Monday, March 23, 2009

Subordinationism in Clement of Alexandria

Here is what scholarship says about subordinationism in Clement of Alexandria:

The Son is EPEKEINA TOU NOHTOU, Strom, v. 6. 38. He is PANTOKRATWR, Paed. i. 5. 24; iii. 7. 39 ; Protrep. viii. 81; Strom, iv. 3. 148 : KURIOS, Paed. i' 7- 56, 57 : the Father alone is perfect, for in Him is the Son, and in the Son the Father, Paed. \. 7. 53. The passages usually quoted as showing Clement's tendency to Subordinationism are Strom, vii. I. 2, PRESBUTERON EN GENESEI; vii. 2. 5, the Father is hO MONOS PANTOKRATWR; Strom, v. I. 6, the Son is DUNAMIS, vii. 2. 8 an ENERGEIA, Paed. iii. I. 2 a DIAKONOS of the Father; Protrep. x. no He is made equal to the Father; Paed. iii. 12. 98 He is the AGAQON BOULHMA of the Father; Strom, vi. 7. 59 Creation runs up to the Father, Redemption to the Son. Rufinus, Epil. in Apol. Pamphili, Clement sometimes ' filium Dei creaturam dicit.' This must refer to the word KTIZEIN used of Wisdom (Prov. viii. 22), Strom, v. 14. 89. Even POIEIN might be used, Strom, vi. 7. 58 (in a quotation from the PETROU KHR.), hOS ARXHN TWN APANTWN EPOIHSEN. Cp. Adumb. in I Joan. p. 1009, ' hae namque primitivae virtutes ac primo creatae ' of the Son and Holy Spirit. On the interpretation of this passage of the Book of Proverbs, see Huet, Origeniana, ii. 2. 21 (Lomm. xxii. 176); Rosenmiiller, Hist. Interp. iii. 216, 229; Baur, Dreieinigkeit. Bull and Domer do not regard Clement as a Subordinationist. Huet maintains the opposite view. Redepenning occupies an intermediate position. The statement of Photius that Clement spoke of two Logi must rest upon a blunder ; see Dr. Westcott, Clement of Alexandria, in Diet. Christ. Biog.; Zahn, Forsch. iii. 144; and Lect. viii.

The above quotation is from The Christian Platonists of Alexandria by Charles Bigg. See pp. 69-70. This work can also be accessed online at,M1

Another quote is taken from a work entitled History of Dogmas (pp. 248-249) by Joseph Tixeront:

And yet some have thought that in his works there are traces of subordinationism: for he not only applies to the Son the appellations Philo gives to the Word : but he also declares that the Father is PRESBUTEROS EN GENESEI, that the Son's nature (FUSIS) is the nearest to Him who alone is all powerful, that the Son can be demonstrated and known, while the Father can be neither known nor demonstrated. Nay, if Photius is to be believed, Clement looked upon the Son as a creature; and it must be said that the Alexandrian doctor has, on this subject, expressions somewhat perplexing. These, however, can be explained and do not destroy the impression that results from his doctrine taken as a whole. Even, some authors are unwilling to believe that he was truly subordinationist.


See John Patrick's work on Clement of Alexandria here and what he writes about subordinationism in Clement:,M1

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Millard Erickson on Subordination in the Trinity

Roman Catholic theologian James Bellord

In nature, the offspring is inferior to, and dependent on the parent, and owes a duty of submission. This is not the case in the Blessed Trinity. The Son is, and always has been, equal to the Father in all things (emphases in original).

See Matthew Alfs, Concepts of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, page 9.

With these preliminary observations, I will now review Millard Erickson's discussion of subordination found in his
Making Sense of the Trinity.


I. The Eternal Subordinationist View

Erickson describes Trinitarian subordination as the
view that "there is an eternal, asymmetrical
relationship within the Trinity between the Father and
the Son, and by extension, the Spirit as well"
(Making Sense of the Trinity, page 85).

This theological position is based (in part) on
biblical passages that speak of the Father generating
the Son. Such Bible verses are construed as applying
to the Son, not simply during his time on earth, but
from all eternity. Since the Father has putatively
been generating the Son from all eternity and continues generating the Son eternally (according to some ancient fathers), "The subordination of the Son to the Father was therefore not simply during his earthly life. It is from all time" (ibid., 85).

Erickson also notes that those advocating this view "take considerable pains to disclaim an inferiority of the Son to the Father," avidly contrasting their position with that of Arianism (ibid).

II. The Eternal Equality View

Contra this intra-trinitarian model, there are other
trinitarians who contend that the three persons are
eternally equal and symmetrical in relation to one
another. Therefore,

The biblical statements about the
Father begetting the Son are to be applied to the
earthly incarnation, when the second person of the
Trinity stepped down to earth and added humanity to
his deity. Similarly, his statements of apparent
subordination, such as 'the Father is greater than I'
(John 14:28), are to be interpreted within this
framework. This subordination is to be understood as a
subordination of function, not of essence (ibid).

Note that those advocating an eternal equality view with reference to the tres personae generally argue that Jn 14:28 only applies to the incarnate Son. They speak of functional subordination in the sense that God's Son is subordinate to the Father while incarnate on earth. This type of subordination is thus viewed as temporary (i.e. economic) and ceases once Christ ascends back to the Father. Whereas some Trinitarians use the terminology "functional subordination" to reference the Son's pre-incarnate status and incarnate mode of being, others strictly limit the nomenclature to the incarnate Christ. Erickson, Making Sense of the Trinity, 85-86.

