Friday, December 7, 2012

Unitarianism, Samuel Clarke, and Assorted Details

One of Sean's stated reasons I am a hell-bound Unitarian is that historically, my view "most accurately mirrors" that of Samuel Clarke (link). Clark was a Unitarian, so I must be too - or so, it seems, the argument goes. Now, I assume that Clarke is considered a Unitarian because his views in turn are aligned with those of Unitarianism, as Clarke predated the actual Unitarian movement by a half a century. If this assumption is correct, I would reply that even if it were the case that, historically speaking, Clarke's views were the most closely aligned with my own, that would not prove I am a Unitarian, for it may be and in fact is that I disagree with Clarke on a significant issue: the issue of whether eternal generation and procession are necessary. Clarke states in The Modest Plea (pgs. 15-18):
(1) Length of duration, how unlimited forever, either a parte post or a parte ante, in a person begotten by the Power and Will of Him that begat, does not imply Necessary Existence. And 'tis a great Presumption to affirm that, what the Scripture always expresses by a word denoting an Act, may as well be expressed by a word denoting not an Act. As to Antiquity; The Doctrine of Necessary Emanations, sprung from the Notions of ValentinusCerinthusManesMontanus, &c. But in opposition to the numerous Passages cited by Dr. Clarke, wherein the Fathers expressly affirm the Son to be begotten by the Power and Will of the Father; 'tis observable, Dr. Waterland has not been able to produce so much as ONE single Passage out of any One Ante-Nicene Father, wherein the Son is affirmed to have emaned or been emitted by Necessity of Nature. Even They who supposed him, in an unintelligible manner, to have been the internal Reason or Wisdom of the Father, before his Generation; still suppose him to have been Generated into a real person by the Power and Will of the Father. And They who compared his Generation, to the Sun's sending forth his Rays of Light, or to One Fire lighting Another; yet All of them suppose, and Some of them expressly distinguish in this Similtude, that whereas the Sun emits his Light, and one Fire lights another, by Necessity of Nature; the Father begat the Son by his Power and Will. See Dr. Clarke's Scripture Doctrine, Part II, 17.  
(2) "A Necessary Emanation from the Father, by the Will and Power of the Father;" is an express contradiction. Because Necessity, in its very Notion, excludes all operation of Will and Power, though it may be consistent with Approbation. Whatever is by Necessity of Nature, cannot, without the highest Absurdity, be said to be By any one's Will and Power; though it may well be Agreeable and Pleasing to him. A Necessary Emanation from the Father, can no more be said to be Begotten of the Father, to be Begotten by his Power and Will; than the Father can be said to have begotten, or given Being to himself, or to his own Reason or Understanding. On the contrary, Such an Emanation, and the Essence from which it emanes, would Both be as equally self-existent, as 'tis equally necessary for God to be an Intelligent Being, and to Be at all. Whatever necessarily and essentially belongs to That which is self-existent, is itself Self existent, as being indeed only the very same thing apprehended under a partial consideration. "God" (as this matter has been expressed in the Letter to the Author of the True Scripture-Doctrine, &c. pag. 267,) "is necessarily Omnipresent and Eternal; doubtless, not without [much less againsthis own Liking and Approbation: But was ever any Man therefore so absurd, as to say that he was Omnipresent and Eternal BY his will? He is likewise by Necessity of Nature, Wise and Good; that is, he always necessarily sees and knows what is right, and approves what is good; And in all this, his will is no way concerned: But whenever he Acts, whenever he Does any thing, then 'tis not by Necessity of Nature, but by the Choice of his Will." The contrary Supposition, is, in the truth of things, making him No Agent at all; 'Tis devesting him (as Mr. Hobbs has done) of the Prime Glory of all his Attributes.  
