Friday, June 30, 2006

Too Funny Because It's True

Biretta tip to Perry Robinson over at Energies.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Dark Lord of the Sith chimes in...

"The subordination of the Persons to the essence, inherent in the structure of his theology, also provides Augustine with the means to attempt to distinguish the Persons from each other. Having assumed an absolute simplicity, the Persons can no longer be absolute hypostases, but are merely relative terms to each other, thus occuring on an even lower plane than the attribute proper. 'The terms (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are used reciprocally and in relation to each other' [Augustine De Trinitate, 1:8:15]. There is a subtle, but nevertheless, real play of the dialectic of oppositions here. One no longer begins with the Three Persons and then moves to consider their relations, but begins with their relative quality, the relation between the Persons, itself. In other words, there is an artificial opposition of one Person to the other two. It is at this point that the flexibility of Augustine's Neoplatonic commitment begins to surface in a more acute form."

--Joseph Farrell, Introduction to The Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit of our Father among the Saints, Photius the Great, Patriarch of Constantiople (2001), p. xx-xxi.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Soundbite from Saint Photius the Great

"For it is not, I repeat, not the nature -- in other words, that which is common among the Three Hypostases -- which is worshipped, but the specific personal distinctions whereby the Hypostases of the Trinity are distinguished."

--Patriarch Photius, Concerning the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, 47 (translation by Joseph Farrell).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Quiz: Which of the following statements is the orthodox one?

(1) In Scripture, God reveals His Trinitarian nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(2) In Scripture, God reveals Himself as the Father of Jesus Christ our Lord, and the One from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds.


A. Number 1.

B. Number 2.

C. Both statements are equally orthodox.

D. Neither is orthodox.

Monday, June 26, 2006

What did Augustine and Arius have in common?

Answer: Both Arius and Augustine defined deity in terms of divine causality, thus understanding causality to be the essential attribute of deity rather than the hypostatic (i.e. personal) feature of the Father's monarchy.

In this confusion of Person, nature and attribute, Arius went on to assert that only the Father was truly God, for the Logos was begotten of the Father. Thus Christ could not be fully divine in that he was "caused by," and in no way the "cause of," the Father. Divine causality and essential deity are inextricably mixed.

In his argument against the later heresy of semi-Arianism, Augustine conceded this point, but went on to employ it in favor of the essential deity of Christ by positing the filioque doctrine. Thus Augustine saw the Son as the "cause," along with the Father, of another divine Person: the Holy Spirit. "For if the Son has of the Father whatever He has, then certainly He has of the Father that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from Him" (De Trinitate 15:26:47). In other words, the Son receives divine causality from the Father and thus is fully divine, for the Holy Spirit proceeds from both.

At this point the inconsistency in Augustine's view of the Trinity becomes apparent, for where does this leave the Holy Spirit? If the Holy Spirit is a fully divine hypostasis then wherein is manifested the attribute of causality?

Food for thought.

Until next time.

P.S. I am indebted to my friend, Dr. Joseph Farrell (+Photius), for these insights.

Augustine's Confusion of Nature, Attribute, and Person in the Godhead

He is called in respect to Himself both God, and great, and good, and just, and anything else of the kind; and just as to Him to be is the same as to be God, or to be great, or as to be good, so it is the same thing to Him to be as to be a person (De Trinitate 7:6:11, from Schaff's The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers [1st series], pp. 111-12).

Friday, June 23, 2006

WARNING CONTROVERSIAL SUBJECT: Top Ten Reasons Why I Don't Particularly Like the Quicunque Vult

The Quicunque Vult (QV), as most of you probably know, is the Latin name for the Athanasian Creed, which I contend is neither Athanasian nor a creed (to borrow Votaire's turn of phrase). What has prompted this rant, you ask? The answer is the events that took place within two mainline denominations in the last two weeks.

Truth be told, I'm not ready yet to talk about the events of the General Convention of TEC, so I thought I'd focus on (i.e. "pick on") the other mainline denomination that recently held their national assembly: the Presbyterians (check out this link). Call it therapy.

So what does the Quicunque Vult have to do with the recent Presbyterian decision to allow the liturgical usage of other Trinitarian formulae such as "Mother, Child, and Womb" or "Rock, Redeemer, Friend" (or "Larry, Moe, and Curly" for that matter)? Well, admittedly, there is no direct connection. However, I believe that the QV is illustrative of a fundamental misstep within Western Trinitarian thought, which in turn may help to explain how it is possible that a once great Protestant denomination could have fallen so far.

