Re: God's history (Was God the interactor)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Mon Sep 05 2005 - 16:43:55 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Terry M. Gray" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, September 05, 2005 11:42 AM
Subject: Re: God's history (Was God the interactor)

> For both George and David here:
> Are either or both of you trying to move "beyond" the formulations in the
> Definition of Chalcedon or Athanasian Creed? (See http://
> for the texts here.) I hate to be
> pedantic here but isn't much of this debate "simply" part of the mystery
> of the Trinity or part of the mystery of the Incarnation. The ancient
> creeds have been content to affirm what scripture affirms and deny what
> it denies without necessarily pressing for logical
> resolution--incomprehensible is what attribute of God that comes to mind
> here. Also, distinctions are clearly made between the human nature and
> the divine nature even though these exist in one person. So while
> patripassionism is denounced, the suffering and death of the God-man is
> not. Yet sometimes scripture itself uses language that is not precise
> according to our theological formulation in attributing to all persons of
> the Trinity that which is true (by our precise formulations) of only one
> person. Thus, it is said, sometimes scripture is emphasizing the union of
> the Trinity or the two natures of Christ; sometimes it is emphasizing the
> distinctions. No where does scripture bring it all together the way the
> creeds attempt to. A Chalcedonian idea that I have found useful is "union
> without fusion"; "distinction without separation". Each of the historic
> heresies can be seen as trying to undo this tension a bit.
> Anyway, I'm sure that neither of you need me to lecture you on these
> doctrines, but I was a bit curious as to what extent traditional dogmatic
> reflection on these matters has entered your thinking. For example, do
> either or both of you dismiss these creeds as being unhelpful or
> irrelevant because they are too much influenced by Greek thinking?

Terry -

I certainly don't think the creeds or Chalcedon are "unhelpful or
irrelevant," but they are limited because of their expression in the
language and thought forms of substantialist metaphyics - e.g., in terms of
static "natures" & "persons." The fundamental question of whether God
really is utterly immutable and impassible and immune from any contact with
death is not really addressed. This can be seen, e.g., in the fact that the
Nicene Creed never actually says in its 2d Article that
Christ died! (The original creed says "he suffered and rose again on the
third day." The later Nicaeo-Constantinopolitan Creed expands to "he was
crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried, and rose
again on the third day according to the Scriptures," which still doesn't
say explicitly that he died. The modern version of the International
Consultation on Liturgical Texts which says "he suffered death and was
buried" is better theologically.)

The idea of communication of attributes allows one to say that the
properties of each nature can be predicated of the single divine person, &
in that sense we can say that the 2d Person of the Trinity suffered & died
without saying that the divine nature experienced suffering and death. But
even within the framework of those concepts does it make sense to say in any
realistic way that a person suffered but that the nature of which the person
is an instantiation did not suffer? Only if one is committed to the /a
priori/ notion that God did not suffer.

& that is really the critical question: Can God be affected by the world or
is God utterly impassible. Dave wants to keep bringing the question back to
whether or not God is temporal but my question should come first. & if
indeed God does allow himself to be affected by the world & is thus in some
sense mutable - as I think is the case - then we can go on to debate what
that means for God's relation to temporality - the world's time, God's time
(if there is such) &c.

The bottom line as far as I'm concerned is that in the Incarnation God was
really affected by the world - that the Son was crucified, the Father
suffered the separation from the Son, and that their union was maintained in
the Spirit. What that means in terms of temporality and, in particular, the
origination of the world with time is, as far as I'm concerned, negotiable.

I should point out that Lutheran christology, in contrast to that of the
Reformed, goes beyond the Chalcedonian understanding of the communication
of attributes. In particular, properties of the divine nature are
communicated to the human nature. Lutheran Orthodoxy refused to go in the
other direction and say that the suffering of the human nature could be
communicated to the divine but that again was because of the /a priori/
assumption God can't really suffer but that is not a limitation that Luther
himself always observed.


Received on Mon Sep 5 16:45:31 2005

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