Saturday, August 27, 2005

Thomas Weinandy on Tertullian

Thomas G. Weinandy is critical, to an extent, of Tertullian’s doctrinal formulation for three major reasons. While Weinandy believes that the Son and Spirit “are fully divine for Tertullian,” he argues that his utilization of emanation theory evidently “has a weakening and blemishing effect on the unity and equality of the persons within the Trinity.”[1] Weinandy is persuaded that the diminishing effect Tertullian’s model of the Trinity evidently has on the oneness and consubstantiality of the three divine persons results from three factors: (1) The Father is the fons totius divinitatis for the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is to say, the Father is the unoriginated source of their divinity;[2] (2) Tertullian thinks the three persons are arranged in a hierarchy. The Son and Spirit are thus subordinate to the one from whom they emanate in an ordered under manner; (3) Divine emanation suggests that God the Father undergoes some type of change when he prolates the Son and spirit. Tertullian’s teaching apparently “implies that God has become a trinity [sic], that the divine unity has been distributed into a trio in the course of putting into effect the economies of creation and redemption.”[3]

[1] T.G. Weinandy, Does God Change? (Still River: St Bede’s, 1985), xxvi. See also E. Hill, Mystery of the Trinity, 52; Charles Bigg. The Origins of Christianity (Oxford: Clarendon, 1909), 392.

[2] L. Hodgson, Doctrine of the Trinity. See Wolfson, Philosophy of the Church Fathers, 200ff for info on Origen and the generation of the Son.

[3] E. Hill, Mystery of the Trinity, 52. See Jean Daniélou (3:364) who is also critical of Tertullian’s so-called doctrine of probolh.


David Waltz said...

Hello Edgar,

I just this morning discovered your wonderful blog! I too am an ardent bibliophile, and a student of patristics (among so many other disciplines).

I have long recognized that Tertullian was a full-blown subordinationist, and remain amazed at the fact that so few devout Trinitarians are aware of this incontrovertible fact. And further, I would argue (along with R.P.C. Hanson, and so many other patristic scholars) that all the pre-Nicene Church Fathers were subordinationists. (See the threads HERE for some of my more recent musings on this subject.)

I have just started working through your archives, and am quite sure I will be commenting further…

Grace and peace,


Edgar Foster said...

Hello David,

I appreciate your kind remarks. And I think your blog is quite well done. It is also nice to meet a fellow bibliophile.

Your assessment of the pre-Nicenes seems to be right on the mark. In the words of Robert M. Grant (Gods and the One God), the pre-Nicenes were universally subordinationists. Hanson's account of the Christian search for God comes highly recommended as far as I'm concerned. I quote his work in my dissertation which is scheduled for publication next year.

Best wishes!


David Waltz said...

Hi Edgar,

Appreciate your response; your wrote:

>>Hanson's account of the Christian search for God comes highly recommended as far as I'm concerned. I quote his work in my dissertation which is scheduled for publication next year.>>

Me: I have read Hanson’s The Search For the Christian Doctrine of God twice now, and IMHO, among the numerous books on patristics I have read, it remains the most objective and thorough treatment of period and subject material that it covers.

On Tuesday, I ordered your Angelomorphic Christology and the Exegesis of Psalm 8:5 in Tertullian's Adversus Praxean: An Examination of Tertullian's Reluctance to Attribute Angelic Properties to the Son of God, and am looking forward to the publication of your dissertation (if you get a chance, would you mind sharing the title, and the institution it was submitted to).

Hope all is well with you and yours,


Edgar Foster said...

Hi David,

You're doing better than me with respect to Hanson :-) That is a mighty big tome. But I cannot argue with your assessment of his study. It is objective, thorough and magisterial. There is a well-written pro-Trinitarian work by Lewis Ayres entitled Nicaea and Its Legacy which is supposed to be an updated study vis-a-vis Hanson's work. But while Ayres is a good writer and scholar, I don't think that his work even approaches the tome by Hanson.

Thanks for trying my book on Tertullian. I believe that you will find the research contained in the work to be helpful. My dissertation was submitted to the University of Glasgow in Scotland. It is entitled Metaphor and Divine Paternity: The Concept of God's Fatherhood in the Divinae institutiones of Lactantius (250-325 CE).