At any rate, an important point that should not be overlooked is what Erickson writes next:

On this latter view, there is NOT an asymmetrical
relationship of generation. Not only do the Son and
Spirit derive their being from the Father, but they
also derive it from one another, as does the Father
from each of them. Beyond that, this view claims that
each member of the Trinity serves each of the others.
There is a mutual subordination of each to the other
(ibid., 86).

According to Erickson, the eternal equality view
posits an intra-trinitarian model wherein the three
persons are mutually subordinate to one another in
that the three relations (i.e. persons) serve each other or
derive their very being from one another. I read "mutually
subordinate" here as co-equal in view of what Erickson
later writes. However one interprets Erickson at this
point, one can definitely say that the author of the
work promoting understanding of the Trinity favors the
latter view and affirms the fact that orthodoxy has
traditionally maintained that the Son is not eternally
subordinate to the Father:

The interpretations the orthodox gave to the passages
appealed to by the Arians are basically that these
should be taken as referring to Jesus' earthly
ministry, rather than his eternal status. The logic of
the argument would seem to apply to the passages
marshaled in support of the subordinationist view as
well. Thus, the begetting passages should be seen as
referring to the earthly residence of Jesus, rather
than some everlasting continuous generation by the
Father (ibid).

III. Erickson Highlights A Difficulty With the Eternal Subordinationist View

Erickson argues that the eternal subordinationist view
finds it difficult to prevent eternal subordination of
the Son to the Father and the Holy Spirit to the
Father and/or Son from "lapsing into the inferiority
of the Son," a position synonymous with Arianism
(ibid., 86-87).

Erickson then alludes to Geoffrey Bromiley's article
in the Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, which avers, based on the eternal generation theory, that there is an eternal "superiority and subordination of order" in
the triune Godhead. See page 368 of Evangelical
Dictionary of Theology
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984).

Bromiley further qualifies his statement by noting
that eternal subordination does not imply inferiority
amongst the three opposed relations of the Trinity.
Yet, Erickson thinks that Bromiley's position seems
logically absurd. Why is this the case?

Bromiley's position is evidently that "The Father is superior to
the Son and the Son is subordinate to the Father but
without being inferior" to the Father (Erickson,
Making Sense of the Trinity, 87).
But Erickson suggests that Bromiley is working with "some ambiguity of
superiority and inferiority that enables A to be
superior to B without B being inferior to A. Without
justification of this distinction of meaning we have a
logical contradiction. And I would contend that if
that distinction were to be made clear, the
significance of the Father's superiority would vanish.
In other words, if the ambiguity is not removed, there
is a logical contradiction. If it is removed, the
meaning of the assertion is lost" (ibid).

Erickson's point is that the Son cannot simultaneously
be subordinate to the Father (and the Father superior to him) without the Son being inferior to the Father. The only way that such a situation can obtain is
if one uses the term "subordinate" or "superior" in an ambiguous or
non-standard fashion. But if the word "subordinate" is
not used ambiguously, there is a logical
contradiction. For how can a personal entity be
subordinate to another entity and have another entity be superior to it without being inferior to the said entity in some way? On the other hand, if
one defines "subordinate" in a manner that
disambiguates the term, then the Son's putative
eternal subordination to the Father disappears. Either
way, there seems to be an unsolvable problematic feature
associated with the eternal subordinationist view.
Erickson therefore favors the temporary
subordinationist model to account for Jesus'
subordination to the Father.

In conclusion, I believe that Erickson's discussion
demonstrates the position that orthodoxy has
traditionally maintained concerning intra-trinitarian
relations. Church creeds, councils, and post-Nicene
fathers have generally expressed themselves in the way
that Owen Thomas describes. To recap his observation:

God the Father is the ground or presupposition of God
the Son, and God the Father and God the Son are the
ground or presupposition of God the Holy Spirit. God
the Son is of or from God the Father, and God the Holy
Spirit is of or from God the Father and God the Son.
But the Church interpreted this in such a way that
there is no temporal priority or subordination
(Thomas, Introduction to Theology, page 68).


My Short Amazon Review of Kevin Giles' Book

Kevin Giles has written a provocative work entitled
The Trinity and Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate (Downer's Grove: IVP,
2002). While I disagree with him doctrinally, I concur with Giles' overall assessment of Christian history concerning the status that the post-Nicene church assigned to the Son.

Giles' book is divided into three parts and contains
three appendices along with subject and author
indices. He packs so much historical information into
his 282-page book that scholars should be able to benefit from his study. Yet, students and laypersons will also find this book a delightful read since it is accessible and flows because of its quality prose.

Giles further appears to have a broad knowledge of
church history and his erudition is on full display in
The Trinity and Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate. Buy it today!

I did a longer review of the book in a series on my yahoogroup, Greektheology.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jason on John 1:1 and Parallelism

Jason writes:

Hi Hollis,
If hO GEGONEN is to be taken as belonging to what follows it instead of what
precedes it, then why is it that it is not preceded by KAI, as is the case with
all of the other 'connected' phrases in John 1:1-5? Also, note that if hO
GEGONEN is taken as belonging to what follows it instead of what precedes it,
then St. John's otherwise perfectlyconsistent [SIC] usage in John 1:1-4 of only
one tense of verb, not only per clause, but also per series of 'connected'
clauses, is thereby 'broken'.

