Tying a Trinity Knot—Part 3

imagesCAOX8RNXWhy should the Trinity be essential to Christianity?

The main Patristic reason (and mine too) is that our final salvation requires a Triune God. The Unitarian God cannot ultimately save. Once this is perceived and experienced, its clarity grows. I’ll try to express my own understanding of this in three key claims:

(1) God cannot give us in salvation that which he doesn’t possess.
(2) What is not adopted is not healed.
(3) The salvation of humanity is finally achieved through participation in God’s being and life (2Pet 1.4).

Working backwards from (3), human salvation isn’t the achieving of a legal status granted by divine fiat. It is in the end nothing less than the perfection of our natures, our actually becoming, in relationship to God, all that he intended us to be. God saves us not by a wave of the divine wand and simply declaring it to be so. We are finally saved/perfected in union with God, in relationship to him whose own existence and life achieve and ground the abiding perfection of our natures. One friend recently insisted that God is free to forgive us apart from incarnation and the Cross. Quite true, though entirely beside the point. Final salvation is so much more than forgiveness.

On to (2). By what means is created human being to participate in the life which saves, that is, in the life of uncreated divine being, and so find its final fulfillment? The two have to be united. God must adopt or take up human being into his own life. So incarnation becomes essential to the redemption and healing of humanity (contrary to those who suppose that our final and fullest perfection in God is conceivable apart from incarnation). If our salvation is participation in divine being, and if our participation in divine being requires incarnation, then incarnation is the ground and means of our salvation. Incarnation saves, and it saves because our created nature which requires relationship to and union with the uncreated God is taken up by him personally and irrevocably.

Which brings us to (1). Is God essentially, within himself, that life and love sufficient to save and fulfill us? If our final salvation requires participation in the life of God, then the question is — Is God’s life sufficient to save? Is God’s way of existing/living what we require to exist/live in the fullest sense possible? And this is where Unitarianism is exposed as non-Christian and void of saving efficacy, because a Unitarian God cannot be (in and of Godself, essentially) a loving and personal being. How can a solitary, unrelated Unitarian God whose existence and essential experience by definition are void of the personal address and response definitive of love and personal being (“I/Thou”) be that which bestows fully relational and loving existence upon us? A Unitarian God stands alongside created individuals as needing that which bestows fully personalized, loving existence. The Fathers saw this, which is why their understanding of salvation as fully realized loving/personal existence, the kind of existence and life which are essentially God’s, available to us through Christ, eventually and naturally (and rightly) led to a trinitarian understanding of God.

Think of all that open theists have argued so strenuously about God being (essentially) love, and love as essentially relational in nature. None of that can be true of God if Unitarianism is true, for there is simply no conceptual mechanism within Unitarianism to ground God’s essential existence as perfect love and God as an irreducibly personal being independent of creation.

If God—the One true God—isn’t a God who is love, who is essentially a fully realized personal and loving being apart from all created being—then God is not in himself that which saves us and if God is not that which saves us, we are lost.

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123 comments on “Tying a Trinity Knot—Part 3

  1. rwwilson147 says:

    I’m not EO, and rather more Anabaptist of the “neither Catholic nor Protestant” variety and probably something of a “scriptural supremacist.” So, I’m into taking the traditions of the scriptural canon before and over anything that came thereafter, especially whenever I can’t find a later doctrine in scripture without arguing my way to that conclusion. I find your traditional argumentation for the Trinity interesting without being even vaguely compelling. There is apparently not a hint of it being related to Apostolic thought, except tangentially in point 3; which being the conclusion based on extra-scriptural premises and reasoning is probably understood in a non-Apostolic manner. There are all kinds of specious arguments about God and how and why he/she/it is to be understood in a particular manner, or at all. The OE rationalistic approach doesn’t seem to me to be any more Christian than that of some of the Unitarians. Start with a particular set of presuppositions and one can end up thinking just about whatever one wants to.
    All the best to you in Christ.

    • tgbelt says:

      RW, thanks for the comment. True, I haven’t made direct reference to biblical texts. That was intentional. How specific texts are implicitly (or explicitly) Trinitarian is a good direction for the series to head in. I’m not sure how to make the soteriological argument vaguely compelling to you. Do you view human redemption and final fulfillment as unrelated to the essentially relational/loving nature of God? If so, how do you conceive of such divine existence in unitarian terms?

      • rwwilson147 says:

        I haven’t ever thought of myself as a Unitarian, and don’t think in terms of a unitarian divine existence because I came to faith through reading mostly NT scripture and encountering God through Christ. Thereafter immediately and occasionally but repeatedly through 36 subsequent years I’ve tried to come to a more intellectually satisfying understanding of who and what God is in relation to Christ Jesus and the rest of us. I have gotten pretty comfortable with the idea that the more we think we know the less we probably do, and/or the more we know the less certain we should become of what we think we know. Nevertheless, I know God and salvation/redemption in and through Christ; Jesus Christ is for me God in God (somehow).
        As I have looked as close as I can into scripture and not found the kind of specifics later pronounced by the Church Fathers and Councils–no clear “one essence” kind of data regarding, and especially no affirmation of the Holy Spirit as a distinct personality equally worshiped along with, the Father and the Son–I’ve rather reluctantly had to admit that I’m not likely to ever have a satisfying way to speak of, or even understand, what the relationship between the Father and the Son actually is.
        Now to your particular questions. I do think of human redemption and the eschatological consummation as related more or less directly to the loving/relational nature of God, but I don’t find any NT author arguing that our salvation depends on a three person God always having been in an eternally loving communion to make the case for redemption. God can be loving and relate to us without our having to demonstrate that in humanly conceived doctrines. Actually the idea of a community of love outside of time, or in an eternally essential state of being, probably doesn’t even make sense considering that love is only known by us in our rather temporal existence. There is no need for Platonic ideals or neo-Platonic essences to know that God is loving and relational because God related lovingly to Israel throughout biblical history, and apparently continues to relate lovingly to all of his creation, including the Church despite its moral corruption and intellectual goofiness.
        So, in all these matters I’m inclined to think that if God hasn’t (yet?) revealed certain things in and through canonical revelation I’m OK with that; I don’t think I need to give answers to questions God hasn’t himself answered.
        Yours in Christ.

      • tgbelt says:

        RW, I also don’t think of God in unitarian terms because, like you, my faith is the experience and worship of Christ informed by Scripture, which is precisely what my posts have been about. The Fathers took the same approach.

        Thank you for your thoughts.

  2. Dale says:

    Wow, Tom. You’re neck deep in speculation here.

    “The two have to be united. God must adopt or take up human being into his own life. So incarnation becomes essential to the redemption and healing of humanity”

    This claim is found no earlier than Irenaeus. Try to find it in the NT. Why can’t the redeeming sacrifice of a perfect human Son be enough? To claim that’s not enough, that some change must be wrought on “human nature” (a universal) is to prefer catholic speculations (and note – ones which seem to presuppose the controversial thesis of platonism/realism about universals) to the doctrine of the NT.

    Another angle: “our participation in divine being requires incarnation” Why accept this? It seems, back then, some “fathers” assumed a weird metaphysics of causation, where to cause something to have a property, the cause must first have that property. (This is obviously false – I leave the counterexample to you.)

    “a Unitarian God cannot be (in and of Godself, essentially) a loving and personal being. How can a solitary, unrelated Unitarian God whose existence and essential experience by definition are void of the personal address and response definitive of love and personal being (“I/Thou”) be that which bestows fully relational and loving existence upon us?”

    If this argument worked, I’d be all for it. It would show that perfect being theology entails that God is triune, or at least, multi-personal. It would show that monotheism *entails* trinitarianism. Unfortunately, the argument doesn’t work: http://trinities.org/dale/SinglePerfect.pdf

    You’re claiming that the concept of a perfect (single) self is incoherent (self-contradictory). But you can’t show that. A being may be perfectly loving (i.e. have a perfect moral character and be perfectly suited to love in its purest form) without eternally loving someone else.

    You won’t find anything like this Swinburnean / Richardian argument anywhere in the Bible, or even anywhere in catholic tradition before the high middle ages. In fact, it’s become fashionable only very recently. You’re prefering late and controversial speculations to the simple scriptural portrayal of Yahweh as a perfect self. That just doesn’t seem incoherent.

    • tgbelt says:

      Thanks for the push back, Dale. Always thoughtful.

      On the necessity of incarnation to the final perfection and fulfillment of human being, I wouldn’t add anything to Fr. Aidan’s comments. It’s always been the case that as questions and challenges confront the Church regarding the meaning of its faith that the explanations had to fit the context. So I’m OK with defining essential Christian belief in terms which are not strictly biblical.

      We all speculate to some degree. The Fathers explored the language and concepts of their world as best they could to restate their reading of Scripture in light of the ongoing experience of Christ. I don’t know any other way to do it. But it seems a bit lopsided to say I’m preferring “catholic speculations” to the (unambiguously clear) “doctrine of the NT” when your understanding of that doctrine isn’t exactly speculation free. I mean, to suggest that my thought that ‘personal/loving existence requires real relations between persons’ is objectionably speculative but that your thought that a being may be perfectly loving without being personally related is somehow just true a priori or doesn’t involve speculative thinking seems mistaken to me. On the contrary, I think the intuition that personal/loving existence requires personal relations is as safe and undeniable a ‘given’ (existentially speaking) as it gets, and to suggest some a priori truths which the denial of this given contradicts I’d begin by pointing to Boyd’s Trinitarian reconstruction of Hartshorne’s process metaphysics.

      We can’t find the notion that a ‘single unrelated self is incoherent’ anywhere before the high middle ages? John Zizioulas comes to mind (and other EO thinkers). He argues via the Fathers that Trinitarian thought was in fact a revolutionary rejection of standard Platonic metaphysics based precisely on the conviction that divine being could not be (to use Hilary of Poitiers’ phrase — a bit before the high middle ages) a “solitary God” (“…though he [God] is one he is not solitary”) that ‘to be is to be in communion’. The thought (that love [I’m using my words here] is irreducibly personal and the persons only exist in the plural; personhood is by definition ecstatic) is all throughout the Fathers.

      It may be that something can cause something else to have a property which it (the cause) does not have. God (uncreated being) brought about created being (the world) though God does not have the property of being uncreated. I doubt this point was lost on the Fathers. They mention it freely. But can every cause bring about any conceivable property in its effects? Obviously not. So we have some speculating to do! Does it follow from God’s being able to cause properties (like ‘being created’) to be which he does not possess that we’re justified in assuming God can bestow upon us (or bring about in us) fully realized loving/personal existence without being himself a fully realized loving/personal being? I think it’s far less speculative to say God could not in this case bestow what he does not possess that to assume otherwise. On this score your speculation seems the genuinely objectionable one.

  3. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    // “The two have to be united. God must adopt or take up human being into his own life. So incarnation becomes essential to the redemption and healing of humanity”

    This claim is found no earlier than Irenaeus. Try to find it in the NT. Why can’t the redeeming sacrifice of a perfect human Son be enough? To claim that’s not enough, that some change must be wrought on “human nature” (a universal) is to prefer catholic speculations (and note – ones which seem to presuppose the controversial thesis of platonism/realism about universals) to the doctrine of the NT. //

    Dale, a couple thoughts (actually, one thought and one question):

    1) I would argue that the Orthodox doctrine of theosis is expressed in the New Testament in the notions of baptismal incorporation into Christ, union with Christ, adoption as sons, and regeneration by the Spirit. Bring these together and you have, I suggest, a doctrine of participation in the trinitarian life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that one can legitimately describe as deification. And of course there is also 2 Peter 1:4.

    2) You ask, “Why can’t the redeeming sacrifice of a perfect human Son be enough?” Enough for what?

  4. yieldedone says:

    For rwwilson and Dale. I have three questions for you. I’d like you to answer these as biblically as possible please.

    1) Has there ever been a state of affairs where God was *NOT* the “Father”? (This would imply that the “Fatherhood” of God is not essential to the person God is.) Asked yet another way, has there ever been a state of affairs where God was not in a loving interpersonal relationship with the Son/Word?

    2) Has there ever been a state of affairs where God was without His Holy Spirit?

    3) Did the Incarnate Son/Word indicate in the Gospels that the Holy Spirit was a personal reality who was/is *DISTINCT* from His God and Father?

    • rwwilson147 says:

      1) I don’t know; scriptural revelation doesn’t give us such info, much less discuss what God is in his “essence.” I’m guessing you wouldn’t want to use a human analogy for fatherhood because God is wholly other and beyond any such comparison, otherwise you would probably not digress into philosophical arguments and conclusions, so I won’t go there. Regarding a possible state of existence, “a time” as it were, in which God the Father was not in a loving interpersonal relationship with the Son/Word I have to admit that I haven’t found conclusive biblical data to resolve the question. “In the beginning” doesn’t seem to me to say anything about what was before the beginning. Even references to “before the world was” doesn’t get to the critical issue–although all things came to be through the Son/Word/Christ, nothing is said of the essential nature of the relationship or whether that relationship also occurred “in the beginning.” That all things came to be through him, and even that nothing that came to be came to be without him, doesn’t quite answer the question. OSISTM. I’m open to being persuaded otherwise, but most likely only from the texts of scripture rather than from arguments extrapolating well beyond the texts.
      2) Since God is Spirit, and He is Holy, as we read in scripture, the question is moot.
      3) This is possibly a bit of a trick question. Since God is personal His Spirit is undoubtedly personal, and since he gave us the promised gift of His Spirit to be with us and in us (in and through Christ) God’s Spirit is obviously personal to us too. Since Christ enabled that distinct gift to us, and is portrayed as receiving the Spirit at his baptism, he would know better than we do; as best I can tell Jesus held a traditional Jewish understanding of the Spirit of God as the active personal presence of God among His people, and so I don’t think Jesus thought of God’s Spirit as a personal entity distinct from God (the Father), however distinguishable. It is said that one can’t prove a negative (or at least that it is very difficult), but I think one can use a negative to establish a negative: one compelling, to me, piece of data on this question is the apparent fact that in the NT the Holy Spirit is never portrayed as being worshipped or as the recipient of prayer; not being a distinct object of devotion in that sense, I’m inclined to conclude in the negative on this question.

