Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Degrees of “worship” in the Bible

Yesterday, there was a ‘light shredding’ of one William Albrecht (a lay, Catholic apologist) by the anonymous, anti-Catholic, Reformed polemicist, known as Turretinfan over the issue of Marian devotions (see THIS THREAD).

Since I do not engage in personal Marian devotions, I am under no inherent compulsion to defend them. However, I would like to entertain the notion that both sides of this ‘debate’ are ignoring (at least I have yet to come across examples, though I may have missed something) important Biblical data, which clearly demonstrates that degrees of proper “worship” (devotion, homage, obeisance) exists. For instance, 1 Chr. 29:20:

And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the LORD, and the king.

The term “worshipped” (shaha) denotes prostrating (bowing down) in an act of worship/devotion.

In Rev. 3:9 we read:

Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

The Greek term proskuneō, is used to describe the act of prostrating (bowing down, "worship") before Jesus (and God the Father) throughout the NT, but in the above text, it is utilized with reference to the saints, the adopted Sons of God.

The evidence strongly indicates that one must speak of degrees of “worship”.

Now, with that said, there is one Greek term of religious devotion reserved for God (the Father) alone: latreuō.

So in ending, which ever side one chooses to defend, one cannot ignore the issue of degrees of religious “worship” (devotion) as being Biblical.

Grace and peace,


Monday, November 10, 2008

What did Arius actually teach?

In the recent John Calvin thread, we touched upon an anomaly—the accusation of tri-theism leveled at Calvin by an Eastern Orthodox professor. I pointed out that the predominate charge from Eastern Christians against their Western/Latin ‘brothers’ is that of modalism; while the latter accuse the former of tri-theism. Both accusations are vehemently denied by each respective tradition, though the end result precipitates little change in the overall polemical landscape.

Many have seen such controversies as an indication that something ‘went wrong’ with the Trinitarian speculations of Christendom. Certainly with the advent of Islam, via Muhammad and the Qur’an, we witness a significant challenge to all forms of Trinitarianism; and in the Reformation period of the 16th and 17th centuries, another strong challenge was raised by the Socinians (and to a lesser extant, the British Arians). However, I believe that perhaps the greatest challenge to Catholic Trinitarianism came in the 4th century via Arius and the subsequent schools of thought associated with his name (e.g. Anhomoians, Homoians, Homoiousians, et al.).

Now, given some of my past discussions with Trinitarian Christians from various disciplines and/or denominations, I am left pondering over the question of how many individuals actually know what Arius himself taught. With this in mind, I shall now let the pen of Arius elucidate his theology for us—from his letter to Alexander, bishop of Alexandria (which has a solid consensus of patristic scholars agreeing that it is genuine) we read:

To Our Blessed Pope and Bishop, Alexander, the Presbyters and Deacons send health in the Lord. Our faith from our forefathers, which also we have learned from thee, Blessed Pope, is this: — We acknowledge One God, alone Ingenerate, alone Everlasting, alone Unbegun, alone True, alone having Immortality, alone Wise, alone Good, alone Sovereign; Judge, Governor, and Providence of all, unalterable and unchangeable, just and good, God of Law and Prophets and New Testament; who begat an Only-begotten Son before eternal times, through whom He has made both the ages and the universe; and begat Him, not in semblance, but in truth; and that He made Him subsist at His own will, unalterable and unchangeable; perfect creature of God, but not as one of the creatures; offspring, but not as one of things begotten; nor as Valentinus pronounced that the offspring of the Father was an issue; nor as Manichæus taught that the offspring was a portion of the Father, one in essence; or as Sabellius, dividing the Monad, speaks of a Son-and-Father; nor as Hieracas, of one torch from another, or as a lamp divided into two; nor that He who was before, was afterwards generated or new-created into a Son, as thou too thyself, Blessed Pope, in the midst of the Church and in session hast often condemned; but, as we say, at the will of God, created before times and before ages, and gaining life and being from the Father, who gave subsistence to His glories together with Him. For the Father did not, in giving to Him the inheritance of all things, deprive Himself of what He has ingenerately in Himself; for He is the Fountain of all things. Thus there are Three Subsistences. And God, being the cause of all things, is Unbegun and altogether Sole, but the Son being begotten apart from time by the Father, and being created and founded before ages, was not before His generation, but being begotten apart from time before all things, alone was made to subsist by the Father. For He is not eternal or co-eternal or co-unoriginate with the Father, nor has He His being together with the Father, as some speak of relations, introducing two ingenerate beginnings, but God is before all things as being Monad and Beginning of all. Wherefore also He is before the Son; as we have learned also from thy preaching in the midst of the Church. So far then as from God He has being, and glories, and life, and all things are delivered unto Him, in such sense is God His origin. For He is above Him, as being His God and before Him. But if the terms ‘from Him,’ and ‘from the womb,’ and ‘I came forth from the Father, and I am come’ (Romans 11:36; Psalm 110:3; John 16:28), be understood by some to mean as if a part of Him, one in essence or as an issue, then the Father is according to them compounded and divisible and alterable and material, and, as far as their belief goes, has the circumstances of a body, Who is the Incorporeal God. (Preserved by Athanasius in, Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia, 16 – NPNF II.4.458.)

With the above, we have a rigorous defense of God the Father as the sole, beginningless “Monad”. God is “before” everything, including the Son. In essence, Arius argues that it is illogical to postulate more than one, true/ultimate archē (beginning)—with this I concur.

Grace and peace,


Friday, November 7, 2008


It has become a rare occasion for this beachbum to come across something truly unique while engaged in my religious studies—today happens to be one of those occurrences—and I think all will agree that this internet site, THE TRUTH CONTEST, is if anything, quite unique.

Maybe the site is a total hoax, maybe it is not; either way, it certainly provides an interesting forum for gifted apologists/writers to submit their respective worldviews. To date, only one individual has taken up the challenge, Michael Smith, via the submission of his nearly 400 page book, The Present.

I would like to extend the challenge to any of my readers (a diverse group that includes, Catholic, Orthodox, Mormon, Evangelical, and Reformed adherents), who may feel up to the task, or who may wish to encourage someone they know, to make a submission.

Grace and peace,


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

John 14:28 and the three views of Athanasius, Augustine and Calvin

One of the preferred Biblical passages utilized Arius (and virtually all subsequent Arians) to support their doctrine of God is, “for the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28b – ASV).

The Trinitarian response to this particular verse has a somewhat diverse history, exemplified by at least three differing interpretations. As the title of this thread suggests, I shall draw upon a trio of the greatest theologians Christendom has produced, St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, and John Calvin, to provide our three examples:

But since he has here expressly written it, and, as has been above shown, the Son is Offspring of the Father’s essence, and He is Framer, and other things are framed by Him. and He is the Radiance and Word and Image and Wisdom of the Father, and things originate stand and serve in their place below the Triad, therefore the Son is different in kind and different in essence from things originate, and on the contrary is proper to the Father’s especially it is that the Son too says not, ‘My Father is better than I ,’ lest we should conceive Him to he foreign to His Nature, but ‘greater,’ not indeed in greatness, nor in time, but because of His generation from the Father Himself, nay, in saying ‘greater ‘He again shows that He is proper to His essence. (Athanasius, Against the Arians, 1.58 – NPNF 2.4.340)

