Patricide has been one of the worst crimes one can commit in western consciousness for a very long time. The father was the source of familial authority for it was the father who went out, albeit with a few buddies, and scooped up some maiden to be his wife. Once the hymen was broken, she died to her old family and familial deities and rose to life to a new set of ancestors. The hymen was the marker of familial ties since one ought not to sleep with their own sister. To do so would put into confusion the ancestral lines in both this world and the next. In any case the maiden took on her husbands name since he became her new father. The father was the source of familial authority or rather he was the author of the family. To kill your father was to rebel against all authority for all authority, particularly of the state was derived from fatherly authority. Patricide is essentially anarchical, against the source or rather the positing of many new sources.
One of the things in modern western religious discourse that peeves me is the constant dialectical framing of issues. One is either Protestant or Catholic. Granted that there are historical bodies that try to bridge the gap such as Anglicanism, but these are either disappearing before our very eyes or were never really what either polemical side wished them to be. In any case, the former makes the latter moot. This way of framing matters leaves out entire swaths of the Christian tradition and not just Orthodoxy, but also the Anabaptists for example.
It also does prospective inquirers a disservice. Very often persons investigating theological matters get stuck in the Protestant-Catholic dialectic never knowing that there are more parties at the table. Of course there are those who should know better. It astonishes me when I meet graduate students or no less professors who convert from one end to the other completely unaware of Orthodoxy. Not a few graduate students I know never even considered Orthodoxy. This is just one example of how matters skew reality.
Recently, Tim Enloe has written a piece over at Reformed Catholicism concerning the influence of late Platonism and its prioritizing of unity over plurality on the development of the papacy. I in part agree with some of what he says, but I think he doesn’t grasp how damaging his critique is to his own Protestant commitments.
Tim latches on to the medieval phrase, “all plurality is derived from unity and to the unity it returns.” He is quite right to see this as a Platonic motivating and structuring concept. (Of course its roots are also in the older Parmenidian tradition.) And Tim is right to notice that this subordinating relationship diminishes the reality of the many in ecclesiology. Of course his reading of Ireneaus needs some work since the key point in the Ireneaus text concerning Rome is the difference between the Latin and Greek reconstruction. But hey, no one is perfect.
What is somewhat baffling is that Tim completely seem to miss the same ruling Platonic assumptions in their theology proper, Christology, soteriology and ecclesiology. First, it should be obvious to him or anyone familiar with Confessional Protestant theology that they too embrace that principle when it comes to the Trinity. Now Tim complains that in Trinitarian theology there is equal ultimacy, but he misses the point that in Latin Trinitarianism this line bakes no bread for a number of reasons. First because it is an equal ultimacy of being and the persons are self subsisting relations of the one being. The category of equality can only apply to things that be. And this should signal a commitment to Augustine’s move of identifying the One with Nous and since the one “be’s” the most appropriate name for God is being. This is no less a part of Protestant Trinitarian thinking than Catholic thought on the matter. Consequently so is the Platonism that Enloe abhors. More to the point, Rome also adheres to “equal ultimacy” since for example in Aquinas the persons are subsisting relations in and of the essence.
Enloe also seems to miss that the Platonism undergirds the Catholic and Protestant commitment to the Filioque. It is quite strange that Protestants adhere to probably the most divisive Papal action in history and that without any serious scriptural warrant and not a peep of protest. I suppose the Trinity doesn’t really matter for Protestants except as necessary background information so Jesus can get punished. It should be quite clear that there is no scriptural justification for the doctrine and yet while Enloe complains about Papal excesses and the Pope’s contemporary apologetic sons, for someone who endorses the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, he seems unaware or unwilling to retract the Filioque and condemn his own confessional standards for requiring subscription to a manifestly unscriptural doctrine. That seems like special pleading. In any case, the filioque can only be defended on philosophical grounds for it is a philosophical doctrine meant to explicate Trinitarian distinctions utilizing opposing relations (the Father is not the Son and so forth.) grounded in a Platonic causal theory. The Father is all cause and no effect, the Son is some cause and some effect and the Spirit is no cause and all effect. Here the basis for Aristotle’s square of opposition should be clear. Protestants are therefore far more children of the Pope and his Platonism than I think they realize.
