On Subordinationism

Thomas

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Subordinationism crops up a lot in dialogues between myself and @muhammad_isa, so I wanted to clarify a couple of points lest anyone get the wrong end of a slippery stick.

Simply, Subordinationism is a doctrine that the Son of God is God, but in 'eternal subordination and submission' (ESS) to the Father. I wanted to make it clear that Subordinationists did not believe Jesus was not God but rather that they saw Him as in some mysterious way divine, but not equally so with the Father.

Famously Irenaeus and Origen, both influential theologians, are accused of – or at least tainted with – subordinationism. In Irenaeus' case, I have not really studied the argument. In Origen's case I have, and am convinced he was not, the 'Origenist Crises' and subsequent condemnations are of teachings erroneously imputed to him.

As the wiki site says, Subordinationism is a Trinitarian heresy – that is subordinationists believed in the Trinity as such, but expressed it in an overtly hierarchical manner, whereas the orthodox doctrine asserts the coequality and consubstantiality (the same substance) of the Three Persons.

It was Origen who argued that the Father eternally begets the Son, and thus the Son is eternally begotten – that there was never a time when God was not the Father, and thus never a time when the Son was not.

Arius, who followed Origen in many things, refuted him on this point, arguing that the Son was begotten at some point, and that there was a time when the Son was not.

Nevertheless, Arius believed in the divinity of the Second Person of the Trinity, he just didn't believe it was the same order of divinity as the First.

Any questions, and you might be surprised to read this, I shall be glad to discuss at length and ad nauseam!
 
Subordinationism crops up a lot in dialogues between myself and @muhammad_isa, so I wanted to clarify a couple of points lest anyone get the wrong end of a slippery stick.

Simply, Subordinationism is a doctrine that the Son of God is God, but in 'eternal subordination and submission' (ESS) to the Father. I wanted to make it clear that Subordinationists did not believe Jesus was not God but rather that they saw Him as in some mysterious way divine, but not equally so with the Father.
That's mere word-play..
I do not believe that Origen believed that Jesus created the universe, for example.
 
Did Jesus ever refer to himself as the Son of God? And, even if he did, didn't he also refer to others as his brothers and sisters? One take on that could be that we are ALL children of God. And he worked towards helping others realize their God-nature as well. But possibly the Christian Church was more attached to power and control, so they twisted his message when they decided to reveal theirs to the world.
 
Did Jesus ever refer to himself as the Son of God?
Yes – but of course that's a contextual discussion.

And, even if he did, didn't he also refer to others as his brothers and sisters?
Yes – context again.

One take on that could be that we are ALL children of God.
Yes – in context again.

And he worked towards helping others realize their God-nature as well...
Unlikely, really, bearing in mind his Jewish heritage.
 
Arius, who followed Origen in many things, refuted him on this point, arguing that the Son was begotten at some point, and that there was a time when the Son was not.

Interesting.

How is the similar question of God being the Creator from some point onward (the creation), but not before, answered?
 
Interesting.

How is the similar question of God being the Creator from some point onward (the creation), but not before, answered?
One of the earliest documents we have is a letter of Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia

Para 2:
Thus he (his bishop, Alexander of Alexandria) drives us out of every city like godless men, since we will not agree with his public statements: that there was “always a God, always a Son;” “as soon as the Father, so soon the Son [existed];” “with the Father co-exists the Son unbegotten, ever-begotten, begotten without begetting;” “God neither precedes the Son in aspect or in a moment of time;” “always a God, always a Son, the Son being from God himself.”

Para 4:
But what do we say and think and what have we previously taught and do we presently teach? — that the Son is not unbegotten, nor a part of an unbegotten entity in any way, nor from anything in existence, but that he is subsisting in will and intention before time and before the ages, full <of grace and truth,> God, the only-begotten, unchangeable.

Para 5:
Before he was begotten, or created, or defined, or established, he did not exist. For he was not unbegotten. But we are persecuted because we have said the Son has a beginning but God has no beginning. We are persecuted because of that and for saying he came from non-being. But we said this since he is not a portion of God nor of anything in existence. That is why we are persecuted; you know the rest.

