Sunday, June 6, 2010


Recently, I have been reading a book called Who's Tampering With The Trinity? An Assessment Of The Subordination Debate. Throughout the book, Millard Erickson seeks an answer to the question of whether Jesus is eternally subordinate to the Father and considers the relationship within the Trinity. He looks at these issues from Biblical, Historical, Philosophical, Theological and Practical angles.

After considering the gradational and equivalent views of authority within the Trinity from a historical perspective, Erickson says: "There are no hard conclusions to be drawn from this historical survey, for neither position finds unequivocal support for its position. However, if one believes that the church made progress in its ongoing reflection on this matter, then it would seem that the view of equal authority has an advantage over that of gradational authority. While one might say that it is a choice of whether one follows the Eastern or the Western tradition, it is worth noting that in recent years the differences between the two traditions have become less" (167).

In support, Erickson cited the "Agreed Statement on the Holy Trinity" from the Orthodox and Reformed dialogue from Kappel-am-Albis, Switzerland on March 1992.
http://warc.jalb.de/warcajsp/news_file/15.pdf

Do any of you think this particular gap has actually become less?

23 comments:

David N. said...

That join statement is really good stuff. It's interesting that it does not endorse the double-procession of the Spirit, yet it does not explicitly deny it either (no doubt because some Reformed theologians would still accept the filioque).

So, do you think that this joint statement teaches, or at least allows for, the eternal submission of the Son to the Father? Is that Erickson's point?

Jnorm888 said...

No,


The joint statement is ambiguous, and so both sides can easily read/interprete their different views into it. Our view of the Trinity is still the same. And our differences about this issue still exist. And so I wouldn't read too much into the joint statement.......especially when there are a number of Calvinists in North America who openly reject the Eternal Generation of the Son, as well as openly teach some sort of bi or tri-theism.

The Calvinists who follow Francis Turretin are more likely the ones who are able to sign the joint statement.









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David N. said...

Jnorm,

As far as I know, all Reformed people would follow Francis Turretin (but since you said "Calvinists" I assume you mean non-Reformed folk who happen to believe in Predestination, right?).

What Calvinists in North America teach bi or tri-theism? That's a very serious accusation to make, and I hope you would be willing to take responsibility for such a claim and not be afraid to name names. I personally find that hard to believe, since historically, the West had always tended toward Modalism while the East has sounded far more tri-theistic. But obviously I can't comment if I don't know who you're talking about.

Catz206 said...

“So, do you think that this joint statement teaches, or at least allows for, the eternal submission of the Son to the Father? Is that Erickson's point?”

Personally, I’m thinking it is as you say. It doesn’t endorse or deny it. I was still a little surprised though because I didn’t think the EO would wish to downplay it…though I am very glad they decided to go this route since I do not think this should be a point of division within the church (especially since we have no true ecumenical council to vote on it).

I think Erickson’s point is that the level of necessity for a gradational understanding in the East is going down. I am not sure about this though...still, it does seem to be the case...at least in this particular statement.

Jnorm888 said...

Here

Here

and

Here


Also some years ago there was an article online about a Reformed faction (in North America) that either rejected or wanted to reject the Nicean/Constantinople 1 creed in favor of the Athanasian creed. They argued that Nicea supported some form of subordinationism. The other Reformed faction argued against them and wanted to continue to embrace the ancient creed.

A calvinistic friend showed me the article some years ago, but it was lost when a forum was swepted clean of it's threads, and I haven't been able to find the article since.

But I've learned through online inter-action that not every Calvinist I meet online (from North America) embraces the Triniterian view of Francis Turretin.

What I would like to know is, "how wide is the divide" between the Calvinists who advocate some sort of Asiety of all three persons with the Asiety of all three persons within Mormonism?

How wide is that divide?








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David N. said...

Jnorm,

None of the links you provided shows that some Calvinists are tri-theists (and I have no idea where the "bi-theist" charge comes from), and in fact the second link seems to be explicitly arguing against such a thesis. Your third link doesn't seem to be working, so perhaps that's the one I really needed to see?

I have no idea what your question about Mormonism is getting at.

Jnorm888 said...

bi-theism = the Asiety of two persons

tri-theism = the Asiety of all three persons

Mormons believe in the Asiety of all three persons as well. Did you know that?

Jnorm888 said...

Mono-Theism = the Asiety of the Father

David N. said...

Jnorm,

Tri-theism means that there are three distinct beings that are all God. Calvin argued that all three persons were autotheos primarily in order to safeguard their equality of being/essence/nature (aseity is a property of the essence, not of the persons). In other words, Calvin's teaching actually strengthened the oneness of God. Hence, no tri-theism.

Who argues that only two persons possess asiety? I didn't see anyone argue for that.

Mormons also believe that Christ is a distinct being from Elohim. That's where they are heretical. So I still don't see your point.

Lvka said...

