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The fathers on Christ's divine nature


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#1 Dave Ferguson

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 10:52 PM

I have been having a long discussion on another forum with someone who seems to be advocating a kind of kenotic Christology. In the course of this I quoted the seventeenth chapter of Athanasius on the Incarnation with which he strongly disagreed. I have been arguing that the later Fathers although affirming the full humanity of Christ never retreated from Athanasius's position that during his earthly life Christ did not fail to maintain such attributes as omnipotence and omniscience and that they held to this position even while arguing against Apolinarianism. What I am struggling to find is quotes from the Fathers to back up this claim. Any suggestions?

Anyone who wants to see how our discussion has been going should try: http://cslewis.drzeu...opic.php?t=8818

#2 Dave Ferguson

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 11:20 PM

I'm surprised no one here has answered this. Is this because people think I've misinterpreted the Fathers and that after Athanasius the Church did change its views in order to counter Apolinarius. I'm convinced this is not the case even if I can't find conclusive evidence for that.

#3 Owen Jones

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 12:47 PM

For the record, Dave, I'm surprised too.

#4 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 04:52 PM

Patience! On-line discussions ebb and flow. I'm sure it will generate responses in due course.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#5 Michael Stickles

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 09:53 PM

Well, my reason for not answering before was that I took one look at the question and thought "Yikes! I'd better leave this to someone who knows what they're talking about."

Since no one else has tried, though, I'll blunder on in.

St. Ambrose, in his On The Holy Spirit, affirms the omniscience of the Son of God:

And you, too, shall be Abdemelech, that is, chosen by the Lord, if you raise the Word of God from the depth of Gentile ignorance; if you believe that the Son of God is not deceived, that nothing escapes His knowledge, that He is not ignorant of what is going to be. And the Holy Spirit also is not deceived, of Whom the Lord says: “But when He, the Spirit of Truth, shall come, He shall lead you into all truth.” He Who says all passes by nothing, neither the day nor the hour, neither things past nor things to come. ...

But if you are willing to learn that the Son of God knows all things, and has foreknowledge of all, see that those very things which you think to be unknown to the Son, the Holy Spirit received from the Son. He received them, however, through Unity of Substance, as the Son received from the Father. “He,” says He, “shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of Mine and shall declare it unto you. All things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine, therefore said I, He shall receive of Mine, and shall declare it unto you.”


Ambrose defends the omnipotence of Christ in Book II of his Exposition of the Christian Faith:

Seeing, then, that the Son of God is true and good, surely He is Almighty God. Can there be yet any doubt on this point? We have already cited the place where it is read that “the Lord Almighty is His Name.” Because, then, the Son is Lord, and the Lord is Almighty, the Son of God is Almighty.


The next chapter after the one linked is devoted by Ambrose to resolving Scriptures often used to deny the omnipotence of Christ.

Of course, Ambrose is fairly close (overlapping, I believe) to Athanasius' time. Significantly later, St. John of Damascus, in his An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, writes this:

And so the Word was made flesh and yet did not abandon His own proper immateriality: He became wholly flesh and yet remained wholly uncircumscribed. So far as He is body He is diminished and contracted into narrow limits, but inasmuch as He is God He is uncircumscribed, His flesh not being coextensive with His uncircumscribed divinity.


He makes a similar statement later in the same work:

For just as the flesh of men is not in its own nature life-giving, while the flesh of our Lord which was united in subsistence with God the Word Himself, although it was not exempt from the mortality of its nature, yet became life-giving through its union in subsistence with the Word, and we may not say that it was not and is not for ever life-giving: in like manner His human nature does not in essence possess the knowledge of the future, but the soul of the Lord through its union with God the Word Himself and its identity in subsistence was enriched, as I said, with the knowledge of the future as well as with the other miraculous powers.


Hope that's of some use.