And for the record: Don't mistake my misgivings for the QV as a rejection of the Holy Trinity or the Chalcedonian Definition. I am THOROUGHLY Trinitarian and Chalcedonian in my faith. However, I am not a Filioquist.

So here it goes. My top ten reasons:

10. Unlike the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, the QV is neither a conciliar symbol nor a baptismal symbol. In other words, it’s not really a creed.

9. The QV is liturgically cumbersome, aesthetically jarring, and impossible to chant.

8. The QV is not ecumenical, as the Eastern churches, apart from a few isolated cases (sans filioque), do not recognize it or use it.

7. The QV implicitly condemns the Non-Chalcedonian churches (i.e. Oriental Orthodox), whose Christology has been shown in recent years to be within acceptable bounds.

6. The QV was not really written by Athanasius, despite its popular ascription.

5. To assert that the QV actually represents the theology of Athanasius is not only anachronistic, it is highly presumptuous.

4. The QV includes filioquist language.

3. The QV does not fit or conform to the biblical paradigm in that it begins with a consideration of the essence of God prior to any consideration of the distinct Persons of the Godhead, i.e., going from the abstract to the concrete. (Note that the Nicene Creed first confesses the Persons, and then goes on to explicate essence only with respect to the derivation of the Son and the Spirit from the Father.)

2. In light of the above, a very good case could be made that the QV contributes to the Western exaltation of philosophy over revelation.

1. The QV is symptomatic of a Neo-Platonist tendency in much of Western Trinitarian thought. It's this tendency that gets denominations like the PCUSA and TEC into trouble.

More on this later if people are interested.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2006

Barth and Synergism

In response to a question from a reader an earlier entry, I stated that "Barth's actualist soteriology has had such a profound impact on my own approach to theology that, as an Anglican and a Catholic, I find myself SET FREE to entertain and explore more synergistic models as relating to the existential moment of salvation."

Recently I've been reading another work by Hunsinger called Disruptive Grace (Eerdmans, 2000), which is a collection of studies that he wrote on Barth's Theology. In his article, "The Mediator of Communion: Karl Barth's Doctrine of the Holy Spirit" (1999), Hunsinger had this to say about Barth's understanding of human cooperation with divine grace:

Barth does not deny that human freedom "cooperates" with divine grace. He denies that this cooperation in any way effects salvation. Although grace makes human freedom possible as a mode of acting (modus agendi), that freedom is always a gift. It is always imparted to faith in the mode of receiving salvation (modus recipiendi), partaking of it (modus participandi), and bearing witness to it (modus testificandi), never in the mode of effecting it (modus efficiendi). As imparted by the Spirit's miraculous operation, human freedom is always the consequence of salvation, never its cause, and therefore in its correspondence to grace always eucharistic (modus gratandi et laudandi) [p. 165].

In an insightful footnote at the end of this last sentence Hunsinger observes that Barth's position brought about an "implicit resolution of the sixteenth-century 'synergist' controversy between the Philippist and Gnesio-Lutherans." Essentially Barth's position transcends the issue by taking something from each side of the dispute. With the Philippists, Barth acknowledges a true freedom in and the positive nature of the human response to the offer of divine grace, i.e. a "mode of acting" (modus agendi). With the Gnesio-Lutherans, Barth acknowledges the utter incapacity of human beings, in and of themselves, to respond to God's grace. The dispute hinged on whether faith was active or passive. The Philippists argued for a coincidence of the Word, the Spirit, and the human will in not refusing divine grace, which position the orthodox (i.e. Gnesio) Lutherans denied (and thus consequently excluded from the Formula of Concord). Barth's actualist soteriology allows for the Philippist idea of a coincidence of Word, Spirit, and human will by insisting that human freedom "is always a consequence of salvation, never its cause." For Barth, the human response is in nature "eucharistic" (i.e. thanksgiving and praise), not salvific -- thus addressing orthodox Lutheran concerns.

Alas, while I'm simply thrilled with Hunsinger's observation and application of Barth's theology to the Lutheran synergistic disputes, he leaves us begging the question: how might Barth's theology prove itself to transcend other Reformation/post-Reformation debates on these issues (e.g., Calvinist/Arminian; Protestant/Roman Catholic)? I intend to explore this matter more.

Until next time.

P.S. Incidentally, Pontifications recently posted an excerpt from E.L. Mascall's The Recovery of Unity (1958) that brings up this same Gnesio-Lutheran conundrum (namely, how can faith be conceived of as the one human act that is not a work?), attributing the problem to the underlying philosophical Nominalism of Luther's position. Personally, I think Mascall's argument is right on target. But I also happen to think Barth's "realism" addresses the conundrum rather well.

