Why Can’t Protestants Affirm the Athanasian Creed?

The pseudo-athanasian creed, usually simply referred to by its supporters by the misleading name of ‘the Athanasian Creed’, was neither authored by Athanasius, nor does it represent his understanding of the Trinity. Athanasius strongly affirmed, for example, that the one God is the first person of the Trinity in particular, the Father:

“But if this is not to be seen, but while the creatures are many, the Word is one, any one will collect from this, that the Son differs from all, and is not on a level with the creatures, but proper to the Father. Hence there are not many Words, but one only Word of the one Father, and one Image of the one God.” (Against the Arians, Discourse II.)

“For, as the illustration shows, we do not introduce three Origins or three Fathers, as the followers of Marcion and Manichæus; since we have not suggested the image of three suns, but sun and radiance. And one is the light from the sun in the radiance; and so we know of but one origin; and the All-framing Word we profess to have no other manner of godhead, than that of the Only God, because He is born from Him.” (Against the Arians, Discourse III.)

We see that unlike the creed, Athanasius’s theology was marked by a confession that the one God is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ; and Christ stands in relation to the one God, as His Word and Son. Rather than being truly Athanasian, then, in reality the pseudo-Athanasian Creed is representative of early medieval scholastic articulations of the Trinity, especially following the theology of Augustine.

Despite the creed’s anonymous authorship and its theological clash with the real teaching of Athanasius, it has gained very wide acceptance in the west, in traditions which in some way stem from that latin medieval scholastic tradition, out of which it was formed. Not only do the Roman Catholics affirm it, but also Lutherans, many Anglicans, Presbyterians, and other Protestant groups. It is regarded by many Protestants (falsely so) to be an ecumenical creed; yet this is of course impossible, when we consider the contents of it in relation to the Eastern churches. Many Eastern Orthodox, for example, not only affirm the monarchical trinitarianism Athanasius taught in opposition to Augustinian semi-modalism, but they also universally reject the filoque- the doctrine that the Holy Spirit not only eternally proceeds from the Father, but also from the Son (‘filoque’ means, ‘and the Son’).

Yet, despite the creed being paraded around under so many false pretenses (false authorship, false claim to conceptually Athanasian theology, false claim to being ecumenical) it stills finds acceptance among many tradition-loving Protestants. I want to briefly observe here that this is in fact, grossly inconsistent with the founding principles and ideas of Protestantism; and this is not a difficult point to demonstrate. To do so, we need not dive into the theology presented in the creed itself, but only note that which frames the confession. It begins by saying:

“Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.”

After 25 lengthly lines of words about the Trinity, we read:

“He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.”

After going on talking about the incarnation for many more lines, the creed closes by reiterating:

“This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.”

Perhaps the only thing in the entire creed that can truly be said to be clear or intelligible to the average person, are these threats against the eternal salvation of anyone who dares not lend their assent to all the things this creed says. Yet, as we noted above, this creed goes into detail explaining not only what is more widely accepted regarding the Trinity by those following Nicea, but a specifically western, latin, and augustinian version of these doctrines. It includes this line, for example, that no professing Christian from, or in agreement with the Eastern Orthodox churches, would ever assent to:

“The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.”

Here we can spot the filoque -the Holy Spirit is said not only to proceed from the Father, but also the Son. This doctrine is repugnant to all Eastern Orthodox, and anyone in the West who happens to side with them on this point. Yet, here it is included in this creed, among things which, according to the repeated expression of the same creed, must be believed in order to be saved, and without which, no one can be saved. In other words, everything in the creed is effectively part of the gospel; for that which must be believed to be saved, and receive Christian baptism, and to be received into Christian fellowship, is the gospel. All then which is included in this creed is gospel, apart from which there is no salvation; for “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.”

Yet, such a confession is completely opposed to the founding principles of Protestantism; among which, is that no one may add to or alter the gospel preached by the apostles. For it was on account of this very sin that the various Protestant groups have felt free to depart from the Roman Catholic church, and often to declare it no church at all. They rightly appeal to these verses:

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel more than what we have preached to you, he is to be anathema! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel more than what you received, he is to be anathema!” (Galatians 1:6-9 NASB)

‘Anathema’ simply means accursed, and has since the time of the above epistle’s authorship frequently been declared by churches upon those they consider heretics. In this case, there can be no question the legitimacy of the anathemas; these are not the decisions of any human council, but of an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. But they no not anathematize a trinitarian error: they anathematize anyone who preaches a gospel more than what the apostles preached. This is extremely serious; anyone adding to the gospel, by doing so, jeopardizes their own standing, according to scripture.

For this reason, Protestants rightly protested various ways in which the Roman church had added to and/or altered the apostolic gospel. Yet, here we see a great hypocrisy among many Protestants: while condemning others for altering the gospel, they do so themselves, by adding so many lines of incoherent ramblings about the Trinity to the gospel. And, if one of them should argue that every line of those Augustinian speculations is not only biblical, but part of the gospel, he shall have an enormously difficult time trying to prove that even a small portion of it was preached by the apostles as part of the gospel. For all through the book of Acts, we see men were saved by believing a gospel that included almost none of what the pseudo-athanasian creed says. If this is so, then the doctrines of the creed are not part of the apostolic gospel- and to add them to that gospel, is to be accursed by Paul himself, who spoke in the authority of the Lord Jesus, under the inspiration of the Spirit.

But one will argue that all of Augustine’s dogmas are found in scripture, and perhaps that they are even part of the gospel; so be it, we need not address this question, to prove that the creed adds to the gospel. The Protestants who accept the creed need only answer this question: is it possible for one to be saved without believing the filoque? Or put another way, is the filoque itself part of the gospel, and so, something which a person must believe to be a Christian?

If they answer ‘no’, they do well, in not adding to the gospel, and avoiding the anathemas of Galatians chapter one. But if this is so, then why do they affirm a creed which adds to the gospel? By teaching people to believe that creed, they will by their own admission be encouraging people to learn from it a gospel more than that preached by the apostles. If, on the other hand, they should answer in the affirmative, and say that the filoque is part of the gospel, and required for salvation, they will be far more consistent in affirming the creed; only they will have this problem, that they are anathema. For by adding to the gospel, as they say Rome does, they are just as accursed as they say Rome is, for the same sin.

It is plain then that no Protestant can consistently affirm the pseudo-Athanasian creed, unless they are prepared to deny the possibility of salvation of everyone who sides against the filoque; namely, all Eastern Christians, and all western Christians who agree with them. If they do, they certainly add to the gospel, by teaching that which the apostles did not teach is required for salvation. If they do not however wish to proclaim all Christians who do not believe the filoque to be damned, then let them forsake the pseudo-athanasian creed as something wicked, as something which adds to the apostolic gospel and is anathema for it. For if one can be saved while rejecting the filoque, what good will come from reciting a creed which damns to hell those who you admit may well be your brothers in Christ, over such a minor disagreement? For the creed is as unbending as it is incoherent: there is no leeway given to accept the greater part of it, yet reject some, but it declares “This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.”

It is the duty of all true Christians to reject additions to the gospel, and to preserve whole and intact the gospel, as preached and delivered by the apostles. We have no right to add any doctrine or work to it, which they themselves did not enjoin as part of it. Yet that is precisely what this creed does. Given the pattern of the Roman church, it is unsurprising that they rush into this great sin; but those who keep themselves separate from the Roman church on that very account, would do well to pay heed that they do not, like the Roman church, add to the gospel by way of this wretched creed. Those that do, are inconsistent Protestants; they ought either to reject the creed for its additions to the gospel, or else side with Rome, and accept all of their additions to the gospel beyond that found in this creed, if additions to the gospel are acceptable.

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Questions For Protestants About the Trinity And the Papacy

1. Did not the Protestant Reformers, and the churches that followed them, believe and even formally confess as their doctrine, that the Pope of Rome is the antichrist?

2. If the Pope is the antichrist, or an antichrist, is it reasonable to suppose that he preserved pure and intact, the most important and foundational doctrines of the Christian faith?

3. Does not Protestantism teach that the Papacy corrupted some of the most important and fundamental doctrines of the faith, including the gospel itself?

4. Did not the Papacy, during the middle ages, not only purport to preserve the teaching on the Trinity they had received from earlier generations, but even claim to improve it and expand upon it?

5. If the Pope, being antichrist according to the Reformers, is the corrupter of the church’s polity, worship, soteriology, and morals, is it reasonable to suppose that he not only faithfully preserved the doctrine of the Trinity pure and intact, but even improved it?

6. Is it not the belief of the Reformers and early Protestants that the Papacy sought to undermine the gospel and prevent men from giving worship to the true God and His Christ?

7. If one sought to undermine the gospel and prevent men from giving worship to the true God and His Christ, would not corrupting the doctrine of the Trinity, as being intimately connected to the very identity of God and Christ, and to the gospel itself, be one of the best places to start?

8. Is it reasonable to suppose that the doctrines respecting the identity of God, and His Son, and the Holy Spirit, viz, the doctrines pertaining to the Trinity, would be the same and identical when based on of scripture alone as they are when they are based of tradition, human philosophy, and scripture together?

9. Is it not strange that the Roman Catholic notion of the Trinity, and the mainline Protestant notion of the Trinity, are precisely the same, when they are supposed to each be founded on two entirely different foundations, the one upon scripture alone, and the other upon a human magisterium, with its human traditions and philosophical notions?

10. How did the Protestant and Roman notions of the Trinity turn out to be the same, when each builds upon a starkly different foundation?

11. If the Protestant and Roman notions of the Trinity are identical, does it not make it appear as though they are both drawn from the very same source and foundation? Does it not stand to reason that their identicality must come from either both being founded on scripture, or both being founded on human tradition?

12. Is it reasonable for anyone to believe that the Roman notion of the Trinity is drawn from scripture alone, a claim which the Roman church itself would deny?

13. Is not the best explanation of the identicality of the Roman and Protestant views of the Trinity, that mainline Protestantism has drawn its notion of the Trinity from the same source the Roman Church has, namely, human tradition and philosophy foreign to the scriptures?

14. Is drawing such a notion of the Trinity from the same sources the Roman church draws hers, in any way consistent with the principles of Protestantism, namely, sola scriptura?

15. In short, can taking one’s knowledge of God from antichrist be anything but the utmost foolishness? And is it not more consistent to, if the Pope of Rome is the antichrist, throughly reject any part of his doctrines respecting God and the trinity not found in scripture, as not only being uncertain, but as very likely being gross corruptions of the Christian faith?

16. Has not mainline Protestantism largely showed itself to be committed to sola scriptura in name and not in practice, by upholding the Roman version of the Trinity, without either testing it or revising it along scriptural lines?

17. Is it consistent for Protestants to unquestioningly accept the papal version of the Trinity as a holy mystery, taken on faith, while they have freely tested by scripture and logic other supposed mysteries of the Roman church, such as transubstantiation, and rejected them as unscriptural?

18. Is it not far more consistent, to either accept all the mysteries of the Roman church on blind faith, or none of them? And if some of them should be tested by scripture, and only accepted inasmuch as they agree with it, why not the rest?