In view of these remarks, I find the following observation from the Catholic NAB interesting (see the notes for the Johannine Prologue):

The prologue states the main themes of the gospel: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, and the preexistence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, who reveals God the Father. In origin, it was probably an early Christian hymn. Its closest parallel is in other christological hymns, Col 1:15-20 and Philippians 2:6-11. Its core (John 1:1-5, 10-11, 14) is poetic in structure, with short phrases linked by "staircase parallelism," in which the last word of one phrase becomes the first word of the next. Prose inserts (at least John 1:6-8, 15) deal with John the Baptist.

The operative portion of this quote above is how the NAB defines the expression "staircase parallelism." The definition is important in view of Jason's claim. But contra the assertions of Jason, we read further in the NAB notes:

What came to be: while the oldest manuscripts have no punctuation here, the corrector of Bodmer Papyrus P75, some manuscripts, and the Ante-Nicene Fathers take this phrase with what follows, as staircase parallelism. Connection with John 1:3 reflects fourth-century anti-Arianism.

Let one assume that John 1:1ff does contain staircase parallelism. Notice that the Ante-Nicene Fathers or the pre-Nicenes took the phrase in John 1:3 with what follows, yet they understood this passage to contain "staircase parallelism." Hence, the fact that this verse may contain the poetic features of staircase parallelism does not subvert the notion that hO GEGONEN goes with what follows rather than with what precedes it.Notice that the NAB points out that connecting hO GEGONEN with what precedes the phrase resulted from "fourth-century anti-Arianism."

For the record, I have done extensive research on this issue before. Jason need not try to upbraid this post since I am quoting another source.Those familiar with the relevant issues admit in which direction the textual evidence points.

Theophilus of Antioch on the Trinity

First, we will give quotes from the primary literature:

And first, they taught us with one consent that

God made all things out of nothing; for nothing was coeval with God: but He being His own place, and wanting nothing, and existing before the ages, willed to make man by whom He might be known; for him, therefore, He prepared the world. For he that is created is also needy; but he that is uncreated stands in need of nothing. God, then, having His own Word internal within His own bowels, begat Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before all things. He had this Word as a helper in the things that were created by Him, and by Him He made all things. He is called "governing principle" [arkh], because He rules, and is Lord of all things fashioned by Him. He, then, being Spirit of God, and governing principle, and wisdom, and power of the highest, came down upon the prophets, and through them spoke of the creation of the world and of all other things. For the prophets were not when the world came into existence, but the wisdom of God which was in Him, and His holy Word which was always present with Him (Ad Autolycum 2.10).

For the sun is a type of God, and the moon of man. And as the sun far surpasses the moon in power and glory, so far does God surpass man. And as the sun remains ever full, never becoming less, so does God always abide perfect, being full of all power, and understanding, and wisdom, and immortality, and all good. But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection. In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man. Wherefore also on the fourth day the lights were made (Ad Autolycum 2.15).

But as to what relates to the creation of man, his own creation cannot be explained by man, though it is a succinct account of it which holy Scripture gives. For when God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness," He first intimates the dignity of man. For God having made all things by His Word, and having reckoned them all mere bye-works, reckons the creation of man to be the only work worthy of His own hands. Moreover, God is found, as if needing help, to say, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." But to no one else than to His own Word and wisdom did He say, "Let Us make." And when He had made and blessed him, that he might increase and replenish the earth, He put all things under his dominion, and at his service; and He appointed from the first that he should find nutriment from the fruits of the earth, and from seeds, and herbs, and acorns, having at the same time appointed that the animals be of habits similar to man's, that they also might eat of an the seeds of the earth (Ad Autolycum 2.18).

Certain scholars write (in agreement with my assessment of Theophilus):

I think that all of this Trinitarian language is derived from the modern historian's anticipation of later theological developments and, therefore, is anachronistic when directed towards Theophilus. Theophilus does not speak of plurality within the so-called Godhead, let alone present a primitive or alternative form of the Trinity.

Quoted from Rick Rogers, Theophilus of Antioch: The Life and Thought of a Second Century Bishop (Lanham, Boulder, New York and Oxford: Lexington Books, 2000), 75.

Robert M. Grant states:

A passage in Theophilus of Antioch is sometimes invoked for the doctrine of the Trinity, but it proves nothing. He is offering symbolical exegesis of the 'days' of creation in Genesis (Grant 156).

Stanley Burgess comments about Theophilus' so-called Trinity as follows:

The members of the Trinity are not named as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, however; rather, they are God, His Word (Logos), and His Wisdom (Burgess 32).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jason and Subordinationism (Weinandy)

Jason writes:

Hi again Allen,
I am most happy to read Edgar's most recent posts on his blog concerning St.
Justin Martyr and Athenagoras of Athens, because what Edgar has to say
here provides extremely clear examples of the kinds of AMBIGUITIES which he
HABITUALLY uses as the primary basis for his frequent EQUIVOCATIONS. "Less
divine"? Well, in WHAT SENSE, precisely? Edgar doesn't tell us. Though what
he is trying to imply (hiding behind what other people have written, as is his
'style' - which serves his purposes quite well, in that when juxtaposing two or
more authors with each other, one can easily create the appearance that they are
using the same terms in PRECISELY the same 'sense' as eachother) is quite
obviously, that St. Justin taught that the Son was 'subordinate' to the Father
as respects ESSENSE, when, in fact, St. Justin not only taught no such thing,
but EXPLICITLY stated in his writings that the Son is INSEPARABLE from the
ESSENCE of the Father; and in the same context spoke of the Son as being 'numerically distinct' from the Father:

Jason shows his tendency to be a dogmatist and also demonstrates that he is not capable of sticking to the subject matter of a thread. No worries, for I am getting used to it. He is playing a game that is as old as Jesus. Whatever I say (as long as it does not comport with his "orthodox" worldview) is wrong. If I quote Trinitarians I am relying on other people or misrepresenting them. If I quote the pre-Nicenes, I am twisting their words. Whatever! It is actually Weinandy who uses the phrasing "less divine." In what sense he uses the wording, we are not told. But in the same work, Weinandy speaks of the "subordinationism" of Justin Martyr. I assume that he is employing that term in its standard technical manner. If Jason fails to understand what Weinandy means by "subordinationism," maybe Jason would like to ask Weinandy. As for me, I am familiar with what such words mean in this discourse context. Subordinationism generally does refer to creaturehood concerning its referent or to inferiority vis-a-vis essence. That Justin Martyr speaks of the Son being "numerically distinct" from the Father does not prove that he believed the Son is hOMOOUSION with the Father. That proposition "The Son is consubstantial with the Father" does not logically follow from the proposition "The Son is numerically distinct from the Father." Additionally, it did not escape my notice that Jason had nothing to say about Justin's words in 1 Apology 6.1-2. That text clearly implies that Justin possibly adhered to a form of subordinationism. There are other texts at my disposal whenever Jason is ready to discuss the primary literature produced by the Martyr.

Jason continues:

his meaning, once again, as is READILY discerned from the CONTEXT, being that the Son is PERSONALLY distinct, BUT MOST DEFINITELY NOT 'essentially' distinct
from the Father.

Assertions do not cut it in this game. Where is the evidence that supports your asseverations?

Again, we read:

"In touch with the creation"? Well, of course! (Col. 1:15-20
with Eph. 1:3-14; also Rev. 3:14 and Prov. 8:22-31 LXX with Gen. 1:1-5 and John
1:1-5) But hardly in the same sense in which Foster is attempting to imply!
For, the doctrine of the distinction between the "internal Logos' and the
'uttered Logos' which Athenagoras explicitly held to (as Foster's quotation of
him demonstrates) is implicitly - but nonetheless CLEARLY - contained in St.
Justin's writings. (And Eastern Christian theology, to this day, STILL has a
'place' for these concepts, as it, differentiates just as clearly as Athenagoras
did, between the Trinity in Its 'Essence' and the Trinity in that which
'surrounds' Its Essence, namely the Divine 'Energies'/'Operations'.) And, to
use a modern day analogy borrowed from science, which corresponds very closely
to what the Fathers were trying to convey via usage of the 'science' of their
times, one can think in terms of what physicists have to say concerning the
'initial singularity' at which the universe begins. It is INCLUDED within
space-time as a 'boundary' or a 'limit' to space-time, yet in such a manner as
to form neither any actual spatial nor actual temporal PART of it.

If memory serves me correctly, Weinandy articulates the view that Justin's doctrine of the Son or Logos places God's Son in touch with the created order. What Weinandy means, for those not versed in church history or historical scholarship, is that Justin views the Son as the intermediary or mediator of creation. Like Philo, Justin appears to believe (in some sense) that while God the Father cannot be in touch with creation, the Logos or Son can be. See Dialogus cum Tryphone 127. Justin believes that the Father absolutely transcends the created order and necessarily mediates creation through the Son. As for Athenagoras' remarks concerning the internal/external Logos and the comments on the "initial singularity," I know these subjects all too well. I fail to see their relevance, however, with respect to the present discussion.

Trinitarian 'in utero'? 'Precursor' to trinitarianism? What is that supposed to MEAN? EITHER Athenagoras held to the homoousion OR he did not. (Law of excluded middle) If the homousion, then Athenagoras was DEFINITELY trinitarian by anybody's standards EXCEPT that of Foster's EXTREME view of what 'authentic'
trinitatianism consists in, based upon his preferred radical interpretation of
the 'Athanasian' Creed (which, BTW, doesn't even use the term homoousios! - What could be a surer sign than this that it does not originate from the 'Athanasian' tradition?!). If, against the homousion, then surely not in any sense a 'precursor' representing 'trinitarianism' 'in utero'; but RATHER - if anything - an implicit ARIAN! The wonderful thing about 'ambiguity' is that Foster can have it both ways - he can have his cake and eat it too! On the one hand, he can trace the alleged 'development' of 'trinitarianism'; while on the other hand, he can avoid being honest in admitting that the ante-Nicenes were ACTUALLY 'trinitarians'. He can attribute the 'subordinationism' of the ante-Nicenes to the 'influence' of Hellenistic philosophy WHEN this 'subordinationism' allegedly LEADS to 'trinitarianism', while at the same time denying this attribution, WHEN - in his opinion - the very same ante-Nicenes were simply following biblical 'revelation' (or, RATHER, Foster's heretical interpretation of that 'revelation'.) And, of course, here's the clincher: The more PRECISE in their usage of language the Fathers become - and thus, the less susceptible they become to being ABUSED for the purpose of 'supporting' Foster's interpretation of ISOLATED statements in their writings,
all the more this becomes taken by Foster as positive evidence of their
'Hellenization' - the impact of the conflicts first with Gnosticism and
Sabellianism, and then later with Arianism (all of which 'systems' were clearly
PAGAN to the core) being regarded, to all appearances, as a 'negligible' factor
to take into consideration when considering WHY it is that the Fathers 'slowly
BUT SURELY' become more and more precise in their manners of expression as
regards the Trinity and the Incarnation, as far as Foster is concerned!

