Monday, March 16, 2009

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.

No comments: