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.”

Highlights from Maximinus’s Debate With Augustine

The debate between Augustine of Hippo and Maximinus the Homoian is well worth reading for anyone interested in understanding the theology of either Augustine or the Homoians. Maximinus’s lengthly explanations of his views provide one of the best primary sources we have on the details of fifth-century Homoian trinitarianism. It is noteworthy for its close resemblance to the theology of prominent second and third-century church fathers such as Justin Martyr and Novatian of Rome. Below are a few brief selections from Maximinus’s portion of the debate.

These excerpts show, among other things, that Maximinus and the Homoians at large, as represented by the ecumenical council of Arminium, were not Arians, as they are so often slandered as being. The thematic stress on the Father’s supremacy and infinitude, although something Arians agreed with, can be seen in the ante-nicene fathers going back to Novatian, Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr; it is by no means a mark of Arianism.

Maximinus said:

“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).”
__

“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 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, 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).
__

“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.
__

“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 filled with lies. Paul proclaims that the Father is invisible, 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, but out of the desire to strengthen the brotherhood we have. 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 to which I had to answer those things which you have professed concerning the invisibility of the omnipotent God. Though 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 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.”

Augustine vs. Athanasius on the Identity of the “One God”

Between Augustine and earlier church fathers like Athanasius of Alexandria there exists a great deal of doctrinal agreement. But there are also some crucial areas of disagreement between these two influential theologians.

As has been previously noted on this blog, Augustine was a strong early proponent of the idea that the one God of the Christian faith is the Trinity conceived of as a single person itself. We see this idea expressed in his own writings in the following:

“That one God, therefore, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, who will not appear, except for joy which cannot be taken away from the just…” (On the Trinity, Book 1, Ch. 13)

“…neither here does it appear plainly whether it was any person of the Trinity that appeared to Abraham, or God Himself the Trinity, of which one God it is said, You shall fear the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.” (Book 2, Ch. 10)

“O Lord the one God, God the Trinity, whatever I have said in these books that is of Yours, may they acknowledge who are Yours; if anything of my own, may it be pardoned both by You and by those who are Yours. Amen.” (Book 15, Ch. 28)

In contrast, Athanasius was clear in affirming the well-established doctrine that the one God of the Christian faith is the person of the Father in particular:

“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 there is One God, and not many, and One is His Word, and not many; for the Word is God, and He alone has the Form of the Father.” (Against the Arians, Discourse III.)

“For the Word, being Son of the One God, is referred to Him of whom also He is; so that Father and Son are two, yet the Monad of the Godhead is indivisible and inseparable. And thus too we preserve One Beginning of Godhead and not two Beginnings, whence there is strictly a Monarchy” (Against the Arians, Discourse IV.)

“For the one God makes and creates; but Him He begets from Himself, Word or Wisdom.” (Against the Arians, Discourse IV.)

Not least of all would be the opening line of the Nicene Creed, a creed which Athanasius not only affirmed and spent his life defending the truthfulness of its content, which begins by saying:

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

Although Augustine would allege the support of scripture for his position, in light of the language of scripture, it is clear which of these viewpoints actually represents the biblical position:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-5 NAS

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3 NAS

“…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 NAS

Contrasting Irenaeus and Augustine on the Identity of the One God

There is a great deal of doctrinal continuity between second century church father Irenaeus of Lyons and fifth century church father Augustine of Hippo. Both, for instance, articulated the divinity of the Son. But despite areas of doctrinal agreement, there is also some major doctrinal discontinuity between these two notable theologians, especially concerning the identity of the “one God” of the Christian faith.

As has been previously noted on this blog, Augustine was a strong early proponent of the idea that the one God of the Christian faith is the Trinity. We see this idea thus expressed by his own pen:

“That one God, therefore, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, who will not appear, except for joy which cannot be taken away from the just…” (On the Trinity, Book 1, Ch. 13)

“…neither here does it appear plainly whether it was any person of the Trinity that appeared to Abraham, or God Himself the Trinity, of which one God it is said, You shall fear the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.” (Book 2, Ch. 10)

“O Lord the one God, God the Trinity, whatever I have said in these books that is of Yours, may they acknowledge who are Yours; if anything of my own, may it be pardoned both by You and by those who are Yours. Amen.” (Book 15, Ch. 28)

In contrast, Irenaeus of Lyons, on the other hand, can be noted to be equally emphatic in proclaiming that the one God of the Christian faith is the person of the Father in particular:

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

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

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

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

While both theologians appeal to scripture in support of their position, it is clear which of these viewpoints actually represents the biblical position:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-5 NAS

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3 NAS

“…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 NAS

It is also noteworthy, that although Augustine lived after the Nicene Council and knew of its Creed, it is Irenaeus, who lived prior to the Council, who is doctrinally in agreement with its decision, not Augustine:

“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty…” (First words of the Nicene Creed)

Another point of contrast, already noticeable above, is that Irenaeus is in agreement with and appeals to the church’s tradition as further testifying to the truth of what he says. He speaks not of his own novel opinions, but declares that the whole church believes what he is saying pertaining to the one God of the Christian faith being the person of the Father in particular. Irenaeus not only goes to great lengths to show what he is saying from the scriptures, but also includes the historical testimony of prior church fathers, and the contemporary church of his day.

