the Father whom He represents to us - just as a messenger can come in the name of His king - but in these cases we would have to distinguish between the proper and improper or derivative attribution of them. Further, I am not sure that "I AM" implies self-existence. Might it not simply imply eternality? I don't know Greek.

Anyway, it makes far more sense to me that monotheism is true because "the Father is the "one" or "only true" God" - a statement which you would, I think, agree is true, though we might think it means something different - than the idea monotheism is true because there is one single set of attributes which three persons somehow share.

Iohannes said...

David,

Thanks for the post - these are some great questions.

Ryan,

What you've described is my position as well. This was very interesting to hear:

They argued aseity and being autotheos were divine attributes rather than a personal property of the Father.

That was the major premise for Eunomianism according to St. Gregory the Theologian. I've thought it curious that Eunomius and Calvin had the same starting point, but the former reasoned from Jesus not being ingenerate to his not being God, whereas Calvin in effect reasoned from his being God to his being ingenerate.

Regarding this:

Each person of the Trinity has His own mind, will, moral character, etc., just like you, David, and I do.

I believe that's true, but with the qualification that whereas several men are only contingently harmonious in mind and will, it is otherwise with the divine persons. From a philosophical standpoint, it would seem three infinities could not co-exist should they ever be at odds; and from a theological standpoint, it would be strange to think God's own Logos or Spirit could be at variance with God.

In Christ,
John

Ryan said...

John,

"That was the major premise for Eunomianism according to St. Gregory the Theologian. I've thought it curious that Eunomius and Calvin had the same starting point, but the former reasoned from Jesus not being ingenerate to his not being God, whereas Calvin in effect reasoned from his being God to his being ingenerate."

That is interesting.

I had a recent discussion with a Roman Catholic who argued that the Son and Spirit both had or have, like the Father, the abilities to generate or spirate - he thought that they would otherwise be less divine than the Father, which I pointed out presupposed that generation and spiriation are attributes - but simply freely chose and choose not to exercise such. I thought this strange because it implies that the Father could have chosen not to generate the Son or spirate the Spirit.

"I believe that's true, but with the qualification that whereas several men are only contingently harmonious in mind and will, it is otherwise with the divine persons."

Agreed.

"From a philosophical standpoint, it would seem three infinities could not co-exist should they ever be at odds; and from a theological standpoint, it would be strange to think God's own Logos or Spirit could be at variance with God."

I am not settled on divine infinity yet. Drake doesn't believe it, but math is a complex subject.

Justin said...

John,

Do you recall where in his writings Gregory mentions that point?

sovereignlogos said...

David, Ryan, & Drake (if you're reading), how do/would you respond to the charge of Unitarianism?

Iohannes said...

Ryan,

My recollection could be off, but I seem to remember Al Kimel saying once that there is an orthodox sense in which the Father chooses eternally to beget the Son. I'm not sure how that works; any reasoning about choice and necessity within the godhead quickly becomes complicated.

Justin,

The passage is Or. 29.15, but the NPNF translation is rather convoluted. To get the sense, it may help to consult AJ Mason's commentary on the Greek text. What I called the major premise is not literally that in the Eunomian argument as Gregory reconstructs it.

徐马可 said...

Hi Sovereignlogos,

This is my take on your question.

I think it depends on the meaning of Unitarianism, if it simply means the One God is only One person but not a complex notion of three persons, they I think David and Drake will agree with me (don't know Ryan), that we are Unitarians in this sense. Maybe even many of our opponents who generally will say God speaking essential is one person.

But it appears to me Unitarianism rather implies that Lord Jesus is a mere man, who started to exist at the time of his conception, and they only allow one person to be divine (really to me is the same position of our opponents, who is no different than the old Sabellienism). We are in no wise Unitarians in that sense.

If they charge me of Unitarianism on the first sence, I will use Bible to defend myself, showing them all these exclusive texts with personal pronouns (I, thou, he).

Thanks,

Mark

Ryan said...

Patrick,

I more or less agree with Mark. Recall what I said to Claudio when he asked me how I would respond if someone accused me of tritheism for believing that of each of the persons of the Trinity the set of attributes associated with deity may be univocally but distinctly predicated:

//Tritheism is a word. It only needs to scare us if it is juxtaposed with an orthodox doctrine like monotheism. When someone accuses you of believing God is the author of sin, what should you do? Make them explain what they mean. What does it mean to author sin?//

So what does Unitarianism mean? If Sean et. al. want to peg a label on me - Drakianism, Unitarianism, etc. - I don't really care. It's cheap shots unless they accurately represent and address my arguments.

But I wouldn't refer to myself as a Unitarian; there are too many possible misinterpretations. When I say I am a Trinitarian and monotheist, I explain what that means:

//I'm a Trinitarian because there are three divine persons, monotheist because there is one Father.//

David Waltz said...

Hi Patrick,

IMO, Mark and Ryan have provided well reasoned responses to your question, to which, I would like to add my own thoughts...

