Patristic

A Mini-Sketch of Pelagius and Pelagianism with Reference to JND Kelly

We often hear of Pelagianism, or of Pelagius himself. We know it is a heresy which Augustine in the 5th century combated; but we don’t often hear exactly what Pelagianism entails. I thought in an effort to remedy this type of lacuna, at least for those who don’t know, that I would share something from JND Kelly on Pelagius, and in brief, what the main aspect of his troubling teaching entails. Kelly writes:

Pelagius was primarily a moralist, concerned for right conduct and shocked by what he considered demoralizingly pessimistic views of what could be expected of human nature. The assumption that man could not help sinning seemed to him an insult to his Creator. Augustine’s prayer, ‘Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt’ (da quod iubes et iube quod vis), particularly distressed him, for it seemed to suggest that men were puppets wholly determined by the movements of divine grace. In reaction to this the keystone of his whole system is the idea of unconditional free will and responsibility. In creating man God did not subject him, like other creatures, to the law of nature, but gave him the unique privilege of being able to accomplish the divine will by his own choice. He set life and death before him, bidding him choose life (Deut. 30, 19), but leaving the final decision to his free will. Thus it depends on the man himself whether he acts rightly or wrongly: the possibility of freely choosing the good entails the possibility of choosing evil. There are, he argues, three features in action—the power (posse), the will (velle), and the realization (esse). The first of these comes exclusively from God, but the other two belong to us; hence, according as we act, we merit praise or blame. It would be wrong to infer, however, that he regarded this autonomy as somehow withdrawing man from the purview of God’s sovereignty. Whatever his followers may have said, Pelagius himself made no such claim. On the contrary, along with his belief in free will he has the conception of a divine law proclaiming to men what they ought to do and setting the prospect of supernatural rewards and pains before them. If a man enjoys the freedom of choice, it is by the express bounty of his Creator, and he ought to use it for the ends which He prescribes.[1]

Augustine famously opposed this with his development not only of sin as privatio (privation), but also concupiscence (self-love). But beyond that, if you have ever wondered about Pelagius, or more pointedly about his teaching which has become known as Pelagianism, then this should at least give you a good start. If you want to see what Kelly says further about Pelagius I recommend you pick up his excellent book where he covers this, among other important developments in the early period of the church.

I think all Christians, whether classical Calvinist, classical Arminian, Evangelical Calvinist, Barthian, Lutheran, or what have you share common ground in their opposition towards Pelagianism. Sometimes it requires heresy in order for orthodoxy to be sharpened and articulated in such a way that it provides a fruitful way forward for the church. In this case what Augustine offered against Pelagius served as the basis for what many Christians, even today, think of Pelagianism, and more importantly, how Christians conceive of grace (of course we’ve had other developments since Augustine and Pelagius as well).

[1] JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines. Revised Edition (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1978), 356-57.

The Christology of Leo’s Tome, The Chalcedonian Settlement, and Miscellaneous Thoughts on Church Trad and Biblical Interpretation

I wanted to share J.N.D. Kelly’s summarizing of the theses presented in Pope Leo I’s Tome. The writings which helped contribute to what became known as the Chalcedonian settlement which occurred at the Council of Chalcedon in 451ad. It is this “settlement” which has been used, thenceforth, as the standard or canon for determining whether or not someone’s view of Jesus Christ is orthodox iconjesusfaceor heterodox, if not downright heretical. As you will see through Kelly’s summary what Leo offered in his Tome wasn’t necessarily original to him, instead it served as a good codification of what had come before him in the various christological struggles (which the Council of Nicaea in 325ad is related to in some important conceptual matters). Here is Kelly:

The Christology which appears in Leo’s Tome has no special originality; it reflects and codifies with masterly precision the ideas of his predecessors. The following are the chief points he was concerned to bring out. First, the Person of the God-man is identical with that of the divine Word. As he expressed it, ‘He Who became man in the form of a servant is He Who in the form of God created man’. Though describing the incarnation as ‘self-emptying’ (exinanitio), he claimed that it involved no diminution of the Word’s omnipotence; He descended from His throne in heaven, but did not surrender His Father’s glory. Secondly, the divine and human natures co-exist in this one Person without mixture or confusion. Rather, in uniting to form one Person each retains its natural properties unimpaired (salva . . . proprietate utriusque naturae et substantiae), so that, just as the form of God does not do away with the form of a servant, so the form of a servant does not diminish the form of God. Indeed, the redemption required that ‘one and the same mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, should be able to both die in respect of the one and not to die in respect of the other’. Thirdly, the natures are separate principles of operation, although they always act in concert with each other. So we have the famous sentence, ‘Each form accomplishes in concert with the other what is appropriate to it, the Word performing what belongs to the Word, and the flesh carrying out what belongs to the flesh’. Lastly, the oneness of the Person postulates the legitimacy of the ‘communication of idioms’. We can affirm, for example, that the Son of God was crucified and buried, and also that the Son of Man came down from heaven.

These four theses may not have probed the Christological problem very deeply; it is obvious that they left the issues which puzzled Greek theologians largely untouched. They had the merit, however, of setting out the factors demanding recognition fairly and squarely. Moreover, they went a long way towards meeting the points of view of both the schools of thought struggling for supremacy in the East. Antiochenes could recognize their own theology in Leo’s vigorous affirmation of the duality in Christ, and of the reality and independence of the two natures. Some of his sentences, indeed, particularly the one cited above, were to prove stones of stumbling to Alexandrian Christologians. Nevertheless these latter, too, could see the essentials of their standpoint vindicated in the Pope’s unerring grasp of the identity of the Person of the Incarnate with that of the eternal Word. As he expressed it in a Christmas sermon, ‘It is one and the same Son of God Who exists in both natures, taking what is ours to Himself without losing what is His own’.[1]

It may or may not trouble some that Leo was a Roman Pope, but what this should illustrate for Christians across the spectrum is that we share an ecumenical past when it comes to the most basic stuff of our theological grammar and how we understand who God has revealed Himself to be in His Son, Jesus Christ. Beyond that, it is important to recognize that what we take for granted today as orthodoxy, when we speak of Christ’s two natures and the hypostatic union, or the Trinity, was something that developed over time within the mind of the church. We can be the most Free non-denominational Bible church out there, but it is important to remember that the orthodoxy we affirm when it comes to two-nature Christology, etc. is something that binds us to the church catholic itself. It is these realities, and church historical developments that ought to cause people who claim a nuda scriptura or solo Scriptura approach (meaning people who often claim the label of Biblicist) to come to terms with the fact that even they operate with some very basic tradition as the foundation for how they conceptualize God and Jesus Christ; which of course then impacts the way they  interpret and read Holy Scripture itself.