Augustine, on the other hand, appeals to scripture to as supportive of what he says (although ultimately failing to provide any proof on this particular point of doctrine), but does not rely heavily on historical testimony or the church’s tradition on this point of doctrine. This is of course because most prior theologians did not hold his view, but rather that of Irenaeus.

Augustine makes some general appeals to those who came before him, but does not even seem to be aware that he is disregarding the doctrine of most orthodox theologians prior to him. It may be conjectured that this was due to his receiving his doctrine from his immediate predecessor, Ambrose, and other early semi-modalists in Rome and the west. If this is so, then we cannot fairly view Augustine as an innovator on this point, but as faithfully following a new school of thought that can be traced back to a few years before his conversion, which he received from his teachers. Thus he can appeal to those who came before him, while ultimately disagreeing with most of the ancient church.

Historically western theology since the time of Augustine has generally taken his position as fact without question, largely ignoring the testimony of the Irenaeus, and of scripture. Perhaps as Irenaeus’s position is better understood by western scholars we will see a return to the classical trinitarianism taught not only by him, but by many orthodox church fathers in the nicene and ante-nicene eras. Such a revival of interest in classical trinitarianism and Irenaeus’s articulations of that can be seen in the contemporary Eastern Orthodox church, a fact which may appear a bit ironic when we consider that he was a western church father (Lyons being in modern day France).

For more quotes from Irenaeus on the subject, as well as from other fathers, see here: https://nicenefaith.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/i-believe-in-one-god-the-father-almighty/.

Contrasting Augustine and Cyril of Jerusalem on the Identity of the One God

Augustine and Cyril of Jerusalem are both well-known ancient theologians, who wrote and taught actively in the fourth century. Despite being close to one another in time, these two fathers are rather distant from one another theologically.

As has been previously noted on this blog, Augustine was a strong early proponent of the idea that the one God of the Christian faith is the Trinity. We see this idea expressed in his own writings in the following:

“That one God, therefore, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, who will not appear, except for joy which cannot be taken away from the just…” (On the Trinity, Book 1, Ch. 13)

“…neither here does it appear plainly whether it was any person of the Trinity that appeared to Abraham, or God Himself the Trinity, of which one God it is said, You shall fear the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.” (Book 2, Ch. 10)

“O Lord the one God, God the Trinity, whatever I have said in these books that is of Yours, may they acknowledge who are Yours; if anything of my own, may it be pardoned both by You and by those who are Yours. Amen.” (Book 15, Ch. 28)

In contrast, Cyril of Jerusalem, on the other hand, can be noted to be equally emphatic in proclaiming that the one God of the Christian faith is the person of the Father in particular:

“For there is One God, the Father of Christ; and One Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of the Only God; and One Holy Ghost…” On the Ten Points of Doctrine (Lecture IV)

“Of God as the sole Principle we have said enough to you yesterday:  by “enough” I mean, not what is worthy of the subject, (for to reach that is utterly impossible to mortal nature), but as much as was granted to our infirmity.  I traversed also the bye-paths of the manifold error of the godless heretics:  but now let us shake off their foul and soul-poisoning doctrine, and remembering what relates to them, not to our own hurt, but to our greater detestation of them, let us come back to ourselves, and receive the saving doctrines of the true Faith, connecting the dignity of Fatherhood with that of the Unity, and believing In One God the Father:  for we must not only believe in one God; but this also let us devoutly receive, that He is the Father of the Only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Father (Lecture VII)

“But worship thou One God the Almighty, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Almighty (Lecture VIII)

Although Augustine would allege the support of scripture for his position, in light of the language of scripture, it is clear which of these viewpoints actually represents the biblical position:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-5 NAS

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3 NAS

“…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 NAS

Augustine’s Trinitarian Heresy

Today Augustine is one of the most well-known theologians in church history. His influence on Christian thought, especially in Western Christianity, is enormous. After the Protestant Reformation, both Protestants and Roman Catholics alike continue to appeal to his teachings as a basis for their own.

Augustine’s influence extends to many areas of theology, including soteriology and trinitarian dogma. It is this latter part of Augustine’s corpus of teaching I want to examine in this article.