In Christ,
Mike

#6 Dave Ferguson

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 09:39 PM

That is helpful. Especially John of Damascus use of the word uncircumscribed. I found the same word used by one of the Cappadocians - I think Gregory of Nazianzus in debate with the Apolinarians. He said Christ was 'Uncircumscribed in Spirit' in a context that seemed to me to be applying to his divine nature. My partner in discussion said that the human spirit is also uncircumscribed, which it is in the sense that it has no spacial location, but that was not what I thought Gregory was talking about. This seems to confirm that

#7 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 07:03 PM

Dear Mr Ferguson, you wrote:

I have been having a long discussion on another forum with someone who seems to be advocating a kind of kenotic Christology. In the course of this I quoted the seventeenth chapter of Athanasius on the Incarnation with which he strongly disagreed. I have been arguing that the later Fathers although affirming the full humanity of Christ never retreated from Athanasius's position that during his earthly life Christ did not fail to maintain such attributes as omnipotence and omniscience and that they held to this position even while arguing against Apolinarianism. What I am struggling to find is quotes from the Fathers to back up this claim. Any suggestions?


The difficulty in reading St Athanasius alone is that one is prone to read 'challenges' into him (or out of his writings) that are awfully similar to the challenges posed closer to his own lifetime. The real key to 'unlocking' Athanasius is St Cyril of Alexandria, who treats at some length (though quite densely!) of this issue.

Essentially, the flaw with 'kenotic Christology' is that a Son that 'empties himself', in terms of 'giving up' essential aspects of what it means to be Son and God, does not live up to St John's confession that 'the Word became flesh'. The becoming-flesh might be maintained; but a Word who is not truly, fully Word unadulterated, is not the incarnation of the true Son of God. This was St Gregory the Theologian's point in his famous anti-Apollinarian maxim: 'that which is unassumed is unhealed'; not simply that Christ must be truly and wholly human, in order to assume and thus heal the whole of humanity, but also the confession of Nicaea, that the Son is truly, wholly divine -- else his 'assuming' humanity could not and would not heal it.

The experiences of the Word-as-man are always the human experiences of the Word; that is, of the true Son, without diminution. Anything less is to deny any real power of salvation to the incarnation; on this Athanasius is insistent, time and time again, in his De incarnatione and other texts. The real mystery is how the true and full Word experiences humanly existence as Word -- this is the very heart of the incarnation. If what he experiences, he experiences as 'Word diminished', the incarnation has no meaning.

Again, the key to discerning how to comprehend this lies in St Cyril, who focussed on it precisely.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#8 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 02:01 PM

Dear Mr Ferguson and others,

A text that strikes me as relevant, on the issue of Christ's self-emptying (kenosis), is from his first Oration against the Arians, 1.41. Commenting on Paul's remark about the Son, that 'God greatly exalted him' (Philippians 2.9), Athanasius says:

"This expression, 'has exalted him,' does not imply that the nature of the Word was exalted. The latter has been and always will be equal to God. It indicates, however, the exaltation of human nature. These words, therefore, were uttered only after the Incarnation of the Word, so that it would be clear that terms such as humbled and exalted refer solely to the human dimension. In fact, only what is humble can be exalted."

This has direct bearing on how someone such as St Athanasius conceived of the kenosis of the Son; namely, that it is not en emptying or diminishing of his divine nature (which is impossible, as divinity cannot be reduced), but refers 'to the human dimension', that is, to his human existence.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#9 Dave Ferguson

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Posted 23 June 2008 - 10:23 PM

Many thanks for these last two comments. Picking up on St. Cyril some of the discussion I was having on the other forum took us into his territory. Firstly we were both asked to summarize our position. Mitch my partener in this dialogue said:

I do not believe that power and knowledge is necessary to God's being but that our finiteness, our helplessness and our ignorance is an essential part of our being human. Thus I take seriously the passages of scripture (like Luke 2:52) that indicate that Jesus is not all powerful and all knowing but grows in knowledge and depends on the Father to do things just as He says we should do (like Matt 26:53). This is what I think Jesus being fully man must necessarily mean. How can Jesus truly be an example for us to follow if He is basically cheating by having access to power and knowledge the we do not have? Nevertheless this does not run afoul of the need for God Himself to pay the price of our sin because Jesus is indeed fully God because, He was the same person who created the universe even without all the power and knowledge which he laid down to become human (Phillipians 2:5-8).

