Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Development of the Nicene Creed – Part 6

The Arian Controversy
Thomas Allen

[Reference Note: As this article relies primarily on First Three Centuries by Alvan Lamson, page numbers enclosed in parentheses are to Lamson’s book. References to other works are enclosed in parentheses with the work’s title or the author’s name listed in “References” at the end of this article.]

The Arian Controversy
    The principal actors in the Arian controversy were Arius and Alexander. Arius (250 or 256 – 336) was a presbyter in Alexandria and an ascetic. Alexander (d. 326 or 328) was the Bishop of Alexandria. After the Council of Nicaea, Athanasius (c. 296–298 – 373) would become an important actor. When Alexander died, Athanasius became the leader of the opposition to the Arians.
    In the years before the Council of Nicaea in 325, Christianity was becoming sharply divided into two primary camps on the issue of the Trinity: the Arians and the Athanasians. Arius led the Arians, and Alexander and later Athanasius led the Athanasians. Both sides appealed to the ante-Nicene Fathers to show the antiquity of their dogma. Both sides read into the writings of the early Fathers, dogmas unknown to the Fathers. Eventually, the Athanasians would prevail, and beginning with the Council of Nicaea, they developed what eventually became the Trinity Doctrine.
    The controversy began with Arius protesting Alexander’s, the Bishop of Alexandria and Arius’ superior, Sabellian-like concept of the Trinity. About the Trinity, Arius credited Alexander as saying, “‘Always God, always the Son; as the Father, so is the Son; the Son is unbegotten of the Father; neither in thought, nor the least point of time, does God precede the Son; always God, always the Son’” (p. 287). Alexander maintained that “the Son was eternal and wholly uncreated” (Walker, p. 115). His description of the Trinity was a move away from the orthodox concept of the Trinity. Alexander demanded Arius to abandon his (Arius’) views of the Trinity and to embrace his (Alexander’s) views. Because Arius could not assent to Alexander’s Sabellian-like doctrine, Alexander assembled a council, which condemned Arius and drove him from Alexandria in 320.
    Arius asserted that Alexander had anathematized “‘all the Oriental bishops,’ since they asserted that ‘the Father existed before the Son’” (p. 271), except three whom Alexander pronounced as ignorant heretics.
    After Arius left Alexandria, he went to Palestine where Eusebius of Caesarea (260/265 – 339/340), Bishop of Caesarea, befriended him. Later Eusebius of Nicomedia (died 341), Bishop of Berytus (Beirut) and later Bishop of Nicomedia, also befriended Arius. Afterwards Eusebius of Nicomedia wrote many letters defending Arius. Consequently, Arians were often called Eusebians.
    In defense of Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia stated, “‘He never heard that there were two unbegotten. We affirm that there is one unbegotten [the Father], and another [the Son] who did in truth proceed from him, yet who was not made out of his substance, and who does not at all participate in the nature or substance of him who is unbegotten. We believe him [the Son] to be entirely distinct in nature and in power’” (p. 293).
    Arius claimed that his views of the Father and the Son were those received from tradition. That is, “‘the Father existed before the Son’” (p. 294). On “the supremacy of the Father and his priority of existence” (p. 295), tradition was on the side of the Arians. About “[t]he new doctrine embraced by the orthodox concerning the generation of the Son, . . . [the Arians claimed] was pure Manichaeism and Valentinianism” (p. 295). (Manichaeism rejected the historical Jesus. According to Manichaeism, Jesus Christ was “an aeon or persistent personification of Light in the world. . . . Christ appeared to be man, to live, suffer, and die to symbolize the light suffering in this world” [Arendzen]. Valentinianism held that Christ had three figures or dimensions: spiritual, psychic, and body.)
    While Arius was soliciting support, so was Alexander. In his extant letters, Alexander acrimoniously attacks Arius and Eusebius in the harshest terms.
    Discord had reached such heights that Emperor Constantine was induced to intervene. Although he blamed both sides, he placed most of the blame on Alexander. To Constantine, the controversy was merely a frivolous dispute about words. In spite of the Emperor urging reconciliation, the dispute grew more intense. Finally, Constantine ordered the bishops throughout the Empire to assemble in council and resolve the issue. In 325, the council convened in Nicaea — thus, it was called the Council of Nicaea, Nicene Council, or Nicaean Council, which Lamson called the Council of Nice.
    The ante-Nicene Fathers maintained the “strict and proper inferiority of the Son” (p. 299). Except for Origen, they believed “that the Son was begotten in time, and not from eternity” (p. 299). Based on Platonic influences, the Fathers also believed that the Son “had a sort of metaphysical existence in the Father from eternity; in other words, existed as his Logos, Wisdom, or Reason; that is, as an attribute, which was afterwards converted into a real person by a voluntary act of the Father” (p. 299).
    Arius accepted the tradition that the Son was begotten and was not eternal and that the Son was inferior to the Father. Also, the Son “is by his own will unchangeable, ever remaining unalterably good” (p. 301). However, he rejected the mysticism of the Fathers about the Son, the Logos. This point distinguished the doctrine of Arius from that of the Fathers.
    “The characteristic dogma of Arius was, that the Son was originally produced out of nothing; and, consequently, there was a time when he did not exist. . . . he was a great pre-existent spirit, the first and chief of all derived beings; that this spirit became afterwards united with a human body, and supplied the place of the rational soul” (pp. 299-300). Thus, the distinguishing characteristic Arius’ Christology was that “Christ was a created being” (Walker, p. 114). Therefore, Christ “was not of the substance of God, but was made like other creatures of ‘nothing.’ Though the first-born of creatures, and the agent in fashioning the world, He was not eternal. ‘The Son has a beginning, but . . . God is without beginning’” (Walker, pp. 114-115). He believed that Christ was “God in a certain sense, . . . but a lower God, in no way one with the Father in essence or eternity. In the incarnation, this Logos entered a human body, taking the place of the human reasoning spirit. . . . Christ was neither fully God nor fully man, but a tertium quid [intermediate between the two] between.” (Walker, p. 115). According to Arius, “the human soul was wanting in Jesus Christ, and he was a compound being only in the sense in which all human beings are; that is, he consisted of a body, and one simple, undivided, and finite spirit” (p. 300). (“Some of the preceding Fathers attributed a human soul as well as body to Jesus; which, however, was so absorbed in the divine part of his nature, that they were, in a strict sense, one spirit, and not two, as modern Trinitarians affirm, or imply” [p. 300]).
    Arius appealed to the Scriptures and used scriptural terminology to describe his doctrine. Such an appeal brought the Arians “under suspicion of evasion and of narrow and bare literalness, while the orthodox were made to appear the advocates of broader and freer views, and of more accurate and straightforward statement” (p. 300n). (Apparently, according to the Athanasians, the Bible should not be read and understood literally. It should be read and understood using human speculation and philosophy. The Athanasian’s attitude toward relying on a strict literal reading of the Scriptures to support one’s doctrine is prima facie evidence that they were convinced that the Scriptures supported Arian’s position better than it did theirs.)
    Arius stated, “‘We must either suppose two divine original essences without beginning, and independent of each other; or we must not shrink from asserting that the Logos had a beginning of his existence; that there was a moment when he did not as yet exist’” (p. 301). In favor of Arius’ position was the “‘expression “made” applied to Christ (as Acts ii. 36, and Heb. iii. 2), or in which he is styled the First-born’” (pp. 301-302).
    Arius never intended “‘to lower the dignity of Christ, but would ascribe to him the greatest dignity which a being could have after God, without entirely annihilating the distinction between that being and God’” (p. 302). He believed that he was defending the old doctrine of the Church and was merely simplifying it.
    Athanasius accompanied Bishop Alexander to the council at Nicaea. Afterwards, he became a zealous champion of what would develop into the new orthodoxy of the Trinity.
    Arriving at a doctrine that would be generally acceptable, but also exclude the Arians proved a great difficulty. The Council had to condemn the Arian dogma that the Son “was produced out of nothing, and that there was a time when he did not exist” (p. 306) and had to affirm the opposite doctrine. Selecting terms that the orthodox could employ, but that the Arians could not without changing their sentiments proved difficult.
    The first proposal was “to make use only of Scriptural expressions, such as, ‘Christ is the Wisdom and the Power of God,’ the ‘Brightness of his Glory;’ or others of a similar character” (p. 306). As the Arians found this approach acceptable, it was abandoned. A creed was offered, but as it contained no term to which the Arians would object, it was disapproved because it was “no sufficient test of orthodoxy” (p, 307). Then the Council discovered that “the Arians had great dread of the term ‘consubstantial’” (p. 307). Thus, this word was placed in the previously rejected creed, and other modifications were made. Then the Council adopted the creed.
    As expected, the Arians objected. They argued “that the language in question was new; that it had not the sanction of the sacred writings or of antiquity” (p. 307). Moreover, many bishops were forced to sign the creed. Thus, the Nicene Creed was adopted. It read:
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth, Who because of us men and because of our salvation came down, and became incarnate and became man, and suffered, and rose again on the third day, and ascended to the heavens, and will come to judge the living and dead, And in the Holy Spirit. But as for those who say, There was when He was not, and, Before being born He was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance, or created, or is subject to alteration or change — these the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes (Creed of Nicaea).
    The new, unscriptural term “consubstantial” caused reluctance of some bishops to assent to the new creed — especially Eusebius of Caesarea. He assented after the phrase “‘of the substance [consubstantial] of the Father’” (p. 308) was explained to him to mean “‘the Son is of the Father, but not as being part of the Father,’ that is, ‘not part of his substance’” (p. 308). Thus, he concluded “‘that the expression, of the substance of the Father, implies only that the Son of God does not resemble, in any one respect, the creatures which he has made; but that to the Father, who begat him, he is in all points perfectly similar’” (p. 308).
    The Nicene Creed did not declare the numerical equality of the Father and the Son. It did not declare the Son equal to the Father. Further, it did not declare the Son eternal.
    Thus, the ante-Fathers could interpret the Nicene Creed as upholding their concept of the Trinity. Athanasians could (and did) use it to develop what eventually became the Trinity Doctrine. Moreover, the Sabellians would have had little problems in accepting the Creed as they could easily explain it as supporting their concept of the Trinity. (Many of Origen’s disciples saw the Creed as Sabellian.) However, the Arians and the Artemonites would have to abandon their beliefs to adhere to this Creed.
    Athanasius interpreted the Nicene Creed to mean that the Father alone is self-existent and absolute God. The Son and Holy Spirit are derived and subordinate. The Son is derived by eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit, by eternal procession. 
    The anathemas annexed to the Creed “prohibited the use of expressions not found in the Scriptures. Yet the creed contained such expressions” (p. 308).
    Later, Arius convinced Constantine of his orthodoxy and, under the order of the Emperor, was readmitted to the Church. Meanwhile, Constantine banished Athanasius after having found him guilty of various crimes. Later, Athanasius’ banishment was commuted, and he became the off-and-on Bishop of Alexandria. He became a vigorous opponent of the Arians and did not hesitate to call them all sorts of evil names.
    To Athanasius, the primary issue was salvation. “The Greek conception of salvation had been, . . . the transformation of sinful mortality into divine and blessed immortality — the impartation of ‘life.’ . . . Only by real Godhead coming into union with full manhood in Christ could the transformation of the human into the divine be accomplished in Him, or be mediated by Him to His disciples” (Walker, p.118). To him “the great error of Arianism was that it gave no basis for a real salvation” (Walker, p. 118).
    About Athanasius’ character, Lamson wrote, “His piety and love of truth we have no disposition to call in question; yet the history of his life would seem to authorize the suspicion, that he was influenced rather by motives of pride and ambition than by a desire to promote the peace of the church. He would set all Christendom in a flame sooner than relinquish the patriarchal throne of Alexandria” (p. 331). (Far too many church leaders are guided more by pride and ambition than by the love of Jesus and the truth.)
    For decades following its adoption, the Nicene Creed aroused a great deal of turmoil. Its two major opponents were the Arians and the disciples of Origen who objected to it for being a Sabellian creed.
    After the death of Constantine (337), Arianism revived and prospered for a while. As it grew, schisms occurred. One faction, the Semi-Arians or Homoiousians, maintained “that the Son was, in all respects, of like substance with the Father” (p. 323). The other faction was the strict Arians, who were dominated by the Aetians, Eunomiaus, and Anomceans. They believed that the Son “of a different substance, and wholly unlike the Father” (p. 323). By uniting with the Semi-Arians, the Athanasians eventually overcame the Arians. Arianism ceased to exist after 660, at least publicly.

