Thursday, November 18, 2010

Articles I to VIII: The Catholic Faith

Concerning Articles I and II

Article I

Of faith in the Holy Trinity

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

De fide in Sacrosanctam Trinitatem

Unus est vivus et verus Deus, aeternus, incorporeus, impartibilis, impassibilis, immensae potentiae, sapientiae, ac bonitatis, creator et conservator omnium, tum visibilium tum invisibilium. Et in unitate huius divinae naturae tres sunt Personae eiusdem essentiae, potentiae, ac aeternitatis, Pater, Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus.\
(Derived from the Confession of Ausburg via the provenance of the Thirteen Articles and unchanged since 1553.)

Of the Word, or Son of God, which was made very man

The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

De Verbo, sive Filio Dei, qui verus homo factus est

Filius, qui est Verbum Patris, ab aeterno a Patre genitus, verus et aeternus Deus, ac Patri consubstantialis in utero beate Virginis ex illius substantia naturam humanam assumpsit: ita ut duae naturae, divina et humana, integre atque perfecte in unitate personae, fuerint inseparabiliter coniunctae: ex quibus est unus Christus, verus Deus et verus homo: qui vere passus est, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus, ut Patrem nobis reconciliaret, essetque hostia non tantum pro culpa originis verum etiam pro omnibus actualibus hominum peccatis.
(From the Confession of Ausburg via the Thirteen Articles. It was last changed in 1563.)

Fr. Robert Hart

The First of the Thirty-Nine Articles may appear to express something so obvious that it goes without saying. But, the doctrine expressed in this Article is part of the Faith, the truth as revealed and later defended against genuine attack from heresy. Like every major revelation that God has given to the Church, faithful men had to fight for it, in some cases at great cost to themselves. Even as we begin the Articles, the words of St. Jude come to mind:

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."1

No sooner had the Church emerged from the stress of persecution by the Roman Empire, than it faced a new crisis, the Arian heresy, which brought on new persecution against the faithful. The First Council of Nicea (AD 325) was called to defend the Divinity of Christ against a strange doctrine popularized by one Arius, a presbyter in Alexandria. His chief opponent was also form Alexandria, a young deacon at the time, named Athanasius. The purpose of the Council was not to debate the merits of Arius’ doctrine, but to see whether or not he was guilty of denying the full equal Divinity of the Son to the Father. In fact, he was quite open about this denial.

In the final analysis, the Church, as represented in the Council, agreed that Athanasius was teaching the Faith as it had been received and understood since the time of the Apostles. The main reason that Trinitarian theology prevailed at that time was because of the doctrine of salvation. Christ alone is the one Mediator between God and man,2 the Savior of mankind. Sinners have no one else to call upon, and each person needs Christ Himself, to be in Christ. This proved the deciding factor at Nicea in AD 325.

The method of the Fathers, by which they proved the truth of their position, was to draw their teaching from Holy Scripture. They did not know of any distinction between Scripture and Tradition, but only the Tradition of Scripture. It was all one and the same to them, since the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church always recognized Scripture as the source where all necessary Apostolic teaching was recorded. They heard the voice of God in Scripture. At Nicea, they employed this same long established patristic method to prove the truth. Even though the canon of the New Testament had not yet been made “official” before the Council, the actual books that were recognized by the Universal Church were not in doubt. (Old controversies had existed about II Peter, Jude and Revelation. Some had argued that the Shepherd of Hermes ought to be in the Canon; but, these matters were fairly well resolved before the Council.)

Today many people have completely misguided opinions of the first Council of Nicea. They assume that it was dominated by the Emperor Constantine. In fact, when he began to address the Bishops he was told to be silent. He had no voice and no vote whatsoever in the proceedings, and became merely an observer once the Council was underway. No books were removed from the Bible, as popular misinformation would have us believe. Gnosticism was not the issue, as some would have us believe, but rather Arianism.