But others seem to think that power and knowledge is necessary to God's being and that without that power and knowledge God ceases to be God and thus that Jesus could not be God, have the value of God, or be the same person who created the universe if He did not also have all the same power and knowledge that God must have in order to be God. Thus it is their view that the baby Jesus only appeared to be a helpless infant when in fact was really omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent


A position which can I think fairly be called kenotist. My summary was as follows:

Christ is not a human person, nor is he a divine and human person; he is a divine person who from all eternity had a divine nature which he shared with the Father and the Spirit. He also has a human nature which he assumed when he became incarnate. It is for this reason that Mary is called Mother of God (theotokos – literally Godbearer) not because she is mother of the divine nature but that she is mother of the divine person. It is the divine person that is the basis for the union between the divine and human natures; hence the person is not the product of the union.

On this view it is not a question of their being some divine attributes which Christ when incarnate keeps and other less essential ones which he gives up. Rather the divine person without losing any of the divine attributes assumes to itself a complete human nature. So the Athanasian creed says of the incarnation that it was ‘not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God’. And so the Chalcedonian definition says of the incarnation that Christ was ‘in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together’

Mitch is correct to say ‘but our finiteness, our ignorance and our helplessness is most certainly a part of what it means to be human.’ And the orthodox view allows for this by recognising that in his human nature Christ has all these features. He is also correct to say ‘the body of a human and the mind of God is a heresy’. It is the heresy called Apolinarianism. However he has failed to understand why the Church regards this as a heresy. To say Christ had no human mind is to say he did not assume a complete human nature hence he could not have redeemed all that is human. If he only had a human body and not a human mind the mind could not have been saved. Hence the Fathers had a saying, ‘Whatever is not assumed is not healed.’ And so it becomes completely possible to say as the Fathers did of Christ in his human that ‘Jesus grew in understanding and stature, just as every human being must in order to be called human’

This also means that even while he was a child in the cradle Christ was as scripture clearly teaches upholding the cosmos, for the writer to Hebrews does not seem to hint that there was a gap of thirty three years when Christ did not uphold the universe

Responding to this Mitch said:

This I agree with, except for this idea of "aquisition" (that the divine person acquired human nature), which I do not think makes any sense at all. There is no way in which human nature can add anything to a divine person. Human nature is a limitation ONLY of which a divine nature is fully capable as it chooses.

In relation to the part about the person being the basis of the union. In relation to the comments on the theotokos he added:

This I do not agree with. She is clearly NOT the mother of the divine person, she was merely in the relationship of mother to son with Jesus in human terms only. Jesus was her son in regards to His human life alone, but this does not make Mary the mother of God in any way shape or form. But I do reject Nestorianism, and thus affirm the declaration of the council of Ephesus in regards to the nature of Christ. In other words, the person to whom she had this relationship of mother to son was indeed a divine person.

This touches on the issues which were of concern to St. Cyril. Whether Mitch's claim not to be Nestorian is valid I take leave to doubt. I would think there are statements made by Nestorius that sound very similar to what Mitch says here.
And to clarify his position on the nature of the incarnation he said:

I disagree with this term "divine attributes" which are but elements of a human definition of God - which is pure nonsense. The implication is that these elements of these human definitions namely omniscience and omnipotence are necessary to the divinity of God which basically means that God's divinity depends on knowledge and power. I deny all of this utterly.

And

The nature of divinity is that it has no limitation in what it can do and that therefore includes being able to become completely human in every way. This is not a cessation of divinity because it is an expression of divinity. I think it is a mistake of human thinking to believe that God is like some sort of special material (God stuff) and is thus limited to forms and definitions that He must carry around with Him with wherever He goes.

And

All this talk of human and divine natures as if these were some sort of substances contained within Jesus is all nonsense mired in antiquarian human devised metaphysical philosophies. The creeds cannot affirm the existence of such substances or the reduction of humanity and divinity to such substances, they only prohibit certain claims about them in terms of substances. In fact all these denials make it pretty clear that these are not substances of any kind at all. As categories the creed certainly makes it clear that in Jesus we find that these categories of humanity and divinity are not exclusive of one another. But of course this only due to the limitless nature of divinity.

I think this is connected with some sort of transformation of natures which I have seen expressed in parts of the Eastern Orthodox theological conception of the atonement, which I do not accept at all. Let me be clear, I do not believe that there was any transformation of either human nature or of divine nature in either the incarnation or the atonement.



