Rushdoony gets it…sort of

When I was first becoming Reformed the guy I mainly read was RJ Rushdoony (and many would say that’s a problem; that he is not a real Calvinist, and I should have spent years reading Berkhof instead; perhaps, though that would only have deferred the problematic issues and not removed them).

I was so excited to read Rushdoony’s book on the early church councils.  Admittedly, it was a terrible introduction to the early church.   Even where Rushdoony did not get it wrong, he often missed the main point (e.g., Athanasius was fighting Arius, not Karl Barth; reading Rushdoony one often got that impression).   That said, it was a fun read.

I get annoyed when Calvinists say doctrine is important, but the Filioque is simply trifling over words (cf Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology).  To be fair, what difference can  three words make to your spiritual life (or to your social order)?

Now that I think of it, Rushdoony was onto something.    He believed there is a direct relation between Triadology and social order.   So did St Gregory Nazianzus:

The three most ancient opinions concerning God are Anarchia, Polyarchia, and Monarchia. The first two are the sport of the children of Hellas, and may they continue to be so. For Anarchy is a thing without order; and the Rule of Many is factious, and thus anarchical, and thus disorderly. For both these tend to the same thing, namely disorder; and this to dissolution, for disorder is the first step to dissolution.

Rushdoony upholds the Filioque, and he tries to show how it is important.  On p. 189ff (I think; I am quoting this from memory.  If I am  off on the pagination, it is only by a few pages) he says the addition of the Filioque destroyed the remaining vestiges of subordinationism in Christian theology.  Further, it reduced the power of the State in the West and saw the triumph of the Church.

My thoughts:

The Filioque destroyed a form of healthy subordination by negating the monarchia of the Father (and all must admit this is a new move in theology). The only way one can remove all forms of subordinationism in the Trinity is to opt for something like Calvin’s autotheos, the Son (and presumably Father and Spirit) is God of himself.   But one must then ask, “given the denial of the monarchia, and what autotheos entails, how can one affirm a personal source of unity in the Trinity?”  One can’t.  One is left with “God popping up all over the place.”

The problem is that Rushdoony gets the best and worst in one swoop.  He removes the healthy form of subordinationism by moving away from the monarchia of the Father, and with his emphasis on autotheos he does have the persons of the Trinity fully God–even if he can no longer show how they are connected, something the monarchia safeguarded–but even with the Filioque one must admit subordinationism is not yet gone.

This is a point that is rarely seen.   If the ancient view of the monarchia is subordinationist because it has the Son and Spirit deriving from the person of the Father, and the Filioquists say that the Filioque destroys this subordinationism of the Son, how can one avoid the conclusion that the Spirit is now subordinate to the Son and the Father?   The Spirit has been made the Son’s lieutenant.  It won’t do to say as Berkhof that the Spirit receives the entire divine essence.  That’s not the issue under contention–the monarchia of the Father said the same thing.

The Social Order

The above are arguments and counters- you will find in any Filioquist discussion.  Rushdoony makes a number of correct observations if wrong conclusions.  He notes that one’s view of the Trinity is directly tied to one’s view of social order.

  • Rushdoony noted a connection between subordinationism in the Trinity and the development of the Byzantine state.   Actually, he used more loaded terminology, but let’s look at it.  I think he (correctly) assumes a correlation between the monarchia of the Trinity and political monarchy.   Of course, he sees that as statism and “developing the Byzantine state.”  While the Byzantines were autocrats in a certain sense, this is still far removed from the “state” in any modern sense.
  • Rushdoony (correctly) says the Filioquist West saw the rise of the Church above everything else in society.   He’s not entirely accurate on this point.   It’s not so much that the Filioque let to the rise of the Church–especially not in the free, volunteer church that Rushdoony espoused!–but to the rise of the papacy.   The East said that the Holy Spirit is the principle of unity in the Church.   While the West may affirm that, too, one more likely sees the papacy as the principle of unity in the Church.    That’s what Thomas Aquinas said,

“The error of those who say that the Vicar of Christ, the Pontiff of the Roman Church, does not have a primacy over the universal Church is similar to the error of those who say that the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Son. For Christ himself, the Son of God, consecrates and marks her as his own with the Holy Spirit, as it were with his own character and seal, as the authorities already cited make abundantly clear. And in like manner the Vicar of Christ by his primacy and foresight as a faithful servant keeps the Church Universal subject to Christ. It must, then, be shown from texts of the aforesaid Greek Doctors that the Vicar of Christ holds the fullness of power over the whole Church of Christ.