19. Is it not clear from the writings of the Nicene fathers, such as Athanasius and the Cappadocians, that all that was intended to be signified by the term ‘homoousias’ is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as three distinct individual beings or persons (hypostases), share a common nature or species among themselves, as three men share a common human nature? And did they not use precisely that illustration, of three men sharing a common nature, to explain what they meant?

20. Did not Athanasius, Basil, and other Nicene fathers from that time expressly denounce the interpretation of homoousias which says that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are numerically and individually one substance, as Sabellian heresy? For an individual substance or being, if it is rational, is nothing but a person, and so, to say that all three persons are one individual substance, is to agree with Sabellius that They are in fact one person.

21. Is it not this latter notion of the Trinity, that the three persons are individually and numerically co-essential, which prevailed in the Roman church, to the exclusion of that taught by Athanasius, Basil and those with them? For were not the opinions of Athanasius and the other Nicene fathers represented by Abbot Joachim, whose views were condemned as heresy by the fourth lateran council?

22. Did not then the Pope (for he lead the fourth lateran council and authored its decisions) condemn and reject the orthodoxy of the Nicene church, and embrace in its place what they considered the rank heresy of Sabellius, by proclaiming in council that the Father, Son, and Spirit are numerically and individually co-essential in one supreme hypostasis, rather than generically co-essential as three distinct hypostases?

23. Has not mainline Protestantism, then, in agreeing with the Pope rather than the Nicene fathers, embraced the same serious errors on the Trinity the Roman church has, according to the teaching of Athanasius, Basil, and those with them?

24. Is it in any way consistent or sensible for the Reformed churches to have embraced the theology of the fourth lateran council respecting the Trinity, and yet, reject its decisions on papal authority and transubstantiation? If the latter are deemed gross corruptions of the faith, why should the former not likewise have been examined as a possible corruption?

25. Was it not, all along, only the Homoians in the fourth through eight centuries, who according to their own testimony tried diligently to believe about the Trinity only what could be known from the scriptures, without respect for extra-biblical speculation? And did not their Nicene contemporaries freely appeal to extra-biblical traditions to justify their doctrines?

26. Which then of the ancient views on the Trinity, is most consistent with the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, that of the Homoians, or the Nicenes?

27. Why then, if the Protestant Reformers were truly serious about sola scriptura, was no serious consideration given to the Homoian doctrine of the Trinity? And is it reasonable or consistent to prejudice the papal view of the Trinity, which makes no profession to be truly grounded in scripture, over that of the Homoians, who professed scripture to be the only source of their doctrine?

 

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Can Jesus Be Called ‘God Most High’?

Some have argued that the title ‘God Most High’ belongs to the Son as well as the Father; a simple examination of the subject will show us that is not the case:

The title ‘Most High’ denotes supremacy; being above all others. When applied to the title ‘God’, it denotes the Supreme God, the God Who is above all else. We must consider that such a title is not a sharable or communicable title, but is exclusive; it cannot be possessed by more than one person, as it is only possible for one person to be above all others, absolutely. If two persons were to be considered equal, neither would individually be ‘Most High’, as neither would be above the other; so only one person can be ‘Most High’. Only the person Who is supreme above all else absolutely can be fittingly called ‘God Most High’.

It should be obvious that this person, this God, is the Father, and no other. He alone is the Supreme Being (see Five Simple Proofs That the Father Alone Is the Supreme Being). The Son is not equal to Him, but declared that “the Father is greater than I” (Jn 14:28). The Son everywhere declares that He is another besides His Father, that He lives because of His Father, and that He is always subject to His Father and does nothing on His own initiative. And so it is clear that the Father, not the Son, is the Most High God, as He alone is supreme over all absolutely.

We may also note that the scriptures, as we should expect, reserve this title for the Father alone, and use it as a title for Him in contradistinction to the Son:

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32 NASB)

“Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.” (Luke 8:28 NASB)

Finally its worth noting that if the title were applied to the Son, due to its exclusive nature, one would not be declaring the Son equal to the Father, but greater than the Father. For, to again reiterate, the title ‘Most High’ is an exclusive and incommunicable title, which denotes the one Who is above all others absolutely. When we apply the title ‘Most High’ to someone, we declare that they are above everyone else. If, therefore, one were to say that the Son were ‘God Most High’, this would be to say that the Son is greater than even the Father, and that He is supreme over Him. Thus Origen rightly said:

“Grant that there may be some individuals among the multitudes of believers who are not in entire agreement with us, and who incautiously assert that the Saviour is the Most High God; however, we do not hold with them, but rather believe Him when He says, “The Father who sent Me is greater than I.”  We would not therefore make Him whom we call Father inferior — as Celsus accuses us of doing — to the Son of God.” (Contra Celsum, 8.14)

We can see there that Origen employs the same logic as above; that since the title ‘Most High’ denotes absolute supremacy above all, calling the Son ‘God Most High’ would be to falsely assert that He is supreme over and greater than the Father; when in truth, the Father is Supreme over all, and greater than the Son. Thus the scriptures and all reason compel us to ascribe the title of ‘God Most High’ to one only, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, “the only true God” (Jn 17:3).

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One Individual Essence?

In the following, Dr. Samuel Clarke confutes the Reverend Dr. Wells, who writes that the true scripture doctrine of the Trinity is that the three persons; the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, are one individual essence, i.e. one numeric being.

However, in your interpretation of this text, you declare explicitly what your notion of the Trinity is. And still more distinctly, p. 21; “The Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity,” you say, “is truly this, that in the Godhead there are three persons of the same divine INDIVIDUAL essence.” Now this, I say, is an express contradiction in the very terms. For INDIVIDUAL essence, in all propriety of speech, and if the word has any signifigation at all, is (when spoken of an intelligent being) the very same as PERSONAL essence; that is to say, that by which a person is that individual person which he is is, and no other. Besides, it is a phrase not only not used in Scripture, nor in the three first centuries, nor in the fourth, (unless it be the true rendering of the word μονοουσιος [monoousios] or ταυτοουσιος [tautoousios], which was then universally condemned as heretical;) but seems to be the invention of the schools, in latter ages. Hear the very learned Dr. Cudworth upon this point. “It is evident,” saith he, p. 604, “that these reputed Orthodox Fathers, [viz. St. Cyril, St. Gregory Nyssen, and others,] who were not a few, were far from thinking the three hypostases of the Trinity to have the same SINGULAR existent essence: – that Trinity of persons numerically the same, or having all one and the same SINGULAR existent essence, is a doctrine which seemeth not to have been owned by any public authority in the Christian Church, save that of the Lateran Council only: that no such thing was ever entertained by the Nicene Fathers, &c.” Again: “The truth of this,” saith he, “will appear, first, because these Orthodox Anti-Arian Fathers did all of them zealously condemn Sabellianism; the doctrine whereof is no other than this, that there was but one hypostasis, or singular INDIVIDUAL ESSENCE, of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: In the next place, because the word ὁμουσιος [homoousios], was never used by Greek writers otherwise, than to signify the agreement of things NUMERICALLY DIFFERENT from one another, &c. – Lastly, that the ancient orthodox fathers, who used the word homoousios against Arius, intended not therein to assert the Son to have one and the same singular or INDIVIDUAL essence with the Father, appeareth plainly from their dsclaiming and disowning those two words, ταυτοουσιον and μονοουσιον.” Again: “It is plain,” saith he, “that the ancient orthodox fathers asserted no such thing, as one and the same SINGULAR or numerical essence of the several persons of the Trinity.” And this he proves by numerous most express quotations. Where now is your vain confidence in the concurrent testimonies of the fathers; when not only in the three first centuries your notion, in the manner you express it, was never heard of, but even in the fourth and following centuries it was universally condemned? But still I am willing to allow all this to besides the main question; for Scripture only is our rule.

Source: A Letter to the Reverend Dr. Wells, &c.

Note: Updated archaic spelling, italics, etc.

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Distinct Actions of the Persons of the Trinity

“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;” 1 Peter 1:17 NASB

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,” John 5:22 NASB

Here we read from Peter, firstly, that the Father judges men impartially; then we read from John, that the Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son. Is there disagreement between Peter and John? Does scripture contradict itself? Not at all; but rather, the difficulty is resolved when we read “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31 NASB; and, “And He [the Son] commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 10:42 NASB

What we have then, is this: scripture says that God, the Father, judges all men; and yet, in another place, it says He judges no one at all. Unless we will say that these statements contradict one another, we must acknowledge each to be speaking in a different sense; one speaks of God judging all men indirectly through Christ, through Whom are all things 1 Cor 8:6. The Father is the ultimate Cause of all judgement, and all judgment is according to His will and command, although it is executed through the Son. And so the Son said “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 5:30 NASB. The Father then may truly and rightly be said to “impartially judge according to each one’s work”, because He so judges mediately, through the Son, Who judges not on His own initiative, but according to the will and command of the Father.

On the other hand, the Son has all judgement given to Him by the Father, and the Father judges no one, in this second sense, in reference to immediate action, since the Father immediately judges no one, but all immediate judgment is given to the Son. For the Son clearly says that He does not judge according to His own initiative but according to the will of the Father; and so the Father judges through the Son, and so, Himself truly judges all- not immediately and directly, but mediately, through the Son, the one Mediator between God and man. Meanwhile the Son alone judges immediately and directly. Since all things from God through Son, so God judges through Son, the Son judging according to the will and command of the Father. The Son alone, however, judges immediately, and in that immediate sense, God judges no one.

We can apply this same sort of logic reasonably to all things that God does through His Son. So there is shown a significant difference between the actions of God and of His Son towards creation; the Father acts towards creation mediately, the Son both immediately, and through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit only acts immediately towards the universe, never through another person of the Trinity. So the actions of the persons are not entirely identical, but each acts towards creation differently and distinctly. This shows that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct individual beings, or persons.

In all this we still see that the persons are united in their actions; the one God, the Father, works through His only-begotten Son, and the Son through the Holy Spirit. This is the pattern of all God’s great works toward the universe: all things are from Him, through His Son. “Yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 NKJV. God created the universe through His Son; God upholds the existence of the universe through His Son; God rules over all things through His Son; God reconciles all things to Himself through His Son; and as we read above, God judges the world through His Son. In the immediate and most high sense, as being the Supreme Cause and Instigator of all these things, the Father is the one Creator, the one Sustainer, the Only Ruler, the Only Savior, and the one Judge of the universe; performing all these actions through the mediation of His Son.

And in the same manner as that judgement was spoken of, we might reasonably speak of any of these acts of God; God, the Father, alone in truth performing all these actions, not immediately and directly, but through the mediation of His only-begotten Son, Who acts upon the universe directly and immediately, according to the will and command of the Father. And so the Son, and not the Father, is the immediate Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Judge of the universe; in this immediate sense the Father creates no one, sustains no one, saves no one, and judges no one, in the whole of the universe that is through His Son. And so, we see the distinct roles of each person; and we see that although God acts through His Son, and His Son acts on His behalf, and according to His will and command, the roles, and so, the actions, of each person, within these greater works are distinguished from one another.

