One of Irenaeus’s main points throughout his writings, that he makes again and again, is that the one God, the Maker of all things, the Almighty, is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. The one God and the Father are the exact same person; just as much as the Son is the Son of the Father, so He is the Son of the one God; just as the Son is not the Father, He is not the one God. In the face of the old gnosticism, this was an important point to stress; the prominent heresies of his day denied the identity of the Father and the one God, just as the prominent heresy of our day does as well.

The below quote from Irenaeus, is, to this author, quite striking:

“Wherefore I do also call upon you, Lord God of Abraham, and God of Isaac, and God of Jacob and Israel, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of Your mercy, has had a favour towards us, that we should know You, who has made heaven and earth, who rule over all, who is the only and the true God, above whom there is none other God; grant, by our Lord Jesus Christ, the governing power of the Holy Spirit; give to every reader of this book to know You, that You are God alone, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical, and godless, and impious doctrine.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch 6.)

A question well worth asking is, do you worship the same God Irenaeus here prayed to? Can you pray to the one God as the Father of the Son, and speak of Him granting you the grace of the Holy Spirit through His Son? Or have you been led astray into confusion by false teachers, who make the Father, Son, and Spirit out to be one and the same person, the same one God? Is the person you pray to the same person the early church prayed to, or one they did not know? If the whole Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, is the one God to which you pray, then who will you have to intercede for you? Who will mediate between you and the one to whom you pray, if Christ, the one mediator between God and man, is the very same person you need a mediator by whom to approach? Who will sanctify you to approach the one God, Who will help your weakness in prayer, and intercede for you with deep groanings, if the Holy Spirit is the one you approach in need of such intercession and groanings?

6 comments

  1. “For if He be not the God of the dead, but of the living, yet was called the God of the fathers who were sleeping, they do indubitably live to God, and have not passed out of existence, since they are children of the resurrection. But our Lord is Himself the resurrection, as He does Himself declare, I am the resurrection and the life. But the fathers are His children; for it is said by the prophet: Instead of your fathers, your children have been made to you. Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spoke to Moses, and who was also manifested to the fathers” (AH 4.5.2).

    Irenaeus declares that Jesus Christ is the God of the living, using the definite article, together with the Father. This indicates that Irenaeus believed Christ is the same God as the Father. But we know he was not a modalist, which means Irenaeus did not think that confessing the Father and Son as “the same one God” entailed that they are “one and the same person.”

    “Christ confessing in the plainest manner Him to be Father and God, who said in the law, ‘Honour your father and mother; that it may be well with you.’ For the true God did confess the commandment of the law as the word of God, and called no one else God besides His own Father” (AH 4.9.3).

    In context, “the true God” must refer to Christ, because it is the true God who “did confess the commandment … and called no one else God besides His own Father.”

    “Carefully, then, has the Holy Ghost pointed out, by what has been said, His birth from a virgin, and His essence, that He is God (for the name Emmanuel indicates this). And He shows that He is a man, when He says, Butter and honey shall He eat; and in that He terms Him a child also, [in saying,] before He knows good and evil; for these are all the tokens of a human infant. But that He will not consent to evil, that He may choose that which is good,— this is proper to God; that by the fact, that He shall eat butter and honey, we should not understand that He is a mere man only, nor, on the other hand, from the name Emmanuel, should suspect Him to be God without flesh” (AH 3.21.4).

    Irenaeus believes that Jesus Christ is God, not in the same way human beings are called “gods” (as some have erroneously interpreted his statement in AH 4.1.1 to mean), but in His essence, “for the name Emmanuel indicates this.” He rejects the idea that Christ is “a mere man only,” but understands rather that He is God incarnate.

    Irenaeus believes Jesus Christ is the true God who, together with the Father, is the God of the living. Of course, as you note here, it is typical for Irenaeus to refer to the Father as the one and only and true God, above whom there is no other God, which I take to be because the Father is the unoriginate source of all things. This came to be expressed later in the history of the Church with the formula “God, His Word, and His Spirit are one God.”

