Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kevin Giles Discusses Moltmann, Pannenberg and Catholic Views of the Trinity

The following paper outlines what Kevin Giles writes about subordinationism in the thought of Moltmann, Pannenberg and Roman Catholic theologians. I will discuss pp. 94-97 of Giles' work The Trinity and Subordinationism. All references are to his book.

I. Jurgen Moltmann and the Trinity

Jurgen Moltmann is one 20th century theologian and writer, who has intensely focused on the Trinity doctrine. Karl Barth has apparently exerted a great influence on Moltmann, especially with regard to the latter's stress on relationality. The community of the Three Persons within Moltmann's social Trinitarian thought is grounded in the Eastern notion of perichoresis (i.e. intermutuality, interpenetration
or mutual indwelling). The Three are considered to be divine subjects (centers of activity), Moltmann argues, who are coequal, live in one another, manifest themselves in one another, as they eternally work through one another (see Giles 94-95).

Giles concludes that Moltmann categorically repudiates "all subordinationism" (95). The Three Persons supposedly relate to the world and to one another in love. The argument is thus made that God is not a monarch to whom humans subject themselves. Rather, he is supposed to be "one who seeks a loving fellowship with those with whom he identifies himself" (ibid). Moltmann thinks God is our heavenly partner, it seems, suffering with and for us. Undoubtedly his form of social Trinitarianism is a result of his theological starting-point. He begins with God's activity in Heilsgeschichte (salvation history) rather than with God's immanence (divine existence in se).

II. Pannenberg, the Trinity and Subordinationism

Another significant Protestant theologian is Wolfhart Pannenberg. His thought has been described as "speculative" since he putatively has the tendency (Tendenz) to navigate theologically where other Trinitarian discussions are "currently cresting" (Giles quoting Ted Peters in Giles 95). Giles chooses Pannenberg because other Protestant theologians have stated that the German thinker espouses the eternal subordination of the Son. But while Pannenberg does write that the Son is "dependent" on the Father and he is evidently "differentiated" from the Father, Pannenberg's thought as a whole apparently does not support the claim made by certain Protestant theologians. Granted, he seems to believe that the Son and the Spirit are dependent on the Father; however, the Father is evidently also dependent on the Son in his post-resurrection existence according to Pannenberg:

"The Father's dependence on the Son takes place, Pannenberg argues, after Christ's resurrection, when he is given all power and authority, being made head over all things . . ." (Giles 96).

In nuce, it appears that Pannenberg believes the Son's dependence on the Father is balanced by the Father's mutual dependence on the Son. Giles thus concludes that a holistic reading of Pannenberg does not support the claim that he teaches the eternal subordination of the Son. To the contrary, a "mutuality in their relationship" obtains, is the view of Pannenberg.

III. Roman Catholicism and Subordinationism

Giles states that Roman Catholic treatments of the Trinity doctrine are examples of high-level scholarship: they are "impressive," and these Catholic studies apparently do not differ in substance from their Protestant counterparts. Giles summarizes these Roman Catholic works in the following way: "The Trinity is a communion of three distinct divine persons who interpenetrate one another and work as one, none being set over or under the others" (97).

Nevertheless, he reports that he was surprised when he researched Catholic books while writing his study, for he found that none of the Catholic works he consulted actually talked about subordinationism in any detail. He relates that Catholics think the pre-Nicenes "naively" subordinated the Son and Spirit to the Father (Bernard Lonergan). Furthermore, "Subordinationism is not given a hearing by Roman Catholic theologians because their doctrine of the Trinity is emphatically 'Western' "(ibid).

The Roman Catholic version of the Trinity doctrine supposedly begins with the unity of the persons. Ergo, "Whenever the divine unity is to the fore, subordinationism is excluded" (ibid). The Western Filioque clause also seems to preclude any suggestion that the Son is, in any way, subordinate to the Father. In ftn. 51 on page 97, Giles refers to Catholic books on the Trinity that he consulted in preparation for his study. He closes the section on Roman Catholic theologians by referring to Karl Rahner's rule, even though he denies that this notable axiom supports the eternal subordination of the Son concept. The famed rule says: "the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity and the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity."

