Back on March 8, 2013, I published a thread under the title: Which Augustine ???. In the opening post, I wrote:
Keeping in mind the distinction between the Latin/Western and Greek/Eastern approaches to the doctrine of the Trinity drawn by a number of patristic and theological scholars of the last few decades, one will find that the following selections are more in line with the Greek/Eastern approach.
In addition to the contrast mentioned above, many of those scholars who have sided with the so-called 'Greek/Eastern' approach, also included some harsh criticisms of Augustine's elucidations on the doctrine of the Trinity. However, beginning with my aforementioned post on Augustine, I started to notice some serious flaws with those who maintained such views. One defect is the failure to realize that a good deal of semantic confusion existed among many post-Nicene Church Fathers. I have come to discern that many of the supposed distinctions entail little more than a lack of precision on the part of those CFs who were actually attempting to defend/explain the same concepts. One such concept was the eternal generation of the Son of God from the God the Father.
To my knowledge—unlike a number of modern Evangelical scholars who deny the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son from the Father (see THIS THREAD for some examples)—every post-Nicene Church Father who wrote in depth on the doctrine of the Trinity affirmed the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son of God by/from God the Father; it wasn't until the Reformation period that this centuries old doctrine was denied by some Trinitarians (the important/relevant debates over eternal generation are intra-Trinitarian, for all non-Trinitarians deny it).
When the concept of the generation of the Son of God from God the Father is affirmed, one cannot avoid the implication of causality. But if one affirms the causal relationship between the Father and the Son, how does one avoid the charge of either Arianism or Tritheism? A number of post-Nicene CFs avoided such charges by embracing three important concepts: first, the generation of the Son of God from the God the Father is an eternal begetting, not a temporal creation; second, this eternal begetting includes the full communication of the Father's ousia/essence/substance to the Son without any loss—or as the original Nicene Creed phrases it, 'born/begotten from the essence/substance of the Father'; and third, the affirmation of God the Father as the fount/source of divinity. [It is important to point out these three concepts form the foundational aspects of what I have termed, 'Nicene Monarchism'—more commonly known as the monarchy of God the Father—and importantly, all three entail causality.]
Though all the Catholic/Orthodox post-Nicene CFs who wrote at length on the doctrine of the Trinity clearly affirmed the doctrine of eternal generation, the same clarity concerning the latter two concepts were not always as transparent—this is where the aforementioned semantic confusion comes into play—but with that said, I am now convinced that even though some post-Nicene CFs did not explicitly affirm the last two concepts, they actually did so via terminology that can be confusing if one does not take into account all of what they wrote concerning the issues at hand. The rest of this post will focus on Augustine, and whether or not his overall theology affirms that the Son is, 'born/begotten from the substance of the Father', as well as the Father as the fount/source of divinity. I have chosen Augustine because my earlier readings of his writings—influenced by the consensus of modern patristic scholars who upheld the so-called distinction between the Latin/Western and Greek/Eastern approaches to the doctrine of the Trinity—led me to believe that he denied the third concept, and probably the second. However, my more recent readings have reversed these conclusions—I am now convinced that Augustine's overall theology upholds the Nicene teaching that the Son is 'born/begotten from the essence/substance of the Father' (not just from His 'person'), and that the Father is the fount/source of divinity. As such, I have also come to the conclusion that Augustine was also an advocate of the monarchy of God the Father.
Now, it is relatively straightforward to demonstrate that Augustine taught the Son is 'born/begotten from the essence/substance of the Father', for in a number of places in his writings he explicitly says so. I shall begin with a quote I already provided in the above mentioned thread, adding the Latin text, and two more English translations:
Naturalis ergo Filius de ipsa Patris substantia unicus natus est, id existens quod Pater est; Deus de Deo, Lumen de Lumine. (De Fide et Simbolo, 4.6)
Thus, then, the Son according to nature (naturalis filius) was born of the very substance of the Father, the only one so born, subsisting as that which the Father is, God of God, Light of Light. (On Faith and the Creed, 4.6 -NPNF 3.324 - bold emphasis mine.)
Only one natural Son, then, has been begotten of the very substance of the Father, and having the same nature as the father: God of God, Light of Light. (On Faith and the Creed, 4.6 - FC 27.323 - bold emphasis mine.)
Being Son by nature he was born uniquely of the substance of the Father, being what the Father is, God of God, Light of Light. (Faith and the Creed 4.6 - LCC, Augustine: Earlier Writings, p. 357 - bold emphasis mine.)
And from his On the Trinity we read:
...the Father is not anything unless because He has the Son; so that not only that which is meant by Father (which it is manifest He is not called relatively to Himself but to the Son, and therefore is the Father because He has the Son), but that which He is in respect to His own substance is so called, because He begat His own essence. (VII.1 - NPNF 3.105 - bold emphasis mine.)
For the love in the Father, which is in His ineffably simple nature, is nothing else than His very nature and substance itself,—as we have already often said, and are not ashamed of often repeating. And hence the "Son of His love," is none other than He who is born of His substance. (XV.37 - NPNF 3.105 - bold emphasis mine.)
Wherefore the logic of Eunomius, from whom the Eunomian heretics sprang, is ridiculous. For when he could not understand, and would not believe, that the only-begotten Word of God, by which all things were made, is the Son of God by nature, i.e. born of the substance of the Father... (XV.38 - NPNF 3.105 - bold emphasis mine.)