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    1. Micah,

      You don’t try to understand what an author thinks this way; you don’t take two obscure statements and pit them against a hundred very clear statements, including more formalized creedal statements of doctrine made by the author. This sort of grasping at straws is a great example of trinitarians scouring the writings of early church fathers for some one or two obscure statements that sound vaguely trinitarian, to then claim the author was a trinitarian, all while ignoring repeated and abundantly clear statements that run contrary to trinitarianism and show beyond a shadow of a doubt, to any objective scholar, that the author was no trinitarian.

      As we don’t even have Irenaeus’s work here in the Greek it was written in but only Latin, I’m very much inclined to say that these two passages can be accounted for by one of three things: 1) it’s a poor translation, or, 2) it’s a later interpolation, or, 3) Irenaeus worded things poorly in a couple of places. It’s also possible to debate your readings of them. I think Irenaeus is strictly speaking of the title ‘the living God’ and not of the actual being that is the living God; he’s saying that Christ shares that title with the Father, and that’s all. Calling Christ ‘the true God’ is odd wording, but may just be emphasizing his belief that Christ was truly God in a poorly worded way. We know that Irenaeus doesn’t think Christ is the one God, or that Christ is one God with the Father, because he constantly distinguishes that the one God is the Father in particular, and that Jesus is another besides that one God. Reading a hundred clear statements of Irenaeus through the lens of one obscurely worded passage is poor scholarship, as is trying to find John of Damascus’s theology from several hundred years later in a second century father who couldn’t be clearer in affirming unitarianism.

      Here is a good (but not exhaustive) sampling of quotes from Irenaeus where is he absolutely clear in teaching that the one God, the Maker of all thing, the Almighty, is one person, the Father, and that Jesus is another individual entirely distinct from that one God. As I’ve never claimed that Irenaeus held a BU christology, I don’t feel the need to comment of that.

      “And others of them, with great craftiness, adapted such parts of Scripture to their own figments, lead away captive from the truth those who do not retain a stedfast faith in one God, the Father Almighty, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Against Heresies, Book I. Chapter III. 6.

      “The fallacy, then, of this exposition is manifest. For when John, proclaiming one God, the Almighty, and one Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten, by whom all things were made, declares that this was the Son of God, this the Only-begotten, this the Former of all things, this the true Light who enlighteneth every man, this the Creator of the world, this He that came to His own, this He that became flesh and dwelt among us,–these men, by a plausible kind of exposition, perverting these statements, maintain that there was another Monogenes, according to production, whom they also style Arche.” Against Heresies, Book I. Chapter IX. 2.

      “But if the Word of the Father who descended is the same also that ascended, He, namely, the Only-begotten Son of the only God, who, according to the good pleasure of the Father, became flesh for the sake of men, the apostle certainly does not speak regarding any other, or concerning any Ogdoad, but respecting our Lord Jesus Christ.” Against Heresies, Book I. Cahpter IX. 3.

      “The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God” Against Heresies, Book I. Chapter X. 1.

      “The rule of truth which we hold, is, that there is one God Almighty, who made all things by His Word, and fashioned and formed, out of that which had no existence, all things which exist. Thus saith the Scripture, to that effect: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them, by the spirit of His mouth.” And again, “All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.”” Against Heresies, Book I. Chapter XXII. 1.

      “It is proper, then, that I should begin with the first and most important head, that is, God the Creator, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein (whom these men blasphemously style the fruit of a defect), and to demonstrate that there is nothing either above Him or after Him; nor that, influenced by any one, but of His own free will, He created all things, since He is the only God, the only Lord, the only Creator, the only Father, alone containing all things, and Himself commanding all things into existence.” Against Heresies, Book II. Chapter I. 1.

      “Now, that this God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul the apostle also has declared, [saying,] “There is one God, the Father, who is above all, and through all things, and in us all.” I have indeed proved already that there is only one God; but I shall further demonstrate this from the apostles themselves, and from the discourses of the Lord. For what sort of conduct would it be, were we to forsake the utterances of the prophets, of the Lord, and of the apostles, that we might give heed to these persons, who speak not a word of sense?” Against Heresies, Book II. Chapter II. 5.