Calvin argued that all three persons were autotheos


And all Eastern Fathers (from Irenaeus and Justin Martyr to the Cappadocians to Photius to today) argued that only One Person is such: the unbegotten Father. If we've been bickering with the Catholics for the last 1,000 years over the issue of a secondary source in the Trinity, how can one say that we've come closer to the Reformed, who confess to three primary sources in the Trinity?


One God, one bishop. Three Gods, Presbyterianism.

Jnorm888 said...

To do that is to cause other problems.....like making "Essence" a 4th person in whom the other 3 persons dwell inside of. As seen by Van Til:

Vant Til


Quote:
"“We do assert that God, that is the whole Godhead, is one person…He is one person. When we say that we believe in a personal God, we do not merely mean that we believe in a God to whom the adjective “personality” may be attached. God is not an essence that has personality; He is absolute personality. Yet, within, the being of the one person we are permitted and compelled by Scripture to make the distinction between a specific or generic type of being, and three personal subsistences.” (Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction To Systematic Theology, pp. 229, 230.)"



Also "being" can mean different things to different people and groups. Some people make the words "person" and "being" interchangeable, while others don't see them as being interchangeable. The Mormon's believe in 3 independent co-eternal beings in whom they call the trinity. You seem to also believe in 3 independent co-eternal persons in whom you call the trinity. The only difference I see between you and them(Mormons) is the "Essence" issue. But then again, I need to hear what a Mormon Apologist(they are getting better and better at their arguments now) have to say about the "essence" issue.







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Lvka said...

So I still don't see your point


According to the Cappadocian Fathers, God is one because the Father is one. Since Calvinism confesses to all three persons being 'autotheos', it follows that the Eastern Orthodox regard them as tritheists. [since monotheism is based on the monarchy of the Father]

Jnorm888 said...

David N,

Bi-theism

I read somewhere that John Calvin asserted the Asiety of the Son, and how some modern Calvinists are trying to go one step further by pushing for the Asiety of all three persons. That is where my use of Bi-theism comes from.

But getting rid of The Eternal Generation of the Son is bad enough".

Also, just because EO in europe signed that joint statement doesn't mean they stopped believing in the Eternal Generation of the Son. Nor does it mean that they stopped seeing the Father as the Source.

Just as it doesn't mean that all the calvinists who signed that document stopped believing in whatever they believe in.

David N. said...

I'm sorry folks, perhaps I'm just dense, but I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. In order to argue that Calvin was a Tri-theist you must completely ignore the distinction between being/essence and persons. Calvin said that the Father was the source of the PERSONHOOD of the Son and Spirit, so all the traditional Trinitarian language about "begetting" and "proceeding" from the Father still applies. However, the property of self-existence (unlike the property of "being begotten" or "proceeding from") belongs to the very essence or nature of God, and so must be attributed to all three Persons equally. Otherwise, it would seem as though the Persons of the Son and Spirit do not share fully in the divine nature, and are therefore less than God (which would be equally anti-Trinitarian). Again, one being = one God.

It makes just as much sense to claim that Calvin was a Tri-theist as it does to claim that the East is Arian because it ends up making Christ less than fully divine. Both arguments are simply absurd.

David N. said...

Jnorm,

I should add that Van Til does not speak for the Reformed Tradition (nor does any other individual theologian, including Calvin himself), and historically the Reformed churches have NOT endorsed this idea of God as being one person rather than three.

As for your comparisons with Mormonism, you are being sloppy with your language (I hope unintentionally). Where have I used the word "independent" at all in this discussion? I have not. To attribute it to me along side your attributing the same to Mormons in order to make it seem as though there are no differences between us is simply dishonest (but again, I will assume for the moment that you have done so unintentionally). The Mormons believe in three distinct beings. We do not. The distinction between being (or essence) and person is the very heart of Trinitarian theology, and was the great insight of the Cappadocian Fathers. I am frankly surprised that you continue to ignore it or play down its importance.

Jnorm888 said...

Just as Calvinists are changing and messing around with their view or views of the trinity, Mormons are too.

Modern Reformation: Are Mormons Triniterians? An Interview with Dr. David Paulsen

and

Re-vision-ing the Mormon Concept of Deity


David N, are you sure that all calvinists see the Father as the source in regards to persons? Are you 100% positive that no calvinists object to even that?

I'm not going to argue with you in regards to the western traditions vs the Eastern tradition of the Father being the Source of both Persons and Essence. I'm not even gonna get into that. But modern Mormons are aware of what's going on in modern evangelical and reformed circles in regards to this issue, and they seem to be adapting somewhat.

And so where do you find issue whith what they are saying now?






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Legion of the Grail said...

As I understand, what Lvka and Jnorm are trying to say, traditional Trinitarianism starts with the monarchia of the Father. The Father is the "cause" or "font" of the other two. (Yes, I realize that Nazianzus says that the Holy Trinity is the monarchia, but he qualifies it to mean what I am saying)

If we take Calvin's autotheos view, then the monarchia is destroyed. While I believe Calvin is wrong, that doesn't necessarily make him so; I understand. However, it does remove him from traditional trinitarianism, at least on this point.