I do not see what is so difficult to understand about Trinitarianism in utero. First, I do not believe that Athenagoras adhered to the belief that the Son or Holy Spirit is consubstantial with the Father. But what "in utero" means can be discerned by reading R.M. Grant's book Gods and the One God. In the context of discussing Theophilus and other pre-Nicenes, he observes that one does not find a doctrine of the Trinity in these early writers, but what we have rather than a doctrine of God's triunity as such are "materials" for the Trinity doctrine. Grant defines the Trinity doctrine as a doctrine "that tries to explain the relation of three Persons to the one God" which is not what we evidently find in the early pre-Nicenes (See Gods and the One God, p. 156).

To make sure that Jason does not misunderstand my point again, I want to make it clear that I have not said Athenagoras was "against" the hOMOOUSION formula: he simply did not affirm anything like it. Nor have I referred to Athenagoras as an "implicit Arian." These categories are just more fictions attributed to me by Jason. Jason seems to have a hard time understanding that just because the materials for Trinitarianism exist in a certain writer does not mean that the writer is Trinitarian simpliciter or Trinitarian in the proper sense of the term. It is really quite simple: when the Fathers make statements that are completely incompatible with the basic claims of Trinitarianism (e.g. the Son is omnipotent, omniscient, fully God), then it is fair to conclude that they adhered to a form of subordinationism. As R.P.C. Hanson noted:

"With the exception of Athanasius virtually every theologian, East and West, accepted some form of subordinationism at least up to the year 355" (The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988, p. xix.).

Victorinus on Revelation 12:1

And there was seen a great sign in heaven. A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. And being with child, she cried out travailing, and bearing torments that she might bring forth.”] The woman clothed with the sun, and having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars upon her head, and travailing in her pains, is the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles, which had the groans and torments of its longing until it saw that Christ, the fruit of its people according to the flesh long promised to it, had taken flesh out of the selfsame people. Moreover, being clothed with the sun intimates the hope of resurrection and the glory of the promise. And the moon intimates the fall of the bodies of the saints under the obligation of death, which never can fail. For even as life is diminished, so also it is increased. Nor is the hope of those that sleep extinguished absolutely, as some think, but they have in their darkness a light such as the moon. And the crown of twelve stars signifies the choir of fathers, according to the fleshly birth, of whom Christ was to take flesh (Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, dates are 270-303 CE).

Jason's Latest Reply and My Response

My comments will be interspersed with Jason's remarks:

1)In his book on the Trinity, Edgar equivocates on the terms 'subordinate'and='subordination' so many times that it is hardly necessary to list
specific instances of his doing so. On the one hand, he admits to there being a
variety of types of 'subordinationism', some of which do not involve a
subordination with respect to either essence or essential attributes; while on
the other hand, he wishes to maintain that ANY form of subordinationism
whatsoever does indeed involve a subordination with respect to essence and
essential attributes. And, this in turn is connected with his equivocation on
the terms 'trinitarian' and 'trinitarianism'. For, on the one hand, he admits
to there being a variety of types (or 'interpretations') of trinitarianism, some
of which include a'functional' subordinationism, or even a relational or
a personal subordination -note Foster's references to Eastern Orthodoxy's
'version' of trinitarianism in this connection; while, on the other hand, he wishes to hold up the Athanasian Creed(or rather, an extreme' hyper-Augustinian' interpretation of it, allowing for no sense of inequality or subordination whatsoever) as the standard by which to judge to what extent any given theology is truly 'trinitarian' or not.

If Jason would actually read my work on Christology and the Trinity in full, then he might not labor under such misunderstandings of it. I will admit that the distinction between subordination and subordinationism could have been clearer; nonetheless, I did offer definitions of the terms I was using. Moreover, as I later discovered, Trinitarians themselves are not consistent in their use of the terms "subordination" and "subordinationism" which adds to the confusion. For example, Trinitarian scholar Edmund Fortman is not always consistent in the way he employs the terms. Be that as it may, I think my general point stands. The pre-Nicenes were not Trinitarians: they pioneered the Trinity at best. Jason also puts words in my mouth when he says that I connect Eastern Orthodoxy's interpretation of the Trinity doctrine with personal or functional subordination. I do no such thing.

2) To restate my contention against Foster:�It is not only the ante-Nicene Fathers who held to a position which is�located somewhere in the middle between Foster's EXTREME subordinationism and Foster's�EXTREME 'trinitarianism'; but the same is also just as true of the Nicene Fathers (East and West)�and the
post-Nicene Eastern Fathers.� Indeed, by Foster's standards - if he would be
consistent with himself instead of equivocating so often - the�(absurd)
conclusion would be reached that the theology of the Christian East�NEVER has
been 'trinitarian'�at any time at all�during the past two millenia.��

There are a number of passages which I have quoted and cited that show the extent to which the pre-Nicenes were beholden to subordinationism. It is clear that the Son or the Holy Spirit was viewed as less than fully God by these early church writers. That is not only my assessment of the pre-Nicene state of affairs, but of able scholars (including some Trinitarians) actually familiar with church history.