From a historical perspective, no competent patristic scholar would never 'label' the numerous 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century Church Fathers who espoused the same position that Mark, Ryan and myself embrace (i.e. the Monarchy of God the Father and a Godhead composed of 3 divine persons) as "Unitarian"—I think that this is very important to keep in mind when one attempts to 'label' us modern folk who duplicate so many of the early Church Fathers on this issue.


Grace and peace,

David

Drake Shelton said...

Patrick,

I agree with Mark but too add just a few words here: The Unitarians make the same mistake that the Latin and Eastern Sabellians make,and that is, they see their one God to refer to nature instead of the hypostasis of the Father. There truly is no other fountain in the history of Christianity where you will see my view most accurately represented, but in the Nicene and Pre-Nicene Fathers.

sovereignlogos said...

Thanks gents.

PMcW

Drake Shelton said...

David,

I have come across something that I thought was interesting:

When the plural elohim is used with a singular verb some say it is to be translated in the singular "God." When it is used with a plural verb some say it is to be translated in the plural "Gods."

Moses used elohim with a plural verb in Genesis 20:13.

Abraham speaking:

And it came to pass, when the "Gods" [as some render it] caused (plural verb) me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your kindness that you should do for me: in every place, wherever we go, say of me, “He is my brother.” ’ ”

The "Gods"[as some render it] that caused Abraham to wander are identified as YHWH, Genesis 12:1:-9.

I am still trying to determine how the plural verb has anything to do with it, but as Calvin and the Gesenius's Lexicon
http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H430&t=KJV

(2)-(B),

explain, this does not refer to distinct divine persons but powers. Now with the Latin West's affirmation of ADS, that there is no distinction between nature, will, and activity, this explanation, makes little sense. But our view which denies ADS and affirms distinction between nature, will, and activity, I think we have a valid explanation of this grammatical phenomenon. What do you think?

Iohannes said...

Hi David,

I don't want to burden you with more research, but I would be interested in your opinion on something JND Kelly says about St Irenaeus in Early Christian Doctrines, 105f:

"He also throws into much more striking relief than they [the Apologists] the Word's co-existence with the Father from all eternity. The inference has been very generally drawn from this that he taught a doctrine of eternal generation, especially as he sometimes speaks of the Son being always with the Father. Too much, however, should not be read into such remarks, for in his usage 'Son' was little more than a synonym for 'Word'. The conception of eternal generation would be hard to square with the framework of ideas he inherited from the Apologists, and it is strange that, if he was responsible for it, his devoted disciple Hippolytus did not reproduce it. What seems decisive is that he nowhere mentions the doctrine as such. He certainly conceived of the Word's relationship to the Father as eternal, but he had not reached the position of picturing it as generation."

I think that's probably correct about Hippolytus not reproducing the doctrine, but looking again through AH this evening, I find it very difficult to take Irenaeus as teaching only an economical sonship. The latter speaks often of 'the Son of God made the Son of Man', and ties this to God's plan for deifying man. Statements to that effect are too numerous in AH for them all to be interpolations, and they would seem to lose their forcefulness were the Word, prior to the incarnation, the Son of God in only a proleptic sense.

In Christ,
John

David Waltz said...

Hi Drake,

You are asking questions that are 'above my pay grade' (grin). I am certainly NOT a Hebrew scholar; but with that said, I do know that there is considerable disagreement among those who are scholars concerning the relationship between the singular El and the plural Elohim (plus the very rare elim).

As you probably already know, liberals are fond of postulating that the plural constructs are remnants of Israel's early polytheistic religion—a view that dominates modern OT studies.

Anyway, sincerely wish I could be of more assistance in this matter, but I think you would be better served by contacting a Hebrew professor at one of the more conservative theological seminaries.

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi John,

I am with you on this matter, and contra Kelly (of whom I have great respect for). I did a brief critique of Denis Minns, who holds a similar position to Kelly's, in THIS THREAD.

IMO, neither Kelly nor Minns does justice to Irenaeus' clear articulation of the Monarchy of God the Father and the subordination of the Son/Word and Spirit/Wisdom to Him.

John Lawson has a good chapter on Irenaeus' theology/christology in his, The Biblical Theology of Saint Irenaeus (chapter 10 - "The Two Hands of God"). If you do not own this book, I highly recommend that you try to obtain it.


Grace and peace,]

David

Iohannes said...

David,

Thank you for your reply and for the book recommendation. Soon I will be moving back to Virginia, where I'll again have access to a top notch research library. Needless to say, I can't wait.

I hope you are doing well.

In Christ,
John

徐马可 said...

David,

I have written a brief response to Sean Gerety's assessment on Nicene theology, Drake has posted my article on his website. Wanted to hear your opinion and correction.

Thanks,

Mark

David Waltz said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks much for the notice. I injured my right elbow yesterday, making typing quite painful for now, so my comments shall be brief.