Augustine wrote at great length on the Trinity, a total of 15 volumes. These works are of monumental historical significance, not because they rightly elucidate the doctrine of the Trinity, but because they provide the first major systematic treatment of semi-modalism, and unfortunately, helped to popularize it.

That he teaches semi-modalism instead of the classical trinitarianism taught by theologians such as Irenaeus and Athanasius and confessed in the Nicene Creed, can be seen from the following passages, wherin he very obviously treats the Trinity itself as a person:

“That one God, therefore, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, who will not appear, except for joy which cannot be taken away from the just; for which future joy he sighs, who says, One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord: that one God, therefore, Himself, I say, is alone good, for this reason, that no one sees Him for sorrow and wailing, but only for salvation and true joy.” (Book 1, Ch. 13)

Notice he defines the “one God” as three persons, yet afterwards refers to him using the singular personal pronoun “Himself”.

“…neither here does it appear plainly whether it was any person of the Trinity that appeared to Abraham, or God Himself the Trinity, of which one God it is said, You shall fear the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.” (Book 2, Ch. 10)

“For the Trinity is called one God, great, good, eternal, omnipotent; and the same God Himself may be called His own deity, His own magnitude, His own goodness, His own eternity, His own omnipotence: but the Trinity cannot in the same way be called the Father, except perhaps metaphorically, in respect to the creature, on account of the adoption of sons.” (Book 5, Ch. 11)

“O Lord our God, we believe in You, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. For the Truth would not say, Go, baptize all nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, unless You were a Trinity. Nor would you, O Lord God, bid us to be baptized in the name of Him who is not the Lord God. Nor would the divine voice have said, Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one God, unless You were so a Trinity as to be one Lord God…

O Lord the one God, God the Trinity, whatever I have said in these books that is of Yours, may they acknowledge who are Yours; if anything of my own, may it be pardoned both by You and by those who are Yours. Amen.” (Book 15, Ch. 28)

In teaching an explicitly semi-modalistic view of the Trinity, Augustine was treading on new ground. Yet, within his works, he does not seem aware of this, but seems to think himself to be following those who came before him. This can probably be accounted for by two things: an ignorance of classical trinitarian teaching by authors of the ante-nicene and nicene eras, who mostly wrote in Greek, and secondly, that Augustine was probably following the teaching of those who came immediately before him, such as Ambrose of Milan.

Ambrose had been present at a Council held in Rome in 382 where some of the first signs of semi-modalism can be seen, as the Trinity for the first time got referred to with singular personal pronouns by a council. Ambrose being Augustine’s teacher, it is possible to conjecture that Augustine may have simply been being faithful to what Ambrose his mentor had taught him.

This teaching that the Trinity as a whole may be conceived of as a person, and and implicitly regarded and spoken of as one, with the sole exception that the word “person” may not be applied to it, is false and contrary to scripture. Augustine helped influence untold numbers of people to conceive of a Trinity different than that taught in scripture and by the earlier church fathers, who taught that the one God of the Christian faith is the person of the Father, with the Son standing in relation to Him as His only-begotten Son and Word, and the Holy Spirit regarded as His Spirit.

It is also noteworthy that Augustine gives us one of the earliest records of anyone praying to the Trinity, directing his prayer to “God the Trinity”. Throughout his volumes he uses this name for the Trinity as a whole conceived of as a single person, the person who is the three real persons of the Trinity.

By directing prayer to “God the Trinity” Augustine very clearly treats the Trinity itself as a person. He uses singular personal pronouns for it.

He also explicitly and repeatedly states that in his thinking, the one God of the Christian faith is the Trinity (again we must note this stands in contrast to the teaching of earlier fathers like Irenaeus who regarded the one God as the person of the Father). His language on this matter clearly shows that for him, saying that the Father and Son are “one God” does not simply mean that they share one and the same divine nature (such as we see the Nicene fathers such as Athanasius speak), but rather that they are ultimately, even while remaining distinct persons, one person (“God the Trinity”).

The conceptual difference between Augustine’s semi-modalistic view of the Trinity and the classical trinitarianism of the earlier church fathers would be difficult to overstate. Instead of viewing the Trinity as a group of three distinct, inseparable, co-eternal persons as earlier church fathers had articulated it, Augustine consistently treats the Trinity as a single rational person who exists as the three real persons of the Trinity. The one he regards as the ‘one God’ is a different person than the one the earlier fathers and scripture regard as the ‘one God’.

Due to these enormous conceptual differences, it is fair to speculate that had Augustine lived a couple hundred years earlier, his teachings would have been unequivocally condemned as heresy by those earlier fathers. But by the time Augustine wrote, the west was receptive to his teaching, semi-modalism already having made significant inroads in the Latin church. Sadly, many other teachers have blindly followed Augustine in these errors, a pattern that must change if the church is to return to the classical trinitarianism taught by scripture.