References
Alford, H.W. The Manual of the Scriptural Doctrine of the Trinity, Investigated and Defended. Dover, New Hampshire: The Trustees of the Freewill Baptist Connection, 1842.

Allen, Thomas. “Early Church Theories of Christ.” Franklinton, North Carolina: TC Allen Co., 2009.

“Amonoean” http://looklex.com/e.o/amonoean.htm. Downloaded July 6, 2009.

Arendzen, John, "Docetae," The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. V. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05070c.htm. Downloaded July 12, 2009.

Arendzen, John. “Manichæism.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. IX. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09591a.htm. Downloaded July 4, 2009.

The Creed of Nicaea – Agreed at the Council in 325, http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/creed_of_nicaea_325.htm, Downloaded October 29, 2017.

“Docetism.” http://looklex.com/e.o/docetism.htm. Downloaded Jul. 5, 2009.

Fleming, Thomas. “A Plague on Both Their Houses.” Chronicles, Vol. 39, No. 3, March 2015, page 9.

Hase Charles. History of the Christian Church. Translators Charles E. Blumenthal and Conway P. Wing. New York: D. Appleton, 1870.

Lamson, Alvan. First Three Centuries: Or, Notices of the Lives and Opinions of Some of the Early Fathers, With Special Reference to The Doctrine of the Trinity. Reprint. and revised with notes, Ezra Abbot, editor: Boston, Mass.; 1875 reprinted with additional notes, Henry Ierson, editor: London: British and Foreign Unitarian Association,

The Lost Books of the Bible. 1820; reprint. Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Co., 1929; reprint, 1979, New York, New York: Crown Publishing Co.

Milner, Vincent L. Religious Denominations of the World. Philadelphia: Bradley, Garretson & Co., 1872.

“Montanism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Montanism. Downloaded November 12, 2017.

“Q&A.” Grace in Focus. November/December 2017, page 46.

Pressense, E. De. The Early Years of Christianity: Heresy and Christian Doctrine. Translator Anne Harwood. New York: Nelson & Phillips, n.d.

Walker, Williston. A History of the Christian Church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1921.

Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Coley Allen.

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Part 5    Part 7

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Development of the Nicene Creed – Part 5

Between Origen and Arius
Thomas Allen

[Reference Note: As this article relies primarily on First Three Centuries by Alvan Lamson, page numbers enclosed in parentheses are to Lamson’s book. References to other works are enclosed in parentheses with the work’s title or the author’s name listed in “References” at the end of this article.]

