Monday, June 04, 2018

Divine Institutes 1.7 (Lactantius Discusses "God Is Love")

Can any one suspect that this is spoken of Jupiter, who had both a mother and a name? Why should I say that Mercury, that thrice greatest, of whom I have made mention above, not only speaks of God as “without a mother,” as Apollo does, but also as “without a father,” because He has no origin from any other source but Himself? For He cannot be produced from any one, who Himself produced all things. I have, as I think, sufficiently taught by arguments, and confirmed by witnesses, that which is sufficiently plain by itself, that there is one only King of the universe, one Father, one God.

But perchance some one may ask of us the same question which Hortensius asks in Cicero: If God is one only, what solitude can be happy? As though we, in asserting that He is one, say that He is desolate and solitary. Undoubtedly He has ministers, whom we call messengers. And that is true, which I have before related, that Seneca said in his Exhortations that God produced ministers of His kingdom. But these are neither gods, nor do they wish to be called gods or to be worshipped, inasmuch as they do nothing but execute the command and will of God. Nor, however, are they gods who are worshipped in common, whose number is small and fixed. But if the worshippers of the gods think that they worship those beings whom we call the ministers of the Supreme God, there is no reason why they should envy us who say that there is one God, and deny that there are many. If a multitude of gods delights them, we do not speak of twelve, or three hundred and sixty-five as Orpheus did; but we convict them of innumerable errors on the other side, in thinking that they are so few. Let them know, however, by what name they ought to be called, lest they do injury to the true God, whose name they set forth, while they assign it to more than one. Let them believe their own Apollo, who in that same response took away from the other gods their name, as he took away the dominion from Jupiter. For the third verse shows that the ministers of God ought not to be called gods, but angels.



Matt13weedhacker said...

Hi Edgar.

It's hard for us to grasp that people actually had difficulty with the idea/concept of "one God" only, that this somehow equates to a lonely, therefore, undesirable form/state existence (without the company of others)!

Truly amazing.

Edgar Foster said...

Yes, it is amazing. Never made sense to me that a unipersonal God like the Father would be lonely without 2 other persons with him. How can an infinite and omnipotent and omniscient person be lonely?

Matt13weedhacker said...

It was a common pagan objection to Christianity and Judaism.

Micinus Felix, "Octavius" Chapter 10:

"Why have they no altars, no temples, no acknowledged images? Why do they never speak openly, never congregate freely, unless for the reason that what they adore and conceal is either worthy of punishment, or something to be ashamed of? Moreover, whence or who is he, or where is the one God, solitary, desolate, whom no free people, no kingdoms, and not even Roman superstition, have known?"

Alien to us, but natural to them. Their concept was (I suppose) the more gods, the better the company!

Edgar Foster said...

Good quote. I love reading the Octavius, but it's been a while. Of course, you know that Augustine of Hippo employs the same reasoning for a triune God in his work De Trinitate. Richard of St. Victor later insisted that the only way God can be love is through his triunity. It's funny that Augustine and Richard had something in common with the ancient Greco-Romans who were neither Jewish or Christian. :)

Anonymous said...

Since man has sinned (disobeyed) against the holy God of all creation his punishment was disinheritance of the kingdom (relationship with God) and eternal life. (Rom 1; WCF, Ch 6) Man became empty and vain in thinking (ματαιόω) which is unapproved by God (ἀδόκιμος). God is plural in Genesis 1:1 (אֱלֹהִים). He revelals Himself as triune through redemptive history. The aseity of God states that He is absolute in automony and decrees what is to come to pass without respect to anything outside Himself. (Isa 46:10). So, man can never understand God or know Him or affect Him because of his sin. God reveals Himself to the soul. Freely and only His choice. This is the gospel: that the Father would draw His chosen to the Son and the Son would reveal the Father by the gift of the Spirit. (Eze 36; Jn 6) The gift: a new heart which is one that does not rebel against God and His Law. (Gal 3:19) All from His glorious grace. (Eph 1) Lastly, let's not forget the Shema Yisrael. That God is One. (Deut 6:4). Praise God for His work! That He would show grace at all is an expression of who He is - the great I Am. May He bless your studies. Amen.

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks for your post. I allow different perspectives on this blog so long as people are respectful and not ex-JWs. Just one thing for now about elohim. Although the Hebrew word is grammatically plural, that doesn't mean God is triune. Most translations render Genesis 1:1, "God" instead of "gods" (which would seem to defeat the Trinity doctrine anyhow). The plural might signify excellence or have some other meaning besides pointing to God's tripersonality. The Shema also indicates that God is one or unique. J. Watts has suggested that the Shema teaches us that God is one person.

Sola Fide said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post (anon 5:04 pm). Superb point on the Elohim grammar. We could not glean from the word in itself the triune personhood of God. Also, I liked your comment on Elohim signifying excellence which does reference the intensive quality of the noun. Later in the text (Gen 1:26) we get the impression of a "more than one" with the use of the word again and in Job 36:10 with Maker (asah, pl.). Admittedly, I am unfamiliar with J. Watts. However, the Shema Yisrael is in indication the God is One without the reference to personhood. Nevertheless, we see the mystery of God reveled in the gospel with the incarnation of God in the flesh in the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth - The Christ. The baptism event in the NT reveals this more fully with Father, Son and Spirit as individual persons in unity (Luke 3:21-22). So, the summary point might conclude that God is three persons in One. Great conversation.

