Trinity-Ekstasis:

A Theology of God the Father and Response to Kevin Giles

By

Phantaz Sunlyk

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

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[For-TG] Fortman, E.J., The Triune God: A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity, WIPF & Stock, 1999

 

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[Gil-TS] Giles, Kevin, The Trinity & Subordination: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate, InterVarsity Press, 2002

 

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I

Introduction

 

[O]ur great mystery is in danger of being made a thing of little moment.

Gregory of Nazianzus

First Theological Oration, 2

 

1.         It’s time to step out.  The author of the present work is indeed identical with the “enigmatic” Phantaz Sunlyk—author of several articles available on Tekton, most of which pertain to the doctrine of the Trinity.  My reason for setting aside the pseudonym is this: I have recently participated in rather serious dialogue with others concerning the doctrine of the Trinity.  As the present work is a direct consequence thereof, and intended to directly engage issues therein, to continue writing under the pseudonym in a public work of such a nature as this would be perhaps counterproductive.  Hence any questions or accusations concerning the present work can be addressed to Phantaz Sunlyk, a Roman Catholic (who is quite capable of getting along with Protestants, and who absolutely adores the Orthodox East) and double-major in Philosophy and Classics at the University of Montana.

2.         The above mentioned dialogue began with a friendly series of e-mails from two friends in Australia—Mark Baddeley[1] (lecturer in Church History, Moore Theological College) and Andy Moody[2] (a most endearing layman who, like myself, is wholly captivated by the doctrine of the Trinity), both of whom are members of the Anglican Church.  After reading certain of my Trinitarian articles on Tekton, they requested my association concerning the issue of “subordination” in the Trinity, especially with regard to Kevin Giles’[3] recent work on the topic, The Trinity & Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate.  The argument concerning the Trinity in Australia can briefly be summarized as follows: Baddeley and Moody (who are representative of the majority position in the Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney) maintain that there is a form of “subordination(ism)” that is coincident with orthodoxy, and Giles (also an Australian Anglican) vehemently denies this—even going so far as to accuse Baddeley and Moody of being “Arians”.

3.         Aside from sparse interactions via e-mail with Baddeley and Moody, my chief contribution thus far to their dialogue was to submit to them a recent 120 page monograph on Athanasius which I wrote earlier this year—an extremely overdone “essay” for an independent study in a Religious Studies course at the University of Montana—that was devoted to the theme of fatherhood and sonship in the Trinitarian theology of Athanasius.  Portions of this work will be offered in summary form below, and in doing so I trust it will become apparent why such a work is of import for the contemporary debate concerning the Trinity.  In this work, I several times criticized Giles’ reading of Athanasius in his above-mentioned work, and offered a rather thorough critique of his understanding of “subordination(ism)” in an 18 page appendix on the topic. 

4.         It is worth mentioning in passing that my “taking on” Giles had nothing to do with Edgar Foster’s (seeming) use of his (Giles’) work in an attempt to rebut what I had previously written in response to his (Foster’s) analysis of “subordination” in the Trinity.  I bought Giles’ work only in light of what my friends in Australia had told me—it was not the beginning of an attempt to “respond” to Foster.  Despite our spirited confrontations in the past over the Trinity, Foster (a Jehovah’s Witness) and myself have since settled our personal issues and our present relationship is quite friendly, even though we severely disagree on doctrine and our respective interpretations of historical theology.

5.            Returning to the issue at hand, when I was finished with the work on Athanasius, I also sent a copy to Kevin Giles himself.  Following this, a number of exchanges via e-mail ensued between Giles, myself, and Baddeley and Moody.  Giles’ comments on my work were varied, ranging from praise to insult.  He said that my work on Athanasius was excellent, but my assessment of his own (Giles’) position was quite insufficient.  (I note in passing that approximately a month’s worth of dialogue with Giles has done little to enlighten, still less remedy my judgement of his Trinitarian theology.)  My chief criticisms of Giles may be summarized as follows: 1) Giles’ representation of Athanasius is inaccurate, at times verging on blatant deception; 2) 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; 3) 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; 4) Giles’ understanding of the relationship between the immanent and the economic Trinity is woefully inadequate; 5) Giles’ theological categories per “subordination(ism)” are inept because they are far too vague, thus he continually misses the point; and 6) Giles’ interpreting the Trinity in light of political-social categories causes him to, quite often, miss the point. 

6.            Dialogue with Giles yielded little, if any fruit.  Andrew Moody set up a discussion forum, inviting myself, Baddeley, Giles and others to engage in open dialogue—Giles declined the opportunity.  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.  The following is, among other things, a thorough critique of certain aspects of his Trinitarian theology.  I have taken the liberty of informing Giles that I offer him the opportunity to submit a response on Tekton to the present work.  It is my hope that he will recognize this—though my judgement will be rather severe at certain points—as a civil and respectful invitation to fruitful dialogue, and that he will take up my offer to respond publicly, on this very site, to my critique of his theology.  This work has been clearly divided into sections and paragraph numbers so as to facilitate such a manner of interaction.

7.         Before moving on, I must say that my main concern at present is another monograph, this time on the Trinitarian theology of Irenaeus, thus I won’t be able to develop this work to the extent that I’d like to.  Still, I believe that this work will provide a powerful critique of Giles’ Trinitarian theology, alongside his analysis of Athanasius and the Tradition as a whole.  While I do not fully agree with Baddeley and Moody, and while I do not fully disagree with Giles, I believe that the position of the former party is preferable to that of the latter, and it is my hope that the present submission will not be without effect in the contemporary debate over the doctrine of the Trinity.

8.         In section II, I will provide a summary of Athanasius’ theology, drawing upon the findings in my above-mentioned monograph on his Trinitarian theology.  This summary will have a five-fold focus: 1) Athanasius’ hermeneutical principles; 2) Athanasius’ doctrine of sonship; 3) Athanasius’ doctrine of fatherhood; 4) Athanasius’ doctrine of the sense in which the Father and Son are “one”; and 5) Athanasius’ doctrine of the manner in which the immanent Trinity is related to the economic Trinity.  In section III, I will briefly illustrate the testimony of orthodoxy concerning certain of the above points (especially the monarchy of the Father and the relationship between the immanent and economic Trinity) as it is found in 1) certain of the Greek fathers of the Nicene era, 2) certain of the Latin fathers of the Nicene era, including Augustine, 3) certain theologians of the middle ages, and 4) Contemporary Trinitarian theology, with a special focus on Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. 

9.         In section IV, I will summarize certain portions of Giles’ above-mentioned work on the Trinity, and highlight what I take to be the positive aspects of Giles’ Trinitarian theology as presented in his book (alongside his e-mails and letters to me, and his 35 page submission to the Sydney Doctrinal Commision).  In section V, I will present a threefold critique of Giles’ Trinitarian theology, focusing in the first place on 1) his reading of Athanasius, and 2) his take on the monarchy of the Father; in the second on the problem of vagueness with regard to 1) the distinct manners of subsistence vis-à-vis the divine persons within the immanent Trinity, 2) the relationship between the immanent and the economic Trinity, and 3) his theological categories per “subordination(ism)”; and in the third place I will focus on what I believe to be Giles’ deficiencies as a Trinitarian theologian, scholar and partner in dialogue. 

10.       The final section of the present work—section VI—will consist of an attempt at a positive contribution to the present debate concerning the doctrine of the Trinity; my own Trinitarian theology.  First, I will attempt to address the semantic confusion involved in the categories of “subordination(ism)” in Trinitarian theology.  Second, I will offer the basic form of my own doctrine of the Trinity, and then offer a new category for a clearly articulated category concerning the orthodox doctrine of the immanent Trinity, and how it is related to the economic Trinity—onto-economic expressivism.  I offer this new theological category as a permanent replacement to prior terms or phrases intended as descriptors of the orthodox understanding of how the immanent Trinity is related to the economic Trinity, and I’m certain that doing Trinitarian theology in light of this category will be profitable for future theology, alongside offering an auspicious proposal for settling the present debate concerning the Trinity (and providing the impetus for a revolution in the assessment of the theological worth of the ante-Nicenes).  After applying this theological category to certain passages/narratives in Scripture, listing certain of the benefits that would follow from its being adopted and employed, and applying it to the contemporary debate on the Trinity in Australia, I will struggle to offer a possible perception of how this new theological category/doctrine may be applied to the divine persons as persons, and conclude by emphasizing the fatherhood of the Father as the foundation of Trinitarian theology. 

11.       The principal aims of this study—which is not simply intended as a critique of Giles’ Trinitarian theology—are four.  First, it is my goal to show the internal coherence and definiteness of the Trinitarian theology of the Church, from the Nicene era onward, as regards the immanent Trinity.  In passing it should be noted that in pursuing this specific goal, I in no way intend to imply any inadequacy in the Trinitarian theology of the ante-Nicene fathers; though it is unfortunate that I will be overlooking them in this study, time constraints require that I focus my attention on those aspects of Trinitarian theology that are most directly pertinent to the present debate.  My second goal is to demonstrate that the relationship between the immanent and economic Trinity, as understood by the Church, is coherent.  Third, I hope to clarify the intolerable inadequacy and imprecision concerning “subordination(ism)” and the Trinity present in the historical and theological literature on the topic.  It is my belief that when the above two goals have been accomplished, the problem of “subordination(ism)” for the most part takes care of itself.  In passing, I note that the word “subordination(ism)” has thus far been surrounded by quotation marks so as to indicate that I am aware of the fact that the word itself is, ultimately, inept and equivocal; furthermore, the “ism” has been placed in parentheses to indicate the fact that I am aware that certain persons distinguish between “subordination” (possibly orthodox) and “subordinationism” (“subordination” that is definitely heretical).  From here onward, “subordination” and “subordinationism” will be used interchangeably and without quotation marks, it being understood that I am conscious in of the ambiguity that the word(s) may connote.  This ambiguity will be addressed at length and with rigor in section VI.  Lastly, with the above goals having been met, it is my hope to demonstrate that Trinitarian theology—as a whole—is emphatically not a helpless contradiction veiled behind a series of impenetrable and mutually exclusive dogmatic claims.  A mystery is not a contradiction; a mystery is not something that paralyzes the understanding.  Rather, a mystery is a reality which may be perceived, and it is only by perceiving the Trinity as clearly as possible that we may become conscious of the mystery that is actually there.

II

The Form of Fatherhood and Sonship in the Trinitarian Theology of St. Athanasius of Alexandria

 

God the only Son, who dwells within the Father’s heart . . . has revealed him.

Jn. 1:18

 

1.         The following is a brief summary of the principal claims advanced in a monograph that I completed earlier this year, entitled Theology of Radiance: The Form of Fatherhood and Sonship in the Trinitarian Theology of St. Athanasius of Alexandria: The Doctrine of the Trinity in Christian Antiquity: Volume 1.  Though it would be ideal to simply make available the entire study in order to provide more thorough evidence for the claims that I will advance in this section, I will strive to bring forth the most powerful evidence from my more thorough study in order to make my (sometimes controversial) claims as secure as possible.  Those wishing for more thorough evidence concerning this or that point may contact me via e-mail, and I will be more than happy to address any questions concerning the integrity of my claims.  That said, let us now turn to the Trinitarian theology of Athanasius of Alexandria (ca. 295 – 373 a.d.).

2.         In meeting the challenge of Arianism, Athanasius employs a two-fold hermeneutic.  First, he insists that a theologian ought not start simply from the Bible, but rather, the theologian’s theology and understanding of Scripture must ever be grounded in Tradition.  In drawing attention to this fact I in no way intend to provoke those who affirm the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, nor am I here attempting to subtly advance an incognito argument in favor of the Catholic and Orthodox doctrine of “Scripture and Tradition”—take my word for it, this latter is quite far from my mind at present.  Rather, I’m simply stating a fact, and at any rate, I believe that the affirmation of Tradition on this point, the Trinity, and as it is employed by Athanasius in defending the doctrine of the Trinity, is unlikely to arouse any hostility on the part of informed Protestant Christians, who are indeed the vast majority of Tekton’s readership.

3.            Athanasius insists that a Christian must be grounded in Tradition, the “succession of teachers” stretching back to the age of the Apostles, and “being taught by them the things of Christ, we both are, and are called Christians.”[4]  Though the Arius “feigns to speak of God, introducing Scripture language,”[5] his effort is worthless, for his “heresy is foreign, and not from our fathers.”[6]  Athanasius develops the notion of the importance of interpreting Scripture in accordance with the teaching of the fathers with rigor in De Synodis; the first eight chapters deal with nearly nothing else, and he frequently returns to the subject throughout the remainder of the work.  Though his theology is saturated in Scripture, he simultaneously encourages his audience to remain “on the foundation of the apostles, and” to “hold fast [to] the traditions of the fathers.”[7]  The faith of the Arians “dates not from of old, but now”; the heretics “began their own faith” in contrast to the advice of “the blessed apostle” Paul, who admonished the Christians to “keep the traditions.”[8]  One of the principal problems of the Arian hermeneutic is that it fails to take into account “the scope and character of Holy Scripture,”[9] thus the Arians fail to interpret Scripture in “a religious way”[10] according to the “ecclesiastical sense”[11] which the Christian is supposed to use as his point of departure for doing theology.  The Arians “force” on Scripture “a misinterpretation, according to their private sense” while missing entirely the “orthodox sense” which is the common property of the Chruch.[12]

4.         The second principal component of Athanasius’ hermeneutic is more profound, dealing with what may be called the phenomenology of theological epistemology, or, to put it more simply, the way that language and thought are coordinated with reality in the enterprise of theology.  Athanasius is not so much concerned with words as the thought to which words point.  For example, when referring to Basil of Ancyra’s party (who held to an orthodox understanding of the Son, while rejecting the term homoousios), Athanasius says that they “must not be treated as enemies”, but rather, “we discuss the matter with them as brothers with brothers, who mean what we mean, and dispute only about the word.”[13]  The Arians, on the other hand, incorrectly understand predications of the Son and the Father in either a too literal, or insufficient sense.[14]  He returns to this theme again and again throughout the Orations Against the Arians.  His objection, in its most basic form, is that the Arians think of God in exactly the wrong way, daring to “conceive material and earthly ideas concerning the Father himself,” as though God were “a parent as man.”  He considers this manner of thinking extremely dangerous, and perhaps the principal obstacle to being able to perceive the actual relationship between the Father and the Son.  As he goes on to say, “if God be not as man, as he is not, we must not impute to him the attributes of man.”[15]  And likewise with regard to the Son, Athanasius asks, “who, on hearing from the framing Wisdom, ‘The Lord created me . . .’ does not at once question the meaning, reflecting how that creative Wisdom can be created?”[16]—the implication being that the Arians take as their point of departure proof-texts, stopping immediately at the letter and failing to take into account the deeper meaning which the subject of the passage requires.  Athanasius even goes so far as to imply that the Arians are incapable of thinking of God appropriately; they insist on staying with mundane connotations “as though nothing can be unless they understand it.”[17]

5.         On the contrary, the Son is the “genuine Son” of the Father, and “the generation of the Son” must be contemplated in a manner appropriate to the nature of the Son and the Father as divine, “such as may be ascribed to God, and is fit for us to think.”[18]  At the bottom of this principle lies a perception.  Having taken into account the object itself of contemplation, it follows that such words as “created,” when predicated of the Son, “do not disparage his nature; rather, the nature draws to itself those terms and changes them.  For terms are not prior to essences, but essences are first, and terms second.”[19]  In consequence, “when persons ask whether the Lord is a creature or a work, it is proper to ask of them this first, whether he is Son and Word and Wisdom,”[20] and since the Son indeed is, all predications of him must be seen as subordinate to this fact. 

6.         Thus there is a certain hermeneutical prioritizing that Athanasius takes for granted.  The Christian begins with God himself—the perception of God as he has received it from the Tradition of the Church, and within the life of the Church.  Though Athanasius held to a high doctrine of Scripture, and his thought concerning the Father and the Son is wholly saturated in Scripture, the notion of an individual simply reading the Bible as though he needn’t bother with any outside influences to condition his thought would have been unthinkable to Athanasius.  The deposit of Tradition—the doctrine of God as father and the Son as son—serves as the point of departure for thinking about the Father and the Son.  It is the given, the first truth, and it is to be assumed and developed and shouldn’t need to be proven.

7.         Before moving on it is necessary to draw attention to Athanasius’ critique of Arian hermeneutics mentioned above—namely, that the Arians think about divine matters in too mundane a manner.  However, that Athanasius rejected a hermeneutical principle which begins and ends at the mundane does not imply that Athanasius advocated taking predications of the Father and the Son in a less literal sense than the Arians.  The case is quite the opposite—only the Trinitarian can affirm the language of Scripture, that God is father and the Son is son of the Father.  Indeed, Athanasius’ doctrine of the Father and the Son, though rigorously and thoroughly developed, and being of such a character that it reaches into and controls every aspect of his theology, can be reduced to two relatively simple claims that can be clearly expressed in that simple and blunt manner in which children speak when they wish to say something definite: God the Father is father for reals, and God the Son is son for reals.  Athanasius develops the notion of the reality of the Father’s fatherhood and the Son’s sonship with a relentless vigor, nearly to the point of exhausting the reader.  It would be no exaggeration to say that the idea had taken complete possession of his mind.

8.            Athanasius’ principal means of articulating the sense in which the Father is father and the Son is son is grounded in the Wisdom tradition—a theological motif which readers of Tekton should be more than familiar with.  The Wisdom tradition describes the Son with predicates taken from passages in the O.T. wisdom literature (and N.T. passages which quote, allude to, or develop such passages from the O.T.) that describe the Wisdom of God in personal terms, which when applied to the Son indicate that he is intrinsic to God as a property of God.  Athanasius’ favored predication for the Son of God from the Wisdom tradition is that of Radiance—a word used in the Wisdom of Solomon to describe the manner in which divine Wisdom is related to God, and which was passed into the permanent heritage of the Church when the author of Hebrews directly alluded to it in describing the Son.  This is the point of departure for Athanasius’ defense of the divinity of the Son; this is the cornerstone of Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology. 

9.         For Athanasius, to speak of the Son as the Radiance of God is not to speak merely metaphorically about the Son of God.  Rather, the predication of the Son as son, and the interpretation of this sonship in light of such terms as the Radiance, Word, Power, Image, Expression, etc., of God, is to speak literally of the Son.  These are not metaphors; they are word-images.  The term word-image is intended to be understood in contrast to the term “metaphor.”  Whereas in metaphorical speech the predicate possesses more reality than the subject with regard to the relationship between the subject and the subject’s possession of the predicate (i.e., e.g., Juliet is not really the sun, and the sun itself possesses the properties of “being sun” to a far greater degree than Juliet), when Athanasius speaks of the first person of the Trinity as “Father,” and the second person as “the Son,” he understands such predications to be taken literally such that to speak of a human being as a “father” or “son” is actually a weak metaphor which draws its significance from the divine reality.  Thus when Athanasius describes the Son by referring to him as the Wisdom, Image, Radiance, etc., of God, he believes that such terms—properly understood—become transparent to the reality of the Son’s very sonship.  These are word-images: words that yield images which not only ‘illustrate,’ but become transparent to the reality that they refer to.  Only when this is understood are we able to engage Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology.

10.       We may begin, then, with the notion of propriety, by which Athanasius understands the Son simply to be proper to the Father.  The Son, says Athanasius, is “the proper offspring of the Father,” and “natural and proper to” God as God.[21]  He is “the offspring of the Father’s essence,” and “that which is proper to the Father’s essence.”[22]  The number of times wherein Athanasius stresses this fact suggests that had Athanasius the luxury of, e.g., italicized print, it is in phrases such as these where he would have used it.  The Son is from the Father, “of whose essence he is [the] proper offspring;”[23] he is “the proper offspring of his substance” and “him who is from him;”[24] the Son is that which God “hath from himself;” indeed, the very “Power of himself.”[25]  He is “simply from the Father,” and “a natural offspring from the Father;”[26] the “offspring of the Father’s essence” and therefore “proper to the Father’s essence and one in nature with it,”[27] and he “alone” is “proper to the Father.”[28]  Athanasius is so intent on bringing home this point in all of its brute simplicity that he often intentionally employs redundancy, as when he calls the Son the Father’s “own proper and only Son,”[29] or “the own offspring of the Father’s essence.”[30]

11.       This notion of propriety is further illuminated in the context of the recurring clusters of word-images that Athanasius constantly employs to articulate the manner of the Son’s sonship.  The Son, says Athanasius, is “the Father’s Image and Word eternal, never having not been, but being ever as the eternal Radiance of a Light which is eternal;”[31] the Father’s “Word, and Wisdom, and Radiance,”[32] the “Image and Radiance”[33] and “truly Word and Son of God;”[34] the “proper Word,” “Power,” and “essential Wisdom” of the Father.[35]  Athanasius frequently aligns many such predications together as though he understands them to explain one another and lay bare before his audience the very reality of that which he speaks of.  For example, in establishing the eternity of the Son, Athanasius draws attention to the fact that the Son is these properties of the Father—

For we see that Reason is ever, and is from him and proper to his essence, whose reason it is, and does not admit a before and after. . . . We understand in like manner that the Son is begotten not from without but from the Father, and while the Father remains whole, the Expression of his subsistence is ever . . . so that he who sees him, sees in him the subsistence too, of which he is the Expression . . .[he is the Father’s] Expression and Light and the Power . . . Reason and Radiance . . . [36] 

 

12.       Though all of these word-images taken from the Wisdom tradition were definitely vital to Athanasius’ theology of the Son of God, his favorite such word-image—as mentioned above—is that of Radiance.  In De Decretis, when he is attempting to explain to his audience the sense in which the Father and Son are inter-related, Athanasius turns “[a]gain” to “the illustration of the Light and the Radiance.”  In this passage, Athanasius develops the notion with a high degree of clarity, and it is worth quoting at length—

For the saints have not said that the Word was related to God as fire kindled from the heat of the sun … for this is an external work and a creature of its author, but they all preach of him as Radiance, thereby to signify his being from the essence, proper and indivisible, and his oneness with the Father.  This also will secure his true unchangeableness and immutability … if the Son is Word, Wisdom, Image of the Father, Radiance, he must in all reason be one in essence. . . . [F]or this is proper to a son as regards a father, and in this is shewn that God is truly Father of the Word.  Here again, the illustration of light and its radiance is in point.  Who will presume to say that the radiance is unlike and foreign to the sun?  Rather who, thus considering the radiance relatively to the sun, and the identity of the light, would not say with confidence, “Truly the light and the radiance are one, and the one is manifested in the other, and the radiance is in the sun, so that whoso sees this, sees that also . . .[37]

 

13.       In saying this, Athanasius has said, in kernel form, everything he wishes to say about the sonship of the Son.  We see in the above several specific points being drawn from this word-image.  Since the Son is the Radiance of the Father, he is therefore not an external work, nor a creation.  He is fitting and proper to the Father—from the very essence of the Father, and indivisibly united to him.  Furthermore, this word-image gives us an intimation of the fact that the Father is truly a father, and that the Son is truly a son.  The word-image is particularly suited for this purpose, for the relationship between sun and its shine expresses the notion of a simultaneous, perpetual, and vital relationship between the source (sun) and its offspring (the sun’s shine).  Just as at every moment at which the sun exists, so too does its shine, and just as this generation is continual and ceaseless, so too does the Father stand in relation to the Son.  This word-image has yet another especially strong point, being the manner in which the two entail and reveal one-another.  We are able to see the sun because of the light which comes forth from it, and we are able to see the light because the sun brings it forth.  We perceive the quiddity of each in the other, and we are led from one to the other, and from the other to the one. 

14.       Our final point concerning the word-image of Radiance is this: though the two entail one another, such that it is impossible to imagine the one without imagining the other, the causation between the two goes only one way.  The sun causes the shine, and not the reverse.  So too, for Athanasius, the Father is the source of the Son, and not vice-versa.

15.            “[W]hereas the Son hath eternally what he hath,” says Athanasius, “yet he hath them from the Father.”[38]  The relationship between the Father and the Son is therefore asymmetrical; Athanasius definitely, clearly, and unambiguously affirmed the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father.  Thus—

[T]he 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 begat him; and the Father is Father, and not born the Son of any; and the Son is Son, and not brother.  Further, if he is called the eternal offspring of the Father, he is rightly so called. . . . [I]f he is Son, as the Father says, and the Scriptures proclaim, and “Son” is nothing else than what is generated from the Father; and what is generated from the Father is his Word, and Wisdom, and Radiance . . .[39]

 

16.       The Father is the origin of the Son and Spirit, and they are not the source of him.  “[T]he Father,” writes Athanasius, “has no personal cause, but rather is himself Father of Wisdom.”[40]  Again: the relationship between the persons is not symmetrical, but asymmetrical: the Son is dependent upon the Father in a sense in which the Father is not dependent on the Son.  Thus when we hear Athanasius say that the Son, “being the Son, is inseparable from the Father, and never was there when he was not,” we must take into account the manner in which he understands these two to be correlated, as is made clear when he goes on to explain that the Son is eternal because “being the Father’s Image and Radiance, he has the Father’s eternity.”[41]  Furthermore, “when the Father is called the only God,” even this “has a fit meaning” which “is not said to the denial of the Son,” for the Son “is in that One, and First and Only, as being of that One and Only and First the only Word and Wisdom and Radiance.”  The Son is “First” along with the Father because he is “of the First and Only, being whole and full God.”[42]  Thus the “of-ness” and “from-ness” of the Son from the Father, far from implying that the Son is a lesser deity, actually entails the opposite, even while maintaining that the Son is really and truly dependent upon the Father.

17.       At this point it is worthwhile to consider what import, if any, the homoousios bears on this doctrine, for at first glance, it may appear to some that the “from-ness” and dependence of the Son on the Father might be in tension with the notion that the Father and Son are indeed one substance and equally divine.  But contrary to seeing these two affirmations as being antithetical, Athanasius sees the co-essentiality of the Father and Son as being entailed by the one being the source of the other, and he treats this topic at length in De Synodis 38-54.  Speaking of those who object to the homoousios, he states that “if their faith was right, and they confessed the Father as truly Father, and believed the Son to be genuine Son, and by nature true Word and Wisdom of the Father, and … understood him to be the proper offspring of the Father’s essence, as the radiance is from light,” they would in turn “have been confident that the council” of Nicea “wrote suitably” in describing the Son as homoousios with the Father.[43]

18.       He goes on to ask that if the Son is indeed “the Radiance from Light, and Offspring from Fountain, and Son from Father, how can these be so fitly expressed as by ‘coessential’?”,[44] while going on to collapse the distinction between coessentiality and sonship, as when he says that “the sense of ‘Offspring’ and ‘coessential’ is one, and whoso considers the Son an offspring, rightly considers him coessential.”[45]  From this, we can only conclude that for Athanasius, the substantial unity of the Father and Son did not in any sense preclude the dependence of the latter on the former.  As Hanson rightly says, “in his view, homoousios has some derivative force in it.”[46]  We now turn to Athanasius’ doctrine of God the Father.

19.       That God is truly the father of his son is intrinsic to the defense of the full divinity of the Son himself.  Athanasius frequently points out that one of, if not the, most troublesome problem with the “Arians” is that they “are not without disguise irreligious against the Father himself,”[47] and this because, in denying the Son, who “is from him” and “the true Son,” it necessarily follows that they in turn “do not confess a true Father.”[48]  

20.            Athanasius treats this topic thoroughly in the first book of his Orations.  Speaking of the Arian tendency to speak of God as “the Unoriginate,” Athanasius says that while this is correct insofar as it goes, for such a confession establishes a distinction between creation and he who is its “creator and framer through the Son,” this particular manner of speaking about God is in a very real sense sub-Christian.  “If they had any concern at all for reverent speaking and the honor due to the Father,” says Athanasius, “it became them rather, and this were better and higher, to acknowledge and call God Father,” for by referring to God simply as “the Unoriginate,” the Arians “name him only from his works” and thus “know not the Son any more than the Greeks,” but “he who calls God Father, names him from the Word.”[49]

21.            Athanasius becomes even more pointed later on, stating that “it is more pious and more accurate to signify God from the Son and call him the Father, than to name him from his works and call him unoriginate.”  His reason for saying this is threefold.  First, the term “unoriginate” is “unscriptural and suspicious, because … when a man is asked concerning it, his mind is carried about to many ideas . . .”  The term “Father,” on the other hand, “is simple and scriptural, and more accurate, and only implies the Son.”[50]  At the bottom of this lies an understanding of divine fatherhood, and there can be little doubt that Athanasius’ thought was as vivid and definite in this regard as it was with regard to the sonship of the Son.  Thus, when he says that “God is properly, and alone truly father of his son,” he can go on to cite Eph. 3:15 and say that, rather than the divine paternity and filiation being understood in light of what could be called “the human and mundane reality,” the situation is rather opposite, to the point that “we men” are actually fathers in a lesser sense, “for of him [= God the Father] ‘is every fatherhood in heaven and earth named.’”[51]  Thus, as was pointed out above, to call God “father” is not to be speaking metaphorically.  For Athanasius, the metaphor is actually reversed: the divine fatherhood indicates more reality than human fatherhood—certainly not less, and this is due, of course, to the fact that it is a fatherhood such as befits the divine nature.

22.       This fatherhood not only befits the divine nature; it defines it, such that Athanasius can say that “the perfection and plentitude of the Father’s essence is impaired by”[52] the Arian heresy.  He elsewhere says that if the Son “be not a son,” then in consequence, one must “neither let God be called Father,” and this in turn entails that God will “be without generative nature.”  One of the chief claims of the Arians against orthodoxy was that the orthodox insistence on the correlativity of the Father and Son implied that this could not but restrict the Father’s freedom.  Another way of stating this would be to say that the conditional statement, “if Father, then Son,” seemed to the Arians to necessarily imply, “and, were that indeed the case, then the Father is forced by something extrinsic to himself to beget the Son.” 

23.       Hence we arrive at the notion of divine simplicity, which both the Arians and the pro-Nicenes were desirous to preserve.  But the difference between the two is this: whereas the Arians could not but see the eternal generation of the Son by the Father as circumscribing the divine essence, Athanasius and the pro-Nicenes saw it as fulfilling and expressing the divine essence; as that which truly makes the Father divine.  Whereas the Arians insisted that only a contingent creation by the will of God could preserve the glory of the one God, Athanasius insisted that divine paternity “is a something that surpasses will,” and that the glory of God lies in the fact that he is generative “by nature, and should be Father of his proper Word.”[53]  The relationship between the Father and the Son is included in, and defines, the notion of divine simplicity.

24.       Thus in order to perceive Athanasius’ understanding of God the Father, we must see that “as the Father is always good by nature, so he is always generative by nature,”[54] and it therefore follows that “to say of the Son, ‘He might not have been,’ is irreligious presumption reaching even to the essence of the Father, as if what is his own might not have been.”[55]  Of course, part of this vital perception of God as father has already been heavily intimated by exploring the word-images which Athanasius uses to articulate the manner in which the Son is son.  Similarly, if we are to think of the Father, our mind must be flooded by the vital force and power of the word-image so that it can point beyond itself to the divine reality from which it draws its meaning and significance.  We must imagine a sun, not circumscribed by its own singularity, and, as it were, contained within itself by itself as itself, but rather, pouring forth and overflowing ceaselessly, expressing its very quiddity by the perpetual stream of light that radiates from it, continuous, fecund, and inexhaustible.  And just as it is because of, and not in spite of this effulgence of light that by gazing directly at it, we are at once stunned by its brilliance while simultaneously realizing that the sight of this is too strong for the eye, so too it is at this point that the relentless and awesome glory of God dazzles the mind of Athanasius, making him realize that the mind of man cannot contain this reality.  The incomprehensibility of God is not something that hinders our ability to perceive him; rather, it is by perceiving him that we realize him to be incomprehensible.  But greater still is Athanasius’ doctrine of divine communion.

25.       In his definitive study of the theme of the fatherhood of God in the thought of Athanasius, Peter Widdicombe says that Athanasius “characterizes the relationship between Father and Son as that of an eternal giving and receiving of love, a relationship within [which], by implication, the divine attributes are fully expressed.”[56]  As was shown above with regard to Athanasius’ articulation of the sonship of the Son, his favorite word-image was, without doubt, that of Wisdom as Radiance.  This word image, it will be recalled, is indebted not only to the N.T., but to the O.T. sapiental literature, to which the N.T. authors were themselves heavily indebted in their articulation of the manner in which the Son is related to the Father.  We now turn our attention to the fact that certain of these texts imply a relationship between God and Wisdom.  With Athanasius, this notion is developed with rigor, and each time, a biblical passage from the Wisdom tradition serves as his point of departure for developing this theme.  The theme of divine communion is taken up by Athanasius no fewer than six times in his Orations,[57] and given its strategic placement throughout the work (as the central theme in the conclusions of both books 2 and 3), we are warranted in assuming that this was indeed a controlling theological motif for Athanasius.  If this is indeed correct, that which now follows should be seen as establishing the interpretive context for the whole of Athanasius’ theology.

