Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Help from Stephen Holmes on the will of the Son

I have recently been pondering the patristic and classical consensus that the eternal Son does not have his own will. Rather, each of the divine persons shares the same divine will (and wisdom and power and so on). This of course has a bearing on if and how the Son (as Son) submits to the Father since what sense does it make to say that the Son submits to the Father if he does not have his own will? If you hold to a Covenant of Redemption by which the members of the Trinity agree that the Son will become incarnate to save the world, what would this look like if the Persons do not have their own wills?

It was with this question in mind that I read Stephen Holmes, The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History and Modernity (IVP Academic, 2012) and I wanted to capture here the material most relevant to the issue.

Justin Martyr calls the Logos “a second God” but qualifies this by saying that he is distinct in number not in will p61 citing Dial. 56

According to Tertullian, the divine monarch is not compromised by the existence of the Son, since the Father and Son share one will and intention (Prax. 4, citing Jn 5:19) p70f

For Origen, the Son is the perfect image of the Father. Every quality of which he is possessed is identical with that possessed by the Father…. This even applies to mental faculties, if God may be spoken of in these terms. So against Celsus Origen insists that the Father and the Son share the same mind, speak with one voice, and are one “in the identity of their wills”.  (Cels. 8.12) p77

Gregory of Nazianzus – the three “are not sundered in will or divided in power” (Or. 31.14) p115

John of Damascus, Holmes says, “sums up the received doctrine of the Trinity in the mid-eight century” and “no serious scholar has disputed this to my knowledge”. The three “having the same essence and energy and will and concord of mind… I do not say similar but identical – and then movement by one impulse. For there is one essence, one goodness, one power, one will… one and the same, I repeat, not three resembling each other.” De fid. Orth. Ch 8. P120

“East and West alike are united in insisting on the unity of the divine will and knowledge” (p145)

See also p173 on Biddle

Though Charles Hodge “seemingly unwittingly” “accepts a redefinition of the word ‘person’” “he holds to the singularity of the divine intellect and will” (p191)
On Dorner and the turn to the person see p194f on self-determination and volition as important aspects of modern understanding of personhood but problematic when applied to the Persons

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