P.P.S. I found my copy of and I'm currently re-reading Hans Küng's Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection. I should have some insightful excerpts and/or some of my own reflections up on my blog over the weekend. 'Til then...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hans Küng on Karl Barth

I found the following review of Hans Küng's Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection at this Link. Here's what Barth had to say about Küng's analysis and critique:

"The positive conclusion of your critique is this: What I say about justification—making allowances for certain precarious yet not insupportable turns of phrase—does objectively concur on all points with the correctly understood teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. You can imagine my considerable amazement at this bit of news; and I suppose that many Roman Catholic readers will at first be no less amazed—at least until they come to realize what a cloud of witnesses you have produced in support of your position. All I can say is this: If what you have presented in Part Two of this book is actually the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, then I must certainly admit that my view of justification agrees with the Roman Catholic view."

P.S. Note the figure standing in the background of Küng's portrait above. Interesting.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Modest Proposal: Barthian Implications on the Question of Justification's Formal Cause

Over at Pontifications I came across Al Kimel's recent discussion of the doctrine of Justification (We Can Earn it to Lose it). He begins with a quote from Matt Kennedy's recent posting at Stand Firm where Matt attempts to give a brief description of the differences between Anglican Evangelicals and Anglican Catholics on the question of justification.

I don't intend to critique either blogger in this entry. I merely point out these examples to illustrate that the main issue that continues to divide Western Christians -- Catholics and Protestants -- hasn't changed much in nearly five centuries with regard to the way the arguments on both sides have been presented; nor is this an issue that is going away anytime soon, despite genuine attempts on both sides to achieve rapprochement on what Luther described as the "articulus stantis vel candentis ecclesiae."

For theologians, this debate has not been so much about whether faith or works or some combination of the two justifies a person, as is popularly thought; but rather it has been about how theologians have answered the question "What is justification's formal cause?" For example, is the formal cause of the justification of the sinner the imputed alien-righteousness of Christ as most Protestants claim? Or are we justified by the gracious "supernaturalization of our natures" (to borrow Al Kimel's apt description of the Council of Trent's teaching on the matter)?

I'd like to make a modest proposal here, one suggested by Barth's actualist theology. I am particularly impressed by the strong distinction that Barth makes between the objective and existential moments of salvation. Despite many centuries of polemical hashing and rehashing on the subject, I suggest that Barth's insights might just serve to expose the inherently anthropocentric underpinnings and assumptions of the theological approaches of BOTH sides of this issue. If (as Barth's interpreter George Hunsinger describes it) the actuality and truth of our salvation does not depend on the existential occurrence of it, but rather the existential occurence of salvation is brought about by the actuality and truth of it, then it is simply wrongheaded to ground the event and occurrence of justification in something that happens to or within the individual sinner (whether as something imputed to, imparted to, or even "supernaturalized" within a person).

Rather a truly Christocentric approach to this issue would see the "formal cause" of justification (i.e., the actuality of salvation) as the ontological and vicarious identification of Christ with ALL humankind, which (as an existential encounter) becomes true for us even as we begin to recognize that it has always been true apart from us, and even against us. As St. Paul says, "...While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Until next time.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Divine Grace and Human Freedom in Barth

'Divine grace and human freedom, as Barth understood them, can be conceptualized only by means of an unresolved antithesis. They cannot be systamatized or captured by a unified thought. Any attempt at resolving the antithesis will only result either in a false determinism (the risk run by Luther and Calvin) or in a false libertarianism (the risk run by Augustine and Aquinas). Barth's alternative to thinking in terms of a system here was to think in terms of the Chalcedonian pattern. Grace and freedom existed in the life of faith "without separation or division," "without confusion or change," and according to an "asymmetrical" ordering principle. "Without separation or division" meant that no human freedom occurred without grace, and no divine grace occurred at the expense of freedom. Grace granted the freedom for God that human beings were completely incapable of by nature, no only before but also continually after awakening to faith. Grace and freedom also existed "without confusion or change." Divine grace always remained completely unconditioned, even as human freedom always remained completely dependent on grace ... Finally, grace and freedom were related according to an asymmetrical ordering principle. Human freedom was a completely subordinate and dependent moment within the event of grace.'

--G. Hunsinger, "What Karl Barth Learned from Martin Luther" in Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth (Eerdmanns, 2000), p. 302.

