Rejoinder to Kevin Giles
By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many . . . Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should re-arrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king.
Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1:8:1
[F]or this is proper to a son as regards a father, and in this is shown that God is truly Father of the Word. Here again, the illustration of light and its radiance is in point.
Athanasius, De Decretis, 24
What is your case, Euthyphro? . . . Whom do you prosecute? . . .
Plato, Euthyphro, 3e
Last week Kevin Giles submitted to Tekton his response to my own work, included within which were not only replies to certain of my own claims, but much else as well that was revelatory of his character, competence as a scholar, partner in dialogue, and capacity as an exegete—and in doing so, he has done a great disservice to himself. Indeed, I believe not only that he has—with his own words, and by his own efforts—thoroughly discredited himself in the eyes of anyone who has read my article; I also believe that if anyone involved in the prospective publication of his future work on the Trinity has read my Trinity-Ekstasis (henceforth TE), Giles’ attempt to respond to it (above), and what will follow below, then they will have serious reservations with regard to Giles’ competence to write on the subject of the Trinity.
My rejoinder to his response will be divided into seven sections. In section II, I’ll demonstrate that Giles has thoroughly failed to interact with my work in TE, and this to such an extent that his attempt to respond to it has failed. In section III, I’ll directly engage Giles’ claims with regard to Athanasius and the monarchy of the Father, especially as found in the original draft of his new section dealing with the matter as found in his prospective work on the Trinity. In section IV, I’ll briefly deal with Giles’ treatment of the manner in which the Father and Son are interrelated vis-à-vis the operations ad extra of the Triune God. In section V, I’ll deal with Giles’ treatment of Athanasius and the monarchy of the Father in contemporary patristic scholarship alongside his misuse of sources, both primary and secondary. In section VI, I’ll treat of, among other things, the majority of his response to me—consisting mainly of misrepresentations of matters of fact—and in doing so I trust a rather unhappy impression of Giles’ character and capacity as a partner in dialogue will be left with the reader. Finally, in section VII I’ll bring my rejoinder to a conclusion, and register a challenge to Giles, especially with regard to his claim that my Trinitarian theology is at odds with Roman Catholic Trinitarian theology.
I must say at the outset that I find Giles’ response to be so inept, so saturated in an abuse of logic, resources, and matters of fact from our personal correspondences, and demonstrative of such an incapacity to interact with my own work, that I believe it—in its own right—deserves no response whatever. Had it been a private email to me I would indeed have given no response other than, “Go back and read what I actually wrote before ‘responding’, Peace and all the best, Matt”. On the other hand, since he submitted it publicly, and since his views on the Trinity have been adopted by some, and may well be further expounded in yet another work to be published by a respectable publishing house (InterVarsity Press), I therefore feel obliged to submit the following for the benefit of all Christians, and the public vindication of beauty, goodness, and truth.
Giles’ Non-interaction With My Trinity-Ekstasis
One of my hopes in writing TE was to make a contribution towards the resolution of the contemporary debate over the doctrine of Trinity as it is currently being played out in the Anglican Communion in Australia, and though I have yet to be informed that my work has been substantially effective in realizing this goal, I have received some rewarding comments from certain persons engaged in the dispute, and this wholly from the side that disagrees with Giles. We’ve (i.e., myself and certain of the persons with whom Giles disagrees) had our disagreements, but on the other hand, there seems to be an intuitive awareness among those with whom I’ve spoken at length that a solution is definitely within grasp. On the other hand, however, Giles has—as we’ve seen above in his response to my TE—completely overlooked the substance of the work, and taken it rather as a personal attack upon himself, making no mention whatever of the positive suggestions contained therein.
Let me be specific about the response that I’d hoped for. I was hoping to contribute to dialogue—fruitful, productive, forward-moving interaction in order that agreement might be achieved. And how does such come about? It usually consists of things such as these: “Now while I agree with you that x, can we be sure that y really follows . . . ?”; or, “Your stating that p was quite helpful; note, however, the implications that follow . . .”; or, “I believe your reading of S to be quite wide of the mark on this point, for . . .”; and so on. In other words, what I expected—if anything—from Giles was productive dialogue: interaction with ideas at the point of their very heart and, if he was not willing to concede my contentions regarding his mistreatment of the sources, a sustained attempt to—in light of the evidence and arguments that I had brought forth—vindicate his position.
In spite of Giles implications, I have done my homework on the doctrine of the Trinity, and I am quite familiar with the history of its development. In point of fact I’d be willing to match my reading on the topic, and my mastery of the subject, alongside his own any day of the week. Such being the case, I’m familiar with the fact that certain aspects of the doctrine have been disputed fiercely in the past by opposing parties, and I’m also cognizant of the manner in which these disputations have been settled in the past (e.g., the Nicene era), or, on the other hand, how and why they have failed to be resolved—even to the present day (e.g., the doctrine of the filioque). And for present purposes, the thing that has the foremost call upon our attention is the manner in which resolution was finally reached, alongside the mistakes that were made that prevent(ed) such.
The most important lesson that the past teaches us on this point is that resolution is had not by either party simply forsaking its cause, nor by both parties ignoring the difficulties—real or apparent—upon which the dispute is based; rather, resolution will be had when both parties take a “step back”, so to speak, and reflect in a prayerful spirit upon 1) the ground principles upon which their own concerns stand, and their implications; 2) the apparent ground principles upon which their adversaries’ concerns stand, and their implications; and 3) how, based upon these, and their influence upon matters which are not in dispute, a resolution may be had. This calls for not only a certain manner of spiritual suppleness, but for attention to detail and sharp reasoning—carried out sympathetically—as well.
At this point, it is worthwhile to call attention to the dispute between Giles and his opponents in Sydney. In its simplest form, the matter can be stated thusly: Giles affirms that there is no form of “subordination” which is able to coincide with the doctrine of the Trinity, and his opponents affirm that there is a form of “subordination” that is not only coincident, but intrinsic to the doctrine of the Trinity. In my TE, I attempted to do what was suggested above—to locate the specific ground principles of both parties and, taking as my point of departure the faith of the Tradition, allow the positive aspects of both to develop themselves toward reconciliation. In doing so, I ever had my eye on Scripture, the Tradition, and the internal coherence and rationality of the thesis being advanced.
I applauded the clarity whereby those in Sydney distinguish the persons, alongside the distinctly Triune unity whereby they envisage the relationship between the economic and immanent Trinity. On the other hand, I made clear the fact that, in my opinion, the manner in which they envisage the relationship between the Father and Son could too easily be developed in the wrong direction. As for Giles, I commended his case against ontological subordinationism, his insight that the Incarnation reveals the very being of God, as well as his desire to make sure that our Trinitarian theology coheres with the orthodox, catholic Tradition of Christian history. At the same time, I found a number of problems both with regard to 1) his treatment of sources and methodology in his The Trinity & Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate (henceforth TS); and, more importantly, 2) the doctrine of the Trinity that he advances in the same work.
To be more specific, my concern with Giles’ doctrine of the Trinity (his treatment of sources, primary and secondary, and methodology will be treated presently) may be stated as follows: 1) Giles is wrong to deny the monarchy of the Father, i.e., the doctrine that God the Father specifically and alone and only is without a source for his hypostatic existence and is the source and cause of the Son and Spirit such that the relationships between the persons in the immanent Trinity are asymmetrical; 2) Giles’ articulation of the persons as distinct hypostases is inadequate—though it is not in itself heterodox, it is capable of being developed in many directions, most of them bad; 3) Giles’ understanding of the relationship between the immanent and the economic Trinity is woefully inadequate; 4) Giles’ theological categories per “subordination(ism)” are inept because they are far too vague, thus he continually misses the point; and 5) Giles’ interpreting the Trinity in light of political-social categories causes him to, quite often, miss the point.
Behind much of this is what I see as a fundamental incapacity to get to the fundamental principles involved in the issue at hand, consisting of collapsing categories, embracing logical non sequiturs, an inability to reach the idea behind a word, and a tendency to jump to unwarranted conclusions (i.e., a habit of assuming outright the verity of a false logical or theological hypothetical or disjunctive syllogism).
Let us take two examples from the above paragraph to bring home the point. Giles places the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father in antithesis to the notion that the Son (or Spirit, though, interestingly, he has registered no complaints against the doctrine of the filioque) is “equal” to the Father—more specifically, with the claim of the Athanasian Creed that none of the divine persons are “before” or “after” or “greater” or “less” than any of the others. The problem with this line of reasoning is that, in the first place, it does not necessarily follow that if the monarchy of the Father is affirmed, then the denial of the “equality” of the persons follows (for a biconditional relation—literally, the strongest form of unity possible aside from absolute identity—and identity of nature may obtain even if the causation between two terms is asymmetrically uni-directional, as is proven with the example of sun and its shine); and, in the second place, Giles’ notion of “equality” is, as he uses it, far too vague to use in dialogue (does the Son’s not begetting the Father, or the Father’s not proceeding from the Spirit filioque indicate—since the persons in such cases would not have the same capacities with regard to relations of opposition—an inequality between them? If not, why not? Does the Father’s not having become incarnate imply some sort of inequality on the part of the Father, since this is one fact that cannot be ascribed to him as it can be ascribed to the Son? If not, why not? Does the fact that the Spirit descended upon the Son, and not the Son upon the Father, imply any sort of inequality? Again, if not, why not? And furthermore, who amongst those involved in Giles’ debate denies that there is a sense—and note that unless Giles can answer “yes” to all of the above questions, which would be absurd, he has no right whatever to complain of the existential quantifier placed before the word “sense”—in which the persons are definitely equal? And so on.) So, here we see an example of a conviction that assumes a false dichotomy that is grounded upon vagueness.
As a second example, we can take the implications that Giles sees as following from the theological affirmation that all three persons act as one. According to Giles, this affirmation entails that, in all instances other than the incarnation, all activities ad extra of the one God are carried about by the three divine persons absolutely indiscriminately, and furthermore, Giles maintains that any uni-directional “movement” that might necessarily obtain between the three persons in such an activity (such as “from” the Father “through” the Son “to” the Spirit, granting the directional connotations of the words “from,” “through,” and “to”) necessarily implies “subordinationism” in an heretical sense. (I realize that Giles says that there can be an “order” amongst the persons, but given what he says so often elsewhere, alongside the fact that he explicitly rejects such as the above, I am unable to take this “order” as implying anything other than one with no differentiation whatever unless he means to imply that, e.g., sometimes the Father gets to “make the call” and the other persons obey, and sometimes the Son and Spirit get to “make the call” as well—a position that I’d be more than happy to take to task.) Rather, Giles insists that if the persons do not act “as one” in an undifferentiated sense, then it necessarily follows that one divine person “commands” and the other “obeys” in a manner roughly corresponding to the relationship between Archie and Edith Bunker, or a boss and an employee. But surely, this line of reasoning is faulty, for the relationship between the sun and its shine is constantly uni-directional (the sun communicates itself through the shine), while at the same time, in this movement the positive capacities of each may only be realized with the other (the sun can communicate itself only through its shine), and so on. So, what we have in this case is a faulty hypothetical syllogism that is itself grounded upon a too-anthropomorphic and ego-based notion of a (divine) person’s dignity. In other words, Giles has—whether he realizes it or not, or will admit it or not—imposed upon the divine persons the categories of the contemporary gender debate, and analyzed their interrelatedness rather strictly within the confines offered by that debate.
Now, my own approach to these matters as presented in TE was as follows. First, with regard to the monarchy of the Father:
The Father is the one God and the one God is father; the divine nature exists because the Father exists and the Father exists because he is father; the divine nature is the internal res of the Father that is expressed in the eternal birth of the Son and procession of the Spirit, and it therefore is had equally by all three of the divine persons. As such, the divine nature is coincident not only with the Father’s existence, but also with that of the Son and Spirit as well; therefore, the Father has a protological priority within the immanent Trinity, the presupposition of which is the ontological equality and existential simultaneity of the Son and the Spirit. (TE, VI: 29)
Note that this claim—alongside assuring the logical coherence of the Trinity, not to mention its coinciding with the Tradition (TE, II; III)—engages both sides involved in the contemporary debate over the Trinity. With those in Sydney, the monarchy of the Father is affirmed, and giving the nod to Giles concerns—insofar as they are valid—the full equality and perichoretic interrelatedness of the persons is affirmed as well.