(3) But (says Dr. Waterland), "Will is One thing, and Arbitrary Will another." I answer. This is one of the greatest and most unreasonable Abuse of words, that I have ever met with in Any Writer. For the only true difference between Will and Arbitrary Will, is, that Arbitrary Will signifies Willing a thing unreasonably, and without any just Cause. But to make Arbitrary Will signify barely the Choice or Free Act of the Will, and to make Will signify mere Approbation without Any Choice or Act of the Will at all; is taking away all Sense from words. For, at This rate, a Man's Heart may be said to beat by the Will and Power of the Man, though his Will and Power have no influence at all upon it. And the Sun may be said, in the same sense, to rise and set by the Will of Man, that is, with his good Liking and Approbation. And a Balance, if it could feel itself Necessarily turned by a Superior Weight in One Scale, might justly be said to Turn itself by its Will and Power. If this be not indeed in the highest degree (to use Dr. Waterland's phrase) "elusive and equivocating," 'tis hard to say What is.
This is similar to the position of American Unitarians, a group to which Sean at one time thought and perhaps still thinks I should belong (link):
But in regard to all such accounts of the doctrine, it is an obvious remark that the existence of the Son, and of the Spirit, is either necessary, or it is not. If their existence be necessary, we have then three beings necessarily existing, each possessing divine attributes, and consequently we have three Gods. If it be not necessary, but dependent on the will of the Father, then we say that the distance is infinite between underived and independent existence, and derived and dependent, between the supremacy of God, the Father, and the subordination of beings who exist only through his will. In the latter view of the doctrine, therefore, we clearly have but one God, but at the same time the modern doctrine of the Trinity disappears. The form of statement too, just mentioned, must be abandoned, for it can hardly be pretended that these derived and dependent beings possess an equality in divine attributes, or are equal in nature to the Father. Beings whose existence is dependent on the will of another cannot be equal in power to the being on whom they depend. The doctrine, therefore, however disguised by the mode of statement which we are considering, must, in fact, resolve itself into an assertion of three Gods, or must, on the other hand, amount to nothing more than a form of Unitarianism. In the latter case, however objectionable and unfounded I may think it, it is not my present purpose to argue directly against it, and in the former case, it is pressed with all the difficulties which bear upon the doctrine as commonly stated, and at the same time with new difficulties, which affect this particular form of statement. That the Son and the Spirit should exist necessarily, as well as the Father, and possess equally with the Father all divine attributes, and yet be subordinate and inferior to the Father—or, in other words, that there should be two beings or persons, each of whom is properly and in the highest sense God, and yet that these two beings or persons should be subordinate and inferior to another being or person, who is God—is as incredible a proposition as the doctrine can involve.
The arguments are easy enough to reproduce, so I will do so in turn, explaining why each fails. In this last paragraph, we find a few arguments: 1) if the Father, Son, and Spirit each necessarily exist, then there are three Gods; 2) if the Son and Spirit are derived, then the Son and Spirit cannot be consubstantial or of the same essence or nature as the Father, as, for example, the Father’s power is supreme; 3) the Son and Spirit cannot exist necessarily yet be subordinate to the Father.

