Monday, November 26, 2012

What's in a name?

Sean Gerety has labelled me a Unitarian on several occasions now (example). I am not sure whether he intends to address my response to that particular post beyond his reply to a single verse I only mentioned in passing and which, since several others who hold to a similar position as myself disagree with my interpretation, is not likely indicative of whether my more broad views are false. What I am fairly sure of is that Sean knows I believe in the deity or divinity of Christ and the Spirit. He simply believes that because I refer to the Father alone as aseity and autotheos, my definition of deity or divinity fails to take into account that these predicates are actually attributes rather than personal properties. The charge of Unitarianism seems to based on what he thinks are the logical implications of my views rather than what my actual views are.

In that case, I may as well call him a Tritheist, for he holds to both generic unity and rejects that the Son and Spirit are subordinate to the Father in any ontological sense. To defend against this charge, he may appeal to the idea there is one definition of "God," but this no more precludes the fact this definition would be predicable of multiple persons than the idea that there is one definition of "human" precludes the fact this definition would be predicable of multiple persons. As there are multiple humans, so there must, on Sean's view, be multiple Gods. As an alternative defense, Sean may say that the Son and Spirit are in some sense subordinate to the Father, just not in respect of their natures. I would completely agree with that, but because Sean has said "aseity" and "autotheos" are attributes common to each person, it seems to me that he has eliminated the very means by which the "second" and "third" persons of the Trinity can in some ontological or non-economic sense be subordinate to the "first" (cf. link).

Now, ascribing unwanted labels to each other - however accurate they may be - is not really what I'm interested in. I'm much more interested in hearing Scriptural or philosophical counter-arguments and rebuttals to my views. Nevertheless, as in the absence of such it appears that Sean's charge of Unitarianism is the most likely to present prejudicial challenges to third party readers, I think it will be useful to examine just why it is he thinks I'm a Unitarian and whether it's true. 

However, to do that in one post would require me to cover more material than I am prepared to cover, and I suspect it would also be more than anyone would be prepared to read in one sitting. So I will explain in future posts why I do not consider myself a Unitarian. In short, while I believe the Son and Spirit are subordinate to the Father only insofar as they are eternally begotten of and spirated by (i.e. derived from) the Father, I assert they are both [eternal and necessary] divine persons, which is, in fact, one possible meaning of the word "God" (simply not the monotheistic meaning). I agree with the Trinitarian formula of the Nicene Creed and many of the early church fathers's views who formed or benefitted from it. I do not see how, if I show these things to be the case an contrast them to Unitarianism, this charge will be able to stand, and I expect Sean to retract it if I do. If I am wrong, I will accept the label and hope to reign discussion back towards Scripture and the logical implications of it. That's where it should be in the first place, but I can only take what I'm given.

I hope Sean comes to agree with me, but this will only be possible if, as I did, he opens himself to the possibility that what he and many mainstream Reformed Christians currently think are wrong. If it's possible in epistemology, it's possible in theology proper.


Drake Shelton said...

"If it's possible in epistemology, it's possible in theology proper."

>>What Sean has failed to grasp as of yet is that it is BECAUSE of Theology Proper, that we have the epistemology we do.

MikeD said...

Couldn't we just say that there is only one human being, but many human persons? Isn't that realism in a nutshell? "In him we live and move and have our [common] being."

Ryan said...

It all depends on what "being" means. You seem to be using it to be synonymous with the definition of a class or genus; there is only one class or genus, whereas there are multiple members or species of said class or genus. I have no problem with that if that is what you mean.

But there are those who think that to say the Father, Son, and Spirit are "one divine being" means that they are the "same God" - see Steve's comment on 11/21/2012 at 5:35pm here, for example. In this case, the idea of "one being" is clearly being used in the sense of numeric unity.

Drake Shelton said...

I wanted to comment on the God's Hammer blog and since I am not allowed to comment I will do it here:

Sean said,

“Generic unity is denied in your scheme because only the Father is truly God and the son (*notice lower case) is His mere messenger or as Drake calls him, His “icon.””

>>>1. You are conflating the word God with divine thus misunderstanding our use of generic.

2. My use of the Son as the icon of God pertains to his human nature not his divine nature, so here you are conflating the ontological trinity with the economia.

“ BTW what is the difference between a contingent being that derives its existence from a superior being and a creature?”

>>>One emanates from the Father’s essence, the other is created out of nothing. THIS IS VITAL!

“The Son and Spirit far from being co-equal with the Father in your Unitarian scheme are down the chain of being.”

>>With reference to hypostasis not nature. You are then, conflating person and nature.


“It is you who is currently creating a facade of my position so as to avoid actually engaging it.”

>>That is exactly right.

“Sean, I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. That’s all.”

>>>That is one scripture out of many these Van Tillians in Clarkian clothing will never touch.