The Episcopalians Strike Back!

May 6, 2010

It seems that I’ve rustled the feathers of my recent Episcopalian acquaintance. He has responded with something that I think he wishes to present as an argument for excluding my view. Who would have guessed that such inclusive folks could be so exclusive? 

The reply is riddled with the typical left wing clap trap and moralistic superciliousness. But fortunately it gives me an opportunity, to point out another example of exactly what I pointed out previously, namely that what is offered there and being offered nationally by TEC is not Christianity, but something else. If you read the reply, there is no shortage of fallacious material to which to respond. Here he was quite generous and liberal.

The narrative grid in which my opponent places his response is that of fear. The root cause of all evil in the world, and specifically bad theology, you see, is fear. We construct grand systems of “oppression” and “separation” out of “fear.” We then become a mental ostrich loosing all sense, justifying “homophobia” and an army other left wing political bogymen. That might explain why he’s seemingly afraid of my view.

I would have thought that the basis for all bad theology would be to reject what God has revealed and taught. Notice the standard for good theology and bad theology is not what God has revealed but in some parochial disposition. But why take this culture’s disposition at this time as normative? The gloss that is given is also rather self serving and is in fact an idol of my interlocutors’ construction. It seems hard to find anything in what he professes that could point out error or failing in any of the left wing causes he seems to favor. Are left wing ideologies somehow morally perfect and exempt form the thirst for power? I seriously doubt they were immaculately conceived. (It seems I have problems with that notion across the board.) He is simply mirroring and projecting his own preferences, but we need a reason to think that his preferences are the right ones to have.

Appeals to “fear” and other emotional states are either too nebulous or question begging to do any argumentative work. In some cases, fear can be good. It depends on whether the fear is unwarranted or not. So what is the dividing line in that case are the reasons as to whether what is feared is warranted or not and not fear itself.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why I Am Not An Episcopalian

April 12, 2010

For readers who do not know, I am a former Episcopalian. My personal history of religious affiliation goes something like the following. I was baptized Catholic but raised in the Episcopal church until my teen years. From then I’d attend the Episcopal church on Sunday and then Calvary Chapel for “Bible study” on Friday evenings with their youth group. This was on account of a number of reasons, not the least of which was that the youth group at the Episcopal church voted that I should leave since I wanted to read the Bible and not have pizza parties and such. The youth directors agreed given that the kinds of questions I was asking really required a “professional” response. This was after I became exasperated with the whole approach of, let’s sit in a circle and go around the room asking what each person thinks such and so verse means “to me.” At the ripe old age of 13 I blurted out, “I don’t care what it means to me, I just want to know what it means!”

To sum up, I eventually ran into the Horton/Riddlebarger crowd when I was about 17 and then became Reformed for a number of years. I then moved towards a more high church Anglican view, returning to what I had been raised with, ending up in the then, Anglican Catholic Church (ACC). Fortunately I met my wife in the ACC, who was also a life long Anglican, though her family had left the Episcopal church (TEC) earlier than I did and joined the then forming ACC. After a few schisms in the ACC and/or theContinuing church movement and a deepening in my grasp of Christology through an exposure to the teaching of Maximus the Confessor, my wife and I were received into the Orthodox Church.

Recently, I was reminded once again why I am not an Episcopalian. The reminder doesn’t explain why I am Orthodox but it does I think point to something that is worth thinking about and discussing. So the reminder came in a post on another blog that I saw through the WordPress blog feature of Tag Surfer. It allows me to see other recent blog entries across WordPress with similar topics as my own.

The post was by an apostatized Baptist of sorts who returned to “Christianity” through the Episcopal church. The post was an expression of his thoughts on “reformulating” the doctrine of the Trinity. What the post was, was in fact not a reformulation, but more an expression of his rejection of the Trinity and an expression of its perceived uselessness. I didn’t take the post to be overtly hostile, (I am sure he’s a nice fellow) but it wasn’t something that amounted to Christian thinking on the subject and that’s the point. This post expresses the typical adoptionistic Christology found among classical Unitarians and contemporary liberals. Jesus is the man who was more open to the divine or “Spirit” and so is a means by which one is in contact with “God” or “Spirit” and so moved or inspired to “social justice.” The other posts on Hell and other doctrines pretty much fall into the typical liberal, that is Unitarian teaching.