26.       It is in the conclusion of book 3 of the Orations wherein Athanasius gives his most sustained treatment of this theme.  Once again, Athanasius is attempting to refute the Arian doctrine which denies “that there is a true Son of God,”[58] and in particular, to prove that “much more is” the Father a father, “and more truly, Father of the Son by nature and not by will.”[59]  Once again, Athanasius’ defense of the eternity of the Son begins with the notion of propriety: the Son is “the own Word of the Father” and “the Father’s Living Counsel;” “Christ is God’s Power and God’s Wisdom,” and it therefore follows that the Arian doctrine of a created Son, extrinsic to the being of God, “reaches even to the Father himself.”[60]  He then goes on to claim that it is in the Son as such where “the good pleasure of the Father” is to be found, for “the Apostle proclaims the Son to be the own Radiance and Expression, not of the Father’s will, but of his essence itself,” for if “the Father’s essence and subsistence be not from will, neither, as is very plain, is what is proper to the Father’s subsistence from will.”  He next cites the proclamation of God the Father at the baptism of Christ, implying that it is not sufficient merely to realize that the Son is a son, but “more than that,” the Son is he “‘in whom [the Father is] well pleased;’ meaning by this, ‘this is my Son by nature,’ and ‘in him is lodged my will about what pleases me.’”[61]  What follows is more explicit still, and deserves to be quoted at length—

For as his own subsistence is by his pleasure, so also the Son, being proper to his essence is not without his pleasure.  Be then the Son the object of the Father’s pleasure and love; and thus let every one religiously account of the pleasure and the not-unwillingness of God.  For by that good pleasure wherewith the Son is the object of the Father’s pleasure, is the Father the object of the Son’s love, pleasure, and honor; and one is the good pleasure which is from the Father in the Son, so that here too we may contemplate the Son in the Father and the Father in the Son. . . . the Father has love and good pleasure towards his Son who is his own by nature . . . so he is always generative by nature . . . For as in the case of the radiance and light one might say that there is no will preceding radiance in the light, but it is its natural offspring, at the pleasure of the light which begat it . . . so also in the instance of the Father and the Son, one might rightly say that the Father has love and good pleasure towards the Son, and the Son has love and good pleasure towards the Father.[62]

 

27.       Thus it should be obvious that Athanasius’ doctrine of the unity of the Father and the Son—his doctrine that the Father and Son are one God—cannot justly be interpreted as a confused and muddled doctrine that “squints” when it is faced with the duty of distinguishing the persons one from another and doing justice to the fact that the persons are truly distinct.  Athanasius’ doctrine of the Trinity was not (what is often understood, confusedly, as) the Latin model; the term of his Trinitarian theology did not lie somewhere in between the ‘cloud of unknowing’ and modalism, even though a good portion of the literature on the topic would suggest this. 

28.            However, let it not be imagined that Athanasius failed to emphasize the divine unity.  The common misunderstanding of Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology would not exist were it not for the manifest existence of such a stress in Athanasius’ writings themselves.  Thus—

And so, since they are one, and the Godhead itself one, the same things are said of the Son, which are said of the Father, except his being said to be Father: for instance, that he is God, “and the Word was God;” almighty, “Thus saith he which was and is and is to come, the Almighty;” Lord, “one Lord Jesus Christ;” that he is Light, “I am the Light;” that he wipes out sins … and so with other attributes.  For “all things,” says the Son himself, “whatsoever the Father hath are Mine;” and again, “and mine are thine.”[63]

 

29.       But it would be a grave error to imagine that Athanasius’ thought on the manner in which the divine persons are interrelated comes to a screeching halt at the stressing of the divine unity, as though the fact that the persons are one, and each is God, and God is one, leads to a logical difficulty that he is unable to overcome and thus forced to be content with the mere claim that “God is a mystery.”  Athanasius’ point of departure is not to affirm the “divine essence” that is “God,” then proceeding to identify the divine persons with it; rather, his point of departure is personal—the person of God the Father specifically.  Athanasius is well aware of the charge that “if the Son be coessential with the Father, then an essence must be previously supposed,” and he flatly rejects such an interpretation of Nicene theology on the grounds that “those things which are called coessential and are collateral, as derived from one essence presupposed” are in fact not consubstantial, and this for the simple reason that—as was demonstrated above—only such a relation wherein “this is from that” establishes consubstantiality.[64]  Again: the divine properties belong, in the first place, to a person—God the Father specifically.  Thus he can say that “since the Son is from the Father, all that is the Father’s is the Son’s as in an Image and Expression,”[65] and at once the presumed confusion is cleared up.  Athanasius does not begin with the one divine substance, nor does he treat it as though it were a thing distinct from and identical with the persons.  The divine substance is the Father’s, and when Athanasius calls the Son “of one substance with the Father,” he intends simply to “signify a genuine Son born of the Father.”[66]  It is not a means of identifying the persons with a “God-nature” which would entail their being identical with one another by virtue of being identical with it; rather, it is a word which denotes the reality of the fatherhood of the Father, and the sonship of the Son, in such a way as befits the divine.

30.       That the point of departure for Athanasius doctrine of the Trinity was personal rather than the divine substance is an important point and must be stressed because of the almost all-pervasive presumption that the opposite is the case.  That Athanasius saw the primacy of the Father as preserving the divine distinctions is clearly shown in the following—

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.[67]

 

31.       Thus in order to truly grasp Athanasius’ doctrine of the unity of the Father and the Son, we must return to his doctrine of divine communion.  The divine persons are wholly present to one another, such that each divine person is wholly present in the others.  Hence—

[S]aying, “I and the Father are One,” [Jesus] adds, “that ye may know that I am in the Father and the Father in me.”  Moreover, he has added this again, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;” and there is one and the same sense in these three passages.  For he who in this sense understand that the Son and the Father are one, knows that he is in the Father and the Father in the Son; for the Godhead of the Son is the Father’s, and it is in the Son, and whoso enters into this is convinced that “He that hath seen the Son, hath seen the Father,” for in the Son is contemplated the Father’s Godhead.[68]

 

32.            Athanasius did not posit two contradictories beside one another, believing that they would be resolved in a synthesis somewhere beyond the cloud of unknowing.  His continual repudiation of the notion that the Father and Son are identical must be taken seriously, and such passages must be seen as establishing an interpretive context for the whole of his writings on the subject, whereby the fact that one is “Father” and the other “Son” necessarily entails a real distinction.  His explicitly claiming them to be “the object of” one another’s “love” must be seen as necessarily entailing that, however ill-defined the notion of “personhood” was in the pre-Modern era, Athanasius clearly wished to affirm a substantial amount of the reality to which the notion points, and this entails a real distinction and a difference in consciousness.

33.            However, this is emphatically not to suggest that Athanasius conceived of the divine unity in the sense advocated by contemporary exponents of the strong form of the ‘social model’ of the Trinity; the very word-images he uses make it quite clear that the divine unity at least implies that the Father and Son are related to one another as thought is related to mind, or memory to the act of reason.  Though he never advances the notion of an identity between the two, it cannot be denied that he understood the relationship as being one of propriety, thus disallowing any distinction which is punctuated by an absolute separation of one of the persons from the other, such that there could possibly be anything like a discontinuity in what may be called the ‘consciousness’ of the two. 

34.       At the same time, this absolute unity of the two cannot be taken to imply something like an absolute identity of ‘consciousness,’ whereby the one could be seen as simply being a modality of the other.  While he will not allow the distinction to be seen as dividing the unity, we can be equally certain that he will not allow the unity to be understood as mitigating the reality of the distinction.  Hence, were we to attempt to state how this distinction in unity, and unity in distinction, is to be rendered coherent, doing justice to the whole of what Athanasius has to say on the topic, we could best do so by saying that the point of distinction is coincident with the point of unity, such that the full meaning of each is fully realized only by reference to the other.  Though he never explicitly says as much, this would seem to accord well with what he has said, allowing full force to be given to both points of emphasis, while joining them together in a manner which is not obviously incoherent.  We may now turn to Athanasius’ doctrine of the manner in which the immanent Trinity is related to the economic Trinity—how the divine persons interrelatedness amongst themselves in eternity is related to how the one God operates when interacting with that which is outside of God.

35.       Aside from the perennial debate on the specifics of Athanasius’ theology of the Incarnation, the subject of his doctrine of the manner in which the immanent Trinity is related to the economic Trinity has been almost wholly overlooked by specialists in the field.  Indeed, Kevin Giles’ The Trinity and Subordinationism is the only work that has offered a direct treatment of the subject.[69]  And unfortunately, in those places where the specialists do refer (in passing) to Athanasius’ doctrine of the operations ad extra of the Trinity, their comments are—as we shall see—not infrequently gross exaggerations, or simply wrong in point of fact.  For example, in his definitive work on the development of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Nicene era, R.P.C. Hanson has the following to say with regard to Athanasius’ conception of the manner in which the Son as the Son is related to the operations ad extra of the Trinity—

When [Athanasius] comes to interpret the crucial text, Proverbs 8:22ff, he insists that its terms apply to the incarnate, not the pre-existent Christ. . . . [This] shows that Athanasius placed the mediating activity of the Son, not in his position within the Godhead, but in his becoming incarnate.  This was a new, indeed revolutionary, theological idea . . .[70]

 

36.       When Hanson claims Athanasius’ doctrine of the Son vis-à-vis the operations ad extra of the Trinity to be “revolutionary,” he intends us to see Athanasius’ doctrine in contrast to that of the ante-Nicene fathers who were, presumably, led astray by Greek philosophical categories and in consequence (presumably) posited that because the Son is less divine than the Father, he can therefore interact with creation.  For example, Hanson elsewhere says of Athanasius that, “He never accepted the Origenistic concept of the Logos as a mediating agent within the Godhead, and in fact overcame the obstacle presented by the idea of a Logos borrowed from philosophy.”[71]  Yet there is good reason to see Hanson’s treatment of this aspect of Athanasius’ theology as inadequate.  And prescinding for the moment from the complexities of ante-Nicene Trinitarian theology, it should be mentioned in passing that the ante-Nicenes’ doctrine of the Son took as its point of departure the biblical understanding of the Son as God’s Wisdom—one need not look to Greek philosophy in order to explain why the ante-Nicenes posited that the Son is the agent whereby God’s will is actualized.

37.       My second concern with Hanson’s summary of Athanasius’ doctrine of the Son of God vis-à-vis the operations ad extra of the Trinity is his positing a disjunction between the Son’s being[72] within the immanent Trinity on the one hand, and his being[73] toward creation on the other.  For example, when Hanson claims that the Son’s becoming incarnate was not the consequence of his “position within the Godhead,” the question of why it was the Son who became incarnate rather than the Father or the Holy Spirit immediately raises its head, and Hanson leaves one with the impression that Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology has no bearing on the subject, aside from implying that because Athanasius unambiguously asserted the equality of the Son with the Father, he therefore did not posit a link between his ‘being’ and, e.g., his ‘being sent.’

38.       But given what we’ve seen above concerning Athanasius’ doctrine of the Father and Son with regard to the immanent Trinity, what ought we to expect were God to relate to that which is extrinsic to himself?  Or, to put the question in another way, is there anything within the relationship between the persons ad intra which immediately suggests a corresponding movement with regard to their operations ad extra?  And to be more specific still, can we see, given Athanasius’ doctrine of the immanent Trinity, why it was the Son specifically who became incarnate, rather than the Father or the Holy Spirit?

 39.      From what we’ve seen thus far, it would seem that we can indeed answer all three questions in the affirmative.  We should expect that just as the Father is the source of the Son in eternity, so too the Father will be the source of any activity whereby the Father and Son interact with creation; we should expect that just as the Son proceeds forth from the Father in eternity, so too the Son will proceed forth from the Father into time; we should expect that just as the Son is the exact Image of the Father in eternity, so too the Son will be God’s Expression within the world.  The suggestion that the Father would become incarnate should strike us as counterintuitive—not because the Father’s being is greater than the Son’s, nor because the ontological constitution of the Father is such that it, by its very nature, cannot come into contact with created reality whereas the Son’s can, but rather, because an incarnation of the Father cannot comprehend the expressive activity which defines the Father as the Father, nor would it do justice to the fact of the Son’s being the Image of the Father which defines the Son as the Son.  In other words, were it not the case that the Son’s becoming incarnate is directly related to his being son, then it would follow that in the Trinitarian theology of Athanasius, there is a non sequitur between the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity.  However, that such is not the case in Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology is abundantly clear in his writings, and we will now demonstrate how his doctrine of the immanent Trinity is unambiguously coherent with his doctrine of the operations ad extra of the Trinity.

40.       The operations ad intra are confluent with the operations ad extra.  Thus “all things which” the Son “says he has received, he has always, yet has from the Father; and the Father indeed not from any, but the Son from the Father”, and therefore “the Father in the Son exercises his providence over all things;”[74] and if “the ‘hour’ be determined by the Father, it is plain that through the Son [it is] determined” for the Son has this “proper to him from the Father,”[75] and “in him the Father makes, in him frames, other things whatever he counsels . . . and in Christ is the pleasure of the Father”.[76]

41.       And just as we see the monarchy of the Father given clear expression, so too do we see an unambiguous affirmation of the Son’s procession from the Father in Athanasius’ theology of the operations ad extra.  Since the Son “exists as Radiance and Expression of the Father,” says Athanasius, “therefore fitly is he the expected Christ, whom the Father announces to mankind . . . as through him we have come to be, so also in him all men might be redeemed”.[77]  And just as the manner in which the Father and Son are related within the immanent Trinity is coherent with their actions, so too their actions reveal their being, not only with respect to divinity, but with respect to their relatedness to one another.  The Father, “being Maker, plainly has also his framing Word, not external, but proper to him,”[78] and Athanasius later says that the Son, being “Lord of all” manifests this sovereignty through the Incarnation, for “what he ever is, that he then becomes to those who need him.”[79]  In other words, the Son does the particular activities which he does simply because of the manner in which he is related to the Father; the Son, “being the Image and Wisdom of the Father . . . does the things of the Father,”[80] for “it is proper to the Son to have the things of the Father, and to be such that the Father is seen in Him, and that through him all things were made, and that the salvation of all comes to pass and consists in him.”[81] 

42.       It is at this point appropriate to recall the prominence and significance of word-images in Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology, for we see here that these very word-images inform Athanasius’ understanding of the economy of creation and salvation.  These word-images are given specific application by Athanasius.  For example, after establishing the fact that the Rom. 1:20 and 1 Cor. 1:24 call Christ “the Power of God,” Athanasius goes on to say that Paul, “after making mention of the creation . . . naturally speaks of the Framer’s Power as seen in it, which Power, I say, is the Word of God, by whom all things have been made,”[82] and he elsewhere goes on to say that—

[T]hrough him did creation come to be, and God, as being Maker, plainly has also his framing Word, not external, but proper to him . . . If [the Father] has the power of will, and his will is effective . . . and his Word is effective, and a Framer, that Word must surely be the living Will of the Father, and an essential energy, and a real Word in whom all things both consist and are excellently governed . . . what is from [the Father’s] will comes into consistence from without, and is framed through his proper Offspring . . .[83]

 

43.            Athanasius applies the notion of the Son as God’s Power specifically to God’s effective capacity to create, and the Son’s being God’s Word is directly linked with his being the one whereby God’s creation is governed and brought into being.  And likewise, since the Son is the “own Image” of the Father, we “may be able through him to get an idea of the Father”.[84]  It is because the Son is the Word and Radiance of the Father that he can reveal the Father, thus “he who hears the Word, knows that he hears the Father; as he who is irradiated by the radiance, knows that he is enlightened by the sun;”[85] for—

[T]he Son is begotten not from without but from the Father, and while the Father remains whole, the Expression of his subsistence is ever, and preserves the Father’s likeness and unvarying Image, so that he who sees him, sees in him the subsistence too, of which he is the Expression.  And from the operation of the Expression we understand the true Godhead of the subsistence, as the Savior himself teaches when he says, “The Father whom dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” which I do; and “I and the Father are one,” and “I in the Father and the Father in me.”[86]

 

44.       This point cannot be emphasized enough, for, as we’ve seen with Hanson, the coherence and relevance of Athanasius’ theology of the economic Trinity, and the exactness with which he articulates it, has been too often ignored.  It would almost seem as though those who write on the topic ignore Athanasius’ writings themselves, and—taking it for granted that the doctrine of the homoousios is the gravitational center of Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology, while simultaneously paying no attention whatever to his doctrine of fatherhood and sonship—proceed to formulate Athanasius’ doctrine of the operations ad extra as though it could be deduced a priori from his doctrine of the homoousios.  For were this not the case, then one wonders at the complaint of C.M. LaCugna that Nicene theology in general “was defensible only on the presumption that speculation of God ‘in Godself’ was not only possible but in some sense distinct from reflection on God in Christ,”[87] while going on to say of Athanasius and the Cappadocians[88] in particular that, “Theologia, not a biblical concept at all . . .  now specifies the hypostases in God, but not the manner of their self-revelation ad extra.”[89]  Such a claim would seem possible only on the supposition that she arrived at such a conclusion strictly on something like an a priori basis—a basis which we have seen good reason to call into question. 

45.       “If there be a Son,” says Athanasius, “of necessity through that Son all things originate were created,”[90] for “since the Word is the Son of God by nature and proper to his essence, and is from him . . . the creatures could not have come to be except through him.”[91]  It is because God the Father “is always generative by nature”[92] and “as the Radiance from Light” the “Son is the Father’s all,” that “in the Word is [the Father’s] will also, and through him the objects of will are carried into effect”.[93]  “For it is proper to the Son to have the things of the Father, and to be such that the Father is seen in him, and that through him all things were made;”[94] it is “proper to the Word to work the Father’s works and not to be external to him.”[95]  Thus we see a direct parallel between Athanasius’ use of propriety to establish the fittingness of a function for the Son and his use of propriety to establish the Son’s being intrinsic to the Father.  This parallel cannot be overlooked, and any attempt to explain it away will do so at the expense of overlooking the whole of Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology.  Since the Son is “the Word of the Father . . . he alone of natural fitness was both able to recreate everything . . . and to be ambassador for all with the Father.”[96]

46.       Several times, Athanasius draws out at length the explicit connection between the Son’s being son with his operations ad extra.  For example, when he is confronted with the Arian claim that Colossians 1:15 (“the firstborn of all creation”) indicates that the Son is a creature, it is precisely by means of pointing out the direct connection between the Son’s place in the immanent Trinity and the Son’s place in the economic Trinity that Athanasius is able to refute them—

[W]hen the Son is called “firstborn,” this is done not for the sake of ranking him with the creation, but to prove the framing and adoption of all things through the Son.  For as the Father is First, so also is he both First—as Image of the First—and because the First is in him, and also Offspring from the Father, in whom the whole creation is created and adopted into sonship.[97]

 

47.            Elsewhere, Athanasius is more explicit still—

 

We said a few words just now on the fittingness that all things should be made by [the Son] . . . not as if the Father were not all-sufficient, not without meaning and by accident; but since he is God’s Word and own Wisdom, and being his Radiance, is ever with the Father, therefore it is impossible, if the Father bestows grace, that he should not give it in the Son, for the Son is in the Father as the radiance in the light.  For, not as if in need, but as a Father in his own Wisdom hath God founded the earth, and made all things in the Word which is from him . . . For where the Father is, there is the Son, and where the light, there the radiance; and as the Father worketh, he worketh through the Son . . .[98]

 

48.            Athanasius’ theology of the economic Trinity, therefore, is absolutely coherent with his theology of the immanent Trinity.  It is the internal form of the immanent Trinity which makes creation possible, and all operations ad extra of the divine persons are confluent with the operations ad intra; the form of the immanent Trinity determines the form of the operations ad extra.  This confluence touches every aspect of Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology, and as such, his soteriological vision is wholly formed by his understanding of the immanent Trinity.  For “even though we are not sons by nature,” “this is God’s kindness to man, that of whom he is maker, of them according to grace he afterwards becomes Father” by virtue of “the Son who is in us”.[99]  For Athanasius, salvation is participation in the life of the Trinity.

49.       In conclusion, we may summarize this all too-brief analysis of Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology by saying the following: God the Father is truly father, and God the Son is truly son.  The point of departure for Athanasius’ doctrine of the Trinity is personal: God the Father specifically.  The Father alone and only is without a cause for his hypostatic existence, and the relationship between the Father and the Son is asymmetrical.  At the same time, the Son is intrinsic to the being of the Father as the exhaustive Expression of the inexhaustible and ever generative Father.  The term of the Father is his delighting in the Son, and the term of the Son is to rejoice in the presence of the Father.  Furthermore, this relationship between the divine persons is confluent with the manner in which the divine persons interact with created reality.  In the Trinitarian theology of Athanasius, we see a dazzling and profound understanding of the Christian God.  This understanding is born of a perception—the perception of the way that God the Father is related to God the Son, and the Son to the Father.  For Athanasius, God is an ever-radiating and inexhaustible fountain of life; an unbounded sea of joy in which the interpersonal communion between the Father and the Son is eternally expressed, and it is into this divine communion that the Christian is called; salvation is participation in the communion that is God.  This God is made present in the world by the two-fold movement of the Incarnation of the Son of God and the descent of the Holy Spirit—the operations ad extra are the translation of eternity into time, and by touching the point of contact between these two we are drawn heavenward by a reverse movement.  The life of the Christian is in-spired.  And the theological ground of this vision of Christian life; the seed of which this is the blossoming flower, is the Wisdom tradition.

50.       I now proceed to offer a summary of the Trinitarian theology of other eminent theologians to establish that these aspects of Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology are the common property of the orthodox and catholic Church, ancient and modern.

III

The Orthodox Trinitarian Faith of the Catholic Church from the Nicene Era Onward

 

[S]he first makes little flowerets of blue and other colors, and attaches gold, and there is made a single priestly robe, to the end that adornments of diverse grace and beauty, made up of the same bright colors, may gain fresh glory by diversity of arrangement.

Ambrose of Milan

On the Christian Faith, 2:11

 

1.         My principal goals in this section are to establish the fact that certain of the essential components of Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology shown above are not merely doctrines particular to Athanasius, but rather, they are the common property of the orthodox, catholic Trinitarian confession.  Though each of the points described above are important, for my purposes the most pertinent such aspects are the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  As this work moves on—and especially when I begin to offer a positive contribution in section VI—it should become apparent why I have chosen to give almost exclusive attention to these particular aspects of Trinitarian theology.  They provide sufficient and sure grounds for everything that follows.

2.         Of course, in a work of this size it would be impossible to give an exhaustive analysis of every father of the Church, every theologian of the middle ages, and all contemporary theologians, and I must therefore choose a select group of such.  But such a selection perhaps requires a justification as to why I chose this father rather than that; why I chose this theologian rather than another.  My justification for the particular doctors of the Church whom I have chosen is this: they are almost all universally recognized as premiere within the Tradition and are thus representative of the faith of the whole Church, such that by focusing our attention on them we are able to gain a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, understanding of these aspects of the Trinitarian theology of the Church.

3.         For the Greek fathers of the Nicene era I will focus on four figures: Alexander of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus.  For the Latin fathers of the Nicene era, I will focus on Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose of Milan, and Augustine of Hippo.  For the middle ages, I will focus on Thalassios the Lybian, Maximus Confessor, John Damascene, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, John Ruusbroec, and the declarations of certain councils.  For modern theology, I will focus on John Zizioulas, Karl Rahner, Vladimir Lossky, Yves Congar, Boris Bobrinskoy, Walter Kasper, Kallistos Ware, Gerald O’Collins, Dumitru Staniloae, Bede Griffiths, Richard Swinburne, certain official declarations of the Catholic Church, and Hans urs von Balthasar, who is being increasingly recognized as a theologian of virtually nonpareil status, and whom posterity will most likely place alongside Augustine and Aquinas as an absolutely premiere doctor of the Catholic faith.  With the writings of these twenty-five theological giants, and several official declarations of the Church having been examined, I believe that my theses—that the Church affirms the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity—will be vindicated.  We will then be prepared to assess the Trinitarian theology of Kevin Giles, and be able to offer a positive contribution to the contemporary debate over the Trinity and subordinationism by drawing on the living wellsprings of the Tradition of the Church. 

4.         Before moving on, I must first give a brief explanation of the methodology that I will employ in the following.  It is not my goal to, as above with Athanasius, give a comprehensive summary of the Trinitarian theology of these figures; rather—as mentioned above—it is my goal merely to provide evidence that there is a broad consensus in the history of the Church that affirms the aspects of Trinitarian theology mentioned above (the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic with the immanent Trinity); this is sufficient for my argument, and to go beyond this would entail—literally—the writing of a book of over a thousand pages.  While the positive side of this approach is that it will allow me to engage a number of figures in a concise manner, the negative side is that I will not be allowed to explore the particular glory of the Trinitarian theology of this or that figure (which is found always in the details), my singularity of focus may well become repetitious to certain readers, and I open myself to the charge of “proof-texting”.  For these last two concerns, it is my hope that the reader will keep in mind the goal of this work for the first, and the scope of this work for the second; I also trust that the twenty-plus page summary of Athanasius offered above is proof enough that my claims and assessments are not simply the product of a proof-texter who is incapable of actually dealing with the finer points of the subject at hand, and the nuances which must be recognized if justice is to be done to the primary sources.  To those who would wish to challenge my claims in the following I extend the invitation to prove me wrong.  With that said, we are now prepared to explore the Trinitarian theology of the orthodox and catholic Church.

5.            Alexander of Alexandria (d. 328 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  Alexander develops this first point—that only God the Father is uncaused—in detail from chapters 47 to 52 of his letter to Alexander of Thessalonica.  After stating that the Son is “perfect like the Father,” he adds that the Son is “wanting only his unbegotten character.”  Though “the Son is always from the Father,” Alexander is quick to point out that “no one should take the ‘always’ as a reference to the supposition that he is unbegotten,” for to be “always” is “not the same thing as unbegotten,” and those who would disagree “are blinded in the faculties of their minds.”  He then goes on to state that “the characteristic high status must be preserved for the unbegotten Father by saying that no one is the cause of his being,” but far from implying the mitigation of the Son, this actually entails “the befitting honor” of the Son “by ascribing to him generation without beginning from the Father” and “his perfect likeness in all things to the image and impress of the Father.”  At the same time, “to the Father alone” belongs “the characteristic property” of being uncaused, which even the Son himself indicated when he claimed, “My Father is greater than I.”

6.         Related to this is the manner in which the immanent Trinity is related to the economic Trinity.  Alexander treats of this with respect to two themes: creation and the revelation of God.  With regard to the first, he states that “all things received [their] origination by the Father through the Son.”[100]  As to the second, Alexander notes that the seeing of Christ is “just as if the Father is seen through a spotless and living mirror of his divine image,” and he further establishes his point by citing Ps. 36:9 (“in your light [= the Son] we shall see light [= the Father]”).[101] 

7.         Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 315 – 386 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  When the word “son” is predicated of the Son, we must “understand it not merely in an improper sense, but as a Son in truth, a Son by nature without beginning,”[102] for “the Father is the beginning of the Son, timeless, incomprehensible” and “without beginning.”[103]  Similarly, the Father is truly father.  “[N]either has he who begat a Father . . . nor did he who was begotten become the Father”; these distinctive properties of the persons are irreversible.  Only the “one Father” is “unbegotten”, for “he is unbegotten who hath no father”.[104]  Though Cyril affirms the unity of operation between the Father and the Son, for “the kingdom of the Father is likewise the kingdom of the Son”,[105] he does not blur the distinction between the persons in making this affirmation.  “All things were made by” the Son, but more specifically, by “the Father working by the Son.”[106]  The Son “created all things at the Father’s bidding, that the act of bidding might secure to the Father his absolute authority”,[107] and this not because the Father “wanted [in] strength to create the works . . . but because he willed that the Son should reign over his own workmanship,” and likewise, the Son’s doing the will of the Father is not comparable to servitude, but rather, the Son does the will of the Father as “honoring his own Father”.[108]

8.            Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335 – 394 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The claim that “the very Son” is “ungenerate” is “no less impious than” the “Anomoean” heresy, which denied the divinity of the Son.[109]  The Son “himself is not a first cause”,[110] for in saying “’I and my Fathere are one,’ . . . we are taught in that utterance the dependence of our Lord on a cause”, the Father.[111]  Thus in calling the Son the Word or Power of God, this indicates “the eternal power of God which is creative of things”.[112]  The distinctive hypostatic properties of the divine persons ad intra are expressed in their operations ad extra, for “every activity which pervades from God to creation and is named according to our manifold designs starts off from the Father, proceeds through the Son, and is completed by the Holy Spirit.”[113]

9.            Gregory of Nazianzus (ca. 330 – 389 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The Son and Spirit are eternal “[b]ecause they are from”[114] the Father, and the Father “did not . . . become a Father after he began to be, for his being had no beginning.  And he is Father in the absolute sense, for he is not also Son; just as the Son is Son in the absolute sense, because he is not also Father.”[115]  The “being itself” of the Father and Son “is common and equal, even though the Son receive[s] it from the Father”, and because the Son is so related to the Father, when he says that he can do only what he has seen the Father doing, this has a fit sense: namely, that “the Father impressed the ideas of these . . . actions, and the Word brings them to pass, yet not in a slavish . . . fashion”;[116] the Son’s “knowledge of the greatest events” comes from “the Father . . . the Cause”.[117]

10.            Summarizing our findings for the Greek fathers of the Nicene era, the following may be said.  The monarchy of the Father is universally affirmed, but such that the Father’s very being is defined by his being father of the Son.  The Son is therefore intrinsic to the being, and aseity of the Father.  Likewise, the operations ad extra of the Trinity express the operations ad intra.  Thus the distinctive hypostatic properties of the particular persons are irreversible in the immanent Trinity—the relationship between the Father and Son is asymmetrical and the causation goes only one way—and the particular operations of a particular divine person are appropriate to the specific divine person by whom they are performed.  Let us now move on to the Latin fathers of the Nicene era.

11.       Hilary of Poitiers (ca. 315 – 367 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  “It is the Father to whom all existence owes its origin”: “In contrast to all else he is self-existent” for he “does not draw his being from without, but possesses it from himself and in himself.”[118]  Though the Son has all that the Father has, “those properties which are in the Father are the source of those wherewith the Son is endowed” because the Son is “wholly Son of him who is wholly Father”.[119]  And since the Son is indeed the very son of the Father, “the primary purpose” of the Incarnation was “to enable us to know the Father”.[120]  The immanent Trinity is not obscured by the activities of the one God ad extra, for “[t]he Father, by his commands, is the Cause; the Son, by his executions of the things commanded, sets in order.  The distinction between the persons is marked by the work assigned to each.”[121]  Yet this “commanding” of the Father to the Son reflects not any servitude on the part of the Son, but rather, it is an aspect of the eternal exchange of love and glory between the persons.  There is “no lack of power in the Son, who, when he has received this glory, will make his return for it”,[122] for “[t]he return of glory given lies herein, that all the glory which the Son has is the glory of the Father, since everything he has is the Father’s gift.”[123]

12.            Ambrose of Milan (ca. 335 – 397 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The Father is not “one person with the Son”, and this is proven by “the plain distinction that comes of generation, so that Christ is God of God, everlasting of everlasting, fullness of fullness”;[124] the “foundation” of the Christian faith is “to know that the Son of God is begotten; if he be not begotten, neither is he the Son.”[125]  The Son is “derived from God, coming out from the Father, drawn from the fountainhead”[126] and since he “proceeded and came forth from God” he “can have no attributes but such as are proper to God.”[127]  Since “eternity, sovereignty” and “godhead . . . are his possession, as begotten of the Father”,[128] it follows that “it is Christ’s especial power to will what the Father wills, even as it is his to do what the Father doeth.”[129]  What the Father has given to the Son “he hath given . . . in the act of generation”,[130] thus when the Son does the will of the Father, it is not as one “subject as a slave”[131] “who receives commands,”[132] for “inasmuch as the Father renders to the Son, and the Son . . . to the Father, here are plain proofs of love and regard: seeing that they so render, the one to the other, that neither he who receives obtains as it were what was another’s, nor he that renders loses.”[133]

13.            Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  Though the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, “the Holy Spirit[‘s] proceeding from the Son is something which the Son has from the Father”;[134] in the Trinity there are not “two who are not from another”, for “[t]he Father alone is not from another, and therefore he alone is called unbegotten . . . but the Son is born of the Father and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father principally”.[135]  Furthermore, “the Word of God is sent by him whose Word he is; sent by him he is born of.  The begetter sends, what is begotten is sent”;[136] the Son, who is “like the Father and equal to him in all things” therefore “knows what the Father knows, but his knowing comes to him from the Father just as his being does . . . the Son . . . knows all things in himself . . . as things that are born from the things that the Father knows in himself”.[137]  The operations ad extra thus express the operations ad intra and, as with those who preceded him, Augustine of Hippo saw the operations of the divine persons as appropriate to the particular person who performs them by virtue of the manner in which that divine person is related to the other divine persons—

14.       If however the reason why the Son is said to have been sent by the Father is simply that the one is the Father and the other the Son, then there is nothing at all to stop us believing that the Son is equal to the Father and consubstantial and co-eternal, and yet that the Son is sent by the Father.  Not because one is greater and the other less, but because one is the Father and the other the Son; one is the begetter, the other the begotten; the first is the one from who the sent one is; the other is the one who is from the sender.  For the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son. . . . For he was not sent in virtue of some disparity of power or substance or anything in him that was not equal to the Father, but in virtue of the Son being from the Father, not the Father being from the Son.[138]

 

15.       Thus, for all of the (presumed) differences between Greek and Latin Trinitarian theology of the Nicene era, both sides clearly affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The Father only and alone is of none and without a cause of his hypostasis, yet the very “adornment of the Father’s majesty” is “the Son’s eternity.”[139]  And as the Son is the Expression of the Father’s being, so too is the will of the Father given birth in the eternal generation of the Son, and as such, the Son is the effective agent whereby the will of the Father is actualized.  Let us now turn to the Trinitarian faith of the middle ages.

