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To 37818 - the loop we are in

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  • To 37818 - the loop we are in

    Hello 37818,

    I was going through my archives looking for something and came across an unnamed file dated "30/03/2012" which holds a conversation we were having back then. Given our current discussions I found it interesting, in as much as it highlighted to me, how consistent I have become as a result of using the language and teaching of the Catholic/Orthodox Church. Have a read...but first a bit of light entertainment...

    A parable: Sherlock Holmes & Dr Watson went camping. One night Holmes woke Watson anxiously asking "Look up and tell me what you see". Irritated Watson replied "Millions of stars!" Holmes asked "But what does that tell you?" Watson went into great detail about the Astronomical, Astrological, Horological, Meteorlogical and Theological implications. Pleased with his extensive knowledge he then asked Holmes what it told him. Holmes replied "Oh Watson, isn't it obvious to you that someone has stolen the tent!"


    Originally posted by 37818
    One of my assertions, was that there are three Persons who are the One God. I assumed that would be agreed upon by all who hold to the trinity explanation of God. It seems I assumed wrong.
    As the controversies post Nicea well demonstrate, the phrase people assent to, and what they mean can be two different things, and their meaning might be found to be in direct conflict with the teaching of the Church.

    For instance: There were/are the Sabellian types that affirm the words, but hold that the persons were/are transient manifestation of God, each retained in God (but not distinct from God). Then there were/are the Marcellus types that affirm the words, holding the Son & Spirit to be distinct from the Father but teach that such is a temporary expedient of God's, and at the end of time the Son & Spirit will be reabsorbed into the Father and cease to exist as distinct entities. Then there were/are those that affirm the words in respect of the economy, but deny it in respect of the ontology. Then there were/are those that affirm the words but deny the pre-existence of the Son and the Spirit, and hold that the Trinity came to fruition at Pentecost. Then there were/are those who affirm the words, but hold that the three are unbegotten (self existing & without origination), making the distinction Father, Son & Spirit in name only or by appointment (role playing).

    There are numerous permutations that the church confronted, all of which, over the centuries, have been examined and refuted by the Church. The first test used by the Church to determine whether a person holds the universal "orthodox" teaching, is to seek affirmation from the person who declares "three persons, one God", that they acknowledge that the Son has real and distinct existence and is natural offspring of the Father, begotten before all ages.

    Originally posted by 37818
    Scripture Verse: John 4:24

    God [is] a Spirit . . .

    © Copyright Original Source

    Many modern translations of the Greek (including the NKJV) render "God is Spirit". Vincent's Word Studies declares "The phrase describes the nature...of God. Compare the expressions, God is light; God is love (1 John 1:5; 1 John 4:8)"[/i].

    The context of vs24 is vs23, "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him'. God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.. It is obvious that Jesus' focus here is on his Father and so what is said, is said exclusively of the Father (though by extension, given the Father's communication of his essence to the Son & the Spirit, it also applies to them).

    In your earlier post where you said "The Person being the Spirit is what makes the Person the Father with the Person the Son the same God" you appeared to be saying that the "the Spirit" is the source and cause of the Father & the Son's participation in the Godhead. As I remarked, I don't think that is what you meant, but your choice of words does suggest that you are in some state of confusion...

    Imu, Orthodoxy holds that the third person of the Trinity is the Spirit, and the Father is the source and cause of the Son & the Spirit, having communicated his essential nature/essence/ousia in the begetal of the Son and procession of the Spirit. Thus it is the commonality of nature (physis) and thus essence (ousia) that leads us to understand that the three distinct and real individuals (hypostases) are consubstantial (homoousios) and in their unity (Trinity) are the one God.

    Originally posted by 37818
    Ousia ; Οὐσία) is the Ancient Greek noun formed on the feminine present participle of εἶναι (to be); it is analogous to the English participle being, . . .
    Ousia is used in the NT in reference to a person's temporal wealth (Luke 15:12). In philosophical usage it refers to "the true wealth" of something, what it is about something that makes it what it is - its concrete reality - in English the closest word we have is essence.

    Originally posted by 37818
    That was not how you were using the term.
    I use the word in the way the Church has always used it.

    Originally posted by 37818
    Use plain English and please forget the high Church rhetoric.
    English is inapproprite to express the meaning of the Church, as it just doesn't have the words to convey the full meaning - hence the rise of all the sects in the last two centuries. The majority of Church doctrines/Creeds were originally formulated in Greek, and what can be expressed in a sentence or two using the Greek terms takes pages in English.