And it isn’t as if Protestants have utilized “equal ultimacy” either apart from Platonism or consistent with Trinitarianism. Take for example the Trinitarian theology of the Dutch Calvinist Cornelius Van Til. Van Til via influence from Hegelian Idealism (which is Plotinus speaking German, btw) emphasized divine unity in the doctrine of divine simplicity to such a degree that he makes explicit statements to the effect that in God there is only “one divine person.” Reformed thought supplies us with plenty of other gross mistakes due to the influence of Platonism. One has only to read Richard Muller’s Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics vol. 4 to see the standard Platonic dialectic that was at work with the Medievals motivating the same problems in Trinitarian thought for the Reformed. Is it any wonder? The major textbook that Protestant schools were employing on the Continent was Francisco Suarez’s mammoth Disputed Questions in Metaphysics.
It is not as if the negating of the Platonic principle will make one a non-Platonist. It will only relocate you on the Platonic chain of being and consequently the positions made possible along the Platonic dialectic. Negation being part of dialectic as well. Negating absolute unified being as the source of all plurality one won’t give you equal ultimacy but anarchy or polyarchy. Either there will be no personal source of divinity (or government) or there will be many sources and this is exactly what you see in Calvin’s inane and practically tri-theistic notion that the Son and the Spirit are God of themselves, that is autotheos or self generating from the essence. The Reformed confusion between person and nature on the question is astounding. This translates into either the idea that there is no personal source in God or there are many, which is right in line with Reformed political and ecclesiastical theology, not to mention the Socinianism and Arianism that it laid the seeds for in compromising the divine unity established in the person of the Father.
And even if none of that were true, I am not sure what Tim is complaining about since the very same principle undergirds and drives the Reformed view of God. The Reformed and Rome share the fundamentally same view of the Trinity with the persons as self subsisting relations of the essence to itself. The same principle is at work in Reformed theology in discussing the pluralization of simply possessed divine perfections in created beings. This is something that is obvious to anyone who has any familiarity with Medieval Scholasticism in just about any discussion of the real relation that creatures have to God as well as discussions on the divine names. So even if the Reformed in the majority take on the Son and the Spirit being autotheos weren’t problematic in the way I have outlined above, it is still fairly obvious that they maintain the same Platonic metaphysic that Tim is objecting too.
The same fundamental Platonic relationship drives Reformed Christology with Christ as the predestined man who in his human power of operation is subordinated to the divine will, injecting an opposing or dialectical relationship between God and the world. This was the fundamental point on which Arianism turned, which was why Athanasius’ doctrine of creation was so crucial in refuting Arianism. Since there is no dialectical relationship between God and the world, God requires no intermediaries since his relation is direct. In any case the Monothelitism and Monoenergism in Reformed thought should be obvious.
The same Platonic metaphysic guides and drives the Reformed thinking in Predestination as well. There isn’t much difference in essence between the late Platonic predestinarianism of a fall which was necessary and voluntary on the part of the soul into the material world for which it is culpable and the Reformed notion of a predestined yet voluntary fall with imputed corporate guilt. The same subordinating relationship can be seen in soteriology in so far is God is active, humans must be passive, if God is good, humans must be depraved. Here the dialectical relationship between God and creation is clear. Salvation is a return to the One along a predestined path. Is it any wonder that the Reformed cut down the sacraments both in number as well as in terms of the union between God and the world? Was deism so hard to see as a consequence? This is why the Reformed have to understand union with Christ in moral and legal terms, because these denote an extrinsic relationship because the Reformed adhere to the same fundamental doctrine as Rome-union with God is had through means of a created similitude. This is why Christ must merit righteousness and it can’t be the righteousness whereby God is intrinsically righteous. If it were, the collapse of the opposition between created and creator would imply for them absorption in the simple divine essence. Rome and Protestants both think that grace is created, it is just that one is realist and the other a nominalist, but there is nothing more than a causal contiguity between God (cause) and creation (effect), which makes a farce out of 2 pet 1:4. It is not possible for humanity to perform divine activities. This is why for the Reformed the Spirit forms the bond of unity in the church (invisible & subordinating power) as well as playing such a crucial role in the inspiration of the Scriptures (invisible & subordinating power). Humanity is an instrument of the divine will.