      • tgbelt says:

        RW: Scriptural revelation doesn’t give us such info, much less discuss what God is in his “essence.” I’m guessing you wouldn’t want to use a human analogy for fatherhood because God is wholly other and beyond any such comparison, otherwise you would probably not digress into philosophical arguments and conclusions, so I won’t go there.

        Tom: Let’s go there. It’s important, because all we have are human analogies by which to say anything at all about God and often times we’re constrained to articulate our faith to an inquiring world in terms that world understands. So I don’t mind using ‘father’ of God any less than Jesus minded using it; or any other analogy (rock, hen, mother bear, father, light, gardener, etc.). There’s no avoiding such language. We don’t mean any of them literally…as Pseudo-Denys rightly pointed out.

        RW: 3) This is possibly a bit of a trick question. Since God is personal…

        Tom: That’s interesting RW, because you’re now extrapolating philosophically in the same basic way you’re warning us not to do. Scripture nowhere explicitly says “God is personal,” yet you’re state it with great ease and confidence. I agree that you’re right, too. But why do you think God is personal based on how the Bible describes him? You have to step outside the strict/explicit claims of the text and reason–rather philosophically–in order to get to ‘God is personal’. I think this is fine and necessary. But you should see that it’s not essentially different from what others are doing when they argue that God’s being ‘personal’ means God is personally related and loving (inn those relations) and that he is so essentially; i.e., God doesn’t only become a personal being when he creates the world so that he derives his personal/loving being from relating to us. He self-sustains his personal/loving existence and we derive our being personal from him.

      • Canadian says:

        RW,
        I think what yieldedone is getting at in his #1 is this:
        Is God the Father eternally and ontologically “Father”, or did he become this at some later point? If later, Christ is not divine but a creature. Christ calls him Father and because God is without change, he must have always been Father, yet you cannot be a Father without the presence of one begotten of you. If, as scripture repeatedly affirms, Christ created all things, then he created time. If Christ is not the eternally begotten divine Son, but created by the Father, how can there be an interval of time which is part of creation between the existence of the Father and our Lord Jesus? John 17 says Christ indwells the Father, not only the reverse. This must eternally be, because only a divine Person can indwell the Father who is not subject to change.

        Re: 2) & 3)
        To say God is spirit means He is incorporeal, not referring to the Holy Spirit. Jesus repeatedly in John calls the Holy Spirit “He”, so he is a divine Person distinct from the Father. If he is a divine Person, then he must proceed from the Father (John 15:26) and also be eternally unchanging. The Father is never without the Person’s of the Son and Spirit.

  5. Dale says:

    My points, of course, do not presuppose that we must stick to biblical terms, or that we ought not speculate. But we ought to be wary of speculation that goes against the clear teachings of the Bible, and/or introduces more problems than it solves. I’m sure you’ll aggree.

    “the intuition that personal/loving existence requires personal relations is as safe and undeniable a ‘given’ (existentially speaking) as it gets”

    ?

    Tom, you’re claiming that something’s impossible. To do that, we must start with the claim, and (possibly using any other self-evident truth that’s relevant) derive a contradiction. I claim that no one has done that – feel free to try.

    Could you be a loving person, if stranded for the rest of your life on a desert isle? Of course! To be loving is a character trait here, not an action that requires an object. It’s like being honest, compassionate, or thoughtful.

    YHWH in the OT is portrayed, throughout, as a perfect self. That includes being perfectly merciful, compassionate, forgiving, and loving. You’re arguing that this last is impossible.

    But consider this: was he, in his eternity, perfectly forgiving? We agree, yes, right? So, in your view, he’d have to, eternally, have some sinner to forgive? Of course not. He merely needs to have that character trait; he needn’t have manifested it. But the same point holds for his being perfectly loving.

    Honestly, Zizioulas is not a faithful guide to the Father. Got to read them for ourselves. ” The thought (that love [I’m using my words here] is irreducibly personal and the persons only exist in the plural; personhood is by definition ecstatic) is all throughout the Fathers.” Sorry, that’s a bluff, as best I can tell. I just don’t see any concern in them to argue that personhood is inherently relational. I’m willing to be convinced – I invite you to find some really clear quotes, and post on them.

    About causation, you’re losing sight of the point. The Bible teaches Jesus to be the human messiah, and to be the lamb of God who, by his sacrificial death, as it were took away the sins of the world. You were arguing, like the fathers, that he had to be divine to divinize us – or rather, to divinize this universal “humanity” – whatever that could mean! These things are simply not taught there, and raise many new problems. It is the God who sent Jesus who is ultimately our savior, by means of Jesus’ ministry and mediation, and he, being omnipotent, can easily “divinize” us (i.e. make us immortal, and morally pure, like him). This requires our reconciliation to God, atonement – but not, it seems, a divine Jesus.

    • Canadian says:

      Dale,
      God is always Father, not potentially Father. He doesn’t become Father. His Fatherhood is not an activity (energy). The begetting and proceeding are not in potential but unchangingly eternal.
      The mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son in John 17 shows that the divine Persons are inherently relational, and not simply as God with man but Christ indwells the Father. That chapter also shows that through Christ we are brought into that life of the Trinity, not by directly indwelling the Father as Christ does but by being indwelt by the Son.
      The scripture mentions Christ saying that like the Father, he has life in himself. This is derived from the Father but is divine and not human.

      Our reconciliation to God in Christ is ontological and not merely judicial. God and man are joined in Christ himself hence the necessity of the Incarnation of the divine Word. Atonement forgives sins, man needed recapitulation. Even the damned will be raised because of Christ’s ressurection and union with our nature. Resurrection is not natural to human nature but results from a divine Jesus.

    • tgbelt says:

      Sorry for the length! No hurries. It’s late and I’m just thinking out loud…

      Tom: …the intuition that personal/loving existence requires personal relations is as safe and undeniable a ‘given’ (existentially speaking) as it gets.

      Dale: Tom, you’re claiming that something’s impossible. To do that, we must start with the claim, and (possibly using any other self-evident truth that’s relevant) derive a contradiction.

      Tom: I wasn’t attempting to make that argument here (though I do think the notion of God as a solitary, absolutely undifferentiated person is impossible—a conviction I thank Greg Boyd for convincing me of), rather I was simply stating an intuition which I think justifies a strong suspicion in that direction. I know intuitions aren’t arguments, but we don’t typically dismiss them without arguments even if we require arguments to prove they reflect some abiding truth.

      —————————————

      Dale: Could you be a loving person, if stranded for the rest of your life on a desert isle? Of course!

      Tom: Sure, with God in my life. Or after having spent some time learning to love others I’d continue to be the person those relationships had shaped me to be. But to be loving if the entirety of my life/existence was void of all relations? I don’t think so, Dale. I literally don’t know how to imagine it, and I suspect you don’t either.

      Dale: To be loving is a character trait here, not an action that requires an object. It’s like being honest, compassionate, or thoughtful.

      Tom: I follow you perfectly, Dale, but I really think there’s something wrong here. When we think of God in his self-sustaining perfection, surely the notions of love and delight and personhood suggest some actual fullness of being and not simply an unactualized disposition which ‘may actually love’ (where there only something to love) or ‘may actually delight in beauty’ (where there only some beauty to contemplate). But I have no idea what it means for a single, solitary, absolutely undifferentiated and unrelated monad (God stranded on the island of his own solitary undifferentiated existence) to be honest or compassionate or thoughtful or loving.

      Dale: YHWH in the OT is portrayed, throughout, as a perfect self. That includes being perfectly merciful, compassionate, forgiving, and loving. You’re arguing that this last is impossible.

      Tom: Not following that last sentence there. I of course agree God is perfectly merciful to those who need mercy, and perfectly forgiving to those who need forgiveness, etc. But I view all these virtues as the diversified truth of ‘love’. Forgiveness is love in relation to the guilty, mercy love in relation to the underserving, etc. So no, there’s no need to suppose that because God today forgives that he must have always been forgiving somebody somewhere. But there is, I think, need to say that if God’s forgiving us and having mercy upon us so unconditionally reveal who God is, then he is in his own self-sustaining actuality the fullness of that ‘love’ (What better word for it is there?) which is forgiving when there are guilty, merciful when there are underserving.

      —————————————-

      Dale: But consider this: was he, in his eternity, perfectly forgiving? We agree, yes, right?

      Tom: Not exactly. He was in his eternity perfectly that love which forgives the guilty, but not actually forgiving. I hope I’m not nit-picking. But I don’t think a Unitarian God can sustain whatever personal perfections we want to say God possesses essentially, since I can’t see their compatibility with God so understood.

      Dale: So, in your view, he’d have to, eternally, have some sinner to forgive?

      Tom: I hope what I’ve said so far clarifies why my view doesn’t commit me to saying God has to be eternally forgiving someone. He’s eternally what love is and does essentially, not what love is or does contingently. Forgiving others is (though necessarily loving when there are guilty persons around) not in itself necessary to love’s full actuality (metaphysically speaking). But surely there is something to God’s own necessary actuality which is definitive of love per se. This something for you is simply ‘character’ (though apparently lying in wait for some opportunity to resolve its potential into some actual instantiation of love).

      Dale: He merely needs to have that character trait; he needn’t have manifested it. But the same point holds for his being perfectly loving.

      Tom: Again, this suspends love (in its actuality) from the manifest actuality of God sans creation. As I’m understanding you, God is only eternally actually an uninstantiated sea of possible manifestations of love, an unactualized disposition or character. Pray tell, Dale, are there any ‘actual’ manifestations (forgive the sloppiness, it’s 2:45 AM!) of love that are definitive of God’s existence sans creation (i.e., perfections of love actualized as God’s own actual self-sufficiency and not derived from created beings)? Can you describe those actualities in terms compatible with their constituting a solitary, absolutely undifferentiated and unrelated monad?

      ——————————————-

      Tom: The thought (that love [I’m using my words here] is irreducibly personal and the persons only exist in the plural; personhood is by definition ecstatic) is all throughout the Fathers.

      Dale: Sorry, that’s a bluff as best I can tell…

      Tom: Thanks.

      Dale: …I just don’t see any concern in them to argue that personhood is inherently relational.

      Tom: Zizioulas is creative and pushes the envelope, sure. He’s got his fans and his critics within EO. But that he and others we could name entirely misunderstand the Fathers on this point, that they’re not even in the ball park in thinking personhood is an irreducibly ecstatic reality? Well, I won’t say you’re bluffing, but I will say it’s hard to take seriously (over a community of capable scholars who’ve spent their lives in the Fathers). Not saying I haven’t read any of the Fathers myself (I have and am still pursuing them), but I’d never put myself forward as an authority, so I just appeal to others when it comes to Patristics (though I don’t take their word for it either; I’ll check out Athanasius or whomever as best I’m able).

      Dale: You were arguing, like the fathers, that [Jesus] had to be divine to divinize us – or rather, to divinize this universal “humanity” – whatever that could mean!

      Tom: That’s the nicest compliment anyone has paid me in a long time! And yes, “to share/participate in the divine nature,” whatever that will mean!

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        One question: Is it really possible for God to love a creature, given the radical inequality between God and creatures? Perhaps this might be a way to think about the difference between saying “God is benevolent toward his creatures” and “God is love.” It also gives us an opening to theosis, in which God elevates humanity in his Son and makes it capable of sharing in a relationship of love with the Creator.

      • tgbelt says:

        That was a monstrously long post, Dale. Sorry! First coffee we have–my treat.

  6. Dale says:

    “1) I would argue that the Orthodox doctrine of theosis is expressed in the New Testament in the notions of (X) baptismal incorporation into Christ, union with Christ, adoption as sons, and regeneration by the Spirit. Bring these together and you have, I suggest, (Y) a doctrine of participation in the trinitarian life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that one can legitimately describe as deification. And of course there is also 2 Peter 1:4.

    Sorry, Y does not follow from X. Many Christians, like me, believe in all of X, but do not endorse the speculations in Y. I for one, wouldn’t quibble about the term “deification” – but I don’t think that “participation in the trinitarian life” is taught or implied in the NT.

    2) You ask, “Why can’t the redeeming sacrifice of a perfect human Son be enough?” Enough for what?”

    Atonement.

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      ‘Sorry, Y does not follow from X. Many Christians, like me, believe in all of X, but do not endorse the speculations in Y. I for one, wouldn’t quibble about the term “deification” – but I don’t think that “participation in the trinitarian life” is taught or implied in the NT.’

      I understand Dale, that you do not *see* why all baptismal incorporation into Christ, union with Christ, adoption as sons, and regeneration by the Spirit entails participation in the divine life of the Holy Trinity, but I respectfully suggest that this is because you are reading the Scriptures outside the liturgical, sacramental, ascetical, and dogmatic life of the Church of the Scriptures. I know this sounds arrogant on my part; but I don’t think you’d want me to dance around without identifying the real point of contention: IMHO, you have separated the Bible from its proper interpretive matrix.

