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Neognosticism

neognosticism

A Facebook friend of mine (an old acquaintance from Bible College) commented on one of my posts the other day expressing the idea that Christianity was originally gnostic, that Paul was its only apostle, and that all his writings were rewritten by “literalists” during the time of Irenaeus (late 2nd Century). His original comments are below and my response follows. I would appreciate your input into all of this. Please critique my response if I have overstepped somewhere or if I am lacking somewhere. And please give me any additional arguments that might be helpful for this:

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Plantinga’s Modal Ontological Argument Explained by Sean Choi

alvin-plantinga2In this post I’ll explain both the motivation behind Alvin Plantinga’s Modal Ontological Argument, as well as its various steps. For my purposes, I’ll work with a simplified version of that argument which Plantinga presents in his book,  The Nature of Necessity (Clarendon Press, 1974), pp. 216-17.

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Per Fillium: A Biblical Alternative to the Filioque Clause and a Via Media between Rome and Constantinople: Part 2 of 6

Tony Arsenal picture for per fillum

(Originally Presented at the 2014 Meeting of the Northeast Region of the Evangelical Society)

 

Part 1

 

The Objections

As established, there is a long tradition regarding the Filioque Clause, and better theologians than I have mounted both defense and critique of the doctrine. Among these are Anselm of Canterbury,[22] Thomas Aquinas,[23] and Karl Barth.[24] By and large, the protestant Reformers, accepted the clause and argued in favor of it.[25] Even the Reformed confessions and the Lutheran Book of Concord hold the filioque up as truth that ought to be affirmed. In addition, with a long theological history of single procession that is implicit in the patristic testimony, and explicit in the later Eastern tradition, if one rejects the filioque it would be easy enough to find a theological footing on the doctrine of single procession. However, neither of these positions is tenable in my view. My rejection of the double procession view expressed in the Filioque Clause, and the single procession view of Eastern Orthodoxy is grounded in two areas of objections to which I shall presently proceed.

Scriptural Objections

As an Evangelical, my theological positions must always stand in accord with the doctrines revealed to us in Scripture. As such, we must always root our theological positions in solid exegetical analysis. Unfortunately, the Scripture is somewhat opaque in terms of clear texts related to the ontological Trinity and the intra-Trinitarian dynamics. In fact, much of the exegetical work related to the procession of the Holy Spirit rests on the fundamental axiom that the economic Trinity reveals something genuine to us about the ontological Trinity.[26] While I do not hold that the two are identical,[27] I do affirm that we can draw legitimate, albeit limited, conclusions regarding the ontological Trinity by observation of the economic. As such, I affirm the exegesis of Augustine and those following him that argues that the scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit as in some way having a relationship of source with both the Father and the Son. We see this relationship primarily in two ways. The first is that the Holy Spirit is said to be “of Christ” (Romans 8:9, 1 Peter 1:11) as well as “of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:11, Ephesians 4:30) [28] I shall narrow my exegetical focus to Romans 8:9-11.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit,[29] if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.[30]

 

This passage can be a bit troublesome. We see in the course of three verses that the Spirit shares a genitive relationship with four distinct subjects. It is significant to note here that while there is ambiguity in reference to which person of the Trinity the Spirit is related to in this first usage, it establishes clearly that the text is referring to the Holy Spirit as a person and not simply to the presence of the Son or Father. As we proceed to the next instance, the Spirit is referred to as being “of Christ.” This is in line with other places where Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as being related to the Son, especially Galatians 4:6. [31] The text then proceeds to provide a pivotal clarification, indicating that the Spirit of God who dwells in us is the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead.[32] Now, I suppose that it is not impossible that Paul is saying that it is the Spirit of Christ who raised Jesus from the dead (I.E. Christ raised himself from the dead). However, it seems a clumsy way to say it. Furthermore, the fact that the subject of the verb egeir? is “Spirit” and the object is “Jesus” it seems unlikely that Paul has in mind that this Spirit bears only a relationship to the Son. To further support this conclusion, we look to other Pauline epistles in which Paul implies that it was the Father’s agency which returned Jesus to life (Romans 4:24, 6:4, 1 Corinthians 6:14) and most significantly in Galatians 1:1 in which Paul explicitly assigns agency to the Father. This section also calls to mind the Spirit of YHWH[33] raising the dry bones back to life in Ezekiel 37 which Paul uses to show that “the Spirit through whom the Father raised Jesus would also raise [the recipients of the epistle].”[34] The section concludes with an additional ambiguous reference, although in context it again appears to be the Spirit of the Father. The cumulative effect of this section is a clear indication that the Holy Spirit is properly said to stand in a fundamentally similar relationship with the God the Son as he does with the God the Father. “The Spirit of Christ is the same as the Spirit of God.”[35] Because of this clear indication that the Holy Spirit is both “of Christ” and “of God (the Father)” I cannot affirm with the East that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. It seems to me that every indication that we have in the Scriptures is that the relationship between the Father and the Spirit is somehow shared with the Son.