Read the rest of this entry »


De Deo Uno in Calvin

February 22, 2010

“At the same time, in spite of these laudable efforts, [Paul Jacobs and Richard Muller] it is difficult to avoid the impresison that at a crucial level Calvin has failed to integrate his doctrine of election thoroughly with the broader trinitarian theology of revelation, redemption, and human response that we are highlighting here.  For example, in Comm. John 17:9, Calvin asserts that Christ ‘commends to the Father only those whom the Father himself willingly loves.’  Here, as at many other points, the will of the Father is understood as something omniously arbitrary, rather than as being intrinsically and perichoretically related to the divine manifestation of grace in the Son.  Examples could be multiplied. It appears that in spite of the helpful trinitarian direction Calvin has taken in formulating his undersanding of the divine-human relationship, at the point of the doctrine of election his normal emphasis on the thorough perichoresis of Father, Son and Spirit in the divine operations has been effectively and inexplicably suspended.”

Philip Walker Butin, Revelation, Redemption and Response: Calvin’s Trinitarian Understanding of the Divine-Human Relationship, Oxford, 1995, 168, ednt. 6.

“It may be taken as further evidence of his committment to the perichoresis of the trinitarian hypostaseis in God’s economic work that Calvin consistently qualifies the statement that ‘God is the proper object of faith’ with the immediate affirmation that access to God is only through Christ (1159 Institutes II.6.2,4; cf. III.2.6), which appears to turn the relationship around, asserting that the Father offers Christ to us ‘as the goal of our faith’). However, as we have suggested earlier, Calvin is not entirely consistent in focusing faith on God’s benevolence as expressed in ChristHis commitment to the doctrine of the ‘double decree’ (cf. 1559 Institutes III.21.1ff.) leads to the a priori exclusion of the reprobate from this Christological access to God by faith.  This results at certain points in severe tension between his otherwise trinitarian paradigm of revelation, redemption, and human response and his doctrine of election. For example, in the1159 Institutes III.2.9-12, he appears to theologically justify the concept of the ‘double decree’  by making a deliberate exception to his normally characteristic insistence that the work of the Son and the Spirit be held together in the exonomy of redemption.  Thus-in the attempt to explain why some who appear to believe are not ultimately saved (vf. Hebrews 6:4-6)-he can speak of a ‘lower working of the Spirit…in the reprobate.’ This stirs in them a sense that God is merciful toward them and allows them to ‘recognize his grace,’ but apparently operates apart from the effectual grace that God offers in the Son, and hence does not lead to saving faith (1559 Institutes III.2.11).  It seems that Calvin never faced the omnious theological implicaitons of this move for a doctrine of the Trinity that otherwise wants to hold that God’s immanent trinitarian relations are consistently reflected in the ad extra activity of the hypostaseis.  In addition, at this point he seems inexplicably to suspend his otherwise rigorous insistence on the thoroughgoing perichoresis for the doctrine of the divine decrees. Rather, he applies that paradigm only to the issue of the elect believer’s assurance of election, while the operation of election itself is apparently excempted from the consistency with God’s otherwise trinitarian nature, and left to an inscrutable divine will.”

Ibid., 189., ednt. 81.

Read the rest of this entry »


Divine Passivity and Simplicity in Eunomius

December 15, 2009

“It is interesting, however, that though the Neo-Arians made a clear distinction between God’s ungenerated essence and God’s activity (ένεργεία) as Father, Eunomius treated Jn. 14:28 as if it said, ‘The ungenerated essence who sent me is greater than I.”

Kopecek, A History of Neo-Arianism vo. 2, 320.

“From his introductory remarks it is clear that Eunomius intended to base a number of Part III’s arguments upon a refinement of the Middle Platonic theory of language Neo-Arianism had inherited. Like Albinus, Eunomius assumed that there is a ‘natural conformity of names with things’ and that ‘a name is a tool meant for teaching and differentiating the essence of each thing.’ Because it follows that a difference of names indicates a differences of essence, God who is ‘ungenerated’ and the Son who is ‘generate’ must be different in essence.’

Ibid., 321.

Read the rest of this entry »


Contra Mundum: Athanasius and the LDS on Deification

October 30, 2009

For some time, the Mormons have been availing themselves of material in the Fathers of the Church regarding theosis in order to render their own doctrines more plausible. There is no shortage of LDS blogs and websites that exclaim with glee that the LDS doctrine of exaltation is within the bounds of Christian teaching on the basis of the Orthodox cut-n-pastedoctrine of theosis. They routinely pelt Protestants as well as Catholics with patristic material maintaining that not only is their view within the corral of Christian orthodoxy, but that they alone possess the true teaching with respect to deification. They then put such claims in the service of motivating their claims of an apostasy after the apostolic age. Of course, such claims are, so far as I have seen not only false and supported by fallacious reasoning, but in many cases the use of Patristic material would make the cut and pasters over at the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society blush. Here I leave an examination of these specific claims by LDS apologists for another time.