      Hence when you state that participation in the trinitarian life is neither taught nor implied in the New Testament, I can only shake my head. Of course it is. It’s all over the place. I could of course cite my Scriptures and quote my biblical scholars and systematic theologians; but I know you will not be persuaded, just as I am not persuaded by your reading of the NT. We are standing in two different hermeneutical circles. The New Testament is filled with the spirit of theosis. That is what salvation is–our exaltation into the eternal communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. That is atonement!

      It is this atonement, this theosis, that we celebrate in the Orthodox Church in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Every Sunday we partake of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately, it is this Eucharist that is my counter-argument.

  7. tgbelt says:

    I’m in essential agreement with Fr Aidan, though I was going to say rather than equating atonement with deification that we not make the mistake (Dale’s as I see it) of exhausting the purpose and efficacy of Christ’s “enoughness” to that of atonement, a concept which I think casts only a limited scope upon a single aspect of his redeeming work. Jesus is enough for far more than atonement because we are intended for far more than merely ‘being atoned for’. There is the final salvation/perfection/telos of created being per se, and I don’t think Christ as a merely created being would be in a position to secure that.

  8. Dale says:

    “But to be loving if the entirety of my life/existence was void of all relations? I don’t think so, Dale. I literally don’t know how to imagine it, and I suspect you don’t either.”

    This is true of us – we must develop our good character traits, in actual interactions. But it doesn’t apply to God.

    “suggest some actual fullness of being and not simply an unactualized disposition which ‘may actually love’ (where there only something to love) or ‘may actually delight in beauty’ (where there only some beauty to contemplate). But I have no idea what it means for a single, solitary, absolutely undifferentiated and unrelated monad (God stranded on the island of his own solitary undifferentiated existence) to be honest or compassionate or thoughtful or loving.”

    Sorry, Tom, but I think you perfectly well understand it, just as you understand what it would be for God to be all-powerful, even though he’d never, or never yet made anything. Or a Robinson Crusoe who is ever so honest, but never has a chance to talk to anyone, and so exercise that trait.

    • tgbelt says:

      I thought I’d have to wait till the weekend, but I found some free time. Thanks for engaging!

      Dale: This is true of us – we must develop our good character traits, in actual interactions. But it doesn’t apply to God…Sorry, Tom, but I think you perfectly well understand it, just as you understand what it would be for God to be all-powerful, even though he’d never, or never yet made anything.

      Tom: There are still problems here, Dale. We’re still left with God’s necessary actuality being experientially and aesthetically vacuous. Hartshorne was right on the money I think—existence is irreducibly relational and aesthetic. I know it’s not very helpful to just throw that out there, but it’ll have to do for now.

      Can there be in God any unrealized potential? Against my EO friends I’ll say yes, of course. But it can’t be all potential either. So what I’m looking for from you is a description of God’s necessary actuality. What is God—actually, as a solitary and absolutely unrelated monad—which constitutes his ‘character’ to act lovingly SHOULD the occasion to actually love arise?

      Yes, I understand how it is that God is all-powerful apart from exercising that power necessary to creating the world (my EO friends are pulling out the rest of their hair!). But I don’t understand how God is all-powerful in this sense apart from all actual exercise of power. In other words, when I say God is “all-powerful” I mean to describe the potential of his actuality for some contingent expression in no way necessary to the fulfilling (or fullness) of his being, not that there is no actual exercise of disposition prior to God’s creating the world. So we’re still left wondering what actual exercise of disposition(s) constitutes that necessary actuality of God which is the fulfillment/fullness) of God’s own being — i.e., which is goodness itself, love itself, beauty itself. And I don’t know how to accommodate THAT to God’s being a solitary, absolutely undifferentiated/unrelated monad.

      Tom

  9. Dale says:

    “I know this sounds arrogant on my part”

    Honestly, yes. But more to the point, this can’t be argued with. You simply think, as not participating in Orthodox fellowship, I’m spiritually unqualified to actually think about this.

    “Ultimately, it is this Eucharist that is my counter-argument.”

    Translation: ultimately, I feel no need to argue for my view at all, but only point out my (our) superiority.

    Not much to work with there, I’m afraid! I don’t take offense easily – I just, obviously, have nothing to say to that, other than, God bless you.

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Dale, you need not be so defensive. I am not claiming “superiority,” at least not in the way that you imply. I have simply noted that your sola scriptura approach to Christian theology has limited your ability to think rightly about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. It’s like a physicist restricting the data before him to only that which he can see with his own unaided eyes. I cannot argue with you on your rationalist terms, not only because I lack your acumen and philosophical training, but because I do not believe this is the way Christian theology is properly done.

      You interpret my invocation of the Eucharist as the assertion of spiritual superiority, or as you translate: “ultimately, I feel no need to argue for my view at all, but only point out my (our) superiority.” This is an inaccurate translation of what I wrote. The invocation of the Eucharist and the liturgical experience of the Church is in fact an argument—it’s just not an argument you can address within the terms you have set. But for catholic Christians (whether Latin or Orthodox), the Eucharist is perhaps the most fundamental and powerful argument that can be advanced in support of the classic doctrine of the Trinity. Lex orandi, lex credendi. But this poses the problem, doesn’t it? The Eucharist is not part of your spiritual experience.

      Surely as a philosopher you can think of appropriate analogies of what I am attempting to argue (however poorly), perhaps from the fields of art, science, or even cuisine. Think of the story of the blind men and the elephant. Or perhaps we might think of this as a conflict between two different paradigms–say, Newtonian vs Einsteinian. You will not be surprised, of course, to learn that I cast the 2nd and 3rd century subordinationists as Newtonians and the 4th century trinitarians as Einsteinians. No doubt you would prefer to reverse the casting. ;)

  10. Dale says:

    Canadian – sorry to not reply. To my eyes, you’re just asserting a bunch of speculations. It would take me a while to even parse something like “God and man are joined in Christ himself hence the necessity of the Incarnation of the divine Word” before I could interact with you about it.

    • Canadian says:

      I am not interested in speculations, but the Trinitarian legacy of the Ecumenical church especially guarded by the eastern church. Read John of Damascus who sums up the eastern father’s before him. The church’s affirmation of the monarchy of the Father, while worshipping the consubstantial Trinity, I think, answers your concerns about the scriptural texts you have identified. Where you see logical opposition, the church has affirmed both the scriptural and Traditional testimony about the divinity of 3 Persons, and taken seriously the testimony of the Son’s begetting and the Spirit’s proceeding, in scripture. The explicit testimony in John 17 of the perichoresis of the Father and Son seems weighty enough. God is not “made up” of 3 Persons, 3 Persons share the one divinity of the Father.
      Ultimately, we do not have the right of private interpretive authority to commit schism, which is forbidden. As in Acts 15, when the Council led by the Spirit gives it’s interpretive determinations, everyone submits (see Acts 16:4), even the sect of the Pharisaic Christians that complained about the keeping of the Law and circumcision (who would have the vast apparent testimony of the OT to bolster their position).

      I thank you for your friendly interaction.

      • Richard Worden Wilson says:

        As for me and my house, post-apostolic church reasoning doesn’t rise to the level of divine revelation. Concerning your assertion that “the explicit testimony in John 17 of the perichoresis of the Father and Son seems weighty enough,” I’d suggest a contextual reading of the John 17 pericope doesn’t bear the weight of explicitness. The exact same language used of the oneness of Son and the Father is used in relation to the expectation in response to Jesus’ prayer that all believers in Jesus would be one with them. If the exact same language of “in-ness” (no mention of “perichoresis” in the text of course) is used to express the prayed for relation of Father, Son, AND believers, then it just might be the case that more attention should be given to the text than doctrines developed by the “the church” many hundreds of years after the Apostolic council of Acts 15. There is no solution to the challenges of schism other than that of adhering as one to canonical revelation as authoritative over any and every post-biblical pronouncement made by those claiming authority for themselves–asserting the authority of post-biblical church councils is little more than self-assertion (even if based in historical or inspirational naivete).
        All the best to all in Christ.

      • Canadian says:

        Richard,
        I understand your concerns. But divine revelation (scripture) must be interpreted. The question is who has interpretive authority, the individual or the ecclesia?And the promises of Christ that the church would be led into all truth by the Spirit cuts against the idea that the post apostolic church cannot have the same divine protection as the Acts 15 church. Do you hold to the Tradition of a canon?
        Schism is forbidden in the NT and nowhere permitted, even in churches where Christ himself has threated lampstand removal. When I was a Protestant, I asked myself how I could actually repent of the sin of schism unless I acknowlege there is a single visible body to be in schism from?
        As for John 17, Christ says how we are brought into this communion, not by indwelling the Father, as the Son does, but by being united (indwelt by) to the Son. The Trinity is an undivided communion of Persons which is what the church is to be.

      • Richard Worden Wilson says:

        Hi Canadian,
        I may understand some of your concerns.
        So, which “ecclesia” are you referring to? Is there only one over against individuals? Could it be that the individual’s commitment to a particular ecclesia makes it seem that it is the only authoritative one? Christ may maintain an authoritative unity in his Spirit indwelt church apart from any external ecclesia. Divine protection may not extend to every visible body of believers, right?

        I accept the canon of scripture as authoritative. I find problematic the thought that divine protection extends to every church tradition; therefore I find it necessary to revert to the “canonical” church as authoritative rather than any conciliar creedal church. Christ didn’t acknowledge the authority of the “visible” people of God in his day and I don’t think he expected us to do so either. Schism is acting over against the Spirit of Christ and the purposes of God, not standing against some visible organization or its doctrines.

        If we are indwelt by Christ then we also indwell the Father who is indwelt by the Son. Jesus simply prays that we would indwell them, be in them. Christ desires that we would indwell them so that those in the world would believe that the Father had sent the Son.

        The trinity conceived as an undivided communion of “persons” not like relations among us may exist more in the minds of those who have so conceived it than in the reality of what God actually is. The text itself doesn’t distinguish types of indwelling because the goal is oneness of purpose: “that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” If the goal of our doctrines is that the love of God for his son might be in us also, that we would love others as they do, then some new approach to ecclesial unity may be required. Could we not be undivided while yet being distinguished as in the traditional understanding of the trinity? Our various distinguished thoughts don’t necessarily divide us.

        Extrapolation beyond what has been revealed in scripture doesn’t interest me; get extremely exegetical or get behind me.
        All the best to all in Christ.

  11. Canadian says:

    Richard,
    Not wishing to take the thread off course, I will answer briefly.
    Acts 16:4 shows that a Council, not just the apostles had the authority to bind all Christians with normative teaching. Schism is not an option just because individuals disagree. No NT church ordained their own leadership, it was always done for them in every church by those authorized to do so (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5). Nowhere does the scripture say the Tradition is enscripturated. It affirms the opposite, in fact.
    Sola scriptura always reduces to Solo scriptura, I explain why here:

    How do you accept the canon as authoritative when you did not get receive the identity of canonical books from scripture itself. There is no way for you to know that only inspired books were selected without trusting the Tradition of the church, other than a burning in the bosom. And it seems like special pleading to trust the ancient bishops for a canon but not for all of the other things they believed, for they were sacramental, liturgical, episcopal and Conciliar.

    Even in Israel, the remnant could exist only within the covenantal people. The faithful could not leave the people of God because they were disobedient or because they disagreed from their OT reading. Jesus said the Pharisees sat in Moses seat but that the faithful should be obedient unlike most of them. When the NT church is established, Christ says the gates of hades shall not prevail, that he is with her until the end of the age without interruption, that the Spirit would lead her into all truth and that they will be one.

    Any way, I think we should keep this on topic. We can interact on these other matters elsewhere if you wish.
    Grace and peace to you.

    • Canadian says:

      Not sure why placing a link embedded the whole video here? My apologies for this.

    • tgbelt says:

      “How do you accept the canon as authoritative when you did not get receive the identity of canonical books from scripture itself?”

      Excellent question.

      • Jeff says:

        “How do you accept the canon as authoritative when you did not get receive the identity of canonical books from scripture itself?”

        This is not hard to answer. One makes those inferences inductively, just as one interprets them inductively, if one is making decisions rationally. Indeed, the plausibility of their inductively interpreted claims is also determined inductively. Specifically, if the gospels and the epistles are not what they inductively seem to be, the rapid spread of Christianity in a Roman empire, mostly hostile to it, is virtually impossible to explain plausibly.

        But as the 1st of these blog-posts admits, those writings don’t teach a trinity. And the 3 “key claims” made above don’t remotely imply or indicate a trinity. Indeed, those claims, as written, are quite equivocal in the first place.

        What seems to be true is that the creator of the universe must be essentially social to be the explanation of rational, social morality in this creation. But that requirement, even, doesn’t imply the traditional trinity. There are explicit statements in canonical texts that specifically call the Father of the Son the ONE God. One of them (in the gospel of John) is a putative quotation of Christ himself. There is nothing problematic about this. Jesus, in the gospel of John, said that even past Israelites were called gods.

        Language has a natural equivocalness that has to be handled by context, inductively. Israelites supposedly were quite good at reading words without vowel points, even. The Hebrew verb, as I understand it, has no clear tense. So context was very important to them. Their own scriptures told them that the Messiah would be “called” “God.” And yet I doubt seriously that they inferred the traditional trinity from that prophecy precisely because of the way “god” was used in different senses in languages of the day.

      • tgbelt says:

        Canada: How do you accept the canon as authoritative when you did not get/receive the identity of canonical books from scripture itself?

        Jeff: This is not hard to answer. One makes those inferences inductively…

        Tom: What ‘one’ are you talking about, Jeff? Who was this ‘one’ who performed this inductive task of establishing the canon for Christians?

