Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Doyle on the monarchy of the Father / eternal submission of the Son

I think all the orthodox would agree that there is an order amongst the persons of the Trinity. The Son is eternally begotten of the Father. The Spirit, on the Western understanding, proceeds from the Father and the Son. Whether or not the distinction between the persons goes beyond their eternal relation of origins or, to put it differently, what freight we should give to that relation, is, it seems to me rather trickier.

Critiquing the work of Kevin Giles, Robert Doyle quotes this on the monarchy of the Father from Athanasius:

[Against polytheism] For we must not think there is more than one ruler and maker of Creation: but it belongs to correct and true religion to believe that its Artificer is one … Who then might this Maker be? … the God we worship and preach is the only true One, Who is Lord of Creation and Maker of all existence. Who then is this, save the Father of Christ, most holy above all created existence, Who like an excellent pilot, by His own Wisdom and His own Word, our Lord and Saviour Christ, steers and preserves and orders all things, and does as seems to Him best?

Athanasius, Against the Heathen, paragraphs 39-40; emphasis mine. See also Against the Heathen, paragraphs 6-7; also Defence of the Nicene Council/[Definition], 26, 30-31; and On Luke 10.22.

He also cites Defence of the Nicene Council/[Definition], 30, On Luke, 4-5 and Defence of the Nicene Council/[Definition], 31, On Luke, 4-5. Doyle comments: "Note that here and in Athanasius’ wider writings the priority (that is, the order) of the person and work of the Father in defining who the Son is: from the Father to the Son; from the Father who is the monarch, the one ruler as well as the one origin. In this way, Athanasius recognizes the asymmetrical, yet mutually conditioning nature of the relations between Father and Son. By locating the monarchy in the Father, and his wielding of it through that which is also truly God, his very own Word, the Son, Athanasius keeps the Son and the Father as both truly God, and safeguards this differentiation in the one God from slipping into polytheism."

"In the immanent Trinity the roles and functions of Father and Son are not interchangeable, but permanent. The Son is Lord by sharing in his own way the monarchy of the Father who gives it to him."

"the Father cannot really be the eternal Father unless he has such an eternal Son, of the same substance as himself, and to whom he gives his authority. The Father does not hand over his authority to an agent who is his essential inferior. Further, if the Father is not the final locus of authority, how indeed can he really be a ‘father’? It is proper for the divine Father to ‘give’ and the divine Son to respond to that."

"Let me say it again: a careful reading of the texts referred to above shows that in Athanasius’ writings, the giving of authority to the Son by his Father belongs to the immanent Trinity, and not the economic alone."

"Augustine is absolutely insistent that in the eternal counsels and life of God, only the Father could ‘send’ and the Son be ‘sent’. ‘Sender’ and ‘sent’ are permanent roles or functions, not interchangeable. For the triune God to act truly according to his eternal being or essence, only the Father could be the Sender, and the Son the Sent One. In Augustine’s thought there is no possibility of these being interchangeable."

For Augustine "economic subordination does speak of the eternal relations, not just the one substance. Jesus states that, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing” (John 5:19ff). And in that way he—at least in the economy—is subordinating himself to the Father. Augustine, however, makes it clear that this economic relation is to be tied closely to the eternal relation. As related in eternity, so the Son operates on earth.
… that the work of the Father and the Son is inseparable [inseparabilis est operatio], and yet the Son’s working is from the Father just as the he himself is from the Father; and the way in which the Son sees the Father is simply by being the Son. For him, being from the Father, that is being born of the Father, is not something different from seeing the Father; nor is seeing him working something different from his working equally; and the reason he does not work of himself is that he does not (so to put it), be of himself … (On the Trinity, II.3)
For Augustine "The Father operates by the Son. The Father creates by the Son, and not vice versa. That is, the roles/functions/work are not interchangeable. This can be clearly seen in Augustine’s account of the missions: the Sending by the Father and the Being Sent by the Son.
It was not fitting that the Begetter be sent by his Son, but that the Son be sent by his Begetter. This is not inequality of substance, but the order of nature.19
The pattern seen in them is not arbitrary, but reflects the eternal relations.20 It is foolish, Augustine says, to think that the Son or the Spirit could send the Father.21 "

