Charles Hodge on Divine Simplicity

Takes the teeth out of the claim that Protestants are necessarily crippled by their view of Absolute Divine Simplicity:

…[S]tart with the revelation that God has made of himself in the constitution of our own nature and in his holy word.  This method leads to the conclusion that God can think and act, that in him essence and attributes are not identical (I: 564).

It’s also interesting to note Hodge’s comment about God constituting our nature in a certain way.  Shades of Thomas Reid.

To say, as the schoolmen, and so many even of Protestant theologians, ancient and modern, were accustomed to say, that the divine attributes differ only in name, or in our conceptions, or in their effects, is to destroy all true knowledge of God…If in God knowledge is identical with eternity, knowledge with power, power with ubiquity, and ubiquity with holiness, then we are using words without meaning (I: 371-372).

The attributes of God, therefore, are not merely different conceptions in our minds, but different modes in which God reveals himself to his creatures…just as our several faculties are different modes in which the inscrutable substance self reveals itself in our consciousness and acts (I: 374).

So what do we mean by simplicity?  Rome has a thorough, if ultimately chaotic, answer to this question.   Orthodoxy has an outstanding response to Rome, but nothing in terms of a constructive view of Simplicity.  Following Turretin, Hodge writes,

The attributes are to be distinguished not realiter, but virtualiter; that is, there is a real foundation in the divine nature for the several attributes attributed to him (I: 370).

What does virtualiter mean?

Richard Muller defines it as “literally, i.e., with virtue or power” (Muller 371).

It’s interesting that Muller mentioned “power.”  This corresponds with Radde-Galwitz’s interpretation of Gregory of Nyssa.  Alluding to Michel Barnes he notes that divine power is the causal capacity rooted in the divine nature; inseparable from the divine nature and gives rise to the divine energies (183; Barnes).  Further, each “Good” (or attribute, in our case) entails another.

Works Cited:

Hodge, Charles.  Systematic Theology, volume 1.

Muller, Richard.  Dictionary of Greek and Latin Theological Terms

Radde-Galwitz, Andrew.  Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity.

Tips for Orthodox Apologetics

This post is meant in the sincerest attempt at Christian charity (assuming, of course, I am a Christian, since I am outside the “Church”).  If you follow these steps, you will have more success at communicating your faith to Protestants.  Please do not respond with fired-from-the-hip reductios on whether Protestants can give an account of the canon.  That’s irrelevant to the current discussion.

1.  Forbid converts from writing annoyingly triumphalistic convert stories.   It’s annoying when Rome does it; why would it be better when Moscow does it?  As an orthodox convert friend told me, “The only interesting convert stories are written by former prostitutes and hit-men.  Saying, ‘I used to believe that, but now I believe this’ is boring.

2.  Understand where Luther (and by extension, we) are coming from.  Perhaps Luther was wrong to “reject his bishop” (which is an ironic claim, since you by definition also reject Roman Catholic bishops), but Luther was also dealing with the fact that poor Germans were spiritually enslaved and giving all of their money (and thus starving) to buy a horsehoe from some dead saint’s horse in order to get a few million years taken off of some dead aunt in purgatory.  Simply sitting still and being quite is worse than sin.   Councils did try to reform Rome, but they failed.  Should we just sit quietly in spiritual darkness?

3.  I posed that question to some convertskii on Facebook, and they snidely responded, “Well, why didn’t Luther just become Orthodox?”  I imagine one probably won’t become Orthodox if a) you know very little about it; b) you have to travel 700 miles on dirt roads through bandit-infested woods to come to a communion that doesn’t understand you nor your background.  It just ain’t gonna happen.

3a.  And he would have had to go to Russia, not Greece.  Since the Patriarch of Constantinople was completely dominated by the Turk.

4.  Drop the line that we don’t have any authority within our churches, supposing that every man reinvents the tradition as he sees fit.   The Magisterial reformation acknowledges the distinction between ministerial and magisterial authority.  Church courts, etc., are the former.  The Bible is the latter.  Now, you might not like this distinction and you may say it doesn’t work.  Great.  At least deal with it and quit supposing that every Protestant’s view of authority is simply like a Baptist business meeting.

5.  Western Rite is good, but most of it is simply a “de-Filioquized” form of the Book of Common Prayer.   Seriously consider the ancient rites of pre-schism Western Europe.



Athanasius and the extra-calvinisticum

The guys at CalvinistInternational have done a decent job with the sources.