      • Canadian says:

        Jeff,
        Thanks for your reply.
        You said: ” if the gospels and the epistles are not what they inductively seem to be, the rapid spread of Christianity in a Roman empire, mostly hostile to it, is virtually impossible to explain plausibly.”
        Though I agree in a sense, this does not help you as to the identity of only inspired texts. The early church rapidly expanded and fully operated for decades without any NT text yet written. But it seems that on your scheme, there is really no mechanism to verify that only inspired writings were canonized (see Luther denigrating 4 or 5 NT books). Seeing that the church expanded without any texts at first, how do you know that an uninspired text accidentally added, would hamper this? I don’t believe this, but on grounds that the church has real divine guidance in the selection of a canon.

      • Canadian says:

        As I have stated on one of the other 3 recent posts here and also on Dale’s “Trinities” blog, the ancient church’s (and the present Orthodox) affirmation of the monarchy of the Father addresses the problem you pose about the Father as “God”. I believe in one God….THE FATHER Almighty. But scripture clearly identifies 3 divine Persons. They don’t “make up” the one God, the Son and Spirit are eternally begotten and eternally proceed from the Father alone. In light of Isa 45:5, you cannot have subordinate “Gods”, though being Orthodox we affirm with the ancient fathers that we become “gods” (deified) by grace. We are never divine by Nature, as the Son and Spirit are, but are partakers of the divine Nature by the energies of God while remaining human by nature.

  12. Jeff says:

    Tom, the nature of inductive inferences is that they are to various degrees tentative. I accept the canon I grew up with as probably inspired. I do so for a few reasons:

    1) With what little knowledge I have of other texts, C.S. Lewis seems to be right that they have a clearly different “spirit” and/or “methodicalness” to their prose.

    2) The generally-accepted canonical texts were, so far as we can tell inductively from writings at the time, believed to have been written by apostles or their close associates. Thus, for the texts to be coherent, this is what would need to be the case. God appeals to the inductive nature of man so that he can be accountable. Thus, He uses eye/ear-witnesses and/or miraculous sign-indicators to do that, just as those texts claim.

    3) With respect to the OT, we have Christ’s putative statements, statements made by the authors of inferred NT canonical texts, and related inductive criteria.

    In short, I think inferring an inspired canon, after inferring the history seemingly indicated by the gospels and the epistles to be the best explanation of the rapid rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, is quite analogous to the debate about manuscripts. When all the smoke clears, the different manuscripts don’t amount to profound differences in theology. The same seems to be the case with what is accepted as the NT canon. E.g., if they had discarded James, what of great theological import would have been lost? The faith vs. works issue is as clear in Hebrews as it is in James. And elsewhere, as well.

    As an open theist, I agree that the Son has to be essentially benevolent to accomplish redemption and sanctification, as the NT claims. And for the Father to be essentially social (hence, sympathetic), the Son is the no-brainer (per parsimony) being to posit as that eternally socially-related being. I’m just not seeing what positing the traditional trinity buys us once the NT has Christ and Paul calling the Father the ONE God. IOW, it’s not Hebrew monotheism that’s driving that inference at that point. Because Christ and Paul seemingly saw no problem with reconciling Hebrew monotheism with the ONE God they called the Father.

    • tgbelt says:

      Jeff: I accept the canon I grew up with as probably inspired for a few reasons:

      1) With what little knowledge I have of other texts, C.S. Lewis seems to be right that they have a clearly different “spirit” and/or “methodicalness” to their prose.
      2) The generally-accepted canonical texts were, so far as we can tell inductively from writings at the time, believed to have been written by apostles or their close associates.
      3) With respect to the OT, we have Christ’s putative statements, statements made by the authors of inferred NT canonical texts, and related inductive criteria.

      Tom: Jeff, you won’t find anybody disagreeing that these three points played a central role in why Christians valued the gospels and letters which they eventually canonized. And nobody is debating the inductive nature of their reasoning for doing so. But there’s more to it that you’re missing.

      Jeff: In short, I think inferring an inspired canon, after inferring the history seemingly indicated by the gospels and the epistles to be the best explanation of the rapid rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, is quite…

      Tom: I might be missing your point here, but do you think this argument had anything to do with why early Christians and councils contemplated canonizing these as opposed to those letters? i.e., the reasoned inductively that because ‘these’ letter best explained to them the rapid rise of Christianity they were to be canonized? Till Constantine rose to power in 313 Christians were as often as not running for their lives and protecting these letters with their lives. That they did so explains the rise of Christianity, not the other way around. Why would they do so? They did so because these letters expressed the story/narrative and truths definitive of their worship and experience of Christ. Inductive, yes, but existentially and corporately so. These documents were finally canonized because of the way they had functioned for generations of believers (read ‘tradition’) as the definitive expression of those events (and their interpretation) that brought them as a community into an unbroken stream of the shared experience of the risen Christ. That shared experience of worship centered upon and informed by certain gospels and letters is what elevated these letters to canonicity. This may be a bit of what you have in mind by your (1). Not sure. But that ongoing tradition of shared experience is what produced the Scriptures in the first place and I think that is what Canada was getting at. How does one grant the authority of such reasoning to recognize the unique status of the NT docs (reasoning informed by a tradition of shared Trinitarian belief and experience) and then reject the Trinitarian nature of that reasoning and faith based on those same documents?

      • Canadian says:

        Tom said: “How does one grant the authority of such reasoning to recognize the unique status of the NT docs (reasoning informed by a tradition of shared Trinitarian belief and experience) and then reject the Trinitarian nature of that reasoning and faith based on those same documents?”

        Well said. The scriptures are not intended to be removed from the liturgical and ecclesial context in which they were given.

    • Jeff says:

      Tom: How does one grant the authority of such reasoning to recognize the unique status of the NT docs (reasoning informed by a tradition of shared Trinitarian belief and experience) and then reject the Trinitarian nature of that reasoning and faith based on those same documents?

      Jeff: I’m confused. What seemingly perspicuous claim in putatively canonical NT texts indicates or implies it’s author was trying to say that the godhead was co-substantial?

      • Jeff says:

        Alternatively, what do we know at all that implies or indicates that a universe-creating godhead of multiple persons is only conceivable if those persons are co-substantial?

    • Jeff says:

      Canadian: Well said. The scriptures are not intended to be removed from the liturgical and ecclesial context in which they were given.

      Jeff: No doubt. But the relevant authority of that context was, IMO, to be analogous to that of any learning institution. I.e., those in the know supposedly know why the truth claims being taught make more inductive sense than competing claims. And they know how to articulate those arguments.

      But once that’s not the case, those contexts have no more God-given authority than any other school, etc. Blind faith is never obligatory: It’s not as though only one group claims authority on these grounds. Yet without signs and wonders and/or private revelation to properly distinguish the “approved” one, we’re left with induction and our own experience. Unfortunately, no one here is claiming signs and wonders, best I can tell, and private revelation is claimed by people contradicting one another.

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        My recent series of blog articles on unitarianism and hermeneutics may be of interest here, particularly articles 2-5: http://goo.gl/qYjXh8.

      • Canadian says:

        Jeff,
        Thanks again for your interaction here.
        You said: “But once that’s not the case, those contexts have no more God-given authority than any other school, etc”

        Considering the promises of Christ that the gates of hades will not prevail against the church he establishes, he will be with her until the end of the age, the Spirit will lead her into all truth, etc….I cannot understand why you presume to assume there comes a time where “that’s not the case” for the church. The church is not just a learning institution, but an organic body connected to Christ her head and indwelt by the Spirit. The truth is passed on and “committed to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also”. Heresy is something the church can clearly identify and forbid for all, not just something some group calls what the other guy believes. Schism can be forbidden in the NT because there is an identifyable body that one can be in schism from.

      • Jeff says:

        Canadian: Considering the promises of Christ that the gates of hades will not prevail against the church

        Jeff: But how do we establish that either 1) those who don’t believe in the traditional trinity while believing in the Lordship and resurrection of Christ are not in the church or 2) that the gates of hades is prevailing against those who don’t believe in the traditional trinity?

        Canadian: … he will be with her until the end of the age,

        Jeff: Same kind of response as above.

        Canadian: the Spirit will lead her into all truth, etc….

        Jeff: How do you know the promise was made to all future believers and not just to those Christ spoke to? After all, there was an important reason why the 11, given their then-future role, required that they, at least, needed to know the truth to assure theological accuracy of their then-subsequent teaching.

        Canadian: I cannot understand why you presume to assume there comes a time where “that’s not the case” for the church.

        Jeff: I’m not “presuming” the above verses mean what you think they do. I see very plausible alternative readings of those verses. And those alternative readings, together with what we can determine from our own lives and from history, imply, or at least strongly indicate, that the Church is badly divided on many matters of great significance.

        Canadian: The church is not just a learning institution, but an organic body connected to Christ her head and indwelt by the Spirit.

        Jeff: The learning of “all” truth is not obviously guaranteed for all believers . This is why the whole NT warns BELIEVERS against the leaven of false doctrine and being “many teachers.”

        Canadian: The truth is passed on and “committed to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also”.

        Jeff: And yet it doesn’t follow that the Church is ONLY made up of faithful men. The whole NT makes it clear that many believers in Christ’s Lordship and resurrection stray into all manner of erroneous belief and behavior.

        Canadian: Heresy is something the church can clearly identify and forbid for all, not just something some group calls what the other guy believes.

        Jeff: What, other than the rejection of either Christ’s Lordship or ressurection, is that clear in scripture? E.g., I would consider it heresy to teach that fornication is “allowed.” But it doesn’t follow that a believer can’t commit fornication and still be saved, right? But Tom seems to be saying that prior to partaking of the divine nature you MUST become a traditional trinitarian. I see nothing in scripture that renders that belief obvious or even necessary to understanding scripture.

        Canadian: Schism can be forbidden in the NT because there is an identifyable body that one can be in schism from.

        Jeff: By that view, isn’t there always a body of folks who have the true opinion on all scripturally-obligated doctrines? What body of folks would that be, and where can I get a perspicuous list of their beliefs so that I can compare them to what is perspicuous in scripture? There are multiple groups who think they have the “truth” on one or more matters. They contradict one another. Thus, apart from signs and wonders to confirm one group’s words over those of another’s, all we have is induction and/or private revelation.

        That being said, there don’t seem to be a bunch of plausible options on the matter of the plurality of the godhead. I can only think of two. And I don’t even consider the traditional “2-mind” view of the Son as a workable traditional trinitarian view. It seems to require that a person can have contradictory 1st person beliefs and still be omniscient. I think the contradictory beliefs, alone, are fatal to that theory regardless of whether omniscience is an essential attribute of deity.

      • Jeff says:

        … I’m not sure it’s impossible to eliminate those contradictions by rejecting omniscience as an essential attribute of divinity, however. But even requiring the participation of the Son in the putative “creation continua” seems to require those same contradictions. So it seems to me you would have to reject both creatio continua AND omniscience as attributes of the Son to render the “2-mind” view of the Son coherent.

  13. Jeff says:

    Canadian: the ancient church’s (and the present Orthodox) affirmation of the monarchy of the Father addresses the problem you pose about the Father as “God”. I believe in one God….THE FATHER Almighty. But scripture clearly identifies 3 divine Persons. They don’t “make up” the one God

    Jeff: Yes, that’s what I see as the relevant point. The Father IS the ONE God while not being made up of the Spirit or the Son. Hence, Hebrew monotheism is seemingly reconcilable with Christianity so long as the Father is the ONE God in the ONE relevant Hebrew sense of the meaning of “God” in the relevant OT texts.

    • Richard Worden Wilson says:

      So, how do you all handle the fact there is no example of prayer to or worship of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, and no depiction of the Spirit’s putative existence as a distinct person anywhere in scripture?

      • Jeff says:

        I’m not seeing what it is I have to “handle” there. I believe it’s consistent to say that the Father, Son, and Spirit are each beings which have essential attributes that depend on the existence of each other. How this implies that we ought to pray to or worship the Spirit is not at all clear to me.

      • Jeff says:

        … i.e., I’m not saying that the Father is not the “head” or “monarchial” in some sense. I agree that He is just that. But that’s enough to render Him “God” in a unique sense that renders Him the ONE God of Hebrew monotheism, best I can tell. Again, it’s about induction/parsimony to me. I don’t see the need for blind faith in tradition at any point. Indeed, faith that has to be blind is necessarily unaccountable as far as I can tell.

      • Canadian says:

        Jesus repeatedly in the gospel of John calls the Holy Spirit “He”.

      • Jeff says:

        Canadian: Jesus repeatedly in the gospel of John calls the Holy Spirit “He”.

        Jeff: What does this imply, in your opinion, about the co-substantiality of the Father, Son, and Spirit? Not seeing it, myself.

      • Canadian says:

        Jeff,
        I was answering Richard above when he said “and no depiction of the Spirit’s putative existence as a distinct person anywhere in scripture.” Christ of course calls the Spirit “He” several times.

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      The credal confession of God the Father as the “one God” is implicitly qualified by the understanding that God is Father because he is the Father of the Son, Jesus Christ. It is not speaking of divine fatherhood in some abstract way, like when we say “God is the father of all men and women” or something like that. The confession is quite specific. It is referring to the unique relationship between the God of Israel and Jesus Christ, a relationship that defines who God is. The Church came to understand that this relationship is constitutive of deity and thus eternal. In the words of St Athanasius: “God, in that he ever is, is ever Father of the Son.”

      For my money, the best discussion of this is found in Thomas F. Torrance’s book *The Trinitarian Faith*.

      • Jeff says:

        Aidan, I’m not contending that the traditional trinity is an incoherent way of reconciling Hebrew monotheism with Christianity. I’m contending that it is unnecessary for the reasons I’ve explained above and, therefore, counter-inductive and, therefore, a-rational and, therefore, void of obligation. Nor am I contending that there is a slew of options. My own view is the only other alternative I find consistent with a plausible view of Hebrew monotheism. There may be others, but I can’t think of any. I’m all ears to others who’ve thought this through.

