Monday, February 8, 2010

My View on Consubstantiality

Steve Hays responded to my posts on the Trinity. (link) My response is long, so I will break it into four parts, Steve’s view and my view on Consubstantiality and Steve’s view and my view on Eternal Generation.

How does Dan happen to know how the “church at large” understands the Nicene creed?

"The creeds are nothing more than a well-ordered arrangement of the facts of Scripture which concern the doctrine of the Trinity. They assert the distinct personality of the Father, Son, and Spirit; their mutual relation as expressed by those terms; their absolute unity as to substance or essence, and their consequent perfect equality; and the subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to the Father and the Son, as to the mode of subsistence and operation. These are Scriptural facts, to which the creeds in question add nothing; and it is in this sense they have been accepted by the Church universal." (Hodge. Vol 1. 6.6)

From a historical standpoint, your arguments effectively make Athanasius and the Cappadocian Fathers into Arians.

No, it wouldn’t cover the Son’s atemporal being, for you said that “generation provides the mode of continuation of existence.”

Since “continuation” is a temporal concept, involving duration, if his generation is eternal, then his continuous existence is coeval with his generation–in which case he never had an atemporal mode of being. Instead, his mode of being was always temporal. And in that event, eternal generation is a temporal process–with an infinite past.

Continuation has a borrowed atemporal sense.

iii) I’d add that the Eastern Orthodox regard Catholics and Protestants as heretics because Western Christians traditionally subscribe to double procession.

They also accuse different Protestant traditions of espousing different Christological heresies (e.g. “Nestorianism).

And they’re unimpressed by the way in which Protestants abstract the Nicene Creed and Chalcedonian Creed from the complete text of the councils in question (e.g. canons and decrees). For them, orthodoxy involves subscription to the authority of ecumenical councils in toto, and not a highly selective appropriation of just those portions we happen to agree with.


As such, they don’t regard Arminians like Dan as members of the “church at large.” So his appeal to conciliar “orthodoxy” is a double-bladed sword. If the ecumenical councils are his benchmark, then he’s a heretic.

I could be mistaken, but I believe the EOC is agnostic towards the status of Christians outside the EOC. JNORM is welcome to correct me on this if I am mistaken. But to be clear hear, I am not calling Steve a heretic.

If, however, Father and Son share identical properties across the board (i.e. without remainder), then they wouldn’t be Father and Son. They wouldn’t be one or the other. So you need to qualify your statement to avoid unitarianism.

This is a difficulty shared by all Trinitarians. That the persons of the Trinity differ in their relationships with each other is the easy part. The Father begets, the Son is begotten, the Father has authority over the Son... Some people, like Ware and Grudem go the easy road and stop with the distinction there. But the hard part is that there are three different “I’s” to be related to each others. The Father, Son and Spirit say “I” and address each other as “you” and each acts and is acted upon, so we consider them separate persons, yet they have one essence, not three distinct essences.

This is an epistemic paradox, but not a logical one, because we do not say the Father, Son and Spirit are three persons, but one, nor do we say the Father, Son and Spirit have three distinct essences, but one. So either the person have properties without added and additional ‘existence’ to the divine essence or the do not have separate properties and yet remain three distinct persons.

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