We cannot speak of the Father as the immediate worker of any of those works; nor can we speak of the Son as the ultimate cause of any of those works. The Father alone is the one from Whom are all things; and the Son alone the one through Whom are all things. Therefore the actions of the persons are shown to be distinct and different; the one working mediately and indirectly, the other working immediately and directly on the universe. As mentioned earlier, this distinction in action proves that God and His Son are distinct persons; the Father, the one God, and His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, are two distinct rational individual beings, not one and the same. Otherwise, if They were the same, one could not be said to do something through the other; and one could not be said to be the one from which an action was, the other the one through Whom an action was performed, unless They are two really distinct persons.

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“I will not share my glory with another” Isa 42:8

“I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.” Isaiah 42:8 NASB

This verse is sometimes cited by those who wish to deny the real distinct existence of the Son. If He is another individual being, or person, besides the Father, they say, then how can He be called “God”, be credited with the work of creation, and in short, be glorified and worshipped with such honor as would otherwise properly belong to God alone. How is He called by the name LORD, when God does not share this glory with another? Haven’t you read that God does not share His glory with anyone else, they ask? Therefore, they conclude, since the Son is so glorified, He cannot be another, but must be the same individual being as the Father; and so they falsely declare that the Son is Himself the only true God, the Supreme Being, Whose Son He actually is.

The context of the passage actually shows, however, that the person quoting it to such an end is either being deceitful, or is simply ignorant of its context. For if we read it with what comes before, the true meaning of the text becomes clear:

“Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it, 6 “I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, 7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. 8 “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.” (Isa 42:5-8 NASB)

In context, then, it should be clear to anyone familiar with the New Testament that the Son is in fact in view here: it is the Son Who God has given as a covenant to the people and a light to the nations; the Son Who opens the blind eyes of men’s hearts, and frees men from bondage to sin and death. It is this one, the Christ of God, Who God glorifies mightily, even with that name that is above all names (Phil 2); and besides this one, He will not give His glory to another. That is, He will not share His glory with any other but His Son, through Whom He redeems men from every tribe and tongue and nation.

Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue With Trypho, a Jew, dealt with this text as well:

“And Trypho said, “Being shaken by so many Scriptures, I know not what to say about the Scripture which Isaiah writes, in which God says that He gives not His glory to another, speaking thus ‘I am the Lord God; this is my name; my glory will I not give to another, nor my virtues.'”

And I answered, “If you spoke these words, Trypho, and then kept silence in simplicity and with no ill intent, neither repeating what goes before nor adding what comes after, you must be forgiven; but if[you have done so] because you imagined that you could throw doubt on the passage, in order that I might say the Scriptures contradicted each other, you have erred. But I shall not venture to suppose or to say such a thing; and if a Scripture which appears to be of such a kind be brought forward, and if there be a pretext[for saying] that it is contrary[to some other], since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion as myself. With what intent, then, you have brought forward the difficulty, God knows. But I shall remind you of what the passage says, in order that you may recognise even from this very[place] that God gives glory to His Christ alone. And I shall take up some short passages, sirs, those which are in connection with what has been said by Trypho, and those which are also joined on in consecutive order. For I will not repeat those of another section, but those which are joined together in one. Do you also give me your attention.[The words] are these:’Thus saith the Lord, the God that created the heavens, and made them fast, that established the earth, and that which is in it; and gave breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them who walk therein: I the Lord God have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thine hand, and will strengthen Thee; and I have given Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out them that are bound from the chains, and those who sit in darkness from the prison-house. I am the Lord God; this is my name: my glory will I not give to another, nor my virtues to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass; new things which I announce, and before they are announced they are made manifest to you. Sing unto the Lord a new song: His sovereignty from the end of the earth.[Sing], ye who descend into the sea, and continually sail[on it]; ye islands, and inhabitants thereof. Rejoice, O wilderness, and the villages thereof, and the houses; and the inhabitants of Cedar shall rejoice, and the inhabitants of the rock shall cry aloud from the top of the mountains: they shall give glory to God; they shall publish His virtues among the islands. The Lord God of hosts shall go forth, He shall destroy war utterly, He shall stir up zeal, and He shall cry aloud to the enemies with strength.’ ” And when I repeated this, I said to them, “Have you perceived, my friends, that God says He will give Him whom He has established as a light of the Gentiles, glory, and to no other; and not, as Trypho said, that God was retaining the glory to Himself?”

Then Trypho answered, “We have perceived this also; pass on therefore to the remainder of the discourse.”” (Ch 65)

So far then is this passage from in any way denying the Son, then, that it rather proclaims Him as the one Whom God glorifies with a glory far above all else, as His beloved Son, the Christ He has anointed to rule the nations. And were the Son not another besides the Father, and distinct from Him, God could give Him no glory; for were the Son the Supreme Being, the only true God Himself, He would have all glory already, and could not receive more than He has. But God glorifies His only-begotten Son, His Christ, with the name above all names, the most holy name of God.

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John 10:30 Commentary

I and my Father are one – John 10:30

He intended to meet the jeers of the wicked; for they might allege that the power of God did not at all belong to him, so that he could promise to his disciples that it would assuredly protect them. He therefore testifies that his affairs are so closely united to those of the Father, that the Father’s assistance will never be withheld from himself and his sheep. The ancients made a wrong use of this passage to prove that Christ is (ὁμοούσιος) of the same essence with the Father. For Christ does not argue about the unity of substance, but about the agreement which he has with the Father, so that whatever is done by Christ will be confirmed by the power of his Father.

Source: Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible


The great question here is, whether these words are to be understood of the unity of the Father and Son, as to their same monadical essence, or (as many of the Ante-Nicene Fathers did interpret them) of an unity in will, design, affection and concord? That they could not be intended to declare an unity of their individual essence, seems highly probable, both from the context; from the like expressions in the Scripture; and from the very nature of the thing. First, from the context; for there our Savior saith, “The works that I do in my Father’s name”–that is, by his authority and power imparted to me–”bear witness of me” (ver. 25); which words are evidently repugnant to a numerical unity of essence in them both; since where the essence is one, the actions must be one, and done by the same authority and power. To which add, that the words, “I and my Father,” are words plainly importing two persons; for the word Father is personal, and the word I is a pronoun personal; so that if these two are one and the same God by virtue of this text, they must be one in person as well as essence. Moreover (ver. 29), “My Father which gave them me” (saith Christ) “is greater than all;” which again destroys the numerical unity of essence betwixt both; since no one essence can give any thing to itself, and much less a divine and all-perfect essence. Nor can one essence be greater than itself; whereas our Lord expressly saith, “My Father is greater than I” (John xiv. 28). Secondly: This will be farther evident from the parallel expressions used by our Lord in the same Gospel, where he prays that his disciples “may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they might be made perfect in one:” and yet, doubtless, he could not pray that his disciples might be one in essence with the Father and Son, but only that they might be one by having the Spirit of the Father and Son dwelling in them. In which sense, Athenagoras says the Father and Son are one, viz. ἐνότητι τοũ πνεύματος, by unity of the Spirit. Thus Origin interprets this verse. For, having cited these words, “I and my Father are one,”– If any one, saith he, is disturbed at these expressions, as if we favoured the opinion of the Noetians, who deny the Father and the Son to be δύο ὑποστάσεις, two singular existences, let him consider this text (Acts iv. 34), “All that believed were of one heart and one soul,” and then he will understand this, “I and my Father are one thing:” we serve, therefore, ὡς ἀποδεδώκαμεν, as we formerly explained it, one God the Father, and the Son; we worship the Father of the truth, and also the Son, who is the truth, being indeed two things in subsistence, but in agreement and consent and sameness of will, they are one. Here, indeed, he only saith we worship the Father of the truth, and the Son, who is the truth and wisdom; but in his comment on John (p. 70), he adds, that the Father is πλείων, μείζων ἀλήθεια, a fuller and greater truth, and, being the Father of wisdom, is greater and more excellent, as he is Wisdom, than the Son. Then he proceeds (p. 387) to shew, that among the multitude of believers, some, differing from the rest, rashly affirmed, as the Noetians did, that our Saviour was the God over all; which, saith he, we Christians, or we of the church, do not believe, as giving credit to the same Saviour, who said, “My Father is greater than I.” And, lastly, he saith (p. 38), We Christians manifestly teach, that the Son is not stronger than the Father, who is the Creator of the world, ἀλλ’ ὑποδεέστερος, but inferior in power to him; which words afford the clearest demonstration, that the church of that age did not believe that our Saviour was ὁ ἐπὶ πᾶσι Θεὸς, the supreme God, or one of the same numerical essence with the Father; and therefore could not interpret those words of such an unity, but only of an unity of concord, mind and will. Hence, in his comment upon St. John (p. 227), he saith, that this unity of will is the cause of why Christ said, “I and my Father are one;” and in his next page adds, that the will which is in Christ is the image of the first will, and the divinity which is in Christ is the image of the true divinity. Novatian is, if possible, still more express in this interpretation: for, in answer to the objection of the Sabellians from this place, he saith, that unum, being here put in the neuter gender, denotes not an unity of person, but a concord of society between them; they being deservedly styled one, by reason of their concord and love, and because whatsoever the Son is, he is from the Father. The apostle, saith he, knew this unity of concord with the distinction of persons, by writing to the Corinthians thus: “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” For who understands not that Paul is one person and Apollos another? and that they had divers offices, one to plant and another to water? And yet the apostle Paul saith of these two, ἔν εἰσι, “they are one,” though, as to the distinction of persons, they are two; with other things of like nature. And here it is to be observed, that Pamelius’s note upon these words is this: Nempe in hoc loco, non satis accurate scribere Novatianum, quod nullam essentiœ Patris, et Filii communicationem adferat, sed exemplum ab apostolo unitati essentiœ veluti contrarium; in quo certe hallucinatum fuisse auctorem non vereor dicere, quum postea ecclesia in diversis conciliis, diversum definiverit. That is, Novatian did not write accurately in this place, as making no mention of the communion of the essence betwixt the Father and the Son, but introducing an example from the apostle, as it were, contrary to it; in which thing I doubt not to pronounce him erroneous, seeing the church afterwards in divers councils defined the contrary. And yet it is certain that many of the Ante-Nicene fathers in effect said the same thing: for Justin pronounces the Son to be ἕτερος ἀπὸ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἀριθμῷ οὐ γνώμῃ, another from the Father in number, but not in consent. And his reason follows thus, because he never would do any thing but what ὁ τὸν κόσμον ποιήσας, ὑπὲρ ὃν ἄλλος οὐκ ἔστι θεὸς, βεβόληται καὶ πρᾶξαι καὶ ὁμιλῆσαι, the Maker of the world would have him do and speak. Where, first, this God the Father is plainly styled another in number from him that made the world; and, secondly, the Son is represented as one not doing his own will, but being in all things subservient to, and delivering the words of that God, from whom he is thus distinguished. Lactantius saith, that the Father and Son are one, quia unanimes incolunt mundum, because they unanimously dwell in the world. Eusebius pronounces the Father and Son to be one, οὐ καθ’ ὑπότασιν ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν κοινωνίαν τῆς δόξης, not as to the essence, but as to communion of glory. And lastly, the council of Antioch pronounceth the Father, Son and Holy Ghost to be τρία μὲν ὑποστάσει τῆ δὲ συμϕωνίᾳ ἓν, that is, three in subsistence, but one only in consent or concord. Terullian declares, in answer to this objection of the Sabellians, that these words, “I and the Father,” duorum esse significationem, signify two; and then adds, that unum neutrali verbo non pertinet ad singularitatem, sed ad unitatem, ad similitudinem, ad conjunctionem, ad delectionem Patris qui Filium diligit; et ad obsequium Filii qui voluntatis Patris obsequitur: which last words shew that it is impossible that this text should be interpreted of the numerical essence or unity of the Father and Son; seeing one and the same essence cannot be obsequious or obedient to itself. And yet there is nothing more common among the Ante-Nicene fathers, than to say with Novatian, who having affirmed that the Son, obedierit Patri, et obediat, always did and always doth obey the Father, thence make this inference–Quid tam evidens esse ptest hunc non Patrem esse, sed Filium, quam quod obediens Patri Deo proponitur? What more evidently shews that Christ is not the Father, but the Son, than this, that Christ is obedient to the Father? (Cap. xxiii.) And again (Cap. xxx.), Filius nihil ex arbitrio suo gerit, nec ex concilio suo fecit, nec a se venit; sed imperiis paternus omnibus, et preceptis obedit, ut quamvis probet illum nativitas Filium, tamen morigera obedientia asserat ipsum paternæ voluntatis, ex quo est, ministrum. Ita dum se Patri in omnibus obtemperantem reddit, quamvis fit et Deus, unum tamen Deum Patrem de obedientia sua ostendit, ex quo et traxit, originem; that is, in short, the Son of God,  by his dutiful obedience to all his Father’s commands, and to his will (he doing nothing by his own will and counsel), by this demonstrated, that though he was God, yet the Father, from whom he came forth, and whom he obeyed, was the one God, even that one God, of whom he saith, Nos scimus et legimus et credimus et tenemus, unum esse Deum, qui fecit eælum pariter ac terram, quoniam nec alterum novimus, aut noscere (cum multus sit) aliquando poterimus; that is, we Christians know, believe and hold, that there is one only God, the Creator of heaven and earth; nor know we, nor can we know any other, because there is no other. And again, God the Father is unus Deus, cujus neque magnitudini, neque majestati, neque virtuti quicquam non dixerim præfferri, sed nec cimparari potest; that is, that one god, to whose greatness, majesty and power, nothing can be compared (Cap. xxx.). And indeed all the Greek fathers, from Justin to Eusebius inclusive, do frequently inform us that the Son did ὑπηρετεῖν τῷ θελήματι τοῦ Πατρὸς, obey the will of the Father, that he did ὑπουργεῖν, διακονεῖν, ὑπηρετεῖν, minister, and was subservient to him. And all that writ in Latin, from Tertullian to Lactantius inclusively, that he did Patris voluntati administrare, administer to the will of the Father; that he did obedire in omnibus Patri, obey the Father in all things; that the Son voluntati Patris fidelitur paret nec unquam faciat aut fecerit, nisi quod Pater aut voluit aut jussit, faithfully obeyed the will of his Father, and never doth or would do any thing but what the Father willed or ordered him to do (Lb. iv. C. xxix.). It being therefore certain, that one and the same essence can have but one and the same will, and that one singular and numerical essence cannot administer to the will, obey, and be subservient to the will and commands of another; hence it is demonstratively evident that he who does so, cannot have the same numerical essence and will with the Father.