Graeme Hibbard said...

Mark 12:29,

ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Πρώτη ἐστίν Ἄκουε, Ἰσραήλ, Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν Κύριος εἷς ἐστιν, [...] καὶ Εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ γραμματεύς Καλῶς, διδάσκαλε, ἐπ' ἀληθείας εἶπες ὅτι εἷς ἐστὶν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλος πλὴν αὐτοῦ·

Literally: "he-replied the Jesus: 'because first this-is, hear-you-must, Israel, LORD the God of-us, LORD one HE-is, [...] and he-said to-him the Grammateus: 'fine, teacher, upon truth you-say because one HE-is and not there-is another-of-the-same-kind more-than of-HIM.'"

Vs 29, ἐστιν = "HE-is" masculine singular third-person "HE".

Vs 32, ἐστιν = "HE-is" masculine singular third-person "HE".

Vs 32, αὐτοῦ = "of-HIM" masculine singular "HIM".

There is no doubt that the Shema was interpreted, by both the Scribe (Grammateus) and Jesus, as one PERSON, of Whom there was not (ἄλλος) another Person of the same kind/nature.

οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλος πλὴν αὐτοῦ = gives the literal meaning that there is not πλὴν "more than" (comparative) one Person. There is literally "not more of-Him" (note: "HIM" masculine singular) meaning obviously a none multi-personal Jehovah and/or God.

This is both the old and current Jewish interpretation.

Jesus the Jew, approved/agreed-with it.

The Father's "Monarchy" (Hierarchical Rule By/Of One Person) much later, in the late second, early third century was re-interpreted by a Montantist (not bound by Scripture alone) for their "New Prophecy" movement by Tertullian as (in reality) a Tri{3}archy (In-Equal Hierarchical Rule By/Of Three Person-s).

To Tertullian the false prophet "Montanus" was the third "Person" of his "Tri{3}nity".

Sola Fide said...

Interesting focus Graeme. I suppose I am not intimating Modalism and you are not intimating Arianism. This leaves us with difficult argument for truth finding.

The text you brought to focus does well to demonstrate grammatically that God is One -- in essence. Such that He is numerically One. Admittedly, "person" is not the best term and not used explicitly in Scripture. Neither is "bible" but we use it descriptively. Nevertheless, much of Scripture lends us to understand that God is very unique. So much so that He is One in three. For example,

"[1Pe 1:2 ESV] 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you."

κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρός ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος εἰς ὑπακοὴν καὶ ῥαντισμὸν αἵματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη πληθυνθείη

The greek is leading us to acknowledge Father, Spirit, Son as one God acting in three persons. To say in different ways would navigate toward Modalism. To say there is nothing to differentiate God might require gymnastics in this text.

Also in Scripture...

[Mat 28:19 ESV] 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

[2Co 13:14 ESV] 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Great thread!

Graeme Hibbard said...

Solar Fide.

I think I can safely say that (from my point of view at least) "truth" is not a difficult "argument" at all, you over-simplify my points, and, as it appears to me, purposely evade (side step) them.

In regard to the use of the word "person". I have genuine difficulty with your inconsistency in this regard.

Quote: "We could not glean from the word in itself the triune personhood of God. [...] The baptism event in the NT reveals this more fully with Father, Son and Spirit as individual persons in unity (Luke 3:21-22). So, the summary point might conclude that God is three persons in One." End quote.

Onto other points.

To assume the singular number Masculine gender (the simple grammatical point) refers to οὐσία "essence" rather than a single Masculine Person ("Him" "He") is to look at this verse through 21st-century eyes retrospectively.

It is not just the cardinal number εἷς "one", but both Jesus and the Scribe's specific and deliberate use of "Him" and "He," which exclude all possibility that his, Jesus, and the Scribe's God (ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν Lit., "the God OF-US"), Jehovah, was πλὴν many fold = more than one Person. You have no sufficient or convincing explanation to convince me otherwise.

Neither have you addressed the fact that the Scribe did not use ἕτερος "another in addition of a DIFFERENT-KIND". Rather οὐκ ... ἄλλος excludes another person and/or thing specifically "of the SAME-KIND" with-in the "God-head" (as you would call it).

Thus the negation οὐκ.

And the Personal ἔστιν and αὐτοῦ.

In fact, to accommodate the opposite meaning that you advocate (a Tri{3}archy or Tri{3}umvirate of more-than-one Person) the οὐκ would have to be dropped, so it would read: ἔστιν ἄλλος πλὴν αὐτοῦ "there IS more than of Him", instead of "there IS NOT more than of Him".

The verse makes a Tri{3}nity or Tri{3}archial "God-head" impossible.

Additionally, if (and he doesn't) IF Jesus was indeed referring to Κύριος [ יהוה ] and εἷς as "essence", then Jesus would be both limiting "Jehovah" to a single Person "essence", and excluding a multi-personal (πλὴν αὐτοῦ "more of Him") "essence" simultaneously. Thus there cannot be THREE ("Tri" in "Tri{3}nity") person(s) in the God-head "essence".

Please remember the historical context! Jesus simply wasn't engaging in a Post-Chanceldonian discussion about Modalism or a Tri{3}theistic multi-essence (three essences within the single essence) interpretation of the Shema, no, he was discussing something far simpler, a single Person he knew well, "his God and Father" Jehovah (Rev. 1.6).