What I wish to look at here is one of the principle texts brought out by LDS apologists and its argument thatStAthanasius4 Athanasius’ doctrine of theosis is inconsistent with his doctrine of creation ex nihilo. This claim has become quite common among Mormon apologists and it is well suited to demonstrate the coherence and strength of the Orthodox position.

The specific text is a doctoral dissertation by Keith E. Norman entitled, Deification: The Context of Athanasian Soteriology. It is available in both print and electronic form. The dilemma so far as I can tell from Norman’s text is that if we are to be deified, then we cannot be created ex nihilo and vice versa. And this is so because things created ex nihilo can’t become deified since by essence, God enjoys a kind of underived existence or aseity.  Humans are therefore radically different or “wholly other”  than God, so much so that it is impossible to become what God is by essence. Something cannot both be beginingless and have a begining. Deification would entail a natural and therefore essential change in humanity which is precluded by the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Without such a change, humans can’t be deified and are left in a mutable metaphysical state apart from salvation. The implication is that the LDS can affirm theosis consistently because they reject the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Therefore LDS theology stands in superior position to the Athanasian and by extension, the Orthodox teaching on deification.

Read the rest of this entry »


Divine Simplicity in Aetius’ Neo-Arianism

October 1, 2009

 “4.  If God remains endlessly in ungenerated essence and the generate is endlessly generate, then the perverse doctrine of the homoousion and the homoiousion will be destroyed. And incomparability in essence is established when each of the two natures remains unceasingly in its proper rank of nature.

5. If God is ungenerated with respect to essence, what was generated was not generated by partition of essence, but he has made it to exist as a hypostasis by his power. For no pious reasoning permits the same essence to be generated and ungenerated.

6.  If the ungenerated has been generated, what prevents the genrerated from having become generated? For every nature shuns what is improper to it for what is proper to it.

7. If God is not entirely ungenerated, nothing hinders him from having generated essentially. But if he is entirely ungenerated, he was not partioned essentially in generation, but he made the generate to exist as a hypostasis by his power.

8. If the ungenerated God is entirely generative, what was generated was not generated essentially, since his entire essence is able to generate but not to be generated.  If the essence of God, having been transformed, is said to be generate, his essence is not unchangeable, since the change effected the formation of the Son. If the essence of God be unchangeableand superior to generation, relationship with the Son will be confessed to be a mere mode of address.”

10. If the generate was complete within the ungenerated,it is generate as a result of the things from which the ungenerrated generated it. This is false, for it is not possible that a generated nature be within an ungenerated essence.  For the same thing is not able both to be an not to be. For a generate thing is not able to be ungenerated, and being ungenerated could not have been a generate thing, since to say that God consists of unlike parts presents to him the height of blasphemy of hybris.

The Syntagmation

“We have seen from our discussion of syllogisms #5 and #6 that Aetius based at least part of his argument against homoousion on the expectation that his opponents would agree to the axiom of God’s essential unity or simplicity. Certainly syllogisms #7 and #8 depend on this axiom.  If God is admitted to be essentially compound, argued #7, then part of God’s essence could remin ungenerated while the other part  would be able to become generated-or, as syllogism #8b put it ‘transformed’ into that which is generated. But since God is admitted not to be compound, if he is ungenerated, he must be entirely ungenerated (#7).  On the other hand, the Christian tradiiton was unanimous in believing that he in some way caused the Son to exist as a separate entity. With partition ruled out, the only alternative left, reiterated Aetius, is that God’s essence created the Son, that ‘he made the generate to exist as a hypostasis by his power.’ (#7). Moreover, given God’s simplicity, the entire essence of God must have been involved in the creation of the son and, in that sense, to have been ‘entirely generative” (#8). The implicaiton was that God’s essence could have been generated in no sense whatsoever. Homoousion of the entirely generative one with the generated one is impossible. We see how crucial the assumption of God’s unity or simplicity was to Aetius arguments; this will become apparent once again when we consider syllogism #10.”

Thomas A. Kopecek, A History of Neo-Arianism, vol. 1, 231-232, 236.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 133 other followers