16.            Thalassios the Libyan (7th century a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  Though “the single essence of the Godhead is said to exist in three persons, so the Holy Trinity is confessed to have one essence,”[140] this unity does not confound the distinctions between the persons, for “[t]he Father is the sole origin of all things.  He is the origin of the Son and the Spirit as their begetter and source”.[141]  For the Son and the Spirit, “the term ‘origin’ indicates the source from which their existence is eternally derived, as light from the sun”,[142] and they “are said to be coeternal with the Father, but not co-unoriginate with him.”[143]  Likewise, with regard to the operations ad extra, “The Father is . . . the origin of created things, as the one who produces, provides for, and judges them through the Son in the Holy Spirit.”[144]

17.            Maximus Confessor (d. 662 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  “There is one God because the Father is the begetter of the unique Son and the fount of the Holy Spirit”;[145] “if” the Father “exists eternally . . . the Son and the Holy Spirit co-exist with him eternally in substantial form, having their being from him”; yet this dependence of the Son and the Spirit upon the Father does not imply any diminution of their divinity, for  the “relationship of co-inherence between the persons embraces all three . . . not permitting any of the three to be regarded as prior or sequent to the others.”[146]  Thus when we “with a naked intellect see—in so far as men can—the pure Logos, as he exists in himself,” this “clearly” shows to “us the Father in himself.”[147]  The “true provider is God the Father alone through the natural mediation of the Son in the Holy Spirit”, and the Son “makes the unknown Father manifest to men through the flesh, and gives . . . access to the Father through the Holy Spirit.”[148]

18.       John Damascene (d. ca. 750 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  “[T]he Father is without cause and unborn: for he is derived from nothing . . . But the Son is derived from the Father . . . and the Holy Spirit is likewise derived from the Father”,[149] and to be even more explicit—

All then that the Son and the Spirit have is from the Father, even their very being: and unless the Father is, neither the Son nor the Spirit is.  And unless the Father possesses a certain attribute, neither the Son nor the Spirit possesses it: and through the Father, that is, because of the Father’s existence, the Son and the Spirit exist, and through the Father, that is, because of the Father having the qualities, the Son and the Spirit have all their qualities . . . [150]

 

19.       And likewise with regard to the operations ad extra, “we say that the Father creates all that he creates through his only-begotten Son”, but “not as though the Son were a mere instrument serving the Father’s ends, but as his natural and subsistential force”;[151] “just as . . . the fire shines and again . . . the light of the fire shines, so all things whatsoever the Father does, these also the Son likewise does.”[152]  Thus the Son became incarnate rather than the Father or the Holy Spirit because the “Father is Father and not Son: the Son is Son and not Father: the Holy Spirit is Spirit and not Father or Son”;[153] or, in other words, “the Son of God became Son of Man in order that his individuality might endure . . . since he was the Son of God, he became Son of Man”.[154]

20.            Bonaventure (1217 – 1274 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  Because “good is said to be self-diffusive, therefore the highest good must be self-diffusive”;[155] “unless there were eternally in the highest good a production which is actual and consubstantial . . . it would by no means be the highest good because it would not diffuse itself in the highest degree.”[156]  Thus it is “the First Principle, the Father”[157] “in whom resides the fullness of fontality for the production of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”;[158] for “if a being is said to be first because of the lack of origin . . . in this sense primacy resides principally in the person of the Father . . . the fontal-fullness for the production of all the persons is found in him.”[159]  Likewise, with regard to operations ad extra, “since the Father brings forth the Son, and through the Son . . . the Holy Spirit, God the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit is the principle of everything created; for if he did not produce them eternally, he could not produce through anything in time; and therefore he is rightly called the Fount of Life by reason of his production within the Trinity.”[160]

21.            Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  Though whatever “belongs to God must belong also to the Word of God”[161] and “the Father has no power which the Son does not have”,[162] the Son “cannot generate a Son, whereas the Father does generate a Son” because “the Father has the generative power to beget; the Son has it to be begotten”.[163]  The Father “must be related both to the Son and the Holy Spirit as a principle to that which is from the principle”;[164] the “Son and the Holy Spirit agree in their being from another, since each is from the Father”, but “the Father suitably differs from each in that he can have no birth-origin.”[165]  Thus, since the Son is eternally generated by the Father, “the assumption of human nature was outstanding in suitability to the person of the Word”,[166] and things are created by the Father through the Son because “[t]he Word also has a kind of essential kinship . . . with the whole of creation, since the Word contains the essences of all things created by God, just as man the artist in the conception of his intellect comprehends . . . all the products of art.”[167]

22.       John Ruusbroec (1293 – 1381 a.d.) affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The Father is the “cause and principle of all things”, and “ceaselessly begets the Son but is himself not begotten, just as the Son is begotten and cannot beget.”[168]  The life that flows forth from the Father “flows out again with all other creatures through the eternal birth of the Son”;[169] it is through “this eternal birth” of the Son that “all creatures have gone forth eternally before their creation in time.”[170]  Likewise, the life of the Christian is a life of participation in the Trinity, for we “all have eternal life with the Son in the Father; the same life flows forth and is begotten with the Son from the Father”[171] and “our created being lives in our eternal image, which we have in the Son of God.”[172]

23.       The councils and official declarations of the Catholic Church of the middle ages affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  According to the Eleventh Council of Toledo (675 a.d.), “the Father . . . is not begotten . . . For he himself, from whom the Son has received his birth and the Holy Spirit his procession, has his origin from no one.  He is therefore the source and origin of the whole Godhead.”[173]  The Decree for the Copts (1442 a.d.) from the General Council of Florence proclaims that, “All that the Father is or has, he has not from another but from himself; he is the origin without origin.  All that the Son is or has, he has from the Father; he is origin from origin.”[174]  Similarly, with regard to the economy of salvation, Innocent III’s Profession of Faith Prescribed to the Waldensians (1208 a.d.) affirms that “the incarnation of the Godhead has taken place, not in the Father or the Holy Spirit, but only in the Son; so that he who in his divinity was the Son of God . . . became in his humanity the son of man”.[175] 

24.       Hence, just as we saw with the Greek and Latin fathers of the Nicene era, so too we see in the theology of both the East and the West during the middle ages a unanimous affirmation of two central tenets of Trinitarian theology: the Father alone is uncaused, and is himself the source of the other two persons, and the economic Trinity expresses the immanent Trinity.  Though the doctrine of the filioque (i.e., the doctrine affirmed by the Western Church that the Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but from the Father and the Son) became an intensely debated issue during this period, helping to forge a division between the Orthodox East and the Catholic West that, to this day, has yet to be healed, the affirmation of this doctrine by the West, as we have seen above, was never seen by those who affirmed it as entailing the denial of the monarchy of the Father.  The filioque was affirmed in such a way that the monarchy of the Father was simultaneously affirmed (ex patre principaliter).  Furthermore, though both East and West affirmed a unity of activity between the three persons with regard to operations ad extra, this unity was never affirmed in such a way as to negate the particular manner according to which a specific divine person performs an activity, as determined by the manner in which he is related to the other divine persons—quite the contrary.  It was ever taken for granted that the economic Trinity is confluent with the immanent Trinity.  With that said, we are now prepared to treat of modern Trinitarian theology.

25.       John Zizioulas affirms the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The Father’s “unique and unrepeatable identity as Father is distinguished eternally from that of the Son and of the Spirit”, and if “the Son is immortal, he owes this primarily not to his substance but to his being the ‘only begotten’ . . . in whom the Father is ‘well pleased.’”[176]  “The one God is not the one substance but the Father, who is the ‘cause’ both of the generation of the Son of the procession of the Spirit”;[177] thus “God ‘exists’ on account of a person, the Father, and not on account of a substance”,[178] yet because God the Father is father and “his being is identical with an act of communion”,[179] the aseity of the Son and Spirit is entailed by and logically simultaneous with the aseity of their cause—the Father.  Likewise, with regard to the economy of salvation, “the Incarnation . . . is formed by the work of the Spirit, and is nothing else than the expression and realization of the will of the Father.”[180]

26.       Karl Rahner affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The Father, in contrast to the Son and the Spirit, “is the unoriginate”[181] who “communicates the divine essence to the Son and through the Son to the Spirit”,[182] thus “the Father himself has a manner of being given and of existing which distinguishes him from Son and Spirit” though this “does not properly precede his relation to either of them”[183]—the monarchy of the Father does not negate, but entails the eternity of the Son and the Spirit.  Likewise, with regard to the operations ad extra, it is because the Son is the “self-expression” of the Father that he is the “self-communication of the divine reality”;[184] though “there is only one outward activity of God, exerted and possessed as one and the same by Father, Son, and Spirit,” this unity of activity of the persons does not confound the differences between them, for each performs the activity “according to the particular way in which each of them possesses the Godhead”;[185] it is performed “by each of the three persons in his own proper way.”[186]  Therefore, “when God freely steps outside of himself in self-communication . . . it is and must be the Son who appears historically in the flesh as man.  And it is and must be the Spirit who brings about the acceptance by the world . . . of this self-communication.”[187]

27.            Vladimir Lossky affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The Father is the “Source of Divinity”[188] and “at the same time the Source of the relations whence the hypostases receive their distinctive characteristics”; the Father, “[i]n causing the persons to proceed . . . lays down their relations of origin” in regard to himself, “the unique principle of the Godhead”.[189]  And just as within the immanent Trinity “each of the three hypostases contains . . . the one nature after the manner proper to it . . . distinguishing it from the other two persons”,[190] so too in the Incarnation the “Divine will in Christ was . . . the will common to the Three: the will of the Father—the source of the will, the will of the Son—in obedience, the will of the Holy Spirit—the accomplishment.”[191]  The economic Trinity expresses the immanent Trinity—

28.       If the Father is the personal cause of the hypostases, he is also, for that very reason, the principle of their common possession of one and the same nature; and in that sense, he is the “source” of the common divinity of the Three.  The revelation of this nature, the externalization of the unknowable essence of the Three, is not a foreign reality to the Three hypostases.  Every energy, every manifestation, comes from the Father, is expressed in the Son, and goes forth in the Holy Spirit. . . . The same monarchy of the Father conditions both the hypostatic procession of the Holy Spirit—his personal existence . . . and the manifesting, natural procession of the common Godhead  ad extra . . . [192]

 

29.       Yves Congar affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  Since the Father is “the first Person, the Principle without a principle and the source of divinity”,[193] the “first insight into the mystery of the Trinity is that concerning its origin in the monarchy of the Father.”[194]  And since “a source is not seen; all that is seen is the river that flows from it”, “’God’, the unbegotten fountain of divinity, is invisible” and he “made himself visible in his Son who became man”; “the ‘divine missions’” are “the outcome of the intra-divine ‘processions’, a communication of the very mystery of God.”[195]  It is because the “Father does not himself ‘proceed’” that “he is not ‘sent’.  He is communicated in the economy as the absolute source of all procession, mission and work ad extra”,[196] thus “[i]t was because he was conscious of being the expression of the Father that Jesus performed this act of humble love and service”[197] in his Incarnation and death.  Furthermore, since the Son is “the Word, depending on the Father”,[198] the Son’s proclamation that “You are my Father; I have come to do your will”, is a true not only during the Incarnation, but also within the immanent Trinity itself—though not in such a manner as would imply any servitude on the part of the Son within the immanent Trinity, as was indeed exemplified when he became man.[199]

30.       Boris Bobrinskoy affirms the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  It belongs to the Father to be “’without cause’, without ‘beginning’”,[200] and the Father is “not only ‘uncaused’ and ‘ungenerated,’ but he is the ‘cause,’ the ‘principle’ . . . not only of the being of creatures, but also of the trinitarian Hypostases of the Son and of the Spirit”.[201]  “The Father is the sole cause of the Godhead, and he does not pass it on”,[202] yet this primacy of the Father does not entail the diminution of the other two persons, for the “Monarchy of the Father proclaims, by necessity, the nontemporal origin of the Son and of the Spirit.”[203]  The “Father is Father only, but this Paternity is a total gift of love, a total openness toward the Son and the Spirit.”[204]  Thus it “is precisely because God is Trinity, Love and Communion . . . that he creates and sustains the world and seeks to impart his own life to it”, and “on the level of our knowledge of God . . . the movement needs to be . . . from ‘economy’ to ‘theology.’  It is only to the degree that God reveals himself fully in the incarnate Son and . . . the Holy Spirit that he reveals himself as the Father who loves the world.”[205]  The Father is “the origin of Love, Life” and “Wisdom” and “the Son is the manifestation of this”[206]; “the Father is turned toward the world as the Hypostasis of Love, as the Source of the Love which he communicates through the Son and the Spirit . . . the revealing and giving Hypostases of the Love of the Father”,[207] and when “God turns himself to the world . . . from the monarchic primacy of the Father, each Hypostasis sends and gives the Others, is sent and given by Them, sends and gives himself, in an endless effusion of the divine Trinitarian life to the world.”[208]

31.       Walter Kasper affirms the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The Catholic affirmation of the filioque does not negate the monarchy of the Father, for “it is from the Father that the Son has his ‘power’ to spirate the Spirit; consequently the Spirit proceeds principaliter [principally; in the first case; originally] from the Father, so that the latter’s monarchy is preserved”.[209]  And, more specifically—

[A]ccording to the scriptures and the early Christian tradition the person[al] God whom we seek is the Father.  Therefore the doctrine of the Trinity must start with the Father and understand him as origin, source and inner ground of unity in the Trinity.  We must start with the Father as the groundless Ground of a self-communicating love which brings the Son and the Spirit into being and at the same time unites itself with them in one love.[210]

 

32.            Likewise, with regard to the operations ad extra of the one God, the “Father is purely a giver and sender . . . the unoriginated origin of divine love, a pure source, a pure outflowing”, and the Son “receives . . . from the Father; but he does not receive it in order to keep it for himself . . . rather, he receives it in order to empty himself of it.”  Therefore the Son is “the mediator; he is even pure mediation, a pure passing-on.”[211]  The Son “would not have truly received the self-giving of the Father were he to keep it for himself and not give it back . . . As an existence that is wholly owed to another, the Son is therefore pure gratitude, eternal eucharist [i.e., thanksgiving], pure obedient response to the word and will of the Father.”[212]  The economy of creation and salvation is the rendering present in the world the reality of this love and communion.

33.            Kallistos Ware affirms the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The “Spirit is God within us, the Son is God with us, and the Father, God above or beyond us.”[213]  The Father is “the ‘fountain’ of the Godhead, the source, cause or principle of origin for the other two persons.  He is the bond of unity between the three: there is one God because there is one Father.”[214]  With regard to the economic Trinity, though “[t]he three persons . . . work always together, and possess but a single will and energy”,[215] this unity does not confound the distinctions between the persons, and the personal manner in which the three persons perform the operations of the one God, for to “speak . . . of God as Son and Father is at once to imply a movement of mutual love . . . It is to imply that from all eternity God himself, as Son, in filial obedience and love renders back to God the Father the being which the Father by paternal self-giving eternally generates in him,” and it is “in and through the Son that the Father is revealed to us”.[216]

34.       Gerald O’Collins affirms the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  “Because of the intradivine order of origin (in that the Son and the Holy Spirit are not the origin of the Father)”, the divine persons are “ordered to one another in an asymmetrical way.  The self-giving of the Father, which is the condition for the self-giving of the Son . . . happens in a way that cannot be reversed”, thus “the oneness does not happen at the expense of the true distinction between the persons”.[217]  And granting that “the divine actions ad extra are common and inseparable”, does it follow that “they are . . . undifferentiated and indistinguishable?”[218]  The answer is no.  “Common activity is not automatically indistinguishable activity”,[219] for “God’s self-communication ad extra always assumes a threefold form because God is tripersonal ad intra.”  The Father acts through the Son and Spirit because each of the divine persons acts “in their own personal particularity and with the diversity that stems from and reveals their mutual relations.  Thus the incarnation of the Logos reveals something proper about the Logos.”[220]

35.            Dumitru Staniloae affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  “The Father . . . establishes the Son in existence from all eternity by his integral self-giving”;[221] since the “persons do not change these positions among themselves”,[222] the “generation of the Son from the Father expresses only the unchanged position of the Father as giver and of the Son as receiver of existence”.[223]  Similarly, with regard to the operations ad extra, since each “person of the Holy Trinity, revealing himself in the world . . . manifests perfect unity vis-à-vis the other two persons”,[224] “[b]y becoming incarnate the Son is also avowing as man his filial love of the Father, but [it] is an obedient love; likewise he reveals the Father to men so that they may love him precisely as Father.”[225]  Thus human nature, by virtue of its assumption by the Son and the operation of the Spirit upon it, is made “fit to participate in the love which the divine hypostasis of the Son has toward his Father”, and the “revelation of the Trinity, occasioned by the incarnation . . . of the Son, has no other purpose than . . . to draw us through the Holy Spirit into the filial relationship the Son has with the Father.”[226]

36.       Bede Griffiths affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The Father is “the reality behind all things, the Source from which everything comes into existence.”[227]  Just as the Son “emerges from the Father eternally”, so too he “returns to the Father in the Spirit”,[228] yet “in the coming forth of the Word, the whole creation also comes forth” such that “the whole mystery of creation and redemption is contained in that eternal reality.”[229]  The life of the Christian is a Trinitarian life.  We “come forth from the Father in the Son and we return to the Father in the Spirit”;[230] we “receive the Spirit and in that Spirit we know ourselves as sons.  Experiencing this sonship, in relation to the Father, we return to the source in the Father.”[231]  Before moving on, I think that readers of Tekton may be interested to know that Bede Griffiths is indeed the person to whom C.S. Lewis dedicated his autobiography, Surprised by Joy.

37.            Richard Swinburne affirms the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  If there is to be more than one divine individual [i.e., person that is God], “in some way one would have to be the source of being of the other”, and “if there are two divine individuals, one is the ultimate source of being.”[232]  Thus “G2 [the Son] . . . could only exist because G1 [the Father] everlastingly actively caused or permitted that existence”, and theistic arguments for the existence of God “must suppose the G1 [the Father] to which they lead to be the active cause . . . of all else, including G2 [the Son]”,[233] but since “the Father had no option but to cause the Son . . . the dependence of Son on Father . . . does not diminish greatness.”[234]  With regard to the operations ad extra, there are “many different ways in which unity of action can be secured”, and the preferable way is that wherein there is “a division of functions”, for this is a “viable way of securing unity of action in shared power among” the divine persons.  A reasonable hypothesis for how this division of functions would be realized would be “if the first individual [the Father] solemnly vows to the second individual [the Son] in causing his existence that he will not initiate any act (of will) in a certain sphere of activity that he allocates to him”, and the Son would accept this proposal for “not to conform would be not to conform to a reasonable request from the source of his being and power”.[235] 

38.       The official declarations of the contemporary Catholic Church affirm the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  The divine persons “are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: ‘It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.’”[236]  Furthermore, the “Father alone is the principle without principle of the two other persons of the Trinity, the sole source . . . of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”; the “Holy Spirit therefore takes his origin From the Father alone . . . in a principal, proper and immediate manner”, and 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 [procession] of the Spirit.”[237] 

39.            Furthermore, these real distinctions between the persons are maintained in the operations ad extra

The whole divine economy is the common work of the three divine persons. For as the Trinity has only one and the same nature so too does it have only one and the same operation: "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle." However each divine person performs the common work according to his unique personal property. Thus the Church confesses, following the New Testament, "one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are." It is above all the divine missions of the Son's Incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit that show forth the properties of the divine persons. [238]

 

40.       Finally, Hans urs von Balthasar affirmed the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity.  In the Incarnation of the Son of God, the “true God who manifests himself . . . is . . . the forever-supreme, all-encompassing Father who speaks the incarnate Word.  He is the Creator of the cosmos, the source of all being and the bestower of all grace”.[239]  The Father is the “Origin” of the Son, and it is “because he bears fruit out of himself and requires no fructifying that he is called Father”;[240] in “the pure act of self-pouring-forth God the Father is his self”.[241]  Since “Christianity stands or falls with” the “assertion that there is an inner-divine fruifulness”,[242] and the Father’s being “almighty” can be “none other than that of a surrender which is limited by nothing”—for “what could surpass the power of bringing forth . . . an other in God”?[243]—it is by bringing forth the Son that God the Father’s very being is expressed and realized.  And though “God the Son and the Holy Spirit take part with equal almightiness” in the act of creation, this is an almightiness “that is originally grounded in the fatherly Origin.”[244]  “[B]eyond everything philosophy can conceive, the relationship between Father and Son is indeed revealed through the Son.  The Father is ground; the Son is manifestation . . . there is no ground without manifestation”, and “[a]s ground, the ground is ‘greater’ than the form that represents it and that proceeds from it”.[245]

41.       All of our knowledge of the Triune God comes from the economy of salvation—the Son, who dwells within the heart of the Father, has revealed him, and this revelation is not simply of “the one God”, but of the God who is Trinity; the Incarnation is not simply an activity of the “one God” or even the one who is Son—it expresses his very sonship.  In the Incarnation “we are acquainted with the relationship between Son and Father” that is “made visible in the Son’s ‘descent’ and his return to the Father”, and this “relationship is the path we must tread if we are to reach the Father through the Son.”[246]  “In binding our contemplation to the humanity of [God’s] Son . . . [God] gives us a concrete vision of triune life”, and “[t]his vision is simply the inner illumination of the obedience of faith rendered to the Father, together with Christ, in the Spirit.”[247]  Though it is only the Son who becomes man, “the Son’s human life necessarily exhibits aspects of his relationship to the Father and to the Spirit”, thus in “the Son’s ‘descent’ into flesh he first of all reveals himself, his self-abasing, humble and obedient love.”[248]  The Son “is ‘true’ in that he says and does nothing but what the Father tells him”:[249] 

42.       Docile to the Spirit he obeys the Father, for the Spirit is the Spirit of the Father: the Spirit brings the Father’s will to the Son in a spiritual manner, makes a home for it in him, infuses it into him.  But in obeying, the Son also obeys his own will.  This will of his bursts forth from his innermost core, transcending him, transporting and “in-spiring” him; it both controls him (as the Father’s will) and liberates him (as his own rational and personal will).[250]

 

43.       Hence this surrender of the Son to the Father must not be understood in such a manner that would imply that the Son’s relationship to the Father is that of a slave to a master; rather, this self-gift of the Son to the Father is simply the loving response of the original self-gift of the Father to the Son, for “[i]n his self-abasement . . . the Son wishes to express not some neutral ‘nature’ of God, but . . . the innermost character of the Father who sent him . . . The Father expresses himself in everything that the Son is and does”, and the “Son’s entire love represents the love of the Father”.[251]  The “Kenosis of the Son of God” expresses “the eternal ‘event’ of the divine processions”; the divine “essence is forever ‘given’ in the self-gift of the Father, ‘rendered’ in the thanksgiving of the Son, and ‘represented’ in its character as absolute love by the Holy Spirit.”[252]  It is in the Son’s “servant form” that “the Father’s form of lordship” is manifested.[253]  And “[t]his is why, to the last, the Son does not do his [own] will . . . but acts solely at the Father’s command”, and “does not teach his own doctrine but that of the Father.”[254]  The “truth” which the Son proclaims “is both the Father in himself and the expressive relationship between Father and Son as well as, finally, the Son in himself, in so far as he is the Word and the Expression of the Father.”

44.            Whoever is able to read the form [of the revelation of God in the Incarnation of the Son] will at the same time understand the witness which the Father interiorly gives to the Son.  Whoever is able to hear the Son as Logos of the Father—as the witness to himself which the Father exhibits to the world—that person will also be listening to the interior dialogue between Father and Son wherein the Father utters his entire divinity, his power, and his love to the Son.  The Father accredits the Son’s words and works as stemming from himself, the Father; by so doing he also accredits the Son’s form of humiliation and obedience as an authentic expression of the divine nature.[255]

 

45.       Since the Son is the original “other”—the exhaustive expression of the inexhaustible Father—the “triune relationships between Son and Father in the Spirit are what make a creation ad extra possible”, and by the expression of the real sonship of the Son in the Incarnation, “we see the archetype within the godhead, and, within it, we see what the creature is meant to be according to the Father’s eternal vision of it”.[256]  The life of the Christian is Trinitarian, and salvation is participation in the sonship of the Son.

46.       In the preceding, approximately 165 citations have been provided from twenty-five of the foremost theologians in the Church’s Tradition ancient and modern, East and West, Orthodox and Catholic.  Several citations from official declarations of the Catholic Church—both in the middle ages, and in the present day—have also been offered.  Though each of the theologians above possesses his own particular style and glory, and though each emphasizes particular aspects with a special skill and excellence, this singularity on their part is presupposed by, and gives expression to, a universally recognized truth.  And as the Trinity is the first truth and presupposition of the Christian life, and as it is revealed in the self-revelation of God, I submit as an historical fact that the orthodox and catholic faith clearly affirms the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity, and that this two-fold affirmation is the ground of Trinitarian theology and a pre-requisite of orthodoxy.

47.       With regard to the monarchy of the Father, we have seen that its affirmation is affirmed as clearly in the West as in the East.  This affirmation was not present simply in the early Nicene era—as though a “theological hangover” that the (presumably) “emerging” orthodoxy hadn’t yet shaken off from the heritage of their (presumably) “sub-orthodox” theological predecessors—but it was clearly and unambiguously affirmed throughout the middle ages, East and West, and it is affirmed in contemporary theology as well.  Yet this monarchy of the Father is never seen as implying any diminution on the part of the Son and Spirit; as we saw with Athanasius and many after him, it is precisely by being father—a relational being whose term is an act of communion—that the very being and glory of the Father is expressed and defined.  Thus, while the Father alone and only is without a cause of his hypostasis, and it is solely the Father who depends only upon himself for his being, the Son and Spirit are the presupposition of the Father’s aseity, thus their aseity is entailed by, and realized within, the aseity of the Father himself.

48.       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.

49.       Thus placed firmly on the ground of the orthodox and catholic doctrine of the Trinity, and having explored the living garden of truth, and having tasted of the well-spring of the living Tradition of the Christian faith, we are now prepared to move forward and assess the Trinitarian theology of Kevin Giles.

IV

Kevin Giles and the Trinity

 

And this inner vision, what is its operation?  Newly awakened it is all too feeble to bear the ultimate splendor.

Plotinus

Enneads, 1:6:9

 

1.         In The Trinity & Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate (henceforth TS), Kevin Giles focuses on three issues: the Trinity, the gender debate, and the view adopted toward slavery by the Christian Tradition.  My focus in this section will be devoted exclusively to the first of these.  In this section of Giles’ work (approximately 100 pages worth of text, also including a four page appendix consisting of “trinitariograms”—possible visual models for aiding understanding of the Trinity—and another appendix, roughly 20 pages in length, which simply presents the 1999 Sydney Anglican Diocesan Doctrine Commision Report: The Doctrine of the Trinity and Its Bearing on the Relationship of Men and Women, henceforth SDR), he advances a relatively simple claim.  And that claim is this: contemporary evangelicals who affirm a doctrine of the Trinity that affirms any form of subordination have strayed from the orthodox doctrine of the Christian faith concerning the Trinity.

2.         Giles builds his case upon the Trinitarian faith of preeminent fathers and theologians of the Christian Tradition (especially Athanasius, but also focusing largely on the Cappadocians, Augustine, Calvin and Barth), Creeds and confessions of the Christian Tradition (especially the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, with the latter being given more emphasis), and contemporary Trinitarian theology (Orthodox, Catholic, and mostly Protestant).  My goals in this section are two.  First, I will summarize Giles’ claims with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity, focusing especially on his claims with regard to the Nicene and early post-Nicene Trinitarian theology; subordinationism, in its various forms; and contemporary Orthodox and Catholic Trinitarian theology.  Second, I will highlight what I take to be the most positive aspects of Giles’ Trinitarian theology, being his affirmation that the economic Trinity reveals the supreme love that is the Trinity and that, following from this, we ought to see the immanent Trinity as a communion of love, and his claim that we ought to ground our theology of the Trinity in Tradition.  

3.         While Giles’ work devotes attention to Protestant Trinitarian theology—both past and present—I will interact with his claims with regard thereto only indirectly.  The principal reason for this is that while I am well read in the writings of the fathers of the early Church, (to a lesser extent) the fathers of the middle ages, and contemporary Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Trinitarian theology, the same is not true with regard to the great figures who have a similar dignity with regard to the Protestant tradition, nor with the more esteemed figures in contemporary Protestant theology (aside from Scriptural exegetes such as Dunn, Wright, Witherington, Hurtado, Hengel, Bauckham, etc., with whom I am reasonably well-read, and the renowned theologian Jurgen Moltmann, whose work on the Trinity I have come to appreciate less and less over the past few years).  As regards contemporary Trinitarian theology, I have long ago chosen to focus specifically on the works of major Orthodox and Catholic theologians—and this primarily due to the fact that it is in the works of the theologians of these two communions wherein Trinitarian doctrine is most explicitly and deliberately grounded in the theology of the fathers, alongside being born of the liturgical, contemplative, and mystical tradition of the Church (i.e., praying theology that is born not of simply of the interpretations of texts or deductions therefrom, but an actual perception). 

4.         Giles’ chief opponents are “contemporary conservative evangelicals” who maintain that though the Father and Son are equal in being, this ontological equality does not preclude the Son’s subordination to the Father with regard to function (or “role”).  According to Giles, the latter claim is excluded by the orthodox Tradition, and it has ontological implications.  If the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father with regard to function, this ultimately indicates that the Son is inferior to the Father per essence.  In asserting the unity and equality of the divine persons, and their unity of activity, the orthodox Tradition, claims Giles, absolutely excludes any conception of the Trinity wherein the Father is seen as being “set over” the Son.  The three are co-equal, therefore any notion of the primacy of the Father over the Son, whether with regard to the immanent Trinity or with regard to the operations ad extra of the one God who is Trinity, is rejected by the orthodox Tradition. 

5.         Before moving on, I note that though I’ve written articles on Tekton that deal with, and defend the doctrine of “functional” subordination within the Trinity, I am of the opinion that the doctrine that I espoused in the past under that name is so distinct from (and more rigorously articulated than) the doctrine that Giles critiques (under various names and which is never defined, the chief means of illuminating its meaning being comparing it to a husband and wife relationship wherein the husband “calls the shots” and the wife “obeys”—a comparison the nature of which I explicitly rejected long before I’d ever heard of Kevin Giles) that it must be made clear at the outset that the two bear no substantial resemblance to one another.  In other words, the phrase is the same but the meaning is different.  In section VI I will attempt to give more precision to forms of Trinitarian subordinationism (as the word is so equivocal in the literature on the topic that it is, as a word intending to denote a specific doctrine, worthless) while going on to formulate a new theological category that is able to comprehend the orthodox Tradition’s Trinitarian faith with regard to the manner in which the immanent Trinity as triune is related to the economic Trinity as triune, alongside comprehending the positive aspects and correcting the inadequacies of the doctrine advanced by Giles and his counterparts in Australia.  For now, I simply note that the issues involved are rather more nuanced than may be expected, hence readers ought not naively suppose that, e.g., because I have defended “functional subordinationism” in the past, my doctrine can therefore be identified with the object of Giles’ attack, and that my position requires me to defend what Giles argues against.  Though I will severely criticize Giles in the following section, the thrust of my critique will be that Giles has, among other things, missed the point and gone astray, rather than that he has correctly identified the orthodox doctrine and mistakenly rejected it.

6.         Giles began to study the doctrine of the Trinity in order to write a brief journal article in response to “the growing number of evangelicals who were speaking of the eternal subordination of the Son” in close connection with the contemporary gender debate.[257]  However, much to Giles’ surprise, the many learned works that he consulted on the Trinity had little to say concerning the issue of subordinationism.  With conservative evangelicals often citing the Tradition of the Church in order to bolster their case that the Son is, in a sense, eternally subordinate to the Father, Giles decided to undertake a thorough study, the result of which is the first third of his book.

7.         Giles offers some preliminary remarks concerning theological method, and taking Athanasius as his model he claims that the Bible alone is not enough to answer the conflicting claims derived therefrom (for Scripture may be interpreted many ways), but rather, we must take into account the theological scope of Scripture, and be grounded in Tradition while interpreting it (in passing, I note that I find it somewhat awkward that Giles’ approvingly cites Athanasius dependence on Tradition concerning the Trinity as, according to Giles, all of the fathers before the Nicene era were subordinationists.  One wonders, for example, why Athanasius—the very face of orthodoxy—would have relied on Tradition if, as in Giles’ view, the ante-Nicenes were in fact sub-orthodox on the very point that Athanasius was trying to establish).  Giles claims, however, that Tradition oughtn’t be followed simpliciter, but only in those instances wherein the proclamation of Tradition is the result of the serious theological reflection of the Church; for example, though the predominate view in the Christian tradition with regard to women viewed them as inferior to men, this tradition ought to be rejected by the Church, for it is a result of the cultural norms in which the fathers lived rather than theological reflection.  But the same is not the case with the doctrine of the Trinity, and the question that must therefore be put to both sides of the contemporary debate on the subordination of the Son is, “on whose side is the tradition?”[258]

8.         Giles then goes on to briefly summarize what he later argues for in his book.  Athanasius refused the notion that the Son is “eternally subordinated” to the Father “in his being or in his works or functions”; rather, according to Athanasius “the three divine persons are one in being and . . . in action.  Who they are and what they do cannot [be] separated.”  And from this, it follows that “Athanasius never depicts the Father as commanding and the Son obeying.”[259]  Giles next claims that unlike Athanasius, the Cappadocian fathers affirmed that the Father is “the ‘sole source or sole origin’”, yet even in affirming this the Cappadocians “categorically denied that derivation of being implied ‘a difference of being.’”[260]  Likewise, claims Giles, Augustine insisted that the three divine persons always act as one because they are one, and Calvin absolutely rejected all forms of subordinationism.  Unfortunately, claims Giles, since that time, the doctrine of the Trinity has been marginalized and frequently misinterpreted.