As regards the second—the manner in which the persons are interrelated per operations ad extra—I had the following to say:
From this, it follows that expression is the defining characteristic of not only the Father, but the Son and Spirit, and therefore the Trinity. As such, I am quite prepared to accept the thesis of the early fathers and doctors of the middle ages that the presupposition for the possibility for all operations ad extra are the processions ad intra. At the same time, I would like to join this confession to the affirmation that the economic Trinity is confluent with the immanent Trinity, raising both to point. Thus I arrive at the doctrine of onto-economic expressivism. The presupposition of onto-economic expressivism is the doctrine of the immanent Trinity as expounded above—Trinity-ekstasis. With this understanding of the immanent Trinity in mind, onto-economic expressivism may be summarized as follows. Every operation ad extra expresses the immanent Trinity as triune, and the manner in which a particular divine person performs any activity of the one God expresses, and is an instantiation of, his interrelatedness to the other divine persons. (TE, VI: 37 – 38)
Note again, this articulation is clear, coherent, and coincident with the testimony of the Tradition (TE, II; III), and it also engages both sides of the contemporary debate on the Trinity. With those in Sydney, the uni-directional manner in which the divine activities are accomplished is affirmed, alongside the definitely hypostatic, three-fold manner in which the divine activities are carried out in unity. And giving respect to Giles’ concerns, again, the unity of activity is affirmed with all of the force of logical and metaphysical necessity, and furthermore, the notion of a “power-struggle” between the Father and Son—with the Father’s will being realized at the expense of the Son’s volitional capacity—is overcome, and this by reference to Scripture and the Tradition:
As to the relationship between the economic Trinity and the immanent Trinity, we have seen that it is universally affirmed that the former is confluent with the latter. The relations of origin are the presupposition of the operations ad extra and are expressed in them. Though all three of the divine persons act “as one”, and though there is but one will and one power in the Trinity, every activity is performed by a particular divine person in a manner which expresses the way that that divine person is related to the other divine persons within the immanent Trinity. Every activity begins in the Father, is expressed in the Son, and is completed in the Spirit; this manner of operation, since it is contingent upon the irreversible relations of origin within the immanent Trinity, is itself irreversible: the Son does not “send” the Father because the Son does not beget the Father; the Son is “sent” from the Father because he proceeds from the Father. And furthermore, from this we have seen not only that it had to be and is most fitting that the Son in particular, rather than the Father or the Holy Spirit, be the one who becomes Incarnate (for his expression of God in the world as man naturally extends from his being the Expression of God in eternity), the relationship of the Son to the Father expressed by the Son as Incarnate, as well as the very act of becoming Incarnate itself, is expressive of the relationship between the Father and the Son in the immanent Trinity. The Son’s delight is to do the Father’s will. Yet, at the same time, we have seen that this obedience and humble submission on the part of the Son is never affirmed in such a manner analogous to the manner in which an employee submits to a boss, or a slave to a master. Rather, as the Son is the Image and Expression of the Father, this self-gift of the Son to the Father—this loving and willing surrender of his whole being to his Begetter—is itself a response to the self-gift of the Father to the Son. It is this which is the point of departure and ground for the Triune manner in which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit operate ad extra. The movement from Father to Son to Holy Spirit is not conceived as a king (the Father) sitting on the throne and passing orders about to his servants (the Son and the Spirit); rather, it is the communication and expression of the mystery of the inner dynamics of love in its purest form—and this movement in love, this self-gift, begins not simply with the Son, willy nilly, “recognizing his place” and “doing what he is told”. This movement of surrender and self-gift begins in the Father, the fountain of divinity and the source of all life. (TE, III: 48)
And by this doctrine I still stand, alongside knowing that it does have the capacity to move the contemporary debate in Australia forward. It is the result of prolonged reflection, intense interaction with premiere theological works in the Tradition from Scripture to the present as well as expert commentary upon them, countless hours of prayer, and a desire for logical coherence—not to mention the fact that it was developed in light of my interaction with theology on a broader level and without the benefit of being involved in, or even aware of, the contemporary gender debate. And I believe that it is now appropriate, in light of the above, to be more specific with regard to my utter dissatisfaction with Giles’ total and complete failure to interact with—or even give evidence that he was aware of—these aspects of TE. After summarizing TE by saying that—
It denigrates me as a person, my work on the Trinity and argues that the Son of God is eternally subordinated to the Father.
—the first claim being an exaggeration that indicates that Giles’ priorities and areas of focus are rather out of order, and the third claim being a complete falsehood—he goes on to state that—
I now give him that answer because his friends in Sydney are promoting his ideas among Sydney evangelicals. This response is thus more directed to that audience than to Matthew Paulson.
And what does Giles give us in his response to me? Alongside a number of claims such as—
This sounds a bit imbalanced to me. Matt ought to get a life for himself.
It is challenging to debate with someone when you are very busy and have a full life who has nothing else to do but push his idiosyncratic views on the Trinity.
Until Matthew can get beyond this he will never be a scholar and I suspect never publish anything in print. He is doomed forever to the Internet where he can say what he likes.
—which are, basically, the scholarly equivalent of saying, “Matt Paul-son, waste of space, plus he has the monkey-face!! . . . Right guys?”, Giles offers nothing by way of positive interaction with my central claims, a series of false claims—which will be treated below—submitted in a rather childish attempt to disparage me, and a number of false claims with regard to my own theological position. The other problems with Giles’ response, such as his misreading of sources and misrepresenting matters of fact, will be dealt with later. What is to my concern at the moment are claims from Giles concerning myself such as—
He is so sure that the Son of God is eternally subordinated to the Father that support from learned Catholic theologians is not needed. . . .
In this paper I make a response specifically to Matthew Paulson’s longest and latest broadside against me and his latest attempt to substantiate the eternal subordination of the Son.
—especially in light of his saying elsewhere that—
I also plan to say nothing on his six different kinds of subordinationism. I simply find it confused and confusing.
—, or his claim that—
. . . Matthew Paulson’s views are entirely his own. They do not represent informed Roman Catholic opinion.
—especially in light of his saying that—
I find his long section 3 almost useless. How a brief comment on 27 theologians, most of whom wrote voluminously, spanning almost 2000 years, could prove anything escapes me. I plan to say nothing at all on this section.
—and, in short, all such claims from the hand of Giles, especially in light of his saying that—
I have always been of the opinion that it is best to read someone before saying what they must teach!
Now, the first set of claims from Giles (concerning “subordination[ism]”) are troublesome for several reasons. In the first place, Giles himself claims that he doesn’t even (have the ability to?) understand my own treatment of the topic. Nevermind the fact that I thoroughly interact with his own categories of subordinationism (TE, IV: 24 – 31) and demonstrate their (general) inapplicability for purposes of theological discourse (TE, V: 28 – 35); and nevermind the fact that I myself later attempt to clear up such inadequacies, and offer what is—to my knowledge—the most rigorous treatment of “subordination(ism)” that is available, alongside clearly demonstrating the necessity of such a task (TE, VI: 1 – 24). The questions that Giles needs to answer are these: in the first place, if he doesn’t understand the categories that I offer concerning “subordination(ism)”, why didn’t he ever ask me to clarify my meaning?; in the second place, if he knows that we’re not on the same page on this matter, what possible justification does he have for claiming me to be a “subordinationist”?; and, more to the point, given the fact that I never once in TE claim to be a “subordinationist”, how could he possibly say, so frequently and with a degree of certitude verging on the comical due to its wrongness, that I am one? Giles has failed to understand, among other things, my own position on this matter, and it is obvious that he has yet to see the inadequacy of his own. Such being the case, he oughtn’t even to have brought up the subject; his falsely claiming me to be what I am not is—from the point of view of dialogue and personal interaction—nearly unforgivable, especially in light of my clear, sustained, rigorous, and thorough treatment of the matter throughout TE. Giles has unjustly reduced a position to that which he is familiar with; the result is the advancement of a falsehood founded upon an untruth arrived at via eisegesis (granting that he actually read what I wrote, and I must say that I find both possibilities to be equally plausible).
And much the same follows regarding the second set of Giles’ claims (my allegedly being doctrinally incongruent with Roman Catholic theology). In section VIII below, I’ll issue a challenge to Giles on this point. For now, let me say two things in passing. First, I must say that I find accusations such as these to be most annoying and offensive, especially coming from the likes of Giles—a person who in all likelihood hasn’t even grasped the doctrine that I advance, and certainly isn’t at all well-read enough in contemporary Catholic theology or competent enough with the matter at issue to have the right to make such a claim. He is in no position whatever to question my, relative to himself, expertise on Catholic Trinitarian theology. Second, I’ll here publicly state that the portion of TE to which Giles refers (III) is irrefutable, the force of which—of its own accord—so thoroughly makes clear the fact that Giles’ claims in TS are wrong in point of fact, and so flawed as regards the basic form of his argument, that I’m not at all surprised that Giles has—most conveniently for his sake—chosen to “ignore” it. This section of TE was preceded by a comprehensive treatment of Athanasius’ doctrine of fatherhood and sonship, which established the general interpretive framework for it, and it contained over 156 citations from 25 premiere figures in the orthodox, catholic Tradition. All of these citations were directly to the point at issue, and never once were any of them divorced from their meanings in the original contexts in order to make my point. Again, section III of TE is irrefutable, and Giles—who claims that our chief concern with regard to the contemporary debate on the Trinity ought to be adherence to the Tradition—has once again shown an amazing insensitivity to truth as well as reconciliation.
In summary, Giles’ actual failure to interact with the substance of my work in TE, and his inability to understand my position or the claims that I advance, is obvious. What I find troubling, however, is the fact that in spite of this manifest shortcoming Giles has nonetheless reduced my position to one that he himself understands—“subordinationism” in his words, which can mean practically anything, and “functional-servitutis subordination” in my words, the nature of which I clearly and specifically articulate (TE, VI: 19) in order to avoid such confusions as we here see Giles running headlong into, not to mention the fact that I explicitly reject it—and that his entire response to me is predicated upon this confusion, the results of which are many claims that are false, and the fact that his response is fundamentally misguided. Indeed, the only substantial portion of his section above on “Matthew Paulson’s Views” are his claims concerning the monarchy of the Father in Athanasius and the relationship between the immanent and economic Trinity vis-a-vis the interrelatedness of the divine persons in Athanasius, and (take note of the example, Kevin) his claims with regard thereto will be directly engaged in the following two sections. The rest consists either of invalid inferences (e.g., “This involves separating and dividing the Father and the Son . . .”), completely unwarranted claims that are loaded with words that Giles does not, in context, even have the right to employ (e.g., “Like Doyle and all subordinationists Paulson believes that it was only the Son who could become man because he is the subordinated Son for all eternity. Sons do the will of their fathers: all sons are subordinated to their fathers”), absurdly inadequate generalizations (e.g., “Widdicombe’s main point is that at Alexandria under Origen the idea developed and took root that the distinction between the first tow persons of the Godhead was not between Theos and the Logos . . . but between the divine Father and Son, correlative titles. There is no Father without the Son and vice versa”), rather bold assertions advanced without any argument and—it seems—any awareness on the part of the author that such is needed (e.g., “Neither the Nicene Creed nor the Athanasian Creed teach the monarchy . . . of the Father, or that the Father is the monarche of the Son and the Spirit. . . . The Athanasian Creed gives no priority to the Father”), assertions made without specific reference (e.g., “However many of the most scholarly studies by Western theologians point out that conceptually this view of the Father can lead to subordinationism. So Prestige, Torrance, Pannenberg, J Thompson, etc.”), citing figures to make a point—the very point being made having been rendered superfluous by my prior treatment of the subject (e.g., his citation of Aquinas, cf. TE, III: 21, 24) and, in short, nearly everything but a competent, sustained attempt to deal with the issues at hand.
I am not here going to rehearse what I have already argued for extensively in TE, nor do I at all feel pressed to further vindicate my theses given the fact that the extraordinary amount of evidence upon which they are based has been completely ignored by one who has the audacity to simply assert my wrongness without having even the scholarly honor to interact with those evidences—evidences which render his claims void outright. Kevin: a coherent and strong argument has been advanced against you; in order to contradict the conclusions that derive therefrom you must overturn the argument, and this requires refuting the evidence. It is not sufficient simply to, with a wave of the hand, dismiss the whole or to contradict the specifics without facing the particulars. The remaining sections of my rejoinder will consist of interacting with, and refuting, the only two points that Giles has attempted to bring a substantial case for, and exposing the many falsehoods included in his response, alongside the rather extravagant liberty wherewith he deals with sources. It is my belief that in doing so, readers will gain a substantial impression of his competence as a scholar of the Trinity and character, and it is my hope that Kevin himself, “having never learned to speak, may at length learn to remain silent.” (Jerome, Against Helvidius, 1)
Giles’ Attempt to Read the Monarchy of the Father Out of Athanasius’ Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity
Though Giles’ response to my TE would leave one with the general impression that I am a theological toper with whom he’d rather not deal on a scholarly level, since submitting the above response to Tekton he has twice written to me asking for my assessment of his treatment of Athanasius. I have read this latest effort of Giles, and see only two matters that need to be dealt with: the issue of the monarchy of the Father, and the manner in which the divine persons are interrelated vis-à-vis operations ad extra. These issues will be dealt with in this and the following section; after these, I’ll briefly treat of Giles, contemporary patristic scholarship, and the monarchy of the Father. (In passing I mention that I’m replying to Giles not because his claims on these points in any way overturn my own theses in TE, II—indeed, he manifestly fails to interact with the argument and specific pieces of evidence offered there—but rather, in order to put the nail in the coffin of his public response, which was advanced as though it challenged or disproved what I’d written in the above.)
