Towards a Christian Response to Jay Dyer, part two

Jay’s post here.  The nu

1. The doctrine of a third Person was not clearly taught in the first few centuries. Indeed, even by Basil’s time, he expressed hesitation about declaring for sure that the Spirit was a third hypostasis in the godhead. The problem with this is that we must either admit a very extreme form of doctrinal development, which few are willing to admit, or we must say that in some way the fathers of the 1-3 centuries were utterly deficient in their doctrine of God. How did they carry on the apostolic Tradition, if many of them did not even grasp the divinity and Personhood of the Spirit? In fact, Justin Martyr posited a Dyad. Consider also the “development” of the notion from Athanasius that the Son is generated from the essence of God, to the Cappadocian idea  that He is generated from the Father proper. Once you read Plotinus, though, it becomes clear how influential the Platonic tradition was on the Alexandrians and the Latins in their triadic formulations. But once we admit this, we have moved far from the Hebraic and Mosaic tradition, into what appears to be a Greek Hellenic mystery religion.  Indeed, if you pay attention to Christian writers, notice how often when speaking of God, it is a singular Person, with a singular will acting. Yet when we come to Trinitarian theology and God acting, we are immediately caught in a whirlwind of explaining how three Persons act in different way, yet don’t. It’s a maze that ends up being miles away from the Shema. Peruse the 5th Ennead for yourself, which Augustine openly borrowed heavily from:

Response to (1):  Were they deficient in their doctrine of God or were they merely deficient in their language expressing the doctrine of God?  Your argument only lends support to the latter.  However, I grant your contention about carrying on apostolic tradition.  I am getting the impression that the “deposit” mentioned in Jude is not the “Full Theology of the Seven Councils” ala the East, nor the “seed-form of everything 21st Century Catholicism would eventually say.”  Rather, I am seeing the apostolic deposit as the faith in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15).  In this case, I thank Mr Dyer for sharpening my understanding of the issue.

2. Can we pray impreccatory prayers now? C.S. Lewis found them offensive and demanded we cannot. Aquinas says we must in no wise despise our enemies.  If no, this would be absurd, since it would mean God composed many prayers in the Psalms that are now useless. Although some might resort to lengthy explanations as to how we can pray them, this would run counter the tradition of many of the saints, who forbid such an idea. And based on a simple reading of the Sermon on the Mount, it would appear we cannot pray them. Other examples of how this is fuzzy would be something like martyrdom – does God want me to fight my opponents and possibly save the lives of others, or am I bound to martyrdom? When we look at the Church of the first few centuries, pacifism was almost the absolute law.  Why such a radical change in God’s social rules?

For all of the problems with the Reformed faith, this isn’t one of them.   My wife and I sing impreccatory psalms as lullabies to our little girl. As to the Sermon on the Mount, there is yet to be a contradiction demonstrated.  A tension maybe, but I can life with tensions.  And for what it’s worth, N. T. Wright has suggested that the Sermon is not meant to be read as a normative ethical blueprint–though certainly not to be discarded–but as an urgent summons to the rebellious 1st century Jews to abandon their way of being Israel to be a New Israel.  The failure to heed would result in their rebellious actions getting their temple destroyed.

3. The sexual views of the fathers of the first few centuries are generally somewhat bizarre. Sex is viewed in some form as evil, and even up to Maximus’ time, it is somehow dirty and base. It is not hard to see why this is when you read the 5th Ennead of Plotinus. Augustine borrowed from this in large chunks.  This is the source of the idea that the Spirit is the glue between the One and it’s generated image. The generated nous returns the love to the One and this is a pure, “spiritual” love. Plotinus and Augustine and many fathers in the East too, conceive of love in an Eros or sexual way apart from purely procreative ends as evil. If you’ve ever wondered where the Church/Augustine got this, read the 5th Ennead. And I needn’t explain how different this view is from the Law and Prophets views on sexuality. This is why the Church has to “spiritualize” all the texts in the Law and wisdom texts about the importance of having sons. What God really wants is “spiritual” sons in the Church, since sex is lesser and base. No one can tell me this isn’t the case with the fathers, East and West, as top Eastern theologian Phillip Sherrard admits:

Studies have shown that conservative Protestants have the best sex lives.   Actually, the last part of your objection is kind of funny and spot-on.