+++

The salients point of disagreement with his contemporaries is summed up in para 2.

Arius says the Son is not unbegotten (p4) which does not conflict with his contemporaries – but here it gets complex – the Son is not 'part of an unbegotten entity in any way', that it the Father, 'nor from anything in existence', that any part of creation, 'that he is subsisting in will and intention before time and before the ages', that is, in the Mind of God, 'God, the only-begotten, unchangeable.'

So the Son is God, (my contention with those who say otherwise) brought into existence by the Father, before creation, from nothing, but in no sense of the same divine essence or substance of God, which then creates the problem – if not God, and not in any sense of the created order but prior to it, then He is is in some sense another, lesser, God?

In Para 3 he says "unlearned heretics some of whom say that the Son was “spewed out”, others that he was an “emanation”, still others that he was “jointly unbegotten” which is a pity, because I could have defended him had he argued the Son as a divine emanation (very much the Platonic model) because then there would be a more defendable ontological position to defend God the Father as God, and God the Son as a Divine Emanation of God, therefore God ... but because he refutes that, I find it hard to reach out and grab his hand, if you see what I mean?
 
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Thanks, this is fascinating. Is it known why Arius did not embrace emanationism?

Also, I did not clearly state my question, which was about the status of "creator" vis a vis the creation, i.e. everything other than God (the Son being God in this picture, even for Arius, I think?). Maybe I should put it like this:

Did God change by becoming Creator (of all of creation)? If so, what kind of change is possible for an eternal being to undergo without becoming something other than itself? If not, then how is creation possible? How do theologians talk about this?
 
Thanks, this is fascinating. Is it known why Arius did not embrace emanationism?
Sadly, no.

Did God change by becoming Creator (of all of creation)? If so, what kind of change is possible for an eternal being to undergo without becoming something other than itself? If not, then how is creation possible? How do theologians talk about this?
That's a very good question, and one that'll send me off into my text sources!

Cautiously I would say the classical belief was that God does not 'change' because change belongs to the temporal order, and that is itself part of creation, whereas God is timeless and eternal, and therefore technically, one cannot think of God 'prior' to creation.

Aristotle's 'Motionless Mover', the First Cause that is Itself Uncaused. Anaximander's Apeiron – The Boundless.

I'd ask @RabbiO for commentary from the Hebrew perspective.

+++

Origen spoke of the eternal generation of the Son, something Arius could not get his head around. The Father is prior to the Son (simple logic) but the Father was, is, and ever will be begetting the Son.

+++

It's notable that the Hebrew rē'šîṯ, 'beginning' in Genesis 1:1 can be read as first in the common sense, and 'first' as the head, or principle. Hopefully @RabbiO will correct me if I'm wrong. The Septuagint translates the Hebrew as 'en arche' which speaks more directly of a first in principle, rather than number, and John 1:1 echoes that, obviously. The Vulgate translates as In principio which again explicitly refers to a metaphysical idea.

I can look deeper if there's a particular aspect ... ?
 
I can look deeper if there's a particular aspect ... ?
Well, emanationism is one possible solution to "connecting" an eternal changeless creator to creation in full swing as it were, changing all the time.

Some Buddhist schools also get into interesting, tricky territory, when they started reifying the "Buddha Matrix" (Tathagatagarbha), the Deathless and similar poetic devices.

Do you know, are the views you presented above generally accepted theology even in Protestant and Evangelical circles? Is there exchange between Catholic and Protestant theologians?
 
On the above – not that I'm aware of, I think its generally agreed?
 
Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams wrote Arius: Heresy and Tradition (SCM Press, 2001) detailing Arius' philosophy as influenced by Platonism, and one critical essay suggests the Archbishop failed to make adequate reference to Aristotle, who might also have influenced him.

I can find no reference of Philo's theology of the Logos.

But critics generally agree that as the Fathers, as well as Arius, were influenced by Platonism and Neoplatonism, then it can't be presented as Platonism v Orthodoxy.
 
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