Greek Trinitarian Terms in the Early Church (Part 1)

My earlier essays on the Trinity focused on demonstrating logical coherence rather than conceptual clarification. Admittedly, discussion of logical coherence is appealing, but such discussion can also be beguiling. The discussion maintains an appearance of austere logic, and follows the suggestion that once the logical structure of the argument is unpacked, there will be agreement.

That agreement seldom happens is because the philosophers covertly smuggle in their own meaning of the terms deployed. This in turn results in different criteria of logical coherence. Inevitably, even the best minds fail to resolve the logic of doctrinal agreement.

It is imperative that we should at least be clear about what we mean if we want to use the terms to analyse of the doctrine of Trinity. In this regard, we need to go back to the original formulation of the doctrine in the early Church.

Trinity – “the doctrine that there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence” (BB Warfield)

Substance – That by virtue of ‘what it is’. ‘What it is’, as distinguished from something else [essential characteristic) in contrast to accident.

Accident – \What has no independent and self sufficient existence but exist only in another being. What may change, disappear and be added while substance remains the same.
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The simplest way to determine meaning of technical Greek terms is to refer to standard lexicons such as Liddell & Scott, Greek-English Lexicon, BAGD (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker) and Lampe’s Patristic Greek Lexicon.

However it soon becomes clear that terms assume wide semantic range over the centuries. It takes considerable lexicographical skills and extensive citation of usage to establish the exact shade of meaning used in a particular context. Continue reading “Greek Trinitarian Terms in the Early Church (Part 1)”

Thomas V Morris: The Two-Minds Model of the Incarnation or Possibility of Incarnation (Part 2)

It must be pointed out that the charge of incoherence of the Incarnation assumes we know the exact nature of human and divine properties to be able to assert that there can be no joining together of human and divine properties in an individual.

John Macquarie’s response to such a presupposition is pertinent, “Part of the trouble with the doctrine of incarnation is that we discuss the divinity and even the humanity of Christ in terms of ready-made ideas of God and man that we bring with us, without allowing these ideas to be corrected and even drastically changed by what we learn about God and man in and through the incarnation.�?

Thomas V. Morris’ landmark book, The Logic of God Incarnate suggests the two-minds model as one possible demonstration of the coherence of the incarnation.

For Part 1 – The Possibility of Incarnation LINK
Ng Kam Weng

Ahmad Deedat in one of his debates with carefully chosen pastors – meaning, those who are ill-equipped to match him – retorted that Christ cannot be God since he displayed human characteristics like hunger and need for sleep. At a more sophisticated level, A. D. Smith says: “If Christ is God, then he cannot have begun to exist at a certain point in human history because God (and his Son) are necessarily eternal. But then nothing can count as a man, a creature, which does not have a beginning in time and which is thus coeval with God.”

These objections are of course variations of the common charge that the idea of an incarnate God is incoherent. It must be pointed out that the charge of incoherence assumes we know the exact nature of human and divine properties to be able to assert that there can be no joining together of human and divine properties in an individual.

John Macquarie’s response to such a presupposition is pertinent, “Part of the trouble with the doctrine of incarnation is that we discuss the divinity and even the humanity of Christ in terms of ready-made ideas of God and man that we bring with us, without allowing these ideas to be corrected and even drastically changed by what we learn about God and man in and through the incarnation.”

However, even if one should grant an open mind to resolve the tension between the divine and the human properties, the task of demonstrating the coherence of the incarnation remains. Thomas V. Morris’ landmark book, The Logic of God Incarnate suggests the two-minds model as one possible demonstration of the coherence of the incarnation. Continue reading “Thomas V Morris: The Two-Minds Model of the Incarnation or Possibility of Incarnation (Part 2)”

The Possibility of Incarnation (Part 1)

Assuming that we accept the coherence of the concept of the Incarnation (set out in my earlier article dated 15 April 2006), I now proceed to consider the possibility of the Incarnation and explore how God can become genuinely human and yet remain God.

To begin with, God becoming human (a divine individual) means acquiring a human soul that interacts with the world through its bodily senses and functions as the centre that organizes rational thought processes and exercises will power of choice and action. That such functions are limited is of course a normal but not essential (relating to essence) quality of human existence.

The Possibility of Incarnation (Part 1)
Ng Kam Weng

For Part 2 – Thomas V Morris: The Two-Minds Model of the Incarnation LINK

 

The doctrine of incarnation affirms that God became a man in order bring salvation to mankind. As the Chalcedonian Creed says, “Our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . truly God (qeos) and truly man (anqrwpos) . . . in two natures. . . the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person.”

