Monday, July 17, 2017

Athanasius, the Quicunque Vult, and Kevin Giles

Some people are convinced that Athanasius of Alexandria wrote the Athanasian Creed (the Quicunque Vult). There's just one problem with this conviction: Athanasius' dates are ca. 296-373 CE. So he did not live in the fifth century CE when the Quicunque Vult was possibly written. But there are other reasons to reject Athanasian authorship of the famed creed.

Edmund Fortman (The Triune God) writes these words pertaining to the Quicunque Vult:

"Its author, date, and source of origin are still matters of controversy. From the 7th century on it was generally ascribed to Athanasius, but in the 17th century it was realized that it was later than Athanasius and of Latin origin" (page 159).

"Many decades later [than Origen] the great Athanasius (c. 293-373) rose to a position of leadership in Alexandria" (Howard Vos, Exploring Church History, page 22).

"The creed [Quicunque Vult] was certainly not composed by its namesake, the famed Athanasius of Alexandria (293[?]-373), but by a later hand (or, hands)--the date of which, as mentioned in the text, has been variously assigned to anywhere from the fifth to the eighth centuries" (Matthew Alfs, Concepts of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 3).

For further information concerning Athanasius' dates and activities, see Richard Rubenstein's When Jesus Became God and W.H.C. Frend's The Rise of Christianity.

J.N.D. Kelly composed a major work dealing with the Quicunque Vult. See https://books.google.com/books?id=3ygYMwEACAAJ&dq=jnd+kelly+athanasian+creed&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjugeLi8ZHVAhXGeSYKHUTJAJkQ6AEILTAB

Additionally, Kevin Giles maintains that the Quicunque Vult was probably composed in southern France circa 500 CE as a touchstone of orthodoxy. Despite the fact that the symbol (i.e., creed) was not composed by its namesake, Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Anglicans have traditionally viewed the document as doctrinally binding or normative for faith. Essentially, Giles explains, this is because the famed symbol is evidently rooted in Augustinian and Athanasian thought--it is thought to be the continuation of a venerable ecclesiastical tradition that stretches back to the ancient and formative Christian church.

According to Giles, the Quicunque Vult excludes all forms of subordination(ism) within the Godhead and he quotes Leonard Hodgson and J.N.D. Kelly to buttress this statement. Giles avers that the three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are distinct insofar as they bear "differing relations" to one another because of their "differing origins," namely, innascibility, filiation and spiration (eternal procession). Nevertheless, he asserts that the "differing origins" do not provide the basis for positing dependent eternal functions "within the Godhead."

In view of the language contained in the Quicunque Vult, Giles concludes that the Son is only subordinate to the Father vis-a-vis his humanity; the Son is not subordinate to the Father per his eternal role, function or essence. Giles therefore sternly emphasizes that the Athanasian Creed "condemns" the theological position of those who espouse and advocate eternal subordination(ism) within the triune Godhead. Giles pretty much views subordinationist positions as heretical. And that is an understatement!

See Giles, The Trinity and Subordinationism, page 50ff.

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