      • Jeff says:

        … IOW, the claim that “The Church came to understand that this relationship is constitutive of deity and thus eternal” is just another concession that the words “deity,” “divine,” “god,” etc have multiple senses. No traditional trinitarian can meaningfully claim that the phrase “one God,” when applied to both the trinity and the Father, can have the same conceptual import if “one” is used in the quantitative sense.

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Actually, to say that God is one is just as mysterious and incomprehensible as to say that God is three. This is one of my concerns about Dale Tuggy’s insistence on numerical identity. It seems to imply that we actually know what we are talking about. We don’t.

        The Christian God transcends counting. This is but one example of where theological language breaks. God is not an item in the universe that can be counted.

        As Deny Turner observes, the One God “cannot be understood in terms of the one and only instance of the divine nature, not any more than the persons of the Trinity can be understood as three instances of it.” Or as St Basil of Caesarea declared: “When the Lord taught us the doctrine of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he did not make arithmetic a part of this gift! … The Unapproachable One is beyond numbers” (http://goo.gl/RohY49).

        In other words, the development of the Christian doctrine of God that occurred over the first four and five centuries of the Church must be understood as the radicalization of monotheism in light of the Hellenistic understanding of deity. St Justin Martyr is a good example of a philosopher who has simply carpentered together the trinitarian confession of Father, Son, and Spirit with a pagan apprehension of degrees of divinity. But as the Church’s understanding of monotheism deepened—particularly with the confession of the creatio ex nihilo—then the assertion of the one God became even more mysterious. Not only did it eliminate the notion of degrees of divinity, but it transformed the Church’s understanding of the divine transcendence.

      • Jeff says:

        Aidan, degrees of divinity doesn’t mean the same thing as SENSES of divinity. Two distinct beings can be FULLY divine in two respective, but distinct, senses. It seems clear from Christ’s statements in the gospel of John that he recognized multiple senses of the word “god.” He used the fact that the OT called some Israelites “gods” as sufficient proof that propositions making claims of “god-ness” have to be considered contextually before deemed contradictory to other such claims. It’s not like co-substantiality is clearly indicated or implied in NT writings.

  14. Jeff says:

    … IOW, Canadian, the logical reconciliation of Christianity with Hebrew monotheism can be accomplished by recognizing the distinguishable meanings of the word “god” in most languages (if not all languages) without positing the traditional trinity of persons with a monarch amongst them possessing this unique sense of “God-ness/deity.” Once you have to appeal to a sense of the word “God” to make sense of the NT language, you’re done; you no longer need the traditional concept of the trinity to do the work of reconciling Christianity with Hebrew monotheism. This is how parsimony/induction works. No mystery to it.

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      “Once you have to appeal to a sense of the word “God” to make sense of the NT language, you’re done; you no longer need the traditional concept of the trinity to do the work of reconciling Christianity with Hebrew monotheism.”

      It’s just the opposite. Once one truly understands what it means to say that God has created the world from out of nothing, then the traditional formulation of the Trinity becomes absolutely necessary.

      • Jeff says:

        Aidan: Once one truly understands what it means to say that God has created the world from out of nothing, then the traditional formulation of the Trinity becomes absolutely necessary.

        Jeff: How so?

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        I was hoping you’d ask. :) I’m actually thinking about doing a couple of blog articles on this subject, hopefully starting on Monday or Tuesday. We shall see.

        But contemplate what it means for God to create out of nothing. It signifies, I suggest, a radical difference between uncreated being and created being. The world is not an emanation of deity. Nor can God be considered in any way to be a being or thought of being a being. Hence it makes no sense to speak of degrees of divinity, as in the religious world of Hellenistic paganism. Biblical faith poses a stark either/or: Jesus is either a creature or divine. If divine, then the challenge of formulating the trinitarian and christological doctrines begin.

      • Jeff says:

        I look forward to reading your arguments. Post us a link to them when you’re done. Thanks!

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Here’s my blog, Jeff: Eclectic Orthodoxy

      • Richard Worden Wilson says:

        Fr Aidan,
        Considering that the scriptures nowhere speak of God creating from or out of nothing, the necessity of which you speak is as much a _non sequitur_ as possible.

        There are a many other statements in this thread that just as fallacious as this argument. Like English translations of the neuter pronoun associated with the Greek noun pneuma as the masculine “he” indicating that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person.

        Similarly, the idea of needing a particular authority to provide legitimacy for accepting the scriptures we know as canonical, considering that there never was a single conciliar pronouncement listing the texts in our Bibles, even in the early centuries AD.

        Reasonable conclusions should only be asserted when the nearly inexhaustible supply of reasonable objections to an argument have been reasonably answered. Look first at the already plentiful counter-arguments you may encounter before offering overly simple statements. I’m not a professional scholar, and am always running short of time, so I think I’ll just shut up now. 8>)
        All the best to all in Christ.

      • Jeff says:

        Thanks for the link, Aidan. I’ll check it out and look for those forth-coming articles next week.

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        “Considering that the scriptures nowhere speak of God creating from or out of nothing, the necessity of which you speak is as much a _non sequitur_ as possible.”

        Richard, I’m not willing to concede that the Scriptures are totally silent on the creatio ex nihilo. 2 Macc 7:28 immediately comes to mind: “So I urge you, my child, to look at the sky and the earth. Consider everything you see there, and realize that God made it all from nothing, just as he made the human race.” And of course there are others. But I do acknowledge that the creatio ex nihilo can hardly be said to be a clear, manifest, and obvious teaching of Scripture, though by the 3rd century it has uncontroversially become the clear teaching of the Church and is assumed for all subsequent doctrinal developments.

        But it makes no sense to me at all for someone to try to reconstruct an understanding of God based on a collection of ancient writings, if he is going to reject the dogmatic teachings of the Church that canonized these writings. This simply sounds like folks trying to create a new religion. See my series: http://goo.gl/qYjXh8.

  15. tgbelt says:

    An interesting article by Papanikolaou re: Zizioulas’ personalist reading of the Fathers. Thank you Fr. Aidan.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/50508003/38530175-Ioannis-Zizioulas

  16. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    An article germane to this discussion: “The New Testament and the Nicene Dogma” by David Yeago (Lutheran).

    • Jeff says:

      “The Unitarian God cannot ultimately save.”

      But unitarianism is an easy target. That’s not the alternative to traditional trinitarianism (i.e., co-substantiality of 3 persons) that I’m contending exists. I embrace the plurality of the godhead as a seemingly necessary condition of social morality in a created universe. It’s co-substantiality that I see as an unnecessary positing. I don’t see how it explains anything. Because I don’t see how it’s necessary to reconcile Christianity with Hebrew monotheism. The Father is the ONE God that satisfies Hebrew monotheism.

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        “The Unitarian God cannot ultimately save.”

        A clarification: this quote is from Tom’s article. Except in a homiletical context, I probably would not come right out and say this. I’m sure that a unitarian deity can “save” in whatever ways unitarian deities save. The salvation offered by the Holy Trinity is specific and unique to itself–namely, communion in the divine life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

        If one is asking why the Church settled on the homoousion as dogma, the answer, I think, is clear and compelling: to meet Jesus Christ is to meet nothing less the God himself in the fullness of divine reality. As Tom Torrance liked to say, there is no other God hiding behind the back of Jesus.

      • Jeff says:

        With respect to Unitarianism, it is less parsimonious to posit a God that is contingently social or, alternatively, essentially social but ALONE apart from creation. That’s why I see Unitarianism as a non-starter.

        Aidan: to meet Jesus Christ is to meet nothing less the God himself in the fullness of divine reality.

        Jeff: What does it mean to say that Jesus is fully divine? Well, that depends on the SENSE of the word divinity you’re using. It certainly isn’t true that Jesus Christ is fully divine in the same sense as the homoousion trinity is. And yet that homoousion trinity is precisely what most traditional trinitarians insist gets us to a putatively necessary monotheism. On the other hand, Jesus Christ is not fully divine in the same sense as the Father if the Father’s monarchial attribute is essential to the fullness of His divinity. In short, it seems logically impossible to speak of 3 persons and and the homoousion trinity itself as each fully divine except in DIFFERENT senses. But once you go there, you’ve already solved the problem of explaining FULL divinity without the need of the homoousion trinity. The traditional trinity is the counter-inductive (because non-parsimonious) positing of something that explains nothing.

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        “What does it mean to say that Jesus is fully divine? Well, that depends on the SENSE of the word divinity you’re using. It certainly isn’t true that Jesus Christ is fully divine in the same sense as the homoousion trinity is.”

        Actually, that is precisely what the homoousion asserts–namely, that Jesus Christ is fully and completely divine, as fully and completely divine as the Father (and the Spirit). There’s no need to speak of “senses” of divine, as we have no idea what it means for God to be God, which is why the early Church Fathers unanimously agreed that the divine essence is incomprehensible. Hence to speak of senses of the divine simply makes no sense.

        All of the subordinationist theories that are being discussed in this thread and elsewhere on the net remind me of old physics theories that were long ago discarded. There are compelling evangelical reasons why the subordinationist theories were discarded. The Fathers weren’t trying to create a consistent philosophical theory of deity. God forbid! Read St Gregory of Nazianzus’s Theological Orations for a sample of patristic disdain for that kind of philosophizing. They were principally interested, if I might put it this way, in identifying the grammatical rules of properly Christian discourse.

      • Jeff says:

        Aidan: Fathers unanimously agreed that the divine essence is incomprehensible. Hence to speak of senses of the divine simply makes no sense.

        Jeff: Then the claim that “Jesus Christ is fully and completely divine, as fully and completely divine as the Father (and the Spirit)” is likewise incomprehensible. Such approaches prove too much. They prove there can’t possibly be anything obligatory to such beliefs. Where nothing is given, nothing is required.

      • Jeff says:

        … rather, it seems to me that it explains nothing. I’m open to an argument to the contrary.

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Jeff, I think you are right. The patristic doctrine of the Trinity does not explain anything, as it was never intended to explain anything. We cannot begin to “explain” the transcendent Creator of the universe. His essence is ineffable and incomprehensible.

        In the mid- to late-fourth century Eunomius thought he could define the divine essence: God is “unbegotten” (http://goo.gl/AzKtGR). It was precisely this assertion that provoked the Eastern theologians (principally the Cappadocians) to finally confront the instabilities of their subordinationist systems and to embrace the full divinity of the Son and Spirit (http://goo.gl/QoL1ul). They didn’t think they were “explaining” deity; rather, they were breaking free from Hellenistic construals of deity in order to forthrightly proclaim the God of the gospel.

        In Dale Tuggy’s categories, the Nicene and post-Nicene Church Fathers are mysterians. They knew that God cannot be comprehended by our theological constructs. They knew that human language for God must always ultimately fail. They did not try to invent a metaphysical system that would define and explain the unknowable God. They sought principally to identify those theological constructs that they recognized as incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and in this process they came to clearly identify the grammatical rules for gospel-speech.

        Thomas F. Torrance succinctly states the evangelical import of the Nicene homoousion:

        “The Nicene formulation of the homoousion or concept of consubstantiality gave exact expression to the supreme truth of the Gospel that God himself is the content of his revelation and that the Gift which God bestows upon us in his Grace is identical with himself the Giver of the Gift” (http://goo.gl/yeVjzK).

        LOL. I’m getting awfully close to writing a blog article with all of these comments. Forgive my loquaciousness. This thread has apparently energized me. :)

      • Jeff says:

        Aidan: They were principally interested, if I might put it this way, in identifying the grammatical rules of properly Christian discourse.

        Jeff: Then there can be no inductive approach to the scriptures. And that means we can’t even apply induction to them to see if they best explain the rise of the Christian religion (whatever that is!). Apologetics of every kind fall flat at that point, best I can tell. A benevolent Creator requires nothing where He gives nothing. And if He only gives to an elect few, then a benevolent Creator only expects OF that elect few. Those who “identified” the grammatical rules of proper Christian discourse were either divinely given those rules or not. If they weren’t, they are usurping the putative authority of scripture. If they were, then only they and others who were also “given” those rules are accountable TO them. No argument can be made in their favor to those who aren’t likewise DIVINELY-GIVEN that enlightenment.

      • Jeff says:

        … And this is the dilemma of such approaches. They seemingly deductively lead to the conclusion that those who disagree aren’t even Christians at all. The gospel is called a “proclamation” at many points in scripture. It is not an argument. Indeed, it’s called “foolishness” and a “stumblingblock.” It’s truth can only be argued for in terms of the most plausible explanation of the rise of Christianity. And even this assumes that what we call the “universe” is a created, rational, social order.

      • tgbelt says:

        Jeff: They seemingly deductively lead to the conclusion that those who disagree aren’t even Christians at all. The gospel is called a “proclamation” at many points in scripture. It is not an argument. Indeed, it’s called “foolishness” and a “stumblingblock.” It’s truth can only be argued for in terms of the most plausible explanation of the rise of Christianity.

        Tom: I’m confused. If the gospel is a proclamation and “not an argument,” then the question of “arguing for its truth” never arises and ought to be dismissed if ever attempts are made to establish “plausible explanations.” But if we ought to seek to explain our claims, then there’s a certain “argument” to the gospel’s proclamation.

    • Jeff says:

      Aidan: They knew that God cannot be comprehended by our theological constructs.

      Jeff: I’m not at all convinced that our conceptions of any complex composite (humans, animals, etc) comprehend those composites. That doesn’t mean that we are wrong about every property we attribute to them. I think the exact same thing is the case with God. I doubt I’ll ever understand how God could know that another being sufficiently competent couldn’t pop into existence and frustrate His purposes. And yet I must posit that God’s ultimate purpose for this creation can never be frustrated to even account for warranted belief.