I hope you will forgive me quoting this at such length but it gives a feel of where our debate had been going.

#10 Michael Stickles

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 02:21 AM

My summary was as follows:

Christ is not a human person, nor is he a divine and human person; he is a divine person who from all eternity had a divine nature which he shared with the Father and the Spirit. He also has a human nature which he assumed when he became incarnate. It is for this reason that Mary is called Mother of God (theotokos – literally Godbearer) not because she is mother of the divine nature but that she is mother of the divine person. It is the divine person that is the basis for the union between the divine and human natures; hence the person is not the product of the union.


... In relation to the comments on the theotokos he added:

This I do not agree with. She is clearly NOT the mother of the divine person, she was merely in the relationship of mother to son with Jesus in human terms only. Jesus was her son in regards to His human life alone, but this does not make Mary the mother of God in any way shape or form. But I do reject Nestorianism, and thus affirm the declaration of the council of Ephesus in regards to the nature of Christ. In other words, the person to whom she had this relationship of mother to son was indeed a divine person.


Well, he'll have to dissent from the Fathers on that point. St. John of Damascus addresses this point directly in an argument directed against the Nestorians in his An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith:

Moreover we proclaim the holy Virgin to be in strict truth the Mother of God. For inasmuch as He who was born of her was true God, she who bare the true God incarnate is the true mother of God. For we hold that God was born of her, not implying that the divinity of the Word received from her the beginning of its being, but meaning that God the Word Himself, Who was begotten of the Father timelessly before the ages, and was with the Father and the Spirit without beginning and through eternity, took up His abode in these last days for the sake of our salvation in the Virgin’s womb, and was without change made flesh and born of her. For the holy Virgin did not bare mere man but true God: and not mere God but God incarnate, Who did not bring down His body from Heaven, nor simply passed through the Virgin as channel, but received from her flesh of like essence to our own and subsisting in Himself.


This is just a good excerpt; check out his whole argument, both on that page and in a later part of the same work.

St. Cyril, in his Anathematisms Against Nestorius, is far more blunt on this point:

If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Θεοτόκος), inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh [as it is written, “The Word was made flesh”] let him be anathema.


The Commonitory of St. Vincent of Lerins (written ~434 AD) states:

From this unity of Person it follows, by reason of a like mystery, that, since the flesh of the Word was born of an undefiled mother, God the Word Himself is most Catholicly believed, most impiously denied, to have been born of the Virgin; which being the case, God forbid that any one should seek to defraud Holy Mary of her prerogative of divine grace and her special glory. For by the singular gift of Him who is our Lord and God, and withal, her own son, she is to be confessed most truly and most blessedly — The mother of God “Theotocos,” but not in the sense in which it is imagined by a certain impious heresy which maintains, that she is to be called the Mother of God for no other reason than because she gave birth to that man who afterwards became God, just as we speak of a woman as the mother of a priest, or the mother of a bishop, meaning that she was such, not by giving birth to one already a priest or a bishop, but by giving birth to one who afterwards became a priest or a bishop. Not thus, I say, was the holy Mary “Theotocos,” the mother of God, but rather, as was said before, because in her sacred womb was wrought that most sacred mystery whereby, on account of the singular and unique unity of Person, as the Word in flesh is flesh, so Man in God is God.


Finally (there are more Fathers who could be quoted, but this post is already getting quite long), John Cassian in his Seven Books on the Incarnation of the Lord, Against Nestorius objects specifically to calling Mary Christotokos but not Theotokos:

And so you say, O heretic, whoever you may be, who deny that God was born of the Virgin, that Mary the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ ought not to be called Theotocos, i.e., Mother of God, but Christotocos, i.e., only the Mother of Christ, not of God. For no one, you say, brings forth what is anterior in time. And of this utterly foolish argument whereby you think that the birth of God can be understood by carnal minds, and fancy that the mystery of His Majesty can be accounted for by human reasoning, we will, if God permits, say something later on. In the meanwhile we will now prove by Divine testimonies that Christ is God, and that Mary is the Mother of God.


I didn't include the proofs since I wasn't sure how to edit them down to manageable size. Also of value may be Schaff's Excursus on the Word Theotokos in his volume on The Seven Ecumenical Councils, where he discusses the historical usage of the word in the early church.

