Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mr. White's method of disputation: part 3 - confusion and misdirection

It seems that my recent two threads on Basil 'the Great' are finally beginning to 'wind down' a bit after some 174 comments; and so, I thought I would return to the litany of derogatory/inflammatory comments that were directed towards me by James R. White in his August 30, 2012 Dividing Line program.

In the second installment (link) of my series, "Mr. White's method of disputation", I cited a number of patristic scholars who took exception with Mr. White's claim that, "In the early Church, as was mentioned before, the difference between homoousios and homoiousios is, is a HUGE gap." In this installment, I will focus a bit more on Mr. White's failed attempt to defend his original words.

Once again from the August 30, 2012 Dividing Line program, at the 29:30 ff. mark, Mr. White quotes the same selection from Athanasius that I provided in my August 29, 2012 post (LINK):

"Those who deny the Council altogether, are sufficiently exposed by these brief remarks ; those, however, who accept everything else that was defined at Nicaea, and doubt only about the Coessential [homoousios], must not be treated as enemies"—Now, now, let me just stop right there. That's not what I was talking about, and David Waltz knows it. He knows it! He's not a stupid guy. He knows that's not what I was talking about. He knows I'm talking about someone in the 'Elephant Room' who has a very different view of things. He knows that's not what I am talking about.

Two important points: first, the "someone in the 'Elephant Room'" (who was being discussed by the panel that Mr. White was a part of), was being examined concerning whether or not he espoused the doctrine of monarchian modalism, and most certainly NOT for whether he held to homoiousios; and second, Mr. White in the original context clearly stated, "In the early Church, as was mentioned before, the difference between homoousios and homoiousios is, is a HUGE gap."

Mr. White's original context concerning "the difference between homoousios and homoiousios",  was "the early Church", NOT "someone in the 'Elephant Room'." Further, even if the context for the statement in question had actually been "someone in the 'Elephant Room'", "the difference between homoousios and homoiousios" was not an issue for the gentleman in question (i.e T.D. Jakes).

And yet, somehow, I was/am supposed to "know that's not what he was talking about"—AMAZING...

Mr. White continued with:

Athanasius is addressing, is, is people who accept what Nicaea said, but they have reservations; and his whole argument is going to be there's no reason for your reservations because if you say, "of like essence"—reason with me here—you're actually agreeing with what I am saying.

Once again, two important points: first, if Mr. White's statement was in fact concerning "someone in the 'Elephant Room'", then his example from "the early Church" would seem to exonerate T.D. Jakes; and second, notice that the same example from "the early Church" makes Mr. White's original assessment nonsensical, for how could "the difference between homoousios and homoiousios" be "HUGE" if the primary difference between the homoousians and homoiousians was merely semantics. In fact, Mr. White in his own book, The Forgotten Trinity, stated:

Instead, the "of a similar substance" group [i.e. homoiousians] should be seen as a subset if the "same substance" group [i.e. homoousians]. (Page 187.)

Indeed Mr. White, indeed. With statements like that (which falls in line with the assessments of the noted scholars I cited in THIS PREVIOUS THREAD), why does Mr. White seem surprised that I had difficulty with what he said during the panel discussion, namely:

In the early Church, as was mentioned before, the difference between homoousios and homoiousios is, is a HUGE gap.

I honestly don't 'get it'; Mr. White's two statements are not compatible—one of them is inaccurate.

More later, the Lord willing.

Grace and peace,


Friday, September 14, 2012

Basil 'the Great': Letter XXXVIII - a clarification of terms

As the opening title of this thread states, this is another letter from the pen of St. Basil. (IMO, this letter needs to be read in conjunction with his 125th epistle, provided in the previous thread.)

Given the length of this letter, I am only going to provide the first few paragraphs, and an important section that identifies the monarchy of God the Father (though I highly recommend to everyone that they take the time to read the entire epistle - see link provided below.) I think all will immediately identify the close relationship (doctrinally speaking) that this letter has with his 125th epistle.