      “That God is the Creator of the world is accepted even by those very persons who in many ways speak against Him, and yet acknowledge Him, styling Him the Creator, and an angel, not to mention that all the Scriptures call out [to the same effect], and the Lord teaches us of this Father who is in heaven, and no other, as I shall show in the sequel of this work. For the present, however, that proof which is derived from those who allege doctrines opposite to ours, is of itself sufficient,–all men, in fact, consenting to this truth: the ancients on their part preserving with special care, from the tradition of the first-formed man, this persuasion, while they celebrate the praises of one God, the Maker of heaven and earth; others, again, after them, being reminded of this fact by the prophets of God, while the very heathen learned it from creation itself. For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it. The Universal Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the apostles.” Against Heresies, Book II. Chapter IX, 1.

      “But there is one only God, the Creator—He who is above every Principality, and Power, and Dominion, and Virtue: He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator, who made those things by Himself, that is, through His Word and His Wisdom— heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them: He is just; He is good; He it is who formed man, who planted paradise, who made the world, who gave rise to the flood, who saved Noah; He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of the living: He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the apostles make known to us, and in whom the Church believes. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: through His Word, who is His Son, through Him He is revealed and manifested to all to whom He is revealed; for those [only] know Him to whom the Son has revealed Him. But the Son, eternally coexisting with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom He wills that God should be revealed.” Against Heresies, Book II. Chapter XXX. 9.

      “Now, that the preaching of the apostles, the authoritative teaching of the Lord, the announcements of the prophets, the dictated utterances of the apostles, and the ministration of the law–all of which praise one and the same Being, the God and Father of all, and not many diverse beings, nor one deriving his substance from different gods or powers, but [declare] that all things [were formed] by one and the same Father (who nevertheless adapts [His works] to the natures and tendencies of the materials dealt with), things visible and invisible, and, in short, all things that have been made [were created] neither by angels, nor by any other power, but by God alone, the Father–are all in harmony with our statements, has, I think, been sufficiently proved, while by these weighty arguments it has been shown that there is but one God, the Maker of all things.” Against Heresies, Book II. Chapter XXXV. 4.

      “These have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ the Son of God. If any one do not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics.” Against Heresies, Book III. Chapter I. 2.

      “In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome despatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spake with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the apostolical tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things.” Against Heresies, Book III. Chapter III. 3.

      “To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent.” Against Heresies, Book III. Chapter IV. 2.

      “Since, therefore, this is sure and stedfast, that no other God or Lord was announced by the Spirit, except Him who, as God, rules over all, together with His Word, and those who receive the Spirit of adoption, [3805] that is, those who believe in the one and true God, and in Jesus Christ the Son of God; and likewise that the apostles did of themselves term no one else as God, or name [no other] as Lord; and, what is much more important, [since it is true] that our Lord [acted likewise], who did also command us to confess no one as Father, except Him who is in the heavens, who is the one God and the one Father;–those things are clearly shown to be false which these deceivers and most perverse sophists advance” Against Heresies, Book IV, Chapter I. 1.

      “And therefore it is right first of all to believe that there is One God, the Father, who made and fashioned all things, and made what was not that it should be, and who, containing all things, alone is uncontained.” The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching (TDAP)

      “Thus then there is shown forth One God, the Father, not made, invisible, creator of all things; above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God. And, since God is rational, therefore by (the) Word He created the things that were made; and God is Spirit, and by (the) Spirit He adorned all things…” TDAP

      “This then is the order of the rule of our faith, and the foundation of the building, and the stability of our conversation: God, the Father, not made, not material, invisible; one God, the creator of all things: this is the first point of our faith. The second point is: The Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was manifested to the prophets according to the form of their prophesying and according to the method of the dispensation of the Father: through whom all things were made; who also at the end of the times, to complete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and show forth life and produce a community of union between God and man. And the third point is: The Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and the fathers learned the things of God, and the righteous were led forth into the way of righteousness; and who in the end of the times was poured out in a new way upon mankind in all the earth, renewing man unto God.” TDAP