In reply, we may note that 1) and 3) both beg the question: why? No supporting arguments are provided, and I can think of none. Clarke provided a more nuanced argument which I will turn to in a moment, but no immediate objection sprang to mind when considering the possibility that the Son and Spirit necessarily exist because the Father necessarily eternally generates the Son and spirates the Spirit; in that case, then, we may say the subordination of the Son and Spirit to the Father is precisely found in the fact that they are [necessarily] derived from Him. In reply to 2), the presumption is that “power” is a divine attribute. What sort of power is the author referring to? Obviously, the Son and Spirit have power or authority, but that is because such has been given to them by the Father. The Father alone is called “Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18, Revelation 1:8, 4:8, 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, 14, 19:6, 15, 21:22) and ultimate “Sovereign” (1 Timothy 6:15). This, I think, is a sufficient reply to American Unitarianism.

Turning to Clarke, one of his first objections is that his opponent produced neither Scripture nor an early church father which taught that the Son or Spirit existed necessarily. Now, if this is one area of disagreement I have with the majority of the early church as Clarke thought, is it not ironic that it is on a point which would imply I am against rather than for American Unitarianism? And yet Clarke has exaggerated, for a Nicene father no less than Athanasius thought that eternal generation was according to a “necessity of nature” (link): 
If then there is another Word of God, then be the Son originated by a word; but if there be not, as is the case, but all things by Him have come to be, which the Father has willed, does not this expose the many-headed craftiness of these men? That feeling shame at saying 'work,' and 'creature,' and 'God's Word was not before His generation,' yet in another way they assert that He is a creature, putting forward 'will,' and saying, 'Unless He has by will come to be, therefore God had a Son by necessity and against His good pleasure.' And who is it then who imposes necessity on Him, O men most wicked, who draw everything to the purpose of your heresy? For what is contrary to will they see; but what is greater and transcends it has escaped their perception. For as what is beside purpose is contrary to will, so what is according to nature transcends and precedes counselling. A man by counsel builds a house, but by nature he begets a son; and what is in building began to come into being at will, and is external to the maker; but the son is proper offspring of the father's essence, and is not external to him; wherefore neither does he counsel concerning him, lest he appear to counsel about himself. As far then as the Son transcends the creature, by so much does what is by nature transcend the will. And they, on hearing of Him, ought not to measure by will what is by nature; forgetting however that they are hearing about God's Son, they dare to apply human contrarieties in the instance of God, 'necessity' and 'beside purpose,' to be able thereby to deny that there is a true Son of God. For let them tell us themselves—that God is good and merciful, does this attach to Him by will or not? If by will, we must consider that He began to be good, and that His not being good is possible; for to counsel and choose implies an inclination two ways, and is incidental to a rational nature. But if it be too unseemly that He should be called good and merciful upon will, then what they have said themselves must be retorted on them—'therefore by necessity and not at His pleasure He is good;' and, 'who is it that imposes this necessity on Him?' But if it be unseemly to speak of necessity in the case of God, and therefore it is by nature that He is good, much more is He, and more truly, Father of the Son by nature and not by will.
Finding Scriptures which deal with this issue will require consideration of logical implications, for to my knowledge there is no explicit passage which addresses it. My current response would be that nothing which occurs is unnecessary, for that would imply, as Clarke wishes to avoid, that God’s will is arbitrary. Sure, on the assumption that there are multiple possible worlds, God may have a reason for instantiating some particular possible world, but as on Clarke’s view such a reason would not be necessary, it would still be arbitrary. I may as well ask what God’s reason was for choosing His reason for creating this possible world over against any other reason capable of being chosen which might have led to the instantiation of another possible world, and there could be no answer because the reason itself was chosen arbitrarily. There are, however, several objections to my own position – some made by Clarke and others I have received from those who are in most other respects in agreement with my Trinitarian views – so I will try to address them in a short amount of space.

Clarke thinks the idea that something can be willed necessarily is a contradiction in terms. Thus, he, Athanasius, and others dichotomize that which is willed from that which is a “necessity of nature.” But I do not find his reasons for saying so persuasive: he mentions that I might as well say that a man’s heart beats by his will, the sun rises by man’s will, and a balance which turns necessarily turns by its will. These are just examples of what a proof by example fallacy looks like. What Clarke rather ought to have done is define what it means “to will” or “to choose” or “to act.” As a Calvinist, I don’t have any problem with a definition of these terms which excludes the notion of freedom of contrariety – the ability to have willed, chosen, or acted differently than one did. In fact, freedom of contrariety itself presupposes a definition of willing, choosing, and acting. I would define these words in terms of the mind’s volitional selection, determination, or performance.

Where the line is between providing mere synonyms and providing a clear metaphysical definition can be challenging, but in any case, I am in no worse a position than Clarke, who must also define these terms. Until he does, the burden of proof is on him to explain why necessity is mutually exclusive with will. Anyway, I don’t suppose Sean will have any issue with my explanation, as this is entirely consistent with Gordon Clark’s view 1) that God’s existence is necessary yet by His eternal will and choice, and 2) that the generation of the Son is voluntary and necessary like creation (see his chapter on Eternal Generation in The Trinity).

This last remark brings me to the objection from the other side to my position, viz. my thinking creation is necessary as well as the Son and Spirit. Whereas Sean thinks I bring the Son and Spirit down to the level of creation by making the them contingent – a counter which backfires, as [I would hope] Sean would not say the person[al property] of the Son is created even though he holds that the person[al property] of the Son is contingent – the objection here is that I raise the creation to the level of divinity (see here and here for examples).