Source: The Last Thoughts of Dr. Whitby

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A Homoian Sermon

The following sermon or discourse dates from the late fourth or early fifth century, and was preserved among the writings of Augustine of Hippo, who wrote a work against the sermon. This may have served as a tract or catechism of sorts used by Homoians, and provides a fairly detailed account of their very scriptural understanding of the Trinity. This post is not an endorsement of everything the sermon says, however; read with discernment, “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess 5:21 NKJV).

 

  1. “Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten God, the firstborn of all creation,
  2. was established before all ages by the will of his God and Father.
  3. At the Father’s will and command, but by his own power, he made heavenly and earthly things, visible and invisible things, bodies and spirits, to exist out of non-existing things.
  4. Before he made all things, he was established as God and Lord, King and Creator of all things that were going to be. In his nature, he had foreknowledge of all things that were going to be, and awaited the order of the Father for every detail in making them. At the will and command of the Father, he came down from heaven and came into this world. As he said, “I have not come on my own, but he has sent me (Jn 8:42).
  5. Among all the spiritual and rational grades of being, human beings were obviously inferior, on account of the fragile condition of their body, for they were made a little less than the angels. So that they would not regard themselves as without value and despair of their salvation, the Lord Jesus honored what he had made and deigned to assume human flesh, and show that human beings are not without value, but precious. As scripture says, “A human being is great, and a man is precious (Prov 20:6 LXX). And therefore, he deigned to make human beings alone heirs to his Father and his coheirs so that they might have more in honor, though they had received less in their nature.
  6. “When the fulness of time came”, it says, “God sent his Son born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). He, who at the will of the Father assumed flesh, lived in the body at the will and command of the Father. As he said, “I came down from heaven, not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me” (Jn 6:38). At the will of the Father he was baptized at thirty years of age, and he was revealed by the voice and testimony of the Father. At the will and command of the Father, he preached the good news of the kingdom of heaven. As he said, “I must preach the good news to other cities, since I was sent for this purpose” (Lk 4:43), and “he gave me a command as to what I should say or what I should speak”(Jn 12:49). Thus, at the will and command of the Father, he hurried toward his suffering and death. As he said, “Father, let this chalice pass from me, but not what I want, but what you want” (Mt 26:39). And as the apostle states, “He became obedient to the Father even to death, death upon the cross” (Phil 2:8).
  7. While hanging upon the cross, at the will and command of the Father, he also abandoned into the hands of men the human flesh which he assumed from the holy virgin, Mary, and commended his divinity into the hands of his Father, saying “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46). For Mary gave birth to the body which was destined to die, but the immortal God begot the immortal Son. Hence, the death of Christ is not a lessening of his divinity, but the laying aside of the body. For, just as his generation from the virgin did not mean the corruption of his divinity, but the assumption of a body, so in his death his divinity did not suffer and fail, but only was separated from his flesh. For, just as one who tears a garment injures its wearer, so those who crucified his flesh offended his divinity.
  8. He, who at the will and command of the Father fulfilled the whole plan of salvation, raised his own body from the dead at the will and command of the Father, as he was taken up by the Father into glory with his body, as a shepherd with his sheep, as a priest with his sacrifice, as a king with his purple, as God with his temple.
  9. He, who at the will and command of the Father came down and ascended, at the will and command of the Father is seated at his right hand. He hears the Father saying to him, “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet” (Ps 109:1). He, who at the will and command of the Father is seated at his right hand, will come at the end of the world at the will and command of the Father. As the apostle cries out and says, “At the word of command, at the word of an archangel, and at the trumpet of God, the Lord will come down from heaven” (1 Thes 4:15). He, who will come at the will and command of the Father, will judge the whole world with justice at the will and command of the Father. And he will repay individuals in accord with their faith and works. As he says, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son” (Jn 5:22). So too, he says, “As I hear, so I judge, and my judgement is true, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (Jn 5:30). Hence, in judging he gives first place to the Father and ranks his own divine honor and power second, when he says, “Come, blessed ones of my Father” (Mt 25:34). Hence, the Son is the just judge. Honor and authority belong to the one who judges; the imperial laws belong to the Father. Just as solicitous intercession and consolation belong to the Holy Spirit, so the dignity of the just judge belongs to the only-begotten God.
  10. Hence, the Son was born of the Father; the Holy Spirit was made through the Son.
  11. The Son proclaims the Father; the Holy Spirit makes known the Son.
  12. The first and principle work of the Son is to reveal the glory of the Father; and the first and principle work of the Holy Spirit is to disclose the dignity of Christ to the souls of human beings.
  13. The Son is witness to the Father; the Spirit is witness to the Son.
  14. The Son is sent by the Father; the Spirit is sent by the Son.
  15. The Son is the minister of the Father; the Holy Spirit is the minister of the Son.
  16. The Son receives orders from the Father; the Holy Spirit receives orders from the Son.
  17. The Son is subject to the Father; the Holy Spirit is subject to the Son.
  18. The Son does what the Father orders; the Holy Spirit speaks what the Son commands.
  19. The Son adores and honors the Father; the Holy Spirit adores and honors the Son. The Son himself says, “Father, I have honored you on earth; I have completed the task you gave me” (Jn 17:4). Of the Holy Spirit he says, “He will honor me, because he will receive from what is mine and announce it to you” (Jn 16:14).
  20. The Son can do nothing by himself, but awaits a sign from the Father fro every detail. The Spirit does not speak on his own, but awaits the Son’s command for everything. “He will not speak on his own”, he says, “But will speak whatever he will hear, and he will announce to you what is to come” (Jn 16:13).
  21. The Son pleads for us with the Father; the Spirit petitions the Son on our behalf.
  22. The Son is the living and true, proper and worthy image of the whole goodness and wisdom and power of God; the Spirit is the manifestation of the whole wisdom and power of the Son.
  23. The Son is not a part or a portion of the Father, but the proper and beloved, perfect and full, only-begotten Son. Nor is the Spirit a part or portion of the Son, but the first and principal work of the Son before all the others.
  24. The Father is greater than his Son; the Son is incomparably greater and better than the Spirit.
  25. The Father is God and Lord for his Son; the Son is God and Lord for the Spirit.
  26. The Father by his will begot the Son without changing or being changed; the Son made the Spirit by his power alone without toil or weariness.
  27. As priest, the Son adores his God, and he is adored by all as God and Creator of all. The Father alone adores no one, because he has no one greater or equal to adore; he thanks no one, because he has received a benefit from no one. Out of his goodness he has given being to all things; he has received his being from no one. There is, then, a distinction of the three substances, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and there is a difference of three realities, the unbegotten God, the only-begotten God, and the advocate Spirit. The Father is God and Lord for his Son and over all the things which by his will have been made through the power of the Son. The Son is the minister and high priest of his Father, but he is Lord and God of all his works, because that is what the Father wills.
  28. As no one can pass to the Father without the Son, so no one can adore the Son in truth without the Holy Spirit. Hence, the Son is adored in the Holy Spirit.
  29. The Father is glorified through the Son.
  30. The work and concern of the Holy Spirit is to make holy and protect the holy –to make holy, not merely rational beings, as some suppose, but also man beings lacking reason. It is to recall those who have fallen through their own negligence to their former state, to teach the ignorant, to admonish the forgetful, to rebuke sinners, to rouse the lazy to think of and to have concern for their salvation, to bring back the straying to the path of truth, to cure the sick, to check bodily weakness with strength of soul, to strengthen all in the love of piety and chastity, and to enlighten all. It is, above all, to bestow faith and charity on individuals in accord with their desire and concern, in accord with their simplicity and sincerity of mind, in accord with the measure of faith and the merit of their way of life; it is to distribute grace as it is needed and to place each individual in the work and vocation for which he is suited.
  31. He is different from the Son in nature and condition, rank and will, dignity and power, virtue and activity, just as the Son, the only-begotten God, is different from the Unbegotten in nature and condition, rank and will, divine dignity and power.
  32. Hence, the same one cannot be both Father and the Son, the one who generates and the one who is born, the one to whom witness is given and the one who gives witness, the greater and the one who confesses that he is greater. The same one cannot be the one who sits or stands at the right and the one who bestows the honor of that place, the one who was sent and the one who sent. The same one cannot be disciple and teacher, as he himself taught when he said, “As the Father has taught me, so I speak” (Jn 8:28). The same one cannot be both like and the one to whom he is like, the imitator and the one whom he imitates, the one who prays and the one who hears prayers, the one who gives thanks and the one who blesses, the one who receives the command and the one who gave the command, the minister and the commander, the supplicant and the sovereign, the subject and the superior, the only-begotten and the unbegotten, the priest and God.
  33. But God without beginning had foreknowledge that he was going to be the Father of the only-begotten God, his Son. He never had foreknowledge that he himself was going to be God, because he is unbegotten and never began to have foreknowledge or knowledge. What is foreknowledge but knowledge of what is going to be? Because he generated the Son, he was called Father by the Son, and because the Son has revealed him, he is known by all Christians as the God and Father of the only-begotten God, and he had been revealed as greater than the great and better than the good God.
  34. The Homoousians say that it was out of humility that our Savior said all these things concerning the foreknowledge of the Father and concerning his own subjection. We Christians believe that he said all these things because the Father commanded him and the Son obeyed. We state and prove that the heretics are refuted and trapped by their own statements. For if he humbled himself, this humility of his proves his obedience, while the obedience shows that the one tower above and that the other stands beneath and in subjection. As the apostle says, “He humbled himself, having become obedient even to death” (Phil 2:8). His humility is the truth, not a pretense. Is any wise man ever content to humble himself, unless he has someone greater and better whom he is anxious to please by his humility? He says, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn 8:29). He was born once before all ages by the will of the Father and does all things at his will. Heaven forbid that he humbled himself and lied! If the Truth lied -which is impossible- where may one look for the truth? But the Truth neither lied, nor does he change who came for the purpose of teaching the truth. He is not an instructor in ignorance, but the teacher of truth, as he said, “Do not allow yourselves to be called teachers on earth; you have one teacher, Christ” (Mt 23:10). But if they say that, in humbling himself on earth on account of his incarnation, he spoke these things on account of human beings, we shall show them that there are testimonies found in the scriptures concerning the subjection of the Son that are greater and stronger than those found in the gospel. After all, if he humbled himself on earth on account of human beings and did not, as the obedient and submissive Son, obey his Father with incomparable love and thanksgiving, why did he obey when commanded before he assumed flesh? After all, he is as humble in obedience as he is lofty in power. Why, now that he is sitting at the right hand of God, does he make intercession on our behalf? And why, when he was in the body on earth did he promise that he would in heaven ask the Father, saying “I will ask the Father and he will give you another advocate” (Jn 14:16)? And if on all these points, on account of the hardness and blindness of their heart, they are still unwilling to believe, but dare to say that all these things were done out of humility, why would he humble himself after the end of the world when humility is not necessary on account of human beings, unless he knew that he was subject and obedient by nature and will? After the end of the world, all things will be subject to him, since even now all things are subject to him by nature, as creation is subject to the Creator, but we see that all things are not subject to him on account of free choice. Then, however, on the day of judgement, when at the name of Jesus every knee will bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue will confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father, all things will without end be subject to him both by will and by nature. And after all things are subject to him, he himself will remain in that subjection and love in which he always is, and as the Son he will be subject to him who has made all things subject to him [1 Cor 15:28]. No Christian who hears this can fail to know it, because faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Thus God will be all things in all things, ever having monarchy and power over all. To him be glory and honor, praise and thanksgiving through his only-begotten Son, our Lord and Savior, in the Holy Spirit, now and for age upon age. Amen.”