Writers Between Origen and Arius
    The distinction between Tritheism and Monarchianism was becoming sharper. Because their mode of defending the unity of God, Monarchians were often accused of Patripassianism and “the denial of the divinity of Christ, by maintaining that the Logos as a separate subsistence formed no part of his nature” (p. 253).
    During this era, Tritheism, was becoming the orthodoxy while Monarchianism in the form of Sabellianism was becoming its chief opponent. However, in attacking the Monarchians, some opponents, such as Dionysius of Alexandra and Methodius of Olympus, laid the foundation of Arianism.
    In its hostility toward Sabellius, Paul, and their kindred, “the doctrine of the self-subsisting personality of the Logos, or Son, was more strenuously insisted on than ever” (p. 257). This emphasis on the self-subsisting personality of the Son contributed to the rise of Arianism, which strongly contrasted with the Monarchian doctrine of Sabellius and Paul.
    Dionysius of Alexandria (d. 264) was Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria between 248 and 264. He was a student of Origen, and about 232, he became the head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria.
    In his dispute with the Sabellians, Dionysius became tainted with heresy. He was charged “with placing the Son in the rank of ‘a creature’ in repelling the errors of Sabellius, going into the opposite extreme; making not only a ‘diversity of persons’ but a ‘difference of substance’” (p. 258). Thus, he was accused of sowing the seeds of the Amonoeans, who were a branch of the Arians. (Amonoeans “made a clear distinction between God and Christ. God was the deity that always had existed, Christ was only created by him. From this, God and Christ could not be considered equal or similar. In consequence, Christ was also denied the consubstantiality, that of two natures in him; a human and a divine” [“Amonoean”].)
    According to Dionysius, “‘the Son of God is something made and begotten; neither is he by nature (a son) proper, but is in substance foreign to the Father, as is the husbandman to the vine, or the shipbuilder to the ship; and being a creature, he was not before he was begotten’” (pp. 258-259). Although he maintained the subordination of the Son, he held that the Logos “is not simply the second person of the Trinity in His virtual existence. . . . He is already God” (Pressense, p. 363). “‘Dionysius summed up his doctrine in this formula: ‘We expand the indivisible Monas [one deity] into the Trias [three deities], and we bring back the Trias undiminished to the Monas.’ This singular formula sets aside absolutely the idea that the Son is of a different nature from the Father” (Pressense, p. 364).
    “As to the term ‘consubstantial’ Dionysius says that he did not find it in the Scriptures, and he therefore felt justified in rejecting it” (p. 259). He used consubstantial in the sense, for example, a human progeny is of the same genus with the parent. “In this sense, consubstantiality did not imply numerical identity” (p. 260). Thus, following the older Fathers, Dionysius held that the “the Father and the Son might be pronounced ‘consubstantial,’ as they were beings of the same specific nature (that is, both divine), though as distinct from each other as Peter and John, or the husbandman and the vine, the maker of the ship and the ship” (p. 260).
    Gregory Thaumaturgus (c. 213 – 270) was a student of Origen and Bishop of Pontus. He claimed that the Father and the Son, “are one in substance, and distinct only in thought” (Pressense, p. 358). Nevertheless, he seemed to consider the Logos as created or produced. Therefore, he was charged “with depressing the Son to the rank of a ‘creature,’ or ‘work,’ — something produced” (p. 261). Except for the eternity of the Son, which Origen held, Gregory seemed to have adopted all of Origen’s views of the Son. Gregory believed that the Son “to be of inferior dignity to the Father, and did not believe in their numerical identity” (p. 261).
    Theognostus (c. 210 – c. 270) was an Alexandrian theologian and a disciple of Origen. According to Theognostus, “‘[t]he substance of the Son is not anything procured from without, nor accruing from nothing; but it sprang from the Father’s substance, as radiance from light, or vapour from water; for neither is the vapour, nor the radiance, the water itself, or the sun, nor is it foreign to it. The Son is an effluence from the substance of the Father, without the substance of the Father undergoing any partition; for as the sun remains the same and is not diminished by the rays which flow out from it, so neither does the substance of the Father undergo any change through the Son who bears its image’” (p. 262). He considered the Logos to be a creature, “yet he affirms that He [the Son] neither came forth from nothing nor from any created source, but from the very bosom of God” (p. 359).
He used “consubstantial” before the Council of Nicaea used it. However, he does not assert “numerical identity of substance in the sense of the later Athanasian orthodoxy” (p. 262).
    Pierius (d. after 309) was a Christian priest in Alexandria and the head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria. He believed that the Father and Son were two substances and two natures. The Holy Spirit was “‘inferior in glory to the Father and Son’” (p. 263).
    Methodius (d. c. 311) was the Bishop of Olympus in Lycia and later of Tyre of Phoenicia. He disagreed with Origen on several points, but apparently not with his doctrine of the Trinity, which was the orthodoxy at this time.
    According to Methodius, “the Father was the principle out of which the Logos, which was before in him, proceeded” (p. 264). Apparently, he knew nothing “of the eternity of the Son, as a self-subsistent being” (p. 264). To him, the Son was “‘first begotten of God — before the ages’” (p. 264). In power and dignity, the Son was inferior to the Father. Later, Methodius was condemned for supporting Arianism.
    Lucian of Antioch (c. 240 – 312) was a presbyter and theologian. Most of the Arian leaders were his disciples — therefore, followers of Arius were often called Lucianists. He rejected the Sabellian principle that the Logos had no separate personality and was not a self-subsistent being.
    Cyprian (c. 200 – 258) was the Bishop of Carthage. He declared God to be One and Supreme and that He was without a partner or equal. Of the Son, he believed him to be “the ‘Word,’ or the ‘Son of God,’ who is ‘sent,’ is the ‘Power of God, his Reason, his Wisdom, and Glory’ (p. 269). When Cyprian “speaks of the Holy Spirit as becoming ‘clothed with flesh’” (p. 269), he confounds the Spirit with the Logos as did many early Fathers. At other times, Cyprian “distinguishes the Spirit from the Logos, making it inferior in dignity to Christ himself” (p. 269).
    Although he called Christ God, he meant the Son of God and clearly denied his supremacy. The Father sanctified and sent the Son into the world. God the Creator is the Father of Christ. “Cyprian never thought of a numerical identity of the Father and Son, but regarded them as two distinct beings, the Father being the Fountain and Giver of all the power and dignity possessed by the Son” (p. 220).
    About the Christians of the first three centuries, Lamson writes, “The ancient Christians had not learned that refinement of logic by which he who sends and he who is sent are made one. They went on the assumption, that they must necessarily be two” (p. 270). (Lamson may have meant this statement sarcastically. Liking the sophistication of Athanasius and later Trinitarians, these ignorant Christians’ belief in two beings was necessary: one to send and the other to be sent. Unlike the later Athanasians, they did not realize that one could send oneself and give the appearance of two by merely changing the title or office [mode or manifestation?] of the sender and sent. This notion of the Trinitarians seems to be approaching the heresy of Sabellianism.)
    Novatian (c. 200–258) was a scholar, theologian, and presbyter of the Church of Rome. He wrote more than most on the doctrine of the Trinity.
    According to him, the Son was inferior to the Father and, therefore, not his equal. He testified “to the old doctrine of the undivided supremacy of the Father, and the derived nature and inferiority of the Son. The Spirit he places still lower” (p. 291). Novatian described God the Father as “‘the most perfect Creator of all things.’ . . . ‘Maker of all things, containing all; moving, vivifying all.’ . . . — ‘without origin and without end,’ whom ‘no words can adequately describe and no mind comprehend;’ [and is] ‘immutable, one, without equal, unbegotten, infinite, incorruptible, and immortal’” (p. 272). Like other ante-Nicene Fathers, he never applied these epithets to the Son. “Novatian believed Christ to be both God and man, but not in the modern or Athanasian sense” (p. 272). In Christ, the Divinity of the Word was “united by ‘concretion’; or commixture with human nature, constituting an indivisible unity” (p. 272). Although Christ was God and man, he was not the supreme God, He was “man as born of man, God as born or begotten of God, according to the doctrine of the old Fathers, that what is born of God is God, that is, divine, consubstantial with God, as what is born of man is man, that is, human, consubstantial with man, numerical identity being excluded, there being only identity of kind or species” (p. 272). Thus, he is man who is of man and is God who is of God. “So Christ is God and man. He has his origin from God, and sustains the same relation to him as a human being sustains to its father” (pp. 272-273). Nevertheless, the Son was inferior to the Father and dependent, and he was a distinct being from the Father.
    Unlike the Trinitarians who followed, Novatian read the Bible in its most natural and obvious sense. For example, when Christ said that the “Father is greater than I,” Christ literally meant what he said: His Father was superior to him. Christ was stating that he was a distinct being from the Father, and that he occupied a second place. (Novatian was unaware of the two-natures doctrine that the Trinitarians would later develop to explain away any comment that Jesus made about himself that conflicted with the Trinity Doctrine.)
    About omnipresence, Novatian held that “the Father himself, the supreme one, the only true God, is infinite, and cannot be contained within any limits of place; cannot ascend or descend, but contains and fills all things. Not so the Son, who is capable of ascending and descending, and can be enclosed within space” (p. 275). Thus, God the Father is omnipresent; the Son of God is not.
    To explain the Father as God and Christ as God without having two Gods and without resorting to Sabellianism, Novatian resorted to the Logos-doctrine. Thus, the Son is “a divine being, having, after he was begotten, a distinct personal subsistence, but being subordinate to the Father, not co-equal and co-eternal with him” (p. 275). The Father is one God “‘of whom, when he willed, the Word or Son was begotten.’ He was ‘always in the Father,’ as his unbegotten virtue or energy, but had no distinct personal subsistence. . . . ‘The Father precedes him’ (the Son), in that as Father, he must be prior, since ‘he who has no origin must of necessity precede him who has an origin’” (p. 276). Further, “‘[i]f he [the Son] were not begotten, there would be two unbegotten, and so two Gods’” (p. 276) Since the “‘Son does nothing of his own will, or his own counsel, but in all things obeys the precepts and commands of the Father’” (p. 276), there are not two Gods, but one God. (For more of Novatian’s arguments to save the unity of God, see Lamson, pp. 275-276.) This is a brief sketch of his explanation of two Gods not being two Gods. In short, “supreme divinity is not to be ascribed to Christ. He is not co-equal, or co-eternal with the Father. . . . Christ was God, but not the one infinite God; not self-existent; not having a personal, individual being from eternity, but deriving his origin, divinity, power, and authority from the only Supreme and Unbegotten God, the self-existent and Eternal One” (pp. 276-277).
    Novatian asserted the inferiority of the Spirit. He did not consider the Spirit to be God or Lord. Moreover, he did not give the Spirit a personality and certainly did “exalt the Spirit into one of three co-equal persons” (p. 277).
    Dionysius of Rome (d. 268) was the Bishop of Rome, i.e., the Pope between 259 and 268. He repudiated the opinions of Tertullian, Hippolytus, Sabellius, and Dionysius of Alexander. In opposition to the Sabellians, he declared that the Deity consisted of three divine persons and not three manifestations. He rejected the notion of three distinct divinities. “He asserts His [Logos] eternal divinity. ‘It is not lawful to divide into three deities the glorious and divine Monad [one, unity]. It is necessary that the Word should be united to the God of the universe, that the Holy Spirit should dwell and abide in Him, and that the sacred Triad [a group of closely related three] should be resolved at length into a sublime unity in the Almighty God, the Creator of all Beings. We must believe in one God, the Father Almighty, in Jesus Christ His Son, and in the Holy Spirit. The Word [Logos] is one with the God of the universe. Thus do we hold fast at once the divine Triad and the holy doctrine of the divine unity’” (Pressense, p. 417). He was closer to stating what would become the Trinity Doctrine than the other ante-Nicene Fathers. Dionysius “is the forerunner of the school of authoritative metaphysics. With him, the age of free doctrinal creations seems to pass away” (Pressense, p. 418). (Thus, religious liberty died in Christianity until the after the Reformation.)
    Arnobius (d. c. 330) was a Christian teacher and apologist. “[H]e maintained the supremacy of the Father, and makes the Son a different being and subordinate” (p. 278). God the Father is “‘alone unbegotten, immortal, and everlasting,’ the ‘Father, Governor, and Lord of all things’” (p. 278). God the Father sent Christ, the Son, who spoke by the command of the Father. Christ “‘giver of immortality,’ as the ‘Supreme King has appointed him to that office’” (p. 278).
    Lactantius (c. 250 – c. 325) was a student of Arnobius and a teacher and writer. He believed that the Son was not eternal, but was begotten by the Father. The Son was the firstborn and was alone worthy of the divine nature. However, the Son was subordinate to the Father. Therefore, the Son was not eternal or equal to the Father. Moreover, the Son “is of a ‘middle nature or substance between God and man’” (p. 280). Christ “‘taught that there is one God, who alone is to be worshipped; neither did he once call himself God. . . . Because he was thus faithful, assuming nothing to himself, but fulfilling the commands of him that sent him, he received the dignity of a perpetual priesthood, and the honours of the highest king, and the power of judge, and the name of God’” (p. 280). Thus, the Fathers and Son are “two beings, entirely distinct, one [the Father] first and supreme, the other [the Son] subordinate; one giving, the other receiving” (p. 281). Unity existed with the Father and the Son; they are one in will, affection, and consent: “‘[T]he Son faithfully obeys the will of the Father, nor ever does nor did anything except what the Father has willed or commanded’” (p. 281). However, at times Lactantius seemed to consider the Father and the Son to be one of mind, spirit, and substance.
    Lactantius denied the personality of the Holy Spirit. However, at times, he confounds the Spirit with the Logos.
    The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity between Origen and Arius showed as much, if not more, support for Arius as for Alexander and Athanasius. The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity that had developed before the Arian controversy differed significantly from the Trinity Doctrine that developed after the Council of Nicaea. When the Arian controversy began, the doctrine of the Trinity declared the Son to be pre-existing. Nevertheless, the Father preceded him, i.e., unlike the Father who had no beginning and was, therefore, eternal, the Son had a beginning and was, therefore, not eternal. (Origen was an exception as he speculated about “‘beginningless’ creation, and a ‘beginningless generation of the Son’” [p. 285].) Therefore, the Son was not coeternal with the Father as maintained by the Trinity Doctrine. Further, the Son was inferior to the Father and was a distinct being from the Father, i.e., of a different essence or substance. Because he was begotten of God, the Son “partook in some sort of the same specific nature (that is, a divine), just as an individual of our race partakes of the same nature or essence with the parent from whom he sprang (that is, a human)” (p. 284). Again, the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity just before the Council of Nicaea differed significantly from the modern Trinity Doctrine. Moreover, the Son was both God and man, but not in the Athanasian sense. The Holy Spirit was not eternal and was subordinate to the Son and the Father. Furthermore, it lacked a personality.

References
Alford, H.W. The Manual of the Scriptural Doctrine of the Trinity, Investigated and Defended. Dover, New Hampshire: The Trustees of the Freewill Baptist Connection, 1842.

Allen, Thomas. “Early Church Theories of Christ.” Franklinton, North Carolina: TC Allen Co., 2009.

“Amonoean” http://looklex.com/e.o/amonoean.htm. Downloaded July 6, 2009.

Arendzen, John, "Docetae," The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. V. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05070c.htm. Downloaded July 12, 2009.

Arendzen, John. “Manichæism.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. IX. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09591a.htm. Downloaded July 4, 2009.

The Creed of Nicaea – Agreed at the Council in 325, http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/creed_of_nicaea_325.htm, Downloaded October 29, 2017.

“Docetism.” http://looklex.com/e.o/docetism.htm. Downloaded Jul. 5, 2009.

Fleming, Thomas. “A Plague on Both Their Houses.” Chronicles, Vol. 39, No. 3, March 2015, page 9.

Hase Charles. History of the Christian Church. Translators Charles E. Blumenthal and Conway P. Wing. New York: D. Appleton, 1870.

Lamson, Alvan. First Three Centuries: Or, Notices of the Lives and Opinions of Some of the Early Fathers, With Special Reference to The Doctrine of the Trinity. Reprint. and revised with notes, Ezra Abbot, editor: Boston, Mass.; 1875 reprinted with additional notes, Henry Ierson, editor: London: British and Foreign Unitarian Association,

The Lost Books of the Bible. 1820; reprint. Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Co., 1929; reprint, 1979, New York, New York: Crown Publishing Co.

Milner, Vincent L. Religious Denominations of the World. Philadelphia: Bradley, Garretson & Co., 1872.

“Montanism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Montanism. Downloaded November 12, 2017.

Pressense, E. De. The Early Years of Christianity: Heresy and Christian Doctrine. Translator Anne Harwood. New York: Nelson & Phillips, n.d.

“Q&A.” Grace in Focus. November/December 2017, page 46.

Walker, Williston. A History of the Christian Church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1921.

Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Coley Allen.

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Part 4    Part 6

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Development of the Nicene Creed – Part 4

Origen; the Monarchians
Thomas Allen

[Reference Note: As this article relies primarily on First Three Centuries by Alvan Lamson, page numbers enclosed in parentheses are to Lamson’s book. References to other works are enclosed in parentheses with the work’s title or the author’s name listed in “References” at the end of this article.]