Now, I admit I have perhaps missed some solution which would resolve the tension between an unnecessary creation and a seemingly arbitrary God, but if so, I have not encountered it. It seems easier for me to explain why a necessary creation is not divine than it is to explain why an unnecessary creation is not arbitrary. As I understand it, the reason there is an objection to the idea that who the Father is determines everything He wills is that such means the Son, Spirit and creation all originate from the Father in the same way. I suspect the argument is that since “like causes like,” one whose nature is divine must, if He acts according to a “necessity of nature,” cause another with a divine nature.

But I do not see why this needs to be the case. The nature or person of the Father may determine His causation of this possible world as well as the Son and Spirit, but I assert that creation is not consubstantial with the Father because the Father did not [and, therefore, could not on my view have willed to] communicate His nature to creation. Thinking about this question recently, I found myself asking: is divine nature communicated to the Son and Spirit because they are eternally begotten and spirated, or are the Son and Spirit said to be eternally begotten and spirated because the divine nature is communicated to them? If the latter is possible, then is this not a reasonable answer as to why the necessity of creation would not imply consubstantiality with its Creator?

Putting these questions to the side as I wait for an answer to them, I return to some last statements by Clarke concerning whether the necessary existence of the Son and Spirit would somehow imply their self-existence. The first argument is that it is equally necessary for God to be an Intelligent Being, and to Be at all; the second seems to suggest that if eternal generation is necessary, that which is eternally generated would be a predicate of that which is self-existent and thus itself be self-existent.

To be honest, I didn't follow either of these arguments. They were too short for me to tease out the intended implications. If the first argument relies on divine simplicity, I would have to know what sort of simplicity Clarke held to. Obviously, “intelligent being” and “being qua being” are distinct. If the point is that for God to be He must also be intelligent, I have no idea how I am supposed to connect that to the conclusion that the Son is self-existent if necessarily existent. Perhaps Clarke is conflating divine attributes with divine properties. I just don’t know.

As to the second argument, I don’t understand why Clarke thinks that something which is necessarily generated belongs to that which is self-existent as the very same thing apprehended under a partial consideration. What “very same thing” is Clarke referring to? The Father? Is he saying the Son “belongs to,” is “partially apprehended under,” and is a mere predicate of the Father? Why? And even so, is it not the case that to assert that a particular predicate is self-existent because the sum of a (i.e. the Father’s) set of predicates is self-existent an instance of the fallacy of division (see the comment section here)?

Perhaps Clarke has elsewhere dealt with these issues more in depth, but he breezed by them too quickly here. Regardless, I hope this post puts into perspective why this particular argument that I am a Unitarian is groundless.

19 comments:

徐马可 said...

Hi Ryan,

This is a wonderful summary, thanks for putting these matters in this post so that many more others may think upon it.

I have been thinking about this matter for quite some time now, I am not equipped very well with a sharp mind and developed philosophical terms like you do, so please correct me if I used the wrong term.

This is my humble take on this, I think we may say things are necessary as God willed it such, this does not imply these things are other higher principles or courses that God must adhere to, there things are so because God has willed it. So it is still God's will which is the ultimate principle, so I agree with you in this sense, that the generation even creation of the world are necessary.

I think for Clarke, he wanted to emphasize that there is only one ultimate principle, that is God himself, if necessary be understood as another cause, then we will truly have multiple Gods, which is logically impossible.

So, eternal generation is necessary since the Father has so willed it, but to say eternal generation is necessary because itself is necessary and God is obliged to some other thing outside of his will, I cannot fully understand how that will be possible.

Anyway, it is my humble take on it, but I still prefer to be more rested in the revelation of the Bible, in which I agree very well with Dr. Clarke that in what exact metaphysical manner the Son was generated, the Bible nowhere declared, so noone can assume to be able to figure that out.

In the end, I think we are holding to the same point but saying it differently, namely, the Father is the ultimate principle of all things, and he is the one that by whom are all things, and he is in the proper sense the One God of the Bible.

Best regards,

Mark

P.S. I still think, (welcome any correction), that Athanasius taught the Son is not autotheos, but he also taught numerical unity.

Ryan said...

Mark,

"I think we may say things are necessary as God willed it such, this does not imply these things are other higher principles or courses that God must adhere to, there things are so because God has willed it."

