Monday, January 28, 2013

Fr. John Behr - Romans 9:5

Quoted from The Way to Nicea:

From the earliest of the New Testament writings, the title “God,” with an article, is applied almost exclusively to the Father, and often used to differentiate between God himself and Jesus Christ, who is designated Lord.  So, for instance, in a formula typical of Paul, he refers to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15:6).  An important text, emphasizing the uniqueness of these respective designations is 1 Corinthians 8:6:

For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and unto whom we exist, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
This affirmation that there is one God, the Father, the monothesistic heart of Christianity, and one Lord Jesus Christ, who does all the things that God himself does, so demonstrating that he is as divine as the Father, is the basic pattern for all subsequent creedal affirmations: I believe in one God the Father … and in one Lord Jesus Christ.

There are, however, several statements in Paul and the other letters, which might be read as describing Jesus as God (ὁ θεός), though in each case it is not a deliberate, unambiguous affirmation, but depends upon texts which are problematic in various ways, either in their grammar and translation or in establishing the correct text itself.  Ultimately, locating such passages is not the key to understanding the New Testament’s affirmation of the divinity of Christ, but it is nevertheless, important to establish, as accurately as possible, whether it ever used the articular “theos” for Jesus Christ.  The most important passage outside the Johannine literature is Romans 9:5:

Such is the clause in its unpunctuated form; and the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament are without any systematic punctuation.  If a comma is placed after the word “flesh” (as the United Bible Society, 4th ed. And Nestle-Aland, 27th ed.), then the articular “theos” is referred back to Christ; if it is to be a period (as the RSV, giving the alternative in a note), then a distinction is introduced between the Christ and the God who is over all.  The sentence, however, would have been written without punctuation, and so it is the grammar of the passage which must decide.  Here there are several considerations.  If the verse were to end with a separate doxology, the word “blessed” would typically come first: “Blessed be the God of all…”  Moreover, doxologies in Paul tend to refer to someone who has been mentioned earlier, in this case Christ; as “the God” is not mentioned until the end of the verse, it would be awkward to read it as referring to someone other than Christ.  Moreover, if the doxology is not addressed to Christ, the participle, “being” (ὢν), is redundant.  Finally, the words “according to the flesh” seem to require a parallel; usually in Paul the contrast would be “according to the Spirit,” though there are places where flesh is contrasted with “theos” (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:29).  Overall, then, it seems probable that in Romans 9:5, Paul called Christ God (ὁ θεός), though it is the only such passage.

Thoughts on Coffeehouse Compatibilism - Intro

Calvin and Skinner and Wesley, Oh My!
I have recently finished reading Coffeehouse Compatibilism by David Lahm, and would like to provide some thoughts on portions of it in subsequent posts following this brief introduction.

CC is a short book that discusses the three philosophical positions regarding the issue of human freedom: determinism, compatibilism and libertarian freedom.  David presents the basics of each theory in the form of dialogues between historical figures on the issue (Skinner, Calvin, Wesley), as well as gives the reader his reasons for accepting/rejecting their respective positions through the arguments each person makes during these dialogues.  Lastly, and most importantly, David devotes the final two segments of the book to the Christian experience, arguing for what position he believes scripture is clear on.  If you are unfamiliar with these issues and would like to know more, I highly recommend this book as a primer.

Coffeehouse Compatibilism at Amazon

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sonship as Divine Ontology in Johannes Cocceius

From the section "Concerning Divine Persons:"

10.  The Father is the only true God; because in himself is the only true Godhead.  But his true Godhead is not recognized by them, who deny him to be true and natural Father.  And indeed the predicate only true God is not attributed to the Father in opposition of the Son and Spirit.

11.  Both the Son and Holy Spirit are autotheos - John 5:26

12.  Jesus is not called Son by conception of the virgin, neither by sanctity of human nature, neither from other causes, but only because of eternal generation.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gregory addresses John 17:3 and Luke 18:19

Here Gregory of Nazianzus is replying to a Eunomian argument of the monotheistic passages in the NT.  Note - in the last argument, he quotes the book of Baruch, which was found in the Septuagint:

"The eighth passage is,

"That they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent"


"There is none good save one, that is, God."

