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.).


Βασίλειος said...

Jason wrote:

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'.)

If I have understood what Jason says well, I would like to say that in the books of the professors of the Orthodox Church of Greece the distinction between “internal Logos” (endiathetos) and “uttered Logos” (proforikos) is considered false for some simple reasons.

Professor Konstantinos Skouteris has stated that this concept (the birth of Logos from the state endiathetos to the state of proforikos) presupposes that the birth of Logos, or the Son of God, took place in time, and this relationship with time makes Logos a creature. —Ιστορία Δογμάτων, Athens 1998, Vol. 1, p. 365.

Allow me also to add that this concept is also against the so-called immutability of Logos.

Similarly, Professor Panagiotis Christou has stated, according to a published article at the official web-site of the Orthodox Church of Greece, that generally the concept of the Logos Christology made Logos a mere “tool” in the hands of the Father for the purpose of creation: Διά της θεωρίας αυτής ο Λόγος παρουσιάζεται ως απλό όργανο που προήλθε από την θέλησι του Πατρός. Αλλ' αν είναι προϊόν θελήσεως και όχι της φύσεως, τότε ασφαλώς δεν μπορεί να ταυτισθή με την θεία φύσι. “According to this theory, Logos is presented as a mere tool that came from the will of the Father. But if he is a product of the will and not of the essence, then surely he cannot be identical to the divine essence”. And he concludes saying that, as a result, the Logos Christology was later abandoned by the Orthodox Church and since then even the very name Logos has been rarely used.—

I will close my comments saying that the matter of the divine energies is quiet different in nature. The divine energies have nothing to do with Logos endiathetos and proforikos. The Orthodox theory of the divine energies was introduced by Athanasius as a replacement of the Logos Christology. To make myself clear, according to the Logos Christology, Logos was the intermediate between the uncreated God and the created cosmos. It is actually a platonic concept invented by Philo of Alexandria, and this concept was adopted by the Apologists. When Athanasius proclaimed the Son of God to be as divine as his Father, which means immutable and timeless, Logos couldn’t serve in this position, and the gap between the uncreated essence and the created was filled by the divine energies.—See Florovsky, "The consept of creation in St. Athanasius".

Edgar Foster said...


I appreciate your comments on the LOGOS ENDIAQETOS and the LOGOS PROFORIKOS along with the data on Athanasius. I will refer Jason to this blog and hope that he'll consider your observations.



Octavio said...

I understand two diferents status of the being in logos endiathetos and logos prophorikos in that Church Father. He meant by logos endiathetos the logos in God, a complex property in the Father, not a person with the Father, but an attribute. Then, the Father beggets the logos as a divine person, i.e, the attribute becomes a divine being, and the author describes this act of beggeting naming this new being as a pronuntiation. Of course, he could not think this act as a creation but as a pronuntiation, nevertheless, the Bible say nothing about that. It doesn't say that the author thought the logos as person, as God as the Father.
Furthermore, though Justin wrote that the Word comes from the essence of the Father, he also wrote that the Word is another god, not another person, subject to the maker of all things. Justin has never thought in the Word as being the same God with the Father. Remember that Origen did taught that the logos is of the same substance with the Father, but he wrote that the Father is O QEOS wheras the logos is just QEOS.

Memra said...

Obviously, Trinitarians believe that if you just use enough philosophical blather, you can justify anything.

Rather amazing that such cogitations are totally absent from the writings of the Lord's apostles, who could explain the simple truth in simple language: "For us [Christians] there is one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ..."

Edgar Foster said...


Tertullian and Novatian also use the Stoic concept of LOGOS ENDIAQETOS and LOGOS PROFORIKOS in their doctrine of Christ based on Proverbs 8:22ff and the book of Ecclesiasticus 24. As you write the inner LOGOS is not a person but an attribute (the divine Reason or RATIO DEI). See Adversus Praxean 5-7. And you are correct regarding Justin viewing the LOGOS as another God.


the Trinity doctrine would not exist without its metaphysical trappings. It is incomprehensible without a knowledge of Platonic or Aristotelian metaphysics.

Octavio said...

Interestingly Novatian said about Christ:

"assuredly Christ is not only man, but angel also; and not only angel, but He is shown by the Scriptures to be God (et deus) also. And this is believed to be the case by us; so that, if we will not consent to apprehend that it was Christ who then spoke to Hagar, we must either make an angel God, or we must reckon God the Father Almighty among the angels."

Of course, Novatian wrote in latin, thus he couldn't use any indefinite article. Nevertheless, note how the english translator used wrongly the capital letter for the latin noun "deus" applied here to Christ. Novatian is saying that Christ is "an angel God" (angelum deum), thus, could Novatian think that Christ was the same God with the Father, being an angel God at the same time?. It seems that Novatian thought in Christ in the same sense as Justin, namely, as an angel and "another god subject to the maker of all things".

Edgar Foster said...

I have written on Novatian and I do think that he calls the Son "God." But the question is what he means by the word "God." In the passage you quote, it seems that he may not be calling Christ as angel, but arguing that the angel who appeared to Hagar (in Genesis) was either God or God the Father must be counted among the angels.

Octavio said...

Novatian quoted the Septuagint version of Isaiah IX where Christ is called
the Angel of the Great Counsel, thus, the prenicene fathers regarded Christ
as an angel (may be not in the all sense), as Justin did. Nevertheless, Novatian could be less subordinationist
than Justin, because Novatian seemed to depend on Tertullian's clauses, where
the unity in susbtance between the Father and Son was strongly stated and defined. Tertullian denied the second God (because God is the disgnation of the substance, according to him (Adverus Hermogenes)), but Novatian was not so explicit in it.

What i understand from the third charter of the Aversus Praxeas is that the Tertullian's group proposed an economy of three persons in one susbtance, because it could
be better than the Modalist view. However, Tertullian recognized that "the majority of the believers" did not understand that new theology, which in fact is unbiblical, because
the unity in God is not stated in terms of susbtance by the scripture, but
in terms of persons. God (O QEOS) is one God because he is without beginning, He is the Father, and the Son is QEOS but MONOGENHS QEOS, that is, different
to the Father, in QEOS terms, not only as a person.
However, DEUS, according to Tertullian, was only the Father when the Son was not.
Tertullian called Christ God, but he recognized that the Son is only a portion of that
substance, because the Father is the whole.

My take is that Tertullian's view of God is wrong, unbiblical, but still subordinationist.
In some sense, Tertullian could have been anathematized by Athanasius in Nicaea.

Edgar Foster said...

I would say that angelomorphic or angelic Christology does appear in Novatian and other pre-Nicene Fathers. See Charles Gieschen's book on angelomorphic Christology and my work on Tertullian. I would also concur with your view that Novatian is a subordinationist. As a matter of fact, I believe JND Kelly writes that Novatian wavers between subordinationism and ditheism. See De Trinitate 22 and 31.

It seems that Tertullian was also a subordinationist. His use of "substance" terminology was evidently influenced by his use of Stoic philosophy. Historian Gerald Bray argues that Tertullian was not a genuine Trinitarian. His doctrine of God is miles from Athanasius'. See Adversus Praxean 5-7 and 9 which you quote above.