Legion of the Grail said...

And monarchia does not imply some sort of Arian subordination, because "time" is inapplicable to the eternal life of God.

Catz206 said...

Legion of the Grail-

Currently I am wrestling with the question of whether a gradational view of the Trinity logically implies an unorthodox view of the Trinity and perhaps you have some insight.

Both ontological equality and eternal and necessary subordination within the Trinity is held to. If one or more members are always functionally subordinate to another then doesn’t this imply some ontological basis for the difference? What do you think?

thankx

Legion of the Grail said...

Hello Catz,

At present I am not too familiar with "gradation" view but will look into it.

There is a certain degree of subordinationism, to be fair. You phrase the question well: Does subordinationism imply ontological difference? Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzus, Hilary of Poitiers all said "no."

If you say that the Father begets the Son, which is fairly standard in classical trinitarianism, I assume, then you are introducing a form of subordinationism. The trick is not to say it in a way that means the Father begets the Son as a part of creation, or a lesser part of the Father's essence, or soemthing like that.

Monarchia views sound radical and subordinationist, but they need not be. One of th brilliant points by Augustine is that he noted that TIME, too,, is created. Therefore, when we say that the Son is begotten from all eternity, while that might imply subordinationism, it's no big deal because there are no "when" moments to deal with.

I know that's not clear and the points that were clear were simply rehashing standard stuff. I'm thrilled to find this blog. Most people who discuss Orthodoxy do so to simply bash it. You guys seem pretty fair.

Catz206 said...

“If you say that the Father begets the Son, which is fairly standard in classical trinitarianism, I assume, then you are introducing a form of subordinationism. The trick is not to say it in a way that means the Father begets the Son as a part of creation, or a lesser part of the Father's essence, or soemthing like that.”

I think some people would argue that the begetting is just part of the Incarnation (Messianic).

“Therefore, when we say that the Son is begotten from all eternity, while that might imply subordinationism, it's no big deal because there are no "when" moments to deal with.”

I guess I am still struggling with the idea because if there is some sort of subordination coming from the Son being eternally generated then it seems like this has to be part of their very essence (especially if the situation could not be otherwise). On a side note, What do you think the value of this doctrine is?

“I know that's not clear and the points that were clear were simply rehashing standard stuff. I'm thrilled to find this blog. Most people who discuss Orthodoxy do so to simply bash it. You guys seem pretty fair.”

I would have liked it if the fathers went into more detail on it and worked it out among themselves. Oh well. I’m glad you are enjoying our blog. We try to be fair even though we don’t always achieve it.

Lucian said...

Calvin said that the Names "Father", "Son" and "Spirit", and terms such as "born"/"begotten" and "procession", apply solely to the divine economy (the manifestation of God in the world). He denied the eternal generation of the Son, contra Niceea. -- but if YOU don't do that, I'm glad.

Legion of the Grail said...

Friends,
I realize this post is one month old. I actually meant to respond to Miss Catz (judging by your avatar I assume you are female) a long time ago. I typed up this response at work, but my work blogs Blogger so I saved it to my email but forgot about it. I also added another blog at wordpress (I still update at Triadic Reality). In any case, the response:

You said:

***I think some people would argue that the begetting is just part of the Incarnation (Messianic).***

I need to clarify what I said. When I said "begetting with respect to creation," I meant it describing the Arian view, who say the Son is part of creation. Obviously, I don't think the Father's begetting the Son can simply be reduced to the Incarnation; otherwise, there was no second person of the Trinity until 4 B.C.!!!! (sorry for the confusion on my part)


***I guess I am still struggling with the idea because if there is some sort of subordination coming from the Son being eternally generated then it seems like this has to be part of their very essence (especially if the situation could not be otherwise). On a side note, What do you think the value of this doctrine is?***

I understand the struggle. And this is ultimately why I accept apophatic theology--language fails me when i describe the eternal mysteries. As to whether the Son was begotten from the essence, that's not entirely false but not entirely accurate either. We say that the Son is begotten from the Person of the Father. I think the value of this is extremely important. It's the most important question in the universe. This is why the Church Fathers devoted all the councils to questions of Christ and the Trinity. If you get that right then questions about salvation and ecclesiology fall into place (more or less).

***I would have liked it if the fathers went into more detail on it and worked it out among themselves. Oh well. I’m glad you are enjoying our blog. We try to be fair even though we don’t always achieve it.***

It's difficult because it's a different universe. We are so used to forcing theology to fit post-medieval nominalist paradigms--and it doesn't. It requires us to enter the somewhat Platonic (yet philosophically rich) world of the Fathers. It's very hard and I still know so little.

Again, thanks to all for the conversations. I don't want to sound triumphalistic at all--apologies if it came across that way. I really don't know much about the Fathers. I read a lot of them, to be sure, but whether I understand what they are saying is a different matter!