The Thirty-Nine Articles were written in the Church of England, which retained in its liturgy the Creed called Nicene. That Creed, the universally recognized Creed of the Church, is the Creed composed at the first Council of Constantinople in AD 381, an adaptation of the original Nicene Creed that churches could use for liturgy. The actual Creed of Nicea contains anathemas, and is not generally liturgical in structure compared to the Constantinopolitan Creed we call Nicene; but, it is obvious that the Creed of Constantinople is a refined version of the same Creed. The Church of England kept the same Faith without change, and we say the Creed to this day in all orthodox Anglican churches.

The doctrine that there is one God, “And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” was not invented at the Council of Nicea, but rather it was defended. The Fathers who gathered there did not create the idea, neither did the doctrine develop from some hitherto undefined void. A new word was coined, yes, an extra-biblical word, homoosioun (translated into English “of one substance” in the Creed called Nicene). But, just as the word “Trinity” came to be used to summarize a doctrine clearly revealed in Scripture, so the word homoosioun summarized the revelation of God as clearly set forth in Holy Scripture.

A sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.
What we have seen thus far is all relevant when begin to look at the Thirty-Nine Articles. That the Divinity of the Son was settled finally over the question of our salvation from sin and death, takes on special relevance for the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as a publication of the English Reformation. For, in Articles that follow, the teaching that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, and that works, merits of saints, indulgences and sacrifices of Masses (in the double plural) cannot save us from sin and death, was based on the revelation that the One who saves us is Himself both God and man. It is not only that he died for us, but Who He is that died for us, that is at the center of orthodox Christology. The corruptions, heresies and false practices that had grown up in previous centuries, and that had come to dreadful fruition in their own time, needed to be washed away to protect the revelation of Who the Lord Jesus Christ is.

Without body, parts, or passions
Of course, the words “without body” speak of the Divine Nature, God as God. Therefore, Article II balances out the words, “without body” by saying, “The Son, which is the Word of the Father … took man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried.” These words tell us that Christ’s human nature is very real, true and complete. He not only looks human, not only appears human, but really is human even though His Person remains Divine and One with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Divine Nature and the human nature of the Son come together in one Person, but the two natures remain distinct.3

Article I should make us think of that part of the Creed that says, “Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made."4 Article II should make us think of the words that follow immediately: “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man.”

“Without parts” means something more than the simple fact that the Divine Nature has no body with individual members. Rather, it refers to the Simplicity of God, namely, that where God is present He is fully present. Furthermore, the Persons of the Godhead are not parts of God: Each Divine Person is fully Divine. Yet, the Persons are distinct even though inseparable. The Son is not the Father, but to see Him is to see the Father. The Holy Spirit is not the Son, but it is through the Holy Spirit that the Son is present in the Church.

“Without passions” is another way of saying that God is impassible. Modern theologians try to reject this ancient doctrine of the Catholic Faith, imagining that the necessary use of anthropomorphic language about God in Scripture should be taken literally. God is spoken of as “moved with compassion,” or as having wrath. But, God also says clearly that he never changes.

“For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”5
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.”6
Understood correctly, the doctrine of Divine Impassibility ought to provide comfort and assurance. It does not mean that God is heartless and unfeeling, but rather that God will not disappoint those who trust in Him. The basis of His covenant faithfulness is rooted in His unchanging love, and the promises He has given to us in His Son. God is not surprised, and God does not react. Rather, He sees the end from the beginning. He has acted both to create and to save us. He will not disappoint those who place their trust in Him.