Giles’ begins his treatment of the monarchy of the Father etymologically, and it is here that the problems begin—not that his claims concerning these words are inaccurate, but rather, he wrongly assumes throughout this portion of his response that there is a one-one correspondence between the doctrine itself (the monarchy of the Father) and the (Greek) words arche or monarche in their various forms. So it would perhaps be well at the outset to make clear the fact that the essence of the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father is not simply a reference to these specific words, but rather, the confession that there is an asymmetrical causal relationship between the divine persons, such that the Father only and alone 1) is without a cause for his hypostasis, and 2) is the ultimate cause of the hypostases of the Son and Spirit. I use the word “cause” here in a sense that its meaning is—within the context of the discussion of this issue—roughly synonymous with the words “source” (arche), “font” (pege), and so on.
While it seems that it may be the case that Giles assumes a one-one correspondence between the doctrine itself and the presence of various forms of the word arche, he elsewhere explicitly disputes the notion of an asymmetrical relation between the persons (seeing “subordination(ism)”, rather clumsily, as being a probable or necessary entailment of such a doctrine), and later in his treatment of Athanasius he seems to advance the notion that all three of the divine persons are symmetrically related by virtue of their source being “the Godhead”, not to mention his disputation of Widdicombe for affirming that the Father is the “font” [sic] of divinity in Athanasius’ theology. Such being the case, I’ll take Giles as arguing that Athanasius’ doctrine of the manner in which the persons are interrelated is most satisfactorily understood as affirming such a symmetrical relationship.
Giles first treats of (two of) the many passages in Athanasius’ works that do seem to affirm the monarchy of the Father: Orations Against the Arians (henceforth OCA), 1:14 and De Synodis (henceforth DS) 47, (and, in a footnote, 45, 51), and I must confess that I find his interaction with these two texts to be rather lame. He begins by noting that context determines the meaning of the word arche, and then points out that—
When he is opposing the Arian argument that if the Father and the Son are both eternal they must be brothers, as if they were “generated from some pre-existing origin or source (arche)” he replies, “the Father is the origin (arche) of the Son who begat him.” Later opposing much the same idea he says, “the Father’s essence (ousia) is the origin (arche) and root and fountain of the Son.” In this debate he speaks of the eternal Father as the origin of the eternal Son to avoid allowing that there is anything prior to God, but to make one of two eternal divine persons the source of the other is very difficult, if not logically impossible.
There are several problems with this treatment. The “Arian argument” to which Giles refers can be summarized thusly: if the Father and Son are both eternal then it would follow that neither could be called “Father” or “Son”. Hence the question that Giles must answer is, what does it matter that these claims by Athanasius were made in response to this Arian argument? Would Giles have us believe that the fact that Athanasius’ response to such an argument was against Arians implies that Athanasius therefore does not mean what he clearly says? Athanasius clearly accepts the premises of the “Arian” argument (if the claims are not nuanced)—
For if we said only that [the Son] was eternally with the Father, and not his Son, their pretended scruple would have some plausibility . . . (OCA, 1:14)
And he responds by clearly articulating the sense in which he affirms that the Son and Father are interrelated, though they are both eternal—
But if, while we say that he is eternal, we also confess him to be Son from the Father, how can he that is begotten be considered brother of him who begets? And if our faith is in Father and Son, what brotherhood is there between them, and how can the Word be called brother of him whose Word he is? (OCA, 1:14)
And he goes on to make his point absolutely clear at length—
For the Father and the Son were not generated from some pre-existing origin that we may account them brothers, but the Father is the Origin of the Son . . . and the Father is father and not born the son of any, and the Son is son, and not brother . . . if he is called the eternal offspring of the Father, he is rightly so called . . . He is God’s offspring, and as being proper son of God, who is ever, he exists eternally. For whereas it is proper to men to beget in time, from the imperfection of their nature, God’s offspring is eternal, for his nature is ever perfect . . . “Son” is nothing else than what is generated from the Father . . . (OCA, 1:14)
Athanasius is every bit as clear in making the point in the second work to which Giles refers (DS, esp. 38 – 54), and at this point it is appropriate to focus on Giles’ total failure to deal with such passages in Athanasius. The relationship between two brothers is symmetrical, and it is precisely such an analogy as this that Athanasius would have employed had he affirmed what Giles later attempts to make it appear as though he affirmed. The relationship between a father and a son, on the other hand, is asymmetrical: the causation goes only one way such that both may be distinguished by reference to it.
In the first place, as mentioned above, Giles mention of “context” and the fact that the argument came from Arians, is completely beside the point, and that this is so oughtn’t even need to be argued for. Athanasius accepts the argument and shows why it is wrong by clearly articulating the fact that there is an asymmetrical relationship between the Father and Son. Such being the case, that the argument he was responding to was “Arian” does nothing whatever to alter the prima facie meaning of Athanasius’ claims. But to entertain Giles’ irrelevances, it is worth noting that he employs the same argument in order to demonstrate the positive meaning of the word “homoousios” to Basil of Ancyra’s party (e.g., DS)—with whom he had no strong disagreement—alongside others to whom he wished to make clear the positive meaning of the word (De Decretis, henceforth DD), and that he also employs the same argument when showing that he is not a modalist—
For lest a man, perceiving that the Son has all that the Father hath … should wander into the irreligion of Sabellius, considering him to be the Father, therefore he has said “Was given unto me,” and “I received,” and “Were delivered to me,” only to show that he is not the Father, but the Father’s Word, and the Eternal Son, who because of his likeness to the Father, has eternally what he has from him, and because he is the Son, has from the Father what he has eternally. (OCA, 3:36)
In other words, Athanasius explicitly draws attention to the asymmetrical relationship between the Father and the Son on numerous occasions, regardless of the secondary points that he is trying to prove, and the rigor with which he articulates his point is clear enough to itself establish the context. What this indicates is something so clear that I shouldn’t even need to demonstrate the point: Athanasius definitely affirmed the asymmetrical relationship between the Father and the Son, and the clarity whereby he establishes the fact is, essentially, equal to any such articulation of the fact in the history of doctrine. Such passages are to be found in Athanasius’ work rather frequently (despite the fact that Giles mentions only two passages as prospective evidences for the claim!), and he makes abundantly clear the fact that there is no sense in which his own doctrine may be seen as implying a symmetrical relationship between the divine persons ad intra—
But if they ask . . . as if “what is not a work but was always” were unorignate, then they must constantly be told that the Son as well as the Father must in this sense be called unoriginate . . . When . . . they betake themselves to the other sense of the question, “existing but not generated of any nor having a father,” we shall tell them that the unoriginate in this sense is only one, namely the Father . . . (OCA, 1:31)
Giles’ initial response to the clear implications of such passages is to claim that—
to make one of two eternal divine persons the source of the other is very difficult, if not logically impossible.
This attempt to counter what Athanasius clearly expounds is extraordinarily futile. In the first place, Giles’ citation of Hanson does nothing whatever to bolster the point that he is trying to make (i.e., that an asymmetrical causal relationship between two eternal divine persons is probably incoherent); he simply repeats without giving any substantiating reasons what Giles himself claims. The notion of causation is a lively topic in contemporary analytic philosophy, and Hanson—an authority on patristics—is not an authority on causation. To cite him here, on this point, in light of the abundant and clear passages from Athanasius such as were offered above, and in light of the fact that Giles is attempting to refute what I and others have clearly said on this topic, is most inappropriate and unworthy of serious scholarship.
Second—and a move of this nature is one that Giles himself rarely, if ever, makes—let us investigate for ourselves whether or not such a notion actually is incoherent. At the outset, it must be said that, as shown above, Athanasius clearly and unambiguously did affirm that the relationship between the Father and Son is asymmetrical, thus even if such an affirmation were incoherent, it would only follow that Athanasius affirmed a doctrine that is incoherent, and not that he didn’t simply because it is incoherent. But back to the matter at hand, what is the supposed problem with affirming such an asymmetrical causal relationship? Is it that God is “eternal” (outside of time), and therefore, since causation implies a “before” and “after”, causation is necessarily impossible in eternity? Yet were this argument correct, it would prove too much for Giles, for the very reason it provides for denying the Father to be “cause” of the Son would also provide reason for denying that the Trinity can act at all, thus creation and salvation history would also be impossible. In other words, the objection stands on the false notion that eternity is a single (temporal) moment—that is why it cannot allow any “causation” in eternity. Let us take another possibility. Is the problem that God—far from being “outside of time”—is, rather, “everlasting” (existing in time at every temporal moment that was, is, and will be), and that since a cause precedes its effect, the Son therefore would necessarily not be eternal if he were caused by the Father?
Two answers may be given in response. In the first place, it may be stated that if God the Father has the capacity to cause the Son at a moment, there is not the slightest reason for supposing that he couldn’t cause the Son at any, and therefore every moment at which he exists. And secondly, nature itself provides a rather helpful analogy at this point—one which Athanasius himself made the very cornerstone for articulating the sense in which the Father and Son are related to one another—the sun and its shine (or light and radiance). At every moment at which the sun exists, it causes shine. And even if God is eternal rather than everlasting, it should be obvious to all that God’s eternity would involve more, and not less reality than we experience in time. It therefore is not at all difficult to use such an analogy in order to grasp the positive meaning of “causation” when predicated of the relationship between the Father and Son. (For more on eternity and time, cf. Swinburne’s The Christian God, 51 – 95, 137 – 144; Brian Davies’ Philosophy of Religion, 476 – 530.) I’m not here attempting to engage the temporary debates on causation and divine eternity/everlastingness. Rather, my point is simply that either way Giles’ appeal to “logic”—a discipline which Giles himself appears to be not at all familiar with—in order to attempt to revoke outright the possibility of an asymmetrical causal relationship between the Father and Son fails either way. Our conclusions, therefore, must be two: first, that Athanasius definitely did affirm an asymmetrical causal relationship between the Father and Son ad intra, and second, that there is no obvious reason for believing him to have transgressed the laws of logic in doing so.
Giles then goes on to mention the fact that Athanasius disputed the middle-Platonic notion that a cause is greater than its effect, and then, for some reason, begins to talk of the notion of an hierarchical Trinity (as though an asymmetrical relationship ad intra somehow necessarily implies heretical “subordination(ism)”). The latter deserves no response aside from mentioning the fact that Giles has—with no justification whatever based on anything that has preceded in his presentation, and in clear opposition to Athanasius’ explicit comments on the subject—implied a biconditional relation between an asymmetrical relationship between the Father and Son and a “hierarchy” (= “subordinationism”/”at the heart of Arianism” = “heresy”) within the Trinity; the problem with Giles’ mention of the first is obvious: if Athanasius indeed denied such (i.e., that a cause must be greater than its effect), then there is no reason why he could not affirm that the Father is the cause of the Son.
Giles then claims that it is “no surprise” that Athanasius (supposedly) on several occasions denied that the Son has a source/cause of his person—as though such, even had Athanasius affirmed it, would clearly and logically follow from the preceding in Giles’ presentation of him. At any rate, the passage from Athanasius himself that Giles offers in support of this claim (OCA, 2:57) does not in fact do so. We have already seen above that Athanasius clearly distinguishes between the senses of a word when applying it to the Father and Son, thus—and this especially in light of the clear, unambiguous passages offered above—the “logic” in the following is not at all “difficult”—
“The Word has his beginning (arche)
That is, “The Son finds his origin”,
in no other beginning (arche)
That is, “in no other source”
than the Father whom they allow to have no beginning (anarche),
That is, “than the Father whom they allow to be eternal”
so he too exists without beginning (anarche).”
That is, “the Son therefore is also eternal.”
Most ridiculous of all, however, is Giles’ attempt to advance the notion that, according to Athanasius, the “Godhead” (rather than the Father) is the source of the divine persons (the assertion of which is all the more ridiculous in light of the fact that Giles himself, just a few paragraphs before this, cites a passage from Athanasius that explicitly rejects such a notion). Giles offers three passages in order to prove this assertion—one of which, from the Fourth Oration Against the Arians, is nearly unanimously agreed to be ingenuine, and thus it does not require comment. The other two, however, no more imply that there is a “Godhead” behind the persons that causes them than the passage dealt with above is “difficult”, and Giles’ failure to interpret them in light of the immediate context from which they come, and the context of Athanasius’ thought as a whole, is indicative of his tendency to abuse his resources. For an example, we can take the following passage cited by Giles in his attempt to prove that Athanasius denied that the Father is the source and font of the Son and Spirit—
"We know of but one origin (arche), and the all-framing Word we profess to have no other manner of Godhead, than that of the only God, because he is born from him. … For there is but one form of Godhead, which is also in the Word. For thus we confess God to be through the Triad."
