Friday, August 14, 2015

The Early Church Fathers on autotheos


Ryan—a Reformed brother in Christ, whose blog, UNAPOLOGETICA,  I have followed for a number of years now—has just published a lengthy compilation of early Church Fathers who affirmed the doctrine that God the Father is the only person of the Godhead who is autotheos (i.e. God in and of Himself).

The actual document is, "74 pages of quotes by 20 early church fathers"; introduction and link to the compilation HERE.

Anyone who has interest in Christian theology, and the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, will certainly appreciation Ryan's contribution.


Grace and peace,

David

28 comments:

Drake Shelton said...

David,

I was wondering what your thoughts are about John 12:44 And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.

as a reply to those who bring up Thomas' statement, my lord and my God.

David Waltz said...

Hi Drake,

Longtime no chat; good to see you back at AF. Earlier this morning, you wrote:

==I was wondering what your thoughts are about John 12:44 And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.

as a reply to those who bring up Thomas' statement, my lord and my God.==

The Gospel of John has long been recognized by NT scholars as presenting the highest level of Christologicial statements concerning our Lord Jesus Christ. But what is generally not affirmed is that it also gives us more subordinationistic passages that any other NT document. In an effort to deflect the numerous subordinationistic passages, Latin/Western trinitarians almost always apply those versses to Jesus 'human nature'.

This has been problematic in my understanding because those same trinitarians affirm the hyposstatic union; and yet, their take on the subordinationistic passages sure seems much more combatible with a 'Nestorian' Christology.

But, thankfully, not all Latin/Western trinitarians have bought into this dilemma. One notable exception comes from an unlikely source, the pen of Thomas Aquinas. After noting Augustine's take on John 12:44, 45—the strict human nature reading—Aquinas goes on to reject his understanding, relying instead on Chrysostom; note the following:

>>According to Chrysostom, however, our Lord says this to suggest his origin. It is a way of speaking similar to a person drawing water from a stream and saying that this water is not from the stream but from the spring: for it does not originate from the stream. So our Lord says, he who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me, as though to say: I am not the source of myself, but my divinity is from another, that is, from my Father. So, he who believes in me, believes not in me, except insofar as I am from the Father.>> (Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, English trans., James A. Weisheipl - link to chapter 12)

This understanding sure seems to resolve the numerous problems raised by the 'traditional' Latin/Western trinitarian take. Once one affirms that Jesus divinity is 'given' to Him from the Father (a view which clearly indicates that the Father alone is autotheos), the perceieved tension/s between the 'high' and 'low' Christological passages in the Gospel of John (and the rest of the NT) is/are removed.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

Does that also still mean that the Son / Word is eternal into the past?

Is the Holy Spirit also eternal into the past?

If you don't say that every time you make this point about only the Father is auto-theos, IT SOUNDS like you don't believe that the Son / the Word is also eternal.

If the Son / Word is eternal with the Father and homo-ousias with the Father, how does believing auto-theos as only the Father matter? What difference does it make?

Drake Shelton said...

Ken, You are grasping at straws. It sounds to me when you're saying that the Son is eternal that he is not begotten.

Ken said...

That is what I am asking about the concept.

As I understand "eternally begotten" =
eternally into the past generated out from the Father. (closest illustration - like rays from the sun)

I agree that the Son / Word is eternal and eternally generated out from the Father.
I believe that is what the Bible teaches.
John 1:1
John 17:5 - "the glory that I had with You before the world was"

The Son was always the Son and the Word.




Drake Shelton said...

Ken,

Generated is past tense. That means it is not an eternal act. You need to question this idea that God is a plotinian monad.

Ken said...

So, you don't believe in the eternal generation of the Son? sounds Arian. The Son always existed into eternity past - John 1:1, John 17:5.

If not, then that is the heresy of Arianism - "there was a time when the Son was not"

God is not a monad like the Allah of Islam. God is One in nature/substance/essence and three in person / personal relationships.

Biblical Trinitarianism means "God is Love" = Lover (Father), Beloved (Son), and the love (Spirit) between them in eternal spiritual relationship of purity and love into the eternal past. The analogy breaks down with "love" is not technical a person, granted; so, just you realize, I believe in the personhood of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity (Trinitas Unitas) is unique, so no illustration or analogy can explain it, but "Pure Spiritual Love Relationship" is probaby the closest analogy.

That is why only the Trinity can fill the void in the human heart that longs for the creator, because the true creator, the God of the Bible, is the only one who is Relationship and Love at the core.

The doctrine of the Trinity does not derive from Ploninus.

The texts of all of Scripture forced the early church to explain all of the texts as "Trinitas Unitas". one in essense, three in person.