In Christ,
Mike

#11 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 07:35 AM

Dear Mr Ferguson,

There is much to consider in your recent post, and I see that Mike has already made a good showing of calling in some patristic quotations that help bring focus to various points. I'd like to comment on just one other point at the moment, as that's likely enough for this first-in-the-morning post: namely, the question of Jesus Christ's identity as 'person'. In your remarks, you wrote:

Christ is not a human person, nor is he a divine and human person; he is a divine person who from all eternity had a divine nature which he shared with the Father and the Spirit. He also has a human nature which he assumed when he became incarnate. It is for this reason that Mary is called Mother of God (theotokos – literally Godbearer) not because she is mother of the divine nature but that she is mother of the divine person. It is the divine person that is the basis for the union between the divine and human natures; hence the person is not the product of the union.


It is actually incorrect to say that Jesus Christ is a 'divine person', just as it is incorrect to say that he is a 'human person'. In both cases, what one does is fall into the conceptual framework of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius of Constantinople (even if one is trying to refute them!), by associating person with nature (or prosopon with physis, to use the terms Nestorius used) in a direct manner. Claiming that Christ is a 'divine person' who in some manner assumed for himself a 'human nature' is almost precisely the conceptual struggle that Nestorius attempted -- even if one's conclusion as to the 'how' is not the same as his.

It was the council of Chalcedon that brought clarification to this question of person with respect to natures, in stating that Christ is 'one person in two natures'. That is, Jesus Christ is not 'divine person' nor 'human person', but 'divine-human person', since his person exists en duo physein, not in one.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#12 Dave Ferguson

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 10:28 PM

Thank you I certainly want to be corrected if I have misunderstood the Fathers and especially if the truth lies somewhere between my position and that of Mitch (you will recall that Mitch had objected to the idea of a human nature being added to the divine person).

The problems with this for me would be that the person could be seen as either the basis or the product of the union. If the person is seen as the basis that would have to be the divine person of the word as a person seen as being both divine and human could not have existed prior to the union. If the person is seen as divine/human then the person must be seen as the product of the union, something new that has come into existence as a result of the incarnation and this in turn will mean that the person who walked around in Palestine and who is now with the Father is not the same person as the divine word who created the cosmos.

I'm reading the link Mike gave me. Although I am slightly wary because the writer seems to use the modern word personality as interchangeable with the patristic concept of person. To affirm Christ's impersonal humanity does not seem to me to mean the same thing as saying he had no personality, which would seem to imply that he had no human psychology, in a very real sense no soul.

#13 Michael Stickles

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 12:31 AM

The problems with this for me would be that the person could be seen as either the basis or the product of the union. If the person is seen as the basis that would have to be the divine person of the word as a person seen as being both divine and human could not have existed prior to the union. If the person is seen as divine/human then the person must be seen as the product of the union, something new that has come into existence as a result of the incarnation and this in turn will mean that the person who walked around in Palestine and who is now with the Father is not the same person as the divine word who created the cosmos.


Perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems to me that you're still confusing nature and person. The divine person of Christ who was with the Father before the incarnation, and the divine/human person who Christ is now, are the same person. What has changed is the nature(s) of that person. "Divine/human person" is just a convenient shorthand for "Person who has both a divine and a human nature".

I think that The Letter of Cyril to John of Antioch (which was read at the Council of Chalcedon) sums it up well:

We confess, therefore, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, perfect God, and perfect Man of a reasonable soul and flesh consisting; begotten before the ages of the Father according to his Divinity, and in the last days, for us and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin according to his humanity, of the same substance with his Father according to his Divinity, and of the same substance with us according to his humanity; for there became a union of two natures. Wherefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord.

According to this understanding of this unmixed union, we confess the holy Virgin to be Mother of God; because God the Word was incarnate and became Man, and from this conception he united the temple taken from her with himself.


If I am understanding this rightly, it is saying that he united the humanity (human nature) obtained from Mary with the divinity (divine nature) he shares with his Father, yet the "he", the person, remains the same - God the Word.

