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Category: The Trinity

The wrong view of subordination

by Andrea Elizabeth

On pages 90-98 of God, History and Dialectic, Dr. Farrell describes Absolute Divine Simplicity. I’ll not summarize it here, but will pull a quote of the implications relating to subordinationism, which can lead to a misunderstanding of the Trinity.

This being said, the “Many” which are first produced in Plotinus’
system are, first, the Nous, or “Mind”, and secondly, the World-Soul.
The first production of the One must be Mind, since
Mind’s most basic operation is that of dialectical opposition: It knows itself.
And, in similar fashion, the World Soul is a further declension from the
“two-thirds simplicity” of the Mind precisely in that It is the knowledge of
the Mind knowing Itself. In effect, Plotinus is simply “demythologizing”
Gnosticism, with its various intermediary entities between God and
creation by dressing up the “hierarchy of beings” in chique and sleek
philosophical language. There are certain unique structures of Plotinus’
version of this chain of being:

(1). The Mind, or Nous, is subordinate to the One because it is
caused by It, while the One is Uncaused;
(2). The World-Soul, being the knowledge produced by the Mind
knowing itself, is therefore produced by the Mind, and is
therefore subordinate to It.

I suspect the problem is one of decreasing hierarchy, and not just origination. The Mind is an inferior emanation from the One, And the World Soul is a lesser, more diverse emanation from the Mind. By the time one gets to created matter, the deterioration is so complete that it become evil. An antithesis.

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If not Monarchianism, then what?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Back to God, History and Dialectic, by Dr. Joseph P. Farrell. I believe that Dr. Farrell is equating monarchianism and subordination as heresies in the following statement on p. 28:

In other words, if Christ was truly Who He claimed to be, then the
Lord of Redemption ought also to be the Lord of Creation. But here the
early fathers encountered a problem, which we may express simply by
asking what was asked then: Does this not imply that the Father and the
Son are really the same Person? But then came the immediate response:
that could not be, because when Christ died on the Cross, that would have
meant that God ceased to be; moreover, Christ prayed to His Father both
before and on the Cross. It was maintained that He repeatedly made
Himself unequal to the Father, and therefore, He was distinct from His
Father. And so the dilemma which, in one form or another, haunts the first
three centuries of Christian theology: if Christ is equal to God, then He
must be not only the same What but the same Who; but if He is really
distinct as a Who from God, then He cannot be fully God, or the same
“what”.62 The first opinion became known as the heresy of modalism, or
“Sabellianism”, because it held that there was really only one Person in
God, a “Son-Father”(uipater), Who appeared in different “guises” at
different times. The second option became known by a variety of names,
but “subordinationism” will suffice, since it maintained the traditional
doctrine that Christ was really a distinct Person from the Father, but not
equally divine with Him. This doctrine is sometimes known as
“monarchianism”, since it maintained that the Father was the “Mon-arch”,
or sole(monh) source(arch) not only of the Son, but of all things which had
beginning, namely, all of Creation. Thus, two concepts now became fused:
Fatherhood and Creatorhood on the one hand, and Sonship and
Creatorhod on the one hand, and Sonship and Creaturehood on the other.

In the following pages he then shifts to the implication of this heresy as leading to false Papal claims in Rome. I’m a bit unclear about his train of thought through page 40, where I am now.  I would like for him to have shown how these where false before his immediate shift to Apostolic Succession because I thought the Monarchial view was Orthodox. Not in the sense that Christ is not as much God as the Father, but that the Father is the Source of His deity.

The criticized implications are (if I understand it) that St. Clement of Rome taught that God sent the Son and the Son sent the Apostles so that the Apostles “become part of the work of redemption”. (p. 31) Perhaps he is saying that this leads to the false Vicar of Christ claim which confuses Christ’s work with the particular Apostle’s. One can see how this can be taken with passages like John 20:21, “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” While there may be a fine line of distinction between the proper way to understand it and the improper, I think the problem is one of replacement. The Son replaces the Father and then the Apostle replaces the Son. I can see how this would lead to the filioque. So while I’m making a criticism, I’m hesitant to describe the Triadic relationship more accurately for fear of being presumptuous. Maybe that’s why Dr. Farrell didn’t either, at least yet. Such is Apophatic theology.

The necessity or the reality of words 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

In the last post I discussed needs-based language and drew a comparison of language to God the Word. It is a given that Christ, being God, is not born nor eternally begotten out of necessity on the Father’s part. Thus the Father, the source of divinity and of the Son and the Spirit, does not need the Son. I suppose that there does not need (on the Father’s part) to be an expression or revelation of the Father, nor a transmitter of His attributes (to roughly paraphrase) in the person of the Holy Spirit. The fact that the Trinity exists roughly in this manner can only be said to be because it’s the Father’s will, if that’s not stretching things too far. Is the Son begotten in order to reveal the Father to us because we need this revelation? His Incarnation probably is, but not His eternal begetting. He was the Word before the Incarnation according to John 1. Therefore language, or self-revelation does not have to be based on necessity, at least in God’s case. Why God communicates inside Trinitarian relationship, I don’t know. The three Persons aren’t providing new information to each other or solving any problems or righting any insecurities in their relationship. I have heard of the perichoresis of love between and through them, which I’ll just have to leave at that.