"Rahner strongly insists that the Father could not die. The roles/functions/operations of the Persons of the Trinity are not interchangeable, but eternal. What happened in the economy is rooted in the eternal differentiation of the three Persons. If every divine member of the Trinity could become man, become incarnate, that would ‘create havoc with theology’ and ‘be against the whole sense of holy Scripture’. Rahner also affirms that theincarnation reveals not only something about God generally (which we already knew anyway), but particularly about the Person of the Son or the Logos, “his own relative specific features within divinity”.27 Later, Rahner ties the obedience of the Son in the economy back into the immanent Trinity.28

For Barth "eternal relational subordination within the Trinity, and that it is necessary to salvation!30 The methodological point made by Barth, which is also that of Athanasius and Rahner (amongst others) is that unless the ordering in the relations we see in the economy actually witness to the relations in the immanent Trinity, then we are in fact not in touch with God himself. "

"Barth, in his thorough christological way, goes on to apply this to man-woman relationships...."33


Thomas Renz said...

With all due respect Doyle does not seem to me altogether right on Augustine. Of course there is no question of the Son sending the Father. The Father is the one who is never sent. The Son is sent, as is the Spirit. But Augustine adds that there is a sense in which one may address the Son, and the Spirit, as the one who sends - with the Father. See On The Trinity 2.9. Note that Augustine believes, rightly in my view, that being sent is about coming in to the world.

Marc Lloyd said...

Not to comment on Doyle especially but I do agree that some of the discussion is not as careful and precise as one might hope. (And for some the rhetoric is absurdly turned up!) Pretty much everyone would accept that there is a kind of order in the Trinity and that the persons are not interchangeable, I think, so we are looking for something more than that to prove eternal subordination of the son. Also, I would love to see a discussion of how the Son submits to the Father if they only have one divine will not their own 3 wills, the former being what the traditional consensus seems to be. So far one seems to seek for that in vain. Does the persons relation of origin lead to a sonly and fatherly disposition in the way they have all their divine attributes (and manifest the divine will maybe) and does that entail what might be called a posture of submission of the Son to the Father, the suitability of the Son becoming incarnate etc.?

Thomas Renz said...

Indeed. It seems to me that some seek to safeguard the monarchy by declaring the Father to be the sole monarch (the only one who sends?) with everyone else in a relationship of submission and obedience to him (being sent), while Augustine affirms monarchy in relation to the one divine will. The Father sends through his Word, i.e. the Son. So there is no divine sending, Augustine argues, that does not involve the Son, and indeed the Spirit, on the "sender" side.

I have long thought that the language of "obedience" only makes sense where there is a real or at least potential conflict of wills and that such a conflict within the Trinity could only arise with the incarnation. The Son had to learn obedience; it became an issue for him once suffering became possible, namely with the incarnation (Hebrews 5:8). Is the Holy Spirit ever said to obey the Father (or the Son)?

The term "subordination" has such a history that one may ask how useful it is without further definition of what it entails. In theory, if one wishes to explore subordination within the Trinity apart from the incarnation, it would make sense to focus on the subordination of the Holy Spirit. In practice, there may be insufficient data to do so.

Marc Lloyd said...

Interesting. Thank you.

In the economy of course the Father and the Son send the Spirit. Presumably he also wills to come with the one divine will - in that sense he sends himself too? Same problem with talk of divine will with respect to persons.

I can see the potential problems of tritheism with 3 wills, 3 intellects etc. but I find it hard to imagine the persons without them. Of course it is not surprising that God's life is somewhat unlike our own and incomprehensible and mysterious to us, but still....

Yes, Letham talks about the danger of "subordination" language. Of course no one wants to sound Arian. Again, one may want to say a willing eternal subordination of role / function / relationship (with a question mark on the will!) and an equality of deity, dignity, worth, essence etc.

I await Dr Ovey's book which Mrs Woodbridge is posting today!

Marc Lloyd said...