    As for "high Church rhetoric", it is the most basic terminology in theology. If we went to Greece we might find the terms still used in everyday language and, within limits, readily understood when put in the Church's context. I use the language of theology because, imo, it is precise and avoids the ambiguities of English, Latin etc

    Originally posted by 37818
    I really do not have time to answer multiple arguments and multiple accusations. Much as I would like to.
    If you haven't got time to comprehend the teaching of the Church, then don't run around making blind ascertains that such and such is unblblical, simply because you have no idea what the discussion is about...and you haven't read the scriptures (or understood them) that the Church uses to support its teaching.

    Originally posted by 37818
    It is very simple. I believe the written word of God we call our Bible. (66 books).
    The written word of God was in Greek & Hebrew. Translations, of such rarely bring out the subtleties of the original lanaguages, especially as a languages word meanings shift - the reason there are so many versions. So we should take care in accepting a translation as God's word when formulating our understanding and thus doctrine. Comparative study is always required...

    Originally posted by 37818
    There are only two reasons I remain a Christian. One, I know God personally. (Do you? John 17;3?) And secondly, I believe in the gospel of grace by which I know God. (John 3:16, John 14:6, 1 Timoty 2:5, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Ephesians 2:8-10, etc.)
    I remain a Christian because i believe in the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ.

    Originally posted by 37818
    Now the only true God is self evident, but not recognized as such by all. God is as I had stated, without origin. Any being which has an origin IS NO real god.
    Not according to scripture! I guess you object to the idea that Jesus is theotēs (state of being God) bodily (Col 2:9).

    Originally posted by 37818
    Either we believe in the same God or we do not.;
    Obviously not! Ultimately, following the teaching of the Church on the salvific economy I trust in Jesus' God, the one who A.Paul regularly identifies as God, and identifies as the Father, and is declared as the one who raised Jesus from the dead.

    Following the teaching of the Church regarding the ontology of the three, I acknowledge that given the commonality of nature (physis) and thus proof of essence (ousia), I understand that the three distinct and real individuals (hypostases) are consubstantial (homoousios) and in their unity (Trinity) are the one God.
    Last edited by apostoli; 07-10-2015, 03:03 PM.

  • #2
    Hi apostoli,

    I agree we are in a loop of our discussion. What do we agree on? Our common ground. And then one point at a time, where we disagree or seem to disagree and why. Truth is at issue. I do believe it fair to say we both profess to believe God's truth.

    Would that be OK with you?

    Just for one reference: Consubstantial definition, of one and the same substance, essence, or nature. With that meaning I agree that God the Father, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit are such. Understanding that they are three Persons.

    Consubstantial is from the Latin.
    ὁμοούσιον is the Greek.
    Of one substance with is the meaning in plain English.
    . . . the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; . . . -- Romans 1:16 KJV

    . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 KJV

    Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1 KJV


    • #3
      Hi 37818,

      For now I'll concentrate on the term "homoousios" which the Catholic & Orthodox (and many Protestant churches) agree upon.

      I must admit that for the reasons outlined below I have an aversion to the English term "Consubstantial" (Lt. "consubstantialis"). I accept the intention of the word, but for me, the Greek term "homoousia" is superior.

      Of interest: the RCC has only recently reintroduced the term "consubstantial" into their recitation of the Nicene Creed. In the 1970s the RCC made an attempt to dumb down the creed and for several decades the phrase "one in Being" was used instead of "consubstantial". The problem was people, not being trained philosophers, were mystified as to the phrase's meaning.

      Fr Merz in his article remarks "The previous translation “one in Being”... is not as precise [as the term consubstantial"]. The English word “Being” has a broader meaning than the philosophical term “substance.” “Being” commonly refers to all that is, which would include the appearance or form of a thing, and in relation to the holy Trinity, could mistakenly include Personhood. God the Son is not the same Person as God the Father, but they do share the same inner being, or the same substance. Both phrases, “one in Being” and “consubstantial,” are accurate when properly understood. In translating the Creed, however, it is important to be as precise as possible, and the Church believes strongly that the term “consubstantial” is a better choice in naming the Great Mystery that is the relationship of Jesus Christ to God the Father and to us...". I recommend you have a full read of the article...

      In the Latin world (and thus the English world) the term "consubstantialis" is full of ambiguity and thus confusion. The reason is that throughout Church history the Latins were inconsistent in defining what they meant by the term. Modern English dictionaries give a secondary meaning to the word "substantial"="concerning the essentials of something". Imo, an idea that doesn't approach the meaning of the Nicean term "ousia" and thus prevents English speakers from getting to the meaning of "homoousios".