It goes without saying that this hardly provides evidence for what Giles claims it does. Still, it is worth mentioning that what Giles doesn’t tell the reader here is that the above is preceded by the following—
For, as the illustration (of light and radiance) shows, we do not introduce three origins or three Fathers . . . since we have not suggested the image of three suns, but sun and radiance. And one is the light from the sun in the radiance; and so we know of but one origin; and the all-framing Word we profess to have no other manner of godhead than that of the only God, because he is born from him. (OCA, 3:15)
—which clears up considerably what Giles has attempted to confuse. The Origin is not some “Godhead” behind the divine persons; rather, the Origin is the Father—the sun—and his divinity (“godhead”) is communicated to the Son—the radiance. There is not the slightest ambiguity here and nothing whatever that would warrant Giles’ reading into Athanasius the notion of a “Godhead” behind the divine persons that acts as their “source/cause/font” while assuring a symmetrical causal relationship between them. For Athanasius, “the Father has no personal cause, but rather is himself the father of Wisdom”. (DS, 47)
Giles cites one scholar—T.F. Torrance—in support of his contention that the “Godhead”/Trinity is the monarche of the divine persons ad intra (The Christian Doctrine of God, henceforth CDG, 182). The problem with this appeal to authority is twofold: in the first place, Torrance’s own understanding of this matter is a bit more complicated than Giles’ own. For example, Torrance says that—
[Athanasius] certainly thought of the Father as the Arche (. . . but not Aitia or Cause) of the Son in that he has eternally begotten the Son. . . . While the Son is associated with the Arche of the Father in this way, he cannot be thought of as an Arche subsisting in himself, for by his very Nature he is inseparable from the Father of whom he is the Son. By the same token, however, the Father cannot be thought of as an Arche apart from the Son . . . (CDG, 181f.)
From the above, does it necessarily follow that, according to Torrance, Athanasius denies an asymmetrical causal relationship between the Father and Son? At first glance it would seem not, for those who do affirm the monarchy of the Father include the confession that the Father is father (i.e., of the Son) within their affirmation—thus Torrance’s statement does not at all contradict the doctrine.
On the other hand, Torrance goes on to claim that Athanasius “declined to advance a view of the Monarchy in which the oneness of God was defined by reference to the Father alone or to the Person of the Father”—a statement that is, as we’ve seen above from Athanasius’ own writings (with which passages, it is worth mentioning, Torrance himself does not deal in this section)—clearly false (depending on whether or not Torrance means how I understand Giles to be reading him). And when he further goes on to say that the “Monarchia . . . is essentially and intrinsically trinitarian in the inner relations of God’s eternal ousia”, (CDG, 182) his proof for this assertion (again, granting the sense implied by Giles) is even more counterproductive than Giles’ own. In a footnote, Torrance cites three passages from Athanasius in support of this claim: OCA, 4:1:3 (which is not from the hand of Athanasius); DD, 26 (which simply says that “the Word of God is not a work or creature, but an offspring proper to the Father’s essence”); and Concerning the Opinions of Dionysius, 17 (which is simply a quote from a letter of Dionysius of Alexandria, not Athanasius, whom no one would deny affirmed the monarchy of the Father, and this is—it is worth noting—proven in the very passage itself: “the Father denotes the common bond”, not to mention the quote from Dionysius that Athanasius cites in the preceding paragraph: “God was always Father, and the Son is not absolutely eternal, but his eternity flows from the eternity of the Father, and he coexists with him as brightness with the light”).
Now, Giles can simply drop his jaw at this point and reject the outright what I say here because I dare to disagree with Torrance, “one of the foremost authorities on Athanasius”, etc., etc. I would not at all be surprised by such, based on what of seen of Giles’ defense of this point in the past (which was, basically, Giles’ hiding underneath the blanket that he believed Torrance to have provided). And in passing, I mention that I was rather taken aback by Giles’ own rather hasty dismissal of Widdicombe. But note the difference between us here: my rejection of Torrance’s (seeming) claim came after I had interacted with the evidences and argument that he offered. Torrance’s treatment does not at all deal with the passages upon which I built my positive case—which is, I claim, irrefutable—and I have shown the weakness, irrelevance, or counter productivity of the passages upon which he based his positive case (again, granting the sense implied by Giles).
In summary, the following may be said. First, Giles is to be commended for at least making his audience aware of the fact that such passages exist in Athanasius’ writings, and that a (!) authority on Athanasius claims that Athanasius indeed affirmed such a doctrine. Unfortunately, however, there is nothing good to say of his treatment of the subject after this. When he comes to examples of passages in Athanasius that clearly advance the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father he hides from his audience the surrounding context—which only help to make the fact of Athanasius’ affirmation of the doctrine all the clearer—and unjustly forces into them a logical confusion that is not there. Giles identifies the challenge to his position, avoids it, and goes on his way. His appeal to “context” was wholly pointless to the extent that he followed his own advice. He gave no substantial attention to the passages in Athanasius that clearly demonstrate his affirmation of the monarchy of the Father, nor did he interact at all with the rationality—the specifics of the argument—involved in his (Athanasius’) affirming such. He attempts to make the case that Athanasius affirmed the monarchy (in the sense described above) of the Godhead, and in doing so appeals to passages that don’t even begin to begin to back him on the point. He attempts to dismiss the monarchy of the Father by appealing to “logical” difficulties and does not in the least demonstrate how or why it is logically difficult; he claims clear passages to be vague and reads into less specific passages a doctrine that he himself affirms, and this while ignoring the clarity wherewith the surrounding context renders void his attempts; and finally, his appeal to Torrance on this point can only be seen as being a rather unfortunate move. We’ll later see how strongly the works of experts in patristics are against Giles on this point. At this juncture it is sufficient to say simply that Kevin Giles, in reading Athanasius, has arrived at the Arian misunderstanding of Athanasius’ doctrine of the Trinity.
A few other points should be briefly mentioned before moving on. In the first place, Giles’ treatment of the correlativity of father-son language in Athanasius is extremely inadequate and misleading, for he leaves the reader with the impression that the only three things that Athanasius wished to imply by using such language were: 1) logical entailment (if the one is, the other must also necessarily be); 2) identity of nature; and 3) a solely nominal distinction between the persons. But, in the first place, as we’ve seen above, Athanasius—every time he uses these words—sees them as implying an asymmetrical relationship between the two distinct persons, a fact that Giles never once makes his audience aware of. Giles is right to point out the fact that the two are biconditionally related; he fails, however, in recognizing why they are such. “Fatherhood” and “sonship” are properties that are contingent—they do not necessarily inhere within persons. For example, if Jack is a father, he is a father not simply because he is Jack; but rather, he is father because of the fact that he brought forth a son (or daughter). Thus, in saying “Jack is the father of Junior, his son,” the biconditional relationship between the persons is to be attributed essentially to the fact of the manner in which they are asymmetrically related. The correlativity of the words depends upon this fact. (cf. DD, 6, 7, 10—again, Athanasius clearly affirms the asymmetrical relationship between the persons ad intra: the Son may be called “son” “according to the other sense, in which Isaac was son of Abraham; for what is naturally begotten from any one . . . that in the nature of things is a son, and that is what the name implies.”) That Athanasius refuses the corporeal connotations of such language does not in the least imply that he denies the causal connotations, as Giles would have us believe. “Left” and “right” are correlative words, and had Athanasius wished to denote correlativity without causation or asymmetry he would have used just such an example. But he did not, and the reason why is because he believed in the asymmetrical causal relationship between the Father and Son.
Second, Giles’ treatment of Athanasius’ use of the term “homoousios” is also inept, and in point of fact misleading. He stresses the “unity of being” that the word implies, and tells us that—according to Athanasius—only “differing things can be homoousios”. But there is much more that needs to be said here. For Athanasius, the word denoted not only the fact that one substance is “had” by different “things”, but rather, it denoted a community of substance by virtue of an asymmetrical causal relationship between the Father and the Son (e.g., “the sense of ‘Offspring’ and ‘homoousios’ is one, and whoever considers the Son an offspring, rightly considers him homoousios”, DS, 42; “the Son is ‘homoousios’ with the Father . . . signifying that the Son was from the Father [and] the same in likeness”, DD, 20). Athanasius says that the Son is homoousios with the Father, but he never once says that the Father is homoousios with the Son, and this further proves the point that he understood the very term whereby he articulated the notion of the divine unity between the Father and Son, entailed an asymmetrical causal relationship between them.
Third, Giles makes mention of the fact that Athanasius’ theology of the Trinity was a “development and correction” of that of Origen, and a “restatement” of that of Alexander of Alexandria. In both of these authors, the monarchy of the Father is clearly expounded (for Alexander, cf. TE, III: 5, 6), and it is also worth noting that when Athanasius speaks of Origen (DD, 27) he makes no mention whatever of needing to “correct” him. Athanasius also shows the confluence of the Nicene faith with the teaching of Theognostus, Dionysius of Alexandria, and Dionysius of Rome; in each of their passages from which Athanasius draws, the monarchy of the Father is clearly affirmed. (DD, 25, 26)
And finally, the following statement from Giles concerns me, and will nicely demonstrate much of my problem with Giles’ understanding of Athanasius’ doctrine of the Trinity ad intra, which is also his own—
God is God the Son as much as he is God the Father.
The question that must be asked is, who is this mysterious “God” who both is and is not the Father and the Son? Of course, on reading such, my initial inclination would be to suppose that the author is simply speaking very loosely here, but the whole of Giles’ presentation—especially his positing “the Godhead” as the source of the divine persons—demands that we take such talk from him rather literally.
In saying such, Giles has read into Athanasius the doctrine of monarchial modalistic-tritheism: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons identical with the person who is “God” while not being identical with each other. (cf. TE, V: 38, 40) Now, I take it as proven that Athanasius does not affirm this doctrine; as has been shown, Athanasius affirms that the one God is the Father, and the Son and Spirit are intrinsic to his very being as father. This point was proven at length and with rigor in my TE, II. But since Giles himself does affirm this doctrine, let us submit a number of questions for his consideration. Is “the Godhead” itself personal, or not? If so, it would be tripersonal, would it not? Next, is the Father, Son, or Spirit tripersonal? If not, how are they identical with “the Godhead”? If so, how are they not identical with eachother? “God is as much God the Son as he is God the Father.” Very well. Does this “God(head)” beget, or is he “begotten”, or both, or neither? If the first, then “he” is not the Son; if the second, then “he” is not the Father; if the third, then the Father is the Son; if the fourth, then neither the Father nor the Son nor personal; and if anything, then “he” is not “as much” Father as Son nor “as much” Son as Father. In short, if Giles is going to speak seriously and consistently about a “godhead” behind the persons with which he insists on identifying the persons, or identifying as their hypostatic source, then he must be prepared to speak of the Son who is the Father, and the Spirit who is not Spirit, and the Father who is the Son, and the Son who is and is not the Spirit, and the Father who is not at all because he is and is not the Father, and all three together who are and are not “God”, and each by himself who is and is not “God”—in short, a heap of muddled nonsense. Giles will no doubt say that the Father is different from the Son because the first “begets” (whatever that means for Giles) and the other is “begotten” (whatever that means for Giles), but still, the question remains unanswered. If “God” is as much the Son as “he” is the Father . . . and the problem arises yet again. Is this, Kevin, what it means to say that “God is a mystery”? Is that your answer? Athanasius avoided this problem by locating the divine nature in the person of God the Father specifically, and affirmed the equality of the Son and Spirit by making fatherhood the defining property of his (the Father’s) being, thereby seeing the Son and Spirit as intrinsic to his very being alongside possessing that being by virtue of the inherently generative nature of the Father. Giles should do the same.
In conclusion, Kevin Giles, whose key will not fit the lock of Athanasius’ theology, has taken a crowbar to the door of his works. This portion of his work should not be published. I now turn my attention to Giles’ treatment of the relationship between the divine persons vis-à-vis the operations ad extra of the Trinity.
Giles’ Attempt to Read Symmetrical Interrelatedness Into Athanasius’ Doctrine of Operations Ad Extra
Before getting into my critique of Giles’ claims with regard to Athanasius’ doctrine of the operations ad extra let me make clear at the outset that I emphatically do not endorse “subordination(ism)”, despite Giles’ constantly saying otherwise, nor is there any proof in anything that I have ever written on the Trinity that would even begin to begin to suggest that I affirmed it in the sense that Giles uses the word. And likewise, in registering this critique of Giles’ account of Athanasius’ doctrine on the matter, it needs to be pointed out (especially to Giles, who has the tendency to leap clear facts in a single bound in order to arrive at a false conclusion) that the fact that I insist that Athanasius did not affirm Giles’ symmetrical account does not in the least imply that I believe that Athanasius therefore did affirm that the Father-Son relationship may be likened to a boss set over an employee. Giles is correct to reject such and to see in Athanasius the rejection of such; once again, however, Giles jumps to all the wrong conclusions by believing him to have held the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to act as one in an undifferentiated sense. That Athanasius denied that the Incarnation of the Son of God proved the Son to be less divine than the Father does not entail that he therefore denied that the Son of God is the effective agent whereby the will of the Father is realized—and not the other way around—and the false hypothetical syllogism that would suggest as much is of Giles’ own making, not Athanasius’. I have dealt extensively with this in my TE, II: 35 – 48, and there is nothing whatever in Giles’ own treatment of this topic above that directly engages my arguments, still less overturns them. My response to this portion of his submission will therefore be brief.
