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

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Mon Sep 05 2005 - 18:14:01 EDT

On Mon, 5 Sep 2005 16:43:55 -0400 "George Murphy" <>
> ----- 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.
> Shalom
> George
What I get out of George's lengthy answer is that he wants to allow God
to be directly affected by at least the passion of Jesus. The notion of
mutability seems to require the temporal nature of the deity. "Mutable"
is the ability to change, and change involves before and after, that is,
time. (I believe this fully supports my interpretation of Augustine's
/in/ and /cum/.) I contend that this leads to incoherence. I want to
change the emphasis to the deity being eternally the Creator, Sustainer,
Redeemer, etc., that is, being a different sort of deity by eternal
nature. It is possible theologically and philosophically to construct
various notions. A number of them are consistent within their own limited
framework. However, most of them run into trouble when the totality of
available information is considered. Even materialism can be, within its
own limits, consistent. But, when one looks critically at the historical
events from 4 or 6 BC on, matters do not mesh well with materialism.
However, materialists do very well ignoring such evidence. There are also
Christians who insist that God has to wait to hear our prayer until we
utter it. There are those that insist that God cannot know the future
because it isn't yet--flying in the face of Paul's express declarations.
I am simply doing my best to formulate a consistent view taking all the
scriptural and creedal elements into account. I think I've taken into
account God's awareness of the crucifixion, eternal rather than temporal,
because God is eternal (timeless). The objections have been essentially
"I don't want to go that far" or "I don't get it." These don't cut it. If
I am shown a contradiction in my effort, then I'll go back to the drawing
Received on Mon Sep 5 18:18:24 2005

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