3)�As regards the�Immutability�and the Incarnation, Foster just simply doesn't 'get it'.� For, what he is doing here�amounts to�assuming that there is a
'temporal relation' between 'atemporality' and 'temporality'.��Additionally,
inasmuch as Foster treats the question of�change 'involving'�the�Person of�the
Son WITHOUT respect to IN WHICH NATURE the Person of the Son changed in becoming
Incarnate (as though the question of 'in which nature' did the change occur to
the Person of the Son�were irrelevant when treating of the 'first moment' of the
existence of the�Hypostatic Union), there is a kind MONOPHYSITISM�by default
involved in Edgar's conception of the Hypostatic Union.� (Even more�clearly so,
Allen,�is this the case in your conceptualization of the Union.� Remember when
you declared� that the Incarnation must involve a change to God's NATURE, and I
asked you: WHICH nature?� And you still haven't answered that question!� I can't
really fault you for your 'silence' on this matter, seeing that the very
question you asked implies that you are thinking in terms of some third 'nature'
- whether resulting from the Union or not- which is neither the�Divine
Nature�nor�a human nature.)

I refuse to tolerate Jason's question begging which is getting old by now. The fallacious use of ipse dixit is also on display here. Where have I assumed a temporal relation between atemporality and temporality? That is absurd and there is no evidence to substantiate this odd claim. Firstly, it begs the question to ask "in which nature" did the Son of God change insofar he became incarnate. The way that Jason has framed the question ASSUMES that the Son has more than one nature (simultaneously) and that he "became incarnate" with "becoming incarnate" being defined as "the act of God or a fully divine being assuming humanity." I do not grant either assumption. Rather, I am content to affirm along with the apostle that the Word became flesh (John 1:14). John writes that God's Son "became" a human or flesh. The question begging of Jason aside, a question is thereby raised as to the mode in which the Son experienced this form of becoming. How could the Son become flesh without undergoing some type of change as God qua God? And what is interesting about this issue is that I did not originally raise this question, I read it in Trinitarian literature. For example, Owen Thomas writes:

Now Middle Platonist philosophy
involved a doctrine of God as impassible,
completely transcendent and immutable.
Thus on these terms it is extremely
difficult to understand how God and humanity could be
united in one person. But the fundamental thing we
know from Christ is that God can be perfectly united
with humanity. This is where we begin in speaking
about God and humanity. The problem is not how a union
of God and humanity in one person is possible, but
given the union manifest in Christ what perfect
godhead and humanity are.

The "problem" that Jason is overlooking is HOW an impassible or immutable God (in the absolute sense) adds humanity to his supposed deity. Before talking about "in which nature" did a purported change occur, we must first deal with the question concerning how an unchangeable or impassible God experiences MOTUS in any fashion or unites perfect manhood with perfect godhood.

Brian Hebblethwaite (a Trinitarian) also discerns the problem that Jason purports not to see:

The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, which we
shall be considering in the next chapter, is very hard
to square with the classical view of [divine] timeless
eternity. But so is the notion of a timeless ACT of
creation. For an act is surely a novel realization of
a prior intention, an actualization of a potentiality.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes:

The Incarnation is an especially knotty problem for DDI's Christian friends. In general, these argue that all change it involved occurred in the human nature God the Son assumed rather than in God; God was eternally ready to be incarnate, and eternally had those experiences of the earthly Christ which the Incarnation makes part of his life. Through changes in Mary and the infant she bore, what was eternally in God eventually took place on earth.

Some in the early church tried to handle this difficulty of the Word becoming flesh by reworking the apostolic language of John. See

4) Foster wishes that in this context I would appeal to 'mystery'.� Yet, it is Foster who is 'de-mystifying' my statements by treating them as though I had made some attempt to define in POSITIVE terms, the relation between
'atemporality' and 'temporality', when in fact, all my statements on this
question are purely NEGATIVE, and thus, do not dissolve or rationalize away the
mystery of the Incarnation.� Indeed, in order to even begin to attempt a
POSITIVE definition of the relation obtaining betwen atemporality and
temporality, one would need to know what the positive content is�of God's
'atemporality'.� Although Foster is most likely unaware that he is 'filling in
the blanks' here by speaking as though it were some kind of 'given' that the
'relation' in question is of a 'temporal' nature, he is doing so nonetheless.�
And, as by doing so, this necessarily compromises the distinction between
atemporality and temporality, he can't help it but wind up
with what amounts to a monophysite view of the Incarnation whereby the Divine
Person of the Son IN HIS DIVINE NATURE ITSELF�(not just merely in His human
nature)�is somehow 'changed' by virtue of the Hypostatic Union.��And,�this in
turn�necessarily causes Edgar to become confused by my statements,�judging them
to be 'practically unintelligible'.� For, of course, once the two natures are�so
'blurred' together with each other that the Divine Nature�Itself loses its
distinctive properties - for what Edgar is basically saying is that�since the
Person of the Son in His human nature is�changeable, it follows that by virtue
of the Union, the Person of the Son in His Divine Nature thereby�'receives' the
property of 'chageability' - so that, for all practical purposes one may just as
well speak of there being only one nature of the Incarnate Son, it then becomes
impossible to understand anything of what I am saying here.� For, the coherence
of my statements depends upon maintaining a firm distinction�('uncompromised' by the
Union) between the TWO natures�of the One and the�Same Divine Person of�the Son,
just as much as�the coherence of my statements also�depends�upon�NEVER
conceiving of�either of the natures�APART FROM THEIR BEING�the natures OF THE
DIVINE PERSON in question�whose natures they are.��(Yes, contrary to the heretic
Nestorius and his -often unwittingly- modern-day followers,�'the�PERSON of the
Union'�is none other than God the Son Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity;
NOT�some kind of�'Christ' differentiated from�'God the Son'�and considered as
though�'he' - i.e., this Nestorian 'Christ' - were�some sort of 'product' of the
Union, and�which therefore, does not exist�apart from�the Union.)�

Jason has so distorted my actual position on this issue that I don't even recognize it. I have nowhere assumed or asserted that there is a temporal relation between atemporality and temporality. Who is reading between the lines here? Rather, I have employed the language of classical Trinitarianism which contends that the Son of God (the Logos) added humanity to his putative deity. Moreover, I utilized the language of the apostle John (John 1:14) who writes that the Word (Logos) "became" flesh. But as opposed to dealing with the issues, Jason chooses to misrepresent my position through some figment of his own imagination. My comments do not assume that the Son has one nature. I actually grant the premise that the Son of God added humanity to his deity. So how can Jason make such a misleading statement? All I see in the paragraph above, however, is more question begging or the ipse dixit fallacy being committed by Jason.

Now to get back to reality, I can summon another witness in my favor. Trinitarian Wolfhart Pannenberg also demonstrates that John 1:14 presented a difficulty for early post-Nicene Christians. Athanasius was so troubled by Arian arguments based on John 1:14 that he saw the need to rework John's language regarding the Word "becoming" flesh. See,M1

Athanasius writes:

This being so understood, it is parallel also respecting the Son, that whatever, and however often, is said, such as, 'He became' and 'become,' should ever have the same sense: so that as, when we hear the words in question, 'become better than the Angels' and 'He became,' we should not conceive any original becoming of the Word, nor in any way fancy from such terms that He is originate; but should understand Paul's words of His ministry and Economy when He became man. For when 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us' and came to minister and to grant salvation to all, then He became to us salvation, and became life, and became propitiation; then His economy in our behalf became much better than the Angels, and He became the Way and became the Resurrection. And as the words 'Become my strong rock' do not denote that the essence of God Himself became, but His loving kindness, as has been said, so also here the 'having become better than the Angels,' and, 'He became,' and, 'by so much is Jesus become a better surety,' do not signify that the essence of the Word is originate (perish the thought!), but the beneficence which towards us came to be through His becoming Man; unthankful though the heretics be, and obstinate in behalf of their irreligion (Contra Arianos 1.64).

Nice ad hominem fallacy at the end.

Alvan Lamson on Athenagoras


I have also written:

In the book Gods and the one God, Robert Grant writes that Athenagoras constructed his theological concepts from Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy (Athenagoras also incorporated Stoic thought when systematizing the nature of God). Grant provides compelling evidence that Athenagoras' ideas are Trinitarian concepts in utero that simultaneously employ Platonic and Pythagorean philosophical notions to explain Christian theology (Grant 158).

An example of Athenagoras' Platonic tendencies is witnessed from this passage:

But the Son of God is the Logos of the Father, in idea and in operation; for after the pattern of Him and by Him "Or, by Him and through Him" were all things made, the Father and the Son being one. And, the Son being in the Father and the Father in the Son, in oneness and power of spirit, the understanding and reason (νοῦς καὶ λόγος) of the Father is the Son of God. But if, in your surpassing intelligence, it occurs to you to inquire what is meant by the Son, I will state briefly that He is the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence (for from the beginning, God, who is the eternal mind [νοῦς], had the Logos in Himself, being from eternity instinct with Logos [λογικός]); but inasmuch as He came forth to be the idea and energizing power of all material things, which lay like a nature without attributes, and an inactive earth, the grosser particles being mixed up with the lighter. The prophetic Spirit also agrees with our statements. "The Lord," it says, "made me, the beginning of His ways to His works" (A Plea for Christians).

Athenagoras seems to believe that the Logos of God gives form to matter which lacks attributes. He applies Proverbs 8:22 to this activity of the Logos as the Reason of God. The Logos appears to provide intelligibility to the world. At most, what Athenagoras writes can be interpreted as a precursor to Trinitarianism.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thomas G. Weinandy on Subordinationism in Justin Martyr

Thomas G. Weinandy on Justin Martyr and
Subordinationism (from his book _Does God Suffer?_)

"Because Justin conceives the Logos as emanating out
from the Father, he holds that the Logos is divine.
However, since he does emanate out from the Father, as
the spatial intermediary between the Father and the
created order, he is not as divine as the Father is
divine. See Dialogus, 56 and Apologia 1,63" (_Does God
Suffer_, page 86, note 20).

"It would seem, for Justin, that the Logos must be
less divine than the Father not only because he
emanates out from the Father, but also because he is
'in touch' with the created order" (Ibid., note 21).