Assuming that we accept the coherence of the concept of the Incarnation (set out in my earlier article dated 15 April 2006), I now proceed to consider the possibility of the Incarnation and explore how God can become genuinely human and yet remain God. Continue reading “The Possibility of Incarnation (Part 1)”

The Logical Coherence of the Incarnation of Christ

We begin with the Chalcedonian Creed – “We should confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is the one and the same Son, the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body, consubstantial [of one substance] with the Father in Godhead, and the same consubstantial with us in manhood, like us in all things except sin;. . . one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, made known in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the difference [distinction] of the natures being by no means removed [annulled] because of the union, but the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one person [prosopon] and one hypostasis [subsistence] – not parted or divided into two persons [prosopa], but the one and the same Son, only-begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ…”(Kelly, ECD 339-340)

A. Charge of Contradiction

1) For any being to be fully God (infinite) and fully man (finite) in its being at the same time is a contradiction

2) The Chalcedonian Creed asserts that the incarnate Christ is both fully God (infinite) and fully man (finite) in his being at the same time

3) Therefore, the Chalcedonian claim that the incarnate Christ is both fully God (infinite) and fully man (finite) in his being at the same time is a contradiction. Continue reading “The Logical Coherence of the Incarnation of Christ”

Meaning of Incarnation in the Chalcedonian Creed

The Chalcedon Creed includes the following affirmation:
“We should confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is the one and the same Son, the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body, consubstantial [of one substance] with the Father in Godhead, and the same consubstantial with us in manhood, like us in all things except sin;. . . one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, made known in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the difference [distinction] of the natures being by no means removed [annulled] because of the union, but the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one person [prosopon] and one hypostasis [subsistence] – not parted or divided into two persons [prosopa], but the one and the same Son, only-begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrine, pp. 339-340)

 

The Chalcedon Creed includes the following affirmation:
“We should confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is the one and the same Son, the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body, consubstantial [of one substance] with the Father in Godhead, and the same consubstantial with us in manhood, like us in all things except sin;. . . one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, made known in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the difference [distinction] of the natures being by no means removed [annulled] because of the union, but the property of each nature being preserved and coalescing in one person [prosopon] and one hypostasis [subsistence] – not parted or divided into two persons [prosopa], but the one and the same Son, only-begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrine, pp. 339-340)

Comments:

1. Unity of Natures

Belief in the unity of Christ is expressed in accordance with tradition. This is done in quite simple periphrastic expressions: ‘We confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same Son. This eis kai o autos has its history early from Ignatius of Antioch to Nicene, Ephesus, etc.

2. Distinction of Natures

The Phrase “The Same perfect in Godhead, the Same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the Same [consisting] of a rational soul and a body.”

Distinction does not weaken the unity: There is a stress on the one subject in Christ. “It makes a difference in fact whether I say ‘perfect God and perfect man of a rational soul and body’ (as does the Symbol of Union) or ‘one and the same perfect in Godhead and in manhood.’” (CCT 546-547)

3. Completeness and distinction of Godhead and manhood

“The one Christ, the one incarnate Son of God is truly and perfectly God and man! Motifs recur from an earlier period, the time of the struggle against Gnostics and docetists. The Arian and Apollinarian denial of the completeness of Christ’s human nature is also refuted: Christ has a rational soul and a truly human body. Nothing may be taken away from the human nature of Christ to explain his unity.”

4, Emphatic diphysitism

Homoousios with the Father as to his Godhead, the same homoousios with us as to his manhood…” :

Any Eutychian trend towards Monophysitism is opposed.

“made know in two natures”:

“The Alexandrian were shouting mia fusis, the Antiochenes duo fuseis. Chalcedon made its choice and said: Christ is one and the same Son, Lord, only begotten, but . Christ is one in ‘two natures’.” (CCT 548)

“‘In two natures’ and not ‘from two natures’. So the unity in Christ is not to be sought in the sphere of the natures (not in natura et secundum naturam). For the natures as such remain preserved. This is still further stressed with a threefold variation: ‘without confusion…the difference of the natures having been in no wise taken away by reason of the union, but rather the properties of each being preserved’ (swzomenhs de mallon ths idiothtos ekateras fusews). Thus the nature is the unimpaired principle of the distinction in Christ.”

5. Added without emphasis: “one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis – not parted or divided into two prosopa, but the one and the same Son, Only-begotten, divine Logos, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Reference

CCC – Aloys Grillmeier, Christ in the Christian Tradition (John Knox Press 1975)


The Coherence of the Trinity

This post marks the beginning of a series exploring the meaning and coherence of the concept of Incarnation of Christ and the Divine Trinity, drawing insights from T. V. Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate (Cornell UP 1986) and Richard Swinburne, The Christian God (OUP 1994).

THE Coherence of the Trinity
It would be pretentious of me to suggest that such a complex philosophical problem as the coherence of the Trinity could be dealt with adequately in an appendix. My aim is rather modest. I shall only try to demonstrate that critics of the Trinity have failed to show how the doctrine of the Trinity is actually incoherent.

The Athanasian Creed gives us a useful starting point for our discussion: “We worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son is another, and the Spirit is another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty equally eternally. . . Thus, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; yet there are not three gods but one God. . . And in this Trinity there is no before or after, no greater or lesser, but all three persons are equally eternal with each other and fully equal.”

We may break down the above statement into the following propositions.
(1) The Father is God.
(2) The Son is God.
(3) The Holy Spirit is God.
(4) The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Father.
(5) There is one and only one God.

Critics have attacked the Trinity on two counts. Continue reading “The Coherence of the Trinity”