Catholic Faith
The Articles open with a bold declaration of the Faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. As we continue to look at them we will see that they never depart from this path.
1. Jude 2, 3
2. I Tim. 1:5
3. Ultimately, a much fuller expression of this was recorded in the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD)) in these words:
So, following the saintly fathers, we all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards his divinity, and the same consubstantial with us as regards his humanity; like us in all respects except for sin; begotten before the ages from the Father as regards his divinity, and in the last days the same for us and for our salvation from Mary, the virgin God-bearer as regards his humanity; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation; at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being; he is not parted or divided into two persons, but is one and the same only-begotten Son, God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as the prophets taught from the beginning about him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ himself instructed us, and as the creed of the fathers handed it down to us.
4 "By whom (i.e., by Him, that is the Son or Word) all things were made" is based on John 1:3: "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." The Word, no less than the Father, is the Creator of Heaven and Earth.
5 Malachi 3:6
6 Hebrews 13:8
Fr. Laurence Wells

Fr Hart has given us a fine introduction into the Articles, but I would like to underscore a couple of points he has touched on. First, if we view the Articles as a whole, we should notice how they begin. Not with a broadside against the Bishop of Rome, nor an attack on the Mass, nor with a battle-cry against the sale of Indulgences or trafficking in relics, but a calm reasonable statement concerning "Of Faith in the Holy Trinity," and moving on to "Of the Word or Son of God, Which Was Made Very Man." The first eight articles, in fact (that is roughly 20% of the total), simply set forth the ecumenical consensus of belief, the mainstream of the Christian tradition, the almost universal body of doctrine which we still refer to as the Catholic Faith. There is little in the first Eight Articles which the Roman Church did not share. (And before you bring up the Old Testament Canon, please check out the interesting opinions of Cardinal Cajetan.) So those who either disparage or patronize the Articles need to be careful that they do not accidentally deny the Catholic faith itself.

It must be recalled that the 16th Century controversies were waged on two fronts. As we all know the Reformers were in confrontation with Rome. But they were equally engaged on the other side with far more radical movements (notice plural) such as proto-Unitarians Michael Servetus and Faustus Socinus and various Anabaptist sects. (Pike and Spong have a colorful ancestry!) The English Church, like the continental Reformers, had to take a stand against many of the classical heresies of the early centuries which were returning to the scene with their old vigor.

This should remind us that the Reformation was securely grounded in Catholic faith. In the assertion of "Gratia sola,,,fide sola" in the central portion of the Articles (which begins with Article IX), we have no new departure, no radical innovation, but teaching perfectly consistent with the shared faith of the early centuries.

One term in the first Article requires special comment. This occurs in the phrase "without body, parts or passions" (incorporeus, impartibilis et impassibilis) which might be translated "incorporeal, indivisible and impassible." Incorporeal is self-explanatory. Saying that God is indivisible means that His attributes may not be set against each other; specifically, God's grace and His sovereignty are never in tension. Thus far, little dispute.

But "without passions" for some is problematic. The version of the Articles contained in the Methodist Book of Discipline deletes this. The notion of a dispassionate or even apathetic God seems rather foreign to the God revealed in the Scriptures, a God whose love and wrath are far too real to be explained as mere anthropomorphisms. No, God is truly angry with sin and He truly loves His creation. The revival of Biblical studies (called the Biblical theology movement) of the last century raised some hard questions for the classical notion of the impassibility of God. Many dismissed this attribute as the intrusion of pagan philosophy.

But hold on a bit. The ancient and medieval theologians were perfectly faithful to Scripture when they described God as "purus actus," by which they meant that in God there is no passivity whatever. God is never acted upon because He always holds the initiative. I fondly recall a Latin professor who once said, "Only God can be the subject of a verb."

The impassibility of God is a necessary inference of His immutability. God, whom the Old Testament so frequently describes as "our Rock," is unchanging. This as been seriously disputed by various ancient heresies and by modern theological fads such as the so-called "process theology" and "open theism."

But the Gospel itself--which is the beating heart of Catholicity--requires the doctrine of an unchanging God. We affirm this each time we say, "Thy property is always to have mercy." Such words can only be addressed to an immutable and impassible God. A mutable god would not be trustworthy as it could not be depended on to be consistently merciful. A less than impassible god might be overwhelmed by the sin of the world. The Gospel holds that if sin truly provokes the Divine wrath, it can never defeat grace itself. In this difficult word, "impassible," the victory of grace is at stake. In the words of Henry Francis Lyte, "Change and decay in all around I see; O thou who changest not, abide with me."