Ken said...

typo - should have been "not technically a person, granted"

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks much for taking the time to comment. Earlier today you posted:

==Does that also still mean that the Son / Word is eternal into the past?==

Me: Since the Son (with the Father and the Holy Spirit), created time, then yes, there was never a time He was not Son/Word.

==Is the Holy Spirit also eternal into the past?==

Me: See above.

==If you don't say that every time you make this point about only the Father is auto-theos, IT SOUNDS like you don't believe that the Son / the Word is also eternal.==

Me: Apples and oranges. To say that the Father alone is autotheos, is to teach that the Father alone is God without any derivation. The divinity of the Son (and the Holy Spirit) comes from the Father; and as such, it cannot be said that the Son is 'God without any derivation'. The Nicene Creed is clear on this. The Father is the 'One God' (God here being used in the sense of autotheos), and the Son is 'God from God' (God here being used describe their nature/substance).

==If the Son / Word is eternal with the Father and homo-ousias with the Father, how does believing auto-theos as only the Father matter? What difference does it make?==

Me: If more than one Person is autotheos, then you have more than one God.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

The "divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit" seems to be a weaker description that the "Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit"

Again, if the Son was always the Son from all eternity past, and the Holy Spirit was always the Spirit and God by nature from eternity past, and if they are both "homo-ousias" with the Father, then the point you keep trying to emphasize seems moot to me. The definition of the Trinity, even that the Son and HS are auto-theos - is that there is only one God in nature/ substance/essense, but three in persons from eternity past.

Does the Nicean phrase "God from God" mean "God the Son, by nature deriving that nature from God the Father" ?

You said sometime ago that (correct me if I am wrong)
that:
1. Augustine developed the doctrine of the Trinity from "same substance" (homo-ousias) with the Father to One substance.
2. Calvin is the one who came up with the idea that the Son is also autotheos. ( if so, where is that?) I think I asked this before, so forgive if I did.

Ken said...

I googled the issue and found our previous discussion in the comboxes here:

http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2010/10/back-to-bible.html?showComment=1286766362702#c7109521041859452650

Ken said...

One of the most difficult aspects of all this is understanding what "today" means in "Today I have begotten You; You are My Son" - from Psalm 2:7, quoted in Hebrews chapters 1, 5, Acts 13, etc.

Does "today" mean entry into history ? the incarnation, conception in the womb of Mary? physical birth?

or does "today" mean the resurrection? (Acts 13:33 seems to point to the resurrection)

or does "today" mean an "eternal day into the past" ? ( seems like a stretch to me. Did Origen come up with that? I seem to recall that Origen came up with that)

Is it possible to see the "today" as the incarnation, but also not denying the eternality of the Son into the past - John 17:5, 1:1 - the Son was always the Son.

Ken said...

David,
Going over this statement again, I noticed something I did not before.

you wrote:
Since the Son (with the Father and the Holy Spirit), created time, then yes, there was never a time He was not Son/Word.

Are you saying that before time was created, the Father was all alone?

When we say "eternity into past", we usually mean never ending into the past without regard to whether time can into existence at a certain point in the past.

Ryan said...

Ken,

No one here disputes the eternality of the Son or Spirit. They are pre-existent. They are eternally with the Father, or else He is not eternally the "Father." This is also a point the ECFs make per the quotes I posted. This is a rabbit trail, I don't see any difference between us here.

The reason the issue of "autotheos" is important is that it answers how monotheism is true even though the Son and Spirit are consubstantial with the Father. The members of the Trinity are all of one substance just as you, I, and Christ are of one substance. But that only leads to there being three divine persons. It doesn't explain how it is that there is but one God. There is only one God because there is only one source or fount of divinity: the Father. He is God of Himself, whereas the Son (or Spirit) is God of God as the Nicene Creed states.

Is there an appropriate sense in which the Son and Spirit can be called "God"? Sure. That's also Scripturally attested. But the reason they can be called God isn't because they are God of themselves, it's because they, like the Father, are divine persons (or distinct but inseparable deities, if you prefer). Hence, Trinitarianism. That's only one half of the equation, though. The Father alone can be referred to as God of Himself, and that's the other half - i.e. monotheism. That's a distinct meaning of "God" in Scripture, or so the argument goes.

Also, if you don't deny eternal Sonship, then regardless of the meanings of those passages, you must have an explanation - if you accept the Son is autotheos and thus reject that the divinity of the Son is eternally received from the Father - as to why the second person of the Trinity is the "Son" and the first person is the "Father." What is it about their relationship which demands we view one as the Father and the other as the Son, if both really are, contrary to the ECFs, autotheos? Is the relationship arbitrary? Is the view a kind of eternal adoptionism in which the persons just assume these properties? Or what?