So beyond problem solving, there is language used in expressing love. The lover delights in expressing his love to the beloved, who delights in receiving it. Is this based on avoiding a bad thing if this love is not expressed? I think it can be understood that the beloved will suffer without this expression, or that perhaps the lover will miss out on a chance of possessing the beloved if he doesn’t. Again leaving aside necessity in the beloved, and believing that at least God doesn’t need to possess creation, why else would God express Himself in the Son? The motives of delight and enjoyment seem necessity based too, but that may be because of an over-emphasis on personal entertainment and fulfillment. I’ve also heard of kenosis. It is God’s nature to give everything, including words. Does God have a need to give and thus a need for a recipient? Given that God is not selfish, this cannot be right. I think it does have to do with being an ontological giver though.

Co-dependence can occur if people have a need to be needed. These people have trouble letting others become independent and strong on their own. They can’t let go. Learning detachment can help break this cycle. Detachment comes back to silence in my mind. Detachment is not needing special feelings and statements in order to get a sense of one’s worth or position. Position and worth cease to matter as much. One humbly accepts where one is at. Prayer becomes more about doing God’s will, and is not looking for personal results, except not wanting to displease God. Pleasing God is not one’s business, but not displeasing Him is. Thinking one can please God seems vain. One can still be pleased with Him though, hopefully less self-consciously. Which brings me to words of worship and praise.

I believe it is personally beneficial to worship God and that I need to do it. God doesn’t need me to do it, I need to do it. That sort of makes worshiping selfish though. Ideal worship is unselfconscious where one is genuinely impressed and utterances of love and praise naturally spring forth. It is taught that the Spirit prays in us. At the end of morning prayers, the phrase “and Yourself pray in me” is said. This is probably the Trinitarian kenotic perchoresis of love that it is apparently possible to eventually enter into unselfconsciously.

The Nature of the Holy Spirit

by Andrea Elizabeth

Other descriptions of the Holy Spirit include “Breath, the Pneuma, who gives life to all and brings every object to its proper perfection. The Logos appears as order and intelligibility, the Pneuma as dynamism and life.” (Olivier Clément, The Roots of Christian Mysticism, p. 63)

St. Iraenaeus of Lyons in Against Heresies states, “In all the Spirit; and he is the living water given by the Lord to those who believe in him…” (TRoCM p. 63)

Gregory Nazianzen speaks of the Trinity as the unmoving movement of the One who neither remains imprisoned in his own solitude, nor spreads himself indefinitely; for God is communion, not impersonal diffusion. The very fullness of the One demands the presence in him of the Other; an Other who in absolute terms can only be within the One and equal to him in infinity. But these two are not opposed or combined in any mathematical way. For the Third, who is Other but not Other, enables the fullness of Unity to contain unending diversity without opposition; absolute differentiation coexists with absolute unity. (p. 62, 63)

The Father is the source of deity:

The divine essence, the godhead, ‘God’, does not exist otherwise than in the Persons. The source of the godhead, the sole origin of the Son and of the Spirit is the Father. The early Church hardly ever spoke of ‘God’ in general, a God in whom the Persons could then be distinguished. It spoke of the Father, for ‘the name Father is greater even than that of God’. The ocean of the divine essence springs from  the fathomless depths of a Person, the Father. Yet through Christ we can, in the Holy Spirit, call him Abba, the word of trust and tenderness by which a small child calls his father. So the apophatic antinomy is also the paradox of the Father as Origin in unfathomed depths, and the Father as Abba, ‘Daddy’.

but not in the subordinationist sense:

In practice, the fact that the Father is the ‘origin’ of the Trinity does not imply any superiority or domination for his own advantage. As Christ will ’empty himself’ on the cross, so the Father ’empties himself’ for the benefit of the Son, to whom he gives all that he has and all that he is – the fullness of the divine unity – and on whom he causes his Spirit to rest, the Spirit by whom they love each other and find joy together. ‘Spiritual fatherhood’ after the likeness of the divine Fatherhood is sacrificial and liberating; it imparts the spirit of life and liberty. (p. 68)

Clément is very strong on emphasizing the Spirit’s sourcehood in the Father, but gives this nod to the west regarding the economic sending of the Spirit by the Son. By the way I note on the back cover that “Olivier Clément is one of the foremost Orthodox theologians of the day. He teaches at the Institute of St. Sergius at Paris and is a member of the Ecumenical Institute founded by L’Institut Catholique.”