      In Christ,

      Andrew

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      1. Of course the one God is the Father of Jesus Christ. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed says as much: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty … and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” I know you are familiar with the Nicene fathers, so I don’t need to belabor the point that Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, the Cappadocians, etc. identified the one God as the Father. So when the Nicene fathers say Jesus Christ is God, that He is the same essence as the Father, and even that the Trinity is one God, they are not thereby denying that the only true God, besides whom there is no other God, is the Father of Jesus Christ. The sense in which the Father is the one true God, and the sense in which the Trinity is one God, are not the same. The former means that the Father is the unoriginate First Cause of all, from whom all existence receives its being. The latter indicates that this unoriginate First Cause of all, through His omnipotent Word and life-creating Spirit, has made all things—the consequence of which is that the Trinity is one Creator, one Maker, and one God. Irenaeus expresses this concept with the “two hands of God” imagery:

        “Now man is a mixed organization of soul and flesh, who was formed after the likeness of God, and moulded by His hands, that is, by the Son and Holy Spirit, to whom also He said, ‘Let Us make man'” (AH Book 4, Preface).

        “For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, ‘Let Us make man after Our image and likeness …'” (AH 4.20.1).

        “Now God shall be glorified in His handiwork, fitting it so as to be conformable to, and modelled after, His own Son. For by the hands of the Father, that is, by the Son and the Holy Spirit, man, and not [merely] a part of man, was made in the likeness of God” (AH 5.6.1).

        “And therefore throughout all time, man, having been moulded at the beginning by the hands of God, that is, of the Son and of the Spirit, is made after the image and likeness of God …” (AH 5.28.4).

        And because God made all things through His Word, it is proper to refer to Jesus Christ as “the Creator” and “the Maker” when mentioned singly. Irenaeus does this several times:

        “For when John, proclaiming one God, the Almighty, and one Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten, by whom all things were made, declares that this was the Son of God, this the Only-begotten, this the Former of all things, this the true Light who enlightens every man, this the Creator of the world, this He that came to His own, this He that became flesh and dwelt among us — these men, by a plausible kind of exposition, perverting these statements, maintain that there was another Monogenes, according to production, whom they also style Arche” (AH 1.9.2).

        “Or, again, who will tolerate you in your juggling with forms and numbers — at one time thirty, at another twenty-four, and at another, again, only six — while you shut up [in these] the Word of God, the Founder, and Framer, and Maker of all things; and then, again, cutting Him up piecemeal into four syllables and thirty elements; and bringing down the Lord of all who founded the heavens to the number eight hundred and eighty-eight, so that He should be similar to the alphabet …” (AH 1.15.5).

        “Hence also was Adam himself termed by Paul “the figure of Him that was to come,’ because the Word, the Maker of all things, had formed beforehand for Himself the future dispensation of the human race, connected with the Son of God” (AH 3.23.3).

        “For the Maker of all things, the Word of God, who did also from the beginning form man, when He found His handiwork impaired by wickedness, performed upon it all kinds of healing” (AH 5.12.6).

        “For the Creator of the world is truly the Word of God: and this is our Lord, who in the last times was made man, existing in this world, and who in an invisible manner contains all things created, and is inherent in the entire creation, since the Word of God governs and arranges all things; and therefore He came to His own in a visible manner, and was made flesh, and hung upon the tree, that He might sum up all things in Himself” (AH 5.18.3).

        “The Word of God, however, the Maker of all things, conquering him [the devil] by means of human nature, and showing him to be an apostate, has, on the contrary, put him under the power of man. For He says, ‘Behold, I confer upon you the power of treading upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy,’ in order that, as he obtained dominion over man by apostasy, so again his apostasy might be deprived of power by means of man turning back again to God” (AH 5.24.4).