Origen
    Origen (184/185 – 253/254) was a pupil of Clement, a Greek scholar, an ascetic, and later master of the Catechetical School in Alexandria. Although a devoted Christian, he was also an advocate of philosophy because he believed that philosophical and secular literature aided in the investigation of divine truth. Among his many writings were commentaries on the Bible. He applied the “‘allegorical mode of explaining the Grecian mysteries . . . to the Jewish Scriptures’” (p. 187).
    Further, he originated what is now called Biblical criticism. During the early centuries of Christianity, most Christians used the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament. Origen compared the Hebrew text with the Septuagint to correct errors that had crept into the Septuagint.
    In 230, Origen was excommunicated as a heretic. More than anything else, envy, jealousy, and hatred guided his persecutors. About this act, Lamson wrote, “Behold now the most celebrated scholar, biblical critic, and commentator of his times, who knew more than all his persecutors combined, and performed more labour in the cause of Christianity than any dozen of them put together, behold him now an excommunicated man. His heresy served well enough for a pretext, but it was not the cause of his persecution at this time” (pp. 193-194). According to the orthodox Jerome, Origen “was condemned, ‘not on account of the novelty of his dogmas; not on account of heresy, for which he is now barked at by the rabid dogs, but because they could not endure the fame of his eloquence and learning’” (p. 194). In spite of the anathema of the synods of Egypt, the bishops of Caesarea, Jerusalem, Arabia, Phoenicia, and Greece gave him refuge and allowed him to continue his work. About him, Erasmus declared, “‘I acquire more knowledge of Christian philosophy . . . from one page of Origen, than from ten of Augustine” (p. 203).
    “The germ of most of his errors . . . existed in the prevalent modes of thinking” (p. 202). According to Origen, the Scriptures contained three senses: (1) the literal or historical, (2) the allegorical, i.e., moral or mystical, and (3) the spiritual, which is the highest and should not be confounded with the mystical. He was inclined to mystify and allegorize nearly everything in the Bible. As did many of his contemporaries and predecessors, Origen resorted “to mystical senses in order to escape the difficulties of the natural interpretation of Scripture” (p. 206n).
    Like the Fathers who preceded him, Origen, “regarded the Son as the first production of the Father; having emanated from him as light from the sun, and thus partaking of the same substance — that is, a divine” (pp. 214-215). However, “God and the Son constituted two individual essences, two beings” (p. 215). The Father and Son “‘are two things as to their essence, but one in consent, concord, and identity of will’” (p. 215).
    According to Origen, the Son made the Spirit, and the Spirit ranked below the Son. “To the Spirit, the office of redeeming the human race properly pertained; but, it being incompetent to so great a work, the Son, who alone was adequate to accomplish it, engaged” (p. 220).
    When Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” Origen explained it as meaning a unity of will and affection. As support, he cites Acts 14:32, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul.”
    Further, “Origen contends that Christ is not the object of supreme worship; and that prayer, properly such, ought never to be addressed to him, but is to be offered to the God of the universe, through his only-begotten Son, who, as our intercessor and high priest, bears our petitions to the throne of his Father and our Father, of his God and our God” (p. 218). He declares, “‘Prayer is not to be directed to one begotten, not even to Christ himself; but to the God and Father of the universe alone, to whom also our Saviour prayed, and to whom he teaches us to pray’” (p.218).
    In summary, “Origen believed God and the Son to be two essences, two substances, two beings” (p. 220). Moreover, “he placed the Son at an immense distance from the Infinite One” (p. 220). Nevertheless, the Son stood “at the head of all God’s offspring, and with them, and for them” (p. 220). Origen claimed that God created, made, and begot the Son, “not from an inner necessity, but ‘by the will of the Father, the first-born of every creature’” (p. 220). Moreover, the Father and the Son “were correlative terms, the one could not subsist without the other, inasmuch as light implied necessarily coeval brightness. And Christ was, to him, as much divine as he was human” (p. 220n). When he said that Christ had a human nature, he meant that Christ possessed a rational human soul, which had been denied since Justin’s development of the Logos-doctrine. “He supposed that the Logos, or divine nature of Christ, became united with a human rational soul before his incarnation” (pp. 228-229). (Also, “[h]e believed all souls to be preexistent, all endowed with freedom” [p. 229]. [For more details on Origen’s view of the soul of Christ, see Lamson, pp. 229ff. For characteristics of Alexandrian theology from which came Origen’s, see Hama, pp. 93-94.])
    Origen regarded the Holy Spirit to be “from the Son, and therefore as subordinate in a still more marked degree” (Pressense, p. 307). The Holy Spirit “is the personification and the hypostasis of holiness, as the Word is of the reason” (Pressense, p. 308).
    Some credit Origen with introducing the Trinitarian notion of eternal generation of the Son, i.e., the eternal Son. (For a discussion on this issue, see Lamson, pp. 221-222). Such a notion was a logical outcome of “the ‘Platonic idea of an endless becoming’” (pp. 222-223). However, Origen was careful “to affirm that the generation of the Son was by act of the ‘divine will’” (p. 223). Nevertheless, Origen greatly advanced the Logos-doctrine of Christology.
    Later both the Arians and the Athanasians would claim that Origen supported their position. However, Origen’s teachings were closer to the Arians than to the Athanasians, who were the orthodox after the Nicene Council.
    In the centuries following his death, Origen was anathematized as a heretic. According to Bunsen “‘Origen’s death is the real end of free Christianity, and, in particular, of free intellectual theology’” (p. 277). Although the Church condemned him, Origen’s philosophy and theology about the Son were essential in the development of the Nicene Creed and the Trinity Doctrine.

The Monarchians
    The Monarchians attempted to avoid ditheism and tritheism by emphasizing that God is one being and one person. Generally, they fall into three groups: the followers of Artemon, Noetus, or Sabellius.
    While the theology of the philosophical Christians, such as Tertullian, Clement of Alexandra, and Origen, were moving forward, the monotheistic Christians, called Monarchians, protested. They accused the philosophical Christians of introducing tritheism, the Trinity. According to the Monarchians, the philosophical Christians taught three Gods. That is, by means of the Logos-doctrine, the philosophical Christians were teaching a plurality of Gods. Monarchians rejected the Logos-doctrine.
    Artemon (fl. ca. 230) was a prominent Christian teacher in Rome and was a leader of the Monarchians in their protest against the philosophical Christians. The style of Monarchianism that Artemon taught has been called Dynamic Monarchianism.
    Artemon believed that Jesus was born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit; therefore, he had to have “something divine in him; a ‘certain divine energy’ uniting itself with him from the first, the divinity of the Father acting in some way in him” (p. 225). Thus, Artemon held the primitive, the ancient, doctrine, which existed before the Logos-doctrine entered Christianity. Many consider his Christology to be a form of Adoptionism — Jesus was the Son of God by adoption.
    Many Monarchians who were called Artemonites were intellects of the scientific culture, who were reflective and philosophical. “[T]heir intellectual tendencies led them to eliminate almost entirely the mystical element from their theology” (p. 226). Thus, the Platonists defended the doctrine of Christ’s divinity while the Aristoteleans contested it. (Honest Trinitarians admit that the Artemonites were close to the truth. “Christians [Trinitarians] are not monotheists, in the conventional sense . . . of ‘the world’s great monotheistic religions’ [i.e., in the Old Testament sense][Fleming, p. 9]. They are tritheists, who worship a Triune God — three Gods who are one God.)
    Noetus (230) was a presbyter of the church of Asia Minor. Like Artemon, he also was a Monarchian, but his theology differed from Artemon’s. “He believed in one God the Father, who manifested himself in the Son, the Logos; not, however, becoming in him a separate personality” (p. 227). His doctrine he believed honored Christ while preserving the unity of God. Noetus was accused of being a Patripassian, (According to the Patripassians, the Trinity is three manifestations or modes of a single divine being.) Noetus’ style of Monarchianism has been called Modalist Monarchianism.
    Beryllus (246), Bishop of Bostras, was another Monarchian whose theology also differed from Artemon’s. He held “that Christ had no personal existence before his appearance on earth, though while on earth the divinity of the Father dwelt in him, having united itself with him at his birth” (p. 228). Like Noetus, he was also considered a Patripassian.
    Sabellius (fl. c. 215) was a priest and theologian. He may have been the “‘most original and acute thinker among the Monarchians’” (p. 254).
    His doctrine was “a trinity of attributes, names, or manifestations” (p. 254). Where Sabellius differed from the orthodox Platonizing Fathers was his denial of “the permanent self-subsistence of the Logos in Jesus Christ” (p. 255). According to Sabellius, the power of God, or Logos, “united itself with the man Jesus, wrought in him, as in no other man, made him sufficient for his great work, and left him when that work was accomplished” (p. 255). For the Platonizing Fathers, the self-subsisting Logos of God was permanently in Christ. Whereas the orthodox distinguished the Holy Spirit from the Logos, Sabellius seemed “to have regarded it simply as the power of God” (p. 255). Sabellius’ doctrine of the Logos was similar to Justin Martyr’s.
    Paul of Samosata (c. 200 – 275) was Bishop of Antioch from 260 to 268. “He held that there was in the divine nature only one hypostasis or person; that Christ was man by nature, yet was higher than other men, as conceived by the Holy Spirit. He first began to exist when born of Mary. The divine Logos united itself with him, and dwelt in him as in no other ever sent of God, but did not, properly speaking, incarnate himself in him; it had in him no personal subsistence. The divine Reason itself, the Wisdom or Power of God, revealed itself in him, as it had never revealed itself in any other prophet. So great was the illumination he hence received, and so was his nature exalted by means of it, that he could with propriety be called the Son of God” (p. 256). Between 269 and 272, the Synod of Antioch condemned and excommunicated Paul. This synod also rejected the term homoousios, ‘consubstantial,’ which, after the Council of Nice [Nicaea], became the very Shibboleth of orthodoxy” (p. 257). Like Artemon, Paul taught Dynamic Monarchianism. (Later his notion of equality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit would be incorporated into the Trinity Doctrine.)

References
Alford, H.W. The Manual of the Scriptural Doctrine of the Trinity, Investigated and Defended. Dover, New Hampshire: The Trustees of the Freewill Baptist Connection, 1842.

Allen, Thomas. “Early Church Theories of Christ.” Franklinton, North Carolina: TC Allen Co., 2009.

“Amonoean” http://looklex.com/e.o/amonoean.htm. Downloaded July 6, 2009.

Arendzen, John, "Docetae," The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. V. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05070c.htm. Downloaded July 12, 2009.

Arendzen, John. “Manichæism.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. IX. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09591a.htm. Downloaded July 4, 2009.

The Creed of Nicaea – Agreed at the Council in 325, http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/creed_of_nicaea_325.htm, Downloaded October 29, 2017.

“Docetism.” http://looklex.com/e.o/docetism.htm. Downloaded Jul. 5, 2009.

Fleming, Thomas. “A Plague on Both Their Houses.” Chronicles, Vol. 39, No. 3, March 2015, page 9.

Hase Charles. History of the Christian Church. Translators Charles E. Blumenthal and Conway P. Wing. New York: D. Appleton, 1870.