4. Related to that last issue, it now casts a new light on the matter of the rise in the position of women in Christianity, and this is concurrent with the place of the Virginal Queen of heaven, who over the centuries achieves a progressively higher place of veneration in the Church. It is not surprising, then, that this religion emasculates men, and has progressed to a point where large numbers of the priests in the Latin tradition are now homosexual. One can say that it was not always this way, but I suspect the sublimation of sexuality as dirty and in some form involving some degree of sin (as Augustine says), has lent great impetus to this being the end result. We can blame Masons all day long, but at a certain point, that is just a bunch of excuses. Stepping back and looking at the issues, it becomes apparent that a Latin tradition that exalts celibacy, derives its theism largely from Plotinus, raises women to the status of virtual goddess, and promotes monastic asceticism as the higher calling – that this tradition would eventually fall into mass homosexuality and perversion. Why shouldn’t it? It holds that the good things of nature – race, sex, beauty, are actually bad and despised by the God who purportedly gave them. God has chosen the base things of the world – the stupid, the inane, the poor, right? So why is it surprising that when I attend the local Novus Ordo, it’s a communistic, college girl led, fag fest? The Orthodox Christians may escape some of this, but they cannot even tell us whether God punishes or not, so I am not as thrilled about them as seeking Latin Catholics might be.

Presumably this is an in-house Catholic debate.

5. Thus the next issue – Lex talionis. God Himself operates on the “eye for an eye” principle in many texts in the Law and prophets and writings. Most Christians, however, have read Jesus’ sermon as a rejection of this approach. There have been many exegetes who explain and qualify this as meaning that we as individuals are forbidden to operate this way, but God still does. Well, who believes this anymore? If they did, they would execute homosexuals, since that is the requirement of the Law for this sin crying to heaven for vengeance, but no Catholic or Orthodox would dare have the balls to say this (aside for me and a friend or two). What this makes clear is that Christianity, for all its ad nauseam touting of its practicality cannot even get off the ground on basic moral issues. Indeed, after 2,000 years, we don’t know what to do with imrpeccatory prayers or the death penalty.  Within the first few centuries, we ended up having to debate the very issues (such as “justified lying”) the rabbinate had already debated.

Lex talionis is a limit of maximum justice, not a mandate to pursue vengeance to the hilt.  This is kind of where theonomy falters:  it doesn’t really explain how the law is variously, if not apparently contradictorily applied in the Old testament.  Jesus is simply limiting the desire to pursue vengeance to the hilt.  We know, however, that Christ did not do away with the penal commands of the Old Testament, for in Matthew 15 he implicitly affirms the death penalty against rebellious children.

6. Why does the Church retain Pentecost as a feast, and not other feasts of the Law? Why do we retain “holy water” and not other aspects that are found in Numbers? It becomes clear this is ad hoc and arbitrary. I know the answer – that the Apostles, via their apostolic authority, confirmed these elements (supposedly – we don’t see holy water in the fathers), and not others. The problem is that we have no consistent hermeneutic for determining why we utilize these “ceremonial” elements, and reject other elements such as the priestly ephod, as fulfilled. This is why in the history of the church, you see new elements become incorporated that were formerly ceremonial (such as holy water or the “tabernacle’).

Interestingly, Jay’s reading of the Fathers and Holy Water is identical to Calvin’s.  Westminster Protestants do have a more consistent hermeneutics:  the ceremonial laws typify Christ.  I am not saying this is the best answer in the world. I am simply saying it is a more consistent answer.

7. The early church for the firt 3 centuries was the persecuted, pilgrim church. After that period, it becomes the imperial church that begins to justify its notion of “Christendom” by saying that the kingdom is now united to the Empire. The kingdom becomes a step more worldly, and the notion of Christian Emperors arises, and ruling as a Christian king. The idea of persecuting heretics by the state is first justified by Ambrose and then Augustine. So the poor church becomes the state church, and Rome more adn more takes on the appearance of an alter-Israel. The texts are then read, not of “spiritual Israel,” but of the state church which can execute or banish heretics and wizards. So the typology of the heavenly Jerusalem becomes more earth-grounded, and Rome, by the time of the papal states, looks more and more like Israel, to the point where the church’s locus is identified with a city-state – Vatican City, replete with its own huge bank, etc. So we have a new church/state/nation, yet the Church was supposed to be the eternal, spiritual eschatological reality, and not another historical institution operating more and more like historical Israel over time. Indeed, the types of the loss of land in Leviticus apply to Israel, but somehow not the curses to the Church. Yet we turn around and end up using these texts for God’s judgments on the church at different points in history. The hermeneutic is again inconsistent. The textual arguments for the Messianic age uniformly tell us of an end to idolatry, yet the Church took numerous pagan elements that God in Deuteronomy 12 says are forbidden, and Christianizes them. In other words, the very things defined as idolatry in the Law and used by the fathers as proof of Christianity as the fulfillment of the covenant (the end of idolatry), become the norm in the Church and are somehow a “proof” of the spread of the messianic age!