      To understand the Latin and therefore the English confusion we have to have a glance at Church History...

      Latin has never had a word equivalent to the Greek term "hypostasis". Likewise, Latin has never had a term that directly corresponds to the Greek word "ousia". This delemma is extremely important as it gave rise to a huge amount of ambiguity, which at times led to schisms in the church.

      At the time of Nicea (325CE) the Greek words "hypostasis" and "ousia" were used by some synonymously (eg: some Syrians wrote about the one hypostasis of the three hypostases, meaning one ousia, three persons - a lot got lost in translation. Things were even in a bigger mess in the Latin speaking world). To placate the delegates at Nicea, an anathema was attached to the Nicene Creed which directly prohibited the differentiation of the words "hypostasis" & "ousia" (after all both indicated a "concrete reality" but, as St. Basil regularly pointed out, "hypostasis" referred to the particular, whereas "ousia" was a generalisation. It took 56 years to resolve the confusion. At the Council of Constantinople in 381CE Nicea's anathema was formally revoked).

      Anyway, because the Nicean Council's edict insisted on treating "hypostasis" and "ousia" as identical, there was a lot of confusion within Latin terminology which caused conflict within the Church for numerous centuries.

      Some Latin writers described "homoousia" in the context of "subsistence" (Lt: subsistere) - only a person can have subsistence. The Greeks interpreted the Latins usage of "subsistere" as meaning "person". So the Greeks accused the Latins of advocating Sabellianism (Modalism). Other Latin writers described "homoousia" in the context of "substantiation" (Lt. substantia) which was acceptable to the Greeks. However, some Latin writers used "substantia" as an interpretation of the Greek term "hypostasis", so the Greeks understood the Latins of again teaching modalism. Another huge problem was and is, is that some understood "substantia" as referring to "materiality" ("substance"), so you had neoplatonist twits preaching that the Father, Son & Spirit were like three wicks in a pool of oil (Plato advocated that God and the forms were equally eternal, and God created all things using their pre-existent, ever-existing forms. Everyone else considered such an idea heretical). We still get such stupidity when we encounter twits that preach that the Father, Son & Spirit share the same substance (even though they might attempt to deny it, their idea requires the "substnce" to have "materiality". I vaguely remember that in theological circles this is referred to as the dogma of the 4th man - a heresy).

      Imu, these days, the Latins use "subsistere" (subsistence) in equation with the Greek term "hypostasis", and use "substantia" (substantiality) in equation with the Greek term "ousia". So while I prefer the Greek world "homoousia", given the modern English definitions as found in various dictionaries I tolerate the term "consubstantial" (Imo, modern English definitions resolve the conflicts in language that arose in the post Nicenean church).

      So what is my understanding of the meaning of "consubstantial (Homoousios) with the Father"?

      In the context of the Nicene Creed I understand consubstantiality (the Homoosios) as defining the reality of the Son's sonship, something the Arians couldn't accept, and so they determined that the Son's concrete reality (ousia) was different to that of the Father. The Niceans defended: as truely offspring of God the Father, the Son is endowed with his Father's ousia = are one in their being (ousia) - which specifies how the Son is true God from true God. To reinterate: the Son and Father retain the same concrete reality (ousia). They are one in their being (ousia) - just as my Father and I, as humans, retain the same concrete reality (ousia).

      How do you understand the term?
      Last edited by apostoli; 07-11-2015, 04:47 AM.


      • #4
        I have the same substance as my parents have.
        The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

        [T]he truth Iím after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -ó Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


        • #5
          Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
          I have the same substance as my parents have.
          Well, you are flesh and blood, and such are substances, but physicality and materiality (the definition of substance) have nothing to do with the Church's teaching of consubstantiality (Gr. homoousia. A compound word: homo=of the same, ousia=the essentiality of a thing). If you wanted to say you are consubstantial with your parents, a simple sentence would be "My parents and I each retain the essentiality of what in concrete terms it means to be human".


          • #6
            ps 37818,

            After I completed my previous post (#3) it occured to me that I don't recall the Church as requiring anyone, at anytime, to make a formal declaration of the faith wherein the Spirit is said to be homoousios with God the Father, and/or with the Son. Imo, it would have been logical to include the Sprit in the concept of the homoousios, and surprise, surprise, I discovered that various early writers did explore the idea, but ultimately the Church formally qualified the Spirit's equality to being worshipped and glorified together with the Father and the Son (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381CE).

