Saturday, June 30, 2007

Why the Articles Must be Interpreted in Light of the Creeds, and Not the Creeds in Light of the Articles: Article I

ARTICLE I: There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The shortcoming of this article is that it does not follow the creedal pattern. It starts out correctly: “There is but one living and true God...” but it should continue thus, “...the Father almighty,” as do the catholic creeds. Article I thus falls short of a truly catholic (ecumenical) articulation, as many western articulations do. This is not to say that the article is incapable of supporting an orthodox reading, only that it is capable of supporting an unorthodox one, which constitutes its major flaw.

As it stands, Article I could be read to imply that there is a “Godhead” or “God-stuff” or some supra-personal “God” that is above the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are subsumed within or beneath It (or Him). Yet the universal creeds (Apostles, Nicene) teach that the Father, not the "Godhead" (however that is understood), is the ground and hypostasis of unity. Thus the unity of the Godhead is grounded in the Father's monarchy: the Son and the Spirit derive from Him, for the Father is the source of their essence. This is the faith of the Church Catholic.


Death Bredon said...

Bravo! Excellent point.

You have illustrated the problem with the Augustinian "ipse esse" definition of God, which is that it posits the single divine substance (substancia) or essence (ousia) and only then goes to the persons (persona or hypostasis) rather than the opposite, which is the way of the Creed and the consensus patrum.

Death said...


I should say ONE of the problems with the Augustinian "simplict simplciter" definition of God.