 

[1] J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines. Revised Edition (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1978), 337-38.

The Father-Son Relation: Rowan Williams on the Irenaean Theology of Participation, and TF Torrance’s Homoousion

Rowan Williams in his chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Jesus entitled A History of Faith in Jesus offers historical insight to the rapid doxological posture the early church took towards Jesus as God become man. As Williams details this he highlights this particular development in the theology of Irenaeus, and how Irenaeus provided for what Karl Barth, later, might call an analogia relationis. This is a beautiful way, a doxological and participatory way to conceive of what God in Christ has done for us in the mediatorial vicarious humanity of the eternal Logos, Jesus irenaeusChrist. It is this relation that Thomas Torrance swoons about so much and as corollary so do we as evangelical Calvinists. Williams writes of this development in Irenaeus’ theology this way:

Some of the language of early Alexandrian theology in particular similarly emphasises the role of Jesus as the visible manifestation of the invisible God, the mediator, not so much  of salvation or forgiveness as of true perception of the divine nature. The earlier theologian to stress this theme, however, is not an Alexandrian, but an émigré from Asia Minor, Irenaeus, who became bishop of Lyons in France; and fro him Jesus’ role as revealer immediately connects with a further and more profound set of considerations. Jesus reveals because of his own relation to the Father; because his face is wholly turned to the Father, it reflects his glory. For us to know and recognise that glory, we must be brought into that relation – a fundamental theme of Paul and John in the New Testament (Rom 8, John 17, among much else), which Irenaeus develops extensively, Jesus is an example, not only in the sense of being a model of behavior we ought to imitate (again a New Testament theme, as in Matt 11.29; 1 Cor 11.1), but as a paradigm of relation to God as Father. Our attention or devotion to him is a kind of tracing the contour of his life so as to see its conformity to the Father’s character and purpose; we are to pick up the essential clues as to how to recognise what it is to be a child of the heavenly Father by looking single-mindedly at him (cf. Heb 12.2). Being in the Spirit is not only or even primarily a gift of prophetic alignment with the ultimate judgement of Jesus, but entails the gift of sharing Jesus’ relation with the Father, beginning to love God as parent with the same confidence as Jesus shows.[1]

As I reflect upon this it conjures up for me the way T.F. Torrance presses into his constructive appropriation of the Athanasian themed, patrological focused homoousion, that developed post-Irenaeus. The idea that Jesus, the eternal Son, is consubstantial or one nature (ousia) with the Father [and the Holy Spirit]. Note Torrance:

. . . Hilary of Poitiers argued that it was the primary purpose of the Son to enable us to know the one true God as Father. This was the theme to which he gave considerable theological reflection in view of the Nicene homoousion and what it implied for our two-fold belief in God the Father Almighty and in God the Son of the Father. ‘All who have God for their Father through faith have him for Father through the same faith whereby we confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ Again: ‘The very centre of saving faith is the belief not merely in God but in God as Father; nor merely in Christ, but in Christ as the Son of God; in him, not as a creature, but as God the Creator born of God.’ ‘The work which the Lord came to do was not to enable you to know him as the Father of the Son who addresses you . . . The end and aim of this revelation of the Son is that you should know the Father . . . Remember that the revelation is not of the Father manifested as God, but of God manifested as the Father’.[2]

It is this theme of participation in Christ, who is homoousios or consubstantial with the Father that was so important for Irenaeus, Nicene and Chalcedonian theology, as well as for people like Torrance who made that particular doctrine a touchstone for his theological-hermeneutic. It is the idea of ‘relation’ with God as Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit that I believe is so important for what it means to know God in proper standing as His children. It is a matter of being rightly related through Christ; if we understand what that means, we will understand God to be our loving Father, and as Williams writes we will begin “to love God as parent with the same confidence as Jesus shows.”

As of late we have seen a lot of energy expended over the so called eternal functional subordination debate; the debate that is attempting to clarify what in fact the inner-life (ad intra) of God’s life looks like. I would contend that if that debate was shaped more by the dialogical, participationist mood that we have been highlighting in this post, and less by the analytical mode and tone it has taken, that the “debate” itself may never have happened to begin with. It is surely important to attempt to apprehend the mystery of God’s ineffable Triune life, and it is surely important to follow the pattern of God’s inner-life as revealed in Jesus Christ (which I believe the pro-Nicene theology has done), but when we press the edges of that apprehension too far we end up saying more than we are capable of saying; we lose sense of the fact that God will share His glory with no one. That said, there are “orthodox” contours of thought articulated by the church catholic that indeed set the boundaries and thus grammar by which Christians have a certain rule to follow when attempting to speak meaningfully about God as Triune. But we would do well to remember that just as the early church did, this all must be prayerfully held within a sense of deep awe and worship of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; co-equal, co-eternal, with no subordination whatsoever in the inner-life (ad intra).

Apart from my digression on EFS, what I really wanted to emphasize through this post is how central and important the ‘analogy of relation’ is for evangelical Calvinism; how important it should be for all Christians, even if they don’t identify as evangelical Calvinists (God forbid it!). If you really contemplate the implications of all of this all you can do is worship.

 

[1] Rowan Williams, “A History of Faith in Jesus,” edited by Markus Bockmuehl, The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 221-22.

[2] Thomas F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being Three Persons (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 139.

Response to Bruce Ware: Khaled Anatolios in Context and Lewis Ayres

What we know of the persons is their modes of origination and the characteristics attributed to them by Scripture—as long as all attributes are understood to be those of the one simple Godhead. The language of individuation itself serves here to emphasize that the nature of a divine person remains ineffable[1]. ~Lewis Ayres

Bruce Ware’s Responses

Yesterday, one of the key proponents of Eternal Functional Subordination (EFS), Dr. Bruce Ware, presented a guest post over at the blog Secundum Scripturas. In the post he seeks to respond to those of us (I’m pretty sure he didn’t have little ole’ me in view, but that’s okay, I’ll respond anyway) who have been critiquing his (and Grudem’s et al.) EFS position. He offers five points of nicaearesponse to the major points of critique as he sees them. What I want to do is to respond to two of his points, his point number one and two. I believe each of his points, for the most part, really miss the mark in offering substantial rejoinder back to those who have been critiquing his position. But particularly egregious, in my view, is his response as we find it in his points number one and two. He writes:

1.Issue: How can one uphold the inseparable operations the pro-Nicene theologians found indispensable along with the notion that the Father, Son, and Spirit each acts in distinct ways as indicated repeatedly in Scripture (e.g., Father sending, Son going, Spirit empowering)?[2]

His response to this is as follows (at length):

Response: I gladly affirm my commitment to the doctrine of the inseparable operations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because each person of the Trinity possesses the identically same divine nature, each uses the same power and relies on the same knowledge and wisdom in conducting the various works that each does. So, there cannot be a separation or division in the work of the One God since each person participates fully in the One nature of God. But this does not preclude each person accessing, as it were, those qualities of the divine nature (e.g., power, knowledge, wisdom) distinctively yet harmoniously, according to their own hypostatic identities as Father, and as Son, and as the Holy Spirit, such that they bring to pass one unified result accomplishing the one work of God. In this way, the personal works of the Father, Son, and Spirit may be distinctive but never divided; each may focus on particular aspects of the divine work yet only together accomplish the one, harmonious, unified work of God. Each work of the Trinitarian persons, then, is inseparable, while aspects of that one work are hypostatically distinguishable. Inseparable, but not indistinguishable—this accounts for the full biblical record of the works of God which are unified works done by the one God, yet always carried out in hypostatically distinguishable ways.

Khaled Anatolios offers assistance on this issue when discussing the position on divine agency advanced by Gregory of Nyssa. Anatolios writes that Gregory ruled out the notion of the Trinitarian persons functioning as separate agents, working independent of one another. But, he continues,

the notion of an altogether undifferentiated agency in which each of the persons partakes in exactly the same manner is also implicitly but very clearly ruled out by Gregory’s consistent strategy of using three different verbs to distribute the common action distinctly to the three persons. . . . [T]he typical pattern for that distribution is that every action issues from the Father, is actualized through the Son, and is completed by the Spirit. There is thus an ineffable distinction within unity in divine co-activity such that the one divine activity is completely effected by each of the persons and yet is distinctly inflected between them. Every activity that is originated by the Father is equally yet distinctly owned by Son and Spirit [Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011) 231].

I affirm what Anatolios suggests, that we can understand Trinitarian co-agency neither as “altogether undifferentiated” nor as divided and independent. Rather, all divine action is performed by the Father, Son, and Spirit in an undivided yet distinct manner, as inseparable while also being hypostatically distinguishable.[3]

Critique of Ware

One problem here, and this problem continues to persist in muddling this discussion, is the imprecision in distinguishing between God’s life in se, and God’s life ad extra; the former refers to the ontological inner-life of God, which is indeed, ineffable. The later refers to the economic outer-life of God revealed in redemptive history. Ware, even on this most basic point is not providing the type of crisp categorical distinctions that would help propel this discussion to greater heights. So that is problem one; an issue of not defining terms as carefully as should be done. Nobody denies that there is subordination in the economic out-working of God’s life in His Self-revelation in Christ; the issue, of course, is when that ‘out-working’ in the economy is exhaustively read back into the inner life of God.  As if that aspect of His life has lost its ineffability and ultimacy relative to our knowledge (a dose of the Reformed distinction of archetypal/ectypal knowledge of God would go a long way towards complementing the in se/ad extra distinction).

But even more significantly is Ware’s appeal to Anatolios’ reading of the Cappadocian father, Gregory of Nyssa. You will notice in the quote that Ware provides from Anatolios that Anatolios uses the language of ‘distinctly inflected’ in order to describe the differentiation that inheres, ostensibly, between the hypostases of God’s life. Later on, in another point of response that Ware offers, he elaborates further upon Anatolios’ language of ‘inflected’ as he gets into his point number two:

2.Issue: Closely related is the next question, regarding the will of God as this pertains to the one and undivided divine nature and the three distinct persons. Can there be a will of authority (from the Father) and a will of submission (from the Son) without conceiving of separate and separable divine wills?

Response: In short, my answer is yes. But the issue is anything but simple. I would suggest that we affirm what the church Fathers did, that “will” as a volitional capacity is a property of the divine nature. So, in this sense, each of the three persons possesses the identically same will, just as each of them possesses the identically same power, and knowledge, and holiness, and love, etc. Yet, while each possesses the same volitional capacity, each also is able to activate that volitional capacity in exercising the one will in distinct yet unified ways according to their distinct hypostatic identities and modes of subsistence. So, while the Father may activate the common divine will to initiate, the Son may activate the divine will to carry out, e.g., “from” the Father, “through” the Son—as has often been affirmed in Trinitarian doctrine following the pattern in Scripture itself (e.g., 1 Cor 8:6). Given this, one might even speak of one unified will of God, as the volitional capacity common to all three, along with three “inflections” of the unified divine will (borrowing Anatolios’s wording), or three hypostatically distinct expressions of that one divine will, or even three distinguishable acts of willing which together bring to light the fullness of that one unified will—all of which express the particular ways each divine person activates that common will as expressive of their particular personhood and distinctive yet undivided personal action….[4]

All of the preceding context to simply get to this point. What we see admitted here, by Ware, is that his appeal to the language of “inflection” in Anatolios has a fitting context for his own personal usage. Inflection for Ware serves as a grammatical hook in order for him to reach back into the pro-Nicene theology, through Gregory of Nyssa (according to Anatolios), in order to make his thesis about ‘distinct hypostatic identities and modes of subsistence’ “work;” while still, ostensibly, maintaining the orthodox position of the one will of God in the ousia. This is illustrated, as we just read in the longer quote above, when Ware writes (to reiterate what we just read):

…Given this, one might even speak of one unified will of God, as the volitional capacity common to all three, along with three “inflections” of the unified divine will (borrowing Anatolios’s wording), or three hypostatically distinct expressions of that one divine will, or even three distinguishable acts of willing which together bring to light the fullness of that one unified will—all of which express the particular ways each divine person activates that common will as expressive of their particular personhood and distinctive yet undivided personal action….[5]

Has Ware moved away from his social Trinitarianism whatsoever? The answer seems very clear to me: No! He is still, even if by sleight of hand, affirming that in the Godhead, consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that there are “three distinguishable acts of willing;” in other words he is affirming three distinct wills, even if as he says they are bringing “to light the fullness of that one unified will.” But what about the appeal to Anatolios’ reading of Gregory of Nyssa, does Anatolios in an unequivocal way, mean the same thing as Ware; is Anatolios agreeing with Ware’s deployment of the language of inflection?

