Saturday, June 15, 2019

Monoousios vs. Homoousios - further reflections

In the previous AF thread which dealt with the topic of monoousios vs. homoousios (link), I provided selections from Christian theologians and historians who acknowledged that the term homoousion, used in the Nicene Creed and by a number of subsequent Church Fathers, was most likely understood in a generic sense, rather than an absolute numeric sense. In this new post, I hope to establish beyond any reasonable doubt that the generic understanding is the most viable option.

At the end of the opening post of the above referenced thread, I mentioned that the generic understanding of homoousios, "is the dominant understanding of many Eastern Orthodox theologians". Interestingly enough, a LDS author back in 2004 provided substantial support for my reflections—the following quote is from the book, Prelude to the Restoration (2004):

Christos Yannaras proposes that “schematically: God is a Nature and three Persons; man is a nature and ‘innumerable’ persons. God is consubstantial and in three hypostases, man is consubstantial and in innumerable hypostases.” Essence could thus be characterized as that nature which, for the Trinity, is divinity, and that nature which, for humans, is humanity. (J. B. Haws, "Defenders of the Doctrine of Deification", p. 77) [The quote that Haws provided from the EO theologian Yannaras, is from the book Elements of Faith, p, 36.]

Haws' understanding of the Yannaras quote, brings to mind the Christology delineated in the Chalcedonian Definition (451)—the germane portion is provided below:

Following therefore the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Divinity (theotēti) and also perfect in humanity (anthrōpotēti); truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and body; same essence (homoousion) with the Father according to the Divinity (theotēta), and same essence (homoousion) with us according to the humanity (anthrōpotēta) ...

Ἑπόμενοι τοίνυν τοῖς ἁγίοις πατράσιν ἕνα καὶ τὸν αὐτὸν ὁμολογεῖν υἱὸν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν συμφώνως ἅπαντες ἐκδιδάσκομεν, τέλειον τὸν αὐτὸν ἐν θεότητι καὶ τέλειον τὸν αὐτὸν ἐν ἀνθρωπότητι, θεὸν ἀληθῶς καὶ ἄνθρωπον ἀληθῶς τὸν αὐτὸν, ἐκ ψυχῆς λογικῆς καὶ σώματος, ὁμοούσιον τῷ πατρὶ κατὰ τὴν θεότητα, καὶ ὁμοούσιον τὸν αὐτὸν ἡμῖν κατὰ τὴν ἀνθρωπότητα ...

Clearly we have before us an application of the term homoousion in a generic sense. As such, we can add the Chalcedonian Definition to the list of examples wherein the term homoousion is used in the generic sense—e.g. Nicene Creed, numerous post-Nicene Church Fathers and EO theologians.

The concept that "man is consubstantial and in innumerable hypostases" means all the members of mankind share one and the same nature/essence. When the same type of concept is applied to the Godhead, it means that all members of the Godhead share one and the same nature/essence; or as Haws states it:

Essence could thus be characterized as that nature which, for the Trinity, is divinity, and that nature which, for humans, is humanity.

For one to be human from human, one has to be fully human—possessing the nature of humanity in its fullness—not partially human, or even mostly human. For one to be God from God, one has to be fully God—possessing the nature of divinity in its fullness—not partially God, or even mostly God.

To end, I would like to submit that when the related concepts of 'God from God', 'homoosion with the Father', and 'begotten not made' are applied to Jesus Christ, two early theological errors are avoided: first, modalism, which changed the understanding of homoosios into monoousios, and denied the causality of the Son from the Father; and second, Arianism, which denied that the Son of God was fully God.

Grace and peace,



TOm said...

I am not sure I have too much to say about this. In the other thread there was discussion of reformers who believe Christ is autotheos and those who do not. I would assume there are virtually no Catholic scholars until the last 50 years who believe Christ is autotheos and the large majority (who speak about it) reject it.
Bryan Cross and Father Leo D. Davis are two Catholic scholars who seem to demand that that Homoousian be understood in the numeric sense (virtually synonymous to monoousian) when speaking of the Father and the Son.
I further suggest the 2011 change to the English creed I mentioned in the other thread points to the recognition that while there are reasonable translations of Homoousian in the generic sense, there are no reasonable translations of Homoousian in the numeric sense and thus the word Consubstantial which derives from the Latin needed to be introduced.
Do you know of modern Catholic scholars who suggest it is acceptable for Catholics to believe that the Father and the Son are homoousian in the generic sense only? I would imagine if you had read ever word said upon the subject there would be a handful of Catholic scholars in close communication with Eastern scholars who embrace this position, but the many more (even a majority of those in close communication with Eastern scholars) will demand the numeric sense. But, I do not know (and I am sure you are about 100x close to knowing what every modern scholar has said than I am.

Also, I should mention as I told you the other day, I will be heading to Europe in a couple of days. Last time I was in Europe I didn’t see any evidence they even knew what the Internet was (ok it was 1991 and I only knew how to send emails and telnet to other colleges). Still, I have no idea what I will find and it will not be my first or second priority to post here. I hope to say hello again in the last week of July or first week of August if I do not find any time or good access. I find it a little more likely I will be able to read here, but at the very least I will catch up when I am back.
Charity, TOm

Rory said...

Bye TOm.

Thanks for the heads up. Take pictures. Tell stories when you get back. God bless.