Jeremy Taylor's Doctrine of Eucharistic Presence

I just came across this very insightful paper on Jeremy Taylor's doctrine of Eucharistic Presence, which argues for a continuity of Anglican thought from Cranmer and Hooker thru Andrewes and Taylor. I'd love to hear some feedback. Enjoy!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Truth as Encounter: Part 3

This is the last installment from Hunsinger's work on Karl Barth that I intend to post before beginning the "Justification and Catholicity in the Third Millennium" thread, and it contains the most important seed for our discussion. Readers take note that (according to Hunsinger) Barth grounds justification/sanctification in the objective moment of salvation and sees vocation as the primary locus under which to explicate a theology of the Christian life and experience.

'The existential moment of salvation (as established through the event of encounter) is, it is important to see, understood primarily in terms of vocation rather than justification or sanctification. Justification and sactification are primarily conceived, in Barth's theology, as the objective aspects of salvation to which vocation is the corresponding existential aspect. Thus as Barth moves into part 3 of volume 4 of Church Dogmatics, where vocation is discussed, a much more recurrent and prominent use of "in us" can be found than in parts 1 and 2, where justification and sanctification as they occur "in Christ" are the respective topics of discussion. Much earlier it was suggested that objectivism is understood as the external basis of personalism, and personalism as the internal basis or telos of objectivism. To this it may now be added that justification and sanctification, as Barth presents them, can be interpreted as the external basis of vocation, and vocation as the internal basis or telos of justification and sanctification. As the internal basis of the objective moment of salvation, vocation is thus understood as follows. The event of vocation takes place through an encounter established and effected by God. In this event the integrity of both the divine and the human partners is so carried through that the encounter is self-involving for each. The goal of vocation is conceived as fellowship (IV/3, 520-54), and its essence is conceived as witness (IV/3, 575). As the existential moment of salvation, vocation is thus a matter of encounter, integrity, mutual self-involvement, fellowship, and witness.'

--George Hunsinger, How to Read Karl Barth, pp. 154-5.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Truth as Encounter: Part 2

The next paragraph of the previous entry (with one more to follow). This one contains my favorite Barthian quote (alas not an actual quote of Barth):

Everything depends on noticing that Barth is attempting to think this matter through concretely rather than abstractly in his special (actualist) sense of terms. Everything depends, therefore, on seeing that he does not think in terms of the real and the ideal, but rather in terms of the real and the unreal (or of the possible and the impossible). What is real, possible, and concrete is what God has established in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we see that God does not exist without humanity and that humanity does not exist without God. God without humanity and humanity without God are conceived as abstractions that do not really exist in the sense that they have no ultimate reality. God does not exist without humanity, because God has decided in Jesus Christ not to be God without us. Likewise, humanity does not exist without God, because Jesus Christ has decided in our place and for our sakes not to be human without God. Everything else about us, as noted more than once before, is regarded as an abstraction that is destined to disappear. By virtue of an existential encounter with God, our old situation (abstract, unreal, and impossible as it is) can and should be left behind even now. The salvation which as such was already true and actual for us in Christ thereby becomes true and actual in our own lives as well. What was already effective and significant de jure becomes effective and significant de facto (however provisionally) here and now.

--George Hunsinger, How to Read Karl Barth, pp. 153-4.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Truth as Encounter in Barth's thought: The problem of relating the existential and objective moments of salvation

As a prelude to a thread that I want to begin on "Justification and Catholicity in the Third Millennium," I have re-produced the following quote from George Hunsinger's How to Read Karl Barth. This should lay a good foundation for the discussion to follow.

The problem of how to relate the existential to the objective moment of salvation is one to which Barth finds himself returning again and again. Especially because he lays such great stress on the unconditional priority of the objective moment, he realizes that the integrity of the corresponding existential moment is in danger of being underplayed or even undercut. "Reality which does not become truth for us," he writes, "obviously cannot affect us, however supreme may be its ontological dignity" (IV/2, 297). A salvation, an ontological connection of Christ to us, that remained merely objective with no existential counterpart would be a salvation that remained inaccessible and hollow. Yet a salvation whose truth and reality somehow depended on our preparation, reception, or enactment would be salvation in which the existential moment was at some point (whether overtly and covertly) grounded in us rather than in Jesus Christ. When the reality of salvation becomes true for us, Barth argues, then at the same time we recognize that it was already true apart from us (and even against us). Whatever preparation, reception, or enactment may have been involved (and continues to be involved), our recognition is not to be conceived as in any sense constituting the truth or actuality of salvation. Our recognition is simply our awakening to the fact that, in Jesus Christ, salvation's truth and actuality really pertain and apply to us as well, that we are included in them, that they are real for us, precisely by having been established apart from us. Our awakening does not do anything to make salvation as such true or actual. It merely means that we have come to see that we are not outside but inside this saving truth and actuality. But precisely because we are inside and not outside, it is necessary that salvation also take place in our own life. When salvation does take place in our life, however, it is not the existential occurence that brings about the actuality and truth of salvation, but rather the actuality and truth of salvation that bring about the existential occurence. The existential occurence is manifesting, not a constituting, of salvation's actuality and truth.