Khaled Anatolios in Context

In the section of Anatolios’ book, which Ware refers to in his post yesterday, the sense provided by Anatolios is not the same sense nor context within which Ware leads us, suggestively. Anatolios, much like Lewis Ayres (even if Anatolios is a little critical of Ayres’ reading of Gregory), is quite clear, that in the 4th century, at a methodological level, to speak of ousia-hypostasis was not a matter of discerning the detailed what of God’s inner life (in se), but instead it was appealed to as regulative of how we should think of the ineffable inner life of God relative to origination (as the Ayres quotes speaks to that we started this post out with). Anatolios writes:

The methodological point of the foregoing remarks is that our appropriation of Gregory of Nyssa’s ousia-hypostasis language is misguided to the extent that we are exclusively concerned with the objective ontological “information” content of this language (i.e. does it delineate a generic unity? what exactly is the content of the category hypostasis?) without paying equal attention to how Gregory is actually using it to regulate the act of signifying God as Father, Son, and Spirit in the comprehensive utterance and performance of Christian faith. As it happens, if we approach the matter in the first place from a strictly literary perspective, Gregory’s sentences for the most part are not objective statements of the form, “God is …” but rather directives about how to organize and structure our speaking and thinking of God. Our analysis of Epistle 38 will therefore try to follow closely that pattern in which the recommendation of ousia-hypostasis language is articulated not primarily in terms of what it means but rather in terms of how it regulates our speaking of God. Of course, the former is not excluded but only comes into view by proper appropriation of the latter.[6]

Ware’s appeal to Anatolios, then, actually does the opposite from what Anatolios contends for how we should understand Gregory of Nyssa’s usage of the language ousia-hypostasis. Ware uses the ‘inflection’ language (which is taken from a footnote 234 on the previous page to the quote we just offered) to get at the what and the ontological information of the inner life of God and what is happening in the “distinguishing acts” between the persons. Ware makes much more of the inflection language than Anatolios does, and indeed, as I read Anatolios, Ware does the exact opposite from what Anatolios suggests we should do with such language.

Lewis Ayres on Gregory of Nyssa

Lewis Ayres, as corollary with Anatolios’ ‘methodological point,’ in regard to how ousia-hypostasis language worked for Gregory, is even more precise; he closes the door even harder on Ware’s point about “three distinguishable acts of willing” within the Trinitarianism of Gregory of Nyssa (or the Cappadocians and orthodox Patristics in general). Ayres writes (at length):

Like most other pro-Nicenes Gregory uses a variety of terminologies for describing the relationship between the divine unity and persons; ousia, fusis, hypostasis, and proswpon, are all brought into service when it is deemed necessary. As we have seen, however, the deployment of these terminologies does not result in Gregory offering us a dense account of divine personhood as such. Gregory does tell us, of course, that we can distinguish the persons with causal language. Now, given the structure of modern readings of Gregory, it is only to be expected that mention of this argument will result in the question being posed ‘what degree of distinction does this causal language involve?’ I suspect that the nearest we can come to the answer that Gregory might give to this question is to repeat that given with reference to pro-Nicenes more generally in Chapter 11: ‘we do not know’. Scripture demands that we confess a logic of eternal distinction which insists that insofar as we can talk of God as an eternal and distinct reality, so too we can speak of Father and Son and Spirit as eternally distinct realities. At the same time Scripture demands that we speak of a unitary divine power and nature, and, for Gregory, it demands of us analogical talk that attempts to explore the resonances and implications of the character of God’s action as narrated in Scripture. For those modern commentators who accept the account of east and west as differentiated by a preference for social or mental analogies, failure to deploy some sort of social analogy of necessity implies a failure to distinguish the three persons appropriately. However, such an equation is not a necessary one and its deployment reveals a lack of understanding of the peculiarly modern preoccupations that make it seem plausible.[7]

I think we could safely say that Ware fits into the ‘modern commentators’ that Ayres refers to.

Summary

I realize, for a blog post, this is very long; but I wanted to attempt to provide context for a central plank of Ware’s response from yesterday. 1) We saw that Ware still affirms three distinguishable wills among the hypostases (so tri-theism). 2) We saw that Ware’s appeal to Khaled Anatolios’ work on Gregory of Nyssa was out of context, and overwrought. 3) And through Ayres, we further saw that any appeal to Gregory of Nyssa, by Ware, will not work in the way that Ware wants it to. We saw, particularly through Ayres, that the fine detail, and the appeal to “inflection” language goes deeper than Gregory would have wanted to go.

Beyond all of this, what we have seen in Ware’s response is someone who is immovable. He is stretching things, like his appeal to Anatolios, in order to make a case from the pro-Nicene history. He is attempting to give credibility to his beliefs through history that isn’t available to him. His intentions are not malicious, I don’t think, but at some point it is best to maybe give in a little. When you have the consensus of Patristic scholars against your position, and against your (Ware’s) reading of pro-Nicene theology, it is time to give it up.

Addendum

Peter Leithart in a 2014 First Things post highlights an essay that Anatolios wrote after the publication of the book of his that we have been referring to throughout my post. In it it seems pretty clear that Anatolios holds that each hypostases/person in the Godhead has a distinct will of agency; yet he maintains that the three wills are unified in the one being of God through perichoresis etc. This notwithstanding, with reference to Gregory of Nyssa and the context of the book Retrieving Nicaea, what I have highlighted still stands. If you read the First Things article what stands out is that Anatolios, personally, believes that three wills per the hypostases is required by the text; he doesn’t seem as absolute in regard to Gregory (it would be strange if he was especially after he wrote what he wrote in his book). Even so, Ayres leaves any ambiguity out here, and makes clear that understanding the exact nature of the persons is dubious relative to the canons of the ecumenical councils.

 

[1] Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 359.

[2] Bruce Ware.

[3] Bruce Ware.

[4] Bruce Ware.

[5] Bruce Ware.

[6] Khaled Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), 221.

[7] Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy, 363.

Harnack’s Hellenization Thesis, Heretics, and Evangelizing Metaphysics: Thomas Torrance and Thomas Aquinas

In this post I will write off the top, for the most part, at least when referring to Thomas Torrance, and will offer some suggestions about how I think Torrance operated in his constructive methodology of retrieving patristic theology, and how that may have informed his critique of later theologians like Thomas Aquinas.