But TOm, about the supposed change in the Creed...that is nothing but a more accurate translation. 2011 was when Pope Benedict started cracking down on crappy translations. I did not know that this was one of them. The Novus Ordos never dared to change the Creed...yet anyway. They screw around with translations instead. "One in being with" isn't that bad. But "consubstantialem Patri" translates more precisely as "consubstantial with the Father".

It was around then that Mom showed me her Novus Ordo parish bulletin that explained othre changes. I went a little wild. So it took them 45 years to translate "et cum spiritu tuo" as "and with thy spirit", instead of "and also with you"? The Novus Ordo is so stupidly dumbed down even before the translations. Vatican II can't say enough about "dignatatis humanae". But the proponents of "human dignity" always seems to doubt that the humanity which is so supposedly dignified, has the intellectual capacity to understand precise translations of original documents.

Well...I wouldn't usually advise "going wild". I am not proud of myself for that and would never recommend it. But Mom came to Tradition after that.

"Consubstantial with the Father" is not a creedal change. It is only a better translation of the Latin.


TOm said...

Hello Rory,

I am not trying to say that this is a “creedal change” in that the modernist have again perverted the Catholic faith. Pope Francis being the head of the Catholic Church and what he changes / muddies concerning Catholic teaching is a whole other reason you should become a LDS.

I am saying that “one in being with” is a weird set of English words intended to mean “homoousian in the numeric sense.” That “consubstantial with” is a new word/phrase intended to mean the same thing, but not perverted by the fact that everyone know what the words “one,” and “being,” and yet they do not capture the proper sense. If homoousian in the generic sense was viewed as truth, many non-Catholic constructions would be available to the Catholic. “Of the divine species” or “of the same species” would be simplistic ones, but Aquinas (and likely others) slammed the door on this because IMO he embraced homoousian in the numeric sense.

In my obnoxious opinion (IMOO) the best thing to say is:

“God the Father and God the Son are the same being the same substance. There are not two being, not two substances. But, we do not mean modalism because that is a heresy and we don’t mean it; really we don’t. How this can be asserted is a mystery; so you should embrace the mystery and recognize that the human intellect cannot explain how what we believe does not violate the law of non-contradiction. Just believe!”

On the other thread there seems to some discussion between you and Ken as to whether to embrace Homoousian in the “numeric” or “generic” sense. It is my position that the bulk of the Fathers at Nicea and Chalcedon embraced homoousian in the generic sense. The West moved basically universally to homoousian in the numeric sense (the filoque clause is PART of this move). Such is problematic for the view the the faith was once delivered and only developed. But to move back to homoousian in the generic sense would, it seems to me, make any development towards truth argument impossible. Protestants could form a new church and do this, but it is harder for Catholics.

The change in the English creed was done to put a word in the mouths of English speaking Catholics that sounded weird, but didn’t require some explanation as to why it was not modalism because only those who dig deep in the theology come up against the difficulty (impossibility, IMOO) in defining homoousian in the numeric sense while denying modalism.

In a less obnoxious way, let me say that LDS who dig deep in theology bump against many problems too. One of my favorites is associated with a Heavenly Father above God the Father. A simplistic but problematic construction is an “infinite regress of Gods.” As a faith that does not often define with precision the ONE truth that must be embraced, I just point to Joseph Smith’s words and suggest that I like him (and like Ostler) reject the idea that there is a God above God the Father. To me my problems seem smaller, but I am biased!

Charity, TOm

TOm said...

There was a "grin" at the end of my first paragraph, but my text signaled an html intention that was not understood. I need to remember to say {grin} rather than use the "greater than" and "less than" symbols.
Charity, TOm

David Waltz said...

Hi Tom,

Some very interesting assertions and thoughts in your last few posts. I need to reread what you have written and then carefully compare the changes in the Novus Ordo before any attempt to share my musings.

Over the weekend, I read a couple of books that I think you and Rory might have some interest in, but I am going to wait until your return from Europe before I share the titles.

Hope that you and your family have a safe and enriching vacation !!!

Take care and God bless,


Dennis said...

Hi David,

Did your article include some assertions on Gregory of Nazianzus and the Development of Doctrine which you have removed. I belive I read something about it yesterday ?


David Waltz said...

Hi Dennis,

You asked:

==Did your article include some assertions on Gregory of Nazianzus and the Development of Doctrine which you have removed. I belive I read something about it yesterday ?==

Not sure what you are referencing. I am pretty sure I have never removed anything from AF that I have written and posted. In the previous Monoousios vs. Homoousios thread (link), I wrote the following concerning Gregory of Nazianzus:

>>In the selections provided above, our esteemed authors identify four prominent 4th century Church Fathers who interpreted homoousios in the generic sense—Eusebius of Caesarea, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus.>>

And a bit later:

>>This generic understanding found in Athanasius, Eusebius of Caesarea, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus (and other Church Fathers), is the dominant understanding of many Eastern Orthodox theologians—theologians who adamantly maintain that it is the only consistent understanding of the use of homoousion in the Nicene Creed and Chalcedonian Definition.>>

Back on 01/30/2009 I posted a thread devoted to Gregory of Naziansus/Nazianzen and the development of doctrine—see THIS LINK.

If you have something else in mind, could you provide in a bit more detail/s of what you are thinking of ???

Grace and peace,


Dennis said...

Hi David,

I found out I clicked on that blog from 2009 instead of this one from 2019.
It was a great piece actually. Just got me thinking about some stuff around the Holy Spirit, Pentecost & tongues. But I don't want to post in the wrong blog. If you write something around that topic I'll share my thoughts.