"Edwards argues that Justin's understanding of the
Logos is primarily founded upon the scriptural
tradition and not upon Platonic thought. I believe
Edwards is correct, but this does not seem to have
mitigated his subordinationism nor his understanding
that the Logos acts as an intermediary who bridges the
gap between God and the world" (Ibid., p. 87, note

Edmund J. Fortman (_The Triune God_) defines
"subordinationism" as "a doctrine that makes the Son
and/or the Holy Spirit an inferior deity or a

Justin Martyr himself writes:

Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught
(1 Apology 6.1-2)

Subordinationism and the Trinity Doctrine

A member of the evangelicals-jws yahoogroup named Jason has attempted to impugn my scholarship by arguing that I am simply wrong in contending that subordinationism and Trinitarianism are incompatible. Jason writes:

So, in that I have demonstrated sufficiently that Foster's contention that trintarianism is incompatible with ANY form of subordinationism WHATSOEVER is manifestly ABSURD (surely the great 'Minstrel of the Trinity', St. Gregory Nazianzen, was NOT a 'non-trinitarian'!), I have - in the very act of doing so - also demonstrated sufficiently that Foster's contention that the ante-Nicenes were non-trinitarians is also manifestly ABSURD, and hence FALSE. Nevertheless, I WILL - in future posts - offer positive PROOF that Foster has grossly misinterpreted St. Justin, Athenagoras of Athens, St. Theophilus of Antioch, St. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Novatian, and Lactantius: the eight ante-Nicenes whom Edgar appeals to for the perverse purpose of attempting to overthrow Holy O/orthodoxy.

Jason evidently fails to understand the technical denotation of subordinationism. Fortman defines "subordinationism" as the belief that God's Son is a creature or inferior in essence vis-a-vis the Father. Leonard Hodgson also writes: "Subordinationism, as I have indicated earlier, attempts to preserve the [divine] unity by making one person ultimately the real God and the others divine because of their relation to him" (The Doctrine of the Trinity, 100).

Based on these definitions, which have been included in my studies, how could Jason get his analysis of my work so wrong? Let him tell me how Trinitarianism is compatible with subordinationism when Trinitarianism both denies that the Son is a creature and it contends that the Son is not inferior in essence to the Father. Furthermore, according to the Trinity doctrine, one divine person is not the real God while the others are only divine in relation to him. I believe the problem is that Jason fails to understand the terminology being used in this discussion. For if he comprehended the terminology employed in discussions of this kind, he would not have made such an egregious mistake respecting my scholarship. As for his contention that the pre-Nicenes were Trinitarians, I will address this misleading statement in other posts. I just wanted to establish the error contained in Jason's statements before demonstration other mistakes committed by him.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Monolatry, Monotheism and Henotheism

I believe that we must keep in mind that such terms as monolatry, monotheism or even henotheism are all attempts to delineate, circumscribe or define certain religious phenomena that one encounters in Scripture. In other words, the Bible itself never uses such terminology to describe the ways in which people of ancient times worshiped. One can only arrive at such descriptive words by prescinding from that which is explicitly contained in Holy Writ. Another thing that we must do, however, is render precise that which we are concerned with here.

(1) Henotheism has been defined as the act of worshiping one God (in particular, a national or tribal deity) while simultaneously refusing to rule out the existence of other gods. It has well been said that henotheism defined thus "certainly does not fit the universal and cosmic conception implicit in the Old Testament" (Ralph L. Smith, Old Testament Theology, page 232). I would also argue that Witnesses of Jehovah are
not henotheists since Jehovah is not viewed as a tribal god, nor are other beings recognized as "gods" by Witnesses accorded the same ontological status as Jehovah.

(2) One online source defines monolatry as follows: "worship of one god only out of many believed to exist."

Witnesses worship (in the sense of latreia) one God (not "god") and we believe that there are others that can be called "gods" in a functional or an ontological sense (i.e. angels and judges). But what does it mean to say that one believes there are many gods that exist? Does it not all depend on how one defines the term God/god? To illustrate what I mean, notice what Smith says about monotheism.

(3) Ralph L. Smith quotes from three scholars who all
define monotheism in slightly different ways. The
point I want to draw attention to now, however, is
what G.E. Wright states, as quoted by Smith. Wright
notes that monotheism is "the exclusive exaltation of
the one source of all power, authority, and
creativity" (Smith, page 232).

Now, if one defines monotheism in the foregoing
manner, it is safe to say that recognizing what Wright
calls "subordinate divine beings" (i.e. gods) does not
mean that one is not a monotheist. In fact, D.S.
Russell ("The Method and Message of Jewish
Apocalyptic") writes:

"There is ample evidence to show that [OT] conception
of monotheism was held in conjunction with a belief in
a spiritual world peopled with supernatural and
superhuman beings who, in some ways, shared the
nature, though not the being, of God" (page 235).

While I am not totally sure what Russell means when
he writes that the angels were depicted as sharing the "nature"
but not the "being" of God, I nonetheless conclude
that it is appropriate for Jehovah's Witnesses to identify themselves
as monotheists rather than monolaters or henotheists. Witnesses
worship "the only true God" (Jn 17:3) but realize that
images of this one God subsist in the spirit realm and
some men (and angels) have represented the one God on earth.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Relational God of the Bible

I came across a quote today and thought I would post it here. A theologian named Norman Geisler, who usually favors Thomism, writes that a God

who cannot act or interact with the world would be less than significantly personal. Prayer and service possess little meaning unless there is a real, personal relationship between God and men. The God of the Bible is responsive to human needs and actions. There is no existential appeal in an impersonal and unrelatable Being. The doctrine of God's relationality is a biblical and vital teaching which is neglected or lost in some expressions of traditional theism.

Best wishes,