 

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Maximinus’s Final Discourse (From His Debate With Augustine)

The debate between Augustine and Maximinus is well worth reading in full (see here). That will provide the reader with the larger context of this discourse, which is useful for understanding it. But even without the context, this discourse, in response to many points made by Augustine in the foregoing debate, is an excellent window into Homoian beliefs on the Trinity.

Maximinus’s theology is clearly founded upon the belief that scripture is a sufficient and trustworthy source of knowledge concerning Christian doctrine; a doctrine that cannot be proved from the scriptures, is not known to be true, while whatever is proved from the scriptures, is certain. That said, Maximinus, like all men, is fallible; while most of what he says is golden, this does not make him infallible. This post is therefore not meant as a wholesale endorsement of all that he says here. We must (following his own example) accept only that we can see to be demonstrated from the holy scriptures to be true, not merely assenting to anything he says simply because he said it. “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess 5:21 NKJV).

The Discourse, in response to Augustine:

Maximinus said, “As a man protected by the power of princes, you speak not a word with the fear of God. I have waited many hours; you have explained your point of view. With God as our help, we will answer each point. After all, we are protected not by mere talk, but by the testimonies of the divine scriptures. But just as we were patient while Your Holiness gave your explanation, now be as patient as you were wordy, and we will give our answer to each of your claims, just as you answered what you wanted to ours.

“We worship Christ as the God of every creature. For he is adored and worshipped, not only by human nature, but also by all the heavenly powers. Listen to blessed Paul as he cries out, Have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Since he was in the form of God, he did not think it robbery to be equal to God, but emptied himself, taking the form of the servant, having come to be in the likeness of men and found in appearance as a man. He humbled himself, having become obedient even to death, death upon the cross. For this reason God has exalted him and has given him the name that is above every name. You thought, in any case, that you should slip that passage into your discourse, though you knew that it was opposed to what you profess, though you knew the passage would refute you.†89 Paul goes on to say that every knee is bent to Christ. After he had said, He gave him the name that is above every name, he adds, so that at the name of Jesus every knee is bent, of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord in the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:5-11). In saying, so that at the name of Jesus every knee is bent, of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth, he includes everything. There is nothing in heaven that does not bend the knee to Christ; there is nothing remaining on earth that does not bend the knee to Christ; there is nothing under the earth that does not bend the knee to Christ. And the Father gave him this. Those who read can test whether I made this point on my own authority and with many words, as you charge, or whether I have answered with the authority of the divine scriptures.†90

15, 3. “You say that the Holy Spirit is equal to the Son.†91 Provide the scripture passages in which the Holy Spirit is adored, in which those beings in heaven and on earth and under the earth bend their knee to him. We have learned that God the Father is to be adored from the exclamation of blessed Paul, Therefore, I bend my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom all fatherhood in the heavens and on earth has its name (Eph 3:14-15). By the authority of the holy scriptures we adore the Father; likewise, taught by these divine scriptures we worship and adore Christ as God. Do the scriptures anywhere say that the Holy Spirit should be adored? If the Father bore witness to him to that effect, if the Son did so, if he himself has made such claims concerning himself, read it from the scriptures against what we have said.†92

15, 4. “Paul also goes on to say in another passage that Christ is at the right hand of God and that he makes intercession on our behalf.†93 He says, Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Col 3:1). He writes to the Hebrews as follows, After he accomplished the purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the greatness on high (Heb 1:3). In any case, the Holy Spirit had also foretold this through the prophet, when he said, The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand” (Ps 109:1). The Son himself claimed this in the gospel.†94 Moreover, to that official who questioned him, saying, Tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of the blessed God, he said, I am, or at least, You say it, and Soon you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the power of God (Mk 14:61-62 and Mt 26:63-64).

15, 5. “We properly honor the Holy Spirit as teacher, as guide, as enlightener, as sanctifier. We worship Christ as creator; we adore the Father with sincere devotion as author, and we proclaim everywhere to all that he is the one author. Your false accusations stem from instruction in the art of philosophy. I do not believe that you have failed to read†97 what the apostle says, though Christ was certainly not a sinner, he committed sin for us,†98 that we might be made the justice of God in him (2 Cor 5:21). Perhaps these words of scripture have not come to your attention, Cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree (Dt 21:23). When he interpreted this, the blessed apostle Paul said, He became a curse for us so that the blessing upon the nations might be brought to fulfillment (Gal 3:13). And, of course, these words escaped your attention, where Paul himself says, The first man, Adam, was earthly from the earth; the second man, the Lord, as heavenly, came from heaven (1 Cor 15:47). And so, Christ has assumed a man, as you yourself have explained.†99 For that reason, we said that he came down to earthly contacts.†100 We are not unaware of the passage where we read, He committed no sin, nor was guile found on his lips. When he was cursed, he did not curse in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but he entrusted himself to him who judges justly (1 Pt 2:22-23).†101 Nor are we unaware of what John the Baptist said, Behold the Lamb of God; behold him who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). We agree with what you go on to say. After all, we should not oppose everything and fail to praise what you say well. What you go on to say is quite correct. Christ came rather to cleanse us from sins and iniquities and not to be soiled, as you went on to say.†102 It is certain that, in accord with that blessed substance of his divinity which he had before creation of the world, before the ages, before time, before days, before months, before years, before anything existed,†103 before any thought, he was born from the Father†104 as God in that blessed nature.†105

15, 6. “In the case of God you should use a worthy comparison. I am, of course, displeased and pained at heart over what you go on to say, namely, that a human being generates a human being, a dog a dog. You should not use so foul a comparison for such greatness.†106

15, 7. “Who does not know that God begot God, that the Lord begot the Lord, that the King begot the King, that the Creator begot the Creator, that the Good begot the Good, that the Wise begot the Wise, that the Merciful begot the Merciful, and that the Powerful begot the Powerful? In generating the Son, the Father took nothing away from the Son. He is not envious, but as the source of goodness he begot this great good.†107 All of creation bears witness to his goodness, in accord with your statement, which I highly praise.†108 You drew from the divine scriptures the words, From the creation of the world his invisible reality, having been understood, is seen through those things that have been made, even his everlasting power and divinity (Rom 1:20).†109

15, 8. “I say nothing in opposition to what has been well said, but simply add my agreement. I say that from the greatness of their beauty their Creator is known and worshipped. In my opinion, we have given a response to these points, for blessed Paul again continues as follows, Since Christ removed from our midst the charge which was against us, nailing it to the cross, and stripping himself of the flesh, he boldly made an example of the powers and principalities, triumphing over them in himself (Col 2:14-15). If, as a man not trained in the liberal arts and rhetoric, I have committed any fault in speaking, you ought to have looked to the meaning and, without focusing on the fault in our speech, refrained from leveling an accusation against us.†110 Heaven forbid, heaven forbid! The only-begotten God is God of all creation, clean, unstained, holy, secure, without any impurity. After all, one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him (Jn 5:23).

“The evangelist bears witness that the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. He says, And we have seen his glory, the glory as if of the Only-Begotten by the Father, full of grace and of truth (Jn 1:14). The Old Testament had sung†111 of him even before, saying, He will wash his mantle in wine and his cloak in the blood of the grape (Gn 49:11). I believe what I read, for the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us. Again, I read that blessed Paul said, He who transformed our lowly body to become conformed to the image of his glorious body (Phil 3:21). I believe that Christ, God born of the Father before all ages, built for himself, according to Solomon, a perfect†112 home. We read, Wisdom has built a home for itself (Prv 9:1), and he took this home in place of a temple.