        And that Jesus Christ is God, not in an honorific sense or as “another God,” but God in the truest sense of the word:

        “And again: ‘God stood in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods.’ He [here] refers to the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church. For she is the synagogue of God, which God–that is, the Son Himself–has gathered by Himself. Of whom He again speaks: “The God of gods, the Lord hath spoken, and hath called the earth.’ Who is meant by God? He of whom He has said, “God shall come openly, our God, and shall not keep silence;’ that is, the Son, who came manifested to men who said, “I have openly appeared to those who seek Me not.’ But of what gods [does he speak]? [Of those] to whom He says, ‘I have said, Ye are gods, and all sons of the Most High.’ To those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the ‘adoption, by which we cry, Abba Father'” (AH 3.6.1).

        “But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth” (AH 3.19.2).

        “And that it is from that region which is towards the south of the inheritance of Judah that the Son of God shall come, who is God, and who was from Bethlehem, where the Lord was born [and] will send out His praise through all the earth, thus says the prophet Habakkuk: ‘God shall come from the south, and the Holy One from Mount, Effrem. His power covered the heavens over, and the earth is full of His praise. Before His face shall go forth the Word, and His feet shall advance in the plains.’ Thus he indicates in clear terms that He is God, and that His advent was [to take place] in Bethlehem, and from Mount Effrem, which is towards the south of the inheritance, and that [He is] man. For he says, ‘His feet shall advance in the plains:’ and this is an indication proper to man.” (AH 3.20.4).

        “Carefully, then, has the Holy Ghost pointed out, by what has been said, His birth from a virgin, and His essence, that He is God (for the name Emmanuel indicates this). And He shows that He is a man, when He says, “Butter and honey shall He eat;” and in that He terms Him a child also, [in saying,] “before He knows good and evil;” for these are all the tokens of a human infant. But that He “will not consent to evil, that He may choose that which is good,”–this is proper to God; that by the fact, that He shall eat butter and honey, we should not understand that He is a mere man only, nor, on the other hand, from the name Emmanuel, should suspect Him to be God without flesh” (AH 3.21.4).

        Take special note of how Irenaeus interprets Scripture. In many of the psalms and prophetic books, Irenaeus reads “God will do X” as meaning “Christ will do X.” This cannot be understood as Jesus merely representing God as an agent, because He is the actual referent in each of these biblical passages; He is the one being spoken about, not the Father. When God stands in the congregation to judge the gods (Psalm 82:1), this is Jesus Christ. When the God of gods speaks (Psalm 50:1), this is Jesus Christ. When God comes openly, this is Jesus Christ (Psalm 50:3). When God appears to those who did not seek Him (Isaiah 65:1), this is Jesus Christ. When God comes from the south (Habakkuk 3:3), this is Jesus Christ.

        To sum up: according to Irenaeus, God made all things through His Word and Spirit, who are His very own hands. Jesus Christ is the Creator and the Maker of all things. Jesus Christ is God and Lord and Eternal King, the God of gods, the God who is the subject of numerous psalms and prophecies. This naturally leads us to conclude that Jesus Christ, the Creator of the living, is the God of the living. Similarly it must be the case that Jesus Christ, being God in His very essence and the God of gods and the Creator of all things, is the true God. What wonder is it then that Irenaeus confesses Christ as “the true God” and “the God of the living’? His own theology leads inexorably toward this conclusion.

        As a last note, I don’t think your explanation of what it means for Christ to be “the God of the living” works. It would be one thing for Irenaeus to describe Christ as the God of the living if He were mentioned by Himself, because then Christ would just be acting in a representative capacity. However, if only the Father were the God of the living, then the title “God of the living” would be reserved for the Father alone when He is mentioned alongside Christ. You can call an agent by the name of the sender when the latter is absent, but once the sender enters into the picture, you don’t keep calling the agent by the name of the sender. That’s just how agency works. However, Irenaeus jointly refers to both the Father and the Son when He says: “Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spoke to Moses, and who was also manifested to the fathers.” He is not the God of the living in a representative capacity, but the God of the living together with the Father.