While we’ve already seen above that Giles has severely misconstrued the very ground principle of Athanasius’ doctrine of the immanent Trinity (i.e., the monarchy of the Father, and the fact that the Father is father), Giles is right to see Athanasius’ doctrine of the immanent Trinity as influencing his doctrine of the economic Trinity. And as the doctrine of a symmetrical relationship ad intra would suggest, Giles argues that the Father has no priority—in any sense, it seems—with regard to the operations ad extra. In particular, Giles focuses on the doctrine of perichoresis with regard to the immanent Trinity, and from this he concludes that, for Athanasius, both ontological and “functional” subordination were excluded outright.
What does Giles mean by “functional subordinationism”? Unlike the account of functional subordination that I’d given earlier on Tekton, Giles immediately equates functional “subordination” with talk of “command-obedience” and “chains-of-command”, and so on—a model which I explicitly rejected long before I’d ever heard of Giles or the contemporary gender debate.
Note the logic: 1) either egalitarianism or “functional subordination”; 2) if “functional subordination”, then the Son is the Father’s slave. Both premises are unsound. At any rate, Giles goes on (rightly) to say that Athanasius’ theology does not allow for such a doctrine: the persons completely coinhere, the persons have a unity of will, etc. And Giles is no doubt correct: Athanasius does affirm the unity of the Father and Son; Athansius would never have endorsed the husband-wife or boss-employee analogy to illustrate the divine activity. Thus, following Giles’ reasoning, as it is not the case that Athanasius endorses such, it therefore is the case that Athanasius endorses an egalitarian model for the divine activity—
Athanasius, following the New Testament, thinks of the divine persons working together cooperatively, symmetrically and in an orderly way.
The key word here is “symmetrically”. Giles cites a number of passages which are intended to illustrate this “symmetrical” relationship, and the problem with each of these is that none of them do. Let’s take one citation as an example—
“What God speaks, it is very plain. He speaks through the Word and not another, and the Word is not separate from the Father, nor unlike and foreign to the Father’s essence, what he works, those are the Father’s works.”
The problem with using this passage as proof of a symmetrical relationship for the divine activity is that it 1) comes at the expense of ignoring the “through”—which is present in every such passage that Giles cites—and, 2) it is the result of misinterpreting the fact that the Son’s works “are the Father’s works”. The fact that Athanasius speaks always of the Father working through the Son, and never of the Son working through the Father, indicates that it is most improbable that Athanasius could have seen the relationship as symmetrical, thus it is rather confusing that the only comment that Giles has to say on this fact is that such a “pattern” does not imply “division” (whoever claimed that it does?) or “subordination” (again, whoever claimed that it does in the sense that Giles understands the word?). Thus when Giles attempts to see this “pattern” as symmetrical, the proof for this will no doubt come by emphasizing the latter part of the above citation: the Father’s works are the Son’s works. Now, the problem with seeing this as implying a symmetrical (rather than asymmetrical) relationship is that it does no justice whatever to the first half of the passage, which explains the sense in which the Son’s works are the Father’s and the Father’s works the Son’s. If I say, “Look out the window,” both my words and myself perform the same work, and the words announce themselves and the one who spoke them. The relationship, however, between the words and he whose words they are, is completely asymmetrical—it is I who communicate through my words.
My chief difficulty with Giles’ position is that, as the disjunctive syllogism above suggests, he has no theological category for such a model of the divine activity. This model undoubtedly implies a form of priority with regard to the Father, and a sense in which the Son’s activities are dependent upon/a consequence of the initiation of the Father specifically. And indeed, from what I’ve seen from Giles, he is unwilling to accept any such notion. Rather, he advances the notion that this priority—which is without doubt heavily implied by the passages which Giles himself cites to argue against the fact—resides in each of the three persons in an indiscriminate manner.
Giles cites one passage as an example of Athanasius’ Trinitarian “pattern” of divine activity, which speaks of the Father’s activity being through the Son and in the Spirit. But let’s see the passage in context, taking note of what Giles leaves out—
The Father does all things through the Word in the Holy Spirit. Thus the unity of the Holy Trinity is preserved. Thus one God is preached in the Church, “who is over all and through all and in all”—“over all,” as Father, as beginning and fount; “through all,” the Word; “in all,” in the Holy Spirit. (Ad Serapion, 1:28)
Indeed, when Athanasius explains passages such as 1 Cor. 8:6 (“one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things”), he explains them by saying that the Father “uses his proper Word as a hand, and in him does all things.” (DD, 7) Again, this can only imply an asymmetrical relationship.
But that Giles does not wish to focus on the asymmetrical relationship implied by such phrases—which are, literally, everywhere in Athanasius’ articulation of the divine activity—is indicated by the fact that all of the extended citations that he offers include language to the effect that the Son does what the Father does. What this latter would imply—left to itself and unexplained by the “from” and “through” language which surrounds it, and which Giles wholly ignores giving substantial treatment to—is a form of divine activity where each of the persons is the author and performer of an activity in an undifferentiated sense. Indeed, at the conclusion of this portion Giles says that—
. . . to eternally subordinate the Son or the Spirit in work/operation/function by necessity implies their ontological subordination. If the Son (and the Spirit) on the basis of his personal identity alone must always take the subordinate role and always be obedient to the Father, then he must be a subordinated person, less than his superior in some way. Athanasius’ denial of the eternal functional subordination of the Son . . .
Again, note the logic: 1) if always “subordinate” (whatever that means) in function, then ontologically inferior; 2) not ontologically inferior; 3) therefore, ontologically equal; 4) therefore, not “subordinate” (whatever that means) in function; 5) therefore, symmetrical relationship. All of these premises aside from the second and third are false, but it seems that Giles sees them as true and reasons in precisely such a manner. And it is, I believe, because of this unsound reasoning that Giles treats the evidence as he does. The grossest such example of Giles’ abuse of reason—and his very sources, in order to obtain the conclusion that is the consequence of this faulty reasoning—comes with the final extended citation that Giles offers to substantiate the notion that the divine activity is performed in a symmetrical fashion that gives no priority to the Father. Note the italicized portion—
“For the Father having given all things to the Son, in the Son still has all things; and the Son having still the Father has them; for the Son’s Godhead is the Father’s Godhead, and thus the Father and the Son exercise his providence over all things.”
Now, this passage—as presented above—says of the Father and Son exactly what Giles wants Athanasius to say of the Father and Son. The Father has the Son and the Son has the Father; the Father and Son have the same “Godhead”; the Father and Son exercise the providence of the Godhead over all things. Just as with the immanent Trinity, Giles here shows himself using “the Godhead” as a neutralizer that allows for a symmetrical relationship between Father and Son. Now witness how the passage actually appears in the text—
. . . for the Son’s Godhead is the Father’s Godhead, and thus the Father in the Son exercises his providence over all things. (OCA, 3:36)
Giles has changed the text. The text itself has the Father working in the Son, but Giles has changed “in” to “and,” and “excercises” to “exercise.” The difference is not at all insignificant—with Giles’ corruption of the text it appears as though “the Godhead” is (itself) working through both the Father and Son in an undifferentiated sense; without such a corruption of the text, however, the asymmetrical relationship that we saw everywhere else is heavily implied: the operations originate in the Father and are fulfilled through the Son, who is the effective agent whereby the will of the Father is realized.
Not only that, but note also what immediately precedes the portion of this passage cited by Giles, which he doesn’t bring to the reader’s attention—
Rather then is the Word faithful, and all things which he says that he has received, he has always, yet has from the Father; and the Father indeed not from any, but the Son from the Father. (OCA, 3:36)
This is an absolutely clear passage that establishes an asymmetrical relationship and the monarchy of the Father, and it is deceptive of Giles to leave it out, especially while trying to argue the opposite. His corruption of the text is—within the context of the polemic that he is engaged in, and from the point of view of scholarship—unforgivable. The changing of a word would simply imply a human error on the part of the scribe, but the changing of two words—and this when the alteration of those words significantly advances the agenda of the author—is beyond being merely suspicious. With the text as Giles has rendered it, he has precisely the evidence he wants to arrive at his conclusion: the one Godhead, had equally by Father and Son, works in both such that the relationship between them is symmetrical and no priority is had by the person of the Father. The actual text begins by clearly ascribing a priority to the Father, with all that follows coinciding exactly with this premise. But this misrepresentation of sources is something that will come as no surprise to those with whom Giles has engaged in debate.
In conclusion, we may first point out that Giles’ reasoning is severely flawed. He jumps to unwarranted conclusions while imposing upon the evidence a framework that is unable to comprehend it’s testimony. Giles understands “equality” in the sense of both people being able to “call the shots”; he has, in other words, analyzed the Trinity in light of the categories offered by the contemporary gender debate. For Giles, the homoousios is something like a bill of rights with the words “My will be done; don’t tread on Me,” written on it, and each of the divine three having their hands equally upon it. Giles therefore has no use for the biblical and patristic notion of all things originating in one person specifically; his theology of the Trinity cannot face the idea of a certain priority being assigned to the Father. Such being the case, he has imposed upon the texts of Athanasius a meaning that is not there, and this by failing to give attention to the uni-directional, causal language that they include—quickly brushing such to the side by saying of it no more than that “it doesn’t imply ‘subordination’” (whatever that means)—before going on and investing them with a meaning that is not at all implied in context. And the most base example of this abuse of his resources is his alteration of the text—an alteration that allows him to see in Athanasius precisely what he wants to see.
However, before moving on, let me briefly say that in drawing attention to the fact that Giles has altered the text, I don’t thereby intend to imply that he is a person who deliberately alters sources at will in order to advance his agenda; rather, what I believe is that he deliberately advances his agenda, and that this fact explains the reckless manner in which he deals with his sources. And while this may not be lying, what it suggests is an author who cannot be trusted, and whose treatment of his sources is without doubt highly deceptive.
I have dealt extensively with the issue of the divine activity in Athanasius in TE, II: 35 – 49; with regard to the orthodox, catholic Tradition in III: 5 – 49. Readers are advised to turn there in order to see a more accurate account of the facts, treated without the illogic that operates throughout Giles’ own treatment. The evidence is irrefutable: the Father must be seen as having a causal priority with regard to the divine operations ad extra, and this is held by Athanasius and the whole Tradition. Again: the evidence is irrefutable. What we see in Giles is the unreason, misinterpretation and misrepresentation of texts that is the consequence of being unwilling to face this fact.
I’ll now go on to briefly demonstrate that the monarchy of the Father in Athanasius is clearly recognized by experts in the field, despite Giles’ implications otherwise.
Athanasius’ Understanding of the Relationship Between the Father and Son in Contemporary Patristic Scholarship
In the preceding we’ve seen how Giles has abused Athanasius’ writings, and prior to that, in his response to me, we saw in—in bold letters—Giles’ own testimony to his integrity as a person and a scholar. In the same response, we’ve also seen Giles imply that I was wrong to claim his use of secondary sources to be misleading and deceptive. In this section I’ll turn my attention to this issue, with regard to Giles’ presentation of the monarchy of the Father in Athanasius, and leave it to the reader’s judgment whether or not I am wrong to insist that I cannot withdraw my previous accusation.
When Giles treats of Widdicombe’s The Fatherhood of God from Origen to Athanasius, the first thing that catches my attention is that Giles still will not admit that he misrepresented him to me the letter I mention in TE, V: 42 – 46; indeed, while Giles does now admit that Widdicombe affirms the monarchy of the Father (even though, as we’ll see, he attempts to water this down somewhat), he also implies that my accusation against him on this point was unwarranted. In point of fact, Giles, in his attempt to justify himself, actually misrepresented the charge that I brought before him. Giles implies that I accused him of being deceptive because he claimed that Widdicombe only mentioned the monarchy of the Father twice, when in point of fact I accused him of being deceptive because he did not admit that Widdicombe states that Athanasius affirmed the causal priority of the Father in Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology. In other words, he evades the actual accusation so that he may acquit himself before his audience of a crime that he was never charged with.
What is interesting here is this: Kevin Giles is a man who will not admit to misrepresenting his resources, even when he is caught red-handed. He has been charged with such by many persons—and rightly so—but he has not once made a public acknowledgement of the fact. The closest that he does come to doing so is an off-hand remark about how there “may be some minor faults” in his work, or, as we’ve seen in his own reply to me above, a sort of pre-emptive measure intended to make us think that of course he’s not the type of fellow who would willingly abuse his resources, and that he is honestly open to being corrected on matters of fact. He never substantially engages the specific accusations. He is, he would have us believe, a sincere student of Athanasius, and far from being driven by any personal agenda, he simply wants to better understand the orthodox, catholic Trinitarian faith.