Anonymous said...

Great stuff--thanks to you both!

Doubting Thomas

Donald said...

You KNOW you're going to have to put this into print! Thanks again for your leadership and teaching.


Anonymous said...

Fr’s. Hart and Wells,
I too am most appreciative of the scholarship here. I have but two questions which I hope you will expound upon (and please know that this is not in challenge, but rather for reasons of personal edification, and perhaps for the education of others). First of all, you wrote;

“Without parts” means something more than the simple fact that the Divine Nature has no body with individual members. Rather, it refers to the Simplicity of God, namely, that where God is present He is fully present.

To me, this, and your explanation following, is evocative of the Creed attributed to St. Athanasius, which is somewhat different in detail, but not in meaning, from the Nicene/Constantinopolitan Creed. What, if any, influence to you think the Athanasian Creed had on the English Reformers as it relates to the formulation of the Articles?

Further, you (or Fr. Wells, I cannot tell from the blog entry) wrote:

But "without passions" for some is problematic. The version of the Articles contained in the Methodist Book of Discipline deletes this. The notion of a dispassionate or even apathetic God seems rather foreign to the God revealed in the Scriptures, a God whose love and wrath are far too real to be explained as mere anthropomorphisms. No, God is truly angry with sin and He truly loves His creation.

It has always occurred to me that the word “angry”, may be interchangeable with the word “aggrieved”. In this context, God’s actions may take on many forms, be they seemingly wrathful or merciful, depending on our flawed, human, perspective. All may be seen as actions of Divine Love, but none can be considered apathetic. How, do you think, did the English Reformers define this word, “angry” in relation to God’s repository actions to sin, and how should we relate this same concept to people today while at the same time (in the same context) explaining the Articles?


Joseph said...

Thank you Fathers Wells and Hart.

The way I have always thought of the Trinity is like Hymn 168(?)" Three in One and One in Three" much like the concept of the three states of matter. Liquid, Solid and Gas... Water/H2O is always H20 no matter if it is ice,liquid or steam. Probably not a perfect comparison but a good illustration that everyone can grasp

Fr. Robert Hart said...


The influence of the Athanasian Creed, as it is called, is a good influence and fairly apparent.


I would never use the "Liquid, Solid and Gas" analogy. It is popular, but it is a bad analogy. It implies one Person manifested three ways, which is by no means whatsoever the doctrine of the Trinity. It is best throw it away, and use (for example) the Shamrock instead, truly one in three and three in one.

Anonymous said...

The liquid/ice/steam could be a BETTER illlustration IF one limits this to water's triple point where water,steam,ice are all in equilibrium--even this falls short of course, but it is closer to the truth, as all three exist simultaneously at this point. Otherwise, as Fr Hart pointed out, liquid/ice/steam is more illustrative modalism.

Doubting Thomas

Paul Pavao said...

I'm a little curious as to how you can say that Constantine was told to be quiet and had no further say after opening the council. According to Athanasius, it was the emperor who proposed and argued for the inclusion of homoousios.

From The Life of Constantine:

"On this faith being publicly put forth by us, no room for contradiction appeared; but our most pious Emperor, before any one else, testified that it comprised most orthodox statements. He
confessed, moreover, that such were his own sentiments; and he advised all present to agree to it,
and to subscribe its articles and to assent to them, with the insertion of the single word, ‘One in substance’(homoousios)"

Eusebius was there.

Anonymous said...

Fr Dan: Thank you for your response, and I rather like "aggrieved" as a substitute for "angry." When called upon to defend the notion of the Divine wrath, I describer it as the collision of holiness and sin. We could continue that line of discussion, but the major point here for me is that the English Reformers conceived of God's anger precisely the same way that the Scholastics, the Fathers, and the inspired Biblical writers did. When Cranmer retained the phrase "Be not angry with us forever" in the Litany, he was employing OT language continued in the NT and throughout the entire tradition.