      IOW, we have to believe that we can say true, intelligible propositions about divinity and divine persons if we are to assume discourse has any value whatsoever to those who do not yet agree with us. But once we do that, I can’t see how positing co-substantiality explains anything distinctively Christian. The only thing it could conceivably explain, to my knowledge, is the truth of Hebrew monotheism. But, as I’ve said, there is no way to make even that work without appealing to different SENSES of divinity. And yet appealing to different senses of divinity is all that is needed to reconcile Christianity with Hebrew monotheism, in the first place. Thus, co-substantiality doesn’t seem, to me, to have any relevance to any Christian doctrine or philosophical understanding of creation.

  17. Jeff says:

    I said above, ” They prove there can’t possibly be anything obligatory to such beliefs.” But even that seems non-sensical. If it makes no sense to distinguish between the trinity and a person of the trinity, in what sense are we saying anything intelligible by claiming we “believe” in persons of a trinity? How can one believe what makes no sense to them?

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Jeff, your recent comments have taken us into a different region–specifically, what is the nature of faith and dogma. These are important questions and concerns, but not ones that I’m interested in pursuing at this point. I have blog articles to write. :) Perhaps Tom might be willing to jump in.

      A couple quick comments:

      1) You write: “If it makes no sense to distinguish between the trinity and a person of the trinity.” I did not intend to say that we could not distinguish between hypostasis and ousia. Clearly the Church Fathers did so distinguish: the Father is unbegotten; the Son is begotten by the Father; the Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Church Fathers simply denied that we could comprehend the divine generations. We do not know what they mean for God–only God understands himself.

      But I would go on and say that we do in fact have a personal experience of the divine relations–namely in prayer and worship and preaching: we pray to the Father through the Son in the Spirit. This is a participation in the divine life of God given to us in the Church. It is not a deduction from Scripture.

      2) We do not know “what” God is, but we do know “who” he is. The Christian God is narratively identified. We tell stories about the Father of Jesus who gave Torah to Moses and Jesus his Son who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and the Spirit who was poured out upon the Church on Pentecost.

      3) Faith itself is a mystery and gift. We all have our reasons and warrants. Often our reasons and warrants change or become less or more persuasive over time. Despite such changes, faith abides–or it doesn’t. Ultimately, it is the gospel itself that provides its own evidence. No one calls Jesus Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

  18. tgbelt says:

    A lot to catch up with here!

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      You see what happens, Tom. You run out for a couple of hours to do the work of the Lord, and you come back and you find that the Battle of Nicaea is being fought all over again. :D

  19. tgbelt says:

    Was just thinking about Christianity as the ongoing experience of Christ as his body/community/Church, and it dawned on me that there is no “being a Christian” in anything like a NT sense apart from identifying and participating in community. In other words, Christianity isn’t definable apart from sociality/community, and that means all the tools (traditional, historical-critical method, inductive reasoning, etc.) function as tools OF THE COMMUNITY in defining itself as that Body of Christ. It’s not that “inductive reasoning” has no place in the community IF the authority for defining that community’s identity and purpose reside IN THE COMMUNITY (as opposed to the INDIVIDUAL) functioning in its uniqueness as a pneumatic community (where the presence of the Spirit’s gifts are operative within it); rather, it’s that the community ‘as community’ does the reasoning—corporately as it were, in self-defining conversation (which all the conversation partners it has—ongoing tradition, the Scriptures, historical-critical tools, philosophy, etc.). Individuals make their case—variously here and there—as occurred before, during and after all the ancient Councils. But their sense of identity as Christians was far more communal than ours is today, and I think that makes it next to impossible for evangelicals to appreciate any spiritual authority that “defines the Faith” as resting outside the individual and in the Community which IS the Christianity to which individuals are called.

    The very evangelical notion of Christianity being that which occurs between “me” and “Jesus” is not a biblical data. Can God reach the heart of searching individuals who have no access to the ‘community’ of Jesus followers? I like to think so, yes. But can those individuals embody, in their experience, the fullness of what their faith (however defined individually) is intended to be and accomplish? Absolutely not. Christianity IS irreducibly social/communal. So there’s no question that defining it is equally the task of the community. The idea that each of us — independent of the authority of other voices — can define what Christianity is for him/herself strikes me utterly missing what the Christian faith even is. Christianity is (among other things) an invitation to define ourselves in community with others–centered in and around Christ.

    Do we not each as individuals have to preside over our belief formation? Yes. Do we not each as individuals determine ourselves with respect to the community? Certainly. But what we’re determining as individuals is not what the Faith is. THAT can only be done by the Church. What we do as individuals is decide whether or not we wish to identify with a community. We can decide as individuals for ourselves whether or not we’ll accept the gospel’s invitation to belong. But we cannot decide as individuals what that community is to which we wish to belong.

    • Jeff says:

      Aidan: But what we’re determining as individuals is not what the Faith is. THAT can only be done by the Church.

      Jeff: But don’t you see, Aidan? What you’re saying here can be said by any community professing to be “Christian” that believes they have the truth. It gets us nowhere. Only INDUCTION can do that! Only INDUCTION, which is a HUMAN mode of inferring, gets us out of the circularity of beginning with sectarian assumptions. This is why the divisions occur to this day. Every sect finds a way to find comfort in these a-plausible assumptions merely because they have people “on their side.” People ain’t the deal. Get on GOD’s side. God tells you NOT to judge where nothing is given. And co-substantiality isn’t given to me by private revelation. And it is not inferrable by induction, best I can tell. Thus, I’m not conceivably accountable to believe it.

      • tgbelt says:

        Jeff: But don’t you see, Aidan? What you’re saying here can be said by any community professing to be “Christian” that believes they have the truth.

        Tom: Of course. Any group of individuals may name themselves whatever they wish.

        Jeff: It gets us nowhere.

        Tom: Where would you like to go?

        Jeff: Only INDUCTION can do that! Only INDUCTION, which is a HUMAN mode of inferring, gets us out of the circularity of beginning with sectarian assumptions.

        Tom: Are you kidding me? Philosophers who value induction and the rules of logic aren’t sectarian? There are no sectarians among philosophers who equally affirm the authority of induction? Look, nobody wants to toss out ‘induction’ per se, but Jeff, even if induction is universal (and I agree it is), it does not lead invariably to the same conclusions even among those sworn never to step outside its dictates. It may be a universal given, but there’s no universally trustworthy employment of it when it comes for full worldview construction. How do I know this? I’m a trinitarian who feels pretty confident that inductive reasoning and a priori truths rule out Unitarianism as even coherent. (I’m referring to Greg’s PhD work on Hartshorne.) Now, Dale is for sure gonna disagree. And we’re BOTH relying on induction uninformed by faith commitments. What authority decides between us? Induction?

        I know how much you like pure induction. But it cannot deliver agreement apart from the most basic and religiously uninteresting axioms (law of non-contradiction, law of identity, perhaps bivalence, etc.).

        Jeff: This is why the divisions occur to this day.

        Tom: They’d occur even if we all agreed to form our beliefs based solely upon the deliverances of induction.

      • Jeff says:

        Tom, induction doesn’t get us the LNC, etc. Those are known independently of what logic books mean by induction. Inductive inferences are inferences. As such, they depend upon the validity of deduction and its axioms. Induction is how we’re sure one another exists, etc. It’s the application of analogy, etc to greater and greater breadth of explanation and generalizations, consistent with deduction/coherence. And it’s not knowably sectarian unless you can plausibly explain how other humans came to such similar inferences non-inductively. Best I can tell, that convergence would have to be explained by pure chance. And that doesn’t seem at all plausible, right?

        Jeff: But don’t you see, Aidan? What you’re saying here can be said by any community professing to be “Christian” that believes they have the truth.

        Tom: Of course. Any group of individuals may name themselves whatever they wish.

        Jeff: Ah, but Tom, you’re missing my main point. I said (note the emphasis),

        “But don’t you see, Aidan? WHAT YOU’RE SAYING HERE CAN BE SAID BY ANY COMMUNITY professing to be “Christian” that believes they have the truth.”

        In other words, we already have competing claims of authenticity by multiple “communities.” What we don’t have from them is the signs and wonders that would “confirm their word.” This is why all we have (and, hence, are accountable to) is induction and the words that we inductively infer were confirmed with signs and wonders. And no, it’s not hard to see why there is so much agreement as to which texts were confirmed by signs and wonders. There is a domino effect to the induction that highly constrains what is plausible in that regard. And that’s exactly what you would expect of a God that appeals to INDUCTIVE minds.

      • tgbelt says:

        Jeff: Induction doesn’t get us the LNC, etc. Those are known independently of what logic books mean by induction.

        Tom: True. Spoke too quickly. Nevertheless, rationality per se.

        —————————-

        Tom: Of course. Any group of individuals may name themselves whatever they wish.

        Jeff: Ah, but Tom, you’re missing my main point. I said (note the emphasis): “But don’t you see, Aidan? WHAT YOU’RE SAYING HERE CAN BE SAID BY ANY COMMUNITY professing to be “Christian” that believes they have the truth.” In other words, we already have competing claims of authenticity by multiple “communities.” What we don’t have from them is the signs and wonders that would “confirm their word.”

        Tom: Right. I got that.

        There are going to be competing claims. Nobody is interested in precluding this. The question is, are communities of faith empowered to adopt those beliefs and values that define them. And the answer is obviously yes. Now, you want “induction” to be the controlling mechanism for how communities adopt those beliefs and values, and you suppose that if human communities would just submit to induction, there wouldn’t be any more competing claims (that matter) because induction would invariably lead its children to agreement on what matters. I think this is obviously false.

        And I don’t doubt that God appeals rationally to rational creatures such as ourselves, and that God is justified to hold us accountable. But when Jesus said the Spirit is the one who “convicts of…” I don’t think he’s simply referring to the universal exercise of inductive reasoning. God is personally present to convince/convict. Signs and wonders help. But some believe JUSTIFIABLY apart from them. So, they can hardly be definitionally required.

        Besides, the Nicene Creed is not evangelism. It’s an in-house affirmation of the faith of those already on the inside of an experience of redeeming and life-transforming divine grace mediated through Christ—a transformation which is its own wonderous sign that justifies enduring belief. That experience informs the Creed. But Creeds aren’t about making inductive appeals to unbelievers.

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        “But don’t you see, Aidan? WHAT YOU’RE SAYING HERE CAN BE SAID BY ANY COMMUNITY professing to be “Christian” that believes they have the truth.”

        Yep.

        But, Jeff, do you really think you are invulnerable to the charge of fideism? Why have you chosen Scripture as your authoritative witness as opposed to the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, or the philosophical works of Plotinus? No amount of inductive reasoning can justify anyone’s commitment to the inspired authority of the Bible.

        What about your belief in God? Is there no leap of faith here, or are you persuaded that you can provide compelling, coercive rational arguments to support this belief? Is that how most people have come to belief in God, i.e., through rational argumentation? If God is not a being within the universe, how could we ever hope to demonstrate his existence? Reason can take me to the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” but do not see how reason alone can answer this question.

        Hence I agree with Orthodox theologian Paul Evdokimov:

        Science imposes its vision of visible and verifiable things and obliges me to accept them. I cannot deny an earthworm, nor a virus, but I can deny the existence of God. This is because faith, according to St. Paul, is “the evidence of things that are not seen”. It transcends the order of necessity. “Blessed are those who have not seen and who have believed” means blessed are those who are not compelled, forced, constrained.

        Faith thus appears as a step beyond reason, commanded by reason itself when it reaches its limits. Faith says: “Give up your puny reason and receive the Word.” It is a transcendence toward evidence, toward the hidden reality that reveals itself. It suppresses all demonstration, all intermediaries, all abstract notions of God, and it makes that someone who is the most intimately known immediately present.

        The insufficiency of the proofs of God’s existence is explained by a fundamental fact: God alone is the criterion of his truth, God alone is the argument of his being. In every thought concerning God, it is God who thinks himself in the human mind. That is why we can never prove his existence rationally nor convert another by arguments, for we can never do so in the place of God. We cannot submit God to the logic of demonstrations nor enclose him in a chain of causes. (http://goo.gl/3IbDBb)

        Similarly, but also differently, Thomas F. Torrance speaks of the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as “ultimates.” They can only be justified on the grounds they themselves provide. Torrance agrees that his entails a circularity, but he rejects the allegation that it is a vicious circularity. Any formal system, as demonstrated by Kurt Godel, “must have one or more propositions that are not provable within it but may be proved with reference to a wider and higher system” (*Space, Time and Resurrection*, p. 15). This means that “the system stands or falls with respect to its power as a whole to command our acceptance” (p. 15).

        While I wish that I could prove to myself, and others, that the Orthodox faith is absolutely true, I know I can’t. All I can do is live by faith and invite others into the life of faith. If I should ever discover that the Orthodox faith is wrong, well, as C. S. Lewis once said, I will have paid the universe a compliment it doesn’t deserve.

        Christianity is not a philosophy. It is life.

  20. Jeff says:

    And, Tom, with respect to previous comment you made, I’m not suggesting that argument isn’t possible for some of the claims of Christianity. But they require, for their plausibility, a prior commitment to the belief in competent, benevolent teleology. And what Romans and 1 Cor. tells us is that many are not content to have God “in their knowledge.” Or, as Romans puts it, they suppress the truth of God knowable from the creation. Thus, the gospel seems foolish to us once we’ve gone there. That’s why divine enlightenment IS said to be involved in changing minds and hearts. God has to GIVE something for us to be accountable. But I don’t see that He’s given anything suggestive of the co-substantiality of the persons of the godhead. The fact that some people believe it, per se, has no relevance to human plausibility whatsoever.