As I noted previously, negating the principle doesn’t make one a non-Platonist. Nominalism for example is quite Platonic. It is just lower down on the Platonic scale. Consequently, Protestant ecclesiology of the Confessional variety privileges the many over the one, even if glossed in a conciliarist manner. The same Platonic assumption that Tim rejects is at work in his view of ecclesiology. The many can never be divine, which is why even on his thinner version of conciliarism no Protestant synod could ever yield a decision that was infallible and beyond possible future revision. This is fundamentally no different than the “Bible and me.” This may seem prima facia false but if you think about it taking many leaky buckets and putting them together doesn’t get you an object suitable for containing water. It only takes longer for the leak to become apparent. What Protestants need is a nice Dutch boy with a spare finger to plug the hole, but they seem to be in short supply. Consequently no Protestant synod can yield a judgment concerning the meaning of Scripture that cannot be trumped by the judgment of any one person. Why? Because the authority of the synod is the authority of men because the church is always many and so never infallible and never deified. So, the church is always reforming. No doctrinal judgment is beyond alteration, including the canon of scripture itself since Scripture is subject to the continuing dialectic of reason. If the challenge to Catholics is to justify the Pope as God on Earth in terms of legal equivalence, the challenge for Tim and Protestants is to explain how there could be God on Earth at all. The problem is generated by the kind of metaphysical cleavage and circumscription of creation and its extrinsic relationship to God glossed in terms of efficient causality and law. The implicit Pelagianism of such a view should be obvious. We are confined to the world of nature, to the world of the many. Again deism looms large here. If God’s relation to the world is extrinsic, why think there is a God at all if all of the intrinsic principles of the world run just fine without Him?
Tim also fails to see is the intrinsic connection between the Filioque and the Papacy. Since as Gregory VII argued, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and the Pope is the vicar of Christ on Earth, the Spirit proceeds from the Pope into the Church as the principle of unity. And absolute divine simplicity with dialectic as a mode of individuation and theological method drives the filioque, and Protestants adhere to all three. This is why, just like Rome, Protestants have to appeal to Newman-esque theories of doctrinal development to justify their novelties over against Rome’s novelties, such as sola fide. (Hegel wasn’t Catholic btw.) It is now quite apparent that the philosophical apparatus that made sola fide possible was not in place during the life of the Apostles. It is clearly an artifact of late medieval scholasticism.
Tim’s basic strategy is that of leveling. Anyone sufficiently familiar with Kierkegaard is familiar with it. One derives a kind of intellectual pleasure from showing that those who claim to know, genuinely don’t and are so are brought down to a common level in order to stave off commitment. Tim often does this in his insistence that things aren’t as simple as Catholic apologists make them seem. Well, apart from being obvious, things aren’t as simple as Protestants make them seem either. History doesn’t fit into the little boxes that the Reformers built for it. This is why Protestants have to continue to frame things as an all or nothing deal between two options-Scylla or Charybdis. And this is why they unconsciously keep the Frankish mythology about “Byzantium” and the “Greeks” going. Those facts won’t fit their explanatory paradigm of the 16th century and the preceding ages.
This is why it is quite laughable when Tim starts talking about “what authority is” as if there is some common notion of it floating out and about. Is he even aware of the distortion that concept underwent in the hands of the Franks, divorced from its context in Roman society? I suppose not. To do so would bring into question the entire Latin historical narrative. And of course, despite the Platonism, to be fair, contrary to what Tim alleges against Rome, Unitarianism is a Protestant invention. It doesn’t take a whole lot of brains to read Jonathan Edward’s philosophical monism to figure out that what’s coming in the colonies next. Blame Rome for lots of things, but Unitarianism isn’t one of them.
All of this is a perfect example of killing your father. Protestants are determined to do so and so they will always define themselves over against Rome. What is a slave without his master?