9.            However, in the last thirty years, there has been a “widespread reawakening of interest in the doctrine of the Trinity.”[261]  Giles attributes this reawakening to the work of Karl Barth and Karl Rahner, and states that the growing emphasis in this doctrinal renewal is “the divine three’s unity of being and action, their communality . . . their mutual submission . . . the unity of being and work among the divine three and . . . their perichoretic (interpenetrating) community.”[262]  In contrast to this growing (egalitarian) understanding of the Trinity, wherein the equality of relations and “flexibility in roles” are “the ideal”,

[C]onservative evangelicals who want to maintain the traditional pattern of male “headship” have begun speaking of the eternal subordination of the Son and the Spirit: just as man is permanently the “head” of the woman, so God is eternally the “head” of the Son.[263]

 

Giles notes that while ontological subordinationism is universally excluded, at least in name, in contemporary evangelical Trinitarian theology, subordination in role or function is affirmed.  “The Father commands, and the Son obeys.”[264]  Contemporary conservative evangelicals highlight the fact that “the Gospels depict the Son as sent by the Father, obedient to the Father and dependent on the Father”, and based on the revelation of the Incarnation, they conclude that it is “eternally true” that the “Father commands, and the Son obeys.”[265]  Giles notes that others affirm that the economic Trinity reveals the immanent Trinity, but with important qualifications: the Incarnation is not the only operation ad extra of the Trinity (so is, e.g., the act of creation), and second, the Incarnation reveals not only the Son, for it tells us “as much about the Father as it does of the Son.”  That it was the Son who became incarnate tells us no more about the Son than the Holy Spirit, and the Son’s obedience to the Father while incarnate tells us no more about the Son’s relationship to the Father than it does the Spirit’s relationship to the Son.  What the Incarnation does tell us is that “[v]oluntary subordination is godlike.”[266]  Finally, Giles’ summarizes the central issue before moving into his study of the doctrine of the Trinity—

10.       Thus the primary question in this debate is, can any subordination in being or function be ascribed to the Son (and the Spirit) in the eternal or immanent Trinity?  All agree that in the incarnation Christ temporally and voluntarily subordinated himself to the Father.  Some evangelicals believe the subordination seen in the incarnation discloses the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son; other evangelicals and, I will argue, historical orthodoxy reject this deduction.[267]

 

11.       In Giles first chapter on the Trinity, entitled “Conservative Evangelicals Head Off On Their Own,” he offers an orthodox statement concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, citing David Cunningham, Ted Peters, Millard Erickson, and Wayne House in his behalf.  According to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, “the three ‘persons’ are reciprocally related” and “none is before or after another, none is less or greater than another, none is subordinated in being or function to another.”[268]  In stark contrast, many contemporary conservative evangelicals affirm that the Son, while ontologically equal to the Father, is eternally subordinated to the Father per function or role—not just subordinate while incarnate—and this argument is used to bolster their claim that women are “equal with men in their essential being . . . yet they are subordinated to men in the home and the church.”[269] 

12.            Concerning the subordination of the Son, the SDR claims that the “Son’s obedience to the Father arises from the very nature of his being as Son”[270] (emphasis Giles’), and from this and similar passages Giles arrives at the conclusion that according to those adhering to the SDR, “the Son’s functional subordination to the Father is grounded in his ontological subordination to the Father”[271] (emphasis mine; note that whereas the SDR obviously uses the words nature and being as hypostatic predicates, denoting the manner in which the person that is the Son personally relates to the Father within the one divine being, Giles takes them as ontological).  Giles agrees that those advocating such a position can cite proof-texts from Scripture; what he disputes is that such a position represents “historic orthodoxy, the tradition handed down to the church of our day”;[272] the Trinitarian doctrine affirmed by “the greatest theologians in Christian history, including Athanasius, Augustine, and Calvin”, not to mention contemporary Catholic and Protestant theologians.[273]  In point of fact, asserts Giles, this subordinating tendency on the part of contemporary conservative evangelicals is rooted in their desire to subordinate women to men.

13.       Giles then goes on to present his analysis of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, and he begins with Athanasius.  Whereas the Arians relied on texts that show the Son as dependent and obedient, thus concluding the Son to be inferior to the Father, Athanasius insisted on interpreting particular passages in light of the theological scope of the whole of Scripture and, claims Giles, thenceforth relegated all passages in Scripture that hint at subordinationism to the Son’s status as incarnate.  As proof of Athanasius’ full-fledged affirmation of the Son’s equality—in absolutely every sense of the word—with the Father, Giles cites Orations 1:35 (“For must not he be perfect who is equal to God? . . . one with the Father and . . . proper to his essence? . . . For this is why he who has seen the Son has seen the Father . . . knowledge of the Father is knowledge of the Son”) and similar passages.  In speaking of Athanasius’ understanding of the divine sonship, Giles correctly mentions Athanasius’ use of the word-image of Radiance (though this plays no especially vital role in Giles’ reading of Athanasius) alongside noting that Athanasius used the correlativity of Father-Son language to turn the Arians’ own arguments against them.  The Son is “begotten” and the Father “begets”; in what way, however, would Giles have us understand this?

14.       From what I can see in TS, Giles reads Athanasius’ talk of divine fatherhood and sonship only as being a roundabout way of affirming the substantial identity and nominal distinction of the persons.  Thus—

God is God the Son as much as he is God the Father, so that the same things are said of each except that one is called Father and the other Son. [cites Orations 3:4; 3:5]  For Athanasius this one exception discloses the only difference he would allow between the Father and the Son.[274]

 

Thus, according to Giles, Athanasius’ “interpretive key” is to use Jn. 1:1, 14 and Phil. 2:5-11 to establish a “double-account” of the Son in order to meet the challenge posed by the Arians.  The Son, in eternity (the immanent Trinity), is in all respects equal to the Father (from which fact, presumably, Giles’ deductions with regard to the manner in which the immanent Trinity as triune is related to the economic Trinity as triune follow quite naturally, while excluding the views of his opponents); during the Incarnation he gave up this absolute equality with the Father.  Thus we may not draw any inferences per “obedience” and the like from the Incarnation and apply them to the Son within the immanent Trinity.  This lowliness on the part of the Son reveals not simply the Son, but the Father as well. 

15.       Though Giles repudiates the notion that Athanasius confused the divine persons, he is equally emphatic that Athanasius’ primary point of emphasis was the divine union.  And because of this, claims Giles, any reading of Athanasius that sees him as affirming “functional” subordination is excluded outright—

He is as opposed to ontological subordinationism as he is to functional subordinationism because he clearly saw that the latter implied the former, as demonstrated by the Arians.  . . . Athanasius never speaks of the Father commanding and the Son obeying.  The wills of the Father and the Son are always in harmony.  The idea that there is a “chain of command” within the Trinity would have been an abhorrent thought to him.  Wayne Grudem may imply that Athanasius teaches the subordination of the Son to the Father in role and function, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Such a suggestion shows little comprehension of Athanasius.  For Athanasius the being and the functions of the Father and the Son are one.[275]

 

16.       After citing four passages from Athanasius to the effect that the Father and Son do indeed (in a sense) work as one, Giles then returns to Athanasius’ understanding of the divine fatherhood and sonship.  Again, Giles notes that Athanasius affirmed that the Son is “begotten” of the Father, but he then goes on to cite Orations 1:31 to prove that Athanasius “rejects that this can be construed as meaning the Son was created by, derived from or caused by the Father”, for, says Giles, Athanasius recognizes a “mutuality in their relationship.”[276]  Giles then concedes that Athanasius does (at times, following Tradition) speak of the Father as the “source” of the Son, but, claims Giles, “he prefers to speak of the Father and the Son together as the monarche (one origin).”[277]  Giles then cites Orations 3:15 while going on to argue that Athanasius’ doctrine of the homoousios excludes the notion of the monarchy of the Father.  In passing I note that when interacting with Giles via e-mail, I was so taken aback by his reading of Athanasius on this point that I constantly challenged him to respond to passages such as those that I pointed out above while arguing for the opposite conclusion.  Not only did Giles not withdraw his claim (offering nothing by way of response aside from telling me that T.F. Torrance is, in fact, on his side), but he even went on to explicitly affirm it (in a roundabout sort of way that basically side-stepped my argument while conceding that if I were right on this point, then he will make the necessary alterations in future works).  I’ll return to this point later.

17.       When he comes to the Cappadocians, Giles does allow that they affirmed that the operations ad extra begin from the Father, but insists that such an “order does not imply an hierarchy in being or function.”[278]  Personally, I find this claim somewhat ambiguous on the part of Giles.  It is agreed on all sides that the Cappadocians indeed affirmed the three persons to be ontologically equal, and that per activities ad extra, the assertion of the primacy of the Father does not entail the domination of the Son’s will.  Are such things as these what he means by “hierarchy”?  If so, fine and good, but I wonder at the necessity of even making such a point?  And furthermore, if the Cappadocians unambiguously did affirm that all operations ad extra begin from the Father specifically, then what word describes that manner of understanding the Trinity?  In other words, the Cappadocians’ understanding of the manner in which the immanent Trinity is related to the economic is such that it excludes an egalitarian model (with all three “calling the shots”) as much as it does the servitude model (with the Father commanding the Son what to do such that this commanding on the part of the Father overrides or restricts the volitional capacity of the Son).  How is it that Giles has nothing to say of such a doctrine aside from the fact that it implies no hierarchy “in being or function”?  According to Giles’ categories, what reason, I ask, has he for claiming the latter?

18.            Unfortunately, Giles does not give this Cappadocian affirmation any substantial attention; indeed, his section on the Cappadocians is no more than two pages in length.  But from what he says in those two pages, we perhaps gain a glimpse as to why he treated these eminent Church fathers in such a cursory fashion.  Unlike (claims Giles) Athanasius, who “held that since the whole Godhead is in the Son and . . . the Spirit, they must be included with the Father in the one originless arche”,[279] the Cappadocians affirmed the monarchy of the Father.  Indeed, Giles even goes so far as to say that—

The Cappadocian fathers explicitly wanted to exclude subordinationism, but because they were wedded to thinking that the Father was the monarche (one source or origin) of the Son and the Spirit, they were not completely successful in doing this.  In their doctrinal expressions . . . there is a tension between their insistence that all three persons share the one divine ousia and their insistence that the hypostasis of the Father . . . is the sole cause or origin of the Son and the Holy Spirit.  In contrast, for Athanasius the idea that the Father alone was the arche in this sense lent itself to the Arian error.[280]

 

19.       Citing T.F. Torrance, Giles then goes on to make the extraordinary claim that the Cappadocians’ “error” was to collapse the distinction between two distinct senses of the word “Father” that had (presumably) been distinguished in the preceding eras of the Christian Tradition.  On the one hand, claims Giles, 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.  In passing I note that Giles’ citation of Torrance was merely a footnote alluding to three pages in two of his works, and that he cited LaCugna’s God For Us (pg. 71) to the same effect—a work which I do have, and which does not at in the least back up Giles’ indication that it supports him on this point (LaCugna’s point is not that the one of the two senses of the word “Father” also denoted the Son and Spirit as equally being the “divine arche”, but that the sense of God’s fatherhood as having cosmological as well as theological implications was largely ignored by the Cappadocians). 

20.            However, the main points from the preceding are two: Giles posits a dichotomy between the Cappadocians and Athanasius because (claims Giles) the latter rejected the monarchy of the Father and the former affirmed it; secondly, it appears as though Giles’ admitting that the Cappadocians indeed did affirm the monarchy of the Father has caused him to be extremely unclear in his interpretation of their Trinitarian theology, both with regard to being and function.  Giles is unable to unpack their doctrine that the operations ad extra begin with the Father specifically, and he sees a direct correlation between the affirmation of the monarchy of the Father and the inability to exclude subordinationism from their Trinitarian theology.  Giles is clearly willing to admit that the Cappadocians were orthodox; what appears to be a problem for Giles is explaining how they managed to be orthodox in light of their doctrinal affirmations. 

21.       Moving along, Giles treats of the Nicene Creed (the versions of 325 a.d. and 381 a.d.), and citing the affirmation therein of the homoousios and that “all things” came into being “through” the Son, he claims that the Creed affirms the ontological equality of the Father and Son, and that they “share identically in the authority of creation”, thus the idea that “the Son is eternally set under the Father, ontologically or functionally, is categorically excluded.”  He then approvingly cites David Cunningham to the effect that the Nicene Creed rejects the notion of a “hierarchical” (not only “temporal”, but also “logical” or “causal”) order among the divine persons, while going on to assert that those who would claim to see the possibility of not only ontological, but even functional subordination in the Nicene Creed “reject the interpretive principles it enshrines.”[281]  Giles’ argument concerning the Athanasian Creed[282] is similar.

22.       Giles’ reading of Augustine is substantially identical with his reading of Athanasius and the Creeds.  Thus we are told that according to Augustine—

[T]he Son and the Spirit do not derive their divinity from the Father . . . the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not exclusively responsible for particular works or roles; and they have but one will, so that in the eternal Trinity, it is impossible to think of the Son as the servant who must always obey the Father . . . [283]

 

23.       Giles next treats of the doctrine of the filioque, claiming that the affirmation of this doctrine “challenge[s]” the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father and that it was affirmed by the Western Church because it (the Western Church) “has always been more concerned about the danger of subordination implied by making both the Son and the Spirit dependent on the Father”.[284]  In light of the evidence offered in section III above, this claim on the part of Giles may seem to many to be confused, but Giles advances the point with dogmatic certitude—

Behind the Filioque clause lies the theological principle that just as no difference in act (role or function) can be allowed in the external works or acts of the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, so too none can be allowed between the Father and the Son in the internal procession of the Spirit.[285]

 

24.       In Giles’ third chapter on the Trinity, entitled “Subordinating Tradition,” he attempts to trace the course of subordinationism throughout the history of the Church, and in doing so, he distinguishes between seven forms of subordinationism (all of which, according to Giles, are excluded by the orthodox Tradition): ante-Nicene subordinationism, Arian subordinationism, derivative subordinationism, numerical subordinationism, nineteenth- and twentieth-century ontological subordinationism, operational subordinationism, and eternal role subordinationism.  Though Giles never offers anything like an analytic definition for any of these seven forms of subordinationism, and I personally found his distinctions to be for the most part unclear and their theological worth to be quite obscure, I’ll briefly summarize what I take to be the main characteristics of each of these forms of subordinationism as presented by Giles.

25.       Ante-Nicene subordinationism is a form of subordination that can be found, almost universally, throughout the writings and doctrine of the fathers of the Church prior to the Arian crisis in the early fourth century.  Examples of this are Justin Martyr’s speaking of the Son as “in second place”, the Holy Spirit as “third in order”,[286] and the ante-Nicene tendency to stress the fact that the operations ad extra originate in the Father, and are effected in creation by the Son and Spirit.  Giles calls the ante-Nicene doctrine of the Trinity “naive subordinationism”—the early fathers did not wish to advance a doctrine that posited any lessening of deity on the part of the Son and Spirit, but in their attempt to reconcile the fact that the Son and Spirit are “God” with the fact that the “one God” is the Father, their initial attempts at theological reflection were not wholly successful.

26.       Giles sees Origen of Alexandria as the fountainhead of Arian subordinationism.[287]  Concerning Origen, Giles claims that whereas his positive contribution to Trinitarian theology was the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son, his “understanding of the Father as the ‘fountainhead of deity’, who alone was ‘intrinsically God’ (autotheos)” was his “negative contribution”, and Arius’ theology (according to Giles) is a development of this latter point.[288]  Though it would seem that Giles sees the defining mark of Arian subordinationism as being the affirmation that the Son is of a different and inferior being than the Father, he also sees the affirmation of the Son’s being “set under the Father in authority”[289] such that he is “subject to the Father’s will” and “does as the Father commands”[290] as closely connected and equally in error.

27.       Thus it is little surprise that Giles’ next category of subordinationism—Derivative subordinationism[291]is quite similar to Arian subordinationism.  For Arius, the three ideas of the monarchy of the Father, that the Son’s being “begotten” implied his being a contingent creation created ex-nihilo in time, and that these latter entail the Son’s subordination in “being and function” naturally followed one another.  However, the key difference between Arian and Derivative subordinationism is that adherents of the latter unambiguously claim to reject the notion that the Son is a creature.  What Giles’ seems to claim is that Derivative subordinationists cannot have it both ways; to affirm the monarchy of the Father in such a way that it implies, in some sense, the primacy of the Father within the immanent Trinity, and that the Son’s being begotten implies his being, in some sense, “under” the Father per operations ad extra, cannot be concomitantly affirmed alongside the equality of being of the Father and Son.  Giles claims that this doctrine was forcibly opposed by Athanasius, the Cappadocians and Augustine.  For Athanasius, “father-son” talk carried no such connotations, but rather, proved the identity of being of the Father and Son; on the other hand, though the Cappadocians wished to maintain the equality of the persons, their affirmation of the monarchy of the Father—willy nilly—left open the possibility of subordinationism.  Unlike the Cappadocians, claims Giles, Augustine, in affirming the filioque, rejected the monarchy of the Father.  Giles notes, however, that “some” Western theologians still affirm the monarchy of the Father “without suggesting subordinationism”, for according to these theologians the Son (says Giles) “does not derive his divine being from the Father”.[292]  (To this effect, Giles cites, amongst others, pg. 295 of Walter Kasper’s The God of Jesus Christ, which says nothing whatever of the Son’s being being not derived from the Father.)  On the other hand, Giles notes that “some” contemporary Western theologians reject the monarchy of the Father (because of the filioque and the equality of the divine persons), and claims that these theologians, in “rejecting the” monarchy “of the Father” follow “Athanasius”, according to whom (claims Giles) “the idea that the Father alone was the monarche of the Son was an Arian error.”[293]  Giles then approvingly cites Millard Erickson, according to whom—

To speak of one of the persons as unoriginate and the others as either eternally begotten or proceeding from the Father is to introduce an element of causation . . . that must ultimately involve some type of subordination . . . [Rather, the Son and Spirit should be seen as] mutually the cause of his existence and the existence of one another.  There is an eternal symmetry of all three persons.[294]

 

28.       The fourth form of subordinationism—Numerical subordinationism[295]involves the affirmation that the persons may be numbered (i.e., the Father is “first,” the Son is “second,” and the Spirit is “third”) in such a manner that denotes a certain sort of corresponding preeminence.  While Giles does not deny that there is a orthodox sense according to which the persons may be numbered, he believes that a line (which is not clearly discernable from what Giles’ himself says) is crossed when this numbering has “hierarchical” implications.  Thus while it is not wrong to perceive an order in the Trinity, such a perception should be analogous to persons “seated evenly around a circular table” or “a room with everything in its proper place”; since there is “perfect love” in the Trinity, “none need be first, second or third in being/status or in function/work.”[296]

29.            Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Ontological Subordinationism [297] appears to be substantially identical with the preceding two forms of subordinationism.  This form of subordinationism affirms that the Father is “first in subsistence” and that the Son and Spirit are thus “set under” him with regard to “functions, works or operations”.  Giles emphasizes in this form of subordinationism both the ontological and the functional aspects of it.  I find that his attribution of the former to those to whom he attributes this doctrine (Charles Hodge, Robert Letham, the SDR, etc.) to be unconvincing—that is, it seems to me that he may be reading certain of their claims in an unnecessarily uncharitable manner and arriving at his conclusions via questionable deductions from (what seem to me to be) obscure and inexact theological premises.  However, aside from the SDR, I am unfamiliar with those to whom Giles attributes this doctrine, thus I won’t dwell on the point.  With regard to the latter (subordination per function), it is worth mentioning that Giles sees this form of subordinationism as being closely connected with its adherents’ desire to subordinate women to men.[298]

30.       By Operational subordinationism Giles seems to understand the affirmation that the subordination of the Son with regard to function is directly connected to the subordinationism of the Son with regard to his manner of subsistence.[299]  In other words, the Son is functionally subordinate to the Father because he is the Son (= “subordinate in subsistance”, whatever that means).  Giles sees this form of subordinationism as implying the Son’s being “compulsor[ily] set under the Father”,[300] and contrasts it with the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, according to which the persons are one in being and activity.

31.       The final form of subordinationism that Giles treats of—Eternal Role subordinationism—is distinguished from Operational subordination by virtue of the fact that those who adhere to it affirm the equality of subsistence of the persons while affirming the subordination of the Son with regard to function.  The “Father is depicted as the ‘head’ who commands, and the Son is depicted as the one who obeys.”[301]  Giles rejects such a view of the Trinity on the grounds that the being and the activity of the one God who is Trinity cannot be separated: to say that the Father is ever commanding and the Son ever obeying must necessarily have ontological implications, for this would be to attribute to the Son an eternal (and therefore ontological) lacking of a capacity that the Father has.  The Son never gets to “call the shots.”  Again, Giles contrasts this view with the traditional and orthodox confession of the Trinity, according to which the divine persons are equal in being and act as one, alongside attributing the affirmation of this form of subordinationism to its adherents’ desire to subordinate women to men.

32.       In the next chapter of TS, entitled “Retrieval & Refinement,” Giles offers a summary of the positive aspects and current trends in contemporary Trinitarian theology.  According to contemporary Roman Catholic Trinitarian theology,[302] the Trinity “is a communion of three distinct divine persons who interpenetrate one another and work as one” with “none being set over or under the others”.  Subordinationism, claims Giles, is rejected outright by Catholic theologians because their theology of the Trinity begins with the divine unity; furthermore, the doctrine of the filioque, according to which the Father and Son “are envisaged as standing side by side” with the Holy Spirit proceeding in an identical manner from both, “precludes any suggestion that the Son is subordinate to the Father”.  Thus contemporary conservative evangelicals who argue for the functional subordination of the Son characteristically do not cite Roman Catholic theologians in their behalf because Roman Catholic theology, claims Giles, “consistently and univocally rejects ontological and functional subordinationism”.

33.            Concerning contemporary Eastern Orthodox Trinitarian theology,[303] Giles devotes the bulk of his attention to the implications of the monarchy of the Father.  Giles cites Zizioulas and Lossky to the effect that while the Orthodox still affirm the monarchy of the Father, in doing so they intentionally avoid the suggestion that this implies the inferiority of the Son and Spirit with regard to being or function.  However, Giles seems to align himself with the (supposed) current trend in Western theology that sees the monarchy of the Father as theologically dangerous because it attributes a sort of “preeminence” to the Father.  He claims that Western theology here follows Athanasius, who (claims Giles) posited the godhead rather than the Father as the source of the Trinity.  Giles seems to see the 1991 Agreement Between Reformed and Orthodox on the Doctrine of the Trinity as evidence that the Orthodox are (finally?) conceding to this point when it claims such things as, “The perfect simplicity and indivisibility of God in his Triune Being mean that the Arche or Monarchia cannot be limited to one Person.”  (In passing I note that I have not myself read this agreement, but that if the above is indeed affirmed in the manner that Giles implies, it would contradict the whole Eastern Tradition, not to mention the most revered contemporary theologians of the Orthodox Church, many of whom were cited in section III above.  It is also worth noting that, e.g., John Zizioulas—one of the foremost contemporary Orthodox theologians—in his response to the 1995 Papal Clarification on the Filioque, adamantly insists on the monarchy of the Father in the strict sense, and highly commends the Catholic Church for making clear that she also affirms it.  The 2003 North American Agreed Statement of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches Concerning the Filioque also affirms the monarchy of the Father in a manner identical to the manner in which it was presented above.  Both of these works are available on the filioque page at http://www.praiseofglory.com.  I am well read in Orthodox Trinitarian theology, and I must say that I find the implied sense that Giles seems to attribute to the 1991 Agreement to be, frankly, impossible—I would be less surprised were the sun to rise in the west.  I welcome anyone from the Orthodox communion who wishes to challenge my understanding the opportunity to correct me on this point.)

34.       In concluding this chapter, Giles (again) approvingly cites Erickson to the effect that there is “no permanent distinction of one [divine person] from the other in terms of origination”, since even if “the Father may be the cause of the existence of the Son and the Spirit, they are also mutually the cause of his existence . . . There is an eternal symmetry of all three persons.”[304]  Giles then claims that—

One particular practical and ethical issue that many contemporary theologians have thought is informed by reference to the Trinity is that of the man-woman relationship.  On the basis of a symmetrical and communal understanding of the Trinity, patriarchy has been challenged.[305]

 

35.       Giles then, again, cites Erickson with approval to the effect that a symmetrical understanding of the Trinity, wherein the monarchy of the Father is denied, each of the persons are seen as being dependent on one another in an identical manner, and each of the persons submits and is subordinate to the others out of love for them, provides an ideal paradigm for Christian life, both social and ecclesial.  He contrasts this view with those who affirm that the Son is subordinate to the Father with regard to his functions, according to whom the Father, as “head”, “commands and the Son obeys”, just as (according to them) “[m]en are to command” and “women are to obey”.[306]

36.       In his final chapter on the doctrine of the Trinity, entitled “Evangelicals at the End of a Very Thin Branch,” Giles recapitulates his argument.  Those who affirm the eternal subordination of the Son per function do so because they wish to maintain the subordination of women to men.  This doctrinal affirmation parts company with the traditional, orthodox understanding of the Trinity, according to which the divine persons are one in being and united in action.  The Son’s subordination while incarnate most emphatically does not tell us anything in particular about the Son’s eternal relationship to the Father; rather, the Son willingly chose to divest himself of his divine glory—he was not being “obedient” to the request of the Father (for the Son is God and therefore cannot be bossed about)—and this kenosis on the part of the Son reveals the godhead indiscriminately.

37.       In this closing chapter Giles also approvingly cites Karl Barth to the effect that our understanding of God must not reason from creation to the being of God, attributing to God those qualities that we find in the (fallen) world, and he claims that this is precisely the error that contemporary conservative evangelicals who affirm the Eternal Role subordination of the Son to the Father have fallen into.  They make their view of the man-woman relationship their model for understanding the Trinity, and this is why they make the Son subordinate to the Father—this doctrine did not come from pure theological reflection or the Tradition of the catholic and orthodox faith.  Giles then lists six categories, showing how their understanding of the man-woman relationship mirrors their understanding of the Trinity (Headship, Chain of Command, Role Subordination, Difference Necessitates Subordination, Eternal Subordination, and Tradition) while contrasting each of these with the “orthodox” view of the Trinity.  In conclusion, such an “approach is to be rejected not because it makes the Trinity a model for human relationships, but because it makes fallen human relationships the model for divine relationships.”[307]

38.       In footnote 3, pg. 2 of TS, Giles states that he himself has “been actively involved in the gender debate for thirty years . . . and my first book was Women and Their Ministry: A Case for Equal Ministries in the Church Today”.  On pg. 200 of TS, Giles says that shortly after being married, he found that if “my wife . . . and I were to jointly own decisions . . . we had to make them together.  The partnership model of marriage worked best. . . . The best and most rewarding marriages were partnerships of equals, where important decisions were made conjointly”.  On pg. 201 of TS, Giles claims—

If the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity in fact emphasizes that the Father and the Son are one in being and act/function, then on the hierarchical-complementarian premise that divine relations should be the model for man-woman relations, the egalitarian position is given the ultimate imprimatur.

 

39.       In the first of his appendices in the portion of his work concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, Giles offers six different illustrated models for understanding the Trinity (Hierarchical, Monarchy, Filioque and Symmetrical, of which three models are offered).  With regard to the Hierarchical model, the Father is at the top, and a straight line descends to the Son, and from the Son to the Spirit.  Giles views this model as heretical whether understood in an ontological or functional sense.  For the Monarchy model, there is a triangle with the Father at the top point, from which descends two lines with the Son on the one side and the Spirit on the other.  Commenting on this model, Giles claims that some Orthodox theologians are beginning to question this understanding of the Trinity, and that “many” theologians in the West “think this way of understanding the Trinity implies a certain priority to the Father”.[308]  The Filioque model is the triangular Monarchy model, turned upside down.  The Father and Son are “on top”, with one on each side, and from both of them come forth lines that join at the point where the Holy Spirit is placed.  In commenting on this model, Giles claims that the affirmation of the filioque by the West “deliberately subverted, if not excluded” the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father.[309]  Giles’ favorite models, however, are the Symmetrical models (e.g., three interconnected circles identical in size, which are commonly seen in churches, or the Oriental yin-yang symbol consisting of three parts rather than two).  Giles claims such an understanding to be affirmed by “most contemporary theologians”, and he also claims that this model most closely corresponds to the Trinitarian theology of Athanasius.[310]  It is not wholly clear whether or not Giles sees the doctrines of the monarchy of the Father and perichoresis as mutually exclusive articulations of the Trinity, but taking the general thrust of his claims shown in the preceding, and interpreting them in light of his favored points of emphasis, it would seem that this is indeed the case for Giles.

40.       Before going on to offer my criticism of various of Kevin Giles’ claims, it would perhaps be profitable to highlight what I take to be the positive aspects of (what seems to be) his doctrine of the Trinity, thus making clear the common ground that I believe we—and virtually all those who affirm a substantially orthodox doctrine of the Trinity—share.  Let’s start with the basics.  Giles several times explicitly rejects modalism and tritheism, and we can certainly all agree that he is right in doing so.  With regard to Giles’ case against the many forms of subordinationism, we can also all agree that he is correct to reject ontological subordinationism; furthermore, it must also be agreed that his rejection of any form of functional subordinationism wherein one center of consciousness is seen as restricting and dominating another center of consciousness is fully in line with the traditional confession of the orthodox and catholic Christian faith.  Thus far, Giles’ case against subordinationism is sound.

41.       We have also seen that Giles is intent to stress the fact that the Incarnation of the Son of God tells us not only about the Son, but about God (the Father and the Holy Spirit too, though the former is given more emphasis by Giles on this point) as well.  Prima facie, some would perhaps wish to argue against this claim, and if this simple claim is asserted in such a manner that suggests that it is exhaustive, I too feel this claim to be inadequate.  That said, let us not overlook the fact that there is more than a grain of truth in the claim, though it no doubt needs to be expanded.  As we’ve seen in section II and section III, that the Son reveals the Father is indeed explicitly affirmed by the catholic, orthodox Trinitarian confession of the Church.  If the Son is the Image and Expression of the Father, then it necessarily follows that the kenosis and absolute surrender of the Son indicates a corresponding movement in the Father himself; contemporary Orthodox and (especially) Catholic Trinitarian theology tends to emphasize this point, and we have seen this above in Walter Kasper and, especially, Hans urs von Balthasar.

42.       And if it is the case that the Incarnation reveals not only the Son, but also the Father and the Holy Spirit as well, then it necessarily follows that the economic Trinity does indeed reveal that the immanent Trinity is a communion of love—a point repeatedly emphasized by Giles.  That “God is love” is a truly fundamental affirmation of the Christian faith, and Giles is correct to locate this affirmation in the fact of God’s being triune.  As with the above claim, we may agree that this claim is basically correct, even though we’ll later see need to give it more precision in accordance with the hypostatic properties of the divine persons.

43.       Finally, I for my part fully agree with Giles that our doctrine of the Trinity should not be grounded simply in our reading of the Bible, without the aid of any outside resources to condition our understanding thereof, and I further agree that the most important such external resource is the Tradition of the Church.  This need not be seen as a hostile affirmation by Protestants—surely we would all like to agree that the Spirit has guided the Church of the past on essential points of doctrine (of which the Trinity is most certainly one), and who among us does not desire to be in substantial agreement on this point with the likes of Athanasius, the Cappadocians, Augustine, Damascene, Aquinas, and the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds?  Hence, I think, we should all be able to agree with Giles that Tradition is important on this point.  Though I will presently argue that his reading of this Tradition has gone astray on several points, I applaud his attempt to ground his own doctrine therein. 

44.       Thus, we’ve seen that the basic thrust of Kevin Giles’ argument concerning the Trinity is that any form of subordination is categorically rejected by the Tradition of the Church.  The Father, Son, and Spirit are one in being and action, therefore any doctrine of the Trinity that asserts the priority (in some sense) of the Father, whether with regard to the immanent Trinity or the economic Trinity is excluded.  Modern day conservative evangelicals who argue for the eternal subordination of the Son with regard to role or function have, claims Giles, departed from traditional orthodox Trinitarian theology.  With the above mentioned points of agreement having been emphasized, I now offer my critique of Kevin Giles’ claims concerning the Trinity, the theological method he employs in making those claims, and the Tradition which he claims to stand upon and defend.

V

A Criticism of Kevin Giles’ Trinitarian Theology

 

Let none then introduce the things of earth into heaven; let no one standing here be careful about what is at his house.

John Chrysostom

Homilies on John, 2:11

 

1.         In offering this criticism of Kevin Giles’ work on the Trinity, let me make it clear at the outset that I have no interest whatever in the contemporary gender debate—a subject that Giles continually returns to in treating of the Trinity, and whose categories it would seem he has more or less imposed upon the Trinity.  While the gender debate may well be important, and while it is indeed tied, to whatever extent, into the contemporary debate on the Trinity by the opposing parties in Australia, I see at least four good reasons for placing it to the side when doing Trinitarian theology.

2.         In the first place, it should be pointed out that we’re dealing with two completely different types of things—men and women are finite, contingent creatures existing in time, and in a fallen state at that; God is perfect, infinite, and he exists of metaphysical necessity.  In the second place, the absolute disanalogy concerning the manner in which the Father and Son are causally related to one another on the one hand, and the manner in which a husband and wife are causally related to one another on the other, must be mentioned.  The Father and Son are two persons who necessarily entail one another’s existence in an ontological sense; the Son proceeds from the Father, and his personal relationship to the Father is coincident with his very act of being.  The case is quite the opposite with a husband and wife, however great the relationship between the two.  Had Harry never met Sally, it would not follow from that fact that it would be logically impossible for Harry to exist.  Sally does not proceed forth from Harry as shine from the sun, nor is the will of Sally immediately posited and realized in her simply being personally related to Harry by virtue of her existence being necessarily entailed by his.  From this follows my third point, namely, that from the above we necessarily need different categories to approach these two distinct forms of relationship.  The points at which the relationship between the husband and wife are unlike the relationship between the Father and the Son are the defining characteristics—the essential aspects—of the latter relationship.  We can no more analyze the Trinity with the categories of the contemporary gender debate than we can measure God’s infinity with a metric ruler.  Thus my fourth point is that true theology begins with the perception of God, and based on that perception attempts to create a harmony and correspondence insofar as possible between God and the world, rather than going from the world, or how we would prefer the world to be, to God.  This is not to suggest that we cannot use analogies and the like in doing theology or attempting to explain and understand things divine, nor is it to suggest that theology should be of no practical importance in real life.  Rather, it is simply to suggest the application of common sense on the one hand (the Lion of the tribe of Judah should not be understood according to lions as they are found in Africa), and the need of spiritual attunement on the other (i.e., our knowledge is determined by the thing known, and when we are such that we may know it, it will of its own accord inspire within us the desire to act accordingly.  For example, if someone watches Mel Gibsons’ The Passion in a half-drunk state, and prepared to attend a party of a rather dubious nature immediately thereafter, it is likely that he’ll fail to be grasped by the movie.  If someone watches it, however, after having spent the previous few days in spiritual discernment, it is likely that he will indeed perceive much that the other person missed, and the content of this perception will likely inspire him to become more Christ-like in his own life.)

3.         Before moving on, I wish to make clear my own beliefs—underdeveloped as they are—with regard to the contemporary gender debate, as Kevin Giles (rightly or, what is more likely in my view, wrongly) seems to be in the habit of positing the desire to uphold the subjection of women to men as the principle of explanation for those who deny an egalitarian model of the Trinity.  As I said above, this issue is not important to me, and I am more or less a disinterested bystander.  The case is analogous, for me, to being in a room with a group of people watching golf on the television.  Personally, I believe that women are, in a very real sense, and this in exclusion to males, the most glorious of God’s creation—a jewel-laced crown studded in diamonds and set in splendor upon the throne of Earth.  Furthermore, given my tendency to “lose myself” in thought, whether theology, philosophy, or other (largely) abstract subjects, in my own relationships with women it has always been the woman who “calls the shots”.  She drives, she chooses what to do, and so on.  This situation is not the result of any sustained anthropological reflection on my part, but I’ve found little reason to question its viability in my own life.  We are both human—sometimes I’ll be right, and sometimes she will be right; we both have our own faults—sometimes my desire to do this or that is little more than the coming to light of a fault peculiar to myself, and sometimes likewise with her.  Thus if we come to a disagreement, there is not the slightest reason (as far as I can see) that I, the male, should be considered to be correct a priori.  Let reason, in a spirit of Christian charity, be followed in such cases.  Such is my own belief.  It is an underdeveloped position and it is capable of falling in line with either side in the contemporary gender debate, though it would seem that my intuitive inclinations are more or less on the side of the egalitarians.  That said, let it be known that I have no strong feelings on this subject, and I fully submit my own judgement to that of the Church to which I belong.  I now return to the subject of the Trinity and offer my criticism of Kevin Giles’ Trinitarian theology.