As for the liquid, solid and gaseous i interpretastion of the Trinity, isn't that just Sabellianism? The Father in the OT, the Son for about 30 years in the first century, and the Spirit ever since? Water cannot be all three at the same time, but God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost simultaneously and eternally.

Anonymous said...

The influence of the Athanasian Creed, as it is called, is a good influence and fairly apparent.

I believe that I acknowledged this already. What I was wondering was if you had any evidence, such as some historical resource that I could obtain, that the English Reformers actually used or considered the Athanasian Creed during the formulation of the Articles. I don’t recall reading any reference to such in any of the books I have (including Bicknell), but my memory may be faulty.

P.S. – in my second question, I meant to use the words “response or”, not the single word, “repository”. When will Microsoft invent a product that will produce what I mean instead of what I type?


Fr. Robert Hart said...

Paul Pavao wrote:

"Eusebius was there."

Bear in mind that Eusebius was very much a champion of the reputation of Constantine. Nonetheless, when the Emperor stood up to address the Council he was told not to speak. That does not mean that he refrained from conversation. The Council was not over in a day, and there was lots of time for discussion.

Death Bredon said...

In light of Queen Elizabeth I's claim that, “We and our people—thanks be to God—follow no novel and strange religion, but that very religion which is ordained by Christ, sanctioned by the primitive and Catholic Church and approved by the consistent mind and voice of the most early Fathers," Articles I and II are already somewhat curious.

First, the theology proper pounded out at Nicea and Constantinople confess "one God the Father almighty, and then "the Son of God," followed by the Holy Ghost, the Lord ...." In sharp contrast, Article I propounds a Godhead first, and then three constitutive persons. While there is no necessary contradiction between the approaches of the consensus patrum and sensus fidelium which are expressed in the Creed on one hand, and Article I's approach on the other, there difference in approach does indicate that perhaps Queen Elizabeth I was perhaps overstating English fidelity of the Fathers. Rather that expressing the consistent mind and voice of the Fathers, Article I express a peculiarly Augustinian approach, which is quite patient of the heresy of modalism and is also subject to the criticism of unnecessary sectarianism.

Indeed, for a second example, the Articles' claim that God is "without parts," again echoes Augustine's peculiar theory of divine simplicity simpliciter first ever penned in his Confessions. Indeed, the ancient contemporaneous consensus patrum agreed that God is simple in the sense that he is unchanging, but it recognized a certain complexity or "parts" of God if you will, distinguishing between at least for types of divine distinction, which were later collected and systematized as divine energy-essence distinctions within the Godhead.

Second, Article II's reference to "original guilt" is again, not found in the consensus patrum, which speaks only of a primeval curse that all men are subject to even in the innocency of infancy. Indeed, the concept of birth guilt is a unique, sectarian theory coined by Augustine based not upon the Scriptures, but rather on Jerome's mistranslation of Rom. 5:12. Indeed, even the Catechism of the Catholic Church, implicitly acknowledging the Jerome and Augustine's error, now spins the Latin dogma of "original guilt" such that it is substantially the same as the pre-Augustinian theory of that, because of Adams's fall, all men inherent a primeval curse at birth, not guilt for personal sin.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

In sharp contrast, Article I propounds a Godhead first, and then three constitutive persons.

Contrast? It is not a contrast at all, certainly not a "sharp" one. Any emphasis on the equality of the Three Persons is contrary to the Semi-Arianism that plagues modern "Orthodoxy" as held by Anti-Western zealots, whose "Orthodoxy" is a version unknown to the Orthodox Church proper. It is perfectly fitting, especially in accord with the opening of John's Gospel, to begin with the equality of the Persons by their Nature. It does not contradict, or contrast against, the fact that the Son is eternally begotten and the Spirit is eternally proceeding, Each from the Father. It is just as necessary to recall that "equality with God (the Father)" comes from the Scripture (Phil. 2).