Seeing that many, in treating of the mysterious doctrine of the Trinity, because they fail to discern any difference between the general conception of substance and that of the persons, come to like notions and think that it matters not whether they use the term "substance" or "person" (and for this reason some of those who accept such things without investigation are pleased to attribute one person to God just as they do one substance ; and vice versa, those who profess three persons feel obliged to assert as a consequence of this truth the same number of divine substances ) : for this reason, in order that you too may not fall into the same error, I have composed this brief discussion of the subject by way of a memorandum for you. Now, the meaning of these words, to explain it in brief, is as follows.

Those nouns which are predicated of subjects plural and numerically diverse have a more general meaning, as for example '' man." For when you say "man," you thereby signify the general class, and do not specify any man who is particularly known by that name. For "man" is no less applicable to

Peter than to Andrew, John, or James. This common element of the thing predicated, seeing that it refers to all alike who are included under the same term, demands a further note of distinction if we are to understand, not merely man in general, but " Peter" or "John" in particular.

Other nouns have a very specific denotation, whereby it is not the common property of the class that is indicated by the term employed, but rather a limitation to a particular thing, this delimitation implying no participation in the genus so far as the individuality of the object is concerned ; for example, "Paul" or "Timothy." For such expressions no longer have reference to the properties common to the nature of the objects, but, by setting apart certain delimited objects from the comprehensive term, specify what they are by means of these names. Now when a name is sought for two or more similar objects, as, for example, "Paul," "Silvanus," and ''Timothy," which will indicate the substance of these men, you will not apply one term to the substance of Paul, but a different one to that of Silvanus, and still another to that of Timothy ; but whatever terms indicate the substance of Paul will apply to the two others as well ; and those who are described with reference to their substance by the same terms are consubstantial with one another. And when you have learnt the common element and turn your investigation to the individual characteristics whereby the one is differentiated from the other, then the description which conveys knowledge of each will not agree in all respects with that which describes the other, even if in certain respects it is found to include the element common to all.

This, then, is our statement of the matter; that which is specifically referred to is indicated by the expression "hypostasis " (person). For if you say "man" by the indefiniteness of the term used you have produced in our minds a sort of vague concept, so that, although the nature of the thing is indicated by the noun, yet the thing which subsists in that nature and is specifically indicated by the noun is not made evident to us. But if you say "Paul," you have indicated by the noun the nature subsisting in the particular object. (English translation by Roy Joseph  Deferrari, Loeb Classical Libaray, St. Basil - The Letters, 1926, vol. 1,  pp. 197-201 - online pdf copy.)

And a bit later, Basil makes a clear reference to the monarchy of God the Father:

As for the Son, who through Himself and with Himself makes known the Spirit which proceeds from the Father, and who shines forth as the onlybegotten from the unbegotten light, He in the matter of the individual tokens which distinguish Him has nothing in common with the Father or with the Holy Spirit, but alone is recognized by the note just named. And God, who is over all, alone has an exceptional note of His person, in that He is Father and proceeds from no other principle ; and by this note again He is also recognized individually Himself. Therefore we assert that in the community of substance there is no accord or community as regards the distinguishing notes assigned by faith to the Trinity, whereby the individuality of the persons of the Godhead, as they have been handed down in our faith, is made, known to us, for each is apprehended separately by means of its own particular distinguishing notes. It is by means of the marks just mentioned that the distinction of the Persons is ascertained ; but regarding attributes denoted by the terms infinite, incomprehensible, uncreated, uncircumscribed by space, and all others of like nature, there is no variation in the life-giving natureI mean in the case of the Father, or of the Son, or of the Holy Spiritbut a certain continuous and uninterrupted community appears in them. (Ibid., pp. 207, 208 - bold emphasis mine.)

There is so much more in this exceptional letter, including an interpretation of Heb. 1:3 (pp. 219 ff.); and so, I would like to end here by urging all, once again, to take the time to read the entire epistle.

Grace and peace,


A suggestion...