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      2. Micah,

        It’s obviously wrong to say that there are two ‘the one God’s, the Father, and the Trinity. If one acknowledges that the Son and Spirit are distinct persons (rational individual beings) besides the Father, that the Father just is the one God, then it’s obvious that the Son and Holy Spirit are just as much distinguished from the one God as they are from the Father. And that’s exactly what we see in Irenaeus. That Irenaeus believed that Christ was a lesser God and pre-existed has not been a point of dispute- but note that he obviously sees the Son as ontologically subordinate to the Father, when he uses the same reasoning Justin does about the angel of the Lord appearing to men; it would be impossible for the one God to do so, in light of His transcendence, so a lesser being is sent as God’s messenger. So there’s no generic co-essentiality or co-equality in the later Nicene sense here.

        As for your comments about the three persons being one Maker, one God, etc, again, that’s just obviously false. If three individuals perform a single action, then you have three actors and one action, but not one actor. Again, that’s just sort of obvious. And it’s equally obvious that any one actor or one maker or one god will be one individual only, because an actor is an individual that acts, a maker is an individual that creates, and a god is an individual that rules and exercises power. So you can’t have it both ways; either the three persons are truly distinct and only the first person, the Father, is the one God, as people like Irenaeus said, or else all three together are one God, and so, one individual being in some sense, as Nazianzen, John of Damascus, Augustine, the Liturgy of St James, etc, all say. This latter semi-modalistic view is obviously not the view of Irenaeus, and again, taking an obscurely worded passage and trying to find in it some hidden message that Irenaeus thought the trinity is the one God, contra all that he says elsewhere to the opposite effect, is absurd. He states his views clearly again and again, as I showed in the quotes I gave above- and his views are absolutely unitarian. The Son sharing some titles of the Father certainly does nothing to lessen that, and it’s poor scholarship to suggest that we should read Irenaeus’s clearly stated views through the lens of this one or two unclear or badly translated/transmitted passages. Again, it’s bad scholarship, and an obvious attempt to find later orthodoxy in an earlier author when it isn’t really there.

        In Christ,

        Andrew

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      3. “It’s obviously wrong to say that there are two ‘the one God’s, the Father, and the Trinity.”

        I agree, which is why I did not say that. The Father is the one God, but the Trinity is one God. These are not equivalent statements, so there is no contradiction.

        “If one acknowledges that the Son and Spirit are distinct persons (rational individual beings) besides the Father, that the Father just is the one God, then it’s obvious that the Son and Holy Spirit are just as much distinguished from the one God as they are from the Father. And that’s exactly what we see in Irenaeus.”

        This is what you see in the Nicene fathers as well.

        “That Irenaeus believed that Christ was a lesser God and pre-existed has not been a point of dispute- but note that he obviously sees the Son as ontologically subordinate to the Father, when he uses the same reasoning Justin does about the angel of the Lord appearing to men; it would be impossible for the one God to do so, in light of His transcendence, so a lesser being is sent as God’s messenger. So there’s no generic co-essentiality or co-equality in the later Nicene sense here.”

        That is a very serious point of dispute. You are reading Justin into Irenaeus. Fr. John Behr, who as you know is a learned Irenaeus scholar, draws just the opposite conclusion:

        “Justin is clearly trying to find a way to explain how it is that Jesus Christ is God, yet distinct from the God and Creator of all, his Father. However, his manner of explanation, in terms of the divinity of the ineffable Father being transcendent in a manner which prohibits him from being seen on earth, in fact undermines the very revelation of God in Christ. The divinity of Jesus Christ, an ‘other God,’ is no longer that of the Father himself, but is subordinate to it, a lesser divinity, and so it would no longer be true for the agent of such a theophany to claim, as Christ does, ‘he who has seen me has seen the Father’ (Jn 14:9).”

        “This position would later be criticized by Irenaeus, though without mentioning any names. For Irenaeus, such subordination would destroy the whole economy: if God himself has not become visible in his Son, Jesus Christ, then no real communion between God and man has been established. … According to Irenaeus, what was said by the prophets, about God being seen on earth, was said prophetically, and does not mean ‘as some allege, that, the Father of all being invisible, the one seen by the prophets was another [God]. Yet this is what those declare who are altogether ignorant of prophecy’ (The Way to Nicaea, pg. 104).”

