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What was the problem of the early church that brought into being the discussion about the Trinity?

  • "How do we affirm monotheism in light of God's revelation in Jesus Christ?"
  • Affirming both the Shema and the divinity of Christ


What are the four methods/traditions in talking about the Trinity in the early church?

  1. Adoptionism
    • Jesus became son of God by divine appointment
  2. Identity
    • No distinction between the Father and son
  3. Subordinationism
    • Jesus is less God than the Father
  4. Distinction
    • The three persons are separate but all divine within a monotheistic understanding of God


What are the two major forms of Adoptionism?

  1. Ebionites
  2. Dynamic Monarchianism


What are some characteristics of the Ebionites?

  1. Represented a Jewish-Christian synthesis
    1. Synthesis of YHWHism, Pharisaic commitment to the law for salvation, and Jesus
  2. Jesus interpreted through YHWHism and the Mosaic law

  3. Jesus's mission was exemplary rather than redemptive

  4. Jesus becomes a prophet of the law

  5. Anti-trinitarian


What is the definition of Monarchianism?

Defended the monarchy, unity, or simplicity of God over-against the polytheism and dualisms of Gnosticism.


What are some rationalist presuppositions of Monarchianism?

  1. Divine Simplicity: God is a simple being. He is nondivisible

  2. Monotheism: God is one

  3. Radical Transcendence: The dichotomy between spiritual and material reality 

  4. The idea of an incarnation is nonsensical and impossible


What is meant by "simplicity"?

  • God is not composed of parts as is everything else that exists. This attribute of God is, of course, related to many others, such as his changelessness. If God has no parts, God cannot change, since there are no parts for him to lose or gain.


Who was one major proponent of Monarchianism?

Theodotus of Byzantium (ca.190)

"If the Father is one and the Son another, and if the Father is God and Christ God, then there is not one God, but two Gods are simultaneously brought forward, the Father and the Son."


What is another name for the Identity method/tradition?

Modalistic Monarchianism (Modalism)


What is the difference between Modalists and Dynamic Monarchists?

The Modalists also emphasized the unity and simplicity of God, but unlike the Dynamic Monarchians, the Modalists did not want to limit or deny the deity of Christ.


What are the fundamental commitments of Modalism?

1. Divine simplicity (no parts)

2. The unity of God. God is one (monotheism)

3. Christ is God


What was the contribution of Praxeas (c. 210) to Modalism?

1. Father is the godhead (Monarchianism)
2. God projects himself in different ways according to historical circumstances


What was the contribution of Sabellius to Modalism?

  1. If Christ is God then he must be identical with the Father; otherwise, he could not be God
  2. Patripassionism - the Father also suffered at the cross


What is the ontological analogy in Modalism?

  1. The Father is the sun
  2. The Son is the sun (The Father) as it is seen
  3. The Spirit is the sun (The Father) as is it felt within our hearts


What is the historical analogy in Modalism?

  1. The Old Testament: The age of the Father

  2. The Gospel era: The age of the Son

  3. The Epistolary era: The age of the Spirit


Thus, God wears 3 different masks (prosopoi), or plays 3 different historical roles, as he performs a number of operations.


What does the term "economic Trinity" refer to?

  • the manifestation of the three persons of the Trinity in relationship to the world, particularly in regard to the outworking of God’s plan (economy) of salvation”


What was Tertullian's contribution to the Trinitarian issue?

  • real distinction between persons, not substance
  • coined the term trinitas
  • began to use the terms persona and substantia
  • Biblical and historical portrayal rather than philosophical
    • "God is essentially one but becomes three in his relating to history."


What was Origen of Alexandria's contribution to Derivation (Subordinationism)?

  • As a platonist, he was more interested in philosophical reflection

  • The Father alone is God in the proper sense, for he alone is ungenerated (unchanging).

  • The Son is divine only as he participates in the Father; The Holy Spirit is divine, but not quite deity.

  • eternal generation of the Son


What does the term "immanent (ontological) Trinity" refer to?

  • A theory of the Trinity concerned to explain the internal workings and relationships among the three persons of the Trinity.
  • Statements about the immanent Trinity seek to give language to the inexpressible mystery of what God is like apart from reference to God’s dealings with creation


What was Arianism's contribution to Derivation (Subordinationism)?

  • The Father is the source of all things.

  • Being generated, the Son is a creature of the Father

  • The Son cannot be of the Father's essence. If he were, the divine essence would be capable of being divided or communicated, and God would no longer be simple

  • "There was a time when he was not"

  • The Son was the first of all creatures (tertium quid)


What was Arianism's appeal?

  • Made it easy to conceive:
    • how the Son could suffer and die
    • Jesus’ descent from heaven, a heavenly creature (tertium quid) being transformed into a human being, but not an incarnation of God.

  • Protected:

    • the transcendence of God

    • the oneness of God


What were the three affirmations of the Council of Nicea?

  • The Son is homoousios (consubstantial) of the Father (ὁμοούσιον τῳ πατρι)

  • Christ is true God of true God

  • Christ is begotten not made (γεννηθεντα ου ποιηθεντα)


What are some trinitarian terms?

  • essence/nature (gr.: ousia, lat.: essentia/substantia)
  • person (gr.:hypostasis/prosopon, lat.: persona)
  • of the same stuff (gr.: homoousion, lat.: consubstantia)
  • interpenetration (gr.: perichoresis, lat.: circuminsessio)


What was Athanasius of Alexandria's contribution to the Trinitarian issue?

  • The recognition that the doctrine of the Trinity is not the result of theological speculation, but rather divine action in history.

  • Recognition of the limits of theological language in relationship to describing God


What was Athanasius defense against Arius (Arianism)

  1. Only God can save

  2. Jesus is the Savior

  3. Therefore, Jesus is God


  1. No creature can redeem another creature

  2. According to Arius, Jesus is a creature.

  3. Therefore, according to Arius, Jesus cannot redeem humanity.


What was the contribution of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed to Trinitarian dialogue?

  1. Standarized trinitarian language
    • one ousia in three hypostases
  2. Included the Holy Spirit
  3. Omitted the anathemas against Arians
  4. Set the creedal understanding of God in the Eastern church
  5. Established Trinity as the Christian doctrine of God


How are Nicea and Constantinople compared?

  1. As Nicea was concentrated on the Son; Constantinople was concentrated on the Spirit.

  2. Beginnings of Western/Eastern church split

    • Constantinople shifts the focus from one ousia to three hypostases

  3. Subtle softening of subordinationism in the East


What was the Filioque controversy?

  1. Constantiople said that the Spirit "proceeded from the son."
  2. In a synod in Toledo (589), the phrase "and from the son" (filioque) was added
    • This became binding on the Western church, but the Eastern church rejected it.
    • This became the division between the Catholic and the Orthodox tradition


Why did the Eastern church reject the filioque clause?

they thought that the procession of the Spirit from the Son violated the monarchy of the Father.


What were some characteristics of the Western church?

  1. The essence of God has precedence over the persons.

  2. If the Spirit is understood as a bond of love between the Father and the Son (Augustinian analogy), it may be asked whether he is properly considered to be a person in his own right.

  3. Threat = modalism

  4. Trinity became more a mathematical conundrum than a matter of everyday life and worship