It has been a strict policy of mine to refrain from the moderation of comments posted here at AF (apart from gross profanity, spam, etc.). It has always been my intent from the beginning that this blog should be an 'open' forum, allowing comments/posts from various points of view, even those that I cannot agree with. Yet, even without any moderation on my part, the vast majority of the comments posted here at AF have been very charitable in nature, which is a tribute of sorts to the character of the posters.
It is my sincere hope that this trend continues here at AF, and would like to suggest to all that charity should be a common factor in all our efforts, without diminishing the passion and zeal for our respective positions.
Grace and peace,

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Basil 'the Great': Letter CXXV - an excellent defense of the original Nicene Creed, with clarifications

St. Basil 'the Great', was one of the famous three 'Cappadocian Fathers' (the other two being his brother, Gregory of Nyssa, and his very close friend, Gregory Nazianzus). In 364 AD, at the request of the famous Church historian Eusebius, then bishop of Caesarea, he left his monastic life to defend the orthodox, Catholic faith. After the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, the creed produced there was coming under intense attacks from two opposing sides: the Arians and the modalists. In 373 AD (three years after being appointed bishop of Caesarea following the death of Eusebius), Basil composed an epistle, wherein he quotes the original Nicene Creed of 325 AD, clarifying and defending its contents—as a 'statement of faith' so to speak—which he then sent to one Eustathius, bishop of Sebaste in Pontus, whose orthodoxy was being questioned. IMO, not only was this letter an excellent defense of the Nicene Creed, but it also offered clarifications that are of importance to us modern folk who seek to understand what the Creed meant to it's Catholic defenders in the 4th century.

The following is the full letter (without the footnotes) as translated by Dr. Roy J. Deferrari in volume 2 (1928) of the 4 volume set, Saint Basil - The Letters. (This set includes the original Greek, side by side, with the English translation, and is part of the famous Loeb Classical Library.)


A Transcript of Faith Dictated by the most Holy Basil, to Which Eustathius, the Bishop of Sebaste, Subscribed

Those who have formerly been committed to an unorthodox confession of Faith and wish to pass over into unity with the orthodox, or those who now for the first time wish to be instructed in the doctrine of truth, must be taught in the articles of Faith as drawn up by the blessed Fathers in the synod once convened at Nicaea. And this same thing would also be useful for those who are suspected of being opposed to the sound doctrine and who seek to cloak with specious subterfuges their unorthodox views. For even for these the creed embodied therein suffices. For either they may correct their hidden malady, or, if they still conceal it in the depth of their hearts, they will themselves bear the responsibility for their deception, but for us they will make easy our defence on the Day of Judgment, when the Lord "will reveal the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the heart." It is therefore fitting to receive them when they confess that they believe according to the words set forth by our Fathers at Nicaea and according to the meaning disclosed by those words when soundly interpreted.

For there are some who even in this creed pervert the doctrine of truth and stretch the sense of the words in it to suit their own purpose. For instance, even Marcellus, acting impiously toward the person  of our Lord Jesus Christ and explaining Him as mere " Word," had the effrontery to profess that he had taken his principles from that creed, perversely explaining the meaning of "consubstantial." And some of those from the impious sect of the Libyan Sabellius, understanding person and substance to be the same, draw from that creed the beginnings they use for the establishment of their own blasphemy, from the fact of its having been written in the creed that "if anyone says the Son is of a different substance or person, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes him." For it is not said therein that the substance and the person are the same. For if the words revealed one and the same meaning, what was the need of each separately? But it is evident that, since some denied that the Son is of the substance of the Father, and others said that He was not of the substance but of some other person, thus they condemned both positions as foreign to the opinion of the Church. For, when they came to revealing their opinion, they said that the Son was of the substance of the Father, not going on to add "of the person." Thus the former statement is laid down as a rejection of faulty opinion, while the latter contains the declaration of the doctrine of salvation. It is necessary, therefore, to confess the Son as of the same substance as the Father, as it is written, and to confess the Father in His own proper person, and the Son in His own, and the Holy Ghost in His own, according as the Fathers themselves have clearly set forth. For sufficiently and clearly have they shown this when they said, "Light of Light, the One which begot Light and the Other which was begotten, and yet Light and Light," so that the definition of the substance is one and the same. Now let the creed itself, composed at Nicaea, be added by us.