--George Hunsinger, How to Read Karl Barth, p. 153

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Steve Blakemore's Blog: Thinking is Good for You

Folks, I just discovered that Steve Blakemore, a frequent contributor to this blog, has his own blog: "Thinking is Good for You." I've added his link to my "Blogs I visit" section. Check it out. It is well worth reading!

N.T. Wright and Ann Rice: Writing our way to God

My friend, John C., sent the following link. He says, "Well worth the hour and a half that it takes to listen. The choice is not between the Left Behind series and the Da Vinci Code." Kudos John.

Anglican Futures: Post GC-2006

Here's an interesting article at Stand Firm on Anglican Futures:

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Papal Primacy and Jurisdictional Conditioning

I've been enjoying the beaches and warm Gulf waters here on South Padre Island since the weekend, and plan to finish out my vacation in relative intellectual inactivity. But naturally my thoughts do turn from time to time to theology, and specifically to the discussion of papal primacy that began before my vacation. I'd like to share a few observations with you now.

First, the formal dogmatic definitions relating to the extent and nature of the universal primacy of the Papacy were made since 1054, that is to say, not only within the context of a divided church but one in which the Western delimitations of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church were virtually reckoned as coterminus with the jurisdictional bounds of the Western Patriarchate, i.e., the Latin Church (setting aside for the moment the question of the Eastern Catholic, a.k.a. Uniate churches).

This is not to say that Rome did not make such claims before the Great Schism, but that the particular dogmas that have presented such seemingly insurmountable obstacles to reunion with the East (e.g., Vatican 1) were defined subsequent to the East/West divide. The importance of this observation I trust will become apparent in light of my second observation.

Second, such controversial definitions as Pastor Aeternus are historically and jurisdictionally conditioned. The waning temporal power of the Papacy in the 19th century combined with the Church's struggle against modernity in both the political and theological realms are apparent to any astute reader of the history leading up to the First Vatican Council. However, the jurisdictional conditions are not readily appreciated, and I think this is where more work on the ecumenical front needs to be done. (This is no doubt due primarily to the Roman Catholic claim of ecclesiastical ultimacy -- i.e., that the Roman Communion, in and of itself and all by itself, is the Catholic Church in its fullness.)

Among the many titles that have been ascribed to the Pope in history, three stand out for attention: (1) Bishop of Rome, (2) Patriarch of the West, and (3) Universal Pastor. In the papacy's own self-consciousness all other titles, rights, and authority stem from the first of these, i.e. "Bishop of Rome." The Roman Church's apostolic pedigree afforded it a prestige that was unrivaled by any other church, and its special role as the guardian of the apostolic faith was unquestioned among the ancients. With regards to the third title -- Universal Pastor -- I would contend that this was originally exercised (i.e., during the first millennium) as a primus inter pares role amongst the five great Patriarchates (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) -- much like the ecumenical patriarchal role that Constantinople enjoys today in the East.

It is in the capacity of the second role -- Patriarch of the West -- that Rome has over time, and especially in the post-schism era, extended its jurisdictional authority more or less successfully. This is where I believe the jurisdictional conditioning of Rome's dogma of papal supremacy, particularly Pastor Aeternus, is relevant. Since 1054 the Western Patriarchate has become not only worldwide in its scope but virtually universal in its self-perception. I suggest that what has happened in the wake of the Great Schism is the blurring and confusion of the roles of "Patriarch of the West" and "Universal Pastor," and that Rome's present stance on primacy, which ascribes a universal, immediate and ordinary jurisdiction to the Pope, should be read as applying only to the Western Patriarchate and her subsidiary Eastern satellites (i.e., the Eastern Catholics), and NOT to the other four Patriachates (in which case a primacy of honor, rather than jurisdiction, would be not only more acceptable but more in line with the Pope's role in the first millennium).

Anyway, these thoughts are still seminal. I appreciate any suggestions or comments.

Until next time.

Friday, June 02, 2006

On Vacation: South Padre Island

Well, folks, all the time I thought I was going to have to blog this week turned out to be wishful thinking. Look for something over the weekend at the earliest. I should be back in full swing by the middle of next week.

In the meantime, the beach on South Padre Island, Texas is beautiful and the water of the Gulf of Mexico is blue and warm.

Until next time.