Something happened which the Ring did not expect (Vladimir Putin)

One has to be careful with “conspiritorial” views of history.  It’s not that they are wrong-headed, but that given the nature of the case there is so much information that “just can’t be known.”   Theologians who stand in traditionalist schools of thought (some Catholics, some Orthodox, maybe one or two Evangelicals) usually have a better angle on conspiracy history than the average “pop news” watcher.   These theologians have some training in writing, have read and interacted with numerous footnoted and scholarly peer-reviewed books, and given the nature of their reading, and reading in general, they don’t have time to watch TV (which means they miss out or ignore what Fox News says).

Yes, the above title is a reference to the Lord of the Rings, particularly the movie version of the Fellowship…The Ring didn’t expect to be found by a Hobbit, or something.    The title represents another problem with conspiracy views–the unexpected often happens, and when this does, it shatters paradigms.

While it’s a controversial thesis, it seriously cannot be gainsaid that the Anglo-American bankers, particularly the Rothschilds and Rockefellers, have orchestrated European politics for over 100 years.  The Rothschilds–with their Jewish agents in Thessaloniki– were behind the Armenian genocide of 1915.  Some scholarship has been done on the connection between London/New York bankers and the rise of the Bolshevieks.   Unfortunately, when the Bolsheviks became too powerful, the Regime needed a counter-weight, and they found one in the person of Adolf Hitler.

Unfortunately…well, the rest is history.    The West became entangled in one huge dialectic–it was social engineering at its finest.   When the Nazis were able to place key individuals in the “freedom-loving West,” essentially turning America into a military-industrial complex, the only entity powerful enough to stop them was Soviet Russia.  Not really a happy array of choices.  This is social dialectic at its starkest.

The bankers themselves weren’t too bothered.   They were able to heavily invest in Soviet infrastructure.

I suppose even the most ardent socialist saw the coming demise of the USSR.  However, given that Marxism and capitalism share the same root presuppositions, and that these economic forces control the Western countries (if you doubt that, google which entity contributed both to McCain and Obama’s campaign.  When you are done, get back to me…), the fall of socialism presented no real problem to these elites.   In fact, given there was no strong leadership in Russia, it was now possible to siphon trillions of dollars of Russian capital back to the West via Harvard university, the Carnegie Institutes, and others.   Given that Yeltsin was a dying alcoholic, and that the Russo-Jewish mafia controlled Russia, the game went on as before.

But something happened which the ring did not expect.   One of Yeltsin’s last moves to was appoint Vladimir Putin as his successor.   Putin was not Yeltsin.  Putin had his training in the security services.   Long story short, Putin marginalized the Jewish Mafia in Russia, rebuilt the military, and was able to capitalize on Russia’s nigh-infinite oil reserves.  In short, he brought Russia from a Third World Country to a First World Country in fewer than ten years.

Unfortunately for the Regime, Putin is a nationalist.  While his Orthodoxy is not always perfect, and he has compromised on some issues, Russia has began a slow revival under Putin (and the Moscow Patriarchate).  Putin’s moves have blocked the Regime in countless ways.  The most obvious is when Putin prevented an Israeli-trained Georgian army from ethnically cleansing Russian citizens in South Ossetia.

Few realize just how major this was.   For the first time in ten years, NATO-inspired military interests were stopped cold.   America was clearly not in a position to react.   Secondly, after the debacle in Kosovo in 1999 the Russian army demonstrated it could respond to highly sophisticated threats.    For Americans, this meant that the Regime would wait a little longer before sending American boys to die in Iran (some suggest that Putin’s moves in Ossetia delayed a Zionist war against Iran).

I know there are some in the extreme “white nationalist” camp who think that Putin is a Zionist stooge and Putin supporters like Daniel Estulin are simply Zionists front-men.   Besides questioning their IQ, I don’t know really what to say.  If Putin were really a Zionist front-man, why has he been consistently thwarting Zionist designs?  Further, for those who still think Putin is a front-man for the New World Order, why did the Bilderbergers try to kill him?

The Dialectic forms post-liturgical politics

Currently reading E. H. Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two  Bodies.  Fascinating thesis but some difficulties at first.  EHK claims that later Western medieval theology and politics operates around a Christian heresy:  monophysitism.  While he is correct to note that the dialectic forms (deconstructs) Western political theology, much of the book seems to point that Nestorianism, not monophytism, is the heresy in question.

