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.


Derek the Ænglican said...

I thought your 10, 9, 3, and 2 were particularly pertinent. I do wonder about this one: The QV implicitly condemns... What's implicit about it--it does condemn them!

I'd be interested to hear more about your point 1, especially the Neo-Platonic part of it.

Steve Blakemore said...

Actually I like your point # 1. Truly the neo-Platonic view of God allows for some Christians to adopt a nominalism regarding language for God. If God is (as neo-platonism contends) ultimately One with out distinction or division, then Trinitarian language is, indeed, merely an accomodation to our experience. Once our "experiences" require a different formulation, well . . . . jettison or morph the language. But, if neo-platonism is not Christian, then the language of revelation must stand for (as John 1:18 says)"No one has seen God but the Only Betotten One, who is at the Father's side, has made him known."

Great thoughts about the QV, some that I never considered. Bravo

Acolyte4236 said... very sexy!

Good post. A fundamental problem is the wedding of dialectic, the distinguishing through opposition that is essential to hellenistic philosophy, to Christian theology. Christian theology then becomes dependent on dialectic and cannot be articulated without it. This is why philosophy becomes the handmaiden to theology in the Latin West. This is why Russia could do theology without Plato and Aristotle and the West couldn't do theology without them. This is also why the relations of opposition are necessary to Latin Trinitarianism and why the Filioque becomes necessary. You can't distinguish the divine persons without relations of opposition.

Dyothelitism breaks the back of hellenistic dialectic because the two wills in Christ are distinguished without opposition or subordination. Christ initially wills in the Garden two different things, both of which are good.

lexorandi2 said...

Hi Derek,

Perhaps you're right about the word "implicit" here. However, see my earlier post on the Non-Chalcedonians.

More later guys.

lexorandi2 said...


Excellent insight on nominalism, which is precisely where I was making the connection between the Presbyterians and the "Neo-Platonist Captivity of the Trinity" that has taken place in Western theology. You connected the dots very well!

Acolyte4236: Thank you for dropping by. As I read things, (and I'm no expert here), Augustine's reliance on the Neo-Platonist model (i.e., one, nous, soul) to explain the Trinity in De Trinitate creates an inherent tension between Divine simplicity (i.e., the one) and emanation (i.e., nous, soul, or, as the case may be, the Son and the Spirit). The extremes on each side of this tension are disastrous -- either modalism or infinite emanations (i.e., pantheism).

Gotta run.


lexorandi2 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Photius said...

Dr. Dunlop,

Check out Perry's (Acolyte's) argument here:

A couple of other good ones are these too:

Nice to see that we have an ally here, especially someone who is still part of the Western church and with credentials. We're just grad students.


lexorandi2 said...

Thanks for the links, Photius. I'll check them out. I just added Energies to my blog list. Blessings.

AH said...


Johnny! said...

You got "Larry, Moe and Curly" from Doug Wilson, didn't ya? C'mon, admit it, you're a fan. ;)

lexorandi2 said...

Actually, I read it off the comments of Pontificator's blog. My favorite one was inspired by Abbot and Costello: "Who, What, and I don't know." But Photius' "one, nous, soul" wins the prize for getting right to the root of the problem.