4.         I believe Giles’ reading of Athanasius (along with other figures that he treats of whom I will not dwell on to such an extent) to be poor, ranging from ineptitude in dealing with the primary sources to insensitivity to the theological content of the primary sources to blatant deception with regard to the explicit content of the primary sources.  In relating Athanasius’ hermeneutical principles, Giles completely overlooks the theological import of Athanasius’ use of word-images, which were given attention in section II above.  This oversight on the part of Giles is not insignificant.  As we saw with the example of Radiance, this word-image—for Athanasius—lays bare the very sense in which the Son is son and the Father is father.  Above it was shown that Giles claims that Athanasius severely stressed the divine unity.  He leads us to believe that because of this (or at least closely connected to this), Athanasius denies the monarchy of the Father, and affirms that the only differences between the Father and Son are the names.  Of course, Giles never claims that Athanasius was a modalist: the Father is God begetting and the Son is God begotten.  But when he claims that Athanasius denied any form of derivation, dependence or causation between the two persons, what content may we apply to the very words wherewith Giles posits a distinction?  The Son is “begotten” and “begotten” is the “Son”?  Very well, but unless at least one term in an analytic definition is clear, both are necessarily unclear.  Thus we are left with the impression that Athanasius’ thought on this point was as muddled as Giles’ seems to be.  In speaking of the divine sonship in Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology, Giles emphasizes only the “identity of being” between a father and a son and aside from all but identifying “being begotten” with this (while simultaneously denying causation or derivation) he has nothing substantial to say concerning the eternal generation of the Son.  It would in fact appear that the concept confuses him.  Giles has failed to grasp the theological import of Athanasius’ Trinitarian vocabulary, and in doing so, he has rendered Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology vague enough to be whittled down until it is more or less identical with his own (Giles’) position. 

5.         Giles’ treatment of Athanasius’ “double account” theological principle (i.e., eternally, the Son is equal to God, and all passages that imply any form of subordination are to be applied solely to the Son’s temporary status while incarnate) is also inept, and this for the reason that in presenting it Giles leaves one with the impression that Athanasius’ intent in employing it was exhausted in expressing, simpliciter, doctrines perfectly coincident with his own.  The Son is, eternally, “God”; his “not knowing the hour” is indicative not of his being inferior to the Father per divinity, but rather, of his becoming man pro nobis.  Well and good.  The problem is that Athanasius’ thought on the Trinity is a good deal more specific and complex than Giles would lead us to believe.  Thus from the fact that the Son’s “not knowing the hour” is not indicative of his being inferior to the Father concerning his essence, it does not necessarily follow that Athanasius therefore posited that the Father has no priority in the immanent or economic Trinity.  Giles posits a false dichotomy that fails to exhaust the possibilities, and affirms one of its terms by means of seeing it as the consequent of an equally inept hypothetical syllogism, the antecedent of which is assumed rather than proven.  It is the combination of a poor grasp of the primary sources wedded to a simplistic application of logic.

6.         Giles’ presentation of Athanasius’ doctrine of the homoousios (i.e., the doctrine that the Son is “one in being with”, or “of the being of” the Father) is likewise confused, and he is not incapable of employing some underhanded scholarship in setting it forth.  As we saw in section II, Athanasius’ dominant theological argument was that the Father is truly father and the Son is truly son; in asserting that two to be coessential, Athanasius was defending these claims and emphatically not identifying the Father and Son with the “one God” that is simply a “substance” distinct from (and identical with) both.  And while Giles correctly points out that Athanasius, in asserting the consubstantiality of the Son and Father, did not intend to imply modalism (for only two different things may be homoousious), his failure to draw attention to the actual “being from” the Father on the part of the Son, thus showing how and why Athanasius managed to avoid modalism, is a major oversight on Giles’ part.  It would seem that his failure to mention that such is, for Athanasius, implied by the homoousios is possible only on the grounds that Giles was intent on avoiding the affirmation of the monarchy of the Father in Athanasius.  Indeed, Giles cites Hanson more than once in his section on Athanasius—how could he fail to mention the fact that in the very section of Hanson’s work that he cites (the very page!) on his own behalf, Hanson explicitly says that Athanasius’ doctrine of the homoousios implies the derivation of the Son from the Father, who is himself derived from none?  We’ll return to this point presently.

7.         It would seem that Giles’ treatment of Athanasius’ doctrine of the relationship between the immanent and economic Trinity is troubled by the same problem we found in his treatment of his “double account rule”.  Yes, it is agreed on all hands that Athanasius does not depict the Son’s relationship to the Father in a manner similar to the manner in which an employee is related to a boss, or a slave to a master; yes, it is agreed that the Father and Son act in unison; yes, it is agreed that their wills are “one”.  However, from these affirmations it does not follow that there is no order in the divine persons’ operations ad extra such that it affirms the primacy, in some sense, of the Father.  As we saw in section II above, Athanasius clearly and unambiguously posited that the particular functions of a particular divine person are performed by that divine person in a manner that corresponds to the manner in which that divine person is related to the other divine persons within the immanent Trinity, and that every activity ad extra begins with the Father specifically.  For Athanasius, the Son became man and expressed the Father on earth because he—not the Father, nor the Holy Spirit—is the Image of God in eternity.  The economic Trinity expresses the immanent Trinity as triune—it does not for Athanasius, as Giles would have us believe, simply reveal the “one godhead”; it does not reveal the three divine persons as divine indiscriminately, and it therefore clearly indicates a priority of some sort with regard to God the Father specifically.  (In passing, I mention that in a personal letter to me, Giles tended to avoid my arguments on this point, and one of the reasons he seemed to imply as justifying this evasion on his part was the fact that “immanent” and “economic” are relatively modern theological categories, thus implying anachronism on my part.  But surely Giles’ claim is empty: the word “Trinity” is never used in the N.T.—does that mean that John did not have a theology of the Trinity?  The meaning that the modern word “person” carries today is quite distinct from the meanings of prosopon and persona in Antiquity—does that mean that persons did not exist till John Locke?  Hypostasis was a word used much more specifically by the Cappadocians than Athanasius—does it follow that they necessarily disagreed as to the meaning that they wished to indicate with their respective vocabularies?  Does the fact that Bishop Bull was not called a “derivative subordinationist” prior to Kevin Giles’ doing so necessarily entail that Bishop Bull could not have been one, and this on the grounds that Giles had not yet thought up the term?  The immanent Trinity existed before the modern era, and that the Trinity had before that time interacted with things outside of itself is a fact—so too is it a fact that there were many Christians before the 19th century who paid attention to these and expressed their thoughts with regard thereto in writing.  If I am wrong for speaking of the “immanent” and “economic” Trinity in the theology of Athanasius, then Athanasius and the entire orthodox side of the Nicene era were wrong to talk of the biblical God’s ousia and hypostases.)

8.         And finally, we come to Giles’ extraordinary claim that Athanasius denied the monarchy of the Father.  Giles never once deals with any of the passages from Athanasius that clearly—not possibly or maybe, but clearly—affirm the monarchy of the Father.  The Father only, says Athanasius, is without cause for his person, and everything that the Son has, he has from the Father.  The evidence for this in Athanasius’ own writings has been offered in section II above, but what’s more, Giles not only ignores the evidence in the primary sources that flatly contradicts his claim—he also ignores the evidence in the leading secondary sources that would challenge him in doing so.  We hear nothing from the likes of E.P. Meijring, R.P.C. Hanson, Alvyn Pettersen, or Peter Widdicombe on this point, and we are left with the impression that Athanasius’ denial of the monarchy of the Father is an accepted fact in the contemporary scholarship on Athanasius—the very opposite of the truth.  Giles was either not aware of these passages in Athanasius along with being unaware of the expert commentary on his theology (in which case he is not well-acquainted enough with the literature to write about this subject), or he was aware (in which case he is being purposefully deceptive in order to advance his case).  There is also a third possibility, being that he was aware of such but failed to see the significance of it, and in this case the problem would seem to be that the theological filter through which he processes information is not up to the task of accurately representing it.  We have seen above how the issue of the monarchy of the Father is a stumbling stone for Giles.  He places it in exclusion to the doctrine of perichoresis, and explicitly states that the Cappadocians were unable to exclude subordinationism because they affirmed it.  It is also worth noting that when the monarchy of the Father is clearly posited as influencing the operations ad extra (such as with the Cappadocians), Giles must overlook and leave untouched the fact in order to assert that the adherents of such a doctrine were not functional subordinationists (whatever that means).  (In fairness to Giles, I mention the fact that he has on some occasions asserted that it is permissible to affirm the monarchy of the Father, and that this doctrine is within the fold of orthodoxy.  But as he seems unclear on this point, and as this affirmation is constantly conjoined with assertions to the effect that according to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, e.g., “The Father is given no priority”,[311] the final impression that I’m left with is that such claims cannot be taken with full seriousness.  It is my hope that I’m misreading Giles on this point.  If I am, I request that he express himself more clearly.)  Athanasius saw the affirmation of the monarchy of the Father as an “Arian error”?  Has Giles actually read Athanasius? 

9.         More on this later.  For now, I must say that it rather appears as though Giles has not at all given careful attention to his sources, but rather, has attenuated certain portions and overlooked others while exaggerating much else (both concerning explicit content in the sources, and concerning what follows from doctrines espoused therein), and the result is a mirror-image of a doctrine of the Trinity that is itself, in an analogous manner, a mirror image of the man-woman relationship that his opponents in the contemporary gender debate would be unhappy with, and he himself would be quite happy with.  Giles’ treatment of Athanasius cannot be trusted, and his ability to interact with secondary sources must be called into serious question.

10.       Let us now give more attention to Giles’ treatment of the monarchy of the Father.  In Athanasius, we saw that this doctrine while being affirmed as regards the immanent Trinity influences his doctrine of the manner in which the Trinity interacts with creation.  All things—every activity of the one God—begins in the Father, is effected and expressed by the Son, and is consummated in the Spirit.  Giles seems to see the monarchy of the Father as troublesome; he never actually claims it to be unorthodox or heretical, but the impression that one is left with is that its existence in the Cappadocians and continued presence in Orthodoxy is something like a mistake that is the result of a theological hangover.  And I believe this is why he does not allow himself to see it in Athanasius—his champion—or Augustine, whom he sees (alongside Athanasius) as the foundation of “Western” Trinitarianism, the defining characteristic of which (and rightly so, according to Giles) is the stress on the divine unity and “equality” (which, according to Giles, = “identical with my own view in such a way that it is antithetical to the view of my opponents”).  We will turn to Augustine, Western Trinitarian theology and the filioque presently; for now, I reiterate my claim that Giles’ presentation of Athanasius and the monarchy of the Father is blatantly deceptive.

11.       Though Giles does admit this doctrine to be a fundamental affirmation of the Cappadocian fathers, in doing so he ultimately ignores the positive aspects of this doctrine, and immediately qualifies this affirmation on the part of the Cappadocians by letting us know that they did not intend to imply the subordination of the Son or Spirit in doing so—as though the affirmation itself is rather beside the point, and the only thing worth paying attention to is what it doesn’t necessarily exclude.  But who doesn’t already know that the Cappadocians did not hold the Son and Spirit to be inferior to the Father?  The impression that one is left with is that Giles sees the monarchy of the Father as a basically worthless doctrine.  It is perhaps orthodox, but if it is, he cannot tell us why, or how it could be so.  He leaves it as soon as he mentions it—as though from a burning house—and spends more time telling us that those (orthodox persons and parties) who affirm it (inconsistently, and with some sort of unresolved tension?) also affirm the “equality” of the divine persons, than telling us about the particular glory of the Father that they wished to affirm, and how this perception of the Father explains their assigning a corresponding glory to the Son and Spirit. 

12.       On pg. 16 of his submission to the Sydney Doctrinal Commision, he claims that “the Cappodocians[‘] motive for insisting on the monarche of the Father was to safeguard the unity of the divine three, not to subordinate” the Son and the Spirit.  While this is correct insofar as it goes, the problems should be apparent.  Giles countenances the affirmation of the monarchy of the Father only to the extent that it coincides with or approves his own theology of the Trinity, and he seems to posit its affirmation in just such a manner as one term in a disjunctive syllogism that exhausts the doctrinal possibilities, with the other term of the syllogism being (an ill-defined) subordinationism (that is necessarily heretical).  “Either monarchy of the Father in this way or heretical doctrine of the Trinity.”  But this is, in every way, nonsense.  The monarchy of the Father was affirmed because it was a fundamental affirmation of Tradition and for its own sake; it was not a conclusion arrived at in an attempt to affirm something else.  The Cappadocians believed in the eternity and full divinity of the Son and Spirit because they believed that the one God, the Father, is father.  And in the second place, that this affirmation did not imply a heretical form of subordinationism does not entail that it did imply something even remotely close to Giles’ own egalitarian doctrine of the Trinity.

13.       Giles’ presentation of the doctrine of the filioque vis-à-vis the monarchy of the Father is likewise in error.  From reading Giles, one is left with the impression not only that the affirmation of the filioque necessarily excludes the affirmation of the monarchy of the Father, but also that the filioque was formulated by the West in order to overturn the monarchy of the Father.  But as we saw with Augustine in section III above, the very father of this doctrine (as posited explicitly and rigorously developed) unambiguously affirmed the monarchy of the Father, and was at pains to make this point explicit while articulating the filioque; the same is the case with other early figures in the Western Church with a similar dignity, such as we saw with Aquinas and Bonaventure.  And the same is also the case with contemporary Western (Catholic) theologians, which was also clearly shown in section III above.  A recent official statement of the Catholic Church even insists that the filioque must be affirmed in a sense that does not imply the denial of the monarchy of the Father.  So if Giles is correct in asserting that Western theologians see cause to challenge the monarchy of the Father, I can only conclude that the theologians he has in mind are contemporary Protestant theologians, such as Erickson, whom he cites over and over, and with whom I myself am largely unfamiliar.  In any event, I strongly recommend that Giles obtain volume three of Yves Congar’s I Believe in the Holy Spirit so that when he treats of the filioque in the future, he’ll manage to do so without reading the doctrine into the ground.  (In passing, I note that the growing trend in contemporary Catholic Trinitarian theology seems to be moving towards a consensus that the filioque ought to be excised from the Catholic profession of the Nicene Creed.  This is not, however, to suggest a reversal of the faith itself.  Rather, it is simply a recognition of the fact that it tends to be understood, and implies, notions that the Church itself never intended to imply by affirming it—such as a denial of the monarchy of the Father—while being itself too vague to give an exact expression of the doctrine as it is actually held.)

14.       Next, attention must be given to the fact that Giles treatment of the monarchy of the Father leaves one with the impression not only that it was—in large part, if not universally—rejected by the Western Church from Augustine onward, but also that the dominant Western trend in contemporary Trinitarian theology is to view it as “suspect” or “unsatisfactory”, and that the Orthodox Church is (perhaps) “coming to its senses” and aligning itself with the West(‘s alleged viewpoint) on this doctrine.  But as we saw in section II and section III, the monarchy of the Father is clearly affirmed as essential by the West as well as the East, and this from the Nicene era (and before) up to the present day.

15.       Why was Athanasius’ testimony on this point placed on the sidelines?  Why did we not hear anything of Bonaventure’s teaching, or that of Aquinas?  As for contemporary Catholic theologians, why was Rahner’s affirmation of this doctrine not mentioned, and why was Yves Congar completely ignored?  Why was Kasper’s insistent affirmation of this doctrine relegated to a footnote, and even then watered down to the point that it appears as though he need not even have affirmed it at all?  Why is Gerald O’Collins’ clear affirmation of this doctrine unmentioned, though he is cited elsewhere in support of Giles?  Why was Hans urs von Balthasar—the twentieth-century Catholic theologian of the Trinity—wholly overlooked on this point?  And finally, why did Giles see fit to not inform his audience of the fact that a recent official statement of the Catholic Church insists that the monarchy of the Father must be affirmed?   These are not theologians of low estimation, and the doctrine to which they give witness is not marginal, nor is there any hint of a “well, perhaps we may say that . . .” attitude in their affirming it.  Giles silences the testimony of the middle ages on this point and misrepresents that of Athanasius, Augustine and (therefore) the Western version of the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed as well.  The truth is in fact the exact opposite of what Giles would lead us to believe.  The monarchy of the Father is not something peculiar to Eastern Orthodoxy, nor is it absent in the Western Church, whether ancient or modern.  It is not a marginal doctrine, and it is not seen as a “threat” to the “real core” of the Trinity—the unity of the persons and their “equality” (presumably).  It is a necessary affirmation of orthodox, catholic Trinitarian theology.  To part company with it is to part company with orthodoxy.  Giles’ treatment of this subject is deceptive, and he should have the integrity to admit his error.

16.       I see Giles’ obscurity with regard to the real distinctions between the divine persons as closely related to his inability to deal with the monarchy of the Father.  Of course, Giles does not leave himself open to the charge of modalism—several times he affirms that the persons are distinct.  The Father is the Father and not the Son, the Son is the Son and not the Holy Spirit, and so on.  So far, so good.  But the distance between modalism and orthodoxy correspondingly lessens insofar as the divine “oneness” is emphasized and the distinctions are not clearly explained.  What I want to know from Giles is what it means that the Son is the son, and how does this sonship distinguish the Son from the Father?  As we’ve seen above in section IV, while Giles affirms that the Son, unlike the Father, is begotten, he simultaneously denies any notion of causation or derivation.  When I pressed him on this point, Giles simply told me that “to be Son means to be begotten”.  But surely this claim, in light of the fact that he denies any notion of causation or derivation, is most unhelpful.  In saying such, Giles defines “being Son” analytically: Son if and only if begotten.  But how, if he robs one of the terms of its meaning, does he expect us to understand the other in light of it?  To say that “a bachelor is an unmarried man” is a clear statement to me, and I can understand it.  I know what both the subject and the predicate mean.  If I am told that “rex means ‘king’,” I am able to learn the meaning of “rex” because I understand what the predicate—“king”—means in English.  But if every positive connotation of the word “begotten” (such as “being caused by an other eternally” or “being brought forth by an other eternally”) is excluded, it does nothing to help me understand the subject with which it is identical in meaning.  Giles may as well say that “to be nbvvexk is to be fdyyupdxf,” for in telling me that the Son’s being begotten does not distinguish him from the Father with regard to a causal relation between the two, he has told me nothing at all.

17.       And what does Giles mean in confessing that the Father is the Father, and that the Father’s being Father distinguishes him from the Son?  “The Father is he who begets; the Son is he who is begotten.”  Well and good.  But what are the grounds for a real distinction between the Father and Son—how do we identify the Father as father—if we deny the monarchy to the Father and place the Son alongside him in this regard?  Have we not, in doing so, killed the patristic vision of the fontal fullness of all life, existing hypostatically in the person of the Father specifically?  Have we not robbed the radiance of the sun and the river of the spring?  In short, if I may so speak, have we not castrated the doctrine of the fatherhood of the Father?  The idea of a vital and ecstatic Father is not present in Giles’ Trinitarian theology—it disappears the moment a symmetrical doctrine of causation between the divine persons is posited because such disallows any notion of differentiating the persons by means of the relations of origin.  So while Giles does affirm the distinction between the Father and Son (and I believe him to be sincere in his desire to maintain a real distinction here), I conclude that this affirmation needs to be given a more solid basis before it may be seen as satisfactory.  As it stands, I believe that the doctrinal baggage attached to the affirmation (consisting largely of a monomania to affirm that the Father and Son are “equal,” just like the husband and wife ought to be) robs the distinction of its significance. 

18.       And this brings us to the egalitarian doctrine of the Trinity, which seems very much to be Giles’ own position.  As we’ve seen in section II and section III, this doctrine is not that of the orthodox, catholic Trinitarian confession, whether ancient or modern.  The defining characteristic of egalitarian models of the Trinity is the affirmation of the symmetry of relations between the persons within the immanent Trinity—that all three equally “get to call the shots” with respect to operations ad extra is nothing more than a natural outcome of this affirmation.  But I maintain that the egalitarian model of the Trinity leaves us somewhere between the dark cloud of unknowing and monarchial modalistic-tritheism.  If there is no asymmetrical causal relationship between the divine persons, then it necessarily follows that if the divine persons are distinguished by their relations of origin, then the divine persons cannot be distinguished at all.  Even the more mitigated forms of the egalitarian model of the Trinity seem to me to meet this problem.  For example, when Giles presents Erickson as saying, basically, that the Father’s being the “cause” of the other two divine persons is true only insofar as the other two divine persons are the “cause” of him, we are left wondering what he could possibly mean.  Would such an affirmation exclude, e.g., what John Damascene has to say concerning the monarchy of the Father?  As we’ve seen, that the Son and Spirit are intrinsic to the Father as the presupposition of his being father—their being brought into existence by him being the necessary and sufficient condition of his very aseity because for the Father to be is to be father—is clearly affirmed by the Tradition.  But even so, this does not entail a symmetrical relationship between the persons.  The Father is the active cause of the Son and Spirit, and in bringing them forth, he is the active cause of himself, but neither the Son nor the Spirit can be seen as being the active cause(s) of the Father.  His aseity is active and theirs is passive, his is giving and theirs is receiving; in his existing they exist, and by causing them, he gives them aseity and assures his own without receiving it from them.  The impetus for the affirmation of the egalitarian model of the Trinity seems to be the desire to affirm, in some vague sense, the “equality” of the persons.  But it falls to the ground on the very point at which it seeks to begin building.  It leaves us not with a Trinity but with three brothers, and by denying the monarchy of the Father it runs the risk of not only tearing asunder the unity, but destroying the distinctions between the persons as well.  The Trinity stands or falls with the doctrine of the fatherhood of the Father, and the egalitarian model is therefore false.  The affirmation of the “equality” of the divine persons that the advocate of the egalitarian model seeks must be found by direct reference to the real fatherhood of the Father, not by avoiding it.

19.       And closely connected to this is Giles’ seeming to place the monarchy of the Father in antithesis to the doctrine of perichoresis.  That the doctrine of perichoresis teaches that the persons are wholly present and given to each other is true, and that it is orthodox is denied by none.  Yet at the very heart of the doctrine of perichoresis is the love that the persons have for one another.  They are wholly present to each other because they unrestrictedly give themselves to one another.  And where may we find the impetus for this dynamic movement of love?  At this point, it is worth mentioning that the very person who gives us the classic statement on the monarchy of the Father (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 1:8)—John Damascene—is the same person who gives us the clearest insight into the coinherence of the divine persons (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 1:9).  The doctrine of perichoresis stands or falls with the affirmation of the fatherhood of the Father.  It is because God the Father is such that he gives himself to the Son in the Spirit and leaves nothing back that a corresponding movement towards the Father by the Son—who is his Image—takes place.  We cannot deny the monarchy of the Father and affirm the doctrine of perichoresis without positing something that is common to the three persons as the cause of this movement, and that is itself identical with none of the three persons; in other words, in doing so, we arrive at the Arian misunderstanding of the Trinitarian theology of Athanasius.  Giles is therefore wrong to oppose the monarchy of the Father to the doctrine of perichoresis; the latter is the result of the former, properly understood.

20.       Next I turn to Giles’ doctrine of the relationship between the immanent and the economic Trinity, which I see as being intimately connected to his stance with regard to “functional” subordinationism.  While Giles is no doubt correct to insist that the roles are not that which constitute the real distinctions between the persons, this claim itself reveals a fundamental misunderstanding.  For a correct understanding of the relationship between the immanent and economic Trinity is not grounded in the affirmation that the functions of the persons cause the differences between the persons (which would be, at any rate, impossible if the “persons” exist before “they” act); rather, it is grounded in the affirmation that the persons perform the particular functions that they do because of the (logically anterior) distinctions between the persons ad intra.  The Son is not the Son because of the Incarnation; he became incarnate because he is the Son.  In positing a correspondence between the immanent and economic Trinity it does not follow that the former is constituted by the latter—the reverse is the case.

21.       Giles’ treatment of Rahner on this point is deceptive, and it would be amusing were it not for the fact that he is insulting and polemical in expounding his misreading of him.  The “conservative evangelicals” who hold that Rahner’s doctrine of the immanent and economic Trinity implies, in some form, the subordination of the Son to the Father are as mistaken in “their understanding of what it teaches” as they are “mistaken” in “their understanding of historical theology.”[312]  But to who does the error truly belong?  As we’ve seen, Giles would have us believe that according to Rahner, the Incarnation of the Son reveals “the godhead” indiscriminately—that it was the Son who became incarnate tells us nothing about the Son specifically.  But this is the exact opposite of what Rahner actually teaches, and if this fact throws a monkey-wrench into what Giles believes that Rahner—one of the most important voices in Trinitarian theology of the twentieth century—ought to have believed about the Trinity, let Giles simply state that Rahner was in error rather than taking his theology hostage.  However, it would seem that in the intervening period between the publication of TS and the present, Giles has been made aware of his misreading of Rahner (especially by Mark Baddeley, who published a lengthy response to Giles focusing largely on his treatment of Rahner, in The Reformed Theological Review, April 2004).  But rather than admitting his error, in his submission to the Sydney Doctrinal Commission he states that his (Giles’) reading of Rahner most probably must be correct in spite of the evidence offered by Baddeley because Rahner is “one of the leading Catholic scholars of this century”, therefore “to claim that he directly and intentionally breaks with the whole Catholic dogmatic tradition [= affirms that the Son is, in some sense, subordinate to the Father] is too hard to believe.”[313]  “To suggest that Rahner consistently teaches the eternal subordination of the Son in any form is simply silly”, and so on.  But it would seem that Giles is perhaps aware of Rahner’s affirmation that it had to be the Son who became incarnate, for his stating that “Rahner is usually criticised [sic] for bordering on modalism, and as modalism implies that there is only one God, it absolutely excludes subordinationism” seems to be an attempt to overcome at the outset any attempt to see Rahner’s insistence upon the particular office of the Son in the economic Trinity as having any substantial implications.[314]  In other words: Rahner could be seen as implying the “functional” subordination of the Son; Rahner is a crypto-modalist; hence Rahner cannot advance the necessity of the Son’s (one person’s) becoming incarnate at the will of the Father (a different person); thus Rahner cannot be a subordinationist; thus Rahner is orthodox.  How very charming—Rahner’s orthodoxy is saved by attributing to him the heresy of modalism.

22.       When I visited the New Camaldoli Hermitage as a vocation guest during Holy Week last year, I had the opportunity to meet fr. Joseph Wong, who knew Rahner and wrote an important study on his theology entitled Logos-Symbol in the Christology of Karl Rahner.  In this work, Wong does criticize the modalistic tendencies in Rahner’s Trinitarian theology, and what is interesting is the fact that the solution that Wong suggests is that the eternal personhood of the Son be clearly articulated, for only if this is done may Rahner affirm that the economic Trinity reveals the immanent Trinity.  And what is the consequence of this?  That “the life of Jesus in his filial relation to the Father” while incarnate “is the revelation or Realsymbol of the inner-trinitarian life. . . . It is the immanent Logos who expresses himself in the life of Jesus.”[315]  It is particularly worth mentioning at this point that Rahner himself wrote the foreword to this work, in which he says that Wong’s work “synthesizes many of the insights which I myself up to this time have left unconnected.  For this service I am most grateful to him.” 

23.       Note the implications.  Giles’ error was presented to him by reference to explicit passages in Rahner’s work.  Rather than admitting that he was wrong, Giles insisted that his own presuppositions with regard to the particulars of Catholic Trinitarian theology (especially, that no form of subordinationism, whatever that means, may be affirmed) are sufficient to overcome even the strongest explicit claims that would imply his being wrong.  There are two possibilities with regard to the tension that is present in Rahner’s Trinitarian theology.  We can see Rahner as a modalist, and thus make it impossible for the Son to be functionally subordinate to the Father (Giles).  Or, if we add a clear affirmation of the personhood of the Son, we wind up with a form of subordinationism that Giles would see as heretical (Baddeley, and myself long before I had met Wong).  Rahner can’t mean that (reasons Giles), for he is orthodox (= “agrees with me on this particular point”); therefore let us see him as a modalist.  But this is precisely the opposite manner in which an expert on Rahner solves the dilemma, not to mention the fact that Rahner himself approves of Wong’s work.  Thus what we see here is a clear case of Giles forcing a source into being coincident with his own theology.  His presuppositions determine what a source means, and it is on the basis of these presuppositions that his reading of a source is justified.  Has it never occurred to Giles that he may be wrong, and that he’d be better off questioning his presuppositions than reading them into every theologian that is commonly agreed to be orthodox?  From the fact that his conclusion is in error the premises upon which it stands fall as though by a backward domino effect.  How can we trust Giles?  Is this not eisegesis of the grossest sort?

24.       At this point, it would be well to turn our attention once again to the fact that according to the orthdox, catholic Tradition, the monarchy of the Father is affirmed and the economic Trinity is confluent with the immanent Trinity.  We have seen that Giles’ himself admits that the Cappadocians affirmed both of these points—the former clearly, and the latter as well, though Giles doesn’t seem to realize it.  If it is the case that the divine persons are consciously related to one another in communion and every operation ad extra begins with the Father specifically, what follows?  It would seem to follow necessarily that the primacy of the Father, in some sense, must be affirmed with regard to both the immanent and the economic Trinity.  And if this is orthodox and all forms of subordinationism are heretical, what do we call this?  For example, in the Bible and Nicene Creed’s confession that all things come through the Son, Giles seems simply to collapse the distinction between “by/from” (the Father) and “through” (the Son), taking the “through” to mean no more than “by/from in precisely the same sense as causally related to the Father with no distinctions whatsoever—let us never mind the possibility that the authors perhaps deliberately chose a different word.”  For why else would he get no more out of this than that the Father and Son stand in relation to creation with “equal authority”?  That the Father and Son are equal is denied by none; that the Father and Son rule and are the cause of creation is confessed by all.  But in collapsing the distinction that the words indicate, Giles’ zeal for excluding subordinationism has caused him to exclude something that is good and orthodox, namely, an indication of the manner in which the Father and Son interact as distinct with rebus ad extra.

25.       Is Giles himself aware of these implications?  I’m not sure, but I would venture to guess that he’s vaguely conscious of them.  As I mentioned above, his noting this doctrine’s presence in the Cappadocians, while having nothing to say of it aside from the fact that it didn’t, for the Cappadocians, entail the inferiority of the Son or the Spirit, seems to me a rather loud silence.  It seems to me comparable to a deer caught in the headlights that, shocked by the implications of the situation, simply stares at them in a daze while choosing to think of something else.  The confluence of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity (conjoined to the monarchy of the Father) is, as was clearly shown in section II and section III above, affirmed by the whole history of the orthodox, catholic understanding of the Trinity.  Giles does not interact with the evidence that I presented, but rather, assumes that because the Tradition affirms that the persons are “equal” and “one,” and that they “act as one,” it therefore follows that 1) the implications of this doctrine are necessarily false, and therefore 2) it does not, in fact, exist.  But the “orthodox” doctrine that Giles builds upon the Tradition comes at the price of burying the Tradition before he can build upon it.  As we saw with, for example, Gerald O’Collins, the persons’ acting as one is always such that the persons perform the single action in a manner that corresponds to and expresses the manner in which they are related to one another within the immanent Trinity.  Just as with the Trinity ad intra, the unity of the Trinity ad extra does not entail the confusion of the distinction between the persons—a distinction that is grounded upon the fact that the Father is father and the Son is son.  And if this implies that the divine will originates in the Father, and that since the persons are distinct as persons and there is a unity of will between them that implies that the Son’s fulfilling the will that comes from the Father may be seen as, in some sense, obedience on the part of the Son (which we saw clearly affirmed by Lossky, Congar, Ware, Kasper, and von Balthasar), then so much the worse for Giles.  Let him learn the orthodox faith from the Tradition rather than reading (what he takes to be) orthodoxy into it.  However, I must also say that I believe that if Giles actually understood the orthodox faith, he would see less reason to be troubled by it than his work in TS would seem to imply.  The problem isn’t that he’s rejected the orthodox faith; it is that he doesn’t seem to have understood it in the first place.

26.       Let us take one example of Giles’ confusion with regard to the manner in which the immanent Trinity is related to the economic Trinity.  According to Giles, the incarnation of the Son, and the manner in which the Son relates himself to the Father while incarnate, does not reveal anything in particular about the manner in which the Son is eternally related to the Father; rather, it reveals the godhead—each of the divine persons—indiscriminately.  But were this true, the Incarnation tells us nothing about divine fatherhood or sonship or spiration; it therefore tells us nothing about the distinct persons of the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit.  “God is a God who stoops to save” and “to voluntarily submit is godlike”.  Well and good; no one wishes to deny that the Son reveals the Father and that the cross reveals the very heart of God.  The problem is that, so stated, this affirmation could be just as true of a unitarian God as a trinitarian God, and the revelation of the Incarnation would, as such, lead us to infer modalism as quickly as a Trinity.  The Incarnation, so understood, tells us nothing about the distinct manners in which the persons are related to one another.