Just to reproduce Augustine on the Son's role in his own sending:

what we are saying may perhaps be easier to sort out if we put the question this way, crude though it is: in what manner did God send his son? did he tell him to come, giving him an order he complied with by coming, or did he ask him to, or did he merely suggest it? well, whichever way it was done, it was certainly done by word. But God’s word is his son. So when the Father sent him by word, what happened was that he was sent by the Father and his Word. Hence it is by the Father and the Son that the Son was sent, because the Son is the Father’s Word (De trin. ii.9, 103

Quoted by Johnson in trinitarian Agency and the Eternal subordination of the son

Marc Lloyd said...

Again, Augustine:

“so it is that the invisible Father, together with the jointly invisible son, is said to have sent this son by making him visible” (De trin. ii.9, 103)

Thomas Renz said...

Exactly. I got Mike Ovey's book for my birthday recently. From my reading so far I see two weaknesses which make it difficult for him to put his case as strongly as he might. First, Mike constructs his Trinitarian theology from pre-Augustinian sources (Tertullian, Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers chief among the Fathers) and then tries to show on a few pages that Augustine can be read not to disagree with this way of understanding the Trinity. But Augustine seems to give different answers to some of the question Mike posed earlier, not least how divine monarchy is safeguarded in our theology. So while Mike succeeds in showing that he is not Arian, I doubt that he is Augustinian and suspect the book won't tell me why not.

Secondly, the contemporary theologians with whom he interacts in the main are Kevin Giles and J├╝rgen Moltmann rather than, say, Robert Letham or Paul Molnar which probably means he is not addressing the strongest orthodox/catholic objections that could be made against his position.

Marc Lloyd said...

Oh. It is a tricky complicated business.

And of course even if we can say something about the immanent Trinitarian life, it is not necessarily obvious what cash value it might have for the gender questions in which it is often used, God being different from us and all that.

Thomas Renz said...

I have never believed that there is mileage in drawing conclusions from our understanding of inner-Trinitarian relations to the question of relations between men and women or husbands and wives. I even doubt that there is a great deal we can say about parent-child relationships from what (we think) we know about relations within the Trinity.

Aquinas argues that "it belongs to the very nature of paternity and sonship that the Son by generation should attain to the possession of the perfection of the nature which is in the Father, in the same way as it is in the Father Himself." But that while within creation this is a temporal process, "a certain kind of change from potency to act," within the Trinity it obviously is not and so the Son is eternally equal in greatness to the Father. (Summa Theologica, I, Q42, Art. 4).

I will be interested to see whether Mike argues that the husband-wife relationship should seen as analogous to the relationship between parent and child but otherwise I am not too concerned about how this discussion touches on the ordination of women and male-female relations.

Marc Lloyd said...

Again, Dr Renz, you make an interesting point. It would seem much for obvious that the relations between Father and Son should (if anything) be related to the relationship of, well, fathers and sons, but my sense is this is not much thought about.

Thomas Renz said...

Mike argues that father-son relations in antiquity were characterized by civic equality but power inequality between fathers and sons, i.e. fathers and sons have the same status in terms of citizenship but the father has the power and the son the obligation to obey. We should therefore expect the same to be true for the life of the Trinity. The table of contents promises reflections on the impact of his Trinitarian theology on "power, individualism and virtue" but I don't know yet whether he will consider (normative) power relationships between fathers and sons today.

Marc Lloyd said...

Though strictly speaking inequality of power between the persons would surely be a problematic way of putting it since the 3 persons are one in power (Article 1). Mike would no doubt admit that, of course.

Thomas Renz said...

Yes, submission within the Trinity means that the Son receives divine rule from the Father, while the Father possesses divine rule as the origin of all rule. Mike seems to think that the only alternative is to consider the Son's rule as independent, free-standing in which case we would have more than one God. My question is whether this leans too much towards the "tri" at the expense of the unity. An emphasis on ontological equality and two sharing the same nature is not the same as confessing God to be one. After all a group of two men and three women all share the same human nature and are ontologically equal but they are never one in the way the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God. To my mind, the emphasis (against Arius) that the Father and the Son are ontologically equal is welcome but does not go far enough to confess that there is one God. Once this affirmation is made, the divine monarchy is safeguarded, whatever the relations between the three in one are. It is of course completely unthinkable that the Son's power or rule should be independent of the Father's, or indeed the Father's of the Son's.

