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Autotheos: Arminius on the Son's Divinity

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  • Autotheos: Arminius on the Son's Divinity

    Autotheos: Arminius on the Son's Divinity1

    One afternoon in the course of a university disputation on the announced topic of the Divinity of the Son of God, a student objected that the Son of God was [autotheos] and that his essence was self-derived and not from the Father. I answered that [autotheos] could be interpreted in two ways. It could signify "one who is truly God" or "one who is God of himself," the former rather than the latter meaning being most appropriately and correctly attributed to the Son of God. The student vehemently protested that the latter meaning is most applicable to the Son of God, and the essence of the Father could not be said to be communicated to the Son and to the Holy Spirit in any other than an improper sense, as this essence is in perfect correctness and with strict propriety simultaneously common to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He added that he was quite certain of the correctness of this position because he had the learned written authority of the younger Trelcatius' Loci communibus. I answered that this position was in harmony neither with the Word of God nor with the whole of the ancient church, both Greek and Latin, which had consistently taught that the Son has his deity from the Father by eternal generation. I added that his assertions necessarily led to two mutually conflicting errors: tritheism and Sabellianism. First, it logically follows that independently there would be three Gods with the same Divine essence, and that as such the identity of any one of them could only be distinguished independently. Contrary to this the only foundation that has ever been used for defending the unity of the Divine essence in the trinity of persons is the proceeding of the origin of one person from another (Processus originis unius personae ab alia), that of the Son from the Father. Secondly, it also follows as a consequence [of the student's assumption] that the Son would himself essentially also be the Father because he would differ from the Father in name only which was the position of Sabellius. If it be singularly the case that the Father derives his deity from himself it would be accurate to say he derives it from no one; and if in this same sense the Son is also called [autotheos], "God of himself," it follows that he is the Father. . . . (pp.144,145)

    If I am asked whether I acknowledge that to be the Son of God and to be God are entirely distinct assertions, I respond affirmatively. Indeed they are. But when the interlocutor concludes that to be the Son of God signifies that he derives his essence from the Father and his being God signifies nothing less than that he derives his essence from himself or from no one else, I reject the conclusion. I assert that this is a great error, not only in sacred theology but likewise in natural philosophy. To be the Son of God and to be God are perfectly compatible assertions, but to assert that the Son derives his essence from the Father while at the same time deriving it from no one is an inherent contradiction. This fallacy is more apparent when it is viewed through three parallel propositions:
    1. God is eternal and has for all eternity possessed the Divine essence.
    2. The Father is derived from no one, nor is the Divine essence.
    3. The Son is from the Father, his Divine essence being from the Father.

    The Word "God" signifies that he has true Divine essence, but the word Son that he has the Divine essence from the Father; therefore, the Son is correctly identified as both God and the Son of God. Since the Son cannot be the Father, he cannot possibly be said to have the Divine essence from himself or from no one. Much effort has been put on the part of some to diminish these distinctions by asserting that when reference is made to the Son being God, this means the Son has this Divine essence from himself, meaning separated he has not derived that essence from anyone else. If this type of logic be allowed, almost any evil hypothesis can be asserted and made to appear good. Although God and Divine essence do not differ essentially, it does not follow that whatever may be predicated about God can equally be predicated of the Divine Essence. Our conceptual frameworks must be recognized for what they are—expressions through which we are enabled to perceive correctly. This becomes obvious when we assert with perfect correctness that [the Son of] God has died, but we may not say that the Divine essence has died. We may say that the Divine essence is communicated, but we would not that God is communicated. One who understands this distinction between the concrete and the abstract, a distinction that has given rise to frequent disputes between us and the Lutherans, readily perceives the consequences of allowing such teaching into God's church. It is not acceptable to assert, as some do, that the Son of God derives his essence from himself, nor can it be allowed that the essence of God is common intrinsically to the the three persons. This is improper because the accepted teaching is that the Divine essence is communicated by one of them to the other. I would underscore these comments because it is amazing how much we allow to be asserted by someone we do not suspect of heresy, while we blindly rush to conclusions about one who falls under suspicion. The foregoing is a notable example of this. (pp.146-148)

    —Jacobus Arminius, Arminius and His Declaration of Sentiments: An Annotated Translation With Introduction and Theological Commentary (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2012), trans. W. Stephen Gunter.


    1 I personally retyped this extensive quotation from Gunter's recent translation of Arminius' Dutch Declaration of Sentiments. I recommend this volume to all who have a genuine interest in Arminius. The extended quotation reflects Arminius' mature thought as it was written and orated approximately a year before his death. (The quote is not entirely unabridged. I omit a rather large section from pp.145 to 146.)


    In order to purchase Gunter's new translation of Arminius' Declaration of Sentiments, see links below.

    For more on Arminius and his Declaration of Sentiments, see the following links.
    Last edited by The Remonstrant; 03-28-2014, 10:49 AM.
    For Neo-Remonstration (Arminian/Remonstrant ruminations): <>

  • #2
    If "autotheos" means that one is God independently of anything else (which seems to be the case), the only sense in which one could say that the Logos is autotheos would seem to be if you see that as a property of the common nature. If each person is God of himself, that would seem to be tritheism.

    The Creed says God from God, light from light. That seems to imply the common Eastern view that the Logos' godness is from the Father.


    • #3
      It appears that this question goes back to Calvin. Calvin said "the Godhead is absolutely of itself [autotheos]. And hence also we hold that the Son, regarded as God, without reference to his person, is also of himself [autotheos]; though we also say that, regarded as Son, he is of the Father. Thus his essence is without beginning, while his person has its beginning in God". (I:XIII:25).

      This appears to me to associate auththeos with the essence.


      • #4
        Originally posted by hedrick View Post
        If "autotheos" means that one is God independently of anything else (which seems to be the case), the only sense in which one could say that the Logos is autotheos would seem to be if you see that as a property of the common nature. If each person is God of himself, that would seem to be tritheism. [Emphasis added.]
        For Neo-Remonstration (Arminian/Remonstrant ruminations): <>


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