Lamson, Alvan. First Three Centuries: Or, Notices of the Lives and Opinions of Some of the Early Fathers, With Special Reference to The Doctrine of the Trinity. Reprint. and revised with notes, Ezra Abbot, editor: Boston, Mass.; 1875 reprinted with additional notes, Henry Ierson, editor: London: British and Foreign Unitarian Association,

The Lost Books of the Bible. 1820; reprint. Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Co., 1929; reprint, 1979, New York, New York: Crown Publishing Co.

Milner, Vincent L. Religious Denominations of the World. Philadelphia: Bradley, Garretson & Co., 1872.

“Montanism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Montanism. Downloaded November 12, 2017.

Pressense, E. De. The Early Years of Christianity: Heresy and Christian Doctrine. Translator Anne Harwood. New York: Nelson & Phillips, n.d.

“Q&A.” Grace in Focus. November/December 2017, page 46.

Walker, Williston. A History of the Christian Church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1921.

Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Coley Allen.

More religious articles.

Part 3    Part 5

Friday, June 22, 2018

Development of the Nicene Creed – Part 3

From Justin Through Clement of Alexandria
Thomas Allen

[Reference Note: As this article relies primarily on First Three Centuries by Alvan Lamson, page numbers enclosed in parentheses are to Lamson’s book. References to other works are enclosed in parentheses with the work’s title or the author’s name listed in “References” at the end of this article.]

From Justin to Clement of Alexander
    Like Justin, the Fathers who followed were not Trinitarians. They did not believe in an undivided, coequal, coeternal three being God.
    Tatian (c. 120 – c. 180) was a theologian and a sophist, who taught rhetoric and philosophy. He was educated in the Greek religion and philosophy and was a disciple of Justin Martyr. Sometime after his conversion to Christianity, he founded an ascetic and heretical sect.
    Tatian described “God alone as without beginning, invisible, ineffable, the original cause of all things visible and invisible” (p. 116). He does not apply this description to the Son. His concept of the Logos was similar to Justin’s. However, Tatian did not distinctly associates the Logos with Christ. Nevertheless, he did assert “that God was born in the form of man” (p. 117n). “Tatian regarded the Son as originally and from eternity in and with God, not as a real being or person, but only as an attribute, or by virtue of his power of begetting him; in him and with him, only as all things created were; that is, not as the actual, but as the possible” (p. 116). According to Tatian, the Son had a beginning as a real substance or person; the Father produced the Son. Moreover, after his production, the Son was “a being distinct from the Father, and subordinate to him” (p. 116).
    Theophilus of Antioch (d. 183-5) was the Bishop of Antioch (c. 169 – c. 183). In regards to the Father and the Son, he taught a doctrine similar to Tatian. He described “God as Supreme, ‘the true and only God,’ ‘without beginning’ ‘invisible,’ ‘unbegotten’ and, as such, immutable” (p. 118). The Son he described “as inferior, having, as a real being or person, a beginning, ‘visible,’ ‘begotten,’ and therefore, according to his philosophy, not possessing the attribute of immutability” (p. 118).
    According to Theophilus, the Logos was with God Himself; the Logos of God was what reason was in man. This Logos was God’s helper in creation, and through the Logos as His minister, God made all things.
    Moreover, God the Father “‘cannot be confined to space, or be found in place’” (p. 118). The theophanies in the Old Testament were the Logos, that is, the Son. (However, Theophilus did not apply his concept of the Logos to Christ.)
    About the Logos, Theophilus wrote, “‘Of him, before the creation, God took counsel, he being his own reason, or wisdom. And when he willed to create what he had designed, he begot this Logos, the emitted first-born of every creature; not emptying himself of Logos (Reason), but begetting it, and always holding converse with his own Logos (Reason).’ Thus the uttered or begotten Logos or Reason of God became a real person, having a proper subsistence in himself, without diminishing, or taking from, God’s understanding, Logos or Reason” (pp. 118-119). In this way, Theophilus made a marked distinction between the internal and begotten Logos.
    Furthermore, Theophilus contended that only the true God, the Father, was to be worshiped. He believed that the Son was “begotten, or produced from the reason of the Father, a little before the creation of the world; thus becoming a distinct being subject to the will of the Father, and not entitled to equal adoration” (p. 119).
    “Theophilus was the first Christian writer who used the term ‘Trias,’ Trinity, in reference to the Deity: but it is deserving of remark, that, to adopt the modern phraseology, the three ‘distinctions,’ or three ‘somewhats,’ designated by it, are, according to him, ‘God, his Logos, and his Wisdom’” (p. 120). By Wisdom, he may have meant Spirit, though Spirit was usually considered synonymous with the Logos or Word. Yet he did not assert that the three were equal.
    Athenagoras (c. 133 – c. 190) was a Greek philosopher who converted to Christianity, after which he wrote apologies for Christians and a treatise on the Resurrection. According to Athenagoras, the Son of God “‘is the Logos (Reason) of the Father in idea and operation.’ ‘Through it all things were made.’ ‘The Son of God is the understanding and reason of the Father.’ ‘God from the beginning being eternal reason, had in himself the Logos (Reason), being always rational’” (pp. 121-122). Thus, the “attribute reason, or wisdom, was eternal, but not the Son as a personal being” (p. 122).
    Like most of the other ante-Nicene Fathers, Athenagoras maintained the supremacy of the Father, who was “‘unbegotten and eternal’ [and who] created all things by his Logos, or Reason” (p. 122). To Athenagoras, the Holy Spirit was “something flowing out from God, as rays flow from the sun, and are re-absorbed, that is, not as a person, but an influence” (p. 123). The Logos “is the eternal reason of God. . . . The Holy Spirit is the Divine Wisdom, the bond of unity between the Father and the Son” (Pressense, p. 250).
    Irenaeus (130 – 202) became the Bishop of Lyons in 177. He wrote five books against the Gnostic heretics. Unlike most Christian writers of his era, he avoided abstract metaphysics of the Platonist Fathers.
    According to Irenaeus, the Son had a second existence and was inferior to the Father. However, he did not discuss the mode of the Son’s generation because he considered it inexplicable. No one knew the Son’s generation except “‘the Father who begat and the Son who was begotten’” (p. 124). However, in his arguments against Gnosticism, he connected the Son with the terms “always” and “eternal.”
    Always, he was careful “to distinguish the Son from the ‘One true and only God,’ who is ‘supreme over all,’ and ‘besides whom there is no other’” (p. 124). The Father is above all and is the head of Christ. Further, he declared that the Church “‘has received from the Apostles and their disciples this belief in one God the Father, supreme over all . . . and in one Jesus Christ . . . and in the Holy Spirit, that through the prophets preached the dispensations.’” (p. 125). Thus, the “Father ‘sends,’ the ‘Son is sent:’ the Father ‘commands,’ the Son executes, ministering to his will. The Father grants, the Son receives, power and dominion” (p. 125). Consequently, Irenaeus did not conceive “of the Son as numerically the same Being with the Father, or as, in any sense, his equal” (p. 125).
    Like the Apostolic Fathers, Irenaeus held that Jesus Christ had one nature and that he “suffered in his whole nature” (p. 126). Jesus was the Logos of God, and the Logos became flesh and suffered. Thus, Jesus “suffered in his most exalted nature” (p. 127). (Modern Trinitarians maintain that Jesus Christ has two natures, divine and human. Whenever Jesus fails to act divinely, such as his lack of omniscience in not knowing the time of the end [Mark 8:32], Trinitarians claim that he was acting in his human nature. Also, only Jesus’ human nature died on the cross because God, being eternal, cannot die. Thus, this dual nature of Christ gives them an easy escape in ignoring or explaining away the clear teachings of the Bible that contradict their dogma.) “Like the old Fathers generally, before the time of Origen, Irenaeus did not attribute to the Saviour a rational human soul but supposed that the Logos supplied the place of it” (p. 127). He held “1. That the Son was really divine; 2. That this divine element was perfectly joined to humanity in Jesus Christ” (127n). Thus, Christ was “God, God and man” (p. 127n).
    Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240) was a presbyter and later became a Montanist. He has been called “the father of Latin Christianity” and “the founder of Western theology.” (Montanists believed that the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete whom Jesus had promised in the Gospel of John, was manifesting himself to the world through Montanist prophets; they also taught a rigorous legalistic moralism and asceticism.)
    Tertullian maintained the supremacy of the Father. However, he believed “that the Son is entitled to be called God, on the principle, that ‘whatever is born of God is God,’ just as one born of human parents is human” (p. 129). Although he states that the Son possessed “‘unity of substance’ with God” (p. 129), Tertullian “never meant to express a numerical unity of essence, but only a specific, that is, a common nature” (p. 129). He supposed that “the Son to be in some sort divine by virtue of his birth, and of one substance with God, as he is a spirit, and God is spirit. At the same time, he regarded him as a different being from the Father, that is, numerically distinct from him” (p. 129). However, this distinction did make two Gods: “‘[T]he Son is subordinate to the Father as he comes from him as the principle, but is never separated’” (p. 130n). Still, “God and Christ are two things, two species, two forms” (p. 130). Tertullian 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 who does a thing, different from him by whom (as an instrument) it is done’” (p. 130). Furthermore, the Son is inferior to the Father. According to Tertullian, “‘The Father is a whole substance; the Son a derivation, and portion of the whole, as he professes, saying, “The Father is greater than I”’” (p. 131).
    Although he admits to “the pre-existence of the Son, [he] expressly denies his eternity” (p. 131). He states, “‘There was a time when the Son was not.’ . . . ‘Before all things, God was alone.’ . . . [N]othing existed without or beyond himself. ‘Yet he was not alone; for he had his own reason, which was in himself, with him. For God is rational’ a being endued with reason” (p. 131). Moreover, the Father was “‘more ancient, nobler, and more powerful than the Son’” (p. 132).
    Nevertheless, after he became a Montanist, he described the Godhead in terms approaching the modern Trinity Doctrine. He wrote, “‘All are of one, by unity of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded which distributes the unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; three, however . . . not in substance but in form; not in power but in appearance, for they are of one substance and one essence and one power, inasmuch as He is one God from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ He describes these distinctions of the Godhead as ‘persons,’ meaning by the word not our [Trinitarians] usage in the sense of personalities, but forms of manifestation” (Walker, p. 69). (Did he come to this conclusion by studying the Scriptures or was it a special revelation to a Montanist?) Ironically, while some Trinitarians claim Tertullian’s Montanist statement supports the Trinity Doctrine, others claim that Montanists were hostile to Trinitarian ideas — even Tertullian, expressed his disdain toward Trinitarians with his Monarchian explanation of the trinity.
    Tertullian also believed Christ consisted of two natures: divine and human. “We see His double state, not intermixed but conjoined in one person, Jesus, God and man” (Walker, p. 69).
    To the objections that he and the others like him were advocating two or three Gods, Tertullian replied that the number and deposition of the Trinity were not a division of the unity. His solution was a monarchy. Monarchy was “one rule or dominion, but may be administered through many officials; or the monarch may associate his son with him, all power still emanating from him. The monarchy then remains. So with the divine monarchy” (p. 134-135). The heavenly King’s use of “‘the Son and Spirit, who are second and third to him, and of a similar nature as begotten of his substance’” (p. 135) does not destroy the monarchy. Tertullian noted “that the Son does ‘nothing without the Father’s will;’ that all his ‘power was received from the Father’ who granted it.” Under Tertullian’s explanation, Christ lacks supreme divinity and numerical identity with the Father. Tertullian’s unity is that “the Son was of Divine origin, and his will always harmonized with the will of the Father, which is no unity at all in the later Athanasian [Trinitarian] sense” (p. 135).
    Hippolytus (170 – 235) was a Roman presbyter and Bishop of Pontus and an apologist for what was the considered orthodoxy. About 220, he wrote A Refutation of All Heresies.
    About the Trinity, Hippolytus believed in strict subordination. “He asserted that ‘God caused the Logos to proceed from him when he would and as he would’” (p. 238). He believed in “the superiority of the Father, and the dependent and derived nature of the Son” (p. 212). Like other ante-Nicene Fathers, he believed that God used a subordinate being or instrument in creating the world; this subordinate being was the Logos, the Son: “‘This sole and universal God first, by his cogitation, begets the Word (Logos), . . . the indwelling Reason of the universe.’ — ‘When he (the Logos) came forth from Him who begat him, being his first-begotten speech, he had in himself the ideas conceived by the Father. When, therefore, the Father commanded that the world should be, the Logos accomplished it in detail, pleasing God’” (p. 213). Thus, “God is the Original: he commands, and the Son, or Logos performs” (p. 213). Yet, the Logos “is not confounded with the world, since it exists antecedently to it, and proceeds not from nothing, but from the Father Himself, . . . but He does not possess a distinct existence from all eternity. He exists first as the creative thought, then He becomes the instrument of creation, the sovereign agent of the Divine will, to call into life contingent beings. He is thus a person, not simply an idea” (Pressense, pp. 406-407). Hippolytus conceived of the Logos to be a person, not simply an idea. The Father alone produced the Logos “not simply as an utterance or sound, but as the inner thought of the universe” (Pressense, p. 407).
    To explain away the appearance of two Gods, Hippolytus declared, “‘There are not, then, two Gods, but one God in two persons. The third economy is the grace of the Holy Spirit.’ The Father commands, the Son obeys, the Holy Spirit enlightens. The Father is over all, the Son acts by all, the Holy Spirit is in all” (Pressense, p. 408). (Later, following Hippolytus’ method of a mere assertion to reduce two Gods to one, the Trinitarians would reduce three Gods to one by merely declaring them to be one God.)
    The Fathers between Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria introduced the thought of a trinity. Also, they advanced the notion of God’s reason, the Logos, which or who later became the Son and Christ, existing from eternity with the Father. Thus, they continued the Platonization of Christianity.
    However, they still maintained the supremacy of the Fathers and the subordination of the Son and struggle with the notion of two Gods, ditheism, or three Gods, tritheism. Moreover, like most earlier Fathers, most continued to “believed that Christ did not possess a human rational soul, the Logos supplying its place” (p. 135).