The Extra-Calvinisticum is the doctrine that Lutherans charged followers of Calvin for holding.  For the record, I still side with the Lutherans on this, but that’s not the point.   The point is that the extra-Calvinisticum is tied in with the Nestorian charge that people often throw at Calvinists.   The problem–of which I was aware when I was attacking Calvinist Christology–is that many Greek fathers held to the extra-Calvinisticum, if the anachronistic use of the term can be excused.  The quote by Athanasius is fairly common knowledge.   The rest is from the guys at CalvinInter.  Let’s keep in mind what the extra-calvinisticum is claiming.  It is claiming that there is a bit of the Logos’  divine nature not contained inside the incarnate Person.

The Word was not hedged in by being present elsewhere as well.  When He moved His body He did not cease also to direct the universe by His Mind and might.  No.  The marvellous truth is, that being the Word, so far from being Himself contained by anything, He actually contained all things Himself.

On the Incarnation 17

Now it is impossible for any creature to comprehend the Divine Essence, as was shown in the FP, Q12, AA1,4,7, seeing that the infinite is not comprehended by the finite. And hence it must be said that the soul of Christ nowise comprehends the Divine Essence.

John of Damascus, qtd in Thomas Aquinas, Third Part, Q10, A1.

To put this into perspective, let’s keep in mind the doctrine of en-hypostatization.   Natures are contained within an hypostasis.

We are all fundamentalists now

I realize my moniker “fundamentalist” can scare some people.  But let’s keep in mind how Marsden, the official authority on North American fundamentalism, defined it:  a loose coalition of anti-modernist forces.   In 1999 one of Bill Clinton’s henchman (his last name was Cohen) gave a justification for the bombing of Serbia.  He said, “We are fighting a war against religious extremism and nationalism.”  Let me translate:  “We are fighting a war against people who believe their religion is true and love their country.”  Translate:  We are (soon-to-be) fighting a war against Middle Class American Christians.   Fulfillment:  The Obama Administration.

Without watering down our differences (which is impossible, as those who read my comments at Orthodox Bridge know), we should suffer together, if need be.

In a sign of ecumenism, allow me to point you to some “fundamentalists:”

























A Messy Christology

This is actually a work-in-progress…

1. Take the cappadocian argument against Eunomius:  Eunomius posited that there existed an intermediate energy between Father AND Son AND Holy Spirit.   They correctly responded that within the essence there are no intermediaries.  Yet if we look at the Photian monarchia of the Father–which I accept in its general outline–we see the Father “causing” the Son and Spirit.  Since energia is functional with operation, and cause is an operation, how is this much different than the Eunomian claim?   Fr Sergei Bulgakov beat me to the punch 100 years ago and offered a way out, but his ideas were condemned as heretical.  Bulgakov notes that Photius accepted the same problematic as his opponents, nor could he escape the problem of diarchy:  while the Filioque posits a two-ness with Father-Son on one side and Spirit on the other, Photianism (for lack of a better term), ends up with a similar two-ness, though consequent this time, as opposed to antecedent.

2.  Dr Bruce McCormack illustrates some key gains with Cyril’s Christology. Like Apollinaris he understood that the Logos had to instrumentalize the human nature.  Unlike Apollinaris he avoided truncating that human nature.  The problem, though, as Lutherans were keen to pick up on, is locating the “acting agent.”  Normally Cyril locates the acting agent as the Logos asarkos.  However, when we get to the communicatio idiomata, it seems Cyril is locating the acting agent as the whole Christ, which is an entirely different term.

3.  Orthodox and Lutherans hold to a real communication of attributes.  Good.  Here I part with the Reformed and proudly stand with Lutherans.  There is a problem, though.  St Maximus said the relationship was tantum…quantum.   This means if there is a real communication, it’s a two-way street.  However, if we attribute human attributes to the divine (which is how John Milbank reads Andrew Louth’s reading of Maximus), how can we seriously maintain any doctrine of divine impassibility?

4.  Continuing McCormack’s argument.  We admit that the person of the Logos is the acting agent of the union, denying activity to the human nature; this is consistent with the principle that persons act, not natures.  However, when one communicates this to the modern world, using modern terminology, we find that we are equivocating on the term “human.”  In today’s language humanity means, among other things, a self-activating nature.

Chrysostom, Bible-reading, and certainty-basicality

I thank Drake for these quotations.

Chrysostom, 3rd Sermon on Lazarus

“Who is there, to whom all is not manifest, which is written in the Gospel? Who, that shall hear, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are the pure in heart, and the rest; would desire a teacher to learn any of these things, which are here spoken? As also the signs, miracles, histories, are not they known and manifest to every man? This pretence and excuse is but the. cloak of our slothfulness. Thou understandest not those things, which are written: how shouldst thou understand them, which wilt not so much as slightly look into them? Take the book into thy hand: read all the history; and, what thou knowest, remember; and, what is obscure, run often over it.