This seems to be a slam against traditional, institutionalized churches.  Since I am apparently part of neither, this slam doesn’t bother me.  Per the eschatological thrust of the post, I am a premillennialist and dont’ believe we are in the Messianic Age, understood as the Millennium.




5 comments on “Towards a Christian Response to Jay Dyer, part two

  1. jnorm says:

    I’m going off memory and so I might be off somewhat somewhere, But from what I can recall from my own reading of the pre-nicene fathers,

    1.) There were Church Fathers, Christian Witnesses, Schismatics and heretics in the first few centuries who saw the Holy Spirit as being Divine. Those in the late 4th century who didn’t see him as being Divine were the Eunomians, which was a form of Arianism, and not really something that was unknown(the Divinity of the Holy Spirit) for the first few centuries. In fact, Saint Basil proved his Divinity from the Divine Liturgy! Also, he was hesitant because he wanted unity (in his day). The Church after his time wasn’t so hesitant and went ahead with his conclusions.

    2.) Saint Justin Martyre mostly talked about the relationship between the Father and Son, but in other places he did mention the Third Person in the Divine Economy (Tertullian was one of the first to make use of the word Trinity, other writers before his time used words like “The Economy, Triad,……etc.)

    3.) I don’t see a conflict between being generated from the Essence of God vs being generated from the Father proper. For who did Saint Athanasius think God was (I know what some say about him later in life, but when he made this statement, what did he believe)? What is the popular Eastern Christian interpretation of the dogma of the Trinity? What does the Creed say?

    “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;”

    So why is there a conflict between saying He was generated from the Essence of God vs being generated from the Father?

    4.) He wants to tie Trinitarianism with Greek mystery religion which shows his tendency to want to see a conspiracy under every rock. But to do this he will have to ignore the Christian Trinitarians who lived before the birth of the greek philosopher Plotinus. He will also have to ignore the 2nd Temple Jewish influence in this area as well. As seen here:

    5.) It is true that following the sermon on the mount was popular in the first few centuries of the Church. However, it is also true that you had christian soldiers in the armies as well. Not only do we see this in the book of Acts but we also see this in later centuries as well. One of which is Saint Maurice and so both traditions co-existed side by side with each-other. Eastern Orthodoxy preserved both sides(traditions) for 2,000 years. Both sides co-exist in tension, just as they always did! He seems to only want simple and easy answers, but life dictates that answers aren’t always easy, and sometimes things are complex and complicated.

    6.) The spiritualization of the Hebrew Bible is a 2nd Temple jewish practice and so it’s not something we picked up in the 3rd century with Plotinus. We believe in multiple senses of the text and so to think that all we do is spiritualize the O.T. is false. We simultaneously do both! We don’t believe Scripture to only have one sense.

    7.) The push for a higher sexual standard didn’t start with the Church Fathers. It started with Jesus. Look at what Jesus had to say about Marriage, also look at what he had to say about looking at a woman with lust……etc? And so the higher sexual standard starts with the teachings of Jesus! This is why Christianity in general is different from it’s Rabinnical jewish cousin in the area of sex. It’s because we follow Jesus and his Apostles over that of Moses.

    8.) Rome is literally 1/6 of the planet and so the homosexual problem is going to be bigger there than in most other groups. But the whole woman thing in the churches has nothing to do with Plotinus, Mainstream protestantism rejects mariology and they are the ones who were most influenced by feminist theology, why more than Rome and Orthodoxy, and so Jay needs to point the finger elsewhere. He needs to point the finger at the enlightenment onward.

    For even certain rabbinical jewish groups suffer with these same issues. Reformed Judaism could be used as a modern example. Jay would have to choose some sort of Rabbinical Orthodox Judaism or else his a good portion of arguments against Christianity could also be used against Judaism.