Clement of Alexandria
    Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 215) was a philosopher before he became a Christian. He was a presbyter and became the head of the Catechetical or Theological School in Alexandria. He advanced the application of Greek philosophy, primarily that of Plato and the Stoics, to Christianity. As Philo had interpreted Judaism by philosophy into scientific dogma, so Clement interpreted Christianity. He was somewhat gnostic as he was inclined to equate knowledge of and about God to salvation. (Later, many clergymen would act the same way when they thought that salvation depended on believing the Trinity Doctrine.)
    His residence was Alexandria, where “the Jewish, the Oriental, and the Grecian culture, mingled with the old Egyptian superstitions” (p. 140). The people of these cultures were generally hostile to the religion of Jesus. Also, the home of Philo and the Platonist school were in Alexandria.
    Clement believed that the Son existed before the world. Although he gave the Son the title God, he did not ascribe to him supreme, underived divinity. Moreover, like the other early Fathers, he did not believe that the Son had a personal existence from the beginning.
    “The Fathers ascribed to the Son a sort of metaphysical or potential existence in the Father: that is, they supposed that he existed in him from all eternity as an attribute his logos, reason, or wisdom; that, before the formation of the world, this attribute acquired by a voluntary act of the Father a distinct personal subsistence, and became his instrument in the creation” (pp. 148-149). Likewise, Clement held that the Logos was the reason or wisdom of God. That is, the Logos was an attribute of the Father.
    Moreover, the Son was inferior to the Father. (For passages from Clement’s writings asserting the Son’s inferiority, see Lamson, pp. 150-151. For additional description of God the Father, the Logos, and the Son and their relationship, see Pressense, pp. 257-260.) “Clement believed God and the Son to be numerically distinct; in other words, two beings, the one supreme, the other subordinate” (p. 150). He conceived of the Son, or Logos, as the image of God as man is the image of man. Thus, his view of the Logos was like that of his predecessors. Like them, he had no concept of the eternal generation of the Son as do Trinitarians.
    To Clement, the Logos was “the source of all the intelligence and morality of the human race — the teacher of mankind everywhere” (Walker, p. 78). God was the giver of philosophy to the Greeks. He declared, “‘For this was a schoolmaster to bring the Hellenic mind, as the law the Hebrews, to Christ” (Walker, p. 78). Moreover, his “view of Christ’s life is almost Docetic” (Walker, p. 78). (Docetists believed “that Jesus Christ had appeared as a phantom form, that he had not had a real or natural body, and that his crucifixion had only been an illusion. . . . Consequently, Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven were denied” [“Docetism”]. Thus, “. . . Christ only ‘appeared’ or ‘seemed[’] to be a man, to have been born, to have lived and suffered” [Arendzen].)
    Clement advanced the notion that being from the Father, who is the supreme God, the Son was God. Since he was from God, his nature was divine. Also, he encouraged the use of Greek philosophy in understanding the Scriptures.

References
Alford, H.W. The Manual of the Scriptural Doctrine of the Trinity, Investigated and Defended. Dover, New Hampshire: The Trustees of the Freewill Baptist Connection, 1842.

Allen, Thomas. “Early Church Theories of Christ.” Franklinton, North Carolina: TC Allen Co., 2009.

“Amonoean” http://looklex.com/e.o/amonoean.htm. Downloaded July 6, 2009.

Arendzen, John, "Docetae," The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. V. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05070c.htm. Downloaded July 12, 2009.

Arendzen, John. “Manichæism.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. IX. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09591a.htm. Downloaded July 4, 2009.

The Creed of Nicaea – Agreed at the Council in 325, http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/creed_of_nicaea_325.htm, Downloaded October 29, 2017.

“Docetism.” http://looklex.com/e.o/docetism.htm. Downloaded Jul. 5, 2009.

Fleming, Thomas. “A Plague on Both Their Houses.” Chronicles, Vol. 39, No. 3, March 2015, page 9.

Hase Charles. History of the Christian Church. Translators Charles E. Blumenthal and Conway P. Wing. New York: D. Appleton, 1870.

Lamson, Alvan. First Three Centuries: Or, Notices of the Lives and Opinions of Some of the Early Fathers, With Special Reference to The Doctrine of the Trinity. Reprint. and revised with notes, Ezra Abbot, editor: Boston, Mass.; 1875 reprinted with additional notes, Henry Ierson, editor: London: British and Foreign Unitarian Association,

The Lost Books of the Bible. 1820; reprint. Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Co., 1929; reprint, 1979, New York, New York: Crown Publishing Co.

Milner, Vincent L. Religious Denominations of the World. Philadelphia: Bradley, Garretson & Co., 1872.

“Montanism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Montanism. Downloaded November 12, 2017.

Pressense, E. De. The Early Years of Christianity: Heresy and Christian Doctrine. Translator Anne Harwood. New York: Nelson & Phillips, n.d.

“Q&A.” Grace in Focus. November/December 2017, page 46.

Walker, Williston. A History of the Christian Church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1921.

Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Coley Allen.

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Part 2    Part 4

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Development of the Nicene Creed – Part 2

Justin Martyr
Thomas Allen

[Reference Note: As this article relies primarily on First Three Centuries by Alvan Lamson, page numbers enclosed in parentheses are to Lamson’s book. References to other works are enclosed in parentheses with the work’s title or the author’s name listed in “References” at the end of this article.]