Now, in one sense I believe Giles, but in another I do not. That is, I do not believe it to be the case that on those many occasions that Giles misrepresents a source and misleads his audience, he consciously resolved to lie. On the other hand, I believe Giles to be so utterly absorbed in trying to win the debate(s) that he is engaged in—and, having presupposed from the outset the correctness of his own position—that his mind has a tendency only to “digest” what is helpful either to his position (his selective and misleading treatment of Athanasius, dealt with above) or his argument (e.g., his flat-out lying about my position on “subordinationism” and his listing a number of either untrue or misleading statements about me in his response—which, by the way, he submitted to many other parties than the Tekton readership, and whose initial impression of me will be what Giles has left them with—in an obvious attempt to simply make his opponent look bad; he tells them that I have no degree, but he makes not the slightest mention of, e.g., the enormous bibliography included in TE, which is indicative of the fact that I’m at least very well read on the Trinity, etc.) Thus I myself, after reading his book, interacting with him via email, and reading his response posted above, do not in the least believe that he is a sincere student of the Trinity or Athanasius. I believe it rather more likely that Giles knows where he wants to arrive before he begins doing his research, and that he leads the evidence in that direction.
Back to the point at hand, in his response Giles first implies that I have misunderstood Widdicobme. In his own words—
Widdicombe speaks repeatedly of the “priority of the term Father,” not of the priority of the Father. I only see two brief sections in the book on the monarche of the Father, in the sense that the Father is the source of the being of the Son, despite the fact that Paulson thinks I am misrepresenting Widdicombe and lying.
Giles’ leading his audience to believe that only the word “father” is important according to Widdicombe is—as we’ve seen—a fact that, if true, would be wonderfully coincident with Giles’ own position (i.e., just as “right” implies “left,” so too “father” implies “son,” and as such, this entailment is strictly logical, not causal). But this assertion from Giles is such a ridiculous misrepresentation of Widdicombe’s work that it, in my opinion, by itself disqualifies even the possibility of seeing Giles as either an objective reader or competent scholar or honest. According to Widdicombe, for Athanasius, “inherent to the terms Father and Son is the idea of their relation to each other arising from the generation of the latter from the former”. (174, emphasis mine) Athanasius’ debate with the Arians “was not primarily about the belief that God was Father. The Arians accepted that proposition. The debate was about the way in which the Son is Son, and thus, from Athanasius’ point of view, about the way in which the Father is Father.” (254) Indeed, this very asymmetrical relationship according to which the Father is inherently generative is one of the central theses of Widdicombe’s study, and if Giles has failed to notice this—noticing only the logical entailment of the names—then he has utterly missed the point of Widdicombe’s study.
Giles has made two other blunders with regard to Widdicombe. First, he makes the outlandish claim that Widdicombe “has simply read Athanasius in terms of the Cappadocians”, and that—with regard to Widdicombe’s affirmation of the protological priority of the Father—Widdicombe “hasn’t researched the issue and shows no evidence of doing so.” With regard to the former it is worth mentioning that Widdicombe doesn’t even mention the Cappadocians. There is no justification whatever for Giles’ claim, and what it shows beyond doubt is that Giles has understood Athanasian scholarship wholly from the point of his own narrow perspective. Concerning the latter, Widdicombe’s study on this theme in Athanasius’ theology is the definitive work on the subject and is held in the highest regard by experts in the field. I almost feel embarrassed for Giles that he even made such a claim.
Giles’ second blunder is to mention the fact that Widdicombe’s work was written before “Torrance had published his definitive studies on the early Eastern development of trinitarian doctrine”—as though it would have mattered. Despite his disdain for “conservative evangelicals” and Christians who understand the Genesis creation-account literally, Giles himself is quite the fundamentalist when it comes to T.F. Torrance. Yet this attitude on the part of Giles—as though Torrance were “the last word” on contemporary Athanasian scholarship—is quite unwarranted. While no one would wish to deny that Torrance was a great theologian, and that his association with the early Church is quite remarkable, he is not, as far as I know, accorded the same dignity with regard to Athanasian studies as, e.g., Larry Hurtado is with regard to earliest Christology, or Henri Crouzel is with regard to Origen. He is virtually unmentioned in the sources that I myself have with regard to the Nicene era by patristic scholars, and is not mentioned at all on the issue of the relationship between the Father and Son—indeed, I haven’t seen anyone make as much use of him in understanding Athanasius as Giles.
Giles’ treatment of Hanson is also misleading, though not to such a great degree. First, with regard to my mentioning that Giles himself in TS failed to mention that Hanson claims that homoousios—for Athanasius—“has some derivative force” (in a portion of his work where Giles consistently leads his audience to believe that Athanasius held to a symmetrical account), Giles first says that “it is no sin not to quote from a book something you do not agree with”. But surely it is the duty of the author to present to the audience evidence that counters his own position when he is engaged in polemic, and on a topic as important as this. It is no small thing to imply or accuse a bishop of heresy, and it is flat-out deceptive to hide evidence and make the audience think that Giles’ argument is simply a “home-run”. However, Giles then goes on to imply that Hanson does not in fact back me on the point I was trying to make—
I immediately went to Hanson to check on Paulson’s accusation and found no problem at all with the words set in context (See Hanson, The Search, p 441). Athanasius argues that all sons are one in being (homoousios) with their father. In a passing comment that Hanson does not develop he simply notes what Athanasius’ argument assumes that sons derive their identical being from their fathers. I do not find in Hanson any suggestion that Athanasius thought the Father was the sole source (monarche) of the being of the Son.
But the only thing “passing” about this statement—indeed, this entire section—in Hanson’s work was Giles attention over it. Hanson mentions Athanasius’ use of the light-radiance paradigm in order to explain the meaning of homoousios (439) and that the notion that the Son is the offspring of the Father—a constant theme in Athanasius—suggests derivative force (441). Hanson then goes on to note that the word cannot simply imply a numerical identity (442) before going on to mention with approval Dinsen’s interpreting the word in light of the fact that the Father is “the Origin, Root and Source of the Son”, and saying again that, “There is a ‘derivative’ sense which Athanasius reads into the word. (443) Hanson concludes the substantial portion of his discussion of the word in Athanasius by citing Stead, and in summarizing his position explicitly states that “the relationship” between the Father and Son “is asymmetrical”. (443) Hanson does not even offer an argument against this understanding of Athanasius’ use of the word. And though Hanson does not emphasize the point to the degree that I myself do, his section on Athanasius’ understanding of the Father and Son basically coincides with my own presentation. (421 – 436, esp. 427ff.)
Finally, brief mention must be made of Giles’ making so much of the fact that I (dared to!) take issue with Hanson’s inadequate treatment of Athanasius’ doctrine of the manner in which the Father and Son are interrelated per operations ad extra. Matt Paulson’s “arrogance knows no bounds” because—
he also thinks R P C Hanson is dead wrong on key issues (see Paulson pages 32 and 34). Hanson is a scholar’s scholar. On the points he disagrees with Hanson I think Hanson is completely right.
And what does Giles do to prove that I was wrong on the point in contention? Nothing whatever, but rather, he goes on to badly misrepresent my own position—linking me with Doyle, with whom Giles seems to have some sort of desperate obsession—within the confines of his own understanding of and categories for the Trinity.
Two things need to be mentioned here. First of all, while Hanson is no doubt highly respected in the field of patristics, this fact by no means makes him immune from error. Hanson’s interpretations can at times be rather wooden and somewhat wide of the mark, and he has been challenged on several points in the past by other experts, such as De Lubac and Crouzel with regard to Origen, or John Behr with regard to the Nicene era. Does Giles himself agree, for example, with Hanson’s claim that Athanasius’ understanding of the Incarnation did so little justice to the humanity of Christ that it can be summarized as “a Space-suit Christology”? (448) And second, unlike Giles, when I disagree with someone I show why and go into detail. Arrogance is typified by asserting oneself beyond the proper bounds, which for me were constituted by the evidence. In my monograph on Athanasius—which Giles has—I devote a fifteen page section to vindicating my thesis with more than 35 citations of Athanasius’ writings themselves, and the portion of TE that deals with this (II: 35 – 48) is by no means lacking argument and evidence. In other words, I base my argument on intensive interaction with the evidence; Giles, on the other hand, rejects it outright by an appeal to authority, a theological a priori, and no interaction with my arguments.
Moving along, Giles implies that Widdicombe wrongly cites the work of Meijering on his behalf, and further leaves his readers with the impression that Meijering, unlike Widdicombe, advances the notion that Athanasius understands the relationship between the Father and Son to be symmetrical. However, Hanson, in summarizing Meijering’s position, states that, according to Meijering, Athanasius “uses arche in two senses, as indicating a beginning in time (which he denies to the Son) and as an ‘eternal origin’, which he allows and places in the Father”, and that “Athanasius,” though “obscure” on the notion of cause, and disallowing the premise that causation implies ontological superiority, “can hardly deny that the Father as agenetos [ungenerated] is uncaused, whereas the Son as genetos [generated] is caused.” Hanson does mention that, according to Meijering, “Arche for [Athanasius] almost means Godhead”, but he goes on to conclude that “the Father’s perfection consists in the fact that he is the Father of the Son.” (434f.) In short, according to Hanson’s representation, Meijering’s understanding of Athanasius’ doctrine certainly includes an asymmetrical relationship between the Father and the Son. Given what I’ve seen elsewhere of Giles rather amazing ability to wrongly understand what a text says, I believe it would be safer to conclude that Widdicombe—an expert on Athanasius—did not cite Meijering to ill effect.
Yet my chief concern with Giles’ treatment of the secondary sources with regard to the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father in Athanasius is that he leaves the audience with the impression that, according to the experts, the symmetrical view is respectable, if not preferred. He cites Widdicombe on behalf of the monarchy, and Torrance and Meijering against it. But this is very misleading. Johannes Quasten summarizes Athanasius’ position by saying that “the Father is the origin, the Son the derivation . . . Eternally begotten, the Son is of the Father’s substance . . .” (Patrology, vol. 3, pg. 69) According to Stead, in Athanasius’ theology “the Father’s essence . . . is necessarily, fully and eternally communicated to the Son. What is reserved to the first Person is his title of Father and his position as the ultimate origin of all things” (Philosophy in Christian Antiquity, 159); the Father and Son “are not interchangeable, still less identical as Persons; the Father himself remains the ultimate source from which glory flows out and to which thanksgiving is returned.” (ibid., 171) According to Pettersen’s interpretation of Athanasius—which Giles does have and even cites in a footnote above in his section on Athanasius (n. 3)—the Father is “the divine uncaused Cause”, and “the source of the Son and Spirit.” “The Father is, and is not only called, Father.” (Athanasius, 175)
And lastly, a surprise for Giles. There has been one major publication on the Nicene era since I posted my TE on Tekton, John Behr’s The Nicene Faith (Formation of Christian Theology, vol. 2/1). In this work, which is—I mention in passing—given the highest praise by such experts in the field as Rowan Williams and Brian Daley, Behr states that, according to Athanasius, “the ‘one God’ of the Christian faith is unquestionably the Father . . . But, and this is an important qualification, as soon as the word ‘Father’ is said . . . it co-signifies the Son” (242), and, “There is . . . an intrinsic asymmetry to their relationship: the Son is from the essence of the Father; he is the Son of God.” (244) This is exactly what I myself argued for in TE.
In bringing this section to conclusion, I must say that Giles’ use of secondary sources with regard to the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father in Athanasius is disappointing. He claims that to deny that Athanasius posited the Father specifically as the fountain of divinity, and an asymmetrical relationship between the Father and Son, is “a respected scholarly position”. But it is not. It is a position held by Giles, perhaps Torrance, and almost certainly not Meijering. As we saw from Athanasius’ writings themselves, Athanasius definitely—not probably or maybe, but definitely—held to an asymmetrical causal relationship between the Father and Son. Therefore, even were the reverse of this to be held by experts in the field, it would by no means be “a respected scholarly position”. It would, in that case, be a position wrongly held by respected scholars.
Before going on to treat other portions of Giles’ response—including his absolutely hideous misrepresentation about certain facts concerning myself and my correspondence with him—brief mention needs to be made of a few other instances wherein Giles has made a source say or imply what it does not.
Giles—having safely ignored section III of my TE—claims that I am wrong to claim that the monarchy of the Father is definitely affirmed, and he further says that, according to me, “if any Western theologian questions the monarchy of the Father he must be a contemporary Protestant.” (cf. TE, V: 13) This is a slight exaggeration, for elsewhere in TE that “Giles may well be able to drag in the testimony of Erickson and other Protestants—or perhaps even an obscure Catholic theologian here or there who is as concerned with politics as doctrine, and is basically dismissive of the Tradition—he cannot cite in his behalf the major theologians of the Church who are both faithful to the past, and representative of the faith of the whole Church” (V: 31), and this certainly makes clear the sense in which the claim to which Giles refers is to be taken.