        The idea that Jesus Christ is a lesser divinity or “another God” was nonsense to Irenaeus. I showed you the evidence from his own writings, which you have not addressed. Irenaeus did not think Jesus Christ is a subordinate deity subject to the Maker of all, but that He is Himself the Maker, Framer, Creator, and Former of all things. He is God, the God of gods, the true God, and the God of the living.

        “As for your comments about the three persons being one Maker, one God, etc, again, that’s just obviously false. If three individuals perform a single action, then you have three actors and one action, but not one actor. Again, that’s just sort of obvious. And it’s equally obvious that any one actor or one maker or one god will be one individual only, because an actor is an individual that acts, a maker is an individual that creates, and a god is an individual that rules and exercises power.”

        Perhaps it would be obvious if the Trinity were circumscribed by space and time and divided in power and will, but if you assume my position for the sake of argument, the matter is quite otherwise. Because the Son and Spirit are the same essence as the Father, they have the same divine attributes as the Father. They are not separated by space, because they are omnipresent and mutually indwell one another. They are not separated by time, because they transcend time itself, which is a product of the divine will common to all three persons of the Trinity. They are not separated by power, because they are omnipotent. They are not separated by will, because the Son and Spirit inherit the will of the Father in virtue of their generation and procession from Him.

        If there is no space to isolate them, no time to constrain them, no diversity of will to separate them, and no difference of power to divide them, then why grant your claim that the Trinity cannot operate as a single causal agent in the creation and governance of the universe? It is a mistake to project our own limitations onto God and conclude that because we cannot do or conceive of something, that must mean God cannot either.

        “So you can’t have it both ways; either the three persons are truly distinct and only the first person, the Father, is the one God, as people like Irenaeus said, or else all three together are one God, and so, one individual being in some sense, as Nazianzen, John of Damascus, Augustine, the Liturgy of St James, etc, all say.”

        This is a false dichotomy, as St. Gregory of Nazianzus and St. John of Damascus both identified the one God as the Father of Jesus Christ, who acts in and through the Son and Spirit. Irenaeus expresses the same when He says God moulded us with His own two hands, and on account of this he does not shy away from identifying Jesus Christ as the Maker and Creator of all. And yet he clearly believed it was the Father Himself that created the universe, in contradistinction to the gnostics. This is incompatible with Arianism, whether Homoian or Eunomian, because Irenaeus believed the Father personally made all things; He did not “create the Creator” and delegate this task exclusively to the Son. Taking these these two beliefs together, that the Father Himself is the Creator and Maker and Framer of all things, and that the Word of God is truly the Creator and Maker and Framer of all things, we arrive at the conclusion that Irenaeus believed both the Father and the Son are the Creator and Maker and Framer of all things. The only framework in which this makes any sense at all is monarchical Trinitarianism: the one God and Father created the world through His only-begotten Son in the sanctifying power of His life-creating Spirit. Thus God, His Word, and His Spirit are a single Creator, a single Maker, a single Framer, and a single God.

        “This latter semi-modalistic view is obviously not the view of Irenaeus, and again, taking an obscurely worded passage and trying to find in it some hidden message that Irenaeus thought the trinity is the one God, contra all that he says elsewhere to the opposite effect, is absurd.”

        There is nothing obscure about it. Irenaeus’ theology would not make any sense if he did not believe Jesus Christ is the true God and the God of the living. How can Jesus Christ, whom Irenaeus identifies as the Creator and Maker and Framer of all multiple times, fail to be the God of the living and the true God? Is there some other Creator and Maker and Framer besides the God of the living and the true God?

        “He states his views clearly again and again, as I showed in the quotes I gave above- and his views are absolutely unitarian.”

        If it is unitarian to declare the one God is the Father, who is distinct from His Son Jesus Christ, then Athanasius was a unitarian too. If the people who supposedly invented the doctrine of the Trinity are unitarian by the definition you’re using, then there is something wrong with your definition.