I found your response to be quite good, especially the excerpts from the pen of Alexander of Alexandria; and this, due to the fact that a number of our critics have been leveling the charge of 'Arianism' and/or 'Unitarianism' at us. As you know, Alexander was the first major opponent of Arius/Arianism, and yet, so much of his theology was/is virtually identical to ours. For our opponents to be consistent (not a strong point with them), they would have to place Alexander of Alexandria into the Arian/Unitarian category !!!


Grace and peace,

David

P.S. Would you mind emailing the unedited version of your contribution when you get a chance.

Jnorm said...

David,

Don't forget what you told me on another thread

quote
"Me: I accept the Triadology of Athanasius (we don't have enough extant writings from Alexander for me to make a firm judgment on his theology), and I hold to ONE nature concerning the three persons of the ONE Godhead. Do not forget that I have stated on a number of occasions that I accept the theology of the Chalcedonian Definition (as does Drake)."


Most of what we have of Saint Alexander of Alxandria was written by his deacon(Saint Athansius) at the time.



The reason why your critics charge you guys of Arianism is because of Drake Shelton. I know you think your view is the same as his, but I don't think it is.


I personally used Saint Alexander of Alexandria as well as Saint Athanasius against Drake Shelton to show that his view wasn't """Nicene Monarchism""".

He needs to stop saying that he represents Nicea for he is making other protestants think that the Orthodox view is Arian or something.

I noticed in your latest thread that you quoted Saint Cyril of Alexandria in regards to the Son having His source not only in the Person of the Father, but also in the Essence of the Father.

However, this same Saint Cyril viewed the issue of the "Oneness of Essence" between the Three Persons in the way I do!


But anyway, Drake is the reason why your critics are calling you guys Arians. In my going back and forth with Drake, I mentioned over and over again that one of two things were possible with his position.

1.) Either some form of tri-theism

2.) Or One God and two creatures

Right now, your critics are using the second one. Drake shelton believes in Three Natures. Saint Alexander of Alexandria didn't! Nor did Saint Athanasius!

And so those who uphold a 3 natures view can't really use them in defense of their Triadology. So what's the point of quoting them?

David Waltz said...

Hi Jnorm,

Yesterday, you posted:

==David,

Don't forget what you told me on another thread

quote
"Me: I accept the Triadology of Athanasius (we don't have enough extant writings from Alexander for me to make a firm judgment on his theology), and I hold to ONE nature concerning the three persons of the ONE Godhead. Do not forget that I have stated on a number of occasions that I accept the theology of the Chalcedonian Definition (as does Drake)."==

Me: Have not forgotten the above; it is basic/key aspect of my understanding of the Godhead and the 3 Divine persons who are members of it.

==Most of what we have of Saint Alexander of Alxandria was written by his deacon(Saint Athansius) at the time.

The reason why your critics charge you guys of Arianism is because of Drake Shelton. I know you think your view is the same as his, but I don't think it is.==

Me: Drake subscribes to the original Nicene Creed, the Chalcedonian Definition, the Monarchy of God the Father and the Divinity of the Son of God. I too hold to all these aspects, so I suspect we agree more than we disagree concerning the issues of God and the Godhead.

==I personally used Saint Alexander of Alexandria as well as Saint Athanasius against Drake Shelton to show that his view wasn't """Nicene Monarchism""".==

Me: Could you provide a link(s) to the above?

==He needs to stop saying that he represents Nicea for he is making other protestants think that the Orthodox view is Arian or something.==

Me: Drake, while embracing certain aspects of EO theology, has also adamantly distanced himself from others. Anyone reading his posts on Triadology, and understands what Arianism really is, would never charge him with Arianism.

==I noticed in your latest thread that you quoted Saint Cyril of Alexandria in regards to the Son having His source not only in the Person of the Father, but also in the Essence of the Father.

However, this same Saint Cyril viewed the issue of the "Oneness of Essence" between the Three Persons in the way I do!==

Me: Cyril is Chalcedonian in his understanding of homoousios, as am I, and as is Drake.

==But anyway, Drake is the reason why your critics are calling you guys Arians.==

Me: Once again, those who level the charge of Arianism my direction (and/or Drake's) are clearly ignorant of what Arius and Arians actually taught.

==In my going back and forth with Drake, I mentioned over and over again that one of two things were possible with his position.

1.) Either some form of tri-theism

2.) Or One God and two creatures==

Me: Athanasius was quite clear on the difference was between one who was begotten from the essence of the Father, and one who is created ex nihilo,with the former being God from God, while the latter is a creature.

==Right now, your critics are using the second one.==

Me: A gross error.

==Drake shelton believes in Three Natures. Saint Alexander of Alexandria didn't! Nor did Saint Athanasius!==

Me: Personally, I equate "nature" with "essence" (ousia); does Drake believe that the Father, Son and HS are 3 different essences?


Grace and peace,

David