At any rate, Giles attempts to drag in the testimony of two Catholic theologians to contest my claim. First, he cites Fortman to the effect that the monarchy of the Father itself “can easily involve subordinationism”. The problem with this is that Fortman’s point is not that the monarchy itself leads to subordinationism, or that it is “suspect,” but rather, that taking the fact of the Father’s being source as the point of departure for theological reflection may lead to subordinationism. In other words, he says nothing whatever about the doctrine itself, but rather, his point is epistemic. Throughout his presentation both the fact of the Father’s being the source of the Son and Spirit, and the fact of the three’s identity of nature, are constantly to the fore. A theologian may focus his attention on either of these facts, and an over-emphasis on either of them have certain consequences. The second Catholic theologian that Giles alludes to is Boff—a liberation theologian; exactly the type of theologian that I predicted that Giles would bring in order to attempt to contradict me. Three things must be stated here. In the first place, I am unfamiliar with Boff’s work. Such being the case, I am in no place to offer an interpretation of his theology. I do not discredit him outright because of the political-social emphasis in his theology, though it must be noted that an egalitarian model of the Trinity that downplays the monarchy of the Father would provide a rather good model for such a theologian. Second, given what I’ve seen of Giles’ treatment of sources, I am by no means going to simply take his word for it. And third—and this is most important—Boff is by no means on equal footing with those theologians and official declarations of the Church that I cited in TE, III. I bring in Rahner, O’Collins, Congar, Kasper, von Balthasar. Let Giles meet the challenge head-on.
Giles also says that I wrongly accused him of misrepresenting Torrance and LaCugna with regard to Giles’ claim in TS (43) that—
the word “Father” denotes the source of all being, thus being a predicate applicable to the Son and Spirit as well as the Father; on the other hand, the word “Father” refers to the divine person of the Father in the immanent Trinity, as distinct from the Son and Spirit. (TE, IV: 19)
Now, Giles may have a valid claim against me here. In his TS itself, he mentions the distinction between “the Godhead” and “God the Father” without explicitly stating that, in this case, “the Godhead” refers to “a predicate applicable to the Son and Spirit as well as the Father”, and if I have wrongly attributed to Giles a meaning that he did not intend, then I admit my error and apologize. On the other hand, in his response to me, he never claimed that I misread him here, and as we’ve seen elsewhere, Giles frequently uses the term “Godhead” to denote the whole Trinity.
The problem here is this: it is most certainly not the case that the word “Father” in either the Bible or the ante-Nicene era was used as a predicate for the whole Trinity. Thus when, e.g., Justin Martyr or Irenaeus refer to God as “the Father and maker of all”—a phrase that is, admittedly, indebted to Plato’s Timaeus, and, as such, indicative of something quite along the lines of “divinity” or “the essence of divinity”—this term has a single referent: the Father, and not the Son nor the Spirit. And LaCugna certainly does not in the slightest imply otherwise; rather, she says that the Cappadocians wrongly divorced the notion of God’s fatherhood from the sense of “maker of all” and emphasized almost exclusively the relations within the immanent Trinity. That was her point, and as anyone who has read her God For Us knows, she is rather insistent on the fact that the word “God” refers to the Father specifically in Scripture and the ante-Nicene era. Second, I in no way intended to imply that Giles was lying about Torrance; indeed, my mentioning the fact that Giles mentioned only three pages in two works from Giles ought to have made him realize my point in mentioning the fact, which was that, given the evidence of the ante-Nicene corpus itself, there is no way that such a claim (understood in the sense that I elaborated it, rightly or wrongly, in TE, IV: 19) could be vindicated with merely three disconnected pages. In other words, what I meant was not, “Torrance does not say what Giles says he does,” but rather, “It is most improbable that Torrance actually proves this in three pages from two different books.” So, in summary, if I was right to see Giles as reading all three divine persons into the word “Godhead” as used by LaCugna in the portion of her work that he cites, then I am right to say that he has misrepresented her; if I was wrong to do so, then he hasn’t; and lastly, I did not accuse him of misrepresenting Torrance.
In bringing this section to a close, I conclude that Giles has indeed abused his sources and misrepresented them to his audience. In some cases, this would seem to be due to a certain sort of inability to digest information that clearly goes against the position that he prefers (e.g., Widdicombe, Meijering); in others, it would seem to be due to a rather reckless, inattentive reading of the work (e.g., Hanson, Fortman). At any rate, it is indicative of an author who does not deserve to be seen as having competence enough to treat the subject at hand.
In this section of my rejoinder—which is by far the least important, while at the same time engaging the majority of what Giles wrote of me in his response—I will demonstrate that Giles has flat-out lied about many things concerning myself. I’ll treat to some length three of Giles claims that I find especially outrageous, and conclude by briefly interacting with other of his claims.
First, I find Giles’ constant misrepresentation of my own theological position to be nearly unforgivable in light of the degree to which I have developed it and the rigor and clarity whereby I carefully distinguish it from other positions. According to Giles, a “subordinationist” is a person who maintains that the Son is something like an employee who must ever “submit” to the Father—his boss—and furthermore, this necessarily implies ontological inferiority. Thus when I read Giles claiming that my TE, which never once comes anywhere near affirming a position even close to such, “argues that the Son of God is eternally subordinated to the Father,” and that it is an “attempt to substantiate the eternal subordination of the Son,” and that I am a “convinced subordinationist”, and that I have in the past written articles “that supported the eternal subordination of the Son of God”—indeed, that I am “so sure that the Son of God is eternally subordinated to the Father that support from learned Catholic theologians is not needed”—and that “in the past” I was “committed to eternal functional subordination”, and that I “and all subordinationists” cannot countenance the fact that all that the Father has the Son has, aside from fatherhood, because “it excludes on principle all” that we “hold dear”, namely, to assign “some priority to the Father so that the Son then stands under him” (as though I were trying to construct a model that would justify my placing the wife that I don’t have under my command!), and so on—when I read these things being written of me I am not only offended, but in point of fact angry.
All such claims from Giles are flat-out lies. Every time the subject of “subordinationism” had been brought up in our email correspondence in the past, I went out of my way to make it absolutely clear that I don’t accept the doctrine—and not only that, but that my own understanding is dissimilar from that of Doyle, Moody, and Baddeley. In TE I reject the very word “subordinationism” and go into detail, showing the specific reasons why Giles’ own approach is inadequate. But what is most disturbing in my view is that Giles, who obviously has not read—and if he has read, certainly not understood—the very work which he criticizes, nonetheless hurls these claims against me. Indeed, he himself admits that he was unable even to follow that portion of TE where I explicitly deal with the subject, and when this fact is combined with the utterly vague, simplistic approach he adopts on the matter, he has no right even to speak about my position on the subject. He has whittled my position down till it is an easy target for his polemic; he has misrepresented what he never understood in order to try to win an argument. Had he cared for truth, he had plenty of opportunities to understand my position; I certainly have not been unclear on the issue.
Next, Giles has lied about my character in our email exchanges, and unfortunately for Giles, since—in Giles words—there are “no holds barred” in this exchange, I have saved every email that he ever sent to me, and am now going to publicly reproduce them to vindicate myself from his false and completely base accusations.
In his response, Giles states that—
After 14 email exchanges in which I got nowhere and was insulted in every one I put two questions to him.
Of course, painting such a portrait of me fits rather well with the overall picture Giles is attempting to draw in his response, especially the first section, where he does little more than, basically, attempt to make me look as bad as possible before going to treat the issues. But the facts themselves, were Giles willing to stay with them, would prove quite a hindrance to this goal.
Here is a copy of my first email to him:
Sent: Friday, April 30, 2004 12:44 PM Subject: Trinity, Attn: Kevin Giles
I was wondering how I might be able to contact Kevin Giles. I have just completed a monograph on the Trinitarian theology of St. Athanasius, in the course of which I take issue with several of Giles claims. I would like the opportunity to submit the work to him. Peace and all the best, Matt Paulson
The humanity! While I’m not quite certain whether it was the “Peace and all the best” that Giles found insulting, or some other part, perhaps my second email to him will have a more obvious and singular example:
Sent: Monday, May 10, 2004 8:50 AM Subject: Attn: Kevin Giles
Say hey Kevin, I'm just writing to ask whether or not you received the messages that I sent to you last week? Peace and all the best, Matt
Ouch! And who can forget the brutality with which I treated Giles in the following message:
Sent: Monday, May 10, 2004 1:56 PM Subject: Re: Kevin Giles
Matt: Say hey Kevin, thanks for the response,
Kevin: How a preoccupation with women's peramanet subordination corrupts good theology!
Matt: You're telling me :-)
Kevin: I will be in contact in due course. I will be absolutely amazed if you can find any subordination in Athansius.
Matt: Cool, I look forward to hearing from you. By the way, keep in mind that I never argue that Athanasius taught "subordination(ism)" in any sense that you presented it in your book. Basically, I think that your analysis of him is grounded in a category confusion that causes you to miss the point. You deny the consequent in a hypothetical syllogism because you think that if it is affirmed it entails a certain antecedent, when in point of fact it doesn't. Thus, according to my reading, Athanasius agrees neither with yourself, nor with those who favor the "husband and wife" or "boss and employee" analogies. One party goes to the left, the other goes to the right; Athanasius is upward. Peace and all the best, Matt
Simply brutal!, but (giving no comment on Giles accusation that my friends have corrupted the doctrine of the Trinity in order to advance their position in the gender debate) it certainly is nothing compared to the following—
Sent: Friday, May 07, 2004 2:39 AM Subject: quick note
Peace, Kevin, You should consider entering the discussion board that Andy notified you of a few days ago. I think that we may well be able to make some headway. Peace and all the best, Matt
. . . And so on. In point of fact, I never once said anything that could even be taken as offensive till responding to a letter that had the following rather charming comments from Giles—
. . . I almost fell of my chair when you accused me of "monarchical modalistic tritheism." I knew at this point the scholar had left the room and taken his brain with him. Sorry I am always direct in debate. Modalism teaches there is one God: it is the exact opposite of tritheism. A modalistic tritheist is like around square! Did you have thick dark glasses on when you read me on the Cappadocians?
Leaving to the side the fact that I was actually correct on what he’d said about the Cappadocians in his TS (43), the following from my response to this gracious expression on the part of Giles got no more rude than such as the following—
Giles: When I try and dialogue with your friends Mark Baddeley and Andrew Moody I have the same problem. I simply cannot communicate with them.
Matt: It must be their fault. I’m sure that you’re 100% correct on every single point.
Kevin: I know what corrupts their thinking, a passionate concern for male hegemony,
Matt: That’s a lot of nonsense. The corrupting factor in the debate is more likely your own monomania for that very issue, and your inability to NOT analyze the Trinity in light of it.
While there is no doubt some heavy sarcasm here, I stand by my use of it in light of Giles own use of the same, not to mention his lying about Baddeley and Moody, who are my friends; and while I advance the charge against Giles of interpreting the Trinity according to the categories offered by the contemporary gender debate, I stand by this accusation as well, and this based on the evidence in his writings themselves. At any rate, what I found so absolutely shocking about Giles next email, which called me “downright rude and offensive”, was that he hadn’t the slightest ability to recognize his own faults in this regard. Indeed, after taking the initiative to send my emails to Moody and Baddeley (without my having requested him to do such), both of them several times took issue with the manner in which Giles spoke to me, and while they by no means claimed that I was simply turning the other cheek the entire time, they both agreed that such sarcasm that was in my messages was, in every case, provoked by Giles. Despite what Giles would lead his audience to believe, I did not treat him with any less respect than he deserved, and I most certainly never implied anything even near violence such that Giles would have cause to think that I would “firebomb” his car. Giles is known for being a polemicist, and has quite a reputation for delivering “zingers” against his opponents. That he cannot put up with what he dishes out is his own problem, but his playing the wounded victim is most misleading, and his accusing me of being rude and insulting in every email that I sent him is a malicious lie.
Next, Giles has lied about how our email correspondence came to an end. He claims that I misrepresented the truth in TE, and that rather than me refusing to write to him, he was the one who brought the conversation to an end. Now, notice how I presented the matter in TE—
In response to his most recent letter to me (May 21, 2004), I informed him that I’m no longer going to respond to him insofar as he continues to evade my questions. (I: 6)
Was I lying? Here is what I wrote in the above-mentioned response—
Matt: Rev Giles, I’m no longer going to tolerate your evading of questions; not to mention your underhanded modus operandi. You do not warrant a thorough response. I’ll be brief . . .
Kevin: Now for me please define your term “onto-economic expressivism” [sic] It is totally [sic] mystifying concept to me.
Matt: You wouldn’t know what to do with a definition.
You have my monograph; it is clear enough.
I’ll have something online before long.
I’m not going to respond to any more of your letters until you go back and directly engage my questions and claims in this and prior letters to you from me.