[22] Dennis Ngien, Apologetic for Filioque in Medieval Theology (Bletchley: Paternoster, 2005), 25-50.
[23]. Ibid, 76-114.
[24] Guretzki, Karl Barth on the Filioque, 2009.
[25] Siecienski, The Filioque, 2010, 174-177.
[26] Augustine is a fair representative example. “The question of the the relation of the opera ad extra Trinitatis to the opera ad intra Trinitatis is resolved in Augustine by reasoning a posteriori from a mission in time to an affirmation of a procession in eternity.” – Dennis Ngien, Apologetic for Filioque in Medieval Theology, 2005, 13.
[27] I would argue that the two can never conflict, although there is an infinite gap between what has been revealed economically and what is true ontologically
[28] I take the majority of instances of the word “God” when not explicitly indicative the Son or Spirit to be the Father.
[29] While it is not particularly significant to my argument disagree with the ESV’s indication that the first instance of “Spirit” in this passage is a reference to the Holy Spirit. Rather, I would prefer a reading that saw this to mean “spiritual” in opposition to “fleshly”, which is a common contrast in Pauline literature. I would maintain a similar position in verse 10
[30] Romans 8:9-11 – Emphasis mine – All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
[31] Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Pillar New Testament Commentary Series (Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012), 332.
[32] Ben Witherington and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 2004), 216.
[33] Although well beyond the scope of this essay, I take references to YHWH when not qualified with “Word of” or “Spirit of” to be a reference to the Father. There are some exceptions but as a general rule, especially in instances where the Spirit or Word of YHWH are seen to be independent agents in the narrative alongside YHWH himself, this seems to hold true.
[34] Craig S. Keener, Romans, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene: Cascade, 2009), 101.
[35] Witherington and Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 216.

 


 

Tony ArsenalAbout Tony Arsenal
Tony Arsenal is a Reformed historian, theologian, and teacher. He came to faith in 1998 as a teenager and studied Biblical and Theological Studies at Bethel University in Arden Hills MN. He studied at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton MA between the years of 2010 and 2013 where he received the Master of Arts in Church History, and the Master of Arts in Theology and was awarded the Baker Award for Excellence in Theological Studies.

 

EQUIPPED: Vol. 1, No. 3 – Evidence for the Resurrection

EQUIPPED_1_3 coverVol. 1, No. 3
Evidence for the Resurrection
“He was  buried and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”

Ready for an adventure? When was the last time you prayed, “Lord, make me willing to go, to serve, to do your will”?

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” –John 4:34-35

–Glen Richmond, Editor

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Per Fillium: A Biblical Alternative to the Filioque Clause and a Via Media between Rome and Constantinople: Part 1 of 6

Tony Arsenal picture for per fillum

(Originally Presented at the 2014 Meeting of the Northeast Region of the Evangelical Society)

 

Opening Remarks and Thesis

The goal of this paper is threefold. First, I will provide an overview of the historical development of the Filioque Clause and the ensuing controversy for the purpose of rooting today’s discussion within the historical context of the theological development rather than the modern state of the controversy. Second, I will demonstrate that there are significant theological problems that are a logical consequence of the use of the Filioque Clause, as well as the strict denial that is present in much of historic Eastern Orthodoxy. Finally, I will present an alternate proposal that is supported by exegetical analysis, systematic rigor, and historical precedent. After I have established these points I will provide some brief reflection on the benefits in application that my proposal may bring about.

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