In Christ,
Mike

#14 Mohammad Helfawi

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 10:39 AM

What the Ante-Nicene Fathers Taught

THE ante-Nicene Fathers were acknowledged to have been leading religious teachers in the early centuries after Christ's birth. What they taught is of interest.
Justin Martyr, who died about 165 C.E., called the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is "other than the God who made all things." He said that Jesus was inferior to God and "never did anything except what the Creator . . . willed him to do and say."
Irenaeus, who died about 200 C.E., said that the prehuman Jesus had a separate existence from God and was inferior to him. He showed that Jesus is not equal to the "One true and only God," who is "supreme over all, and besides whom there is no other."
Clement of Alexandria, who died about 215 C.E., called Jesus in his prehuman existence "a creature" but called God "the uncreated and imperishable and only true God." He said that the Son "is next to the only omnipotent Father" but not equal to him.
Tertullian, who died about 230 C.E., taught the supremacy of God. He observed: "The Father is different from the Son (another), as he is greater; as he who begets is different from him who is begotten; he who sends, different from him who is sent." He also said: "There was a time when the Son was not. . . . Before all things, God was alone."
Hippolytus, who died about 235 C.E., said that God is "the one God, the first and the only One, the Maker and Lord of all," who "had nothing co-eval [of equal age] with him . . . But he was One, alone by himself; who, willing it, called into being what had no being before," such as the created prehuman Jesus.

"There is no evidence that any sacred writer even suspected the existence of a [Trinity] within the Godhead."—The Triune God

Origen, who died about 250 C.E., said that "the Father and Son are two substances . . . two things as to their essence," and that "compared with the Father, [the Son] is a very small light."
Summing up the historical evidence, Alvan Lamson says in The Church of the First Three Centuries: "The modern popular doctrine of the Trinity . . . derives no support from the language of Justin [Martyr]: and this observation may be extended to all the ante-Nicene Fathers; that is, to all Christian writers for three centuries after the birth of Christ. It is true, they speak of the Father, Son, and . . . holy Spirit, but not as co-equal, not as one numerical essence, not as Three in One, in any sense now admitted by Trinitarians. The very reverse is the fact."

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 09 February 2010 - 11:16 PM.
extraneous formatting removed


#15 Father David Moser

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 09:38 PM

Mr Helfawi,

You have made a number of assertions with absolutely no attribution. Please provide complete references for your patristic citations so that they might be considered in their context. Also, you might want to note that neither Tertullian nor Origin are considered to be without their errors. Without reasonable verification, your statements cannot be considered as accurately reflecting the teaching of the Fathers of the Church.

Fr David Moser

#16 Olga

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 10:58 PM

It should be noted that Alvan Lamson, quoted by Mr Helfawi, is not Orthodox. He was a Unitarian, who has influenced, among others, the Jehovah's Witnesses sect, who are, essentially, a neo-Arian sect. His quotes regarding the first three centuries of the Christian era conveniently omit what happened, and was decided, in Nicea in 325.

#17 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 11:18 PM

Everything posted is directly from The Watchtower, a Jehovah's Witness website. Our friend cannot even do his own homework but steal material from heretical groups that even Islam does not accept.

#18 Michael Stickles

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 03:35 PM

Mr. Helfawi,

As an example of how these claims are baseless, let us look at merely the first thing attributed to St. Justin:

Justin Martyr, who died about 165 C.E., called the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is "other than the God who made all things."


(This is actually two claims - that Justin Martyr "called the prehuman Jesus a created angel", and said He is "other than the God who made all things." - but let that slide for now.)

Now, St. Justin often says that the pre-incarnate Jesus was "an angel" (or, more specifically, "called an angel"), but nowhere calls Him "a created angel" (if you disagree, feel free to cite the specific work and chapter which supports you). First, note that the word "angel" means "messenger" and was also used in the New Testament to refer to others than those in the "heavenly host" - as in James where he speaks of Rahab receiving the messengers or "angels" (he uses the Greek word angelos), referring to the Israelite spies, in verse 2:25. The Watchtower quite erroneously assumes that "angel" must mean one of the "heavenly host" (who were indeed created), and so falsely ascribes this belief to St. Justin.