Evangelizing Metaphysics and Orthodoxy

An important reality to grasp in regard to the development of Christian Dogma and theology through the centuries, particularly in the first four centuries of the church, is the idea of what Robert Jenson calls the evangelization of metaphysics. As Jenson writes against Harnack’s Hellenization thesis that the early church was overcome by appeal to classical Greek philosophical categories in aquinas1.jpgits articulation of the implications of the Gospel, Jenson argues that this was not the case at all (as reported by Peter Leithart)! Instead, as Jenson develops the early church took Hellenic philosophical categories and repurposed them, or reified them in such a way (a non-correlationist way) that they were essentially gutted of their former meaning and given new meaning under the pressure of God’s Self-revelation in Jesus Christ; the lexical realities were still present (i.e. at the level of the words used), but within their new context driven by God’s revelation in the economy of His life, they lost any resemblance (i.e. the words) to what they used to mean within the classical philosophical context, and became resurrected words within a new grammar given reality by the logic of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

Here is how Peter Leithar frames this as he quotes Robert Jenson:

Harnack’s hellenization thesis has been subjected to searching criticism, and an alternative account of the interaction of Christianity with Greco-Roman civilization has been offered. Writing not as a historian of dogma but as one of Harnack’s dreaded “dogmaticians,” Robert Jenson describes the relation of the gospel to philosophy during the first four centuries as an “evangelization of metaphysics.” Far from being conformed to Hellenistic categories and forms, the church in the persons of her theologians employed Greek concepts and terms to express something that Greek philosophy could never have envisioned. For Jenson, the central issue concerns time. Greek metaphysics and religion, he argues, were an elaborate effort to escape the corrosive effects of time.

It was the great single dogma of late Mediterranean antiquity’s religion and irreligion, that no story can be “really” true of God, that deity equals “impassibility.” It is not merely that the gospel tells a story about the object of worship; every religion of antiquity did that. The gospel identifies God as “He who brought Israel from Egypt and our Lord Jesus from the dead.” Therefore the gospel cannot rescind from its story at any depth whatsoever of experience, mystical penetration or theologia. Developed trinitarian liturgy and theology appeared as the church maintained the gospel’s identification of God in the very teeth of what everybody knew to be of course and obviously true of God, and in every nook of practice or theory where uncircumcised theological self-evidency lurked.[1]

I would like to suggest that Thomas Torrance in a principled way has attempted to do this same thing. Torrance works within the classical tradition, particularly as articulated by Athanasius; and he uses the grammar of the patristics like ousia (being) and hypostases (persons) inherited from his reading and understanding of the Niceno-Constantinopolitano creeds and what he calls the Athanasian-Cyrilian axis. Torrance uses the patristic concepts of De Deo Uno&De Deo Trino when he develops his doctrine of God and Trinitarian theology, but he uses them under advisement. In other words unlike, say the early medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, Torrance doesn’t simply appeal to God’s ‘ousia’ and ‘hypostases’ in a philosophical way; he doesn’t refer to God’s impassibility or immutability, or the omnis of God without reifying them or concretizing said concepts under the pressure of God’s Self-revelation simpliciter.

I would like to suggest that what Torrance did was to take what the early church did, and apply it to theological categories that had developed in the history of the church over the centuries in a way that he believed had lapsed back into purely Greek philosophical ways of understanding and “grammarizing” God. In a sense, and alongside Jenson’s thinking, Torrance believed the Harnackian thesis that the early church Hellenized the Gospel, it’s just that Torrance believed that (just like Jenson does) Harnack’s thesis only applies to the heretics of the early church, particularly with reference to Arius and his later disciple Eunomius; this is where Torrance’s Athanasian-Cyrilian axis is important. Torrance believed it was possible to evangelize metaphysics, and he believes that’s what happened in the Nicene and Constantinopolitan church councils, and later at Chalcedon.

Summary

In summary, Torrance believed that there has always been this kind of thread present within the development of dogma and church doctrine. In other words, he believed that there was always a heretical thread (a Hellenic thread) and an orthodox thread (and maybe a heterodox thread somewhere in between in this complex) at play within the walls of the church. So if we come up against someone like Thomas Aquinas, I believe Torrance would think that Aquinas veers toward, at least, a heterodox thread, and overly-Hellenizing thesis in his development of a doctrine of God. That because Aquinas so relied upon Aristotle’s categories (so Thomist classical theism), he indeed began to think God in a way that did not adequately work from an evangelized metaphysic, which resulted in presenting a God who was more of a mechanical-monad, a singularity, rather than a God who is by definition Triune, dynamic and relational. Torrance might look at Aquinas’ doctrine of God and see the classical concepts of ousia and hypostases at play, and Torrance might even find Aquinas’ emphasis upon God’s ‘being’ commendable (versus voluntarist emphases like those found in Scotism etc.), but Torrance would look at the whole picture presented by Aquinas and relegate his material conclusions in regard to God as overly-Hellenic. At this point Torrance would feel free to emphasize God’s antecedent-being (in se) as determinative for all else (like Aquinas) and in line with what has been called unity-of-being theology (like what is found in Athanasius’ theology), but then he would take said emphasis from Aquinas and other overly-Hellenized theologians and ‘evangelize’ it under the pressure of God’s Self-revelation in Jesus Christ. And he would scold Aquinas just as Athanasius scolded the Arians by saying that it is better to “signify God from the Son and call him Father, than to name God from his works alone and call him Unoriginate.”[2] Clearly, Torrance would not place Aquinas into the same category as Arius (i.e. heretic), but he might just well think of Aquinas as heterodox on this front, precisely because, for Torrance, Aquinas failed at being a good “evangelist.”

[1] Peter J. Leithart, Athanasius: Foundations of Theological Exegesis and Christian Spirituality (Michigan: Baker Publishing, 2011), 57 Scribd version.

[2] Athanasius cited by Paul D. Molnar, Thomas F. Torrance: Theologian Of The Trinity (Ashgate Publishing Limited, England, 2009), 73.

The Mind of the Church: Homoousion as the Key in the Theology of Thomas Torrance

For Thomas F. Torrance the homoousion is key. The homoousion is the patristic development that articulates the reality of the consubstantial relation that inheres between the eternal Logos, and the eternal Father (and the eternal Spirit); i.e. the idea that the Son is eternal God, just as the Father and Spirit are (One-in-Three/Three-in-One). Torrance believes that it is only in this reality that any genuine objective theologyinreconstructionknowledge of God can be acquired; the alternative, within the patristic context, and within which the homoousion developed against, would be something like Arianism or Eunomianism where the axiom was: ‘there was a time when the Son was not’ (my paraphrase). Torrance argues (in more developed and elaborate ways than we will touch upon here) that the Arian way, since it only thinks in immanent ways, or from humanistically rationalist ways, thinks from within a closed-in circle wherein it can never escape its own wits, particularly when attempting to think God. Torrance maintains that in order to transcend our ‘wits’ we must be confronted with God in such a way that he enters into our mode of being, and serves as the mediator between God and humanity in such a way that we can think God, not from our thoughts or a center in ourselves, but from his thoughts for us, from a center in Godself who Christ is as the eternal Logos (John 1.1).

