Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A charitable effort at understanding, interacting with, and critiquing "Nicene Monarchism"

A Catholic brother in Christ (Jamie Donald) has recently published an online assessment/overview of the theological position which has been labeled by some as "Nicene Monarchism"—a position which is basically the 'revival' of the pre-Nicene, Nicene and early post-Nicene teaching of the Monarchy of God the Father. The full post can be accessed at: A Reflection on the Holy Spirit

Jamie's treatment should be noted for its charity and sincere attempt to understand and interact with the "Nicene Monarchism" position (hereafter: NM). In contrast to the superficial browsing employed by so many other critics, Jamie has actually taken the time to read at length what the proponents of NM have actually written before offering his overview and critique. Concerning his overview, except for a couple of points (see below for examples), I found it to be accurate and balanced. As for his critique, my thoughts and reflections will be presented in a separate, upcoming thread (the Lord willing). 

Clarifications/corrections of Jamie's overview - 

Jamie posted: 

This formulation has those who adhere to the more classical view of the Trinity giving the Nicene Monarchists the label, “polytheists;” specifically tritheists. Three persons, three divine beings, three gods. In answer to this charge, they reply that only the Autotheos, God the Father, is God; the Son and the Spirit are divine, but not God. Or in the words of one adherent, How many times do we have to say this to him? When I am using the word “God” and say that the Father is the One God I am not using it like the Nicene Creed when it says that Christ is God from God. I am using it to refer to the one who is autotheos. If when the word “God” means divine with respect to nature then yes, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are God. But that is very confusing to people and so for the benefit of the consciences of the saints I use the word "God' to refer to the Father and "divine" to refer to the nature of Father, Son and Spirit. 

Fair enough, in spite of the irony behind the same person who coined the term Nicene Monarchism being the same who says he’s not using terms the same way the Nicene Creed uses them, a concise definition has been tendered. But this re-defining must also be applied in various places throughout the Scripture. For example, in order to maintain continuity of thought between the Nicene Monarchist’s view of the Trinity and the Holy Writ, one should think of John 1:1 along the lines of “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (the Father), and the Word was a divine being.” Of course, with description defining terms differently than the same terms are used in the source material (in this case the Bible and Nicene Creed), one should also expect confusion. 

Now, I shall, of course, only speak for myself here, but I would never say that the Son and the Spirit are "not God"; rather, I have consistently maintained that they are not the "one God" specifically mentioned as such in the Bible, pre-Nicene, Nicene and early post-Nicene Fathers—including the Nicene Creed itself—that phrase is reserved for God the Father alone. 

I would also argue that the term "God" is used in two different senses in Nicene Creed: first, with reference to a singular, distinct person—i.e. God the Father; and second, with reference to essence/nature. 

And finally, the grammar of the Greek in John 1:1 concerning ho theos and theos presents strong support for the NM position (to which I would add John 1:18). 

[Note: I have reposted my above "Clarification/corrections" in the combox of the original thread.]

I shall end here for now, hoping that others with an interest in this topic will shall their thoughts. 

Grace and peace,