So whether drawing from Protestant or Roman Catholic thinkers, Giles insists that neither type of theologia upholds subordinationism.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Spirit of God and of Christ

A number of points in the NT and Phil. 1:19 make me think that Paul is speaking of the holy spirit when he talks about "the spirit of Jesus Christ."

(1) Paul says that both the prayers of the brothers and sisters as well as the spirit of Jesus will "result in his deliverance" (Emphatic Diaglott) or his "salvation" (NWT). Scholars are not sure whether the SWTHRIAN mentioned refers to eternal salvation, deliverance from prison, or vindication in a legal sense. But regardless of what "salvation" Paul is talking about, he most certainly has in mind his eternal destiny as well as a possible release from prison (this may be an example of deliberate ambiguity). But how would this "release" come about? Would it happen through the mental disposition of Christ manifested by Paul or through the holy spirit that God vouchsafed to Christ? In answer to this question, notice that Paul associates the spirit of Jesus with the prayers of the first century brothers and sisters in Philippi(Cf. Acts 4:23-31).

But why didn't Paul call the "spirit of Jesus Christ" God's spirit if they are in fact one and the same? Well, it is interesting that Paul entreated the Lord three times, begging God to remove a thorn that apparently plagued Paul for quite some time (2 Cor. 12:8). What was the result of this prayer? Jehovah told Paul that his power was perfected in Paul's weakness. Consequently, the Apostle said that he would boast in his weakness, "so that the POWER of the Anointed" would abide upon him (2 Cor. 12:9 Emphatic Diaglott).

Notice that DUNAMIS is first described as God's power, then it is called "the POWER of the Anointed" (Christ). But how would Paul be infused with the Anointed One's power? Acts 1:8; 10:38; Eph. 3:16ff all indicate that the power of God is communicated via His holy spirit. I therefore conclude Paul believed that God and Christ work so closely together as they imbue believers with the holy spirit that to desire the spirit of Jesus Christ is to desire the spirit of God.

Furthermore, it seems that Paul most certainly refers to God's spirit as the spirit of Christ in Rom. 8:9-11. Those verses dovetail with Titus 3:5-6.

But notice closely what Gal. 4:6-7 also teaches us. It is not God's sons who cry out in 4:6, but the spirit of God's Son (cf. Romans 8:14-17). And note that it cries out, "Abba, Father!" I would submit that the spirit of 4:6 is thus the holy spirit that engenders a conviction of sonship in God's children. Thus, while all Christians have (or are supposed to have) the dominant mental attitude of Christ, not all Christians have the conviction of sonship. So that makes me wonder: since the spirit in 4:6 cries "Abba," how could it refer to Christ's mental disposition? Why would Christ's mental disposition cry Abba in a worshiper of Jehovah? Surely it is not Christ's "mind" that produces God's sons, is it?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Use of "Father" for God in Ancient Judaism

Taken from my dissertation "Metaphor and Divine Paternity" which will be published (hopefully) within the next year or two:

[Walter] Kasper states that ancient Israel believed God has “the attitude of a father.” Marsh similarly affirms that the use of “Father” as a divine appellation in the Tanakh “is clearly a metaphor, an image employed to express some aspect or aspects of God’s relationship with God’s people.” Moreover, Jeremiah the prophet indicates that God’s paternity with respect to Israel is symbolic or metaphorical when he speaks of YHWH “becoming” a Father to Israel (Jeremiah 31:9 NRSV). Therefore, it seems that the paternal title for deity is a well-established metaphor in ancient Judaism: the expression appears to form part of a metasememe that communicates the notion of God electing and providentially guiding Israel, the historical seed of Abraham (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8). Hence, although the communal address “our Father” is “relatively late,” (according to Vermes) the metaphor of God as Father (ab) to the Israelite nation appears to have been a prominent motif in the sacred documents of early Judaism (Prayer for Intercession 3:5-8).