And so, we see that Augustine explicitly affirmed the teaching from the original Nicene Creed (325) that the Son is, 'born/begotten from the essence/substance of the Father'.
But Augustine's elucidations on the causality of the Son also include phraseology which strongly suggests that Father is the fount/source of deity/divinity, which means that he was also an advocate of the monarchy of God the Father. IMO, the following selections—when reflected on objectively—support my assessments:
That then which the Lord says, "Whom I will send unto you from the Father," shows the Spirit to be both of the Father and of the Son; because, also, when He had said, "Whom the Father will send," He added also, "in my name." Yet He did not say, Whom the Father will send from me, as He said, "Whom I will send unto you from the Father," showing, namely, that the Father is the beginning (principium) of the whole divinity, or if it is better so expressed, deity. He, therefore, who proceeds from the Father and from the Son, is referred back to Him from whom the Son was born (natus). (On the Trinity, IV.29 - NPNF 3.85 - bold emphasis mine.)
...we understand that the Son is not indeed less than, but equal to the Father, but yet that He is from Him, God of God, Light of light. For we call the Son God of God; but the Father, God only; not of God. (On the Trinity, II.2 - NPNF 3.38 - bold emphasis mine.)
For the Son is the Son of the Father, and the Father certainly is the Father of the Son; but the Son is called God of God, the Son is called Light of Light; the Father is called Light, but not, of Light, the Father is called God, but not, of God. (On the Gospel of John, XXXIX.1 - NPNF 3.38)
Partly then, I repeat, it is with a view to this administration that those things have been thus written which the heretics make the ground of their false allegations; and partly it was with a view to the consideration that the Son owes to the Father that which He is, thereby also certainly owing this in particular to the Father, to wit, that He is equal to the same Father, or that He is His Peer (eidem Patri æqualis aut par est), whereas the Father owes whatsoever He is to no one. (On Faith and the Creed, 9.18 -NPNF 3.328-329 - bold emphasis mine.)
Just as the Father has life in himself, so he has also granted the Son to have life in himself (Jn. 5:26). As he had, as he gave; what he had, he gave; he gave the same king he had; he gave as much as he had. All the things which the Father has are the Son's. Therefore, the Father gave to the Son nothing less than the Father has. The Father did not lose the life he gave to the Son. By living, he retains the life he gave by begetting. The Father himself is life, and the Son himself is life. Each of them has what he is, but the one is life from no one, while the other is life from life. (Answer to Maximinis the Arian, II.7 - The Works of Saint Augustine, vol. 1.18, Arianism and other Heresies, p. 284 - bold emphasis mine.)
I firmly believe the above selections from Augustine demonstrate that he must be included with other CFs (e.g. Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Hilary) who affirmed the monarchy of God the Father. But, I suspect that some folk will need further confirmation to convince them; as such, I am including the assessment of a highly respected 20th century patristic scholar—the Catholic theologian, Yves Congar, d. 1995—which supports my view. Note the following from his third volume of, I Believe in the Holy Spirit:
Clearly Augustine must be mentioned first, because he had such a deep influence on Western thinking and, although he did not initiate the idea, continued to be the major source in the question of the Filioque. He said, for example: 'The Father is the principle of all-divinity or, to be more precise, of the deity, because he does not take his origin from anything else. He has no one from whom he has his being or from whom he proceeds, but it is by him that the Son is begotten and from him that the Holy Spirit proceeds.' Later in the same treatise, he reaffirms this conviction: 'The Son has all that he has from the Father; he therefore has from the Father that the Holy Spirit (also) proceeds from him.' This 'also' is my insertion, not Augustine's. Augustine, on the contrary, expresses the monarchy of the father in the following words: 'It is not in vain that God the Father is called the one by whom the Word is begotten, and from whom the Holy Spirit principally proceeds. I have added principaliter, "principally", because the Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Son. But it is the Father who gave it to him.' This principaliter has very strong import—it expresses the idea of the first and absolute source. (I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Volume III - The River of the Water of Life (Rev. 22:1) Flows in the East and the West, pp. 134, 135 - bold emphasis mine.)
19. Augustine, De Trin. IV, 20, 29 (PL 42, 908); this text is frequently quoted, for example, by Peter Lombard, I Sent., 29, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas and even Leo XIII, in his encyclical Divinum illud munus of 9 May 1897 (DS 3326).
20. De Trin. XV, 26, 47 (PL 42, 1094).
21. De Trin. XV, 17, 29 (PL 42, 1081); 26, 47 (PL 42, 1095, principaliter); Contra Maxim. II, 14 (PL 42, 770). The word also occurred in Tertullian; see Adv. Prax. III, 3. Tertullian used it to affirm the of the Father in begetting the Son. (Ibid. 141.)
Though I have been aware of Augustine's somewhat famous phrase, "The Father is the principle of all-divinity" (totius divinitatis...principium pater est), for a number of years now (and that it was referenced by Peter Lombard, Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas), I was not aware this phrase was quoted by Leo XIII. And further, it wasn't until I had read Congar's assessment that I fully equated this phrase with the monarchy of God the Father. With that said, I would like to suggest to those who read this thread that they seriously reflect on the evidence that has been presented, and then ask themselves if my reassessment of Augustine is accurate.
I shall bring this post to an end by acknowledging that my research into certain elements of Augustine's Trinitarian thought since my March 8, 2013 thread has not been an 'easy' endeavor; but, it has certainly has been an informative and rewarding one. I sincerely hope that others will find some value in my continued efforts.
Grace and peace,