In his Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 60, Justin makes things plain (emphasis added):

And I replied, “Now assuredly, Trypho, I shall show that, in the vision of Moses, this same One alone who is called an Angel, and who is God, appeared to and communed with Moses. ... In the same manner, therefore, in which the Scripture calls Him who appeared to Jacob in the dream an Angel, then [says] that the same Angel who appeared in the dream spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God that appeared to thee when thou didst flee from the face of Esau thy brother;’ ... even so here, the Scripture, in announcing that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, and in afterwards declaring him to be Lord and God, speaks of the same One, whom it declares by the many testimonies already quoted to be minister to God, who is above the world, above whom there is no other [God].


That St. Justin does not believe Jesus to be created is shown in chapter 6 of his Second Apology (emphasis added):

And His Son, who alone is properly called Son, the Word who also was with Him and was begotten before the works, when at first He created and arranged all things by Him, is called Christ ...


Not only was Christ begotten before anything was created, but "begotten" is itself an entirely different concept from "created". Created things are fashioned from materials outside the craftsman's self, but a son is begotten from the parent's own essence. Which leads us to #2, for St. Justin does not call Jesus "other than" the God who made all things. Let us look at the Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 56:

Then I replied, “Reverting to the Scriptures, I shall endeavour to persuade you, that He who is said to have appeared to Abraham, and to Jacob, and to Moses, and who is called God, is distinct from Him who made all things,—numerically, I mean, not [distinct] in will. For I affirm that He has never at any time done anything which He who made the world—above whom there is no other God—has not wished Him both to do and to engage Himself with.”


"Numerically distinct" is a very different concept from "other than". "Other than" implies a difference in essence, whereas "numerically distinct" implies a unity of essence that nevertheless allows for distinction of persons. As St. Justin says in Chapter 128 of the Dialogue with Trypho (emphasis added):

... I asserted that this power was begotten from the Father, by His power and will, but not by abscission, as if the essence of the Father were divided ...


St. Justin affirms here, in combination with his other statements, that Christ is of one essence with the Father.

I drew out this rebuttal as an example. As for all of the rest of the errors you cite - sound rebuttals are all easily available, in print and online, and you should have no difficulty finding them. If, after seriously examining those rebuttals, you still remain unconvinced and can back up your doubts with both reasoning and citations from the Fathers, then we'll have something worth discussing.

In Christ,
Michael

#19 Daniel Smith

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 07:14 AM

The One incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, experienced not only the infinity of Divine knowledge, but the ignorance of human knowledge; And without contradiction, but in paradox. Here is How: He who is infinitely God from the moment of conception knows all things as God; But as man it was necessary for him to acquire experiential knowledge. Hence, Jesus grew in acquiring human knowledge after the sensible human methods without ever forsaking that infused and eternal knowledge that is his according to Divinity. The Incarnate Word knew all things; but he also acquired real human knowledge in real human ways. hence:

"Jesus grew in stature before God and man."

#20 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 02:33 PM

Essentially, the flaw with 'kenotic Christology' is that a Son that 'empties himself', in terms of 'giving up' essential aspects of what it means to be Son and God, does not live up to St John's confession that 'the Word became flesh'. The becoming-flesh might be maintained; but a Word who is not truly, fully Word unadulterated, is not the incarnation of the true Son of God. This was St Gregory the Theologian's point in his famous anti-Apollinarian maxim: 'that which is unassumed is unhealed'; not simply that Christ must be truly and wholly human, in order to assume and thus heal the whole of humanity, but also the confession of Nicaea, that the Son is truly, wholly divine -- else his 'assuming' humanity could not and would not heal it.


Again, the key to discerning how to comprehend this lies in St Cyril, who focussed on it precisely.

INXC, Dcn Matthew


Whilst I am out of my depth here, I did notice the mention of "the flaw with 'kenotic Christology' " since kenotic Christology is central to the theology of Elder Sophrony. In 'I love therefore I am', Nicholas V. Sakharov does say that 'Fr Sophrony's approach to Christ's earthly kenosis rests on the traditional understanding - the incarnation is an ontological kenosis per se' and there is a footnote to Cyril of Alexandria, Recta Fide ad Arc., 238. Chapter 4 of Fr Nikolai's book deals with all this, and whilst some views of kenotic Christology may be flawed in the way Fr Dcn Matthew suggests, Elder Sophrony's kenotic Christology is not.




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