    • tgbelt says:

      Jeff: I’m not suggesting that argument isn’t possible for some of the claims of Christianity. But they require, for their plausibility, a prior commitment to the belief in competent, benevolent teleology.

      Tom: Amen.

      Jeff: God has to GIVE something for us to be accountable…

      Tom: No doubt.

      Jeff: …but I don’t see that He’s given anything suggestive of the co-substantiality of the persons of the godhead. The fact that some people believe it, per se, has no relevance to human plausibility whatsoever.

      Tom: That’s your opinion, right? I appreciate that you don’t see it. Now…enter the Church…and that’s where we are. Is it the business of creedal statements of faith to merely affirm what can be concluded based on induction alone? Or is it the business of a Creed to summarize a community’s self-understanding IN LIGHT OF the Scriptures which form the basis for their faith? In other words, can it be that the Christian community justifiably induced the trinity based on Scripture in light of its own ongoing experience and worship of Christ and not because the NT documents explicitly contain a doctrine of the Trinity which can be determined through historical-critical method serving induction? You don’t see the consubstantiality of the Son and the Father in the NT even ‘suggested’ (never mind explicitly stated) in the NT. That’s utterly baffling to me, but nevermind. I do see it. But perhaps I don’t seen the way you want it to be seen — i.e., inductively inferred exclusively through historical-critical method based on original contexts and what any particular writer of the NT could (arguably) be thought of as having believed. So, are there other ways to see it? To infer it? Might one infer it from sources other than rationality operating in an individual mind free from every authority but its own?

      Since communities define themselves from the inside out based on dynamics inherent in social structures, and individuals responsibly decide whether or not they wish to accept a community’s invitation to belong, that’s the way it is. Hopefully God really will be present in those communities who embrace the kind of life and truths that unite them with God present among them.

      What if I don’t WANT the community to believe X or Y because X doesn’t make sense TO ME? Don’t I get to voice my objections? Yes, I do. But I don’t get to redefine the community myself, or even redefine what the community is TO ME. I’m free to unbelong myself or be unbelonged by the community — just as Trinitarians did to Arians AND just as Arians did to Trinitarians. But to be in community is to–in an important way which functions authoritatively FOR THAT RELATION–defined by that community.

  21. Jeff says:

    Tom: Might one infer it from sources other than rationality operating in an individual mind free from every authority but its own?

    Jeff: Compare that question to the following, from your “About” page:

    “An Open Orthodoxy is a conversation in pursuit of the ancient and the new, the traditional and the novel, the orthodox and the open. We are friends, Tom Belt and Dwayne Polk, exploring the relationship between open theism and Eastern Orthodox theology. We wonder what would come of a conversation between the two. So we aim to clarify open theism’s theological values, define its core claims and convictions, establish its diversities, and situate it relative to the values, experience and vision of the ancient Eastern Fathers. It’s our conviction that both can learn something from the other.”

    To have a conviction that both can learn from the other seems to mean that there is a mode of knowing that one can appeal to that is not utterly individualistic. Now if you’re arguing that only some conversations can “teach” this way, and that the belief in co-substantiality of the persons of the godhead is not one of those conversations, then of course scripture, qua conventional human language, tells you nothing relevant thereabout.

    I, on the other hand, think phrases like “let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind,” and “where little is given, little is required,” indicate very clear meanings in language. IOW, if you wanted to say that your belief in co-substantiality is not knowable via purely human mode of knowing and that, therefore, you can’t imagine God holding any human accountable to it unless He just revealed it to them by private revelation, then there is NO HUMAN conversation to have about co-substantiality. And maybe that’s what you’re saying. At that point, I would just wonder if conversing amongst the choir about such subjects on a world-wide forum is a case of casting your pearls before the swine.

    I think the plurality of the godhead is humanly/philosophically relevant since I think benevolent, competent theism requires it.

    • tgbelt says:

      Jeff: I think the plurality of the godhead is humanly/philosophically relevant since I think benevolent, competent theism requires it.

      Tom: Totally agree. But you’re confusing me, because you’ve also said you don’t find the ‘homousion’ equally required. Do you not realize that for the Orthodox the ‘homoousion’ is simply shorthand for the shared godhead, or the unity “…of the godhead” of the divine persons of which you speak? If you think benevolent theism requires the plurality “of the godhead” (and I agree it does), may I suggest the ‘homousion’ (consubstantiality) as the way to assert that the plurality in question is indeed “…of one and the same godhead” and not polytheism?

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Jeff: I think the plurality of the godhead is humanly/philosophically relevant since I think benevolent, competent theism requires it.

        Tom: Totally agree.

        Fr A: Totally disagree. For (at least) reasons:

        First, the doctrine of the Trinity is totally grounded in the self-revelation of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, not in philosophical speculation on what the deity needs to be in order to be a benevolent deity. Whatever the role of natural theological reflection may be, reflection on the Trinity begins and ends with Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

        Second, the gospel does not speak simply of a benevolent deity. It proclaims that in and by the Father’s self-revelation in Christ through the Spirit we know that God is Love. These two propositions are not identical.

      • tgbelt says:

        Jeff: I think the plurality of the godhead is humanly/philosophically relevant since I think benevolent, competent theism requires it.

        Tom: Totally agree.

        Fr A: Totally disagree. For (at least) reasons: First, the doctrine of the Trinity is totally grounded in the self-revelation of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, not in philosophical speculation on what the deity needs to be in order to be a benevolent deity. Whatever the role of natural theological reflection may be, reflection on the Trinity begins and ends with Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

        Tom: Totally agree!

        Fr Aidan: Second, the gospel does not speak simply of a benevolent deity. It proclaims that in and by the Father’s self-revelation in Christ through the Spirit we know that God is Love. These two propositions are not identical.

        Tom: Agreed. When I (and I’m guessing Jeff as well) say benevolent theism requires a plurality of/in the Godhead, I’m not suggesting that the ‘Trinity’ is apprehensible via natural theology. I don’t think one can get to the Trinity via natural theology. But I do think one can make a good argument, as best the light of reason lead, first for a benevolent theism and then that God is internally/personally related. Natural theology can at best tell us THAT some such personal and benevolent creator exists. But that’s not the gospel or the Trinity. Only the self-revelation of God in Christ can identify personally what reason helps us infer to be the case (but without naming him or bringing us in relationship to him).

      • tgbelt says:

        Fr Aidan, I know you like Denys Turner. Check out his Faith, Reason, and the Existence of God (2004). He makes the same point–the benevolent existence of God and essential attributes are deducible from first principles even if the fullness of his personal revelation in Christ is not.

    • tgbelt says:

      Jeff: To have a conviction that both can learn from the other seems to mean that there is a mode of knowing that one can appeal to that is not utterly individualistic.

      Tom: If you think I’m arguing for a mode of knowing which is utterly individualist, you’ve mistaken me. You must be thinking of advocates of sola scriptura.

      Jeff: If you wanted to say that your belief in co-substantiality is not knowable via purely human mode of knowing…

      Tom: If by ‘purely human’ you mean apprehensible merely as an individual, then of course the deity of Christ is not knowable. But if you mean human being — in all its complexity: relationally, socially, existentially, rationally, religiously, aesthetically, etc. — then yes, I think the deity of Christ is inferable from the evidence.

      Let’s identify two extremes on either end of the debate about the relationship between Scripture and Creeds. One the one end is, as someone here referred to it, “blind faith” in the Creeds. No need to read the Bible. No need to think or ponder the truth. No need to push back or challenge or ask for explanations. Just turn your brain off and believe what THEY decided years ago.

      On the other end is what I’d call an extreme but which might be where you’re located, I don’t know. Here we have no authority whatsoever for defining Christianity outside the individual. Every believer has the right (and duty) to define Christianity for him/herself irrespective of all traditions and independent of all other voices save the voice (if we’re talking your average sola scriptura evangelical) of THAT individual’s own reading of Scripture.

      I’m told this end of the spectrum doesn’t permit a ‘free for all’, but I don’t see how it would do anything to prevent a free for all. What is Protestantism if not a kind of free for all? Have Protestants with their avowed loyalty to sola scriptura and their disavowal of all human authority relative to the individual and individual Christianity produced a more harmonious, more unified, more united expression of the Christian faith (defined as broadly as you like)? Quite the opposite. We Protestants reinvent the Church every generation or so. Why? Because each one of us has the duty under sola scriptura to decide for him/herself who Christ is, what his Church is, what the Faith is. That’s a powerful responsibility for an “individual” to possess. Think about it. I mean, if Protestantism should survive another 500 years, it will doubtless infer itself into more, not fewer, divisions of Christianity insisting all the while that IT is Christianity’s future hope. One wonders whether the day will come when Protestantism under sola scriptura will eventually arrive at the most universal demonstration of its method…a separate denomination for every individual Protestant, a truly “individual Christianity” that manages in the end to improve upon Jesus’s own “where two or three are gathered there I am” by making Jesus present “where any one” is found. Then sola scriptura will have is widest possible embodiment — every believer a church.

      Do I think human rationality and induction are a universal and blessed gift to us from a benevolent God who expects us to use our brains? Absolutely. I’m not advocate for disposing of rational thought and inference. But I also think human being is irreducibly social/relational, and that the end for which these gifts are intended are irreducibly communal in their nature. What’s that mean? For now I think it means I’m not on either end of the spectrum! I don’t turn my brain off and ‘blindly’ follow a magisterium. But I also don’t expect to belong to a community and share life with a community that I alone get to define.

      • Jeff says:

        Tom: And I also don’t expect to ‘belong’ to a community that I alone get to define and which has no claim upon me as I belong to it.

        Jeff: No Protestant could disagree with you here. The scriptures constrain what is plausible to believe about our duties to other believers in the Lordship and resurrection of Christ. But as you’ve mentioned elsewhere previously, even EO’s can disagree on an eternal hell, etc. And those who don’t believe in eternal torment typically find it inconsistent with a benevolent God. So we’re not talking about “communities” that are even agreed on matters deemed HIGHLY important by their members.

        Not all EO’s are open theists, right? And yet open theism is nothing more than the conclusion compelled by a commitment to the reality of libertarian free-will and the law of non-contradiction. In short, there is nothing impressive about the unity of any “community.” Sadly, this is just what the scriptures indicated would happen (Acts 20:28-30, I Timothy 4:1, II Timothy 3:1-5, and more). The division can be so profound that it’s hard to know who has heart belief and who are merely religious. I find it hard to believe that there aren’t folks in all “communities” that are so simply because they were raised that way and because they have basically “status-quo” type personalities. It’s just their comfort zone (thus far, at least), IOW.

        But if the EO’s are not dogmatic about co-substantiality, then that makes all the difference in the world. It’s the seeming dogmatism many can have that I find troubling. It seems pharisaical in the sense that it is the over-dogmatizing of that which can not be demonstrated with sufficient plausibility.

        My son went to a Catholic law school and was told he was gonna burn in hell forever merely because he didn’t find the co-substantiality of the persons of the godhead compelling. And of course they had no clue what it explained theologically. All they knew was that the alternative was a dreaded “free-for-all.” This seems like a clear case of straining a nat and swallowing a camel. I can’t imagine anyone finding such a God benevolent in any sense. And I’m not even sure they properly understood the Catholic position on the matter. But that’s some of the fruit of that kind of fear-motivating authoritarianism.

      • tgbelt says:

        Jeff: Not all EO’s are open theists, right?

        Tom: None are. I wish! Well, Swinburne is, if you want to count him. He’s openness and a convert to Orthodoxy.

        Jeff: But if the EO’s are not dogmatic about co-substantiality, then that makes all the difference in the world. It’s the seeming dogmatism many can have that I find troubling.

        Tom: Are you dogmatic about any belief relative to defining Christianity?

        Jeff: It seems pharisaical in the sense that it is the over-dogmatizing of that which cannot be demonstrated with sufficient plausibility.

        Tom: So it’s about being dogmatic re: that which cannot be demonstrated with sufficient plausibility. OK, so let me ask: Demonstrated to the satisfaction of whom? Who decides when a belief is “sufficiently plausible” to function dogmatically? Who decides? I don’t see how you get away from the need for some kind of self-governance however uniquely the Church would embody it as Christ’s body based on the Scriptures. But it sounds like you think the universalism of induction means ‘nobody decides’ since nobody needs to decide, and nobody would need to decide because as a universal given ‘inductive reasoning’ is self-evidently obvious.

        Jeff: My son went to a Catholic law school and was told he was gonna burn in hell forever merely because he didn’t find the co-substantiality of the persons of the godhead compelling.

        Tom: Sorry to hear that Jeff. Sad, I agree.

        Jeff: And I’m not even sure they properly understood the Catholic position on the matter. But that’s some of the fruit of that kind of fear-motivating authoritarianism.

        Tom: Well, there you go. What you’re describing is a kind of fear-motivated authoritarianism. But you and I both know that even the TRUTH can be believed in fearfully and possessed authoritanianly.