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of all things, visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the Father, the only Begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father ; God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God ; begotten not made ; consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made, both in heaven and on earth ; who for us men and for our salvation came down and was incarnate, and was made Man. He suffered and arose on the third day, and He ascended into heaven and shall come to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. And as for such who say "There was a time when He was not," and "Before He was begotten He was not," or that "He came into existence from what was not," or who profess that the Son of God is of a different person or substance, or that He changeth, or is variable, such as these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes.

Since, therefore, all points with but one exception have been sufficiently and accurately defined herein, some as an emendation for what had been perverted, and others as a precaution against what was expected to arisefor the doctrine of the Holy Ghost was laid down cursorily, not being considered as necessary of elaboration, because at that time this question had not yet been agitated, but the sense of it was unassailably inherent in the souls of the faithfulbut since, coming forth little by little, the baneful seeds of impiety, which had been sown before by Arius, the author of the heresy, and later by those who wickedly succeeded to his opinions, have been nurtured to the harm of the churches, and the succession of impiety has broken forth into blasphemy against the Spirit, in view of these things it is necessary to hold before those who have no pity for themselves nor foresee the inevitable threat which our Lord held over those who blaspheme the Holy Ghost, this conclusionthat we must anathematize those who call the Holy Spirit a creature, both those who think so, and those who will not confess that He is holy by nature, even as the Father is holy by nature, and as the Son is holy by nature, but deprive Him of His divine and blessed nature. And the proof of orthodox opinion is not to separate Him from the Father and the Son (for we must be baptized as we have received the words of baptism, and we must behave as we are baptized and we must give glory as we have believed, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost), but to abstain from communion with those, as open blasphemers, who call Him a creature ; since this point is agreed upon (for comment is necessary because of the slanders), that we neither speak of the Holy Spirit as unbegottenfor we recognize One unbegotten and One Beginning of all existing things, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christnor speak of Him as begottenfor we have been taught One only begotten in the tradition of our Faith ; and having been taught that the Spirit of Truth proceeds from the Father, we confess it to be from God without any act of creation. And we must anathematize also those who speak of the Holy Ghost as ministering, on the ground that by this expression they lower Him to the order of creatures. For Scripture has handed down to us the ministering spirits as creatures, saying, "All are ministering spirits sent to minister." And on account of those who confuse everything and do not preserve the teaching of the Gospel, it is necessary to lay down this principle alsothat we must avoid those who change the order which our Lord had left us, as being clearly enemies of religion, and place the Son before the Father and put the Holy Spirit before the Son. For it is meet that we keep unaltered and untampered with that order which we received from the very words of Our Lord, when He said, "Going teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Signature of Eustathius, Bishop.

I, Eustathius, bishop, after reading to you, Basil, have understood, and have approved what has been written above. And I have signed in the presence of my brothers, our Fronto, the suffragan-bishop Severus, and certain other members of the clergy.

[Online pdf document]

Now, a few notes and observations—the English words, "Consubstantial", "substance" and "person", in the above translation, are from the following Greek terms:

ὁμοούσιος (homoousios) = Consubstantial

οὐσία (ousia) = substance

ὑπόστασις (hypostasis) = person

Further, I found his explanation concerning those "who profess that the Son of God is of a different person or substance" to be quite excellent—supporting the view that the Son of God owes His existence to both the "person" and "substance" of God the Father (an essential teaching pertaining to the doctrine of the monarchy of God the Father). And concerning the Holy Spirit, one should note there is no hint of the filioque to be found.

Sincerely hope that all find Basil's letter as informative and inspirational as I have.

Grace and peace,