They say, for instance, that the Son is less than the Father, because it is written that the Lord Himself said, “My Father is greater than I.” But the truth shows that after the same sense the Son is less also than Himself; for how was He not made less also than Himself, who “emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant?” For He did not so take the form of a servant as that He should lose the form of God, in which He was equal to the Father. If, then, the form of a servant was so taken that the form of God was not lost, since both in the form of a servant and in the form of God He Himself is the same only-begotten Son of God the Father, in the form of God equal to the Father, in the form of a servant the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; is there any one who cannot perceive that He Himself in the form of God is also greater than Himself, but yet likewise in the form of a servant less than Himself? And not, therefore, without cause the Scripture says both the one and the other, both that the Son is equal to the Father, and that the Father is greater than the Son. For there is no confusion when the former is understood as on account of the form of God, and the latter as on account of the form of a servant. And, in truth, this rule for clearing the question through all the sacred Scriptures is set forth in one chapter of an epistle of the Apostle Paul, where this distinction is commended to us plainly enough. For he says, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and was found in fashions as a man.” The Son of God, then, is equal to God the Father in nature, but less in “fashion.” For in the form of a servant which He took He is less than the Father; but in the form of God, in which also He was before He took the form of a servant, He is equal to the Father. In the form of God He is the Word, “by whom all things are made;” but in the form of a servant He was “made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.” In like manner, in the form of God He made man; in the form of a servant He was made man. For if the Father alone had made man without the Son, it would not have been written, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Therefore, because the form of God took the form of a servant, both is God and both is man; but both God, on account of God who takes; and both man, on account of man who is taken. For neither by that taking is the one of them turned and changed into the other: the Divinity is not changed into the creature, so as to cease to be Divinity; nor the creature into Divinity, so as to cease to be creature. (Augustine, On the Trinity, 1.7.14 – NPNF 1.3.24)

For the Father is greater than I. This passage has been tortured in various ways. The Aryans, in order to prove that Christ is some sort of inferior God, argued that he is less than the Father The orthodox Fathers, to remove all ground for such a calumny, said that this must have referred to his human nature; but as the Aryans wickedly abused this testimony, so the reply given by the Fathers to their objection was neither correct nor appropriate; for Christ does not now speak either of his human nature, or of his eternal Divinity, but, accommodating himself to our weakness, places himself between God and us; and, indeed, as it has not been granted to us to reach the height of God, Christ descended to us, that he might raise us to it. You ought to have rejoiced, he says, because I return to the Father; for this is the ultimate object at which you ought to aim. By these words he does not show in what respect he differs in himself from the Father, but why he descended to us; and that was that he might unite us to God; for until we have reached that point, we are, as it were, in the middle of the course. We too imagine to ourselves but a half-Christ, and a mutilated Christ, if he do not lead us to God.

There is a similar passage in the writings of Paul, where he says that Christ will deliver up the Kingdom to God his Father, that God may be all in all, (1 Corinthians 15:24.) Christ certainly reigns, not only in human nature, but as he is God manifested in the flesh. In what manner, therefore, will he lay aside the kingdom? It is, because the Divinity which is now beheld in Christ’s face alone, will then be openly visible in him. The only point of difference is, that Paul there describes the highest perfection of the Divine brightness, the rays of which began to shine from the time when Christ ascended to heaven. To make the matter more clear, we must use still greater plainness of speech. Christ does not here make a comparison between the Divinity of the Father and his own, nor between his own human nature and the Divine essence of the Father, but rather between his present state and the heavenly glory, to which he would soon afterwards be received; as if he had said, “You wish to detain me in the world, but it is better that I should ascend to heaven.” Let us therefore learn to behold Christ humbled in the flesh, so that he may conduct us to the fountain of a blessed immortality; for he was not appointed to be our guide, merely to raise us to the sphere of the moon or of the sun, but to make us one with God the Father. (John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, vol. 2, p. 102 – trans. Pringle.)

In summation, we have Athanasius teaching that the Father is greater than the Son because of, “His generation from the Father Himself, nay, in saying ‘greater ‘He again shows that He is proper to His essence.” With Augustine, Father is greater than Son as pertaining to His incarnation, His “form as a servant” (i.e. humanity). And according to Calvin, the passage is not addressing either the Son’s divinity, or His humanity, but rather, His office/role as Mediator and Savior.

I shall let my readers judge for themselves which interpretation is the correct one (or, perhaps, supply yet another interpretation).

Grace and peace,