“We have ideas of his [God’s] attributes, but what the real substance of any thing is we know not. In bodies, we see only their figures and colours. We hear only the sounds. We touch only their outward surfaces. We smell only the smells, and taste the flavours; but their inward substances are not to be known either by our senses, or by any reflex act of our minds: much less, then, have we any idea of the substance of God.” (Isaac Newton, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. tr. Andrew Motte (3 vols.; London, 1803), II, Bk. III, 312-13.) Continue reading “Highlights from Sir Isaac Newton Concerning the Trinity”
Third-century Latin church father Novatian of Rome is not well-known today, but was an important figure in his time. He was an anti-pope, meaning he opposed the bishop of Rome, and was elected as a rival bishop. This caused a lot of controversy, which is not within the scope of this post to explore.
Novatian is noteworthy regardless of other shortcomings he may have had for his small contribution to trinitarian doctrine, in his treatise Concerning the Trinity. In it he elucidates his understanding of trinitarianism. In doing so he argues for both the divinity of Christ and the doctrine that the one God is the person of the Father, and defends the biblical truth that the Father is the one God by showing it is compatible with the doctrine of the Son’s divinity. Continue reading “Novatian of Rome on the One God Being the Person of the Father in Particular”
When doctrinal error is mentioned in respect to the Fourth Lateran Council, a number of issues could be brought up depending on what tradition is examining the council. Protestants reject its teaching on transubstantiation as error; Eastern Orthodox reject its teaching on the Filoque; the Oriental Orthodox would reject its Chalcedonian articulation of the hypostatic union. Everyone but the papists themselves takes issue with the council’s strong assertion of papal supremacy and authority (written, conveniently, by the Pope himself, as all the canons). But in this article, I want to draw attention to a lesser-known doctrinal error the council did much to promote: the anti-trinitarian doctrine of semi-modalism. Continue reading “The Grievous Error of the Fourth Lateran Council”
The London Baptist Confession of 1689 says in its second chapter:
“The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection…
In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.”
Here we see them begin their treatment of the Trinity by saying that the one God is a person “whose subsistence is in and of himself”. Subsistence is a philosophical term for person, when it refers to something of a rational nature, such as God, or an angel, or a man. What is more clear in identifying him as a single person is their explicit use of singular personal pronouns. Continue reading “Trinitarian Heresy In the London Baptist Confession of 1689”
There is some major doctrinal discontinuity between these two notable theologians, especially concerning the identity of the “one God” of the Christian faith. Continue reading “Contrasting Irenaeus and Augustine 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. Continue reading “Contrasting Augustine and Cyril of Jerusalem on the Identity of the One God”
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. Continue reading “Augustine’s Trinitarian Heresy”
Irenaeus of Lyons, unlike many church fathers, is one relatively well known to modern Christians. The second century bishop of Lyons is famous for his staunch opposition to the various pseudo-gnostic heresies that faced the church in his day, and especially for the multi-volume work Against Heresies that he authored to combat them. He also authored a lesser-known work summarizing an orthodox understanding of the Christian faith and proving its tenets from the scriptures called Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, which I highly recommend.
Here I want to briefly examine some quotes from his writings that highlight his strongly held and clearly-articulated belief 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.)
Due to the clarity of these quotes, comment is largely unnecessary. While Irenaeus is writing against the heretics of old his words still hold a strong rebuke for the modern semi-modalists who have taken up their mantle.
“The Church, though dispersed through our 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.)
“Since, therefore, this is sure and stedfast, that no other God or Lord was announced by the Spirit, except Him who, as God, rules over all, together with His Word, and those who receive the Spirit of adoption,  that is, those who believe in the one and true God, and in Jesus Christ the Son of God; and likewise that the apostles did of themselves term no one else as God, or name [no other] as Lord; and, what is much more important, [since it is true] that our Lord [acted likewise], who did also command us to confess no one as Father, except Him who is in the heavens, who is the one God and the one Father;–those things are clearly shown to be false which these deceivers and most perverse sophists advance” (Against Heresies, Book IV, Chapter I. 1.)
“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)
“This then is the order of the rule of our faith, and the foundation of the building, and the stability of our conversation: God, the Father, not made, not material, invisible; one God, the creator of all things: this is the first point of our faith. The second point is: The Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was manifested to the prophets according to the form of their prophesying and according to the method of the dispensation of the Father: through whom all things were made; who also at the end of the times, to complete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and show forth life and produce a community of union between God and man. And the third point is: The Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and the fathers learned the things of God, and the righteous were led forth into the way of righteousness; and who in the end of the times was poured out in a new way upon mankind in all the earth, renewing man unto God.” (Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching)
Most ancient creeds, including the Nicene, begin by declaring faith in one God, the Father Almighty. This belief that God is one person, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (that is, Unitarianism) is given as the first article of the Christian faith in these ancient creeds and confessions. The identification of the one God with the person of the Father in particular is not only easily proved from the scriptures, but is also extensively witnessed to by the ante-nicene and nicene church fathers. A non-comprehensive list of quotes showing this is given below.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6 NASB)
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 NASB)
“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 NASB)
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25 NASB)
Ancient Patristic Witness:
Clement of Rome:
“Why are there strifes, and tumults, and divisions, and schisms, and wars among you? Have we not [all] one God and one Christ? Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us?” 1 Clement, Chapter XLVI.
“We beseech Thee, Lord and Master, to be our help and succor. Save
those among us who are in tribulation; have mercy on the lowly; lift
up the fallen; show Thyself unto the needy; heal the ungodly; convert
the wanderers of Thy people; feed the hungry; release our prisoners;
raise up the weak; comfort the fainthearted. Let all the Gentiles
know that Thou art the God alone, and Jesus Christ is Thy Son, and
we are Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture.” 1 Clement, Ch 59
“For concerning faith and repentance and genuine love and temperance
and sobriety and patience we have handled every argument, putting you
in remembrance, that ye ought to please Almighty God in righteousness
and truth and long suffering with holiness, laying aside malice and
pursuing concord in love and peace, being instant in gentleness; even
as our fathers, of whom we spake before, pleased Him, being lowly
minded toward their Father and God and Creator and towards all men.” 1 Clement, Ch 62
Ignatius of Antioch:
“On this account also they were persecuted, being inspired by His grace to fully convince the unbelieving that there is one God, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, who is His eternal Word, not proceeding forth from silence, and who in all things pleased Him that sent Him.” Epistle to the Magnesians (shorter version), Chapter VIII. Continue reading “We Believe in One God, the Father Almighty…”