27.       But this is a huge problem, for if this is indeed the case, then the economic Trinity cannot be the epistemic point of departure for learning about the immanent Trinity as triune.  According to the Tradition, the Son became man rather than the Father or the Spirit because the Son, specifically, is the Image and Expression of the Father.  He expresses God in the world because he is the Expression of the Father in eternity, just as it is the ray of light that touches us because it is the ray of light that proceeds forth from the sun.  When I asked Giles why it was the Son in particular who became man, he told me that “I cannot answer the question as to why the Son and not one of the other two became incarnate . . . I think all we can say is this is the case, and that is all that needs to be said.”  And in saying this, Giles confirmed my worst suspicions.  Not only has he thus proven himself to be at odds with perhaps the most healthy aspect of contemporary Trinitarian theology (i.e., that the economic Trinity reveals the immanent Trinity as triune, and as indicative of the particular manner in which the distinct divine persons are interrelated as distinct), but he has also made clear the fact that his own understanding of the immanent Trinity is woefully inadequate.  If it would be just as fitting for the Father or Holy Spirit to become man as it was that the Son became man, then Trinitarian theology is forever dead.  If the Son himself cannot reveal sonship, and the descent of the Spirit tells me as much about the Father as the Spirit, then I know nothing but that a single godhead is being shown to me, and it is rather superfluous to describe it with three different words and posit an interpersonal communion within it.  Giles’ implication that seeing the Incarnation as revealing the godhead indiscriminately—such that it tells us nothing in particular about the Son or the way that he is personally related to the Father ad intra—is representative of the contemporary consensus in Trinitarian theology, is false. 

28.       I now turn my attention to Giles’ position on subordinationism and the categories whereby he distinguishes the various forms that it may take.  The most basic distinction in Trinitarian theology—insofar as it actually deals with the subject of subordination in a conscious, deliberate fashion—is that between ontological subordination (the Son is inferior to the Father per essence in the same way that man is inferior to angels, or animals are inferior to man) and functional subordination (the Son is every bit as much “God” as the Father, yet the united activity of the persons is such that it originates in the Father and is effected by the Son).  Giles collapses the distinction between these two forms of subordinationism with regard to doctrinal merit, such that if functional subordination is affirmed, then ontological subordination necessarily follows.  But given the abundance of evidence offered in section II and section III above, I ask, first of all, whether or not his categories are capable of comprehending the orthodox, catholic doctrine of the Tradition, and second, how the doctrine of the Tradition stands in relation to the doctrine that Giles does affirm.

29.       Giles is right to see our understanding of the immanent Trinity as influencing our understanding of the economic Trinity.  The problem is that the only things that he gets from the Tradition concerning these are that, as regards the immanent Trinity, the persons are “one” and “equal”, and as regards the economic Trinity, the persons “act as one”.  Giles never once makes his audience aware of the fact that, as regards the first of these, the monarchy of the Father is clearly affirmed by the Tradition in such a manner that it entails an asymmetrical relationship between the persons, and as regards the second, that though the persons “act as one”, this united activity comprehends the distinctions between the persons such that the manner in which a particular divine person performs an activity of the “one God” corresponds to the manner in which that divine person is related to the other divine persons ad intra.  In other words, as has been said many times in the preceding, the monarchy of the Father is affirmed, and the economic Trinity is confluent with the immanent Trinity as such.  Giles’ doctrine, therefore, is a half-truth; he takes half of the orthodox confession and develops it rigidly in a single direction while suppressing the remainder of it.  Once again, I cannot but charge him with being deceptive.  He would have us believe that the doctrine that he presents is firmly grounded upon, and accurately and comprehensively represents, not only the Tradition, but also the contemporary consensus of leading Trinitarian theologians.  But this is clearly false, and his ability to suggest otherwise is due only to his insensitivity or silencing of the sources.  From the fact that, e.g., Athanasius confesses that the Son is “equal” to the Father, it does not—as has been shown—follow that he denies that the Father is the cause of the Son and is himself caused by none; from the fact that, e.g., contemporary Catholic theologians affirm that the persons “act as one,” it does not—as has been shown—follow that the activities of the persons are performed by all persons in an identical manner that is not indicative of their interrelatedness within the immanent Trinity.

30.       The orthodox doctrine of the manner in which the persons are interrelated per function is therefore not identical with the egalitarian model of the Trinity—furthermore, it necessarily excludes it.  Giles is able to lead his audience to think otherwise only by what I believe to be either deliberate scholarly underhandedness, or ineptitude.  For how, if according to Walter Kasper (to cite but one major figure) the Son’s whole being is received from the Father, and the way that the Son relates personally to the Father is an absolute and grateful surrender of his entire self to the Father, is Giles able to lead his audience to believe that Walter Kasper’s Trinitarian theology is, essentially, egalitarian?  Kasper no more presents us with a Trinity wherein “the Father-Son-Spirit” all “call the shots” in an undifferentiated sense than any of the other figures treated in section II or section III above do.  It is the Father alone and only who is father, and the Father is father in truth and not in name only.  The will of the Trinity is one because there is one Father; the will of the Son and the will of the Spirit are in harmony with the will of the Father because they receive it from the Father, along with their very being.  The will is will-given from the Father, and it is will-given for the Son; the will is will-received by the Son, and the form that it takes according to his particular person constituted as such essentially by his being related to the Father is obedience—the returning to the Father of the gift-given.  Though there is indeed a “mutuality” in the above, it is not egalitarianism.  The causation goes only one way, and the manner in which the one will is had by each of the divine persons is such that it expresses the hypostatic particularity of the divine persons in contrast to the others and as related to the others.  For each of the persons the will is had and expressed according to the manner in which he is causally related to the others. 

31.       This is the doctrine of the Tradition.  It is either clearly affirmed or necessarily follows from the premises of the fathers of the Nicene era and middle ages, thus it is little surprise that it is rigorously and explicitly so expressed by those leading contemporary theologians who have a close eye on the relationship between the immanent and economic Trinity on the one hand, and the actual personhood of the persons on the other.  And while 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, without either silencing them or putting words into their mouths by offering a brief citation from their works that is isolated and vague enough to have Giles’ own doctrine inferred therefrom.  Vladimir Lossky was one of the most respected Orthodox theologians of the 20th century; he explicitly says that Son is obedient to the Father.  Yves Congar holds a similar dignity in the Catholic Church; he sees the Son as eternally saying to the Father, “I have come to do your will.”  Similar language is explicitly found in Kasper, Ware, Staniloae and von Balthasar.  Giles does not once let his audience know such as this, and leaves his audience with the impression that the opposite is the case.  In none of the figures that I examined in section II or section III are we given the slightest indication that had they treated of this particular aspect of the doctrine of the Trinity, they would have disputed such an affirmation as I have presented it. 

32.       And while this doctrine by no means agrees with that of Giles, it should be equally clear that it is not, in several important respects, identical with the subordinationism(s) that Giles rejects.  The reason for my saying this is that the seven distinct forms of subordinationism delineated by Giles are not distinguished with enough clarity to allow their being seen as seven.  In offering a definition or description, it is the duty of the author to list the distinguishing properties of the category such that one may distinguish it from other categories by reference to those properties.  But what do Giles’ seven categories leave us with?  Ante-Nicene subordination asserted an undefined priority of the Father and envisaged the Son and Spirit as the effective agents whereby the will of the Father is realized; Arian subordination affirmed the monarchy of the Father while understanding it in such a manner as to posit explicitly that the Son is ontologically inferior to the Father and acts accordingly; Derivative subordination affirms the monarchy of the Father in such a way that assigns a certain undefined preeminence to the Father, while seeing the functions of the persons as determined by their relations of origin; Numerical subordination numbers the persons and in doing so assigns a certain corresponding preeminence to the persons; Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Ontological subordination is practically identical, on every point, with Derivative subordination; Operational subordination is practically identical with Derivative; and Eternal Role subordination, if we allow for the moment the possibility that Giles has exaggerated the ontological intent of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Ontological subordinationists, and that the making clear of the point of the ontological equality of the persons by the former party is little more than the making explicit of a fact that was implicit in the latter (which I believe to be likely), is practically identical with Operational. 

33.       What is the red thread that joins “all” of “these”?  Prescinding for the moment from explicitly ontological forms of subordination—the exclusion of which is too obvious to require comment—we can summarize Giles’ view of subordination by simply saying that subordinationism is the view that the Son is obliged to do as he is commanded by the Father, just as, according to some, the wife is obliged to do as she is commanded by the husband.  It is not inconspicuous that Giles’ chief means of making clear what subordinationism actually is is continually had by recourse to “command-obedience” language.  Indeed, I submit that I think it rather likely that the reason that Giles never found “subordination”—so understood—given rigorous treatment in the theological works that he consulted is due to the fact that most Trinitarian theologians have done their theology of the Trinity without the benefit of being utterly preoccupied with the contemporary gender debate.  More on this presently.

34.       The incorrectness of Giles’ doctrine, and the basic worthlessness of his theological categories, may be clearly seen simply by placing them alongside the doctrine of the eminent theologians presented in section II and section III above.  If Irenaeus was a subordinationist because he taught that the Son is the effective agent whereby the will of the Father is realized, then Athanasius was an Arian.  If the SDR is subordinationist because it teaches that it is fitting that the Son be “obedient” to the Father, then not only Cyril of Jerusalem and Hilary of Poitiers, but also Kallistos Ware and Hans urs von Balthasar are excluded from the circle of orthodoxy.  If some theologians are suspect because they teach that the Son is caused by/derived from/dependent upon the Father, then the whole of orthodoxy is the face of heresy.  The very absurdity of these conclusions is so apparent that it renders the antecedents false outright, and we are thus at square one, a place that Giles would have done well to begin from and give attention to before treating the theological categories of the doctrine of the Trinity as though they were footnotes appended to and mirroring the contemporary gender debate.

35.       So, in the final analysis, I conclude that Giles’ treatment of subordinationism is worthless.  I do not say this in an exaggerated, sarcastic sense.  I mean it in the most literal sense—his treatment of subordinationism is literally worthless.  His treatment of Arian subordination was correct insofar as it went, but even here it was not precise enough to warrant commendation.  Alexander did not excommunicate Arius because Arius affirmed that the Father commands and the Son obeys; he excommunicated him because this affirmation was made in such a way that it was confluent with his theology of the immanent Trinity, according to which the Son is a contingent creature created ex-nihilo who is ontologically inferior to the Father.  Athanasius’ fight for orthodoxy was not a fight simply for the divine union and “equality”; it was a fight for the reality of the fatherhood of the Father and the sonship of the Son, with the “equality” between the two being logically posterior to, and determined by, their interrelatedness as such.  Furthermore, there is so much overlap in the categories that Giles offers when dealing with subordinationism that one wonders why he even bothered granting them different names; the most distinctive thing in each is what they share in common—the tension that arises between two persons wherein there is a disparity of wills and one person’s will is imposed upon the other—and it is something the very possibility of which is excluded outright by the doctrine of the Tradition, and likewise for the reverse affirmation (that all three get to “call the shots”) which is Giles’ own doctrine, and which he mistakenly takes to be that of the Tradition and contemporary orthodoxy.  Even to apply these categories to the Trinity would presuppose a prior misunderstanding of the doctrine.  Giles places his opponents on the right while moving to the left.  Orthodoxy is upward.

36.       So much for Giles and subordinationism.  I now turn my attention to what I take to be rather pronounced inadequacies in various aspects of Giles’ treatment of the Trinity, first of which is his tendency to apply the categories of the contemporary gender debate to the Trinity.  Giles is certainly correct to cite Barth to the effect that we ought to begin with God rather than understanding God in light of the world in its fallen condition, but his repeatedly claiming that his opponents, unlike himself, are guilty of this latter struck me as ironic, uncharitable and offensive.  His going on to claim that “contemporary conservative evangelicals” who affirm that the Son is, in some sense, subordinate to the Father do so in order to give support to their position with regard to the contemporary gender debate is nothing more than a rude instancing of Giles playing the annoying role of the amateur psychologist.  Both Moody and Baddeley have assured me that their desire in defending their understanding of the Trinity is simply to defend the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity; they explicitly rejected the notion that their real motives are to keep women subject to men (and I absolutely believe them), and likewise, the SDR never admits of such motives and explicitly rejects them.  I myself saw no basis for Giles’ charges.  (However, this is not to say that I reject the possibility that his opponents have, like himself, allowed their theology to be influenced by their thoughts on the contemporary gender debate—I simply point out that the difference between deliberate subversion and the basically unconscious tendency to think about the unknown in terms of the known, and so on, is large.) Whence, then, the support for Giles’ charges?  My own belief is that Giles—having been involved in the fight for gender-equality for 30 years—felt that he saw, so clearly, the real confession of the orthodox and catholic Tradition, and that this confession, because it affirmed the “equality” of the divine persons, necessarily implied something more or less analogous to the egalitarian position in the contemporary gender debate, that he—in understanding the doctrine of the Trinity entirely in light of the categories of the gender debate—naturally saw a similar sort of necessary connection between the two in his opponents, such that the one could only possibly be explained by reference to the other. 

37.       And in saying this, let it not be imagined that I’m accusing Giles of arriving at an egalitarian doctrine of the Trinity in order to justify his own position in the contemporary gender debate.  In point of fact, I believe any such suggestion to be quite wide of the mark.  What I do believe is that Giles has made the mistake—without realizing it—of applying the categories of the gender debate to the doctrine of the Trinity.  In the gender debate, that men and women are “equal” means that the man, as man, has not the exclusive dignity to “call the shots.”  Because the wife is equal to her husband, she has just as much “say so” as he does, and it therefore follows that it is not the role of the husband to “command,” nor is it the role of the wife (as wife) to be “submissive” and “obey.”  Is it a coincidence that it is precisely such a relationship as this that Giles again and again returns to and seeks to exclude in the Trinity, while positing its opposite as the faith of the Tradition?  Giles has repeatedly assured me that it is his foremost desire to understand and expound the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.  I believe him.  At the same time, I must say that it seems most probable that perhaps the greatest obstacle to his doing either of these is his reading the Trinity through the lenses of the contemporary gender debate.

38.            Concerning his doctrine of the Trinity, I find several problems with it.  He is wrong to reject the monarchy of the Father, and his placing the doctrine of perichoresis in antithesis to it is a serious error.  The gravitational center of the doctrine of perichoresis is ecstatic love, and it therefore presupposes as its point of origin the personal.  But if the monarchy of the Father is denied, and the initial movement of this love is not located specifically in his person, then (even ignoring the fact that the monarchy of the Father is clearly affirmed as essential by the Tradition) how may we explain this love, this ceaseless exchange of absolute self-giving?  “It is a love common to the persons.”  No one denies this.  But if the persons are distinct and we deny any asymmetrical causal relationship between them, that love that they have in common must be explained not by reference to anything particular to any of them, but rather, by the “godhead” that is common to all and identical with none.  In this case, we are left not with three, but four.  The “godhead” is the real “person,” and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are simply images of it.  We are left with something like a triangular room with three walls, and on each of the walls is a mirror.  In the center of the room stands a “person”—the “godhead”—and any movement of it is wholly reflected in each of the three mirrors.  No reflection on any of the mirrors may be posited as the immediate cause of the reflection in any of the others; rather, the cause of the reflections’ being and movement is something common to all and identical with none.  The egalitarian doctrine of the Trinity is not only contrary to the Tradition; it is incoherent.  If understood in such a way that it precludes the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic with the immanent Trinity as such, it stands in relation to the Trinity as cancer does in relation to the body.   It is false and should be contradicted wherever it is met.

39.       Much in the preceding has been said concerning the inadequacy of Giles’ doctrine of the relationship between the immanent and economic Trinity.  Here, it is sufficient merely to draw attention to the fact that if Giles is correct on this point, not only is the Tradition wrong, but Trinitarian theology is, literally, dead.  If the operations ad extra reveal the divine persons indiscriminately, then it is impossible to know anything particular about any of the divine persons insofar as they are distinct from the other divine persons.  We learn only what is common to all and identical with none—the “godhead” dancing in the three-mirrored room.  If such is the case, God may as well be thirteen as three, and the Father may as well be the Holy Spirit.

40.       Giles wishes to be orthodox, and he makes all of the necessary explicit claims to warrant our believing him to be so.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, yet the Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Holy Spirit, nor is the Holy Spirit the Father or the Son.  The three divine persons are co-eternal and co-equal.  Well and good.  But I feel that he sees these affirmations as necessarily entailing other affirmations that, if affirmed, destroy the doctrine of the Trinity from the ground up.  I therefore believe Giles to be in danger of what I have elsewhere called monarchial modalistic-tritheism.  According to this (mis)understanding of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are identical with the person who is God while (somehow) not being identical with eachother.  This doctrine is incoherent and the result of misusing reason in developing the implications of the various affirmations that constitute the doctrine of the Trinity.  It is a position fallen into because of confusion rather than arrived at via deliberate and sufficient interaction with and reasoning from the relevant resources.  It is the greatest threat alive today to the doctrine of the Trinity, and its surest remedy is a return to the Tradition, more specifically, the Wisdom tradition as it is found in the Bible and developed in the patristic era and middle ages.

41.       I have already made mention of the fact that Giles uses his sources in a deceptive manner.  We have seen that he gave no witness to the double-affirmation rigorously explored in section III above, that the Tradition affirms the monarchy of the Father and that the economic Trinity is confluent with the immanent Trinity.  We have also seen that in dealing with the patristic sources, his ability to arrive at his conclusions is due to his mismanagement of the material.  Furthermore, we have seen that he is not incapable of abusing the secondary literature, as for example with Hanson (who Giles cites for support on certain points, while failing to let his audience know that he flatly contradicts him on other central points), or Kasper and LaCugna (whom Giles cites, leaving his audience with the impression that were we to turn to these works, we would find further substantiation for Giles’ claims, when either the opposite is the case, or they do not even make mention of the point Giles is attempting to establish), not to mention his outrageous use of Rahner.

42.       To charge Giles with mishandling his resources is to bring a serious charge against his integrity and competence as a scholar.  I realize this, and do not bring forth the charge without circumspection and a heavy heart.  In order to substantiate this charge against Giles, I call attention to one final example.  In the course of my personal correspondence with Giles, a point that I returned to every time I wrote to him was that he was in error, and grossly so, concerning his claims regarding Athanasius and the monarchy of the Father.  At first, Giles saw fit simply to state that T.F. Torrance was “on his side” on this point.  I replied that even if this were so (and I have my doubts, and have placed Torrance at the top of my “books to get list” in order to see whether or not Giles is misreading Torrance as severely as he misread Athanasius), it is not sufficient merely to mention the fact, but rather, Giles must show how Torrance’s argument(s) overcomes the inferences that I drew from the explicit testimony found in Athanasius’ writings themselves.  I gave Giles a number of such passages, and repeatedly asked for an explanation.  And again and again, no explanation was forthcoming.  He more or less repeatedly restated his position, danced around the evidence and ultimately evaded the issue.

42a.     (When the above paragraph had been written, I had ordered Torrance’s The Christian Doctrine of God, but had not yet received it or read it.  However, I now have the work in my possession.  Though I have not yet had the opportunity to thoroughly read it, I have taken the time to read the passages most relevant to the present study.  Torrance is commonly regarded as a major figure in 20th century Trinitarian theology, and from what I’ve read of his work thus far I see no reason for disputing the high regard in which he is held.  Concerning the monarchy of the Father, while it does indeed appear that Torrance gives the doctrine less emphasis than I myself do—and to this extent, he may be placed on Giles’ side—the overwhelming impression that I am left with is that Torrance indeed does affirm the monarchy of the Father in substantially the same sense as it has been presented in section II and section III.[316]  True, Torrance deliberately stresses the monarchy of the Trinity rather than the monarchy of the Father, yet it would seem that this emphasis always takes for granted the real distinctions between the persons as grounded upon the relations of origin.  I note in passing that Torrance, though explicitly stating that Athanasius affirmed that the Father is the arche of the Son, argues that Athanasius affirmed the monarchy of the Trinity rather than the Father.  If this is taken in the sense immediately suggested above, I have no problem with it, nor would any of those figures presented in the two sections of the present work mentioned above.  If this is taken in an egalitarian sense, however, which denies the real distinctions between the persons as being grounded upon the relations of origin, then Torrance is simply wrong.  I mention again that I do not believe that Torrance intended this sense.  One of the passages that Torrance cites in support of Athanasius’ affirming the monarchy of the Trinity is Orations, 4:1[ff.].  This is the strongest such passage offered by Torrance from Athanasius, and unfortunately so: it is almost universally agreed that the fourth book of the Orations is not genuine.[317]  So, from what I’ve read thus far, I see no reason for believing that Torrance would take issue with the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father as it has been, and will be, presented in this study; furthermore, were it the case that Torrance did intend to affirm the monarchy of the Trinity in a manner antithetical to the monarchy of the Father, as it has been and will be presented in the present study, then I see nothing in his work that overturns the arguments of the present study.  Lastly, I mention that when Torrance deals with the divine activity of the Trinity,[318] he identifies the Father specifically as the inner-Trinitarian source of creation and salvation history.  As such, I see no reason for believing that he would dispute the mantra repeated above that the economic Trinity is confluent with the immanent Trinity; furthermore, his explicitly positing the Father specifically as the source would seem to lend weight to my suggesting that he would affirm the monarchy of the Father as presented in the present work.)

43.       One of the main secondary sources that I recommended he consult on this point was Peter Widdicombe’s The Fatherhood of God from Origen to Athanasius, the definitive study on the divine fatherhood in Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology.  In a letter dated May 21, 2003 [sic], Giles told me, “I have read carefully Barnes on The Power of God and Widdicombe on the Fatherhood of God from Origen to Athanasius.  I absolutely loved both books and read each of them in a single sitting.”  Now this immediately aroused suspicion on my part.  Barnes’ work is 333 pages long (307 pages of text), and deals so intensively, and to such a great extent, with obscure philosophical concepts and metaphysical doctrines, and these from the presocratic era to the late Nicene era, that I frankly believe that it would be impossible for anyone lacking the natural endowments of Will Hunting to read the whole of it in a single sitting and gain a fair understanding of its contents.  Likewise, Widdicombe’s work is 290 pages in length (261 pages of text), and it treats its subject matter so thoroughly, and develops its case with such rigor, that I find it most improbable that anyone would be able to read all of it carefully in a single sitting.  I myself, not being a slow reader by any means, spent several days with both of these sources, and found it necessary to give each a second reading in order to grasp the finer points of the authors’ arguments.  But what I find especially interesting is that a week prior to Giles’ informing me that he “read” these works carefully, he hadn’t even, as far as I know, heard of them. 

44.       Let us leave this point to the side.  Perhaps Giles actually does have a photographic memory and is a speed-reader.  What is to my concern here is a comment from Giles concerning Widdicombe’s treatment of the monarchy of the Father in Athanasius.  After telling me how much he liked both Barnes’ and Widdicombe’s work, and how much they both agreed with his own position, and how he plans on pulling quotes from these works in the future in order to bolster his claims, I was greeted with the following concerning Widdicombe’s work: “He only twice mentions the monarche of the Father and does not develop anything on this basis.”  In passing, I mention that it was this comment from Giles that was the “last straw,” and immediately after reading it I informed him that I would no longer be interacting with him.  The implication of this claim from Giles is clear.  I had repeatedly attempted to prove to Giles that Athanasius does affirm the monarchy of the Father, and that, furthermore, this is commonly accepted by the experts in the field.  Therefore, Giles’ claim, translated into English, means, “Widdicombe does not back you on this point, and nothing that he says concerning it offers grounds for doubting what I have claimed.”  Giles hadn’t the integrity even to admit that when Widdicombe does “mention” the monarchy of the Father, he affirms its presence in Athanasius.  Turning to Widdicombe’s work, I leave it to the reader to judge between Giles and myself—

45.       Within this relation [between the Father and Son in Athanasius’ Trinitarian theology], the word Father carries a particular significance.  In itself it specifically signifies that God is the self-existent first principle, the source and cause of all things, beyond which there can be nothing else.  This is Athanasius’ answer to the problem of the third-man argument: the idea that God is Father cuts off the infinite regress.  The description of God as Father tells us that God is the source of all existence, and it tells us that he is so because he is Father of the Son.  The Father’s ousia is the arche of the Son. . . . The fatherhood of God signifies that the Father is the fount of divinity . . . The Son then is not a first principle co-ordinate with the Father; rather, the Son is eternally dependent on the being of the Father and integral to the expression of that being as the source of all existence.[319]

  

46.       What more need be said?  What more evidence do we need?  Is Giles blind?  How would he have us understand Widdicombe’s claim that, according to Athanasius, the Father is the “fount” and the Son is not, as such, “co-principle” with him?  What manner of scholar is this?  What is the nature of this partner in dialogue?  I can only conclude that Giles is incapable of getting anything out of a resource that does not place a stamp of approval upon what he already believes, or what is more or less coincident with or supportive of (or at least not detrimental to) what he already believes.  Giles is an eisegete.  His representation of the sources is deceptive and misleading.  He is incompetent as a scholar.  His treatment of the subject matter cannot be trusted.

47.            Bringing this critique of Giles to a close, I now offer a summary of my findings.  I find no pleasure in submitting the following; to register criticism towards anyone causes me to feel, literally, nauseous—in passing, I mention that the writing of this section of the present work has caused me to become (as is always the case when I am involved in polemics) physically ill.  Thus let it be known that what has been and will be said, has been and will be said for a love of orthodoxy; an intuitive motherly instinct to protect the teaching of the Tradition from any assault upon its goodness, truth, and beauty.  That said, here are my conclusions. 

48.       Giles has abused the testimony of Tradition: his denial of the monarchy of the Father is in error, and because of this he is incapable of clearly distinguishing the divine persons.  The abundance of evidence offered in section III above would be, were we left with Giles’ treatment of the Tradition, not only unknown to the interested reader, but furthermore, its very existence would be considered a priori unlikely.  From this also follows his unsatisfactory account of the manner in which the immanent Trinity is related to the economic Trinity, and from these points, it quite naturally follows that his treatment of subordinationism—which is grounded entirely on the manner in which the immanent Trinity is understood, and how it is understood as being related to the operations ad extra—is completely misguided and inadequate.  Because of this, and the fact that he more or less applies the categories of the contemporary gender debate to the doctrine of the Trinity, the categories that he offers for analyzing the various forms of subordinationism are, literally, worthless.  Because he continually abuses his sources and, basically, forces them to correspond to such categories as we find in the contemporary gender debate, he cannot be trusted as a scholar of the Trinity.  And if he is not unconsciously doing such (which I believe), then he is being blatantly deceptive (which I do not believe).  In conclusion, I cannot but look upon Kevin Giles’ recent work on the Trinity, The Trinity & Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate, with the severest disapproval, and I submit that the adoption of his theses alongside the method whereby he arrives at their justification, would have disastrous effects on Trinitarian theology.  I hear that this work has done so well that the publishers have requested that he produce yet another work, this time devoted exclusively to the doctrine of the Trinity.  Caveat emptor. 

49.       Before moving into the final section of the present work I wish to make clear that though I have treated Giles’ rather harshly, and had little good to say of his treatment and doctrine of the Trinity, I do not intend to imply that I believe him to be a heretic.  In one of his last letters to me, Giles told me that the only thing that he’d need from me in order to prove my own coherence with the Tradition would be a clear affirmation of the Athanasian Creed, with no caveats.  But surely this is too simple, and Giles should know better.  It is agreed by all parties that the Athanasian Creed is correct; likewise, it was believed by both the Athanasians and the Arians that the Bible is correct, by both the party of Cyril of Alexandria and the Nestorians that the Nicene Creed is orthodox, and (perhaps more to the point) by both Photius and his opponents in the West that the Tradition provided evidence for their respective positions on the filioque.  The Catholic asks the Protestant to “accept” Mt. 16:18f, himself seeing the doctrine of the Papacy being firmly established therein; the Protestant asks the Catholic to “accept” that Christ alone is the mediator between God and man, and believes the doctrine of the Communion of Saints to be disproved thereby; so on ad infinitum.  It is not a question of whether or not the Athanasian Creed is correct; it is a question of the correct way of understanding it, and it is sheer presumption on Giles’ part to assume that there is a one-one correspondence between the actual meaning of the Athanasian Creed and Giles’ own understanding of it.  (The testimony of both creeds and the Tradition are, in this sense, as ambiguous as that of Scripture unless the interpreter posits a voice contemporaneous with himself as a living and exact expression of the Tradition today—no more proof of this needs to be offered than the fact that Giles and myself disagree on the testimony of the Tradition.  Athanasius is just as much dead as St. Paul, and we can no more ask the former what he really meant than we can the latter.)  It should also be pointed out not only that the correct exegesis of the Athanasian Creed must be had by reference to an intensive study of Augustine (thus we cannot simply “proof-text” it to death, but rather, we must pay careful attention to the literary, historical, social, and theological factors of the time—principles I trust that readers of Tekton are more than familiar with), but also, that the Athanasian Creed is itself (theologically) subordinate to the Nicene Creed (according to the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, that is; for the latter, cf. the above mentioned clarification on the filioque, alongside CCC, 193ff.) 

50.       I have adopted this two-fold principle in section II and section III above, and analyzed the work of Giles accordingly.  The Athanasian Creed is a good (Western) statement of Trinitarian doctrine, but it is not and exhaustive expression of the whole Tradition, and it is especially capable of being taken wrongly by logicians who are unfamiliar with theology (such as Richard Cartwright and Dale Tuggy), not to mention theologians who are unfamiliar with the Tradition and more comfortable with post-Cartesian categories of the self and its inborn autonomy than those of logic.  Thus I myself have taken for my point of departure the Nicene Creed, and I have understood it in light of Athanasius and other eminent fathers and doctors of the Tradition.  The theology of the Nicene era was canonized with its Creed, and it is this which establishes the interpretive framework whereby it ought to be approached.  It is through the lenses of the Nicene Creed and the fathers who formulated it, and the doctors who developed and are developing its implications, that I accept the Athanasian Creed.  And with that said, I bring my critique of Kevin Giles to a close.

51.       The door, however, remains open for Giles to respond.

VI

Deus Candidae Gloriae:

Theologia De Splendore Patris

 

Lead us up beyond unknowing and light, up to the farthest, highest peak of mystic scripture, where the mysteries of God’s Word lie simple, absolute and unchangeable in the brilliant darkness of a hidden silence.  Amid the deepest shadow they pour overwhelming light on what is most manifest.  Amid the wholly unsensed and unseen they completely fill our sightless minds with treasures beyond all beauty.

Pseudo-Dionysius

The Mystical Theology, 1:1

 

Picture in your mind a tree whose roots are watered by an ever-flowing fountain that becomes a great and living river with four channels to water the garden of the entire Church.  From the trunk of this tree, imagine that there are growing twelve branches that are adorned with leaves, flowers and fruit. . . . Let the flowers be beautiful with the radiance of every color and perfumed with the sweetness of every fragrance, awakening and attracting the anxious hearts of men of desire.

Bonaventure

The Tree of Life, prol., 3

 

1.         The issue of subordinationism in Trinitarian theology is today far too vague and has been treated inadequately to an intolerable degree.  In this concluding section of the present work, I first turn my attention to this problem.

2.         On the Trinitarian theology of Justin Martyr, we are greeted with the following from Johannes Quasten: “It seems that Justin tends to subordinationism as far as the relation between the Logos and the Father is concerned.  This is evident from Apology 2, 6,” which in fact claims no more than that the “Son” is “the Logos, who alone was with [God] and was begotten before the works,” and that God “order[ed] all things through him.”[320]  With regard to Tertullian’s explaining the relationship between the Father and Son with the use of such analogies as a root bringing forth a shoot, a spring giving rise to a river, and the sun causing shine—in a word, Tertullian’s teaching that both the Son and the Spirit take their origin by “proceeding from the Father”—we are likewise told that “[t]he analogies by which Tertullian tries to explain the Godhead also indicate his subordinationist tendencies,” and so on.[321]  Thus it is little surprise when yet another eminent source informs us that, at the apex of the orthodox achievement of Nicene era, one of the key triumphs was that the Cappadocians “so thoroughly established the identity of substance for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that they practically put an end to Subordinationism.”[322]

3.            Whatever “subordinationism” is, we are left with the impression that it is no doubt bad—an earmark of heterodoxy in Trinitarian theology.  Why?  Because it places the Father as in some sense the arche of the Trinity.  Justin is a subordinationist because he teaches that the Father is the source of the Son and maintains that the Father works through the Son; Tertullian is a subordinationist because he uses metaphors to describe the relationship between the Father and Son that suggest derivation.  On the other hand, the Nicenes are orthodox because they “defeated subordinationism.”  Or did they?

4.         My dissatisfaction with this state of affairs can be made evident with a few examples.  From the same Quasten, we are greeted with the following with regard to the undoubtedly orthodox Trinitarian theology of Athanasius—

There remains no room for subordinationism in such a doctrine of the Logos.  If the Son says: ‘The Father is greater than I’, this means: the Father is the origin, the Son the derivation . . . Eternally begotten, the Son is of the Father’s substance . . . He is consubstantial to the Father, He is homoousios.[323]

 

5.         And from the same Fortman, we are told the following with regard to the undoubtedly orthodox Trinitarian theology expressed in the writings of St. Paul—

At times Paul writes as if Christ were ‘subordinate’ to the Father.  For he tells us that ‘God sent forth his Son to redeem’ (Gal. 4.4) and ‘did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all’ (Rom. 8.32). . . . Taken by themselves these passages might warrant the conclusion that Paul held a merely subordinationist view of Christ and did not place him on the same divine level with the Father.  But if they are taken together with the passages . . . in which Paul does put Christ on the same divine level as the Father by presenting him as the creator of all things and the ‘image of the invisible God’ who was ‘in the form of God’ and equal to God, it becomes clear that Paul views Christ both as subordinate and equal to God the Father.  Possibly he thus means merely to subordinate Christ in his humanity to the Father.  But more probably he wishes to indicate that while Christ is truly divine and on the same divine level with the Father, yet there must be assigned to the Father a certain priority and superiority over the Son . . . Nowhere, however, does Paul say or imply that the Son is a creature, as the Arian subordinationists will say later on. [324]

 

6.         Hence Paul was not a subordinationist, but he was a subordinationist, yet not a subordinationist as Arius was a subordinationist.  The above quotations are taken from two highly respected authorities in the field of the history of Christian doctrine.  Quasten’s four-volume Patrology remains, though slightly outdated, the greatest work available on the subject in English, and I am personally unaware of any work which I would so readily recommend for a historical study of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is comprehensive in scope, as Fortman’s The Triune God.  Yet this only emphasizes the problem, for such claims are as widespread throughout the literature on the subject, as they are imprecise and vague in content.[325]  Further examples could be cited endlessly.  Fortman himself elsewhere defines “subordinationism” as “a doctrine that makes the Son and/or the Holy Spirit an inferior deity or a creature”,[326] and in doing so, renders wholly incoherent what he had said previously in the same work concerning Paul.  Neil Richardson can likewise say of Paul’s theology that it is “[s]trongly subordinationist” while in the very same paragraph going on to say that “the gap” between it “and the classical christological formulations of later creeds and councils is not as great as has often recently been alleged”,[327] which would in turn imply that the “gap” between “subordinationism” and orthodoxy is “not as great as has often . . . been alleged.”  And so on.