Justin Martyr
    Justin Martyr (100–165) was an itinerant preacher, a Christian apologist, and a philosopher. Before his conversion to Christianity, he had studied at various schools of Greek philosophy. Among his writings are the Dialogue with Trypho and the Apology.
    Justin was the Church Father primarily responsible for developing the metaphysical notion of the Logos-doctrine of the Son, which became the foundation of the Trinity Doctrine. As discussed below, the Logos-doctrine did not come from the Old or New Testaments. It grew out of the Greek philosophy of Plato.
    Justin and his Platonism along with the Alexandrian School that followed him led the way to introducing “darkness and error into the theology of the period, error which was transmitted to subsequent times, and from the overshadowing effects of which the Christian world has not yet fully recovered” (p. 28).
    Justin developed the Logos-doctrine of Christ and applied it to his fanciful interpretation of the Old Testament. (For examples of these interpretations, see Lamson, pp. 52-53, 55-58.) He was a leader in combining Christianity with Platonic philosophy.
    Moreover, he often used “the allegorical mode of interpretation adopted by Philo and his school. He is perpetually beating about for hidden meanings, and far-fetched and mystical constructions, and typical representations and fanciful resemblances” (p. 56).
    (Philo [25 B.C. – 50 A.D.] was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher. He has been called the Jewish Plato.)
    Justin appeared to have had a greater understanding of Greek poets and philosophers than he had of the Old Testament. He was neither exact nor profound in his writings.
    He promoted the Logos-doctrine or the doctrine of the divine nature of Christ. His doctrine of the Logos is similar to that of Philo and the Alexandrian Platonists. (Lamson wrote that “the original and distinctive features of the doctrine of the Logos, as held by the learned Fathers of the second and third centuries, we must look, not to the Jewish Scriptures, nor to the teachings of Jesus and his Apostles, but to Philo and the Alexandrian Platonists. . . . the doctrine of the Trinity was of gradual and comparatively late formation; that it had its origin in a source entirely foreign from that of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures; that it grew up, and was ingrafted on Christianity, through the hands of the Platonizing Fathers; that in the time of Justin, and long after, the distinct nature and inferiority of the Son were universally taught; and that only the first shadowy outline of the Trinity had then become visible” [p. 62].)
    Justin developed the Logos-doctrine in part to rebut Jewish and Heathen accusations about “the humble origin and ignominious death of Jesus as a reproach on Christianity” (p. 63). To overcome the reproach of the cross, Christians had, by Justin’s time, begun emphasizing Jesus’ miraculous virgin birth from which came the notion of the pre-existing Logos.
    Justin describes the Son as “as ‘the Logos, that, before created things, was with God, and begotten, when, through him, he [God] in the beginning created and adorned all things’” (p. 63). Thus, he excluded the “doctrine of the ‘eternal generations’” (p. 64). Also, he considered “the Son as the ‘beginning’ of God’s ‘ways to his works’” (p. 64). Thus, the Son was not eternal. Further, “Christ is ‘the first-born of God’” (p. 65).
    According to Justin, “Socrates knew Christ in part; for he is ‘that reason (logos) which is in all’ and whatever was well said or done by philosophers and legislators is to be attributed to the Logos in part shared by them. . . . This Logos was Christ, who afterwards became flesh” (p. 66). This Logos guided the patriarchs and the prophets and was implanted in every mind.
    “Justin believed this divine principle of reason was converted into a real being. . . . Jesus Christ . . . was the Logos, the first progeny of God, born without commixtion’” (p. 67). The Son is “‘the Logos of God, born of Him in a peculiar manner, and out of the course of ordinary births’” (p. 68).
    Justin used “Logos” in different senses. When he used it with reference to God, he usually meant “reason,” which was “considered as an attribute of the Father; and that, by the generation of the Son, he understood the conversion of this attribute into a real person. The Logos, which afterwards became flesh, originally existed in God as his reason, or perhaps his wisdom or energy. Having so existed from eternity, it was, a little before the creation of the world, voluntarily begotten, thrown out, or emitted, by the Father, or proceeded from him; for these terms are used indiscriminately to express the generation of the Son, or the process by which what before was a quality acquired a distinct personal subsistence” (p. 68). Thus, “the logos, or reason, which once constituted an attribute of the Father, was at length converted into a real being, and that this was done by a voluntary act of the Father” (p. 68). This process by which this conversion occurred was called “generation,” “emission,” and “creation.”
    Justin and other Fathers used “Logos” to express the divine nature of the Son. This notion came from Greek philosophy and not from the Hebrew Scriptures. “Logos” is used in the Septuagint as the translation of the Hebrew word that is translated “word” in English Bibles. Moreover, it does not bear the meaning that Justin and Philo attached to it. Furthermore, the Bible does not hint at “the generation of the Son by the conversion of an attribute of the Father into a real person” (p. 70). Contrariwise, the Old Testament generally describes God anthropomorphically and concretely; it seldom describes Him spiritually (for examples of such descriptions, see Lamson, pp. 71-72).
    In the Old Testament “word” or “Logos” is used in the sense of “speaking”; it is not used in the sense of “reason” as Justin and Philo used it. As such, in the Old Testament “word” or “Logos” is an anthropomorphic act of speaking; it is not used in a metaphysical sense as Justin and Philo used it.
    In the Old Testament, God “wills, and the event corresponds to his will. Here is no allusion to any intermediate agent, to a Son, who receives and executes his commands; a rational power, emanating from his own substance, and forming a link between him and his creatures” (p. 72). This notion of the Son as an intermediate agent came much later.
    The introduction of the Gospel of John comes the closest to supporting the metaphysical notions of Justin concerning the nature of the Son. However, nothing else in John or the other Gospels or Epistles gives any support to his notion. Although Paul’s writings suggest a pre-existing Son, he lacks the metaphysics of John. Mark has Jesus becoming the Son of God by adoption at his baptism. Luke and Matthew have him becoming the Son of God at his conception.
    In developing his Logos-doctrine, Justin drew on sources other than the Scriptures or even the Apostolic Fathers. His notion of Logos corresponded in its essential features with that of the Alexandrian Platonists. (For Trinitarian acknowledgment of the works of the Platonists in developing the Trinity Doctrine, see Lamson, pp. 77-78.)
    According to Philo in his interpretation of the Old Testament, “there is one Supreme God, but [Philo] supposes that there is a second God, inferior to him, and begotten of him, called his reason, Logos. . . .To this Logos, or intelligent nature, emanating from God, as he considers it, he attributes all the properties of a real being, and calls him God’s ‘first born Logos, the most ancient angel’” (pp. 79-80). (Plato used Logos to designate his second principle.) This omnipotent Father granted this archangel “‘the preeminent gift, to stand on the confines of both [the Deity and created], and separate the created from the Creator: he is continually a suppliant to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race, which is exposed to affliction and misery; . . . being neither unbegotten as God, nor begotten as man, but occupying a middle place between the extremes, being a hostage to both’” (p. 80). Philo applies the title of “God” to him, but not in the highest sense. According to him, God is “the fountain of the Logos, and the Logos [is] his instrument, or minister, in forming, preserving, and governing the world; his messenger, and interpreter of his will to man” (p. 80). Thus, Philo used Logos “in the sense of reason, having a proper subsistence, and distinct from God, though emanating from the fountain of his divinity” (p. 81). Whereas sacred writers used Logos simply as “a mode of action in the Deity,” (p. 81), Philo used Logos as “a real being, his agent and minister in executing his will” (p. 81).
    The ante-Nicene Fathers thought that the Son was inferior to the Father. Therefore, because of his inferiority, the Son had to be distinct from the Father. Even Justin considered the Son distinct from and subordinate to the Father.
    Justin contended that two Gods and two Lords existed. One was the Lord in heaven, who is the “‘Lord of that Lord who appeared on earth.’” (p. 85). God the Father is the Lord in heaven, who is also the Creator. The Lord who appeared on the earth, the Son, is an inferior God, who is the mediator between God and man. Moreover, the Son was the subordinate God, who had no will of his own; he only did what the Creator willed him to do. (For some Biblical citations that Justin used to support his argument of two Gods with one being subordinate to the other, see Lamson, pp. 85-86.)
    According to Justin, the Son was the God who appeared to the patriarchs and was an agent in creation. All the theophanies, the visible appearance of God, in the Old Testament “belong to the Logos, or Christ, not to the Supreme God, whose visible personal appearance upon earth he [Justin] regarded as impossible and absurd” (p. 86).
    Justin stated that Christ is God “‘because he is the first-born of every creature’” (p. 87). Moreover, he is “the ‘Lord of hosts, by the will of the Father giving him the dominion’”(p. 87). Furthermore, Justin declared, “‘Who, since he is the first-begotten Logos of God, is God’ that is, he is God by virtue of his birth: in other words, he derived a divine nature from God, just as we derive a human nature from human parents” (p. 87).
    Nevertheless, the Son was not to be regarded “as an object of direct address in prayer” (p. 87). He was the one whom Christians were to pray through to the Father, God.
    To Justin, the Son was distinct from God the Father, but not distinct “in the modern sense, as forming one of three hypostases, or persons, three ‘distinctions,’ or three ‘somewhats’ — but distinct in essence and nature; having a real, substantial, individual subsistence, separate from God, from whom he derived all his powers and titles; being constituted under him, and subject in all things to his will” (p. 88). Therefore, “[t]he Father is supreme; the Son is subordinate: the Father is the source of power; the Son the recipient: the Father originates; the Son, as his minister or instrument, executes” (pp. 88-89). Thus, the Father and the Son are two in number, but one in will.
    In summary, Justin viewed “the Logos, or Son, as a rational power begotten of God, and his instrument in forming the world, distinct from him, and subordinate” (p. 89). His concept of the Son and Logos cannot be found in the Old Testament or the New Testament. Moreover, the Apostles, the writers of the New Testament, and their immediate successors never alluded to it. However, Philo and the Alexandrian Platonists expressed the same notion of the Logos as Justin. Therefore, Justin derived his concept of the Son and Logos from the Platonic philosophy instead of from the Scriptures. Through him, this Platonic notion of the Logos and the Son entered Christianity.
    Because Justin declared that the Son is subordinate to the Father and that the Son is not eternal, his doctrine falls short of the Trinity Doctrine. According to the Trinity Doctrine, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal and one numerical essence or substance — the three in One, i.e., the Supreme Being. The ante-Nicene Fathers agreed with Justin that the Son was not equal to the Father, and, unlike the Father, he was not eternal. Moreover, the Son was independent of the Father; they were not the same being.
    (For Justin’s views on the Holy Spirit, see Lamson, pp. 93-95.)
    Strictly speaking, Justin and the other ante-Nicene Fathers were unitarians. They believed that the Son was really distinct from the Father and was inferior to him.
    However, Justin did plant a seed that would eventually mature into the Trinity Doctrine. Thus, his Logos-doctrine eventually changed Christianity from a unitarian, monotheistic, religion to a trinitarian, tritheistic, religion.
    Opinions about the nature of the Son varied. Justin and others believed in Christ’s pre-existence. Others believed in the simple humanity of Jesus. (“The question whether Jesus were the Messiah, the Christ of God, or not, did not involve the question of his nature. . . . [T]he question of Christ’s nature or of his pre-existence had nothing to do with the question of his sufficiency as a Saviour, but all depended on God’s appointment” [p. 100].)

References
Alford, H.W. The Manual of the Scriptural Doctrine of the Trinity, Investigated and Defended. Dover, New Hampshire: The Trustees of the Freewill Baptist Connection, 1842.

Allen, Thomas. “Early Church Theories of Christ.” Franklinton, North Carolina: TC Allen Co., 2009.

“Amonoean” http://looklex.com/e.o/amonoean.htm. Downloaded July 6, 2009.

Arendzen, John, "Docetae," The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. V. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05070c.htm. Downloaded July 12, 2009.

Arendzen, John. “Manichæism.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. IX. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09591a.htm. Downloaded July 4, 2009.

The Creed of Nicaea – Agreed at the Council in 325, http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/creed_of_nicaea_325.htm, Downloaded October 29, 2017.

“Docetism.” http://looklex.com/e.o/docetism.htm. Downloaded Jul. 5, 2009.

Fleming, Thomas. “A Plague on Both Their Houses.” Chronicles, Vol. 39, No. 3, March 2015, page 9.

Hase Charles. History of the Christian Church. Translators Charles E. Blumenthal and Conway P. Wing. New York: D. Appleton, 1870.

Lamson, Alvan. First Three Centuries: Or, Notices of the Lives and Opinions of Some of the Early Fathers, With Special Reference to The Doctrine of the Trinity. Reprint. and revised with notes, Ezra Abbot, editor: Boston, Mass.; 1875 reprinted with additional notes, Henry Ierson, editor: London: British and Foreign Unitarian Association,

The Lost Books of the Bible. 1820; reprint. Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Co., 1929; reprint, 1979, New York, New York: Crown Publishing Co.

Milner, Vincent L. Religious Denominations of the World. Philadelphia: Bradley, Garretson & Co., 1872.

“Montanism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Montanism. Downloaded November 12, 2017.