Hope that clarifies matters on our side a bit.

Ken said...

Yes, that is helpful and clarifies.

But, it is a difficult concept to explain. Your point about one is called "Father" and another "the Son" is excellent. There has to be some kind of order/priority/economic subordinationism, without denying the Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit.

Ryan said...

No one here, so far as I know, subordinates the Son to the Father in respect of nature. There is a subordination in respect of person, however. Are/were you subordinate to your father? Yes. Does that mean you were less human than he is/was? Of course not. But I can't understand why is it so difficult to understand how this can be analogized with respect to the intra-Trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son. Is the Son subordinate to His Father? Yes. Does that mean He is less divine that the Father? Of course not. Whence, then, subordinationism?

Ken said...

Yes, I totally agree; very good. That needs to be expressed clearly when you guys are emphasizing the autotheos of the Father only.

Ryan said...

I agree, but you would be surprised at how many Reformed believers I talk to who after all of that qualification still think the view is Arian, subordinationist, Unitarian, or some other heresy without representation in church history.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Forgive my tardy response, but I just got back from an 8 day Alaskan cruise, during which I did not access the internet (I refuse to pay the ridiculous 79 cents per minute they charge).

Before I begin to reply to the comments and questions you posted, I want to say that Ryan has done an excellent job in addressing the major points involved concerning the application of the term autotheos within the confines of Trinitarian theology.

On 08-31-15 you wrote:

==The "divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit" seems to be a weaker description that the "Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit"==

If you Google, divinity definition, you will find that deity is one of the terms used to define divinity. As for me, I use the term divinity to describe the 'nature' of the one I am referencing (i.e. divinity = theotēs.

==Does the Nicean phrase "God from God" mean "God the Son, by nature deriving that nature from God the Father" ? ==

Yes. The original Nicene Creed emphasizes this point adding the phrase, "from/of the substance [ousia] of the Father". Interestingly enough, Calvin emphatically rejected this concept.

As for "today" and Psalm 2:7, I side with those believe that it is descriptive of the 'eternal generation' of the Son from the Father. See THIS THREAD for numerous examples of those affirm this interpretation.

==Are you saying that before time was created, the Father was all alone?==

No, the Father was never without His Son/Word and His Spirit.

If you have any further questions (and/or comments) please feel free to post them; now that I am back, I will be able to reply much more quickly.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Ryan,

Thanks much for addressing Ken's comments/questions in my absence; your responses were 'spot-on'.

On 09-04-15, you posted:

==I agree, but you would be surprised at how many Reformed believers I talk to who after all of that qualification still think the view is Arian, subordinationist, Unitarian, or some other heresy without representation in church history==

That is unfortunate; it reveals a certain ignorance of historical theology on the part of those who level such unfounded charges.


Grace and peace,

David

Ryan said...

"That is unfortunate; it reveals a certain ignorance of historical theology on the part of those who level such unfounded charges."

Yes, which is what partially motivated the collection of those quotes. I'm encountering resounding silence to them.

I would like to do something like that with classic Reformed authors, but I've looked around and haven't found any site as user friendly and relatively thorough as newadvent was for the ECFs. Are you aware of one?

Ken said...

http://www.ccel.org/fathers.html

David Waltz said...

Hi Ryan,

I have found the following sites to be useful:


http://digitalpuritan.net/

http://www.prdl.org/

http://www.puritanlibrary.com/

http://diglib.ptsem.edu/


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hello again Ryan,

Have you read the two following works by Jonathan Edwards (if not, I highly suggest that you do so):

https://archive.org/details/cu31924029373580

https://archive.org/details/cu31924029373598


Grace and peace,

David

Ryan said...

Thanks for the links. Do you have one to an english translation of Turretin's Elenctic Theology? Haven't been able to find one.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ryan,

I am pretty sure that you will not find much more than snippets of the English translation of Francis Turretin's, Institutes of Elenctic Theology online, and this because it was not translated into English until the 1990's (vol. 1, 1992; vol. 2, 1994; vol. 3 1997); and to my knowledge, it was never digitalized.

I own all three volumes, so if you are not able to obtain the work (either via a local library or purchase), and need some quotes, let me know.


Grace and peace,

David

Drake Shelton said...

I seriously doubt anything in Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology that pertains to the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union is not quoted in my Systematic Theology.

David Waltz said...

Hi Drake,

The links to your blog (Uncreated Light) and website (The King's Parlor) no longer work (unless, you use the Internet Archive 'Way Back" feature). Is there an easier way to access your Systematic Theology ???

Grace and peace,

David