7.         So the first complaint that may be registered against the contemporary use of the word “subordinationism” is that it is, in the literature, equivocal: the word itself may be used either to denote orthodoxy or its opposite, and the connotations of the word denote either orthodoxy or its opposite.  The second complaint that may be registered against the contemporary use of the category of “subordinationism” is grounded in the latter mentioned above; namely, that the very doctrine of orthodoxy would seem to entail certain of its heterodox aspects.  For why is “subordinationism” heterodox or heretical?  Why do historians of theology—nearly to the man—claim that the ante-Nicenes were “subordinationists”?  What is the defining characteristic of this form of Trinitarian doctrine?  I have spent much time with both the primary sources and the contemporary literature on them; for the past several years, I have almost completely abandoned myself to the study of the doctrine of the Trinity, ever keeping an eye on the issue of “subordinationism”.  I have spent, literally, thousands of dollars on resources; my personal library (the Bibliography included above consists entirely of books that I personally own, and is by no means exhaustive in that respect) has grown to the point of indicating the obsessive.  In the past few years I have not gone a single day without reading some theological work that is related to the doctrine of the Trinity, whether directly or indirectly.  The Trinity is what I live for—it casts it light upon every aspect of my thought; it possesses me. 

8.         And from all of this, what is my conclusion concerning the very essence of “subordinationism” as it is presented in the literature on the Trinity?  In all forms distinct from that found in, e.g., Arius, it consists simply of the affirmation of a certain undefined priority assigned to the Father, whether regarding the processions ad intra or the operations ad extra.  Only a statement as vague as this can comprehend the various ways in which the word has been used.  The underlying assumption, insofar as it is consciously held by those who express themselves on the subject in one manner or another, seems to be that if “God” is “uncaused”, it is therefore improper to think of “God” as “causing” the Son (who is also “God,” and therefore “uncaused”); if “God” is “sovereign,” it therefore follows that “God” cannot “send” the Holy Spirit (who is also “God,” and therefore “has the say-so”), and so on.  In other words, the very presupposition of making such an allegation would seem to be an implicit, naive egalitarian understanding of the Trinity that stops at the point of the divine unity and equality and squints at the distinctions between the persons.

9.         How, I ask, could such an understanding of the Trinity—and the allegations that stem from it—possibly be justified in what we saw above in section II and section III?  The answer is that there is and can be no justification.  “Subordination(ism)” is therefore a worthless member of Trinitarian theological vocabulary.  If Irenaeus was a subordinationist for teaching the Son and Spirit to be the “two hands of the Father,” and if Novatian was a subordinationist for teaching the Son to be derived from and ever returning to the Father, then what of, e.g., Augustine?, according to whom—

[S]ome [passages in Scripture concerning the Son] are so put as to show him at that time neither as less nor as equal, but only to intimate that he is of the Father; as, for instance, that which says, “For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;” and that other: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.” . . .  For if we shall take this to be therefore so said . . . that the Father must have walked on the water . . . and have done the other things which the Son appearing in the flesh did among men before the Son did them . . . Yet who, even though he were mad, would think this?  It remains, therefore, that these texts are so expressed, because the life of the Son is unchangeable as that of the Father is, and yet he is of the Father; and the working of the Father and of the Son is indivisible, and yet so to work is given to the Son from him of whom he himself is, that is, from the Father . . . [328]

 

10.            Elsewhere the same Augustine understands what it means that the Son is the Word, Power and Wisdom of God “inasmuch as it is by him that [the Father] has wrought all things, and in order disposed them”,[329] and this followed directly by citing a passage from the eighth chapter of Wisdom of Solomon.  But, from what we’ve seen in the preceding, what reason would we have for not believing that if similar expressions were found in, e.g., Theophilus of Antioch or Clement of Alexandria, they would be cited by specialists in the history of theology as evidence that the authors in question were “subordinationists” (= “sub orthodox”)? 

11.       As was shown in section II and section III above, the affirmation of the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic with the immanent Trinity as such is a two-fold affirmation found not at the outer-limit of the orthodox faith, but at the very center.  It is not the case that the monarchy of the Father is something that may be orthodox—still less that it is indicative of the failure to eradicate the shortcomings of the theology of (presumably) less-enlightened ages—it is orthodox and must be recognized as such.  It is not the case that, e.g., the Incarnation of the Son may be more or less determined by the fact that he is the Son—the operations ad extra must express the particular hypostatic properties that distinguish the divine persons ad intra.  But if this is case—as indeed it is—then in discovering this fact we have in effect discovered a leviathan-sized monkey-wrench in one aspect of the doctrine of the Trinity, both as regards theology and the historical treatment thereof, that in its turn reaches into all aspects of Trinitarian theology and has a corresponding effect upon them in proportion to the degree to which its inadequacy is recognized. 

12.       In light of this ambiguity and semantic confusion, I therefore propose more rigorously defined categories of subordinationism.  The categories that I offer are not intended to be exhaustive, nor do I believe that the form in which I shall present them ought to be regarded as the “last word” on the subject.  Rather, I intend them as a first step, an initial attempt to clean up a mess and a point of departure for further reflection.  My goals in offering these categories are to make available categories that shall 1) render coherent the statements made in past (secondary) sources that treat of the subject of subordinationism, and 2) give the opportunity to clearly distinguish the forms of subordinationism affirmed in various of the past (primary) sources that treat of the doctrine of the Trinity.  Thus it is my goal that Paul, Justin Martyr, Origen, Basil of Caesarea, the Sydney Doctrinal Commision, Arius, Christadelphians and Jehovah’s Witnesses will no longer be describable simply by reference to the word “subordinationist” with all of the ensuing confusion that follows from such a sloppy manner of speaking—as though the word had a single meaning which is equally applicable in the same sense to all of the above.  Nor will, e.g., a full paragraph be required, using different words and with varying degrees of expression and clarity, to carefully make plain the “sense” of “subordinationism” being discussed in a particular instance (which is ultimately ineffective because there is no agreed upon vocabulary by the various scholars in the field).  The categories below will be articulated according to their relation to orthodoxy; the testimony of the Tradition offered in section II and section III above will establish the canon whereby the theological merit of the categories offered below shall be understood and correspondingly measured.

13.       Arius held the Son to be a contingent creature created ex-nihilo, and understood the servitude of the Son—that the Son is ruled by God the Father—in a manner confluent with his theology of the immanent Trinity as such.  The Father, in this sense, commands and the Son, in this sense, obeys; the Father rules over the Son as a boss rules over an employee. I therefore term such a form of subordinationism onto-economic subordinationism.  A doctrine of the Trinity affirms onto-economic subordinationism if and only if that doctrine affirms that one of the divine persons is both a contingent creature created ex-nihilo such that that divine person G2 is ontologically extrinsic to any other divine person G1, and that that divine person G2 is subject to another divine person G1 such that there is no ontologically necessary confluence between the will of that divine person G1 and the will of another divine person G2 and that divine person G2 is such that his conformity to the will of another divine person G1 is morally obligatory. 

14.       Onto-economic subordinationism is heretical.  It was given its original expression in Arius, and developed in one manner or another by those who followed him and opposed Nicene orthodoxy; it survives today especially in the theology of the Jehovah’s Witnessess.  In rejecting the notion that the Son is intrinsic to the Father, its adherents simultaneously reject the biblical, Nicene confession of the Father as father and the Son as son.  The Bible and early fathers rather overstate the case: the Son is not the very Word, Wisdom, Image, Power, Expression, Radiance and Son of the Father any more than the Father is really the Father of the Son.  The relationship between the persons ad intra and their operations ad extra likewise departs from the biblical, Nicene understanding of the Son as intrinsic not only to the Father’s being, but to the Father’s activity as well—the notion of the Son as the very Word and Power of God, and, as such, the effective agent whereby the will of the Father is immediately effected, is absent from any doctrine of onto-economic subordinationism.

15.       The next form of subordinationism is what I term onto-extrinsic subordinationism.  Any theology affirms onto-extrinsic subordinationism if and only if that theology affirms that one divine person G2 is eternal, and that divine person G2 is not such that his existence is metaphysically entailed by the being of another divine person G1, and that divine person G2 depends upon another divine person G1 for his being. 

16.       Onto-extrinsic subordinationism is heretical.  Though I’m unaware of any person or party in the history of the Church as clearly affirming it, I list it because it is a possible affirmation.  Its theological shortcoming is that even though it grants that the Son is eternal, it does not affirm that the Son is necessarily eternal and intrinsic to the Father.  Such being the case, it denies the biblical, Nicene confession of the Father as father and the Son as son.

17.       The third form of subordinationism is what I term onto-antinomical subordinationism.  Any theology affirms onto-antinomical subordinationism if and only if that theology affirms that one divine person G2 exists eternally as intrinsic to another divine person G1 upon whom the existence of the one divine person G2 depends, and that that divine person G2 is such that his ontological constitution is not qualitatively identical with the other divine person G1 upon whom he depends for his existence, such that for any activity that the divine person G2 performs, the divine person G1 is not ontologically intrinsic to the fulfillment of that action by the divine person G2, and such that for any glory which is had by the divine person G1 that glory may be had by the divine person G1 without that glory being communicated to the divine person G1 in a manner corresponding to the manner in which the divine person G2 is hypostatically related to the divine person G1.

18.       I believe that this is the form of subordinationism that historians usually attribute to the ante-Nicenes, and that the above-mentioned particularities are those which distinguish it from Nicene orthodoxy, presumably.  Onto-antinomical subordinationism may be sub-orthodox, and it is heretical depending on the degree to which the above-mentioned disparities are emphasized.  Similarly, it is coincident with orthodoxy to the degree to which the manner in which it is affirmed allows for its coherence with orthodoxy.  Its principal theological shortcoming is that its affirmation of the Father as father and the Son as son is obscure.  Is fatherhood intrinsic to the very being of the Father, and is this fatherhood exhaustively realized by the hypostasis of the Son?  Or rather, is the hypostasis of the Son logically posterior to the Father’s ability to create that which is extrinsic to himself?  Nicene orthodoxy answers these questions “yes” and “no,” respectively.  Let it be noted that in so defining onto-antinomical subordinationism, I do not posit that any particular ante-Nicene father actually affirmed it, so defined.

19.       The fourth form of subordinationism is what I term funtional-servitutis subordinationism, and this is the form of subordinationism that I believe Giles to denounce under the constantly applied metaphor of a man who has more power than a woman.  Any theology affirms functional-servitutis subordinationism if and only if that theology affirms that one divine person G2 is eternal and intrinsic to another divine person G1 upon whom his existence depends and that the divine person G2 has all of the properties which are the necessary entailments for divinity yet that the divine person G2 is such that his will is not necessarily coincident with the will of the divine person G1 and the divine person G2 as divine has moral integrity only if his will is conformed to the will of the divine person G1 if and when the will of the divine person G2 is not immediately identical with the will of the divine person G1. 

20.       The qualifying phrase “as divine” is intended to make clear that a person who affirms that Christ submitted to his Father’s will—against his own inclinations—while incarnate, does not entail the affirmation of functional-servitutis subordinationism.  Functional-servitutis subordinationism, if consciously affirmed, is heterodox or heretical.  Its principal theological shortcoming is that it necessarily presupposes a disparity of will between the Father and the Son while implicitly understanding the Son’s submission to the will of the Father (as such) as entailing ontological consequences concerning the monarchy of the Father indicative of disparity.  Two affirmations are made which are mutually exclusive.  On the one hand, its adherents confess the Son to be ontologically equal to the Father; on the other hand, the manner in which the Father and Son’s interrelatedness as personal is envisaged is in a manner that necessarily presumes ontological disparity.  If this latter tendency wins the day, the biblical, Nicene understanding of the Son’s sonship according to the Son’s being intrinsic to the very being of the Father as the Father’s Word, Wisdom, Power and Expression will be excluded.

21.       The fifth form of subordinationism I term pseudo-subordinationism, and this form of subordinationism is coincident with the orthodox understanding of the immanent Trinity, and the manner in which the immanent Trinity is related to the operations ad extra.  Any theology affirms pseudo-subordinationism if and only if that theology affirms that one divine person G2 is eternal and intrinsic to another divine person G1 upon whom the existence of the divine person G2 depends in such a manner that the divine person G1 exists if and only if the divine person G2 exists, and that any glory or property that the divine person G1 has is had by the divine person G1 if and only if the divine person G2 is intrinsic to that glory or property, and the will of the divine person G1 is necessarily and immediately possessed by the divine person G2 such that for any divine activity A, that activity A is performed by the divine person G1 and the divine person G2 in such a manner that the divine activity A is accomplished by each of the divine persons in a distinct manner coordinate with the manner in which they are related one to another and there is no conflict in will between the divine person G1 and the divine person G2 as divine. 

22.       Sixth, we have onto-autonomic egalitarianism.  Any theology affirms onto-autonomic egalitarianism if and only if that theology affirms that two divine persons G1 and G2 exist a se such that though the being of the divine person G1 is hypostatically related to the divine person G2, the divine person G1 cannot be posited as the cause of the divine person G2 in such a manner that the divine person G1’s being the cause of the divine person G2 entails the negation of the active aseity of G2, and such that for any divine glory or property, that divine glory or property is possessed by the divine persons G1 and G2 in a qualitatively identical sense, and that there is no divine activity A such that the divine activity A is not brought about by both divine persons G1 and G2, nor is the divine activity A such that its being brought about is not the result of a necessary harmony of will between the divine person G1 and the divine person G2, possessed and expressed in an identical manner by both.  

23.       It is this form of anti-subordiantionism which I believe to be the doctrine of Giles as well as others affirming an egalitarian model of the Trinity.  So expressed, though I do not see it as being necessarily heretical, I do see it as vague and imprecise when viewed alongside the Tradition, and I believe it to be theologically dangerous.  Its relationship to orthodoxy may be seen as the reverse of the above-defined onto-antinomical subordinationism, or that of the above-defined functional-servitutis subordinationism.  Its principal theological shortcoming is that, as with these latter, it obscures the biblical, Nicene confession of the Father’s fatherhood and the Son’s sonship, and this in a confused attempt to preserve the “equality” of the divine persons.

24.       Against all of these we can place what I term multiple autonomism, and it is this form of radical anti-subordinationism which I believe would be the consequence of the above described onto-autonomic egalitarianism, were it pressed to its conclusion.  Any theology affirms multiple autonomism if and only if that theology affirms that there are two divine person G1 and G2 such that both divine persons exist a se, and the aseity of one the divine person G1 is extrinsic to the aseity of the other divine person G2, and the accomplishing of any divine activity A is accomplished by the divine persons G1 and G2 in such a manner that the divine activity A’s being accomplished by the divine person G1 is not due to the necessary harmony of will between the divine person G1 and G2.  If consciously affirmed, multiple autonomism entails the monarchial modalistic-tritheism decried above.  Not only is it incoherent, it also denies the fatherhood of the Father and sonship of the Son, and it is therefore heretical.  And with this, I bring my attempt to offer new categories per subordinationism and the Trinity to a close.

25.       Though in section III above the agreement within Eastern and Western Trinitarian theology was emphasized, the universality of the two-fold affirmation of the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic with the immanent Trinity ought not be seen as entailing a complete identity between the Trinitarian theology of the East on the one hand, and that of the West on the other.  In other words, we should not suppose that, e.g., once the above-mentioned two-fold affirmation is granted, we will then be able to safely deduce, as it were a priori, a doctrine of the Trinity that is at all points identical with the doctrine as it has been characteristically held by both sides throughout the course of Christian history.  The chief distinction between the Trinitarian theology of the East and the West has usually been summarized with reference to de Regnon, a 19th century French theologian who claimed that whereas the West begins with the one divine essence, seeing the divine persons only obscurely, the East begins with the divine persons, then moving on to the one divine essence.  The West stresses the “One,” and the East the “Three.”  And rightly so, this summary, so stated, has often been either severely nuanced or criticized.[330]

26.       It is misleading simply to say that the East “begins” with the divine three; in point of fact, it is (commonly) false.  John Damascene, the very figure in whom the Tradition of the Eastern fathers is almost entirely recapitulated, begins with the divine essence[331] and only later goes on to treat of the divine persons.[332]  Similarly, do not the first two books of Augustine’s De Trinitate—which are apologetic in nature and as such intent upon proving the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit—tend to focus on, if anything, the particularity of the persons and presume such in asserting their unity and divinity; not, “deity is that person”, but, “that person is divine”?  Another complaint against De Regnon’s classification is that it tends to identify the two sides according to the heresy that they come closest to.  Yet the West has never affirmed modalism any more than the East has affirmed tritheism. 

27.       It would be more accurate, then, simply to say that the West and East have tended to emphasize distinct aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity rather than that they have different points of departure, and to assert that, furthermore, these different points of emphasis are not mutually exclusive.  Granting the Western tendency to assert the unity and equality of the persons by reference to the divine essence, did Augustine, Bonaventure, or Aquinas deny the monarchy of the Father?  And granting the Eastern insistence upon the monarchy of the Father and tendency to criticize the Western custom of “reading” the economic Trinity into the immanent Trinity (which in its turn provides a good argument for the affirmation of the filioque), did Maximus Confessor, John Damascene or Gregory Palamas give the slightest indication that it would be as appropriate to speak of the Son sending the Father as it is to speak of the Father sending the Son?  So let it be granted that the West has characteristically tended to emphasize the divine essence, and that the East has tended to emphasize the personhood of the divine persons; let it also be recognized that they do not erect a wall of separation that reaches to heaven in doing so. 

28.       I now present the basic form of my own theology of the Trinity.  In doing so, it is my goal to present a doctrine that coheres with the Tradition, Ancient and Contemporary, East and West, while overcoming and bringing together into a synthesis at a higher level of unity certain incongruities and shortcomings in the various forms wherein the Tradition has been expressed.  Thus my point of departure for developing a theology of the Trinity is the person of God the Father, and, simultaneously, that the Father’s being is defined by his being father.  The argument for this assertion—which I take to be necessary—is rather simple.  As we’ve seen, the affirmation of the monarchy of the Father is clearly affirmed by both the East and the West.  As such, it necessarily follows that the protological point of departure for any doctrine of the Trinity must be the Father.  Furthermore, it therefore follows that the “divine nature” may not be posited before the person of the Father; rather, the “divine nature” must be understood by reference first of all to the person of the Father.  In advancing this affirmation, I place myself not only within the Tradition, but also alongside those contemporary theologians who take the personal as the point of departure for Trinitarian theology, rather than the “divine nature”.  As regards the dispute between so-called “social” (emphasizing the three persons) and “Latin” (emphasizing the one God) models of the Trinity, I believe that the placement of the Father as the protological point of departure for Trinitarian theology overcomes the shortcomings of both sides.  With the advocates of the social model, I take as my point of departure the personal, thereby (necessarily) emphasizing the divine communion.  With the advocates of the Latin model, I begin with “one,” thereby ensuring monotheism and avoiding the dangers of tritheism.  Against the social model, I begin with one divine person rather than three, not only seeing the Son and Holy Spirit by reference to the Father, but also understanding the perichoresis of the persons as communion rather than a community.  And against the Latin model, I begin not with the “one God” with whom the Father, Son, and Spirit are taken to be (somehow) identical—their “being God” affirmed because they are (somehow) all identical with this one thing—but rather, with the one God who is the Father, and I understand the divine nature as expressed in the Father’s act of being father, along with all that follows from it.  There is no God outside the divine persons, and since the divine persons are distinct, there is no single thing with which they are absolutely identical.

29.       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. The internal res of the Father is supremely good—a beauty and righteousness that pours forth like the radiance of the sun’s shine; a luscious holiness that has the allure and warm vivacity of a sun-dazzled peace-green meadow.  But more still, the Father’s all is beyond comprehension.  He may be known, but only as a mystery.  To drink of the wellspring arising from his heart is to become thirsty for more, and as we are led farther and farther upon this path, we are simultaneously made aware of the enormity and finality of the mystery of which we partake while being drawn ever further into him by perceiving him.  The mystery does not preclude knowing him—it is the content of the knowledge itself, and the Father may be known only as such. 

30.       The Father is the inexhaustible fountain of life, and the exhaustive expression of the Father’s being is the Son.  The Father is not and never was alone, and though he alone is the font of divinity and life, the very essence of his being is to be father, and therefore to be in communion.  As such, the expression of the Father’s being is simultaneous with the Father’s being itself; the generation of the Son is the hypostatic realization of the Father’s expression, and the Father’s love flows forth with the eternal generation of the Son.  An uncontainable ekstasis and the fount of all being, goodness, truth, and beauty, the Father is a complete self-gift to the Son whom he loves.

31.       The Father is love, and the Son is the Expression of the Father.  The Father’s almightiness does not consist merely in his ability to do anything that is logically possible; rather, it consists in his being-love so absolutely that his very being can only be by being expressed in an exhaustive and unrestricted self-giving—and it is the Son to whom the Father gives himself.  As such, the Son, being the exact expression of the Father’s very being and the reality that is the Father’s majesty and beauty, exhaustively expresses the internal res of himself by returning to the Father and living entirely towards, for, and within him.  The face of God and the splendor of almighty glory, the Son is the Father’s all and in the Son is disclosed every delight of the Father.  The heart of the Trinity and the gravitational center of all things, the Son is the perfect expression of all being, goodness, truth, and beauty, and his very being is a relentless ekstasis toward the Father whom he loves.

32.       The Holy Spirit—the “unknown one beyond the Word”—is he in whom the glory of the Father and Son is completely disclosed.  Just as the Son is eternally posited as the term of the Father’s being, the Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father as the reality of the Father’s love, and since the being of the Father is exhaustively expressed as love, the Spirit is the exhaustive expression of the inexhaustible fountain that is the expressed personality of the Father.  It is in the Spirit that the very super-abundance of God’s being is disclosed and justified; it is by the Spirit that the being, goodness, truth, and beauty of all things is consummated.  The Spirit is ekstasis in person.

33.       Yet we must go further still.  It is when the Spirit comes to the Son from the Father that the eternal being-toward the Son by the Father is consummated; therefore, it is upon the reception of the Spirit that the Son is constituted as son of the Father.  And it is when the Son returns to the Father by the Spirit—the exhaustive expression of the internal res of the Son as love and self-gift—that the ever being-toward the Father by the Son is consummated; therefore, it is upon the reception of the Spirit that the Father is constituted as father of the Son.  The Spirit, the uncontained ekstasis of God existing as a person, by rendering himself completely supple to the movement of the Father and the movement of the Son, and by being the exhaustive expression of the reality of that movement, is constituted as the Spirit of the Father and Son.

34.       Notice what follows from the preceding.  Not only is the monarchy of the Father clearly affirmed, and this in such a manner that it entails the corresponding glory of the Son and Spirit, but also, a solution to the problem of the filioque suggests itself.  For first of all, notice that according to the above proposal, the defining hypostatic quality of each of the persons is had only by reference to that person’s ontological relatedness to the other persons.  As such, it is not enough simply to affirm that the Son and Spirit proceed from the one source that is the Father.  Why?  Because this affirmation—so expressed—fails to comprehend the fact that the Father is father, the Son is son, and the Spirit is the spirit of.  While it is true that both light and heat proceed outward from the sun, and that both the word and the breath go forth from the speaker, we may not simply imagine the Father as being on the right, with the Son proceeding away from him in one direction, and the Spirit as proceeding away from him in another (the traditional model of the monarchy of the Father).  The first two analogies fail because they deal only with the impersonal, and the last analogy fails because it doesn’t go beyond them at this point—the very point at which it must.  Nor may we imagine the Son and Father “standing side by side,” with the Spirit proceeding away from both (the traditional model of the filioque).  Nor still may we imagine the Father being on the left with a straight line proceeding rightward from him to the Son, and continuing rightward from the Son to the Spirit (the traditional compromise model—ex patre per filium [from the Father through the Son]). 

35.       The problem with each of these models is that they fail to comprehend the being-towardness that is the very defining mark of each of the persons.  The doctrine espoused above, however, takes this being-towardness as its point of departure.  It is grounded first of all in the source—the Father—and correspondingly posited, in a qualitatively identical manner, in the Son and Spirit.  The Father alone and only is the cause—the persons proceed from him immediately—and as mentioned above, the aseity of the Father alone is active; that of the Son and Spirit is passive and is received from the Father while being guaranteed by the fact that the Father is father.  At the same time, just as the presupposition of the Father’s person is an act of communion, whereby it follows that his hypostasis is constituted as such essentially by being related to an other, so too for the other divine persons.  The Father is constituted as the Father of and for by the triple movement of begetting, giving, and receiving; the Son is constituted as the Son of and for by the triple movement of being begotten, receiving, and giving; the Spirit is constituted as the Spirit of and for by the triple movement of receiving from, proceeding from, and proceeding toward.  From this it follows that if the Spirit is a Trinitarian hypostasis—that is, a person whose hypostasis is constituted as such essentially by his being related to the other divine persons—and if we are to grant that the Trinity is a communion of love, then it necessarily follows that the procession of the Spirit from the Son toward the Father is intrinsic to the constitution of the being and hypostasis of the Spirit.  Yet still, we may not therefore affirm that the Son is the cause of the Spirit as is the Father, and this for the simple reason that the Spirit proceeds immediately from the Father.  As such, the Father alone is the principle of the Spirit, for the very movement of the Son toward the Father by the Spirit is itself originated in the Father, as is all movement within the Trinity ad intra and ad extra.  As such, my Trinitarian theology is a theology of God the Father, born of a perception of an ever-radiating source—an outpouring rush of splendor and beauty disclosing the spice-fragrance and warm cinnamon-laced shine of himself—and nourished by the belief that he, the Father, is father-ekstasis.

36.       Is this confession of mine at odds with the confession of my Church—the Catholic Church?  The growing tendency in the Catholic Church is to emphasize the monarchy of the Father, and it has always been agreed that the Spirit does proceed, in some sense, principally from the Father.  The doctrine of perichoresis alongside an increased emphasis on personhood is also becoming more and more the point of departure (or term) of Trinitarian theology.  At the same time, my suggesting that the Father alone is the principle of the Spirit is, frankly, at odds with much of the Trinitarian theology of the West during the medieval period.  At any rate, let it be known that if I am made aware that my suggestion is at odds with the teaching of the Church, I’ll be more than happy to humbly withdraw it and make another attempt.

37.       In the preceding, the Father was posited as the specific ground and term of Trinitarian theology, and the ekstasis-fatherhood of the Father was posited as the specific ground and term of the Father’s being.  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.

38.       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.  The chief criticism that may be registered against this doctrine is that, prima facie, it seems to suggest a mechanical understanding of the Trinity.  The pedals move, thus the chain moves, thus the wheels move; we may feel as though the mystery of the Trinity as a communion of persons has been reduced to something rather along the lines of the workings of a Swiss Army watch.  More on this presently; for now I wish to “test” the doctrine, first by applying it to Scripture, then by listing its benefits.

39.            Colossians 1:15 – 20—

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.  He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. 

 

40.       St. Paul begins with the confession that the Son is the Image of God, and this I take as pertaining to the immanent Trinity.  As the Son is the Image of God—that is, eternally generated forth from the Father and the realization of the Father’s Expression—therefore fitly is the Son, if the one God is to bring about a creation extrinsic to himself, the “firstborn of all creation.”  The Son does not begin to be when the Father creates; rather, because the Son proceeds forth from the Father in eternity, and it is in the Son that the Father’s good pleasure is located, we should expect that if there is to be any activity ad extra, this relationship within the immanent Trinity will comprehend this outward movement.  Just as the Son proceeds forth in eternity, so too does he proceed outward in time, thereby realizing the will of the Father; just as the Son is eternally born of the Father, so too is he the firstborn of all creation; just as in the Son is the Father’s delight, so too it is in the Son that creation takes place; just as the Son is the principium of all creation, so too is he the head of the Church and the firstborn of from the dead; and just as the Son is the locus of the relentless love of God, so too it is in the Son that God’s love is expressed on the cross, with all creation being reconciled to him.

41.       The Baptism of the Son of God—

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”[333]

 

42.       The Son’s rising from the waters is simultaneous with the Spirit’s descent from the Father toward the Son, and it is in and by sending the Spirit to the Son that the Father’s love for the Son is consummated and disclosed.  Furthermore, notice that when Luke’s narrative picks up again, the first thing that is mentioned is that “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned”.[334]  The Holy Spirit is the one who leads the entire earthly career of Jesus; the Son is ever supple to the movement of the Spirit.  And may the entire mission of the Son not be summarized simply by saying that the Son was on a journey toward the Father, in this case bringing the whole of creation along with him?  More on this presently.

43.       John 1:1 – 18—

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. . . . He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. . . . But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the Glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. . . . From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. . . . No one has ever seen God.  It is God the only Son, who dwells within the Father’s heart, who has revealed him.      

 

44.       Just as does Paul, John’s vision of creation and salvation begins within the Trinity ad intra—and by reference to the fatherhood of the Father and the sonship of the Son, the whole of creation is seen as confluent with this relationship: all things come from the Father through the Son.  But perhaps more explicitly than Paul (in Colossians 1:15ff.), John makes clear the fact that salvation is nothing less than participation in the sonship of the Son.  It is by being in the Son that we receive the Spirit and are made children of God (think of the baptism of Christ mentioned above), and it is by being children of God that we are saved.  Furthermore, John clearly asserts that the Incarnation, life, death and resurrection of the Son of God reveals the Father.  It is an exhaustive expression of the very person and being of the Father, and therefore in the Son is revealed not only the Father, but also the Son, the fact that the Son is son and that God is father, and, in the ekstasis of the Son, the divine nature itself.  The Incarnation is therefore a Trinitarian event.  From the immediate revelation of the Son we gain a mediate perception of the Father and Holy Spirit.

45.            Transfiguration and Cross—

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. . . . While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”[335]

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”  Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”  And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.  After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said . . . “I am thirsty.”  . . . So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.[336]  Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”[337]  When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.”  Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. . . . [O]ne of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. [338]

 

50.       Though these passages seem to deal with entirely different themes—the Transfiguration revealing the glory of the Son, and the crucifixion being the ultimate revelation of the Son’s kenosis—my placing them alongside one another is intentional.  First, with regard to the Transfiguration, notice once more that the Father’s proclamation of his love for the Son comes from within the cloud, that is, the Spirit.  The glory of God is as such Trinitarian.  Recalling what was said above concerning the Son’s response to the Father following his baptism, I mention again that it is by the Spirit that the Son returns to the Father.  Let it also be recalled that, in this instance, the Son, in returning, brings forth the whole of creation with him, and carried forth by the Spirit presents it to the Father.  And is not the crucifixion the ultimate revelation of this movement?  Are not Mary and John at the foot of the cross the very prototype of the Church?  Could we not summarize the whole of the Son’s existence—in eternity as well as during the Incarnation—simply by seeing him as saying, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” that is, “Father, I withhold nothing from you for you have withheld nothing from me, and I give my whole self to you in the Spirit by whom you have given your whole self to me, for I love you.”  And is not his bowing his head toward the Church, that is, John and Mary, and exhaling, that is, breathing the Spirit upon them, the incorporation of the Church into his own sonship—are not we, the Church, carried toward the Father in the Spirit that proceeds from the Son?  Are not the blood and water that burst forth from his heart the translation of eternity into time—the concrete expression within the world of the love that is God; the outward ekstasis of love being toward and for, raised to the pitch of insanity?  Is not the “I thirst”—the becoming dry of the very river of life—the ultimate expression of this reality?  And does not the forsaken cry of the Son proclaim, more loudly than any chorus of angels in the highest heaven, the glory itself of God?  Is the Lamb in the middle of the throne not slain?  And is it not this very reality which the Christian is called to participate in?  “Imitate me as I imitate Christ;”[339] “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba!’”;[340] “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”;[341] in a word, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”[342]

51.       Thus, by beginning with the immanent Trinity and viewing the economy of salvation in light of it as a Trinitarian drama, we see good reason for supposing that the doctrine of onto-economic expressivism is a plausible candidate for establishing the interpretive context of the whole of salvation history, alongside providing the grammar for all theology.  In each of the cases examined in the proceeding, we have seen that the economic Trinity expresses the immanent Trinity, and this fact itself is grounded in the two-fold perception that the Trinity is ekstasis and, therefore, realized in complete self-giving.  To use a rather vivid metaphor from von Balthasar, the mutual blood-letting of the divine persons is the internal circulation of the Trinity. 

52.       It may be objected that I am reading the immanent Trinity off of the economic Trinity too recklessly, and I suspect that the Orthodox would be first to bring forth this charge.  It is commonly known that the doctrine of the filioque is based largely upon the fact that the Son sends forth the Spirit within the economy of salvation, and furthermore, the Orthodox have objected to this inference upon the ground that we must be careful always to maintain the distinction between the immanent and economic Trinity.  They have also often pointed out that, e.g., the Son was conceived by the Spirit in Mary (which would suggest a movement of Father to Spirit to Son, and in doing so, supposedly show that because this would imply that the Son is begotten by the Father Spirituque, we may not simply read the economic Trinity into the immanent Trinity).  In response to the first of these objections, I ask how we can have a theology of the immanent Trinity at all if we, who by definition are not part of it, cannot learn of it by its being revealed?  And furthermore, why would we expect a being whose very nature is ekstasis to interrupt the very form and internal rhythm wherein his being is realized in any event?  From whence comes the warrant for positing a non sequitur between the immanent and economic Trinity?  Are we to suppose that “once” the Son is begotten, and “right after” the Spirit proceeds from the Father, the divine persons are quite free to do as they please, going hither and thither, with their actions—immanent and economic—in no way corresponding to their relations of origin?  And to the second—that a thoroughgoing application of onto-economic expressivism would entail the affirmation that the Son is begotten of the Father and the Spirit—I reply that this is simply a rather hasty attempt to prove the filioque wrong, and that Scripture does not in the least require its being read as such.  Is it not sufficient simply to reply that the Son became man because he is the Expression of God, and that the Spirit brought about his conception because the Spirit is he in whom every activity ad extra of the Trinity is consummated, and that the Son, in this case, was man?  It is not the narrative sequence, but the reality itself that onto-economic expressivism takes as its point of departure.  At any rate, I believe that the doctrine of the immanent Trinity, upon which rests the doctrine of onto-economic expressivism, provides a sufficient point of departure for meeting such objections.  Let us now move on to the possible benefits of adopting onto-economic expressivism.