“Q&A.” Grace in Focus. November/December 2017, page 46.

Pressense, E. De. The Early Years of Christianity: Heresy and Christian Doctrine. Translator Anne Harwood. New York: Nelson & Phillips, n.d.

Walker, Williston. A History of the Christian Church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1921.

Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Coley Allen.

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Part 1    Part 3

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Development of the Nicene Creed – Part 1

The Apostolic Fathers
Thomas Allen

[Reference Note: As this article relies primarily on First Three Centuries by Alvan Lamson, page numbers enclosed in parentheses are to Lamson’s book. References to other works are enclosed in parentheses with the work’s title or the author’s name listed in “References” at the end of this article.]

Be careful that you don’t let anyone rob you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ. – Colossians 2:8
    The Trinity Doctrine developed over centuries. This article traces that development to the Nicene Creed, which was the first important component of the Trinity Doctrine, from the Apostolic Fathers through the Arian controversy.
    In this article, “Trinity Doctrine” means the Trinity Doctrine as expressed in the Athanasian Creed. “Doctrine of the Trinity” means the orthodox concept of or teaching about the Trinity at that time.
    Being simple and apparently ignorant people, the Apostolic Fathers, Christian writers of the first and early second centuries, believed what the Bible said about the Father and the Son. They had no indication that it contained the Trinity Doctrine, especially like the one of today.
    From Justin Martyr and Philo, the philosophy of the Platonists was applied to the Scriptures. Applying Platonic philosophy to the Scriptures was the first major contribution of the Trinity Doctrine. By applying Platonic philosophy to the Scriptures, Justin discovered that “Logos” no longer meant the spoken word. Using metaphysics, he changed Logos to mean reason — God’s reason. This reason, Logos, became a second God, the pre-existing Son. Thus, the Logos-doctrine entered Christianity. However, the Son had not yet become eternal; he had a beginning. Nor had he become the equal of God the Father; he was still subordinate.
    The Fathers between Justin and Clement of Alexander brought into Christianity the thought of a Trinity and advanced the notion of the eternal existence of the Logos, the Son.
    Origen advanced the unity of the Father and the Son, i.e., the Son was in the Father instead of with the Father. Thus, the Father and the Son were becoming one. Also, he advanced the notion that the Son had both a divine and human nature, that is, Christ possessed a rational human soul, which had been denied since Justin developed the Logos-doctrine. Further, some interpret his works as hinting at the Son having existed from eternity. However, he maintained that the Father was superior to the pre-existing Son and that the Father and the Son were two different substances.
    Between Origen and Arius, the unity of the Father and the Son was becoming more pronounced, although the Son remained distinct from and subordinate to the Father.
    When Alexander, the Bishop of Alexandria, began teaching more oneness of the Father and Son, Arius accused him of Sabellianism — thus, began the Arian controversy. Although Arius thought that he was defending the doctrine of the Trinity as it existed then, Alexander and others disagreed. Arius had stripped the Trinity of its Platonic metaphysics. The Arian controversy peaked with the Council of Nicaea, which issued the Nicene Creed. Among other things, the creed declared the Father and the Son to be one substance.
    Some Fathers discussed below were sainted; some were condemned as heretics. By the standard of the Trinity Doctrine, all were heretics with the possible exception of Dionysius of Rome and Alexander of Alexandria. Strictly speaking, nearly all of them were also unitarians.
     Nearly all, if not all, the ante-Nicene Fathers were Early Unitarians. Early Unitarians were strict monotheists. They believed that there is but one God who is infinite, eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient — that is the Father. They believed that the Son is not eternal and, therefore, has a beginning and is subordinate to the Father. However, some considered the Son to be of the same substance or essence as the Father; that is, they believed in a common nature, but not numerical unity. Still, others considered him to be of a different substance or essence. In any event, nearly all believed that the Father and Son are two distinct and independent beings. Moreover, they disagreed whether the son is pre-existing. Also, if he became deified, they disagreed about when he became deified: before creation, at conception, with his baptism, or at his resurrection. Many of these Early Unitarians considered the Logos to be God’s reason that became the Son or incarnated in the Son. Thus, the Son was an attribute of God — His reason. None believed that the Holy Spirit is a person in the modern Trinitarian sense; most thought of it as an attribute of God. (For arguments why anyone who does not accept the Trinity Doctrine is not a Trinitarian, but is a Unitarian, see Alford.) Until the about 200 years ago, most unitarians believed in a Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but it was not the Trinity of the Trinity Doctrine of three co-equal, co-eternal Gods being one God — neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit were Deities. Lacking such belief, they are disqualified from being Trinitarians. Early Unitarians should not be confused with Modern Unitarians or Modern Unitarianism (also known as Universal Unitarianism and Rational Unitarianism) as represented by the Unitarian Universal Association. Modern Unitarianism came into being about 200 years ago. Initially, Modern Unitarians began acting like Montanists — receiving divine revelations that superseded the Scriptures. Soon they no longer needed the Scriptures. Before long they became like Jewish rabbis with God conferring with them. Now they no longer recognize God because they have traded theology for ideology. Modern Unitarians are much closer to the liberal Protestants and modernist Catholics than any of them are to most of the ante-Nicene Fathers. Like many liberal and modernist clergy and members of other denominations, Modern Unitarians are mostly ideologues, scientismists, secular humanists, agnostics, and naturalists. (Modern Unitarians should not be confused with today’s traditional Unitarians, who agree with various brands of orthodoxy on most theological issues except the Trinity Doctrine and the natural immortality of the soul. Traditional Unitarians adhere closely to the Christology of Clement of Rome and Polycarp.)
    A heretic is anyone who disagrees with the doctrine of another that is esteemed so highly that it has become dogma — especially if the other is much more powerful than the dissenter. Today, the greatest heresy in Christendom is Protestantism — at least from the Catholic perspective. Conversely, for many Protestants, the greatest heresy is Catholicism — even to the point of the Catholic Church or the Pope being the anti-Christ of Revelation. Moreover, what is orthodoxy in one era can be heresy in another.  (For example, in the early decades of the church, people who taught that man’s soul is innately immortal were heretics. Today, people who teach that man’s soul is not innately immortal are heretics.)

The Apostolic Fathers
    Clement of Rome (d. 99) was a disciple of Peter and later Bishop of Rome (88-99) and is considered the first Apostolic Father. He was the author of two letters: the First Epistle of Clement and the Second Epistle of Clement, which many consider spurious. One ancient collection of canonical Scriptures included his First Epistle.
    According to Clement, prayer was to be addressed only to God the Father and not to Christ, the Son. “God ‘sends;’ Jesus is ‘sent.’ ‘The Apostles preached to us from our Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ from God. Christ therefore was sent from God, the Apostles from Christ; both being fitly done according to the will of God” (p. 5). Clement declared, “‘God has made our Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits, raising him from the dead’” (p. 5). Thus, the Father made or created the son; therefore, the Son was not eternal as the Trinity Doctrine proclaims. Clement called Christ the “‘sceptre of the majesty of God,’ language which implies instrumentality, not identity or equality of person. The term God is not once applied to him” (p. 6). Clement clearly distinguished Christ from the one and only God (the Father). He writes of the Father as “‘the true and only God’ ‘the great Artificer and Sovereign Ruler of all’ [‘]the All-seeing God and Ruler of Spirits, and Lord of all flesh, who chose our Lord Jesus Christ’” (p. 6). No where in his epistle did Clement teach the supreme divinity of Christ. He taught that Christ was subordinate to the Father and was not his equal as the Trinity Doctrine declares. In summary, Clement declared that God is “the fountain of all power and blessing, and Jesus Christ as his Son, sent by Him to be the Saviour of men. The Father is above all; His glory and majesty are underived; the Son derives from Him his power and dignity, his offices and dominion” (p. 9).
    Hermas (wrote 115 – 140) wrote the Shepherd of Hermas, which was written possibly in the late first century, but more likely in the early to mid second century and which some Apostolic Fathers considered canonical scripture. He is believed to have been the brother Pius, Bishop of Rome. He wrote three books that made up the Shepherd of Hermas: Visions, Commands, and Similitudes.
    According to Hermas, God (the Father) “is the Supreme and Infinite One, the sole independent Creator and Governor of the universe, who alone is Eternal” (p. 13). Thus, the Son was not an eternal being. Moreover, Hermas gave the highest titles and epithets to God and never to the Son. The Son was subject to and received all from the father. Therefore, he was subordinate to God the Father and was not his equal. God created the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Holy Spirit was not eternal, but was created. Some critics identify “Holy Spirit” as Christ in the Shepherd of Hermas. If true, then Christ, the Son, is created and not eternal. However, Hermas did believe in the pre-existence of the Son.
    Polycarp (69 – 155), Bishop of Smyrna, was the author of the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, which was probably written around 110 – 140. The Fathers believed that Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John.
    In his epistle, Polycarp proclaimed “the supremacy of the Father, and the subordination of the Son” (p. 20). He wrote, “‘Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave him glory and a throne at His right hand; to whom all things in heaven and on earth are made subject, whom every living creature shall worship’ not, however, as supreme” (p. 20). To Polycarp, Christ is the high priest “but not God himself” (p. 21). He did not conceive of “Jesus Christ as equal with God, or as one with Him, except in will and purpose. . . . The Father is separated from the Son by a broad and distinct line; one as supreme, the other as subordinate; one as giving, the other as receiving; the Father granting to the Son a ‘throne at His right hand’” (p. 21). Polycarp had “no metaphysics, no confusion or obscurity, [and] no hair splitting distinctions” (p. 21).
    Barnabas (d. 131) may have been the Barnabas who was a companion of Paul, but most critics reject this Barnabas as the author of the Epistle of Barnabas. Many Fathers considered this epistle to be canonical. Most likely, this epistle was written about the middle of the second century. However, some believe that it was written in the latter part of the first century or the first quarter of the second century.
    Barnabas believed in the pre-existence of the Son, who was “‘God’s instrument in the creation’” (p. 23). However, contrary to the Trinity Doctrine, Barnabas maintained the supremacy of the Father throughout his epistle. He avoided confounding the Son with the Father and never made the Son the equal of the Father. His epistle is void of the Logos-doctrine.
    None of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, of whom the above four are considered, contained the Logos-doctrine. “The absence of all traces of the [Logos-]doctrine in these writings can be explained only on the supposition that the authors ‘did not,’ in the words of Souverain, ‘find it in the Christian religion, nor in the Jewish; and, not having studied in the school of Plato, they could not import it from that school into the Church of Christ.’”(pp. 24-25). For the Apostolic Fathers, “‘[e]very such application of the idea of the Logos was foreign to their minds’” (p. 25). Thus, the Logos-doctrine grew out of Greek speculation and metaphysics, and not out of the Scriptures. Therefore, the foundation of the Trinity Doctrine is Greek speculation and metaphysics — primarily from Plato.

References
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Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Coley Allen.

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