John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on Second Thessalonians

“What do I come in for, you say, if I do not hear some one discoursing? This is the ruin and destruction of all. For what need of a person to discourse? This necessity arises from our sloth. Wherefore any necessity for a homily? All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain. But because you are hearers for pleasure’s sake, for that reason also you seek these things. For tell me, with what pomp of words did Paul speak? And yet he converted the world. Or with what the unlettered Peter? But I know not, you say, the things that are contained in theScriptures. Why? For are they spoken in Hebrew? Are they in Latin, or in foreign tongues? Are they not in Greek? But they are expressed obscurely, you say: What is it that is obscure? Tell me. Are there not histories? For (of course) you know the plain parts, in that you enquire about the obscure. There are numberless histories in the Scriptures. Tell me one of these. But you cannot. These things are an excuse, and mere words. Every day, you say, one hears the same things. Tell me, then, do you not hear the same things in the theaters? Do you not see the same things in the race-course? Are not all things the same? Is it not always the same sun that rises? Is it not the same food that we use? I should like to ask you, since you say that you every day hear the same things; tell me, from whatProphet was the passage that was read? From what Apostle, or what Epistle? But you cannot tell me— you seem to hear strange things. When therefore you wish to be slothful, you say that they are the same things. But when you are questioned, you are in the case of one who never heard them. If they are the same, you ought to know them. But you are ignorant of them.”

Chrysostom rejects the argument that one cannot read Scripture.   He advances the point further:  God has so constituted our faculties that we can read words and understand what they mean.



A survey of various and useful theological sites

Just some sites I have found helpful.

The Orthodox Nationalist.   Easily the best podcast on the web.  Documents a lot of the problems and compromises in world orthodoxy.   HIGHLY recommended.  Lots of good stuff exposing the occult and New World Order

Energetic Procession.  It used to be a lot more interesting.  A lot of challenging material, which most convertskii and internet apologists use, but is limited by the fact that it assumes its readers have an insanely technical understanding of medieval philosophy.   People don’t like to admit it, but Perry is the godfather of all internet Orthodox “one-two” arguments against Calvinism.

Orthodox-Reformed Bridge:  Initially irenic.  Good essays by Arakaki.  The one on Calvin and the Icon was really helpful.  Claims to be a place of dialogue, but by “dialogue” they assume you will agree with what they say and will chastise you if you don’t.   The “Bridge” part of the title is a bit misleading.  I don’t recall many essays written by Calvinists.   It’s a one-way street.

Calvinist International.   Fairly irenic.  I’ve disagreed with Steven a lot over the years, but I’ve come to appreciate what he says.  Lots of good research here.  Dispels a lot of myths used by convertskii.

Green Baggins.  Reformed.   Usually good, but too many comments.  Helpful on keeping up with the latest in the PCA.

Triablogue.  Used to be really good on apologetics and analytic philosophy.  Some of the older apologetics post detailing Van Til’s problems were lost.   I haven’t found the site to be of much help in recent years.  Employs a tommy-gun approach to theological discussion.

Pious Fabrications.  When i was looking into Orthodoxy, I went here a lot.  Probably most famous for his debate with Rhology.   Some good material on apologetics and the early church.

Eternal Propositions.  Drake takes a lot of flak from people–and he probably thinks he takes some from me.  I like Drake, though, to the small extent I have interacted with his writings.   Drake was very helpful in giving a response to the Disciples of Perry and their arguments.  What sets Drake’s site apart is that he actually understands what both sides are saying.  I think that is why people get so angry with him.  He avoids easy answers and can provide cogent, well-articulated responses to the intellectual form of the convertskii.

Retractare: Kline and the Covenants

When i was in seminary I was a militant opponent of Meredith Kline’s view of the covenants, particularly the claim that the Sinai covenant is a republication of the covenant of works.   I am retracting most of that.  The fact remains that the Biblical covenantal structure so much reflects the ANE suzerainty treaty-model that it simply can’t be dismissed.  Even better, such a model entails the concept of “canon.”

While I don’t like saying that Sinai was a republication of the covenant of works, Michael Horton has made clear that Sinai has a works-principle seen in the language of conditions (the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants do not).   See Galatians 3 and 4.

Gregory the Great on the Canon

With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical, yet brought out for the edifying of the Church, we bring forward testimony.

Moralia, 19.34

It is true that many church fathers believed the “Apocrypha” to be canonical.  It is also true that many did not.   Further, in the West up until the late middle ages, theologians were still wrestling over which books were “canonical” or if the very concept of a canon was even helpful.  Understanding that, perhaps we can cut Luther a little slack.  Sure, he supposedly “took away” some books, but given the current Western debate over the extent of the canon, many mainline doctors of the church were doing that.