15, 9. “You yourself have explained the sense in which he is visible and the sense in which he is invisible.†113 In my opinion, Your Holiness has not just recently heard this objection. After all, in the rest of your argument that followed, you used the comparison with the soul. You showed that there is a pious and just reason for us to believe and know that, if the human soul located in a body cannot be seen by bodily eyes, the Creator of the soul is far less able to be seen by bodily eyes. If the angels are invisible in accord with the substance of their nature, how much more invisible is the creator of the angels who made them so great and so good: Angels, Archangels, Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, Powers, Cherubim and Seraphim? As we read in the gospel, he said that in comparison to their multitude the whole human race was one sheep, when he said, Having left the ninety-nine in the mountains, he came to seek the one that was lost. Later he added, Thus there will be more joy in heaven over the one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine just ones who have no need of penance (Lk 15:4.7). Who are those who have no need of penance but those heavenly powers who have nothing in common with human nature? We should consider the power of the only-begotten God, and in him we should marvel at the greatness of the omnipotence of God the Father.†114 He has begotten a Son so great and so good, so powerful, so wise, so full, who has made such good and such great heavenly powers.

“I do not want to be found guilty of the wordiness of which you have already accused us. And yet I wish that would happen so that we could†116 say, We have become fools for the sake of Christ, and We have become like the refuse of this world (1 Cor 4:10.13) and whatever else Your Holiness might want to judge us to be. We know him who said, Because of you I have borne insults all the day (Ps 68:8). Paul stirs us by his example, when he says, Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ (1 Cor 4:16). And Peter said, Christ has suffered for us, leaving us an example that we might follow his footsteps (1 Pt 2:21).

“According to the substance of his divinity, the Son is seen neither by the angels nor by the heavenly powers. For an archangel can see an angel,†117 and an angel can see and penetrate our spiritual souls. That means, of course, that the greater can see and penetrate the inferior. The Savior said to the man who boasted that he was rich, Fool, this night your soul will be demanded of you†118 (Lk 12:20). In accord with this statement of the Savior, it is the function of an angel to present the soul before the sight of the Lord. But a soul cannot see or reveal an angel. In this order ascend higher, and you will find that God the Father alone is invisible, because he does not have a superior who can see him. He is so great that he is infinite; he can be neither limited by words nor grasped by the mind. Not only the human tongue, but also all the heavenly powers joined together speak as they can of his greatness; still they do not explain it as it is. He is the fullness of everything that can be said.

“The Son alone worthily honors and praises him to the extent that he has obtained incomparably more from his Father. The four gospels bear witness that he honors and praises and glorifies his Father. Nonetheless, I will save time by leaving aside all those passages which you usually attribute to the flesh,†119 and I will now produce testimonies where he adores his Father in heaven. Does not Paul speak as follows to the Hebrews, For Christ, the representation of the truth, has entered, not into temples made by hand; rather, he now appears in heaven before the face of God on our behalf? (Heb 9:24).†120 He says this after Christ’s return to heaven. Afterwards he spoke from heaven, saying, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9:4). Later the Holy Spirit said, Set aside for me Barnabas and Paul for the work of ministry to which I have called them (Acts 13:2). Once he had been called, Paul said, Jesus, the representation of the truth, has entered, not into temples made by hand; rather, he now appears in heaven before the face of God on our behalf.

“Your Holiness suggested that we answer whether the Son sees the Father. We read in the gospel, Not that anyone has seen the Father, but he who has come from God has seen the Father (Jn 6:46). Hence, he saw the Father, but he saw the incomprehensible. But the Father, who holds and keeps the Son in his embrace, sees him according to the testimony I previously produced, that No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son who is in the embrace of the Father has revealed him (Jn 1:18). The Father sees the Son as the Son; the Son sees the Father as the immense Father.

“Your Holiness has declared that human wisdom is invisible. In my opinion, the words of Isaiah suffice, when he says, Is it a slight thing for you to do battle with men? How then will you do battle with God? (Is 7:13). It is certainly not a slight thing to do battle with men, since however wise anyone is, he has someone wiser who sees him. Is his wisdom, then, not seen in his action? Is it not tested in his disciples? Hence, human wisdom is not invisible; it can be comprehended, seen and grasped.†121

“Moreover, it is proper and a mark of order that you employ worthy comparisons. After all, you are speaking of God, of that immensity, to which, even if one draws a comparison as great as possible in terms of human thought or even in accord with the authority of the divine scriptures, one finds that the comparison is inadequate in every respect to him who is incomparable.

15, 10. “In accord with the testimonies that I have produced, I say that the Father alone is the one God, not one along with a second and a third, but that he alone is the one God. If he alone is not the one God, he is a part.†122 I deny, after all, that the one God is composed of parts; rather, his nature is unbegotten, simple power. The Son before all ages is himself begotten†123 as power. The apostle spoke of this power of the Son, When you and my spirit are gathered together with the power of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 5:4). I state and profess what the holy gospels teach us. I state and profess that the Holy Spirit is also power in his proper character. The Lord bore witness concerning him, when he said to his disciples, Remain in the city of Jerusalem, until you are clothed from on high with power (Lk 24:49).

15, 11. “If you claim that the Son is invisible, because he cannot be looked upon by human eyes, why do you not claim that the heavenly powers are also equally invisible, since they too cannot be seen by human sight? I have offered a testimony without any interpretation of my words, when I said, The blessed and alone powerful, the King of kings and the Lord of lords (1 Tm 6:15).†124 If I have cited the scripture, I should not to be blamed. But if you are looking for the meaning of the scripture, I will add an explanation.

15, 12. “The apostle says, The blessed and alone powerful, the King of kings. He calls the Father alone powerful, not because the Son is not powerful. Listen to the Holy Spirit crying out and bearing testimony to the Son, Lift up the gates, you†125 princes; be raised up, eternal gates, and the king of glory will enter. He continues, Who is this king of glory? Listen to the answer, The Lord strong and powerful (Ps 23:7-8). How can he fail to be powerful, when every creature proclaims his power?

15, 13. “How can he fail to be wise, when the Holy Spirit cries out in praise of his wisdom and says, How magnificent are your works, O Lord! You have made all things in wisdom (Ps 103:24). Since all things were made through Christ, the Holy Spirit undoubtedly praises him when he says, You have made all things in wisdom. Since that is so, we must ask how blessed Paul can say, The blessed and alone powerful. In my opinion, he calls him alone powerful, because he is alone incomparable in power. In awe before his incomparability, the prophet said, O God, who is like you? (Ps 82:2). Do you want to know that he alone is powerful? Look at the Son and admire the power of the Son. Recognize in the Son that the Father is alone powerful, because he has begotten one so powerful. In his immense power the Father begot the powerful creator.†126 In his power that he received from the Father, the Son did not create the creator, but established creation. He says, All things have been handed over to me by my Father (Mt 11:27). In awe of this power of God the Father, Paul said, The blessed and alone powerful. Job was a powerful and true man. We read, That man was a true and just worshipper of God, and in further describing his region, it says that he was powerful and great among all those in the East (Jb 1:1.3). How then can the Father alone be powerful? It says alone, because no one is comparable to him, because he alone has such greatness, such might, such power.

“In the same way, the blessed apostle Paul proclaims that the Father alone is wise, when he says, God who alone is wise (Rom 16:27). But we must look for an explanation of why he alone is wise, since Christ is also wise. You have already cited Christ the power of God and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24). We too have given testimonies that he created all things in wisdom. But the Father alone is truly wise. We believe the scriptures, and we venerate the divine scriptures. We do not want a single particle of a letter to perish, for we fear the threat that is stated in these divine scriptures, Woe to those who take away or add! (Dt 4:2). Do you want to know how great is the wisdom of the Father? Look at the Son, and you will see the wisdom of the Father. For this reason Christ himself said, One who has seen me has also seen the Father (Jn 14:9). That is, in me he sees his wisdom; he praises his might; he glorifies the Father who, one and alone, has begotten me, one and alone, so great and so good before all ages. He did not look for material out of which to make him, nor did he take someone as an assistant. Rather, in the way he knew, he begot the Son by his power and his wisdom.†127 We do not profess, as you say when you falsely accuse us, that, just as the rest of creation was made from nothing, so the Son was made from nothing like a creature. Listen to the authority of statement of the Synod; for our fathers in Ariminum said this among other things, ‘If anyone says that the Son is from nothing and not from God the Father, let him be anathema.’†128 If you want, I will offer testimonies. For the blessed apostle John speaks as follows, One who loves the Father also loves him who was born from him (1 Jn 5:1).

15, 14. “I am amazed, my friend. You say that the Holy Spirit has the same substance as the Father.†129 If the Son has the same substance as the Father and the Holy Spirit also has the same substance as the Father, why is the one a son and the other not a son? What else can you say, since he has the same substance, since, as you say, he is equal to the Son? Why has he not been made the heir to all things? Why is he not a son as well? Why does he not have the same title as Christ, the firstborn of all creation? (Col 1:15). If he is equal, there is no longer just one only-begotten, since he has another besides himself who has been begotten—and begotten, moreover, from the same substance of the Father from which you say that the Son has come.

“This is painful to hear, for you do not compare that great magnificence to the nobility of the soul, but to the fragility of the body. Flesh is, of course, born from the body, a bodily offspring. But the soul is not born from a soul. If, then, our soul generates without corruption and passion, not experiencing any lessening or any defilement, but lawfully in accordance with God-given rights generates an offspring, in wisdom giving its consent to the body,†130 it itself remains whole. How much more will the omnipotent God do so?†131 I said just before that words fail us in every human comparison with God,†132 though we try to put it as best we can. How much more incorruptibly has the incorruptible God the Father begotten the Son? He has, however, begotten him. Note my carefulness, for I have the testimonies of the holy scriptures, Who will tell of his generation? (Is 53:8). He begot as he willed, as one with power,†133 taking nothing away; he begot one with power without any envy entering in.

“I have said: It is not proper for religious persons to make false accusations.†134 I profess the Word of God, the Word of God, not mortal, not corruptible. Scripture cries out concerning the body he assumed for our salvation, My flesh will rest in hope, that is, in the hope of resurrection, because you will not leave my soul in the underworld and you will not permit your holy one to see corruption (Ps 15:9-10). If he who is called the holy one is the Son of God, he has not seen corruption, because he rose from the dead on the third day. How much more does the divinity that assumed the body remain incorruptible! Why do you say what you do not understand? If I have not given you an answer on all these points, I shall rightly be judged to lack understanding; still, it is not the mark of religion to attack someone unjustly.