...but it recognized a certain complexity or "parts" of God if you will, distinguishing between at least for types of divine distinction, which were later collected and systematized as divine energy-essence distinctions within the Godhead.

That is not the right language at all. The Divine energy theory held by some of the ancient writers, and championed as a basis for false partisan theology by modern "Orthodox" writers, cannot be described as parts. It is, rather, the idea of something other than unknowable, unapproachable, Wholly Other from all creation Divine Essence that communicates the revelation of God to creatures. It is not reasonable to posit this idea against Divine Simplicity.

As for Augustine's version of Original Sin, it is most certainly debatable. That is, inheriting guilt per say, as opposed to inheriting the fatal condition that tends to sin by death. But, Augustine's teaching is debatable, not heretical. No Oecumenical Council ever condemned it as heresy.

D.B., it seems to me that you will have to decide whether you champion Anglicanism or the most modern trendy version of Orthodoxy. Yes, Anglican Reformers were western and Augustinian. We recognize that fact, and have been dealing with it openly in the prefaces.

Joseph said...

Fr Hart I understand what you are saying with the liquid/solid/gas illustration. But the way that I think of it is the elemental structure H20. Whether it is liquid, solid or gas it is always the same element H2O, even though we perceive it as different things.....

Fr. Robert Hart said...

But, in the words "even though we perceive" we get to one of the problems with that illustration. The doctrine of the Trinity is that God really is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, not merely that God is perceived or has revealed and manifested Himself in different ways. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, etc. The Three coequal Persons are inseparable, but nonetheless distinct.

Anonymous said...

Death Bredon attempts to set up a conflict between the theology of "the Fathers" and the theology of Augustine.
I believe it is safe to say that Augustine of Hippo was Himself a major figure in the Patristic period, and any opinion in conflict with his must be weighed in the balances. As Mr Bredon certainly knows, there was more than one type of theology circulating during the Patristic period. But that does not make ancient theology a cafeteria in which we can pick and choose at our pleasure. One thing the Fathers agreed upon was a unanimous appeal to Scripture, an appeal glaringly absent from Mr Dredon's comment. If the Fathers said "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ," then to ignore the Scriptures is to reduce "consensus patrum" to a buzzword.

If Augustine's doctrine of the Trinity is "patient" of modalism, then the alternative is an invitation to Arianism. Any theological nuance may distorted into heresy. The real question (which Mr Dredon by-passes) is which is more faithful to the Biblical witness?

Augustine's well-known mistranslation of Rom 5.12 (eph'w into in quo, "because" into "in whom") is an old point. The error has long been acknowledged even by such a doughty Calvinist as John Murray. But the doctrine of original guilt does not hang on that error. It is arguable that Augustine made the translation error because he found the general idea all over Genesis and Romans. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Corporate guilt is a painful truth but it is a legal fact still acknowledged in our jurisprudence. To put it in journalistic terms, God has a class action suit against humanity. "O my people, answer unto me!" This is the language of a covenant lawsuit, found in Micah 6 an echoed in the Good Friday liturgy. Augustine may have differed from some of the Fathers, but if so, it was because he was a better exegete, and a minute translation error does not overthrow that fact.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this series and this entry in it!

I would ask you to consider at some point, some where, appending some explicit discussion of "to reconcile His Father to us"/"ut Patrem nobis reconciliaret".

It does not 'sit' obviously lucidly with all the excellent Trinitarian theology surrounding it, so far as I can see.

Whether, and if so, how, relevant the Council of Constantinople (1156) is, here, I am not sure, but it probable merits being explicitly addressed in any such discussion.