I would say it is the other way around: the Father has willed things which are necessary. Notice I am not introducing an external constraint: as I say in the post, "who the Father is determines everything He wills." So I don't think I introduce another cause separate from the Father.

I believe that last time Drake and I discussed this issue, he made a similar point, saying that if it were necessary for the Father to create, then the Father would depend on creation. But I don't think the Father's attributes depend on the Son or Spirit even though he necessarily causes both of them. I suppose your objection is somewhat different in that you consistently reject that anything apart from the Father is caused necessarily, but then you have to deal with the issue of arbitrarity.

"So, eternal generation is necessary since the Father has so willed it, but to say eternal generation is necessary because itself is necessary and God is obliged to some other thing outside of his will, I cannot fully understand how that will be possible."

Is that which the Father wills necessarily good? I assume you would agree. But is that a problem? No. It's only a problem is the "other thing outside his will" is furthermore outside the Father. I'm not saying that.

"In the end, I think we are holding to the same point but saying it differently, namely, the Father is the ultimate principle of all things, and he is the one that by whom are all things, and he is in the proper sense the One God of the Bible."

Yes, we can agree about that regardless of whether the will is determined. But the issue itself matters.

As for Athanasius, I have not read all of his works, but I don't recall coming across any point at which he clearly affirms numeric unity.

Thanks for the reply.

Drake Shelton said...

Ryan,

Good post.

"But I don't think the Father's attributes depend on the Son or Spirit even though he necessarily causes both of them.”

>>>I would agree but say that the Father's ****properties**** logically depend on the Son's existence.

Ryan said...

Agreed.

Drake Shelton said...

Here is my reply to your arguments about necessity and creation and communication: http://eternalpropositions.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2544&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

Aaron said...

"1) if the Father, Son, and Spirit each necessarily exist, then there are three Gods; 2) if the Son and Spirit are derived, then the Son and Spirit cannot be consubstantial or of the same essence or nature as the Father, as, for example, the Father’s power is supreme; 3) the Son and Spirit cannot exist necessarily yet be subordinate to the Father.

In reply, we may note that 1) and 3) both beg the question: why? No supporting arguments are provided, and I can think of none"

My reasoning for points 1 and 3 would be that the Son and Spirit, if they are not God, cannot be necessary to exist. Because if it be necessary that they exist, then this would mean that God has need of them and is no longer capable in and of himself to do all things without someone else and this would defeat his omnipotence and needlessness. So, if they exist necessarily, then they are God (or 3 gods). But if they don't exist necessarily then one may say that they exist because of God's good will and pleasure but not due to any necessity.

Ryan said...

It's important to define terms: "if they are not God, cannot be necessary to exist." Define "God," and is that use of "God" how you use the term consistently throughout your reply?

Aaron said...

I agree it is definitely necessary to define terms when confusion can arise. However, I was not aware there was any ambiguity here.

Defining who "God" is could be very long if we go into immutability, impassibility, omniscience, etc. I'm not sure at what point we would cross from "defining" God (does one "define God" anymore than we "define Ryan"?) to simply describing him or listing attributes and properties. For the relevance of my post I would say God is the almighty one who must exist in order for anything else to exist.

Yes, I use the word "God" the same way throughout my initial post. As in, at the very least, the almighty one who must exist in order for anything else to exist.

Aaron said...

One more thing about Clarke's view I wanted to add: He was essentially asked whether the Son and Spirit were necessary on his death bed when someone asked him if the Father could annihilate the Son and Spirit or not. His response: "I never thought of that question."

So for all his deep thought on the subject, it would seem he didn't know. I read his book and it seems that his answer would have to be, "Yes, the Father could do that, however he never would." Especially given that Clarke saw the eternal generation of the Son and Spirit to be completely voluntary acts of the Father and the divinity of the Son and Spirit as donated to them wholly by the Father.

Ryan said...

I asked because "God" can mean different things, and my comment to which you were replying could have led me to believe you intended to use the word strictly in reference to the Father - and maybe you do. For example, you said:

"Because if it be necessary that they exist, then this would mean that God has need of them..."

Given that "they" refer to the Son and Spirit, this naturally appears to suggest you think "God" = "Father" here, not how you defined it... unless you think the Father alone is "the almighty one who must exist in order for anything else to exist."