It may not be that big a deal, though.    If as St John of Damascus said, “Heretics confuse person and nature,” then it follows that all heresies deconstruct on that particular point.  If that is true, call it either monophytism or Nestorianism–it’s the same end game.

Be not glib in speaking of the fathers

As far as Presbyterian scholarship goes, Robert Letham is probably the best.   He’s actually read (if not always understood) the Church Fathers and their leading interpreters, usually going across traditions to understand them (something unheard of in Calvindom).   His book on Eastern Orthodoxy, while deeply flawed at the basic level of argumentation, is mainly  backhanded praise for Orthodoxy (I still don’t know how the Reformed church didn’t bring him up for trial for that book; Leithart has been grilled for less).

Speaking psychologically of others is dangerous, for who can see inside another’s head?  (Incidentally, that sentence refutes all of psychology as a scientific discipline; as magical arts psychology might have some validity, but not as “science”).   That said, I think I know why Letham continues these backhands of Orthodox fathers.  First, we must consider some things Letham has said.  In his other books Letham has come very close to denying the heart of Western theology: The Filioque.  He admits most of the problems in Western theology (and offers no real solution), which seems to lean him towards Orthodoxy.  Letham sees the difficulty of his position.

Anyway, to the passage in question.   It is found in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church periodical New Horizons.  Letham is offering a list of books to read on Christology.  He mentions St Cyril of Alexandria’s On the Unity of Christ and has this to say of Cyril, “One of the Church’s most brilliant theologians and most vicious thugs,” p.13).  I know I should be careful in speaking of elders in the Church, but should not the elders be careful in speaking of the holy fathers?

This is wrong on so many levels.  For one, I have worked with thugs and Cyril is not one of them!  If Cyril is a thug for out-politicking Nestorius, then John Calvin is a mafia don for what he did to Servetus!*  Why is Letham calling Cyril a thug?  It seems like Cyril played unfairly with Nestorius, having called a council while Nestorius was still traveling to it.  As John McGuckin makes clear, Nestorius was already summoned by the emperor and delayed leaving; therefore, Cyril was justified in his actions.

Just because Cyril looked overly efficient in marginalizing Nestorius doesn’t mean he was a thug.  Nestorius ridiculed popular piety (and Orthodox belief), used hair-splitting distinctions, and spoke on a quasi-scholastic level that few could understand.  He was destined to lose this battle.  Cyril didn’t engage in thuggery; he simply allowed Nestorius to show himself for what he really was.

*Most Orthodox people like to rail on Calvin for what he did to Servetus and Geneva.  While I have no love for Calvin or Geneva, I’m not too bothered by the fact.  Calvin had little political power in Geneva (he wasn’t even a citizen of the city!) and was unable to do most of what he wanted in the city (he couldn’t even have communion on a weekly basis for the city authorities forbade it).   Anyway, it seems the Code of Justinian made idolatry on Servetus’ level a capital crime.


Letham, Robert. “Four Favorites:  Books on Systematic and Historical Theology.”  New Horizons April 2011: 13. Print.

Upcoming post on dialectic

Some have asked me what I (and others) mean by “the dialectic,” particularly its presence in American intellectual development (and particularly its absence in Russian development).  That request also dovetails with some Trinitarian and cultural posts I have wanted to make (from reading Slavoj Zizek).   I’m too buys for the next few days (coaching baseball, installing an air conditioner), but I should post on it this weekend as spring break is coming up.

Getting out of the current social debates

This is from an older post by Fr Raphael.

Will they laugh at us? Of course, that’s the normal way they deal with people; this is how they deal with opposition: scorn and, eventually, social exclusion, and, soon, arrest. We certainly have ample precedent for this. Remember: This is nervous laughter. Remember: we believe in Holy Russia and Orthodoxy, they believe in the latest academic fads. We believe in the Tsars, they believe in the latest celebrity gossip and fashions. We believe in the Russian nation, they believe in modern (and solely modern) political ideologies. We believe in the Holy Spirit, they believe that technology is leading humanity into an era of peace and plenty. We believe in the divinity of Jesus, and they really believe that “reality TV” is unscripted. We believe in One True Church, they watch Oprah. We are the ones that need to be laughing.

On what Rob Bell could have said…

No, I haven’t read all the requisite material on the case, nor do I care.   I am not “damning” (no pun intended) Bell’s position.    I realize most of the annoying Calvino-bloggers Gospel Defenders have jumped on the case.  Of those, maybe 1% has read Bell’s work.   (Since when is the gospel ever not under attack in Calvinist circles?)