“I not merely claim that the wisdom of the Son of God is immortal, but I also will prove that the wisdom of the saints of God is immortal. If they, that is, their bodies, are called back to immortality, how much more will that living wisdom of theirs, which flourishes in all believers until the end of the world, remain immortal? Though I have in this long discourse passed over any discussion of the immortality of the omnipotent God, of whom the blessed apostle Paul spoke, Who alone has immortality (1 Tm 6:16), I will repeat the text and offer an interpretation with God’s help and grace. He is described as alone having immortality just as he is described as alone powerful and alone wise.†135 What spiritual person does not know that the human soul is immortal? After all, we have the statement of the Lord saying, Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul (Mt 10:28), for it is immortal. Since, then, the soul is immortal, we see that the heavenly powers are much more immortal. The Savior said, He who keeps my word will not see death forever (Jn 8:51). If one who keeps the word of Christ will not see death forever, how much more immortal is he according to the power of his divinity, whose word has such force? We have already given an explanation of the words, Who alone has immortality. The Son has immortality, but receives it from the Father. All the heavenly powers have immortality, but they receive it through the Son, because all things are through him. But the Father alone truly has immortality, since he has not obtained it from someone else, since he has no father, since he has no origin.

“The Son, however, as you went on to say, was begotten from the Father. You often claim that the Son is equal to the Father, although the only-begotten God always and everywhere proclaims the Father as his author, and from him, as I said just before, he professed that he obtained life. He said, Just as the Father has life in himself, so he gave it to the Son that he has life in himself (Jn 5:26). See, then, how he also received immortality and incorruptibility and inaccessibility along with life from the Father. The Father has life in himself and does not receive it from another. Thus he is truly the blessed and alone powerful. Who has emptied himself? (Phil 2:7). The Father or the Son? Who pleased whom? Who was more anxious to please than he who said, I always do those things which are pleasing to him? (Jn 8:29). Who is it who, when he came to the tomb of Lazarus, said, Father, I thank you, because you have heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I said this because of those who are present so that they may believe that you sent me (Jn 11:41-42). When his disciples asked him about the eyes of the man born blind, Who sinned? This man or his parents? who was it who answered, Neither this man nor his parents sinned. Rather it was that the works of God might be made manifest in him. I must do the works of him who sent me? (Jn 9:2-4). This is, of course, the beloved Son of the Father who, when he took bread, did not first break it, but first looked up to heaven and thanked his Father. Then he broke it and distributed it. So too, in his passion, or rather just before his passion, as the evangelist reports,†136 The Lord Jesus, on the night on which he was betrayed, took bread and, giving thanks, broke it (1 Cor 11:23-24).

“In order not to overwhelm you with eloquent discourse and abundant testimonies, by producing very many,†137 I will finish up quickly. This is the Son who proclaimed that nothing happened without the permission of the Father, not even the death of a sparrow. He said, Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?

Yet not one of them falls to the earth apart from the will of the Father (Mt 10:29). He, of course, spoke of the power he received from the Father, I have the power to lay down my life, and I have the power to take it up again. After all, I have this command from my Father (Jn 10:18). If this is what the gospels report, let us hold what we read. But if they say something else, or I have left something out in forgetfulness, I ask to be corrected. I am not the sort of person who will not accept correction, especially since blessed Paul commanded that a bishop be docile.†138 But one is docile who learns every day and makes progress by teaching what is better. We do not reject something better, if it is offered; we are ready for everything, even though we are treated unjustly. Nonetheless, in order not to be an obstacle to the truth, we do not complain of our injuries, but proclaim the glory of God.

15, 15. “The words of the apostle are certain: Since he was in the form of God. Who denies that the Son is in the form of God? We have already, I think, amply explained that he is God, that he is Lord, that he is King.†139 Because he did not think it robbery to be equal to God, the blessed apostle Paul has taught that he did not steal it, nor do we say that he stole it.†140 But we preach with all our might that he emptied himself, having become obedient to the Father even to death, death upon the cross (Phil 2:6-8). We are called sons by grace; we were not born such by nature. Hence, the Son is the only-begotten, because the Son was born what he is according to the nature of his divinity. You should apply the term ‘brother’ to the Holy Spirit, since you claim that he is on a par with and equal to the Son and profess that he is equally of the substance of the Father. And if that is the case, then the Son is not the only-begotten, since there is another of the same substance.†141

“We have not admitted a nature in God, the unborn Father.†142 We believe Christ’s words, God is spirit (Jn 4:24). The Son was born, as we said; we too profess the true Son and do not deny that he is like the Father, as we have also been taught by the scriptures.†143 Since we are accused of holding different natures, know what it is that we say, namely, that the Father who is spirit begot a spirit†144 before all ages, that God begot God, and everything else that was said above.†145 The true and unborn Father begot the true Son. But when the Lord says in the gospel, That they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (Jn 17:3), he says that the Father is alone true, as he is alone good, alone powerful, and alone wise.

“In my opinion, not even the devil has dared to say that the Father did not beget a perfect Son before all else.†146 For he did not beget one in the process of becoming perfect.†147 You have accepted the comparison with a human being. If human beings could generate an offspring that was perfect at the start, they would not generate a child that would eventually with the increase of years fulfill the parents’ desire. But the Father, who is truly blessed and alone powerful, begot the Son such as he is now and remains forever, not in the process of becoming perfect, but perfect.†148 He received his perfection, of course, from his Father from whom he also obtained life.

“The Savior made the statement, By the words of two or three witnesses every statement will be confirmed (Mt 18:16). You have produced the testimony of the apostle, Since he was in the form of God, he did not think it robbery, and you have interpreted it according to your judgment. We, in my opinion, have answered you squarely. It will be up to the judgment of our listeners which of the two they choose. Either let them approve, in accord with the rest of the passage, the Son who obeys the Father, who emptied himself, taking the form of the servant, to whom the Father gave, as we said, the name that is above every name, or let them approve your interpretation, if anyone understands it.

15, 16. “I ascend to my God and your God (Jn 20:17). You claim, as I think you say, that the Lord said this on account of the form of the servant which he assumed. If he humbled himself while he was in a human body, still, after he had conquered death and triumphed over the devil, he continued to use this sort of language.†149 It was after the resurrection when he said, I ascend to my Father and your Father. Then the humility of the flesh was no longer needed, as you say, on account of the Jews, but the entire rule of the faith was handed on. In the same way, in another passage after his resurrection, when his disciples were gathered on Mount Olivet, he said, All power in heaven and on earth has been given me. Go, therefore, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Mt 28:18-20).

“If the Son said this for the sake of humility and not of truth, why did the apostle dare to repeat the same thing and say, The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory? (Eph 1:17). Or why did he say, The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ knows, he who is blessed forever? (2 Cor 11:31). Why did he say, So that, united in one voice, you may honor the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? (Rom 15:6). Why does he add to this and say, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? (2 Cor 1:3). Why did even the Holy Spirit say to the Son before the Incarnation, Hence, God, your God, has anointed you? (Ps 44:8).

“Although you will want to argue the point, you will not be able to prove that it was his body that was anointed. We read that he was baptized,†150 but not that he was anointed in the body. From that passage where it says, Hence, God, your God, anointed you with the oil of gladness before your companions (Ps 44:8), we are shown that the oil of gladness refers by the word ‘oil’ to that joy of which Solomon spoke, I was the one with whom he was delighted every day. I rejoiced before his face always, when he rejoiced over the world he had made and rejoiced over the sons of men (Prv 8:30-31). We read in the Book of Genesis that God the Father, as it says, saw all the works of the Son, and behold, they were all very good (Gn 1:31). Praising the work of the Son, he was glad and rejoiced in the Son, and the Son rejoiced equally in the sight of his Father, when the will of the Father had been accomplished. All divinely inspired scripture is useful for teaching (2 Tm 3:16). For that reason, not one least letter or one particle of a letter will pass away (Mt 5:18). The Lord said, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away (Mt 24:35).

15, 17. “It is agreed that the Son was in the beginning and was with the Father and was God, and he was in the beginning with God as the firstborn of all creation, and all things were made through him, and without him nothing has been made.†151 That cannot be interpreted as referring to the Holy Spirit. You will not find words reported in the divine scriptures to support the claim that he is equal to the Son. If the Son was in the beginning, the Father was before the beginning and without beginning, insofar as he is unbegotten and unborn. The Son, however, was in the beginning as the firstborn of all creation.†152 He was before all creation, before anything was, and he was with God and he was God, and he was in the beginning with God.

15, 18. “What if you should hear the Father saying, The beginning with you, in the day of your power, in the splendors of the saints, from the womb I begot you before the morning star (Ps 109:3)? You profess that he was born from the womb of his mother according to the flesh—something even the Jews believe. Why do you not produce those testimonies that show his birth in the beginning, just as you instructed us by the previous testimony? He regarded himself as indebted to his Father on account of the body in which he emptied himself. He who, though he was rich, became poor for our sake (2 Cor 8:9), as the apostle says. It is much more necessary that, as the beloved Son, he always offers to his Father the reverence and service he owes to him who has begotten one so great and so good.

“You did very well, when you said that he was subject even to his parents on account of the form of the servant.†153 We find that he was subject to the parents he created, for all things were made through him, and we know that the Son was begotten by the Father, not after some time, but before all time. And if he was subject to his parents, as the authority of divine scripture proclaims more clearly than light, how much the more was he subject to his Father who begot him as one so great and so good! In accord with this the apostle Paul says, When all things have been subjected to the Son, then even the Son will be subject to him who has subjected all things to him (1 Cor 15:28). You want us to say that we profess that all things will be subject to the body, or rather to the saving history that he assumed on our behalf, that the body will be subject to the Father, not the Son the only-begotten God.†154 For we know and believe that the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son that all might honor the Son, just as they also honor the Father (Jn 5:22-23). We profess this, because in the resurrection when all things will be subject to the Son, when all will honor and venerate and adore him, then the Son will certainly not exalt himself. Rather, he will be found subject to the Father along with all the things that are subject to him so that he may say, Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world (Mt 25:34).

15, 19. “We have already mentioned the passage that you seem to have, in your judgment, taken as favoring your side. Still, the words of the apostle remain, that we do not know how to ask in a fitting manner, but the Spirit himself pleads on our behalf with indescribable groans. You thought you prevailed against our argument, when you said, ‘Hence, the Holy Spirit is so unhappy that he groans?’†155 We do not say that the Holy Spirit is unhappy. Rather, the passage reveals the glory of the Holy Spirit. After all, he does not groan on his own behalf. Listen to the passage,†156 for he groans on behalf of the saints (Rom 8:26-27). Nor does the Son plead and make intercession on his own behalf, but on our behalf, as I have already shown in the foregoing.†157 He who is faithful in a small matter is found faithful also in the greater (Lk 16:10).

15, 20. “Nor can anyone claim that the Father and the Son are one except in the way in which you yourself and we can prove by the very examples you used. If, as you say, the apostle affirms, He who clings to the Lord is one spirit (1 Cor 6:17), there is, of course, one spirit in agreement, fulfilling the will of God, according to the teaching of the Savior. He also taught us to pray this way so that among the rest of our prayers we say, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven (Mt 6:10). We are, of course, earth. Just as, then, the will of God is done in the heavenly beings, may it be also accomplished in us who make this prayer, and may we fulfill it with our actions so that we become one spirit with God when we want what God wants.