Further, I was curious as to whether you were intending "God" as meaning to refer to a person or being/attributes. You say "him," so it sounds like a person, and so maybe you think "God" = "Father" after all, but I know these matters can be more complicated than first glance.

"So, if they exist necessarily, then they are God (or 3 gods)."

Please note I was only summarizing Clarke's arguments. I don't agree with 1)-3). So when you say:

"My reasoning for points 1 and 3 would be that the Son and Spirit, if they are not God, cannot be necessary to exist."

I would disagree insofar as you seem to think "God" = "Father." The Father can't be the Father without the Son (or Spirit), so yes, there is mutual dependence in a way - unless you think "Fatherhood" is an accidental property of the "almighty" one you say you mean when you are talking about "God"?

What are your views? Specifically, are the Son and Spirit consubstantial with the Father?

Aaron said...

Sorry, it appears that there was some ambiguity.

"Given that "they" refer to the Son and Spirit, this naturally appears to suggest you think "God" = "Father" here, not how you defined it... unless you think the Father alone is "the almighty one who must exist in order for anything else to exist."

Ok, so I'll try to iron this out a little. What I meant here was that IF the Son and Spirit are necessary in order for anything else to exist then they must be identified as "God" because God is the only thing necessary in order for anything else to exist. However, if they are necessary BUT aren't actually God then that would mean that whoever were "God" (let's say, the Father) would be in need and so would fail to actually be God.

In short, either they are necessary as they are persons of the Triune God or they are unnecessary but exist by the Father's will. However, it seems a contradiction that they be necessary and yet not persons in the identity of the one Triune God.

None of this is meant at the present time to reflect my views but just to think this out. I hope it makes sense? I'm pressed for time I'd love to share my views later. I think generally they are perhaps very close to yours maybe with a few nuances. I definitely agree that only the Father is autotheos so we have this in common. However, I know people debate whether autotheos is an attribute of God or a property of the Father so it can be tricky.

Aaron said...

Hi Ryan,

You asked about my view of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Well, I am always weighing and considering things pertaining to this topic. I have a very deep concern with Trinitarianism because I think most people are quite inconsistent in it. After reading Clarke's book I found some weaknesses in his view BUT he seems to be much more logically and philosophically consistent. He is also able to quote the earlier bishops and presbyters in support of his view a lot. (Note that I have always been Trinitarian and attended a Trinitarian church but I'm investigating right now as thoroughly as I can. But I do kind of lean towards his view at the moment). It is a Unitarian view.

The problem I continually see with Trinitarianism is this: I see the word "God" interhcangeably used for 5 different things.

1. The Father

2. The Son

3. The Spirit

4. All 3 of them together (the group as one)

5. The shared "nature" between them (essence, substance, etc.)

When pressed, the Trinitarian states that 1-3 share the same nature (as James White says, "The Trinity is 3 whos and 1 what.") The problem with this is that God is not a nature. Nowhere is God revealed as a nature or a class of being in scripture and I see it as contrary to sound reason as well. God is always presented as a person.

Likewise, God is never used to denote the group of 2 or 3. As Samuel Clarke noted, "The word 'God' in scripture refers to the Father singly (99% of the time), or the Son singly (1% of the time). It is never used of the Spirit."

Even when Trinitarians talk about God they say, " *He* is 3 in 1." So by "He" they mean "God" in this statement. But when asked, "How can He be 3 in 1," they reply, "Because there is a shared substance/nature/essence between the Father, Son, and Spirit." So they are switching between God being a nature or class of being and God being a person. This is how the eternal dance goes in the conversation.

Now to the differences between personal properties and nature which traditional Trinitarians assert are the differences between the persons of the Triune God. They say the properties make each person unique, but don't make any one of them greater or lesser than the other, if I'm not mistaken. Let's look at this from our standpoint as humans. You share in humanity with me 100%. But you don't share my personal properties to be "Aaron." Therefore, you can share in my nature 100% (human nature) but you can never be Aaron. I am my own person and you are a separate person. Trinitarians state that since the Father, Son and Spirit all share the nature equally that there is 1 God. However, you and I share in humanity equally but we aren't the same being. We are 2 beings. What, therefore, prevents the Trinity from being 3 distinct beings?