53.       First, it is biblical.  It adopts as its point of departure salvation history and uses the language and imagery of the Bible in developing its implications.  Such being the case, the theologian who accepts the doctrine of onto-economic expressivism will find his home in the Bible, for it is only within the living garden of Scripture that the scent of the divine blossoming-forth may be perceived.

54.            Second, it coheres with the Tradition.  As we have seen, the Tradition clearly affirms the monarchy of the Father and the confluence of the economic with the immanent Trinity as such.  I take both of these affirmations to be non-negotiable, and in affirming the doctrine of onto-economic expressivism, the theologian places himself within the Tradition—alongside Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, the Nicenes, Augustine, John Damascene, Bonaventure, Aquinas, etc.—alongside placing at his disposal the tools necessary for developing its implications, sharpening its dull points, correcting its oversights, and bringing into a unity its various components, which they strive toward of their own accord.

55.       Third, it would seem a rather auspicious means of synthesizing into a higher unity the contemporary areas of agreement and disagreement on particular aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity.  We have seen above how I have attempted to do such for the doctrine of the filioque—namely, personhood is placed before substance, the East is correct to insist on the monarchy of the Father as the only cause of the Spirit, and the West, in affirming that the Spirit proceeds from the Father principaliter, allows for this affirmation while at the same time being shown correct to affirm that the Spirit truly does proceed from the Son, and that this procession of the Spirit from the Son is intrinsic to the hypostatic and ontological constitution of the Spirit.  And does not onto-economic expressivism, simply by being presented, overcome the contemporary debate on subordinationism?  More on this presently.

56.       Fourth, it coheres with what I take to be the best insights of contemporary Trinitarian theology.  Though the economic Trinity is not the ontological source for the immanent Trinity (a rather harmful development of Rahner’s rule), the economic Trinity may be affirmed as the epistemic source of the immanent Trinity—that is, we learn of God by attending to his Triune self-revelation.  Furthermore, do we not, in affirming onto-economic expressivism, simultaneously affirm the doctrine of perichoresis by giving it a firm foundation in the person of the Father, and do we not allow ourselves to see this reality as flowing into the world and salvation history?  And finally, have we not therefore given ourselves the opportunity to perceive that God is love, and, when doing theology, to develop these implications with rigor?  Does the seed not, at the very moment at which it touches the ground, become a living flame that throws its light upon the whole of creation?

57.       Fifth, it makes Trinitarian theology possible.  If we believe that the operations ad extra express the operations ad intra, do we not simultaneously allow ourselves to understand the latter by virtue of the former?  The objections to this have been explored above, and it must be granted that they are not without merit.  But at the same time, if we ground ourselves in the Tradition, and, in particular, something like a doctrine of the immanent Trinity as expounded above, have we not placed ourselves on sure ground that enables us to do theology without the fear of going astray?  And I once more reiterate the point that if the economic Trinity does not provide access into the immanent Trinity, then Trinitarian theology is, literally, dead.

58.       Sixth, the Trinitarian theology of onto-economic expressivism is coherent.  It never has to “squint”; the distinctions between the persons, as well as their unity, are clearly maintained.  According to the doctrine of the immanent Trinity upon which it rests, the point of distinction between the divine persons is identical with the point of union—exactly what we ought to expect if the Arche of all being is personal and love, and the only way to resolve the apparent tension between “the One” and “the Three” that is not ad hoc.  By affirming the doctrine of onto-economic expressivism, we kill the supposed confusion involved in asking how, e.g., three can be one.  We do not maintain that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are identical with the person who is God while (somehow) not being identical with each other.  We affirm that the mystery of the Trinity is located in the personhood of the persons rather than math or the logic of identity, and that this personhood explains both the sense in which they are one (ekstasis and communion) and the sense in which they are three.  If it be argued that, e.g., this would imply that each of the persons is one-third of God, I respond by saying that this objection is nonsense, and that the emphasis placed upon personhood and perichoresis is sufficient to overcome it.  Can the sun be without shining and pouring forth its warmth?  And in believing this, do we thereby posit three suns?  Furthermore, the unity and distinction of the operations ad extra are also clearly maintained and grounded in the relations of origin ad intra.  Such being the case, the believing Christian is in a position whereby he may perceive the Trinity, and by perceiving the Trinity he will participate in and be made aware of the mystery that is there.  He will no longer be troubled by the (so-called) “logical problem of the Trinity”, and this for the simple reason that he will know that there is no logical problem of the Trinity.

59.       From this follows the seventh benefit, namely, that this doctrine of the Trinity makes possible for the believer the living of a fully Trinitarian life.  Kant’s claim that the doctrine of the Trinity has no practical value is shown false; all being—the life of the world and the Christian within it—is understood as possible only because God is Trinity, and knowable only according to the Trinity.  When we awake in the morning, may our first thought be that we are children of God within the Son, and opening our hearts to the reception of the Spirit, may we say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit; I commit my spirit into your hands.”  We proceed forth from the Father with the Son, and we return to the Father with the Son by the Spirit.  As the Church and cosmos are united to the Son by virtue of the Incarnation, the very locus of our lives as Christians, and the life of the world, is placed inextricably within a Trinitarian context.  As such, the Trinity is rightfully and consciously understood as the absolute center of all theology and existence.

60.       The eighth and final benefit that I offer concerning onto-economic expressivism is its apologetic value.  How many Trinitarians have felt that their attempts to prove the veracity of the doctrine to be quite far-fetched?  How many Christians have felt the doctrine of the Trinity to be so puzzling that they find themselves as unable to clearly express it as they are incapable of incorporating it into their lives as Christians?  Onto-economic egalitarianism overcomes these problems.  In my experience, every anti-Trinitarian polemic is predicated upon the assumption that the Trinity is monarchial modalistic-tritheism.  The Arian points out that the Son receives from the Father and accomplishes his will, to which the correct response is, “So what?  As though we would expect anything else?”  The Jehovah’s Witness points out that the Son is called the first-born of creation, to which I respond, “As though this should surprise us?  His being first-born in relation to creation is explained by the fact that he is the Image of God in eternity, and do tell me, how do you understand the biblical affirmation that the Father is father, and that the Son is son?”  There is not a passage in Scripture that even begins to begin to trouble the Trinitarian that affirms the doctrine of onto-economic expressivism.  The Son will in the end become subject to the Father?  Cannot this be understood in light of the fact that the Church is the body of Christ, and does not this assertion follow directly from our theology itself, rather than appearing as an ad hoc attempt to salvage the Trinity by explaining away the testimony of Scripture?  And furthermore, are those who cite this passage in support of their heresy implying that the Son is not (according to themselves) now (in their sense) subject to the Father?  Has the Father not yet got himself a kingdom?  The philosophical (so-called) challenges to the doctrine of the Trinity have already been addressed above.

61.       Thus I conclude that the benefits of adopting the doctrine of onto-economic expressivism are many.  It coheres with Scripture and the Tradition, positively influences the life of the Christian and the Church, provides a firm basis for Trinitarian theology, and articulates the doctrine of the Trinity in such a manner as to make it impenetrable to the objections of the heretics and skeptics.  I now move on to briefly consider its possible influence upon the contemporary debate concerning the Trinity and subordinationism.

62.       The negative aspects of Kevin Giles’ Trinitarian theology have been given attention-enough above, so it will be sufficient here to turn our attention to the positive aspects of his doctrine.  He is surely right to see any doctrine of the Son’s being subject to the Father, such that the will and expression of the Son is restricted by that of the Father, as being in error.  He is right to assert the harmony of will between the divine persons, and their unity of action.  He is correct in insisting on the ontological unity of the persons, and to interpret this unity by reference to the doctrine of perichoresis.  And finally, he is correct to see the life and death of the Son of God as revealing God.

63.            Perhaps the most positive aspect of the doctrine espoused by Baddeley and Moody is the clarity wherewith it allows the persons to be perceived as distinct.  Their doctrine is also clearly coincident with the affirmation of the Tradition that the Father alone is the source of the Trinity, and that the economic Trinity is confluent with the immanent Trinity as such.  From my own reading of the SDR, alongside frequent dialogue with Baddeley and Moody, I find Giles accusation against their party—namely, that they have departed from the Tradition—to be unwarranted.  Their subordinationism is pseudo-subordinationism.  For these and other reasons, I therefore see their position as clearly favorable to that offered by Giles.

64.       At the same time, I also feel that some of their affirmations could be developed in a dangerous way.  First, I sometimes get the impression that they see the interaction between the Father and Son in a manner far too analogous to the manner in which one human being is related to another.  They insist that the Son is obedient to the Father—as we’ve seen, the Tradition clearly affirms this, in a sense.  But how do they understand this?  Surely they do not imagine the Son to be sitting about not knowing what to will till the Father tells him?  Surely they do not imagine something like an “aww shucks!” coming from the Son when, upon receiving the command of the Father, he realizes that he must put to rest his own desire which just so happened to be, in this case, rather different?  (In passing, I mention that I’ve discussed these and similar issues with Baddeley and Moody, and they clearly reject such notions.  I bring them up, however, because they follow quite necessarily from a seemingly plausible position if it is not sufficiently nuanced.)  Second, though I agree that the absolute surrender of the Son to the Father—the Son’s obedience to the Father—is fully orthodox and an integral part of any correct thinking about the Trinity, I am under the impression that they fail to give enough emphasis to the fact that this surrender on the part of the Son is itself a mirror-image of a corresponding movement that originates in the Father—namely, the Father’s unrestricted and absolute self-gift to the Son.  And with the recognition of this fact, do we not nuance our understanding of the Son’s obedience to the Father to the point of making it rather difficult to support any of the positions of the contemporary gender debate by reference to it—the traditional one included?  Let us prescind for the moment from the absolute disanalogy between the manner in which the Father is ontologically related to the Son on the one hand, and the husband to the wife on the other.  Would it not follow, were we to interpret the latter in light of the former, that the husband should give everything that he is and has to the wife?  For this absolute self-gift is the very presupposition of the Son’s surrender to the Father.  Is she to imitate the Son’s obedience, or the proportionality between the Father’s self-gift and the Son’s self-surrender, thus giving herself to her husband insofar as he gives himself to her?  How do we decide which of the two to affirm?  It is possible that the husband be wrong and the wife be right—it is not possible for the Father to be wrong, therefore it is not possible for the Son to be wrong, still less to see reason to object to the Father’s will.  But in marriages, how will this work itself out?  What is to be followed, the right, or the husband, even when he is wrong?  Let it not be imagined in registering these criticisms that I thereby clearly align myself with either party in the contemporary gender debate; still less that I believe the doctrine of the Trinity to be without influence upon the sacrament of marriage.  In saying the above, my point is simply to make clear the fact that the one cannot simply be read off the other, and while it is most certainly to be desired that the Trinity influence our marriages, it would be most disastrous to rigorously develop our understanding of the Trinity according to what marriages are, or how we think they ought to be.  My last word on the relationship between the Trinity and the contemporary gender debate is this: if onto-economic expressivism throws a monkey-wrench into the position of either side with regard to their thinking on the contemporary gender debate, then so be it.

65.            Returning our attention to the doctrine of the Trinity, I believe that the doctrine of onto-economic expressivism provides an auspicious point of departure for resolving the contemporary debate on the Trinity and subordinationism.  What Giles desires to exclude—functional-servitutis subordinationism—is rigorously excluded.  His best insights are strengthened by being placed within the Tradition, and as such, his Trinitarian theology gains in coherence, rigor, and beauty.  Likewise, the Sydney Doctrinal Commision’s desire to place their theology of the Trinity in Scripture, and their belief that the economic Trinity reveals the immanent Trinity, is approved.  Their confession of the Son’s obedience to the Father is seen as warranted, while at the same time being strengthened by being placed within a Trinitarian context that emphasizes the doctrine of perichoresis, which in its turn takes as its point of departure the person of God the Father.  And finally, onto-autonomic egalitarianism and multiple autonomism are clearly excluded. 

66.       Yet one final aspect of the doctrine of onto-economic expressivism must be given attention before bringing this study to a close.  Above it was pointed out that, prima facie, the principal shortcoming of this doctrine would seem to be that it is too mechanical, and that, as such, it fails to do justice to the personhood of the persons.  For have I not insisted that the operations ad extra—indeed, every activity of the divine persons—is not only confluent with the relations of origin ad intra, but also, that they are expressed instantiations of the divine reality at the level of ontology, and that they cannot be reversed?  And have I not, it will be asked, annihilated the freedom of the divine persons simply by asserting as much?

67.       My answer is no.  In the human realm, what does it mean to be free?  There are two classical conceptions of freedom—freedom from and freedom for.  Freedom from basically draws a circle around all reality that is not the self and says, “That I am free means that nothing within this circle may prohibit me from disposing myself as I please.”  Freedom for, on the other hand, recognizes that the fulfillment of the individual lies not simply in being “unrestricted”, but that, more importantly, the ultimate fulfillment of the individual presupposes being united to an other: “I am free because I may unite myself to that which is not myself and which possesses a reality outside of my own—I am free because I love that to which I may bind myself.”  The first of these would seem to be more in-line with modern and post-modern thought which sees the self as, by definition, autonomous.  The second would seem to be not only more in-line with Christianity, but also more coherent.

68.       Let us advance this consideration further.  In this world, how do we experience freedom?  We choose the manner in which we associate with realities outside of ourselves.  I may watch television, read a book, and so on.  But more importantly, we are a wreck.  Not only do we often not choose the good; we often don’t know what the best choice actually is.  Yet if our will were not dis-coordinated from the good (in which case we would always choose the good), and if we truly understood the good (in which case we would always know the best), would not the manner wherein our freedom and personhood is expressed take on a radically different form?  For if we know, not through a slow process of inference, but by an immediate intuition, what the best thing to do is; and if our desire were such that it could be satisfied only by doing the truly good, then two things would follow.  First, there would not be more decisions to make, but less.  With clarity of vision comes simplicity of action.  Second, and paradoxically, this very simplicity would entail not less freedom, but rather, the ability to realize the very goal of freedom, and therefore the ultimate fulfillment of our persons.

69.       Let us now consider the divine persons.  What is it to be a person?  I have elsewhere attempted to define a person as follows: a center of consciousness, aesthetically in-formed, subsisting as united to an Other through the expression of its own aesthetic in-formation toward the Other, and by the reception of the Other’s expression of its own aesthetic in-formation.  Since offering this definition, I have seen little reason to change it—the classical definitions of “person” miss almost entirely the very quiddity of personhood, and could be as readily applied to a computer as a person—or to attempt to make it more clear—for personhood is the foremost mystery of being, and it can only be experienced, and never discovered via discursive reasoning or by attending to mere words.

70.       We have seen in the above that the monarchy of the Father has to be affirmed in any sound doctrine of the Trinity.  We have also seen that not only the being of the Son and Spirit, but also everything that they have comes from the Father.  According to Augustine, for the Son, to know and to act comes from the Father along with his being.  May we not therefore suppose that it is in the Son—the very locus of the Father’s good pleasure and delight—that every good pleasure and delight of the Father is disclosed?  May we not suppose that in the eternal generation of the Son, the whole desire of everything that the Father would ever do was planted, seed-like as it were, in the Son?  And may we not also suppose that since the Son is God, and therefore by definition all-knowing and wholly disposed to do the good, and that since the Son is personal, that from the very heart of himself a yearning to accomplish the will of the Father will break forth like a flame bursting forth from the center of the sun, and that he will able to accomplish it by virtue of his possession of the ecstatic divine nature?   And may we not suppose likewise for the Spirit, albeit in a manner appropriate to his hypostasis as related to the other two divine persons?  How could it possibly be otherwise?   

71.       I therefore conclude that the argument that onto-economic expressivism fails to do justice to the personhood of the divine persons is only apparent, and ultimately without force.  In the Trinity, freedom and nature perfectly coincide.  Yet in saying this, let it not be supposed that I have attempted to excise mystery from the doctrine of the Trinity.  I have offered no (analytic) definition of freedom, and this because it is impossible—any words offered will always seem to betray the fullness found in the free-act itself.  My definition of person is aporetic, and this because the mystery of personhood is irreducible.  I have not dislodged mystery from the Trinity—I have merely made clear the fact that these things are not incoherent, and furthermore, that we may gain a faint understanding of them by simply attending to our own experience of personhood—an experience that is always immediate, alongside being the presupposition of our being able to know anything at all.

72.       The locus of this mystery—the source and fount of all being, goodness, truth, and beauty—is God the Father; to be more exact, the Father who is father-ekstasis.  It is within the life of the Trinity that that super-abundance of life and beauty is to be found—the pure and unrestricted overflow of life thrusting outward as absolute and uncontainable love—and it is in the Incarnation of the Son of God that this reality is exhaustively disclosed, and disclosed in such a manner that the perception of it eventuates in a reverse movement wherein the mystery of the reality is intensified the more clearly it is perceived.  Sun-dazzled coppertone warm radiance, perichoretic toward and from, glorious other-worldly purity and compassionate face of peace; this is the image of life that calls me; Son of God—Human Being of the beauty of the sky’s shine—leap forth into my heart and show me how you have loved me, for when I know you, then I love you, and loved by you, then I live within the Living Flame of Love that is your Spirit sent forth to the Father, and from the heart of the Father’s love, I come forth within you, and receiving from the Father the same Spirit, then I am born. 

73.       I conclude with the following from St. John of the Cross—

In the beginning the Word was;

He lived in God and possessed in him his infinite happiness . . .

And thus the glory of the Son

Was the Father’s glory,

And the Father possessed

All his glory in the Son.

As the lover in the beloved

Each lived in the other,

And the Love that unites them

Is one with them . . .

In that immense love

Proceeding from the two

The Father spoke words

Of great affection to the Son,

Words of such profound delight

That no one understood them . . .

“My Son, only your

company contents me,

and if something pleases me

I love that thing in you . . .

I am pleased with you alone,

O life of my life! . . .”

“My Son, I wish to give you

a bride who will love you. . . .”

“I am very grateful,”

the Son answered;

“I will show my brightness

to the bride you give me,

so that by it she may see

how great my Father is,

and how I have received

my being from your being.” . . .

“Let it be done, then,” said the Father,

“for your love has deserved it.”

And by these words

The world was created.[343]

 

 



[1] For a recent article by Baddeley (focusing on certain of Giles’ claims), cf. http://www.anglicanmedia.com.au/index.php/article/articlereview/1294/1/123/

[2] For Moody’s interaction with the theology and claims of Giles, cf. http://www.ajmd.com.au/trinity/

[3] For Giles’ 36 page response to the Sydney Doctrine Commission, cf. http://www.ajmd.com.au/trinity/DoctrineCommisResponse.pdf

[4] Ath-OCA, 1:3

[5] Ath-OCA, 1:4

[6] Ath-OCA, 1:8

[7] Ath-DS, 54

[8] Ath-DS, 3, 14

[9] Ath-OCA, 3:28

[10] Ath-DS, 46

[11] Ath-OCA, 1:44

[12] Ath-OCA, 1:37

[13] Ath-DS, 41

[14] Ath-OCA, 1:23

[15] Ath-OCA, 1:21

[16] Ath-OCA, 2:77

[17] Ath-AS, 2:1

[18] Ath-DS, 41

[19] Ath-OCA, 2:3.  This principle, which is logically premiere in Athanasius’ hermeneutic, is given excellent treatment by Widdicombe (Wid-FGOA, 213ff.)

[20] Ath-OCA, 2:5

[21] Ath-OCA, 1:15

[22] Ath-OCA, 1:16

[23] Ath-OCA, 1:19

[24] Ath-OCA, 1:24

[25] Ath-OCA, 1:25, 26

[26] Ath-OCA, 1:27

[27] Ath-OCA, 1:58

[28] Ath-OCA, 2:20

[29] Ath-OCA, 2:23

[30] Ath-OCA, 3:11

[31] Ath-OCA, 1:13

[32] Ath-OCA, 1:14

[33] Ath-OCA, 1:22

[34] Ath-OCA, 1:36

[35] Ath-OCA, 2:28

[36] Ath-OCA, 2:34

[37] Ath-DD, 23, 24

[38] Ath-OCA, 3:35

[39] Ath-OCA, 1:14

[40] Ath-DS, 47

[41] Ath-OCA, 3:28

[42] Ath-OCA, 3:6

[43] Ath-DS, 39

[44] Ath-DS, 41

[45] Ath-DS, 42

[46] Han-SCDG, 441.  The entire section on Athanasius’ understanding of homoousios in Hanson’s work (pgs. 436-445) is excellent.  See Pet-ATH, 146-160, for a more comprehensive treatment.

[47] Ath-OCA, 3:43

[48] Ath-OCA, 3:42; it is worth mentioning that Athanasius takes the reality of the fatherhood of the Father, and sonship of the Son, so seriously that he goes on to claim that Arian baptism is “empty and unprofitable,” and this for the very reason that “the Arians do not baptize into Father and Son, but into creator and creature …”  While this comment certainly presupposes, and is at least partially to be explained in light of his understanding of soteriology as participation and deification (i.e., if that which one is baptized into is simply a creature, it would necessarily follow that we cannot be deified by participating in him), the context makes it clear that this ontological notion is indeed subordinate to the emphasis which he places on the fatherhood of the Father. 

[49] Ath-OCA, 1:33

[50] Ath-OCA, 1:34

[51] Ath-OCA, 1:23

[52] Ath-OCA, 1:20

[53] Ath-OCA, 2:2

[54] Ath-OCA, 3:66

[55] Ath-OCA, 3:66

[56] Wid-FGOA, 206; this theme also recurs throughout Pettersen’s treatment of Athanasius’ doctrine of the Trinity, cf. Pet-ATH, 164-190.

[57] Ath-OCA, 1:20, 38; 2:56, 82; 3:61, 65-67

[58] Ath-OCA, 3:62

[59] Ath-OCA, 3:62

[60] Ath-OCA, 3:63

[61] Ath-OCA, 3:65

[62] Ath-OCA, 3:66

[63] Ath-OCA, 3:4

[64] Ath-DS, 51

[65] Ath-DS, 50

[66] Ath-DS, 54

[67] Ath-OCA, 3:36

[68] Ath-OCA, 3:6

[69] Gil-TS, 33 – 41

[70] Han-SCDG, 424

[71] Han-SCDG, 425

[72] “Being” is here used as a noun, not a verb.

[73] “Being” is here used as a verb, not a noun.

[74] Ath-OCA, 3:36

[75] Ath-OCA, 3:44

[76] Ath-OCA, 3:61

[77] Ath-OCA, 1:49

[78] Ath-OCA, 2:2

[79] Ath-OCA, 2:14

[80] Ath-OCA, 2:29

[81] Ath-OCA, 2:24

[82] Ath-OCA, 1:11f.; cf. Ath-CG, 1:6; 2:2. 16 seems to indicate a connection between nature (power, etc.) and function (effect, action, etc.), and this may well be worth considering vis-à-vis the Trinity.  “…[A]ny more than one would ascribe to water the properties of fire; for fire burns whereas the nature of water on the contrary is cold” (16:3); “if they really knew that Zeus and the others were gods, invest them with such actions as shew them to be not gods” (16:4); “The two things then are mutually inconsistent; for neither is it the nature of heavenly beings to act in such ways, nor can any one suppose that persons so acting are gods” (16:6).  The analogy with fire above seems to indicate that this connection is more than a merely ethical or moral one.  Cf. 29 for more on this, and Bar-PG for the most extensive treatment of the theological import of the theme of dynamis available.  For Athanasius, the understanding of dynamis seems to be this: the power of a being is the defining characteristic of the being to which it belongs—it is the power which reveals the nature of the being.  The power is expressed by its activity (e.g., “hotness” warms).  Hence with regard to the Father and Son: the effect of creation reveals the Son, and the Son in turn reveals the Father, whose dynamis he is (e.g., similarly, “being warmed” reveals “heat,” which in its turn reveals “the flame”).

[83] Ath-OCA, 2:2

[84] Ath-DI, 11:3

[85] Ath-OCA, 3:14

[86] Ath-OCA, 2:33

[87] Lac-GFU, 37

[88] The so-called “Cappadocian fathers” were Basil of Caesarea, his brother Gregory of Nyssa, and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus.  It is commonly accepted that alongside Athanasius, the Cappadocians were the principal theologians responsible for the articulation of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity during the Nicene era.

[89] Lac-GFU, 43

[90] Ath-OCA, 1:33

[91] Ath-OCA, 2:31

[92] Ath-OCA, 3:66

[93] Ath-OCA, 3:67

[94] Ath-OCA, 2:24

[95] Ath-OCA, 2:20

[96] Ath-DI, 7:5

[97] Ath-OCA, 3:9

[98] Ath-OCA, 2:41

[99] Ath-OCA, 2:59

[100] Ale-LAT, 19

[101] Ale-LAT, 39f.

[102] Cyr-CL, 11:4

[103] Cyr-CL, 11:20

[104] Cyr-CL, 11:13

[105] Cyr-CL, 11:16

[106] Cyr-CL, 11:21

[107] Cyr-CL, 11:22

[108] Cyr-CL, 11:23

[109] GrNys-AE1, 1:33

[110] GrNys-AE1, 1:34

[111] GrNys-AE1, 1:35

[112] GrNys-GC, 5

[113] GrNys-NTG

[114] GrNaz-TO3, 3

[115] GrNaz-TO3, 5

[116] GrNaz-TO4, 11

[117] GrNaz-TO4, 16

[118] Hil-DT, 2:6

[119] Hil-DT, 3:4

[120] Hil-DT, 3:22

[121] Hil-DT, 4:21

[122] Hil-DT, 3:12

[123] Hil-DT, 3:13

[124] Amb-CF, 1:16

[125] Amb-CF, 2:5

[126] Amb-CF, 1:49

[127] Amb-CF, 1:107

[128] Amb-CF, 2:38

[129] Amb-CF, 2:45

[130] Amb-CF, 2:100

[131] Amb-CF, 2:112

[132] Amb-CF, 2:103

[133] Amb-CF, 2:104

[134] Aug-DT, 15:47

[135] Aug-DT, 15:47

[136] Aug-DT, 4:28

[137] Aug-DT, 15:23

[138] Aug-DT, 4:27

[139] Amb-CF, 1:61

[140] Tha-LSAI4, 91

[141] Tha-LSAI4, 99

[142] Tha-LSAI4, 96

[143] Tha-LSAI4, 100

[144] Tha-LSAI4, 99

[145] Max-TEVV1, 4

[146] Max-LP

[147] Max-CT2, 73

[148] Max-LP

[149] JnDam-OF1, 8

[150] JnDam-OF1, 8

[151] JnDam-OF1, 8

[152] JnDam-OF1, 8

[153] JnDam-OF4, 4

[154] JnDam-OF4, 4

[155] Bon-SJG, 6:2

[156] Bon-SJG, 6:2

[157] Bon-SJG, 3:6

[158] Bon-DQT, 8: ro, 7

[159] Bon-DQT, 8: ro, 4

[160] Bon-DQT, 8: ro, 7

[161] Aqu-SCG4, 12:2

[162] Aqu-SCG4, 12:4

[163] Aqu-SCG4, 12:4

[164] Aqu-SCG4, 24:8

[165] Aqu-SCG4, 24:9

[166] Aqu-SCG4, 42:1

[167] Aqu-SCG4, 42:3

[168] JnRuu-SE, 2:2/3:B

[169] JnRuu-SE, 2:4:A

[170] JnRuu-SE, 3:3:A

[171] JnRuu-MEB, 3:A

[172] JnRuu-MEB, 3:B

[173] CF, 147

[174] CF, 156

[175] CF, 249

[176] Ziz-BC, 48f.

[177] Ziz-BC, 40f.

[178] Ziz-BC, 42

[179] Ziz-BC, 44

[180] Ziz-BC, 111f.

[181] Rah-TR, 64

[182] Rah-TR, 73

[183] Rah-TR, 74

[184] Rah-TR, 64

[185] Rah-TR, 76

[186] Rah-TR, 77

[187] Rah-TR, 86

[188] Los-MTEC, 55

[189] Los-MTEC, 58

[190] Los-MTEC, 54

[191] Los-MTEC, 144

[192] Los-ILG, 91f.

[193] Con-IBHS3, 140

[194] Con-IBHS3, 133

[195] Con-IBHS3, 139f.

[196] Con-IBHS3, 12

[197] Con-IBHS3, 16

[198] Con-IBHS2, 230

[199] Con-IBHS2, 229

[200] Bob-MT, 263

[201] Bob-MT, 264

[202] Bob-MT, 266

[203] Bob-MT, 265

[204] Bob-MT, 267

[205] Bob-MT, 3

[206] Bob-MT, 272

[207] Bob-MT, 268

[208] Bob-MT, 315

[209] Kas-GJC, 297

[210] Kas-GJC, 299

[211] Kas-GJC, 308

[212] Kas-GJC, 309

[213] War-OW, 33

[214] War-OW, 32

[215] War-OW, 35

[216] War-OW, 32

[217] Oco-TG, 179

[218] Oco-TG, 180

[219] Oco-TG, 181

[220] Oco-TG, 182

[221] Sta-EG1, 257

[222] Sta-EG1, 258

[223] Sta-EG1, 261

[224] Sta-EG1, 252

[225] Sta-EG1, 248f.

[226] Sta-EG1, 249

[227] Gri-OL, 385

[228] Gri-OL, 380

[229] Gri-OL, 378f.

[230] Gri-OL, 103

[231] Gri-OL, 100

[232] Swi-CG, 173

[233] Swi-CG, 147

[234] Swi-CG, 185

[235] Swi-CG, 174

[236] CCC, 254

[237] CF, 162

[238] CCC, 258, pg. 77, emphasis mine.

[239] Bal-OPSC, 134

[240] Bal-CR, 30

[241] Bal-CR, 30f.

[242] Bal-CR, 37

[243] Bal-CR, 31

[244] Bal-CR, 31

[245] Bal-GLTA1, 611

[246] Bal-PR, 187

[247] Bal-PR, 193

[248] Bal-PR, 184

[249] Bal-PR, 183

[250] Bal-PR, 189

[251] Bal-PR, 185

[252] Bal-MP, vii

[253] Bal-GLTA1, 612

[254] Bal-GLTA1, 612

[255] Bal-GLTA1, 614f.

[256] Bal-PR, 186

[257] Gil-TS, 1

[258] Gil-TS, 6

[259] Gil-TS, 14

[260] Gil-TS, 14

[261] Gil-TS, 15

[262] Gil-TS, 16

[263] Gil-TS, 16

[264] Gil-TS, 17

[265] Gil-TS, 17

[266] Gil-TS, 18

[267] Gil-TS, 18

[268] Gil-TS, 21f.

[269] Gil-TS, 23

[270] SDR, 18, cited in Gil-TS, 24

[271] Gil-TS, 25

[272] Gil-TS, 25

[273] Gil-TS, 27f.

[274] Gil-TS, 36

[275] Gil-TS, 38

[276] Gil-TS, 39, emphasis mine.

[277] Gil-TS, 40

[278] Gil-TS, 42

[279] Gil-TS, 43

[280] Gil-TS, 43

[281] Gil-TS, 44, 45

[282] 51f.

[283] Gil-TS, 49

[284] Gil-TS, 50

[285] Gil-TS, 51

[286] Gil-TS, 61

[287] Though an analysis of Origen’s theology of the Trinity is beyond my scope in the present work, I mention in passing that I find this attribution on Giles’ part to be wildly inaccurate.  For more, cf. Wid-FGOA.

[288] Gil-TS, 63

[289] Gil-TS, 63

[290] Gil-TS, 64

[291] Gil-TS, 64 – 69

[292] Gil-TS, 68

[293] Gil-TS, 68

[294] Gil-TS, 69, citing Millard Erickson’s God in Three Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity (Baker, 1995), pg. 309f.

[295] Gil-TS, 69 – 71

[296] Gil-TS, 70

[297] Gil-TS, 71 – 81

[298] Gil-TS, 77

[299] Gil-TS, 81 – 83

[300] Gil-TS, 82

[301] Gil-TS, 83

[302] Gil-TS, 97f.

[303] Gil-TS, 98 – 100

[304] Gil-TS, 103, citing Erickson, op. cit., pg. 333.

[305] Gil-TS, 104

[306] Gil-TS, 105

[307] Gil-TS, 115f.

[308] Gil-TS, 119

[309] Gil-TS, 119

[310] Gil-TS, 119f.

[311] pg. 2 of his submission to the Sydney Doctrinal Commission

[312] Gil-TS, 29

[313] Emphasis mine.

[314] pg. 33, emphasis mine.

[315] Won-LCKR, 211

[316] Tor-CDG, 176

[317] Qua-PAT3, 26 – 28; the fourth book of the Orations is not referred to in Han-SCDG, Pet-ATH, or Wid-FGOA.

[318] Tor-CDG, 212ff.

[319] Wid-FGOA, 174f.

[320] Qua-PAT1, 209 (emphasis mine).

[321] Qua-PAT2, 326f.

[322] For-TG, 83

[323] Qua-PAT3, 69

[324] For-TG, 18

[325] E.g., Oco-TG, 110f.; A.F. Segal, in Dav-TR, 93f.; Wit-MFOC, 234ff.

[326] For-TG, 365

[327] Ric-PLG, 306

[328] Aug-DT, 2:3

[329] Aug-DFC, 4

[330] E.g., Con-IBHS3, xv – xxi

[331] JnDam-OF1, 1ff.

[332] JnDam-OF1, 6ff.

[333] Lk. 3:21f.

[334] Lk. 4:1

[335] Mt. 17:1 – 5

[336] Jn. 19:26 – 29

[337] Lk. 23:46

[338] Jn. 19:30 – 34

[339] 1 Cor. 11:1

[340] Gal. 4:6

[341] Phil. 2:5

[342] 1 Jn. 4:16

[343] JnCro-SC, 9:1, 2