At Pentecost the Father gives the Spirit ‘in the name of the Son’. And the Spirit is the ‘Spirit of the Son’, the ‘Spirit of Christ’. The Christian West has insisted on this basic truth. It has contemplated the ‘movement’ of the divine ‘consubstantiality’, the movement of love in the Trinity, going from Father to Son, then from Father and Son to the Holy Spirit who imparts it to us. However, St. Augustine says that if the Spirit comes from the Son as well as the Father, (in Latin Filioque) he comes prinipaliter from the Father who remains the sole origin of the other divine Persons. (p. 70)

One last observation, which I agree with and find a little confusing if it’s not true, is that the Spirit seems similar to the divine energies:

In God the Holy Spirit is almost anonymous (since God is entirely Spirit, entirely Holy). He is almost confused with the unmoving movement of love in the divine nature, with the divine ‘common nature’, as St. Basil says. He is revealed as rich, ‘variegated’ with all the divine names, and so almost indistinguishable from the divine energies that he imparts to us, in our inmost depths. It is as if he were effacing himself.

When I think of the profusion of the names of the Spirit I am seized with dread: Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, Spirit of Adoption. He renews us in baptism and resurrection. He blows where he wills. Source of light and life, he makes of me a temple, he makes me divine… Everything that God does is done by the Spirit. He multiplies himself in tongues of fire and he multiplies his gifts, he raises up preachers, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers … He is another Comforter … as if he were another God.

Gregory Nazianzen Fifth Theological Oration

The Spirit is the hidden God, the inward God, deeper than our greatest depth. He gives life to all things and we breathe him without being aware of it. He is the breath of God in the breathing of the world, of humanity. (p. 73)

The Personhood of the Holy Spirit

by Andrea Elizabeth

It seems that there has been some development of statements (I wont say Tradition) about the Holy Spirit. The Creed was expanded to say that He proceeds from the Father and is worshiped and glorified with the Father and the Son, but still does not go into the same detail as it does the Son. Rublev’s icon of the Trinity, or the Hospitality of Abraham, portrays the Holy Spirit as being as much of a person as the Father and the Son. There are more vague statements made of Him however. Olivier Clement includes these:

The very name of Christ is a Trinitarian name: Christos, Messiah, means ‘anointed’ with the Messianic unction. Now the Father is the one who from all eternity ‘anoints’ the Son by causing the Spirit to rest on him, or rather in him, as an unction, the ‘oil of gladness’ of the psalm, because the Spirit is the joy of the divine communion.

To name Christ is to confess the whole, for it is to point to God (the Father, the ‘principle’ of the godhead) who has anointed the Son; and to the Son who has been anointed, and to the unction itself, which is the Spirit. This accords with Peter’s teaching in Acts: ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 10:38) and with the teaching of Isaiah: ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me’ (Isaiah 61:1), The Psalmist simply says, ‘Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness’ (Psalm 45:7).

Basil of Caesarea On the Holy Spirit, 12 ( The Roots of Christian Mysticism p. 59)

This next passage makes Him sound more like a Person, but yet seems to set Him apart (not a good word, but the distinction seems more) from the Father and the Son.

That God is, and that he is everywhere and fills the universe, is known by the angels and the saints who have purified themselves, because they are enlightened by the Holy Spirit. But where, how, and what he is, not one amongst all beings knows: only the Father knows the Son and the Son the Father, and the Holy Spirit knows the Father and the Son, since he is co-eternal and identical with them in essence. Indeed these Three who are only One know themselves, and are known by one another. As he himself said who is by nature God and Son of God, ‘Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of a person which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God’ (1 Cor. 2:11). And again: ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Matthew 11.27).

Diadochus of Photike Catechesis, 5

The following hymn, rising at once to the mystery of the divine cosmic Logos, glorifies in a single sequence the Father as the principle of the godhead, and the Spirit as the ‘bond of the Son and the Father’. [Synesius of Cyrene Hymns, 5] But this bond is himself a Person; nothing in God can be impersonal.  (p. 59,60)

[…] The Old Testament has manifested the Father clearly, the Son only dimly. The New Testament has revealed the Son and implied the divinity of the Spirit.

Today the Spirit lives amongst us and makes himself more clearly known. It would actually have been dangerous openly to proclaim the Son while the divinity of the Father was not fully acknowledged, and then, before the divinity of the Son was accepted, to add as it were the extra burden of the Holy Spirit … It was more fitting that by adding a little at a time and, as David says, by ascending from glory to glory, the splendour of the Trinity should shine forth progressively.

Gregory Nazianzen Fifth Theological Oration, 31, 26 (p. 61)

Here’s a new explanation of the Spirit,

The Trinitarian revelation is implicit also in the prayer which Christ himself taught us, the Lord’s Prayer, of which the first three petitions invoke the three divine Persons. For the Son is the Father’s eternal name, which he hallowed to the point of death on a cross. And the Kingdom is identified with the Spirit, who is therefore both the unction of the Son and the Kingdom of the Father, as Paul Florensky observed.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come.

By these words the Lord is teaching those who pray to begin with the very mystery of God … The words of the prayer really point to the Father, the Father’s name, and the Kingdom, to teach us … to honour, to call upon and to adore the One Trinity. For the name of God the Father, in its essential subsistence, is the only-begotted Son. And the Kingdom of God the Father, is the essential subsistence, is the Holy Spirit. For what Matthew calls ‘Kingdom’ another evangelist calls Holy Spirit: ‘Thy Spirit come…’ (Luke 11.2 variant reading).

Maximus the Confessor Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer (p.62)