The homoousion, while not a ‘biblical’ term (same as the term ‘Trinity’), Torrance argues is a necessary term that naturally arises from the interior logic deposited for us in the Apostolic witness; i.e. the New Testament. This is such a central tenet for Torrance that he believes that real-deep Bible study requires that we go beyond the simple grammatical, syntactical, or literary components found in the text of the New Testament (and Old), and that as we push into Holy Scripture we are pushed up against an ‘ultimate’, up against God. It is from this ‘push’ that Torrance believes the homoousion becomes the key for knowing God as we encounter Him in Christ in Holy Scripture. Torrance writes:

We must now return to the fact that the homoousion was gained through hard exegetical activity. It is not itself a biblical term, but it is by no means a speculative construction, an interpretation put upon the facts by the fathers of Nicaea; rather it is a truth that was forced upon the understanding of the Church as it allowed the biblical witness to imprint its own patterns upon its mind. We can see the same thing happening in the formulation of the doctrine of the Spirit. The biblical writers nowhere provide us with clear-cut propositions as to the Deity of the Spirit but acknowledgement of the Deity of the Spirit and his inseparable connection with the Father and the Son in the Holy Trinity is forced upon the Church as it penetrates into the interior logic of the biblical witness and through it allows the inherent order and pattern of the divine Reality to impose themselves upon its mind. Theological activity, then, is not concerned merely with biblical exegesis or with a biblical theology that builds up what this or that author in the New Testament taught about the Faith; it is concerned with the Truth at a deeper level, in the necessary and coherent thinking of the Apostles as they mediated the divine revelation in Jesus Christ to the world of historical understanding and communication. Thus in formulating the homoousion the Fathers of Nicaea were penetrating into the interior logic of the apostolic witness, and allowing the truth that was embedded there to come to view in an orderly and articulate way. They allowed the fundamental nature of the subject-matter to shine through to them and to take, in their thought and speech of it, a form through which its truth could be accurately and clearly and unambiguously acknowledged. The homoousion is thus an articulation of what the Fathers of Nicaea had to think and say when they set themselves to a disciplined and objective inquiry into the biblical witness to Christ, for its basic formulation had already been given by the Apostles themselves. Hence true theological thinking is basically and inescapably apostolic, for it is determined by the form in which the Apostles handed on the Word which they themselves had received.[1]

All orthodox Christians of every stripe affirm the homoousion, but not all apply it in the principled way that TF Torrance does. In the hands of Torrance the homoousion becomes a hermeneutical touchstone by which all biblical and theological reflection must pass.

Critics of TFT will claim that Torrance has misappropriated the homoousion, and uses it in a way that the ‘Fathers’ never really intended or envisioned. But this is the genius of Torrance, I think, he constructively retrieves a grammar and construct that is present in the church’s ecumenical past and redresses it in such a way that allows the homoousion to cease being a static, albeit orthodox, pillar of the past and present, in regard to christological truth, and organically takes it and demonstrates the life that this concept has in fundamental ways in establishing a theological hermeneutic that has the capacity to bear fruit for the church in ways that magnify Jesus (the work of the Holy Spirit Jn 14–16); and at the same time offer an alternative method for theological exegesis and Dogmatic and Systematic theology that places Jesus in the center of everything in intensive and principial ways.

[1] T.F. Torrance, Theology in Reconstruction (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), 40.

Hope for Today in the Apocalyptic of the Book of Revelation: Patristic Readings of Revelation

Richard Bauckham’s two books on the book of Revelation, The Theology of the Book of Revelation and The Climax of Prophecy are both excellent (which is an understatement)! I just started a new book (which I will take some time getting through it as I can) called Apocalyptic Thought In Early Christianity (Holy Cross Studies in Patristic Theology and History) edited by Robert J. bannerpantocratorDaly, SJ. The first chapter I have encountered is entitled: “I Know Your Works”: Grace and Judgment in the Apocalypse and is written by Theodore Stylianopoulos. As is usual for me study of the book of Revelation, if done right, evokes excitement and wonder. Stylianopoulos’s chapter, even as we are just getting started, is getting off on the right foot!*

I think the theme of Revelation that challenges and excites me the most is the idea of the holiness of God, and that He is Pantokrator (Παντοκράτωρ), ‘Almighty.’ The idea that within that reality we are faced with two kingdoms (no, not of the sort that we get from the so called Escondido Theology), or to get more Augustinian (even though Stylianopoulos does not), with two cities: The City of God juxtaposed with The City of Man.

As Bauckham does so well in his books, he develops this theme found in the book of Revelation: i.e. the theme that God’s kingdom in Christ trumps the kingdoms of this world; and in the book of Revelation, in historical context, the Roman world and its kingdom. As Bauckham underscores, what the book of Revelation is doing, by its appeal to apocalyptic language and imagery, is showing these early Christians (and now us later ones too) through evocative and picturesque language that, indeed, Rome is not it. It is showing the Christians, that while their most immediate experience seems pressing, with all of its visceral and experienced realities, including martyrdom for Christ, that this is not the final reality, or even the total present reality. That standing above and over the City of Man is the City of God, where the King of kings and Lord of lords rules, and is coming from to vindicate the martyrs persecuted for His name. It is this type of apocalyptic reality that I have found hopeful (because God is God and He is Almighty even when it might not look like it), and it is this reality that Stylianopoulos’ further provides layering for as he writes about the choices that the Christian has in the Roman context of whether they are going to serve Caesar as lord, or the living Lord of apocalyptic reality as Lord. If the Christian follows the latter, according to Stylianopoulos, it will look decidedly different than what it looks like to follow Caesar as lord; and it might even eventuate in death. Stylianopoulos writes:

For the seer, there is no room for compromise. The choice is either between Rome and its works (Rev. 18:6) or Christ and his works (Rev. 2:26). The two ways are irreconcilable. Rome’s ways are marked by self-glorification (“goddess Roma”), wealth, luxury, and prosperity by which it deceives and corrupts the nations while concealing its abominations of violence, injustice, wantonness, lies, and slavery (Rev. 18:1–19). Not least, Rome is accountable to God for the blood of the saints who are killed for resisting its idolatrous practices. To follow Rome, as the “earth- dwellers” do, is to participate in its abominations of murder, sorcery, immorality, thefts, all motivated by the worship of demons (Rev. 9:20–21). Thus the saints are commanded: “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). This call, of course, is not for physical withdrawal but for a distinctly countercultural way of life in the midst of Greco-Roman society. In contrast, Christ’s way is the way of the slain Lamb bearing testimony to God’s truth and achieving victory through suffering and death. To follow the slain Lamb, as the saints do, is to participate in Jesus’ witness to God’s word and in Jesus’ suffering because of their own witness and suffering in active resistance to the prevailing culture. The assumption is that to live as a Christian is to live in the world and not apart from it. However, the choice provokes conflict and entails suffering, even the prospect of death (Rev. 13:9–10). The supreme ideal is symbolized by the 144,000 martyrs who stand victorious and sing praises before God’s throne. The recurrent calls for faithfulness to God and the Lamb, and the exhortations to patient endurance to the point of death, signify that for the author of the Apocalypse the greatest commendable work is martyrdom itself.[1]

Conclusion

There are many directions we could take all of this, but let me close it this way. In light of the horrific events of November 13th in Paris it would be easy to reduce the evil that we saw on the streets there to the ISIS combatants that executed so many people. But when we consider what we find in the book of Revelation, in its theological implications, what becomes clear is that it isn’t just ISIS, but that it is the kingdoms of this world (including France, Europe in toto, USA, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, etc., etc.) that represent the City of Man in total; the ‘city’ or ‘kingdom’ that stands against the purposes of God and His kingdom in Christ. This does not mean that God does not providentially use (see Rev. 17) the kingdoms of this world to make sure that justice is wrought (Rom. 13). This does not mean that there aren’t clear and bright lines between evil and good (in a relative sense). But what it does mean is that even “good” intentions apart from participation in Christ’s goodness aren’t really good at all. It means that things are quite complicated, and that there is an undercurrent for prestige and power even among countries that appear to be ‘good.’ And as Christians if we desire to live and stand for righteousness in Jesus Christ, that ultimately this will place us at cross-purposes even with the ostensibly good countries in the world. In fact, as we bear witness to Christ it will expose the darkness that underwrites the power present in every human government.

But there is hope, and this is why I enjoy the book of Revelation so much! It shows that while the Beastly kingdoms have their ways, so too does the Kingdom of Christ. And even when things appear one way, as if the Beast, the kingdoms of this world are winning, that in reality they have already been crushed by the King of kings, by Jesus Christ!

[1] Theodore Stylianopoulos, “I Know Your Works”: Grace and Judgment in the Apocalypse in Robert J. Daly, SJ, ed., Apocalyptic Thought In Early Christianity (Holy Cross Studies in Patristic Theology and History) (Baker Publishing Group, 2009), 35 Scribd version.

*One critique I have of Stylianopoulos’s essay is that he presumes, in Protestant speak, an Arminian maintenance idea of salvation. In other words, he appears to hold that ‘works’ and ‘conquering’ in the book of Revelation indicate that even though we have been given a glorious gift in salvation through Christ, that it remains possible for the believer to lose this gift. Stylianopoulos is a Greek Orthodox, so rather than reading things through an Arminian lens, what really is bearing on his view in this regard is his Orthodoxy. This disagreement notwithstanding, his commentary on the idea of ‘works and judgment’ in the book of Revelation still bears some good fruit.

St. Ephrem the Syrian, Thomas F. Torrance on a Theology of Nature rather than Natural Theology

Thomas Torrance has many things in common with the Patristic theologians and writers he spent so much time with. Mark Mourachian a scholar of one of these early Christian theologians, St. Ephrem the Syrian, constructively brings T.F. Torrance into discussion with Ephrem with focus on their similarity in the area of theological realism.

ephremWhat I wanted to highlight was the basis upon which Torrance can have a ‘theology of nature’ (versus a natural theology), and how there is precedence in this in many of those from the past inclusive of Ephrem. In the following Mourachian describes for us how ‘faith’ works as the lens through which knowledge of God in and through the Incarnate Christ not only grounds knowledge of God for us, but also knowledge of God in creation itself as creation finds its reality in the eternal Logos, Jesus Christ. So there is no sensus divinitatis or sense of the divine embedded in humanity, in general, there would only be such sense first found and grounded in creation’s reality, in the Deus incarnatus, in God incarnate. As humanity participates in the vicarious humanity of Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, we by his faith for us have the capacity to rightly appreciate God’s works in creation in the ‘theater of God’s glory’, as we understand those works as works of Christ and not abstract things from Christ. Here Mourachian enlightens us:

The pervasive emphasis in Ephrem’s works on the concrete reality of God’s self revelation in the midst of the world he created may incline some of his readers to consider him a natural theologian of sorts. The corrective to that misreading is Ephrem’s equally persistent stress on the priority of faith in Christ as that which enables human persons to read nature and Scripture rightly, to find in them what God has veiled. The notion that natural knowledge serves as the necessary propaedeutic for the reception of divine revelation given in Christ and in the biblical testimonies to him is certainly alien to Ephrem’s way of thinking. Faith is the requisite lens through which the human person is able to perceive the truth of God to which all the natural world and all the Bible bear witness in symbolic fashion. It is faith that transforms the believer’s eye into the instrument by which the opacity of created realities is changed to a transparency opening out onto God. More accurately, it is faith in the incarnate Word and the life-giving relation into which he draws the believer that make proper vision, perceptive hearing, and true knowledge possible: “With faith gaze upon Him, / upon the Lord of symbols, who gives you life.”

Since truth, for Ephrem, is ultimately hypostatized in the person of the Word, our relation to the truth consists in our relation to him. The source of all true knowledge and that of life are one and the same, the person of the incarnate Lord, and our relation to him is given life by way of faith in him – Ephrem considers faith a “second soul,” enlivening our soul which, in turn, enlivens our body. All theological knowing is actualized in relation to Christ and through the dynamism of faith in him. The mind possessed of faith is enabled by God to bear the fruit of a godly life in freedom on the basis of knowledge of truth. Torrance points to the same interpenetration of faith, true knowledge, and life lived according to the truth:

The very passion of faith is the opening up of the knowing subject to the most objective of all realities, God Himself as He actively communicates Himself to us in Jesus Christ. To know the truth is to be in a right relation to Him, to be in the truth with the Truth. To know this Truth in a medium appropriate to Him is to do the truth and to live the truth, to be true.[1]

I hope this has encouraged you!