    9.) The Church christianized certain portions of Judaism. Some Jewish feast days carried over while others didn’t. Pascha (Passover), and Pentecost carried over, why the others didn’t just shows that Christianity wasn’t invented in a classroom in where modern academia gets to choose what they think is consistent. Christianity is organic in that it reflects what was preserved over the many generations. And that which was added just shows that it didn’t disrupt or destroy something else in the tradition. It just added to it. Or complemented it. Jay wants easy and simple answers. A one size fits all thing,

    10.) The Church is both an eternal, spiritual eschatological reality, as well as a visible one!

    I don’t have time to read the rest of his arguments.

  2. I think per (2) that Jay was arguing that Martyr asserted a bifurcated son; Farrell makes exactly the same argument against Justin Martyr.

    ~3. Per Radde-Galwitz’ reading, Athanasius held to the identity thesis of divine simplicity, which is extremely problematic for Orthodoxy. Orthodox triadology holds that person and nature aren’t the same thing. Thus, the claim that the Son is generated from the “what-ness” of the Godhead is an entirely different proposition from the claim that the Son is generated from the “who-ness” of the father. Then there is the problem of Athanasius saying the Son is the willing of the Father. As Farrell notes elsewhere, this is identifying person and operation.

    ~4. Mostly agreed here.

    ~5. I agree. I can think of warrior-saints like Basil Bulgar-slayer and Tsar Lazar. I think Jay was upset because he sees a tendency in modern Orthdoxoy to downplay that aspect.

    ~6. I think John’s statement of the PaRDeS exegesis is more accurate. I think there are huge eisegetical problems with the four-fold approach, but I won’t go into them here.

    ~7. Jesus didn’t denigrate the conjugal act in marriage. According to the intro to St Basil’s *On Social Justice,” Basil did, urging his married hearers that they had to live like monks. This is why Protestants find Chrysostom’s teachings on marriage and sexual love so refreshing.

    ~8. Mostly agreed. Talmudic Judaism is a vile monster.

  3. jnorm says:

    Thanks for the response,

    2.) I thought Jay was talking about Binitarianism for some Binitarians make a similar claim about Justin Martyr, but now I’m starting to see that it might be about something else, and so I’ll re-look into this.

    3.) Do you have any links or books that I could read up on in regards to Saint Athanasius and the identity thesis of divine simplicity?

    If both church fathers believed in the Monarchy of the Father then wouldn’t the issue be about “””the Son is generated from the “What-ness” of the Father””” vs “””the Son is generated from the Who-ness of the Father?”””. This is what I was trying to get at with my first response.

    I could be wrong, but I thought the Orthodox believed the Eternal Generation of the Son was in regards to both.

    As far as willing goes, I saw this type of language in the pre-nicene world. The Arains used this language to make it seem as if the Son was created. I could be wrong, but I thought Saint Athanasius used this same language to make it seem as if the Son was not created. That the Son was Son by Nature, and so the willing was natural. Like I said, I could be wrong about this and so I will review just to make sure. There was a slight change in definitions of words between Nicea and Constantinople 1 as well and so maybe this might have something to do with it. I don’t know, for I would have to re-listen to about a dozen mp3’s and watch a few videos as well as re-read a number of articles and passages from church fathers in order to know for sure.

    5.) Yes, he is upset about that. He tagged me on facebook some months back or maybe even a year back to talk about the issue. Before I became Orthodox I was heavily influenced by David Bercot’s movement (I stopped following his movement around 2003, but I still kept the pacifism part for some years later) and I was a pacifist because of it. When I became Orthodox I was happy to find a good number of pacifists, but after looking at both sides of the issue I watered down my pacifism to the point of maybe being a semi-pacifist now.

    6.) We will have to agree to disagree on this.

    7.) We don’t follow just one church father(Saint Cyril with the Copts, and Saint Augustine with Rome). We follow multiple, and so it’s extremely difficult to pin us to the statements of one church father alone.

  4. jnorm says:

    My bad, you already mentioned “””Radde-Galwitz’”””. Can you link the exact work or book for me? Thanks!

  5. ~2. I am going off of Farrell’s analysis in GHD. I’ll do a blog post on it in the near future.
    ~3. Andrew Radde-Galwitiz, Transformation fo Divine Simplicity. Bruce McCormack picks up on this in a lecture. (Lecture 1)

    ~7. This gives me difficulty evaulating some orthodox claims. When I point out x father said this, I am met with the above response. Yet people have no problem appealing to the same father when they think he is right? What is the criteria for rightness? I know the answer: the councils, the liturgy, etc. Yet to justify those appeals are often made to the Patrum Consensus.

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