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Wow! 99 comments. I simply have to grab the 100th comment :)

        Let me correct one misunderstanding: Eastern Orthodoxy is absolutely dogmatic on the consubstantiality of the Son and Spirit with the Father. Orthodox theologians might advance different construals of the trinitarian doctrine, but all agree that the Son and Spirit equally and fully possess the divine nature of the Father. This is a non-negotiable dogma. As St Gregory the Theologian declaims:

        Yes, let no one be lost, but let us all abide in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, being in full accord and of one mind armed with the shield of faith, loins girded about with truth, acknowledging one war alone, that against the Devil and his minions, fearing not those who can kill the body but cannot take the soul, but fearing the Lord of both soul and body; guarding the truth that we have received from our fathers, reverencing Father and Son and Holy Spirit; knowing the Father in the Son, the Son in the Holy Spirit, in which names we have been baptized, in which we believe, and under which we have been enlisted, dividing them before combining them and combining them before dividing them, and not regarding the three as a single individual (for they are not without individual reality nor do they comprise a single reality, as though our treasure lay in names and not in actual fact), but rather believing the three to be a single entity. For they are a single entity not in individual reality but in divinity, a unity worshipped in Trinity and a Trinity summed up into unity, venerable as one whole, as one whole royal, sharing the same throne, sharing the same glory, above space, above time, uncreated, invisible, impalpable, uncircumscribed, its internal ordering known only to itself, but for us equally the object of reverence and adoration, and alone taking possession of the Holy of Holies and excluding all of creation, part by the first veil, and part by the second. The first veil separates the heavenly and angelic realms from the Godhead, and the second, our world from that of the heavens.

        Or as the congregation sings out after partaking of the Body and Blood of our Lord at each Divine Liturgy: “We have seen the true light; we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us.”

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        “It seems pharisaical in the sense that it is the over-dogmatizing of that which can not be demonstrated with sufficient plausibility.”

        Let me also chime in here about plausibility. Tom has already asked, plausible to whom? Let me ask, plausible according to what criteria?

        The very existence of God (at least anything resembling the one creator-God) is now deemed implausible according to an increasing number of folks in Europe and North America. I suspect that even fewer would consider the Bible as a book that should be taken with doctrinal seriousness.

        Is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity implausible as a summary of the biblical data? After a couple of centuries of reflection and debate, the Church decided that the doctrine of the consubstantiality of Son and Spirit with the Father “explains” the biblical better and more adequately than the competing subordinationist theories. Just as Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity ended up replacing Newtonian physics, so the Nicene doctrine triumphed over the earlier subordinationist doctrines espoused by St Justin Martyr and Origen.

        Mention has been made of the incomprehensibility of the trinitarian doctrine. Actually, the doctrine is not incomprehensible at all. It can be easily stated. What is incomprehensible is the reality to which the doctrine refers. That we cannot conceptualize, much less define in human language, the infinite deity should not be surprising to anyone. An analogy from modern physics immediately comes to mind: is light a wave or a particle?

      • Jeff says:

        Aidan: Is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity implausible as a summary of the biblical data? After a couple of centuries of reflection and debate, the Church decided that the doctrine of the consubstantiality of Son and Spirit with the Father “explains” the biblical better and more adequately than the competing subordinationist theories.

        Jeff: That’s precisely the point. Was the criteria, as Tom said, the life of the believers of the respective views? Or was it something beyond that as well or only? But then, what was the difference in the lives? I’m ignorant of that.

        Aidan: Just as Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity ended up replacing Newtonian physics, so the Nicene doctrine triumphed over the earlier subordinationist doctrines espoused by St Justin Martyr and Origen.

        Jeff: You say, “just as.” But clearly Newtonian physics wasn’t replaced because of the life of its believers. It was replaced because observations were inconsistent with it. There were only two conceivable options consistent with material existence – Einsteinian and Lorenztian relativity. Lorentzian relativity is consistent with a multiplicity of 3-dimensional entities in the universe. Einsteinian relativity is not. ER basically assigns properties to points in one single 3-D entity called “space” that bends and expands and etc within a larger (seemingly infinite) Newtonian space that serves as the frame of reference of the conceptualization of the bending and expanding of Einsteinian space. There is no good reason to assume LR isn’t the real deal.

      • Jeff says:

        Aidan: The very existence of God (at least anything resembling the one creator-God) is now deemed implausible according to an increasing number of folks in Europe and North America.

        Jeff: When one considers induction in detail, it is hard to imagine how it is not just an arbitrary criteria UNLESS the “world” we infer is a teleological order destined for a benevolent end. In short, plausibility of the inductive kind seems to only be conceivable if benevolent/competent teleology is the true ontology. Atheism doesn’t ground even the belief that my own satisfaction is a criteria for any explanation (and therefore prediction) whatsoever, much less which explanation is more or less plausible. There is an infinite set of merely logically consistent explanations for any effect. Nothing but human satisfaction winnows those down to those few competing hypotheses that inductive humans can believe are ACTUALLY possible. Atheists are completely contradictory on their professed beliefs about the role of human satisfaction in inductive inference.

  22. tgbelt says:

    Rats. I was shootin’ for the 100th post.

  23. Jeff says:

    Tom: Are you dogmatic about any belief relative to defining Christianity?

    Jeff: I think there’s 2 senses in which we can talk about dogmatics. One is the defining properties of a Christian. I would dogmatically commit to the belief that a Christian is one who believes, in his/her heart, in the resurrection of Christ and in Christ’s Lordship over creation (the heavens and the earth). The second has to do with what is proper behavior for a Christian, I think there are plenty of lists to the effect that “such shall not inherit the kingdom of God” that define several of these clearly.

    Aidan: Orthodox theologians might advance different construals of the trinitarian doctrine, but all agree that the Son and Spirit equally and fully possess the divine nature of the Father.

    Jeff: What, then, is the “divine nature of the Father” that you say the Son and Spirit fully possess? If it’s not definable, I don’t know what you mean by being dogmatic about it. I think to say that the Father, Son and Spirit are necessary beings implies they share an attribute of divinity (necessary existence). But that’s just my own sense of divinity. It’s not like scripture clearly defines ONE sense in which all 3 are divine. So I’m left with taking a philosophical approach to that question. Necessary existence seems to be a very plausible attribute of divinity if the Christian godhead is the totality of what IS apart from their creations.

    • tgbelt says:

      Aidan: Orthodox theologians might advance different construals of the trinitarian doctrine, but all agree that the Son and Spirit equally and fully possess the divine nature of the Father.

      Jeff: What, then, is the “divine nature of the Father” that you say the Son and Spirit fully possess?

      Tom: Wait a sec. You’ve already agreed that you think benevolent theism REQURES the plurality of the godhead. What do YOU mean by godhead? You’re not a polytheist, so the plurality has to share in a single godhead sufficient to avoid being polytheistic. That’s why I asked earlier when you said this, ‘Do you not realize that this unity is what the ‘homousion’ is intended to articulate?

      • Jeff says:

        Tom, I think it makes sense to say that traditional theism amounts to saying a couple of things:

        1) Since we ;posit free creation to bring finality to explanation, rendering induction conceivably valid, the universe is created.

        2) Since it buys us nothing to posit more than is necessary to explain our experience, it makes some sense to say whatever pre-existed a FIRST free creation is divine.

        3) Therefore, a plural number of persons that must be posited to most plausibly explain the universe are, in that sense, divine.

        IOW, I think of theism in terms of the normal philosophical notion of that or those having to do with how this universe came to be with its attributes of rationality, sociality. etc.

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Jeff: I think there’s 2 senses in which we can talk about dogmatics. One is the defining properties of a Christian. I would dogmatically commit to the belief that a Christian is one who believes, in his/her heart, in the resurrection of Christ and in Christ’s Lordship over creation (the heavens and the earth). The second has to do with what is proper behavior for a Christian, I think there are plenty of lists to the effect that “such shall not inherit the kingdom of God” that define several of these clearly.

      Jeff, there is a third possibility that you fail to mention: dogma is a theological proposition that the community of faith speaks to its members: “for us to be faithful to the apostolic revelation and the mission to which we have been entrusted, we must speak ____, rather than _____.” In that sense, dogma, I propose, is absolutely necessary. If the Church cannot dogmatize, it cannot and will not remain a faithful community in history.

      Jeff: What, then, is the “divine nature of the Father” that you say the Son and Spirit fully possess? If it’s not definable, I don’t know what you mean by being dogmatic about it.

      We do not need to know “what” the divine nature is in order to insist that the Father, Son and Spirit equally possess it. God is not a being whose nature we can define, as we can do with creatures.

      • Jeff says:

        Aidan: dogma is a theological proposition that the community of faith speaks to its members

        Jeff: Yes, of course. To dogmatize is to be dogmatic TO another.

        Aidan: We do not need to know “what” the divine nature is in order to insist that the Father, Son and Spirit equally possess it. God is not a being whose nature we can define, as we can do with creatures.

        Jeff: To the extent that we can’t define what we mean by words, I have no idea how obligation is communicated by them. And what is dogma apart from the existence of a related obligation?

        But I would go further. I think, as per Rom. 1, that the fundamental notion of divinity is entailed in what it means to be that designing person or plurality of persons OF the universe and its ordered nature. Apart from the universe being conceived of as created, I have no idea whether there even IS a divine anything, in the Western sense. Outside of the Western sense, it can apply to non-creating “higher powers,” which is clearly to low a sense of divine for the Christian godhead.

      • tgbelt says:

        Jeff, I asked earlier. Who decides? Who decides when an explanation or argument is ‘sufficiently plausible’ for the community? And is there any authority outside yourself that you agree has the power to say to you, “We’re going to reject that belief as incompatible with being the Church in the world”?

  24. Jeff says:

    … and scripture indicates that the Father, Son, and Spirit all are necessary to the creation of the universe. IOW, I’m not positing any mystery about THAT. Mysteries are like how do we explain God’s competence fully. I see no way to do it. We just have to posit it to account for warranted belief, once we see the necessity of it upon analysis.

    • Jeff says:

      Tom: Jeff, I asked earlier. Who decides? Who decides when an explanation or argument is ‘sufficiently plausible’ for the community? And is there any authority outside yourself that you agree has the power to say to you, “We’re going to reject that belief as incompatible with being the Church in the world”?

      Jeff: No one decides for any other individual. Christianity is a voluntary religion. Reason itself is voluntary intellectual activity. You infer as intellectually honestly as you can and seek fellowship with as many such people as possible. Intellectually honest people don’t fight induction. And induction takes one a LONG way (private revelation does come into play eventually, just as 1 Cor. 2 says — but not before one advances past the “milk,” like 1 Cor.; but private revelation can still only be shared with others who have received it; it is not to be communicated to those who haven’t mastered milk, as Paul explained.). The nature of inductive criteria is that they are quite effective at winnowing the less plausible from the more plausible explanations as one applies those criteria to greater and greater data sets.

      • Jeff says:

        I mis-spoke. I said “but private revelation can still only be shared with others who have received it; it is not to be communicated to those who haven’t mastered milk, as Paul explained.” Rather, private revelation of the kind Paul speaks of can NOT be communicated to those who haven’t received it privately, themselves. It is an instance of something GIVEN because of what one has already properly USED to demonstrate themselves READY for it–like the parable that speaks of God giving MORE to those who USE what was already given, while taking away that which was given if it was NOT properly used.

        In that sense, co-substantiality, to the extent that it is cognizable by any conceptualizing mind, is not such private revelation. It either explains something that needs to be explained, or at least more plausibly so than competing hypotheses, or it doesn’t. I have yet to comprehend what it explains.

        One could say that my view is not polytheistic in the sense that polytheism, as defined conventionally, doesn’t require that the multiplicity of divine persons are all necessary conditions of one another’s essential attributes. But that’s what seems to be the case with the Christian godhead. In that sense, those persons are correlative to one another as a husband and wife are, but not CONTINGENTLY so. In that sense, the Christian godhead constitute a singularity of relationality.

      • Jeff says:

        … it’s actually more. The 3 are NECESSARY beings, as well. An utter singularity of sociality.

      • tgbelt says:

        Tom: Jeff, I asked earlier. Who decides? Who decides when an explanation or argument is ‘sufficiently plausible’ for the community? And is there any authority outside yourself that you agree has the power to say to you, “We’re going to reject that belief as incompatible with being the Church in the world”?

        Jeff: No one decides for any other individual. Christianity is a voluntary religion.

        Tom: You’re completely misunderstanding my question. My question is not who decides whether or not some individual becomes a Christian. Obviously the individual decides THAT. My question is who decides what is that Christianity to which individuals voluntarily join themselves (or not).

      • Jeff says:

        Tom: My question is who decides what is that Christianity to which individuals voluntarily join themselves (or not).

        Jeff: As I see it, you fellowship with folks that are similar enough in belief that you can edify them and that they can be edified by you. And of course they would have to satisfy your own definition of what a Christian believer IS. For me that’s heart belief in the Lordship of Christ and the Father’s resurrection of Christ. And since we can’t at first know a person’s heart, you have what Paul says is evidence of that–a speaking of those beliefs, even in the face of opposition and ridicule.

        Paul says at one point, “all in Asia have forsaken me,” etc. It’s not like community has to be large to be sufficiently edifying to keep you body-energized. God will not allow us to be tested above what we are able, if 1 Cor. is true (and I believe it is).

      • Jeff says:

        To be more specific, I believe that there can be people in the actual body of Christ that think I’m not even a believer merely because I don’t find co-substantiality compelling enough to be considered a Christian doctrine/dogma. All that means is that fellowship will be actually or virtually non-existent with those fellow-believers, just as it was, for different reasons, for Paul and “those in Asia.” But that doesn’t mean you won’t find believers you CAN fellowship with. A believer’s Christian life doesn’t depend on any more fellow believers than he/she can find while seeking God as intellectually honest as he/she knows how to. What more can we do? God’s grace is sufficient at that point.

      • Jeff, I think I’d enjoy having a more direct form of fellowship with you. 8>)
        All the best in Christ.

  25. […] as an excellent post I read earlier today put it, the Trinity is also […]

  26. […] Tying a Trinity Knot – Part Three (anopenorthodoxy.wordpress.com) […]

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