[1] Mark Mourchian, “Theological Realism in St. Ephrem the Syrian and T.F.Torrance,” Participatio Vol. 4 (2013): 103-04.

Jumping into the Tiber or Black Sea: A Movement ‘Back to the Sources’ by Protestants

There is a movement of evangelical Christians back to the sources ad fontes; something of the sort that we saw take place in the 16th easternorthodoxcentury among Christian thinkers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Peter Martyr Vermigli, et al. A movement away from what many an evangelical likely considers the shallow end of Biblicism, and a move into the deep end of Christian thought; away from, as many of these movers perceive, their rather vanilla evangelical upbringing. How this movement happens takes various expressions, nevertheless, it is happening. Note Jason Radcliff as he highlights this in his PhD dissertation:

The latter half of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first century has seen a paradigm shift from modernism to postmodernism which opened the door for evangelicals to return to classical Christianity. Accordingly, during this time there has been a resurgence of patristic studies among evangelicals. Indeed, there has been a move towards ressourcement within evangelicalism, in which Torrance has played and continues to play an influential role. This may be a sign of something big. As Webber puts it, “throughout history a revived interest in the insights of the early church has usually been accompanied by significant renewal in the church.” Thus, it seems highly probable that the current trend towards the classical church Fathers signifies Christianity is currently on the brink of important revival, making Torrance highly relevant as a figure to be uplifted as an example.[1]

As you can see, Radcliff believes Torrance is the type of teacher the church is ripe for; I agree. But more broadly, and to the point, this movement of ressourcement is an encouraging thing. Us evangelical Calvinists see ourselves dead center in this movement, and of course we see TF Torrance the teacher par excellence in this regard.

Having said that, I also have some concern. I think as a Protestant (Reformed) Christian, and I think that the best of that has always been a return to the theology of the early Church Fathers. But my concern comes in directly at this point; I am aware of many who do indeed have this desire of ‘return,’ but this movement has taken the form of abandoning Protestant theology wholesale, and simply converting to Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. Why does this concern me? Because I am Protestant (a very principled one). If the best of Protestant theology has been shaped by its ressourcement of Patristic theology (historically), then who are these folks who are returning to Rome or Constantinople? Many of them are indeed Reformed Protestant thinkers and theologians, but the majority, I would contend, are people with not a lot of theological training, but who sense a hollowness in their lived Christian experience as evangelicals (with a Fundamentalist doctrinal pedigree). They are making this ‘return’ without ever realizing (because of the naked Biblicist backgrounds they are coming from) that there is a depth dimension and reality within Protestant theology that they have never been exposed to; and so they end up skipping right over it (not ever realizing that it was right under their noses all the time), and plunge head first into the Tiber or even the Black Sea.

[1] Jason Radcliff, T.F. Torrance and the Consensus Patrum: A Reformed, Evangelical, and Ecumenical Reconstruction of the Church Fathers (Scotland: University of Edinburgh, Unpublished PhD Dissertation, 2013), 50.

A Christian Apologetic: Torrance and “Justin Martyr,” Proving Jesus

Thomas Torrance, in his Theological Science (his theological method, and a title of one of his books), follows what he calls an epistemological inversion; in short, epistemological inversion is the approach that holds out that an object or subject (or both as in the case of Christian Theology) acts upon us (the knowers and inquirers), such that it itself opens up to us its own reality and structures of thought—this process remains an open structured event. It is from within this context that we can better understand Thomas Torrance’s appropriation of someone like Justin Martyr, and his defense of Christian reality and the Christic event itself (one and the same). Let’s follow along as Torrance engages Martyr, this quote will end with Torrance quoting Justin (which is the piece I really want to get to with this post—viz. Martyr’s “argument”):

The distinctive feature of this Word is its relation through the Spirit to historical facts and events. It is when we allow the Scriptures to direct us to these facts and events that our minds fall under the power of their truth and we are compelled to believe for they carry in themselves their own demonstration. This is not, of course, any kind of logical proof, but the kind of demonstration that arises immediately out of the facts and events themselves through their self-evidence. This is particularly well expressed in a fragment of a lost work on the resurrection that has survived through John of Damascus and attributed to Justin.

[T]he Word of truth is free, and carries its own authority, disdaining to fall under any skilful argument, or to endure the logical scrutiny for its hearers. But it would be believed of its own sake, and for the confidence due to him who sends it. Now the Word of truth is sent from God, wherefore the freedom claimed by the truth is not arrogant. For being sent with authority, it were not fit that it should be required to produce proof of what is said, since neither is there any proof beyond itself, which is God. For every proof is more powerful and trustworthy than that which it proves, since what is disbelieved, until proof is produced, gets credit when such proof is produced, and is recognised as being what it was stated to be. But nothing is more powerful or more trustworthy than the truth; so that he who requires proof of this, is like one who wishes it demonstrated why the things that appear to the senses do appear. For the test of those things which are received through the reason, is sense; but of sense itself there is not test beyond itself. As then we bring those things which reason hunts after, to sense, and by it judge what kind of things they are, whether the things spoken be true or false, and then sit in judgment no longer, giving full credit to its decision; so also we refer all that is said regarding men and the world to the truth, and by it judge whether it be worthless or no. But the utterances of truth we judge by no separate test, giving full credit to itself. And God, the Father of the universe, who is the perfect intelligence, is the Truth. And the Word, being his Son, came to us, having put on flesh revealing  both himself and the Father, giving to us in himself resurrection from the dead and eternal life afterwards. And this is Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. He, therefore, is himself both the faith and the proof of himself and of all things. [Thomas F. Torrance, Divine Meaning, 95-6; the quote from Justin, De resurrectione, 1.1f, from the Sacra Parallela of John of Damascus. E.T. from Ante Nicene Christian Library, vol. 2, pp. 341ff. This is not generally accepted as Justin’s own work, but like the Cohortatio ad Graecos was at least written under his influence.]

For all those weary souls who have labored under the Evangelical mantle of ‘Fighting Fundamentalism’ and the Apologetic Faith (as Warfield called it); won’t you join me in commending yourself to a more Christian Way? A ‘Way’ that does not entangle itself in the realm of rationalist-historicism, that seeks to ‘prove’ Jesus to themselves and the world. I am sure that it is the other way around … we are in need of ‘proving’. And I think the “Martyr” quote helps us to think in this order, and not the order of the “world.”