Friday, September 19, 2014

Is There An Actual Difference in God Between Essence and Person (Aquinas' Answer)

"I answer that, The truth of this question is quite clear if we consider the divine simplicity. For it was shown above (Question 3, Article 3) that the divine simplicity requires that in God essence is the same as 'suppositum,' which in intellectual substances is nothing else than person. But a difficulty seems to arise from the fact that while the divine persons are multiplied, the essence nevertheless retains its unity. And because, as Boethius says (De Trin. i), 'relation multiplies the Trinity of persons,' some have thought that in God essence and person differ, forasmuch as they held the relations to be 'adjacent'; considering only in the relations the idea of 'reference to another,' and not the relations as realities. But as it was shown above (Question 28, Article 2) in creatures relations are accidental, whereas in God they are the divine essence itself. Thence it follows that in God essence is not really distinct from person; and yet that the persons are really distinguished from each other. For person, as above stated (29, 4), signifies relation as subsisting in the divine nature. But relation as referred to the essence does not differ therefrom really, but only in our way of thinking; while as referred to an opposite relation, it has a real distinction by virtue of that opposition. Thus there are one essence and three persons."

Summa Theologica (Prima Pars, Quaestio 39, Article 1)

The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas

Second and Revised Edition, 1920

Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province

Online Edition Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight

Monday, September 15, 2014

Secular/Sacred Music and the Early Church Fathers

This bit of information is taken from a book entitled Theology and the Arts: Encountering God through Music, Art and Rhetoric(New York/Mahmah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2000) by Richard Viladesau. The quote is found on page 16 of the aforementioned work:

"It was of course recognized that the Old Testament not only spoke approvingly of the use of music (including instruments) in worship, but even commanded it. However, in the Hellenistic church, derived principally from Gentile roots, the music prescribed by the Torah for Jewish ritual was thought to be an accommodation by God to the weaknesses of the covenanted people--much like the permission of divorce in the Law of Moses. The fathers supported their position by quoting out of context such passages as Amos 5:23--'Away from me with the noise of your songs; the playing of your harps I do not wish to hear'--and Isaiah 5:12--'they have lyre and harp, timbrel and flute and wine at their feasts; but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord.' As far as Christian worship is concerned, they interpreted the instruments allegorically as representing powers of the soul and mind. Thus, for example, Pseudo-Origen writes that when the psalm says, 'Praise him in the sound of the trumpet,' the 'trumpet' is to be understood as the contemplative mind."

My point in citing this passage is to show that the early church Fathers perhaps took some biblical passages out of context and also let their everyday assumptions (preapprehensions) or philosophical views govern their interpretation of both the Old and New Testament.

Generally, from what I've read, the pre-Nicenes totally disapproved of secular love music; but maybe they qualify these sentiments somewhere. In any event, here are some examples of their overall attitude toward love/secular and instrumental music:

"In W. Riedel we read among the Commandments of the Fathers, Superiors and Masters that:

Christians are not allowed to teach their daughters singing, the playing of instruments or similar things because, according to their religion, it is neither good nor becoming.

All these passages, it is true, are concerned with worldly song and worldly music, to the practice of which pagan women attached excessive importance . . . In contrast to this the singing of psalms was recommended again and again to Christian virgins precisely as a substitute for prohibited secular music. Tertullian writes:

Let the two [spouses] sing psalms and hymns and incite each other to see who can sing better to his God" (information taken from J. Quasten's Music and Worship in Pagan and Christian Antiquity, pages 83-84).


"The reasons for which Christians passed their sharp judgment were other than those of the pagans. It is true that Christians also held music in contempt because it promoted moral decay. Thus Clement of Alexandria condemned flute music because it was 'a chain in a bridge of sensual love and idle impulses,' and he rejected the noise of cymbal and tambourine because it made one forget propriety and morality. But the most important reason for Clement's condemnation of profane music in private life, which all other Christian writers shared with him, was the close relationship between music and the pagan cult of the idols. Therefore all the music of that time, as far as Christians were concerned, constituted one great worship of idols" (ibid. 126).

"God also gave man a voice. Yet, love songs and indecent things are not to be sung merely on that account" (Cyprian, ANF 5.433).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Geza Vermes' Statement on DSS and the Hebrew Bible

I'm addressing issues of Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) reliability.