Athanasian creed and the dialectic

Around Christmas eve I found this Anglican blog taking the Athanasian creed (as a liturgical tool) to task.   The whole post is almost worth quoting in entirety, but some of the comments are just as revealing.   The Athanasian creed, falsely so-called, can be found anywhere so I won’t quote it.  The third point is what I am focusing on today.

3. The QV does not fit or conform to the biblical paradigm in that it begins with a consideration of the essence of God prior to any consideration of the distinct Persons of the Godhead, i.e., going from the abstract to the concrete. (Note that the Nicene Creed first confesses the Persons, and then goes on to explicate essence only with respect to the derivation of the Son and the Spirit from the Father.)

Implicit in the Athanasian creed are “relations of opposition” and the Filioque.  Further, these two are connected.  Given absolute divine simplicity as a framework, you cannot distinguish Father/Son/Spirit accept by relations of opposition.  This is more pointed in Aquinas who makes person to be relation.  This is the dialectic.  As Farrell notes,

Having assumed an absolute simplicity, the Persons can no longer be absolute hypostases, but are merely relative terms to each other, thus occuring on an even lower plane than the attribute proper….There is a subtle, but nevertheless, real play of the dialectic of oppositions here. One no longer begins with the Three Persons and then moves to consider their relations, but begins with their relative quality, the relation between the Persons, itself. In other words, there is an artificial opposition of one Person to the other two.

Joseph Farrell, Introduction to The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit of our Father among the Saints, Photius the Great, Patriarch of Constantiople (2001), p. xx-xxi.

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