With good wishes for the work ahead!,


P.S.: I was asked to retype 'randect': it sounds like it ought to exist, if it doesn't already (cf. 'pandect') - perhaps something in baptismal theology ('ranis', 'drop', 'ranizdo', 'sprinkle', 'purify')?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Reconciliation with sinners, through His Son, was the Father's will all along. It is why the Lord went so deliberately to His cross. What is the problem with the ministry of καταλλαγή (reconciliation, reconcile, reconciled-ἀποκαταλλάσσω, καταλλάσσω)? It fits in perfectly right where the Article uses it, for it is a practical and necessary thing for every human being to grasp, a fruit of the Incarnation that must come before everything else, without which we would have no partaking of the Divine Nature (II Pet. 1:4) in the world to come.

Beware the modern "Orthodox" trend to treat Atonement as a dirty word, a subject of embarrassment, or as attribution to God of something base and low. The cross is where God has manifested His love, and according to St. John, His glory. If, as St. Athanasius teaches, God became man that man may become divine, reconciliation had to be the first and most necessary step to glorification. Therefore, it is most fitting to mention it in an Article about the Word made flesh. To treat the subject as unworthy is itself an unworthy, and most unspiritual, attitude toward the cross of His love and glory.

[10] For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

[18] And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.
[19]To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
[20] Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

[16] And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

[20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
[21] And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

I believe it fits in perfectly.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr Wells writes:

I believe it is safe to say that Augustine of Hippo was Himself a major figure in the Patristic period, and any opinion in conflict with his must be weighed in the balances.

It is hard to understand how one of the Fathers is at odds with "the Fathers." In any case, since Death Breden has made the charge of heresy, I would ask where and when, at which Oecumencial Council, Saint (and that is Saint in the Orthodox Church too) Augustine was condemned for heresy. I must have missed that, somehow, in my reading of the Councils.

Anonymous said...

Dear Father Hart,

Thank you for your lucid and detailed comment.

Excuse my unclarity in posing the (possible) 'matter'!

What I was wondering about was not the statement of "to reconcile [...] to us"/"ut [...] nobis reconciliaret", but the distinct accent on "His Father"/"Patrem".

In Romans 5:10, "God" is used for "God the Father" (if I may so put it, and insofar as "Son" does not accent 'humanitas'), while in none of the other verses (as you cite them: I have not gone to the Greek, nor expected I need to) is that explicitly so.

Christus Deus reconciles us to/to us the Holy Trinity, Father, Holy Spirit, and Himself.

Perhaps I am being overscrupulous in anticipating possible difficulties/avoidable susceptibilities to misunderstanding (though centuries - if not millenia - of knuckled-headed vulgar opposition of the God of the Old Testament to Jesus may give some grounds for concern).


Anonymous said...

We have already had some discussion of
"reconciling the Father" in the introductory essay. Perhaps I am being overly fastidious, but I prefer to use "propitiate" when the object is God and "reconcile" when the object is sinful mankind. That is more consistent with NT usage (which never speaks of "reconciling God"). The advantage to the distinction is that it heads off an argument by liberals who announce "the NT never speaks of reconciling God, because God is looove." That lexical fact has been misused to argue, falsely, that the NT has no notion of an objective atonement. It certainly does and the term propitiation sums it up.

Granted, many sound theologians have used the term "reconciliation" as a more comprehensive term, describing how Divine wrath is satisfied, sin is conquered, and fellowship is re-established. But my concern is to keep the unpopular word propitiation on our vocabulary. "He is the propitiation for our sins."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Death Bredon:

I am not publishing that last comment. You ought to be used to the fact that I cannot agree with your take on these "East-West" things-and by the way, we have many readers here.

Semi H:

I see your point. When the Scriptures refer directly to the human nature of Jesus, He is often identified so greatly with us that the Father is meant or implied by the word "God." But, your point is also correct.

Ron said...

Any emphasis on the equality of the Three Persons is contrary to the Semi-Arianism that plagues modern "Orthodoxy" as held by Anti-Western zealots, whose "Orthodoxy" is a version unknown to the Orthodox Church proper.