The solution of this appears to me very easy.  For if you attribute this only to the Father, where will you place the Very Truth?  For if you conceive in this manner of the meaning of To the only wise God, or Who only hath Immortality, Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, or of to the king of the Ages, immortal, invisible, and only wise God, then the Son has vanished under sentence of death, or of darkness, or at any rate condemned to be neither wise nor king, nor invisible, nor God at all, which sums up all these points.  And how will you prevent His Goodness, which especially belongs to God alone, from perishing with the rest?  I, however, think that the passage That they may know Thee the only true God, was said to overthrow those gods which are falsely so called, for He would not have added and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent, if The Only True God were contrasted with Him, and the sentence did not proceed upon the basis of a common Godhead.

The “None is Good” meets the tempting Lawyer, who was testifying to His Goodness viewed as Man.  For perfect goodness, He says, is God’s alone, even if a man is called perfectly good.  As for instance, A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things.  And, I will give the kingdom to one who is good above Thee.…Words of God, speaking to Saul about David.  Or again, Do good, O Lord, unto the good…and all other like expressions concerning those of us who are praised, upon whom it is a kind of effluence from the Supreme Good, and has come to them in a secondary degree.  It will be best of all if we can persuade you of this.  But if not, what will you say to the suggestion on the other side, that on your hypothesis the Son has been called the only God.  In what passage?  Why, in this:—This is your God; no other shall be accounted of in comparison with Him, and a little further on, after this did He shew Himself upon earth, and conversed with men.  This addition proves clearly that the words are not used of the Father, but of the Son; for it was He Who in bodily form companied with us, and was in this lower world.  Now, if we should determine to take these words as said in contrast with the Father, and not with the imaginary gods, we lose the Father by the very terms which we were pressing against the Son.  And what could be more disastrous than such a victory?"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gregory's Oration on the Son

Gregory - Oration 29:

"The three most ancient opinions concerning God are Anarchia, Polyarchia, and Monarchia.  The first two are the sport of the children of Hellas, and may they continue to be so.  For Anarchy is a thing without order; and the Rule of Many is factious, and thus anarchical, and thus disorderly.  For both these tend to the same thing, namely disorder; and this to dissolution, for disorder is the first step to dissolution.  But Monarchy is that which we hold in honour.  It is, however, a Monarchy that is not limited to one Person, for it is possible for Unity if at variance with itself to come into a condition of plurality; but one which is made of an equality of Nature and a Union of mind, and an identity of motion, and a convergence of its elements to unity—a thing which is impossible to the created nature—so that though numerically distinct there is no severance of Essence.  Therefore Unity having from all eternity arrived by motion at Duality, found its rest in Trinity.  This is what we mean by Father and Son and Holy Ghost.  The Father is the Begetter and the Emitter; without passion of course, and without reference to time, and not in a corporeal manner.  The Son is the Begotten, and the Holy Ghost the Emission; for I know not how this could be expressed in terms altogether excluding visible things.  For we shall not venture to speak of “an overflow of goodness,” as one of the Greek Philosophers dared to say, as if it were a bowl overflowing, and this in plain words in his Discourse on the First and Second Causes.  Let us not ever look on this Generation as involuntary, like some natural overflow, hard to be retained, and by no means befitting our conception of Deity.  Therefore let us confine ourselves within our limits, and speak of the Unbegotten and the Begotten and That which proceeds from the Father, as somewhere God the Word Himself saith."

Note the following:

1. There is a monarchy within the Godhead, but it is "not limited to one person."
2. There is no mention of a second principle vis-a-vis the Spirit, but rather the focus is on the Father as the sole source.
3. There is a generation/procession of the will of God, but within bounds of the Creator/Creature distinction, unlike Arius.  This is contrasted with platonic generation
4. The second person of the Trinity is referred to as "God the Word."