“When the Son himself was near to his passion, he cried out this same prayer to his Father, saying, Abba, Father, let this cup pass from me, but not as I want, but as you want (Mk 14:36). By saying, Not as I want, but as you want, he showed that his will was truly subject to his Father. For the sake of doing his will, he came down from heaven, as he says, I came down from heaven, not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me (Jn 6:38). Hence, the will of the Son is in agreement and harmony with the will of the Father. To the extent that the Son as God is greater than every creature, to that extent he is found to be more in agreement with the will of the Father and clings the more to his Father. I mean that, as the beloved Son, he clings to his Father in love and affection and unity and agreement and harmony. We ought to accept all the things that are brought forth from the holy scriptures with full veneration. The divine scripture has not come as a source of our instruction so that we might correct it. How I wish that we may prove to be worthy disciples of the scriptures!

15, 21. “I accept the words you brought forth, Do you not know that you are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16). God does not dwell in a human being that the Holy Spirit has not first sanctified and cleansed. So too, it was said to Mary, the blessed virgin, The Holy Spirit will come over you, that is, to sanctify and cleanse. Then it continues, And the power of the most high will overshadow you (Lk 1:35). You yourself have already said that Christ is the power of the most high. The truth is not obtained by argumentation, but is proved by certain testimonies.†158 For this reason you ought to produce testimonies that the Holy Spirit is God, that he is Lord, that he is King, that he is the Creator, that he is the Maker, that he is seated with the Father and the Son, that he is adored, if not by heavenly beings, at least by earthly ones. Perhaps, if I may say so, you are going to show that he is adored at least by those beneath the earth.

“We say these things, not to take anything away from the Holy Spirit. After all, it is the Holy Spirit, as we have said above, without whom no one can say that Jesus is Lord (1 Cor 12:3). It is in the Holy Spirit that we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom 8:15). It is the great and good Holy Spirit upon whom even the angels desire to gaze (1 Pt 1:12). He is so good and so powerful that everywhere in all creation, whether in the east or in the west, in the north or in the south, no one can say that Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit. His nature is such that he is present everywhere to all who call upon God in the truth.†159 He is so good and so great that, wherever anyone is baptized, whether in the east or in the west or wherever, the Holy Spirit is present there at the same time. See how great is the power of the Holy Spirit. If anyone takes anything away from the Holy Spirit, he certainly takes it away from the only-begotten God, through whom all things were made, and without him nothing has been made (Jn 1:3), just as one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him (Jn 5:23).

15, 22. “You claim that Christ, our Savior, did not say, ‘that we and they may be one,’ but ‘That they may be one in their nature and their substance, united and joined together in harmonious equality,†160 as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one on account of the same undivided nature.’†161 I quote the passage again, and the readers can see for themselves what Christ said. He says in the gospel, praying to his Father for his disciples, Father, make them one, as we also are one, as I in you and you in me, that they may also be one in us, that this world may know that you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me (Jn 17:21-23). I believe what I read; he speaks of love, not of substance. It is certain, however, that the Savior said, He who hears my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me. But he who loves me is loved by my Father, and I will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him (Jn 14:21.23). If that great loftiness and majesty of the Father and of the Son is received within the one humble dwelling of our mind, how much more certain is it that the Son is and will undoubtedly be in the Father. He is there as the Son, as an other than the Father, though the Father and the Son are, as you have explained,†162 one in harmony (unum), not one in number (unus).†163 The first ‘one’ pertains to harmony; the second to the singular number.

“You also brought forth the testimony of blessed Paul which we gladly accepted, for it is a solid form of truth that is brought forth even by its opponents. You cited Paul’s words, I have planted, Apollo watered, but God has given the increase. Therefore, neither is he who plants something nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. He who plants and he who waters are one; each, however, will receive his reward according to his labor (1 Cor 3:6-8).†164 Notice, then, that, though they are one in harmony, nonetheless, each will receive his reward according to his labor. Look, then, at what the Lord says, The Father and I are one (Jn 10:30), which we believe and accept with certain faith. He who says, ‘I,’ is the Son; in saying, ‘the Father,’ he indicates that the Father is another. He says, ‘one in harmony (unum),’ not one in number (unus). I have often said that one (unum) pertains to harmony. How could the Father and the Son not be one, when the Son cries out, I always do those things which are pleasing to the Father (Jn 8:29)? He would not be one with the Father, if on occasion he acted in opposition to the Father. Even the apostles are one in this sense with the Father and the Son, insofar as in all things they aim at the will of God the Father and are themselves found to be subject to the one God the Father in imitation of the Son.†165 We do not read that the Savior prayed only for the apostles that they might be one, but also for those who would believe through their word. He said, I do not ask for these alone, but for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may be one, just as you, Father, in me and I in you, that they may be one in us, that this world may know that you have sent me and have loved them just as you have loved me. He speaks of love, as we said, not of divinity. Who does not know that Paul is Paul and that Apollo is Apollo, though Paul himself says, I have labored more than all these; not I, but the grace of God with me (1 Cor 15:10)? He who labors the more, gains the more. But they are one in agreement, in harmony, in love, when they do what God wants.

15, 23. “You say that God is one. Show me whether the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God or whether we should call the Father alone God, whose Son, Christ, is our God. Are you urging us to profess one God the way the Jews do? From the subjection of the Son, are we not shown, as the Christian faith holds, that there is one God whose Son is our God, as we have said? Believe Paul that the Father and the Son are not a single one (unus), as he proclaims in nearly every letter. He says, Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3 and Eph 1:2). He also says, One is God the Father, from whom are all things, and we are in him, and one is the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we are in him†166 (1 Cor 8:6). This is the one whom we Christians preach as the one God, and the Son proclaims that he is good, when he says, No one is good save the one God (Mk 10:18). It is not that Christ is not good, for he says, I am the good shepherd (Jn 10:11). It is not that the Holy Spirit is not good; hear the prophet as he cries out, Your good Spirit will lead me in the right path (Ps 142:10). Hear too the witness of the Savior who says, A good man brings forth good things from the treasure of his heart (Lk 6:45). Moreover, every creature of God is very good. If a creature is good, if man is good, if the Holy Spirit is good, if Christ is good, we must investigate how there is one who is good. The Savior, of course, said, No one is good save the one God, because he is the source of goodness and has received his goodness from no one. Christ has received his goodness from his Father so that he is good, and every good creature of God has received through Christ its goodness. But whether it is the Son or those who were made through him, each has drawn his goodness from that one source of goodness in accord with the measure of his faith. But the Father has received his goodness from no one. Thus Christ says, No one is good save the one. In that way, then, there is one God, because there is one who is incomparable, because there is one who is immense, as we have already stated.†167
15, 24. “We do not deny that the Son loves the Father, for we read the scripture, So that this world may know that I love the Father, and I do just as he has commanded me (Jn 14:31). It is clear that the Son is loved and loves and that he carries out the commandment of the Father, as he says. Thus they are one, in accord with his words, The Father and I are one (Jn 10:30). Insofar as he says, He who has seen me has also seen the Father (Jn 14:9), we must believe with certain faith that he who sees the Son sees and understands the Father through the Son.

15, 25. “You professed that the Father is greater on account of the form of the servant.†168 That strikes me as quite foolish. We know that you also said that he was made less than the angels in the form of the servant.†169 You have not sufficiently proclaimed†170 the glory of God in professing that the Father is greater than the form of the servant. Even the angels are greater than the form of the servant. Christ did not come to teach us that the Father is greater than the form of the servant. Rather, the Truth came to us to teach and instruct us that the Father is greater than the Son and greater than this Son who is the great God. We glorify the Father and profess that he is greater than the great God; we proclaim that he is higher than the high God. Is this the honor we owe to God that the Father is greater than the servant form?

15, 26. “You say that the divinity showed itself to the Patriarchs, and just before that you said that the divinity was invisible.†171 The Father, who is invisible, surely did not show himself. Otherwise, if we say that the Father was seen, we make a liar of the apostle, who says, No human being has seen him or can see him (1 Tm 6:16). Moreover, we find ourselves not only in opposition to the New Testament, but we are equally in opposition to the Old Testament as well. After all, Moses speaks this way too, No one can see God and live (Ex 33:20).

“This same Moses wrote in the Book of Genesis that from that first man up to the incarnation it was always the Son who was seen. If you demand testimonies, you have, of course, the passage in which the Father speaks to the Son, Let us make man to our image and likeness. There follows, And God made man (Gn 1:26-27). Which God made him if not the Son? You yourself have explained this in your treatises.†172 This Son, then, who is the prophet of his Father, also said, It is not good that man be alone; let us make a helper for him like him (Gn 2:18). This Son appeared to Adam in accord with what we read that Adam said, I heard your voice as you walked in paradise, and I hid myself because I was naked. You certainly have what God said to him, And who told you that you were naked unless you have eaten from that tree about which I commanded you that you not eat? (Gn 3:10-11). This God was seen by Abraham;†173 if you are willing to believe, the only-begotten God himself declared in the gospel that the Son was seen by Abraham. He said, Abraham, your father, rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and he was glad (Jn 8:56). This Son was also seen by Jacob in the form in which he was to come, that is, in the form of a man; he is found to have wrestled with Jacob as a foreshadowing of what was to come. Jacob said, I have seen the Lord face to face, and my life has been preserved, and the name of this place was called The Vision of God. The God, who wrestled with Jacob, foreshadowing what we see fulfilled in the passion of Christ, attested to this. He said to Jacob, Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but your name will be Israel (Gn 32:28), that is, one who sees God. We prove that he was seen in the New Testament as well. The apostles said of him, And we have seen his glory, the glory as if of the Only-Begotten by the Father (Jn 1:14). But, if you claim, as you try to do, that the Father was seen, all the scriptures are for you†174 filled with lies. Paul proclaims that the Father is invisible,†175 and in the gospel the Lord affirms it.

“You often make the accusation against us that we boldly and presumptuously say things that we should not say. That will be up to the judgment of the reader to test. After all, we do not speak to obtain praise from someone,†177 but out of the desire to strengthen the brotherhood we have.†178 Perhaps you wanted to challenge us to make an answer so that those you have observed to belong to us might agree, as I said, with what you profess. For this reason, I had to answer you on account of the fear of God. It was not only by your words that you tried to take from me the discipleship of these men; you also gave me your treatise†179 to which I had to answer those things which you have professed concerning the invisibility of the omnipotent God. Though†180 with another intention, still in your own words, you stated that the Holy Spirit was seen in the form of a dove as well as in the form of fire and†181 that the Son was seen in the form of man, but that the Father was seen neither in the form of a dove nor in the form of a man. He never turned himself into any forms and is never changed. Scripture says of him, I am who I am, and I have not changed (Ex 3:14 and Mal 3:6). The Son who, of course, had already been established in the form of God has, as you have stated, taken the form of the servant, but the Father has not. Likewise, the Holy Spirit took the form of the dove, but the Father did not. Acknowledge, then, that there is one who is invisible; there is one who is incomprehensible and immense. I pray and desire to be a disciple of the divine scriptures; I believe that Your Holiness recalls that I earlier gave the response that, if you produced the evidence that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have one power, one substance, one deity, one majesty, one glory, that, if you state this from the divine scriptures, if you produce any passage of scripture, we are eager to be found disciples of the divine scriptures.”
“I, Maximinus, bishop, have signed this.”

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