        “The Son sharing some titles of the Father certainly does nothing to lessen that, and it’s poor scholarship to suggest that we should read Irenaeus’s clearly stated views through the lens of this one or two unclear or badly translated/transmitted passages.”

        With all due respect, you’re just repeating what you said in your last comment without interacting with the texts I quoted and the arguments I gave. Irenaeus calls Jesus the Creator and Maker and Framer of all several times, identifies Jesus as the God described in multiple psalms, and even refers to him as the God of gods. These are Irenaeus’ clearly stated views, and it is through this lens that I am reading “Christ … is the God of the living” and “the true God.”

        Do you have any evidence that these passages were badly translated or transmitted, or are you just asserting that? I gave you a carefully reasoned argument when I claimed Justin’s quote in the Dialogue with Trypho originally read “your” instead of “our.” I expect something similar from you. And if you claim all the passages I used as a lens to understand are badly translated or transmitted, then you might as well give up on trying to read anything Irenaeus wrote, because you can’t trust its authenticity.

        “Again, it’s bad scholarship, and an obvious attempt to find later orthodoxy in an earlier author when it isn’t really there.”

        This cuts both ways. I have a religious commitment to finding continuity between the ante-Nicene and post-Nicene fathers, it is true, but you have a religious commitment no less powerful to denying the existence of such a continuity.

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      4. Irenaeus makes the same argument as Justin concerning the angel of the LORD being pre-existent Christ, so there’s no artificial connection there. Irenaeus is partially dependent upon Justin, so it’s no surprise that he follows Justin in this:

        “For it was not the Father of all, who is not seen by the world, the Maker of all who said: Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me, or what is the place of my rest? and who comprehendeth the earth with his hand, and with his span the heaven —-it was not He that came and stood in a very small space and spake with Abraham; but the Word of God, who was ever with mankind, and made known beforehand what should come to pass in the future, and taught men the things of God.”

        As for the shared titles like being “the Maker of all things” etc, I thought I did briefly address that. A shared title is just that- a shared title. Calling two persons by such titles doesn’t mean you think they’re the same person or the same individual being or the same God. This really does nothing at all to indicate that Irenaeus thought the Son is one God with the Father.

        Regardless of time, space, will, etc, three individuals remain three individuals, not one individual. Calling three persons one Maker, one God, etc, is to implicitly call them one individual, with is false and contradictory to the statement that they are three individuals. Anyone can use the ‘God’s unique’ card to try to justify irrational theories about God, but it ends up just being special pleading to say that logic applies totally differently to God and Christ in these situations. There needs to at least be some basis in divine revelation to justify such theories, and there is no such basis for the assertions that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are one God and one Creator. Rather, we have it very clearly that it’s particularly the Father, one person, Who is the one God and Creator, and the Son and Spirit are distinguished from Him.

        As for bias, it’s worth noting that I came my conclusions about Irenaeus before becoming a Biblical Unitarian. Along with other considerations, the testimony of Irenaeus and other ante-nicenes pushed me to move from Nicene to Homoian views, as the latter much better reflected the teaching of these ante-nicenes than anything in trinitarianism does.

        Finally, I’ll end here: the Holy Spirit. Irenaeus doesn’t ever identify the Holy Spirit as being one God or one Maker with the Father, nor does he even include the Spirit together with the Father and Son in his list of entities with may be called ‘God’ or ‘gods’. For instance, see AH 3.6, and the place in Demonstration where he mentions that the Father and Son are called Lord and God. Irenaeus clearly sees the Son as sharing many of the titles of the Father, but we see no such thing with the Holy Spirit, who seems to never be called Lord or God, and is not included together with the Father and Son in this. Just as in the Bible, the lack of any assertion of the deity of the Holy Spirit, and the above that, the lack of any claim that the Spirit is one God with the Father even if it were a god, completely precludes trinitarianism, which requires three persons in one God, not only two. So again we see that Irenaeus was no trinitarian.

        In Christ,

        Andrew

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