I don’t really care about the larger part of Bell’s arguments, nor whether he is a universalist.  I doubt he is.   Further, I doubt he is even correct in what he claims.  Unlike the Gospel Defenders I think I know what Bell is “getting at.”

There is a mental problem for many to say that God created most of humanity simply to roast them sadistically for all eternity.  Quite frankly, in perhaps less loaded terminology, this is an undeniable implication of the Calvinist position.  And Bell is correct to say there is just something “wrong with that.”  Further, Bell is theoretically correct to say that God “can” reach people in “different” ways.   And while Bell probably doesn’t mention this, the early church did not go out joyfully proclaiming that the wonderful gates of hell are now open even wider because of Jesus.

Unfortunately for Bell, though, the Church has condemned this facet of Origenism (and unfortunately for Calvinists, they are still Origenists).  Here is what Bell should have said:  I reject the theology that God created most of humanity simply to use for firewood in hell.  Further, I stand with the Church in rejecting Origenist final recapitulationist views.   On the other hand, it is not my business (authority?) to say who can and who cannot go to heaven/hell.

And if he were really bold, he could try to tie in Henri de Lubac’s arguments on Christ uniting humanity in some mystical way with the fact that universalism is condemned (it’s not entirely clear de Lubac was able to manage that).  In any case, that is a far healthier mindset that looking at Buddhist babies and chanting, “Firewood, firewood.”

(Repost) on Calvin’s anarchic, autotheotic God

My favorite passage from the Fathers is St Gregory Nazianzus’s Third Theological Oration.    In the second section he notes,

II. The three most ancient opinions concerning God are Anarchia, Polyarchia, and Monarchia. The first two are the sport of the children of Hellas, and may they continue to be so. For Anarchy is a thing without order; and the Rule of Many is factious, and thus anarchical, and thus disorderly. For both these tend to the same thing, namely disorder; and this to dissolution, for disorder is the first step to dissolution.

In other words, polyarchia (multiple sources of unity in deity) and anarchia (no personal source of unity) deconstruct into one another.   Polyarchy (or polytheism) is chaotic and degenerates into anarchy, for there is no overriding principle of unity.   Anarchy (no source of unity) means that if there are multiple deities, and no one principle of unity, then each deity is seen ultimately as “other” than this deity (the next postmodern step equating the “other” with violence is obvious).

How does this relate to Calvin’s view of autotheos?  If the Son is God of himself, then Calvin cannot consistently claim to uphold the monarchia of the Father.  Yet, the monarchia of the Father is explicit in the Nicene Creed’s claim “God of God.”   If there is no monarchia of the Father, then there is no personal source of unity for Calvin’s trinitarianism.  And if there is no personal source of unity for Calvin’s Trinitarianism, then it is ultimately anarchia and polyarchic.

Did Calvin Confuse Person and Nature?

The irony is that I am now reading Calvin more carefully (and sometimes more eagerly) than the days when I was a Calvinist.  The following is from his commentary on Matthew 24:36 (good luck finding it;  “Harmonies” of the Gospels are useless and make research and cross-referencing virtually impossible.  That said, if you have the 30 odd volume Commentary set published by Baker or Hendrickson, look for volume 17, page 154.

For we know that in Christ the two natures were united into one person in such a manner that each retained its own properties; and more especially  the Divine nature was in a state of repose, and did not at all exert itself, whenever it was necessary that the human nature should act separately, according to what was peculiar to itself, in discharging the office of Mediator.

We can note several things here:

  • The Person of Christ as subject (per Cyril) is pushed to the background and emphasis is on the Office of Mediator.
  • We see an explicit statement that natures, not Persons, act.   This is an open confusion of person and nature.  I suppose one could reply that Calvin really meant that the person acts, and the first sentence of the quote does suggest that Calvin thought he was being faithful to the Tradition.  That said, given the later Calvinian emphasis on the extra calvinisticum, Calvin’s words here are internally consistent (if wrong).
  • Some people think that Nestorianism means “two persons of Christ.”  It does not.  It means “two subjects.”   Cyril’s theology was that the Logos is the sole subject of all Incarnate actions.  Nestorious explicitly rejected that point.  If Calvin has natures acting, then he is positing multiple sources in his Christology.  The structure of his Christology is openly Nestorian.

I will admit, though, I do not yet know what Calvin means by the divine nature is in a state of repose.

EDIT:  I actually do know what Calvin means by the “state of repose.” The extra calvinisticum is clearly wrong, but that’s not my contention here.