Not that I’m NOT running from you under the pretence of “I can’t deal with your insults” (and if you don’t recognize that you yourself are insulting to others, then you’re blind); I’m sick of dealing with your unworthy replies.
Note also that EVEN THOUGH you are insulting, I still deal with THE POINTS insofar as they are there.
Adios and all the best,
In other words, it is precisely as I said it was in TE. Kevin then sent to me another email on the 25th trying to reopen the discussion—a response which in no way engaged my questions and claims—to which I responded with the following—
Sent: Wednesday, May 26, 2004 1:17 PM Subject: Re: last substantial response to Giles, probably
Kevin, Per my stated conditions in the last message that I sent to you--no comment. My article will be up soon enough.
And after this, Kevin wrote back on the 26th and told me that he doesn’t read web-pages, to which I simply replied on the same day,“In case you change your mind or want have a friend print it out for you, I'll send you the address when I'm done.” Then, on the same day, in what appears to have been a rather childish attempt to “hi-jack” the last word, Kevin informed me that “our conversation is going nowhere” and that he doesn’t plan on reading any more of my emails.
Aside from leaving out the fact of this last from Giles, the inclusion of which would have made him look rather foolish to the readers, the matter was precisely as I represented it. I cut off dialogue with Giles, he attempted to re-open it, and I did not engage this letter from him. The only instances of me “writing back” are those wherein I inform him either that I’m going to have an article available on-line that criticizes his TS, or that, in that article, I’ll leave him the opportunity to respond on the same site—indeed, I even told him in one of my last emails to him that, if he requested, I’d allow him the opportunity to respond in the article itself. I did not ever re-engage in dialogue with him, or leave him the slightest indication that I wanted to. I have saved every message that Kevin ever sent me; he has flat-out lied in his response.
I now turn to other claims from Giles scattered throughout his response. In it, Kevin stated that I “taunted” him, “daring” him “to try and answer” me “in the public domain.” He makes it sound as though I repeatedly wrote to him after TE was up, saying things to the effect of “try to answer that, sucker-chump!!!”, and this is not at all true. He calls my TE a “broadside against” him, but as we’ve seen, he new well in advance that I was writing an article, and he was even given the opportunity to respond in it itself.
He alleges that, between myself, Moody, Baddeley and Doyle there has been “a cross fertilization of ideas,” and that we have been “reading one another for some time”; this is false and I told him so. I have never read anything by Doyle, and with the other two I have simply engaged in dialogue. Thus his claim that, “Because they often make the same criticism of me it should not be thought that we have independent minds at work”, is false. The reason why I, those mentioned by Giles, and many others make many of the same claims against Giles is because his work is so flawed. Kevin’s ability to “connect the dots” and read the truth between the lines is remarkable—he would have done better to consider whether or not perhaps the reason why the criticism of his work is so consistent, despite its coming from various quarters, is due to the fact that its wrongness can be detected from many perspectives.
Giles claims that, in my TE, I called him a “liar”; this is (ironically!) not true. In TE, V: 48, I explicitly stated that I believed that he was unconsciously misrepresenting his sources rather than that he was attempting to purposefully do so. And, giving Kevin’s person the benefit of the doubt, I still believe this despite the hefty load of untruth in his response. It is my belief that Kevin has an agenda, and that his absolutely reckless treatment of his resources and the facts comes at the expense of its being furthered. But in this debate, the issue may be settled by an appeal to facts and the application of reason. Kevin’s treatment of the sources is highly misleading—more along the lines of what I’ve seen in the Watchtower’s Should You Believe in the Trinity than anything else.
Given its strategic placement in Giles response, it would seem that Kevin wants to make much of the fact that I don’t have a degree. The only response that this needs is something along the lines of, “How is it that you, being a teacher of Israel, do not know these things?” And beside this mention can be made of his saying that I have “no qualifications”. This is true in the sense that I don’t have a degree. Still, I’ll place my reading and understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity beside his any day of the week.
He claims that debating with people who disagree with me about the Trinity makes me sick, and he alludes to my TE, V: 47. Giles has badly misrepresented me here. I never came anywhere near saying that debate makes me sick, I said that having to criticize makes me nauseous. Kevin would have the audience believe that I’m something of an awkward monomaniac who sits in his room in a frenzy with cardinal’s vestments on and a staff in my hand, yelling out “anathema, anathema, anathema!” in a raging frenzy. But I have disagreed with many over certain aspects in the doctrine of the Trinity, including Moody and Baddeley, and with such people we are able to explore one another’s ideas. More than once I’ve had strong disagreements with J.P. Holding himself, but we were able to present our own views on the matter and part with our friendship intact, though we disagreed. The conversation with such people is respectful, and we don’t need to agree with each other on every point in order to get along well and benefit from the discussion. It is only with those such as Giles that I have problems.
Kevin claims that I have, in the past, tried to “pass myself off” as a Roman Catholic scholar. This is false. I have never lied about my qualifications. I am a well-read Roman Catholic. If others claim me to be a “scholar”, then this simply reflects their own estimation of my work.
Kevin repeatedly complains that I accuse him of being deceptive and incompetent. I do and he is. The facts speak for themselves. Kevin accuses me of asserting that “all” that he wrote is worthless; this is false. In TE, V: 35, I state that the six categories he offers for the issue of subordination are worthless for the purposes of theological discourse—and they are. Would Kevin have us believe that Origen’s notion of the eternal Son of God who is—according to the common reading—in some sense less than the Father, may be paired alongside the common understanding of, e.g., Justin Martyr, according to which the Son did not exist as personal till creation? And so on.
Giles claims that I have, in my TE, commented on Torrance without reading him. But this is false. I claimed that I had read the portion of Torrance’s work most relevant to the discussion. (V: 42a) Giles also implies that, because I asserted that it appears to me that Torrance would take no issue with the monarchy of the Father as I presented it, I have misrepresented Torrance’s position. But the issue is not at all as simple as Giles would imply. I stand by my claims concerning Torrance and am willing to stand corrected by those more qualified than Giles.
Giles finds my accusing him of verging on monarchial modalistic-tritheism to be “silly”, for, “One can be a modalist or a tritheist but one cannot be both.” But I never said that it is logically possible to be both—I asserted that this is the problem with such a position. My claim was that such a person affirms certain assertions which are shown to be mutually exclusive to the degree to which they are developed. Thus, when Giles denies an asymmetrical causal relationship between the Father and Son, and robs words such as “beget” and “begotten” of all significance, a consequence of this is that it is impossible to distinguish the two by virtue of relations of origin—this means that even if Giles repudiates being a modalist, he hasn’t really any right at all, based upon his understanding of the relationship between the Father and Son, to do so. And when Giles advances the notion that the persons eternally submit to each other, we are left with the impression that he affirms three autonomous egos in “the one Godhead”—this implies a tritheism. Both of these are an attempt to advance an exaggerated understanding of the divine equality. It is modalism till he arrives at emphasizing the autonomy of the person’s authority and will, at which point it becomes tritheism. The mind cannot affirm both at the same time, so it goes from one to the other and is prevented from gaining a coherent understanding of the Trinity.
In response to my assertion that Giles has read the Trinity in light of the categories of the contemporary gender debate, Giles responds—rather lamely—that the sources that he reads on the Trinity, and is primarily dependent upon, are all “pre-modern.” This hardly addresses the accusation, which was focused on the mind that interprets what it reads.
Finally, Giles asks us to settle our differences by affirming “unequivocally” the Athanasian Creed (= “Kevin Giles’ egalitarian [mis]understanding of the Athanasian Creed). Cf. TE, V: 49.
There are many other assertions in Giles’ response that stand in need of correction, but I trust that the reader has seen enough. Giles has severely misrepresented my person, alongside many matters of fact concerning my correspondence with him.
In his response to my TE, Kevin Giles has made rather a fool of himself, and I trust that his response itself offers more vindication of my claims concerning himself in TE than anything I myself could have written. His work on Athanasius, as we have seen, is fundamentally misguided, and in point of fact deceptive. He has not in the slightest engaged the fundamental theses offered in TE, still less the evidence upon which they are based. He has severely misrepresented my person and personal correspondence with him.
A response of this length shouldn’t need to be written, and it would not have been written had Giles the capacity to deal fairly with his sources and not jump to wrong conclusions. I have better things to do with my time than deal with such. At the same time, however, it is perhaps a good thing that Giles has responded to me, publicly, as he has, and that I had the opportunity to produce this rejoinder. It allows the reader to form a fair estimation of his person and capacity as a scholar, and because he is a published author wrongly accusing those in his own Church of heresy on the central Christian doctrine, it is my hope that the reader will take such into account.
In conclusion, I wish to do three things: first, briefly respond to Giles’ claims to the effect that I’m not in sync with the Catholic faith concerning the monarchy of the Father and the form of the Trinity’s operations ad extra; second, issue a challenge to Giles; and third, offer the reader the opportunity to write the publisher of Giles’ prospective work on the Trinity, portions of which we’ve seen in his response to me.
First, then, the monarchy of the Father in the Catholic Church. Leaving aside for the moment the fact of Giles total non-interaction with the portion of TE where I deal with this issue, and give explicit citations from several authorities in order to vindicate my claims, I here focus on the fact that he has—ignoring the very evidence that I provided—went along with his claims with dogmatic certitude and the mental alacrity of a freight-train. In his own words, “Matthew Paulson’s views are entirely his own. They do not represent informed Roman Catholic opinion”, and “Paulson’s claim that the Catholic Church is about to endorse the monarchy or monarch of the Father is a bit far-fetched”. In passing I note that I never said that the Church is “about to” endorse the monarchy of the Father—I said that it always has. But let us turn to two official documents from the Catholic Church in order to settle the matter—
The doctrine of the Filioque must be understood and presented by the Catholic Church in such a way that it cannot appear to contradict the Monarchy of the Father nor the fact that he is the sole origin (arche, aitia) of the ekporeusis of the Spirit. The Filioque is, in fact, situated in a theological and linguistic context different from that of the affirmation of the sole Monarchy of the Father, the one origin of the Son and of the Spirit. . . . its purpose was to stress the fact that the Holy Spirit is of the same divine nature as the Son, without calling in question the one Monarchy of the Father. . . . The divine love which has its origin in the Father reposes in “the Son of his love” in order to exist consubstantially through the Son in the person of the Spirit, the Gift of love. This takes into account the fact that, through love, the Holy Spirit orients the whole life of Jeus towards the Father in the fulfillment of his will. . . . This role of the Spirit in the innermost human existence of the Son of God made man derives from an eternal Triitarian relationship which . . . characterizes the relation between the Father, as source of love, and his beloved Son.
(Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, The Filioque: Clarification, Sept. 13, 1995)
Next, the following—
Both traditions [i.e., the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church] also clearly affirm that the Father is the primordial source (arch’) and ultimate cause (aitia) of the divine being, and thus of all God’s operations: the “spring” from which both the Son and Spirit flow, the “root” of their being and fruitfulness, the “sun” from which their existence and their activity radiates . . .
(The Filioque: A Church-Dividing Issue? An Agreed Statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, October 25, 2003)
In short, Giles can speak all he wants of my views on this matter being “entirely my own” and “idiosyncratic”; but as we’ve seen on so many other occasions, Giles’ claims come in spite of the evidence, and not because of it.
Next, a public challenge to Giles. Hans Urs von Balthasar is generally agreed to be the most important Catholic theologian of the 20th century, and according to Cardinal Ratzinger, he is an “exact expounder” of the Catholic faith. This summer, Cambridge University Press will be publishing the Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar. In this work, Rowan Williams will be doing the chapter on von Balthasar’s doctrine of the Trinity. I offer Giles the following: I’m willing to bet him one book, costing $50 or less, that in Williams’ presentation, to the extent that he deals with the monarchy of the Father, and the Son’s obedience being intrinsic to his person because of the form of the Father’s fatherhood, that presentation will coincide with my presentation of von Balthasar in TE, III: 40 – 46, alongside with my presentation of my theology of the Trinity as presented in TE, VI: 29ff. Giles is far better at bringing forth accusations than justifying them, and perhaps an actual empirical effect resulting from such accusations will help to wake him up. Let him put his money where his mouth is.
Lastly, I want to give the reader the opportunity to help make Giles’ publishers aware of his incompetence with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity. If, after reading the above, you feel the same way as I do, and if you find Giles’ handling of the evidence to be troublesome, you may contact his publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org. The doctrine of the Trinity is the very foundation of the Christian faith, as well as the existence of all things. To allow Giles to carry on in the manner that he has done would be to do the Church a real disservice. Though we probably will not be able to prevent the publication of his future work, hopefully, we’ll cause his editors to give a more careful eye to it before allowing it to appear in print.
For my own part, I’m finished dealing with him. If he wishes to take up my challenge with regard to von Balthasar, he can ask Moody or Baddeley to contact me. Aside from that, dial-tone.