Marc Lloyd said...

Yes. Would it be traditional to say that the Son is entirely from the Father, so he has his deity, power etc. from the Father (by his eternal generation)? (Is the heresy siren going off yet?) His divine essence exists only in this relation to the Father. There is no divine stuff behind or apart from the persons, the Father is never without his Son etc.

Calvin's is a minority report that the Son is God of himself, not God by gift of the Father, though this does have a plausibility, I think, if one is to say that the Son is fully divine: the divine nature of the Son must be self-existent since this is an attribute of the divine nature.

Perhaps better to say that all 3 persons have a kind of dependence on one another, though with the Father having a kind of priority. The divine nature is self-existent but it exists only in the inter-related persons. Dunno.

Must dash. Taking the kids to a concert they may well hate and fall asleep during...

Thomas Renz said...

Is there anything to be gained from distinguishing between the "divine essence" and God? As you say, it's not stuff that can be passed on from one to another. Nor can there be any temporal progression within the Trinity in analogy to how one might say that a biological son receives his humanity from his father and mother. If the one divine nature only exists in the eternally three inter-related persons, is it problematic to speak of "his [the Son's] divine essence" as if it could be distinguished from the Father's divine essence? To say that the Father is the source of all deity is orthodox. But the language of gift sounds to me unusual and like Calvin I would resist it although I am not comfortable saying "the Father is God of himself, the Son is God of himself, and the Holy Spirit is God of himself" which to me suggests three independent sources of deity which surely isn't right.

As for the implications on rule, we may ask whether the Father can tell the Son what to do. To which I say that it would not seem a very sensible way of putting the relationship because the Son always already knows what the Father knows, always already delights in that in which the Father delights, eternally wills what the Father wills. (And Augustine might add that the Father does not tell other than by his word, i.e. the Son.)

So if we are right in speaking of the Father as the source of all rule, the Son's rule is rule from rule. But does this mean that the Son rules as one to whom rule has been "given" like any son may be given permission to act on behalf of his father? I am not sure. Mt 28:18, Jn 5:19-22 and 1 Cor 15:24-28 speak of the incarnate Son, I believe, not about eternal relations.

John 5 speaks of the Son who was sent and with Augustine and Aquinas I think the language of sending relates to temporal mission; the handing back of the kingdom in 1 Cor 15 makes it clear that we are talking about a temporal giving; and it makes perfect sense to read Mt 28 in the same sense of the authority entrusted to the incarnate Son, the risen Christ.

So the Father gives to the incarnate Son and it is right that the movement is this way round because the Son's eternal rule flows from the Father's rule. Just as it is right that it is the Son who is born in human flesh, sent into the world because the Son is eternally the begotten one.

Or, to put it the other way round, of the Three in One it is the Son that was sent into the world to become incarnate because he is the begotten one. Yet this does not mean that the Son is eternally the sent or the incarnate one. In the same way, the Father is the source of all rule and it is therefore right that the Son becomes the incarnate King in the line of David who is given rule by the Father. Yet this does not mean that the Son in eternity holds rule as a gift entrusted to him.

The language of gift (the Father giving) suggests to me a transaction rather than a natural, essential progression from the father (being begotten in relation to the Son, proceeding in relation to the Spirit), a transaction that sits uncomfortably with "God of God, Light from Light, true God from true God".

And maybe in a similar way, while we agree that "Father" and "Son" designate one person as eternal begetter and the other as eternally begotten and thus define two who are one in all other respects as different in terms of their relation, it stands open to question whether in addition to the begetting-being begotten we should assume other aspects of Father-Son relations (as assumed in antiquity anyway) such as commanding-obeying or whether obeying is like being sent like becoming incarnate and being given the kingdom something that in time (!) naturally belongs to the one who is eternally the begotten one, even if these are not things that can be predicated of him outside time.

Enough for now. Hope the kids enjoyed the concert or if not enjoyed a good sleep.

Marc Lloyd said...

Thanks. Plenty to ponder.