Ryan said...

The Father needs the Son to be the Father. Fatherhood doesn't make sense apart from that relationship. So I would definitely say that the necessity of the Son and Spirit is something of which I am more sure than that the Father alone is autotheos. But I don't agree that this necessarily leads to the need for a Triune being.

"When pressed, the Trinitarian states that 1-3 share the same nature (as James White says, "The Trinity is 3 whos and 1 what.") The problem with this is that God is not a nature. Nowhere is God revealed as a nature or a class of being in scripture and I see it as contrary to sound reason as well. God is always presented as a person."

John 1:1 - the Word was God. Does this not mean the Word was divine? Surely He's not the Father or Spirit or a Triune being, and the verse isn't just saying "the Son was the Son."

"Likewise, God is never used to denote the group of 2 or 3. As Samuel Clarke noted, "The word 'God' in scripture refers to the Father singly (99% of the time), or the Son singly (1% of the time). It is never used of the Spirit.""

Acts 5:3-4.

"Even when Trinitarians talk about God they say, " *He* is 3 in 1." So by "He" they mean "God" in this statement. But when asked, "How can He be 3 in 1," they reply, "Because there is a shared substance/nature/essence between the Father, Son, and Spirit." So they are switching between God being a nature or class of being and God being a person. This is how the eternal dance goes in the conversation."

I agree, this is why I have held to the monarchy of the Father version of Trinitarianism.

"What, therefore, prevents the Trinity from being 3 distinct beings?"

Again, I have pointed out the same things elsewhere on this blog. Search the "Trinity" tag for more.

But at the same time, we're the same person even though we change over time, which is hard to explain. If strict identity isn't necessary for unity of being, then can an analogy apply to the Trinity? That's one reason I'm reevaluating my position.

Aaron said...

"The Father needs the Son to be the Father. Fatherhood doesn't make sense apart from that relationship. So I would definitely say that the necessity of the Son and Spirit is something of which I am more sure than that the Father alone is autotheos. But I don't agree that this necessarily leads to the need for a Triune being."

Well, I have a few reservations about the point that the Father "needs" the Son in order to be the Father. In the same way, people argue that a loving God needs someone to love and so if there were no Trinity God couldn't display His love and thus He "needs" to be a Triunity. I disagree with these arguments overall. We could apply this to His mercy and say that without creation He would have no way to display mercy without sinful creatures. Then we could say God is not only dependent on the creation but dependent on their evil and sin! I think that's a bad road and I don't really like where the logical consistency leads. There are also other questions such as, does the Father depend on the Spirit or does the Son depend on the Spirit for anything? If not, then why are there 3 instead of the 2 interdependent persons? I think at the very least we should admit that IF the view of "The Monarchy of the Father" is correct (and I think it is) that the level of dependence is not the same. Depending on the Son in order to be the Father is not like the Son eternally depending on the Father for His being. Then again, I think one could argue that the Father could be the Father with only the eternal knowledge and plan for His Son inside Himself which He would bring about at a later time (if I were say, Arian, I would probably argue that). I'm not sure how convincing it would be, though.

As to Acts 5:3-4 I think Clarke goes over this verse. Basically saying that the verses aren't calling the Holy Spirit "God" by title or name but simply saying that to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God, just as to lie to Peter was to lie to God and yet no one assumed Peter to be a 4th person in the being of God. Hence, Peter says, "You have not lied to *men* but to God." In other words, you lied to men and the Holy Spirit and we are God's authority on the Earth therefore you have lied to God. This is a minor point but I wanted you to know Clarke does address it.

I think the Trinity can be explained via the Monarchy of the Father position the best. However, the difficult part is the implications of the position. Essentially, Clarke and the Eastern Orthodox Church believe almost the exact same thing but then come to a different conclusion about the metaphysical implications behind it. Clarke says the Father, Son and Spirit must be 3 beings with only the Father actually being "God" while the Eastern Orthodox contend that aseity is not an essential attribute of God but only a property of the Father.

This is how I spend my days...mulling this over. Maybe I should just go talk about the gospel with my neighbors more. Thanks for your thoughts, Ryan. Take care.