            Last night I spent, off and on, into the early hours of this morning, a considerable amount of time trying to research the discrepancy. It seems that the Nicenes had so intertwined the generation of the Son with the homoousios, that they had locked up the terminology. On face value, such a situation prohibited the term's application to the Spirit (see below).

            Another problem: in an effort to safe-gaurd the apostolic teaching that the Son is the only-begotten of the Father, the Spirit had to be excluded from any thought of having generation (begetal). Thus, whilst the Church spoke of the Son as having been begotten of the Father before the ages, the Spirit is spoken of as proceeding from the Father (cp. John 15:26).

            Imu, to avoid another scrap with the Church's opponents who viewed the Spirit as inferor to the Father and Son, and in an effort to preserve the teaching of Nicea that had stabilised the Church, a bit of slight of hand occured to resolve the issue. The reasoning: as the Father is the source and cause of both the Son and the Spirit, in their origination, both were endowed with the Father's ousia. Thus the Son is homoousios with the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit is homoousios with the Father and the Son. Thus, each of the three retains an ousia which is identical to that privately posessed by each of the others. Thus, each is experienced by us as having indentical activity (physes and energies), and so the three in unison are proved to be our God (ie: experience any one of the three and you have experienced them all, and given our experience of each is identical to the other in essentiality, we cannot differentiate between them. Thus we encounter three persons who are to us one God (see below)).

            As I wrote the above, it occured to me that whilst the teaching of the homoousios identifies each of the persons as having the same ousia, and therefore as a member of a species each is God, it doesn't concretely contribute to explaining how the three are one God (though I have made an indirect attempt at explaining such in the preceding paragraph). The Church usually avoids discussion by declaring the idea "The Great Mystery".

            I take a more pragmatic approach. In the OT, the idea "God" is an accolade invented by men and bestowed by men upon idols, angels, demons, men and even YHWH. In the OT, YHWH declares to the patriarchs and Israel that he would become their "God", and he was the "God" to their fore-fathers. In the OT, "God" is defined as whoever/whatever has the power of life and death over you! So, imo, the idea "God" is subjective and has no reality except in the imaginations of men. In contrast the Father, Son and Spirit have a real existence that has no dependency on mankind's imaginings and/or machinations, and through their unified activity amongst us, we experience the three as one God!!!

            I'm guessing you will object to some of the ideas given above (eg: begotten before the ages), however, most are derived from the Church. The last paragraph is my personal opinion (which isn't unique to me). Any comments, criticisms or otherwise are welcomed?
            Last edited by apostoli; 07-11-2015, 11:25 PM.


            • #7
              Originally posted by apostoli View Post
              If you wanted to say you are consubstantial with your parents, a simple sentence would be "My parents and I each retain the essentiality of what in concrete terms it means to be human".
              1) I don't see why you used the verb "retain" instead of just "have."
              2) I also don't see why you did not simply write, "My parents and I each have the essence of a human."
              The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

              [T]he truth Iím after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -ó Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


              • #8
                Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
                1) I don't see why you used the verb "retain" instead of just "have."
                2) I also don't see why you did not simply write, "My parents and I each have the essence of a human."
                It is all to do with Aristotle's categories and the fact that the ideas the Church used come from speculative metaphysics. The English words "essence" and "nature" don't come close to having the depth of meaning of "ousia" / "hypostasis" and "physis" - the Greek words originally used by the Church to formulate the teaching of Nicea and Chalcedon.

                In ordinary usage "ousia" can simply mean "wealth". The word is used in the parable of the prodigal son. You can "have" wealth, but you can also lose it. So "have" is not a good word to use when discussing the metaphysics of "being". Ousia in its metaphysical sense is invariable, all the properties used to define it must be constant, and "retained" at all times.

                At Nicea "hypostasis" and "ousia" were treated by some as close to being the same thing. St Basil the great explains that "ousia" is a generalsation that applies to everyone in a group, whereas a "hypostasis" (person) identifies a particular example of an "ousia". nb: "hypostasis is the word used at Heb 1:3.

                Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
                2) I also don't see why you did not simply write, "My parents and I each have the essence of a human."
                You could have just said "My parents and I are human", for those in the know, it would be assumed you assign to yourselves the ousia labeled "human". The only way to affirm such would be to observe your "physis" (activities that prove the attributes of a ousia). nb: "physis" is the term used at Chalcedon.

                The above only matters if you intend to defend or explain the findings at Nicea and Chalcedon = the source of the Church's teaching.
                Last edited by apostoli; 07-13-2015, 06:37 AM.


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