New reader here. Fr. Hart, would you please explain what you mean by "the Semi-Arianism that plagues modern 'Orthodoxy' "?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

To begin with, a modern version of anything theological is always wrong, since it is not rooted in the revelation made known to the Church through the Apostles and Prophets, and, having no history, has no tradition. Among some of the Orthodox converts, and even a few of its old timers, the fashion and trend to be Anti-Western leads them to extremes on the edges of heresy, and that includes heresy by the standards of the the Universal Church, including the genuine teaching of Orthodoxy.

The two most troublesome portions of this concern the Atonement (Propitiation) and the Trinity, specifically the full equality of the three Persons of the Trinity. It is true to say that the Son and the Holy Spirit come from the Father, eternally begotten and proceeding. But, the impulsive reaction against co-equality, whenever and however it is expressed, or reaction against calling the Word or the Spirit "God" based on blowing out of proportion a mere point of grammar about about Ho Theos and Theos, as if it changed the meaning, or using phrases like "the idolatry of the Son," reveals that an Arian bias and attitude has been permitted to creep in. It is very disquieting, to say the least.

Ron said...

Thank you, Fr. Hart. This is the first occasion I have encountered the phrase, "the idolatry of the Son." Perhaps I need to read more widely. A Google search offers only St. John Chrysostom's Second Epistle to Theodore of Mopsuestia, in which the phrase is used of Solomon's worship of foreign gods. Which Eastern Orthodox writer uses the phrase "the idolatry of the Son" as you describe?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Which Eastern Orthodox writer uses the phrase "the idolatry of the Son" as you describe?

Specifically, Serge S. Verhovsky used the exact phrase in Russian that translates "the idolatry of the Son." It is no less of a name than Fr. Thomas Hopko who has made too much of the Ho Theos and Theos thing, as did Arius. They get too close to the edge; they ride a bicycle on a tightrope over a poisonous snake pit, and ask us to join them.

Ron said...

I hesitate to pursue this. I wish neither to debate (I know when I am outclassed) nor to defend Fr. Hopko. But I would like to understand the Anglican POV better, so here goes.

We need not pick on Fr. Hopko's Greek exegesis. He is quite willing to hammer that point in English: "In the Bible the term 'God' with very few exceptions is used primarily as a name for the Father. Thus, the Son is the 'Son of God,' and the Spirit is the 'Spirit of God.' "

Perhaps Fr. Hopko feels justified by such Scriptures as 2 Cor. 11:31, Eph. 1:3, 4:6 and 1 Pet. 1:3. Perhaps he feels safeguarded from Arianism by that phrase in the Nicene Creed which says: "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father." Article I above says, "There is but one living and true God...three Persons, of one substance...the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Article II says, apparently with Fr. Hopko, that "the Son, which is the Word of the Father" (emphasis mine). These articles say little about the Person revealed as Father.

I once had a Baptist pastor correct me when I answered his question, "Who is Jesus?" with "The Son of God." The answer he wanted was "God the Son." Any decent Baptist statement of faith will have as its outline of theology proper: a) God the Father, b) God the Son, and c) God the Holy Spirit.

If Fr. Hopko's emphasis can be said to stray too far toward Arianism, I think the Baptist pastor's preference can lead to Sabellianism. I say this because I associate it with another Baptist's contention that "Jesus is his own Father" as he tried to explain what I recognized as patripassianism.

How does Anglicanism strike a balance between Fr. Hopko's "the Son of God" and the Baptist pastor's "God the Son"? How is that balance presented in the Articles?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Hopko would deny that his statements have been "patient of" Arianism. But, the simple opening of the Gospel of John (allowing for the grammar of Ho Theos and Theos-The God and God, respectively) is perfectly translated into English:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God."

This opens with a statement of Equality, as does Article I.

Anonymous said...

I think it is incorrect of you to say that the 39 Articles use the creed of 381 AD. Anglicans use a creed that is several centuries later. The 381 creed did not contain the filioque.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I think everyone understands that. And, you forgot the accidental omission of "Holy" each time the initial printer's error was repeated.