Ryan said...

"We could apply this to His mercy and say that without creation He would have no way to display mercy without sinful creatures."

Or we could say His being merciful is no more required than His being creator, but His loving people or things or actions according to their respective goodness is.

"There are also other questions such as, does the Father depend on the Spirit or does the Son depend on the Spirit for anything?"

Being the Father, just as Adam wouldn't have been a father without Cain or Abel or Seth.

"Depending on the Son in order to be the Father is not like the Son eternally depending on the Father for His being."

Naturally.

"In other words, you lied to men and the Holy Spirit and we are God's authority on the Earth therefore you have lied to God."

Then it should read: "you have not lied to men or the Holy Spirit but to God."

"Essentially, Clarke and the Eastern Orthodox Church believe almost the exact same thing but then come to a different conclusion about the metaphysical implications behind it."

Which appear to be pretty significant if you think the Son and Spirit can be annihilated or aren't necessarily existent.

"Maybe I should just go talk about the gospel with my neighbors more."

Certainly couldn't be a bad thing.

Aaron said...

"Or we could say His being merciful is no more required than His being creator, but His loving people or things or actions according to their respective goodness is."

I'm not sure I understand. Would he be required to actively be loving someone who is a recipient of his love in order to be deemed "loving"?

"Being the Father, just as Adam wouldn't have been a father without Cain or Abel or Seth."

Yes, but I was wondering...does he depend on the Spirit in any such a way?

'"In other words, you lied to men and the Holy Spirit and we are God's authority on the Earth therefore you have lied to God."
Then it should read: "you have not lied to men or the Holy Spirit but to God."'

We could say that. I was only trying to represent Clarke. I can see how the text could be taken either way depending on preconceptions.

I wonder about the fact that some Trinitarians (a minority view) believe that the Trinity was God, God the Word, and God the Spirit eternally and that God the Word was "begotten in time" (i.e. became "God the Son" when he came here in Mary's womb). They must see God as not being a Father until he decided to beget a Son and send his Word to become flesh. Could we show that Fatherhood is an inherent property of God?

Ryan said...

"Would he be required to actively be loving someone who is a recipient of his love in order to be deemed "loving"?"

No, I'm saying that any member of the Trinity would only love someone who is good or something that is good, i.e. is disposed to or intentionally acts to manifest divine glory.

"Yes, but I was wondering...does he depend on the Spirit in any such a way?"

He would, at least if a member of the "Trinity" as we're talking about it. Maybe it's not as explicit given the father-son analogy, but it would still be there.

"We could say that. I was only trying to represent Clarke. I can see how the text could be taken either way depending on preconceptions."

Ok. I'm sure you are aware that there are other lines of evidence for the Holy Spirit's distinctness and divinity, anyway.

"I wonder about the fact that some Trinitarians (a minority view) believe that the Trinity was God, God the Word, and God the Spirit eternally and that God the Word was "begotten in time" (i.e. became "God the Son" when he came here in Mary's womb). They must see God as not being a Father until he decided to beget a Son and send his Word to become flesh. Could we show that Fatherhood is an inherent property of God?"

You're talking about adoptionism? Off hand, in that case I think there are some arguments to be made about the Son having been "sent" as well as His having pre-existent glory. There are also OT theothropies that designate Jesus, if I'm not mistaken. I'm in a bit of a rush at the moment, so can try to spell this out if you need, but you seem conversant in these issues.

Aaron said...

Not adoptionism in the sense that Jesus never existed prior to conception but rather that he did not bear the title "Son" until then. Basically, just Trinitarianism which says the three persons are the Father, the Word and the Spirit and being begotten was something that happened when he entered time and was exalted in his new office as a man. Jesus is eternally pre-existent just as he is assumed to be in all other Trinity theories.

Ryan said...

So a denial of eternal sonship. A denial of eternal sonship would raise the question as to whether the Father could have been the Son and, if not, why not. I mention this here:

http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2012/11/eternal-adoptionism.html

Again, I think the passages which state that the Father sent the Son into the world mean just that (John 3:16-17, 10:36, 20:21, Romans 8:3, 1 John 4:9-14) - the relationship predates the sending.