Irenaeus on Theology and Christology 5

For by means of the creation itself, the Word reveals God the Creator; and by means of the world [does He declare] the Lord the Maker of the world; and by means of the formation [of man] the Artificer who formed him; and by the Son that Father who begot the Son. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.6.6)

. . .

For the Son, being present with His own handiwork from the beginning, reveals the Father to all; to whom He wills, and when He wills, and as the Father wills. Wherefore, then, in all things, and through all things, there is one God, the Father, and one Word, and one Son, and one Spirit, and one salvation to all who believe in Him. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.6.7)

Irenaeus here has a very high Christology, but it is still subordinationist, the one God is still the Father, it is God who is the creator, and the Word reveals Gods.

Irenaeus on Theology and Christology 4

Truly, then, the Scripture declared, which says, First of all believe that there is one God, who has established all things, and completed them, and having caused that from what had no being, all things should come into existence (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.20.2)

. . .

I have also largely demonstrated, that the Word, namely the Son, was always with the Father; and that Wisdom also, which is the Spirit, was present with Him, anterior to all creation, He declares by Solomon: God by Wisdom founded the earth, and by understanding has He established the heaven. By His knowledge the depths burst forth, and the clouds dropped down the dew. Proverbs 3:19-20 And again: The Lord created me the beginning of His ways in His work: He set me up from everlasting, in the beginning, before He made the earth, before He established the depths, and before the fountains of waters gushed forth; before the mountains were made strong, and before all the hills, He brought me forth. And again: When He prepared the heaven, I was with Him, and when He established the fountains of the deep; when He made the foundations of the earth strong, I was with Him preparing [them]. I was He in whom He rejoiced, and throughout all time I was daily glad before His face, when He rejoiced at the completion of the world, and was delighted in the sons of men. Proverbs 8:27-31. There is therefore one God, who by the Word and Wisdom created and arranged all things (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.20.3–4)

. . .

Therefore the Son of the Father declares [Him] from the beginning, inasmuch as He was with the Father from the beginning (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.20.7)

As we saw in the previous post, Irenaeus sees the Father as the self-existant God, this God established all things, bringing them into existence ex-nihilo. Irenaues also says that the Son, and Spirit, was “always with the Father,” prior to all creation. The Son was with God from the beginning. So far, what Irenaeus is saying seems to be compatible with both a subordinationist theology and a trinitarian theology. The Son is with the Father “from the beginning,” meaning the beginning of creation, but not necessarily from eternity. Irenaeus’s use of Proverbs 8 seems to imply the contrary.

Irenaeus on Theology and Christology 3

For consider, all you who invent such opinions, since the Father Himself is alone called God, who has a real existence, but whom you style the Demiurge; since, moreover, the Scriptures acknowledge Him alone as God; and yet again, since the Lord confesses Him alone as His own Father, and knows no other (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 2.28.4)

Notice what Irenaeus says here, it is the Father alone (not the Father and the Son, not the Trinity) that has real existance, and who is truely “God.” This argument is against the Gnostics who argued that the Father, or God, the God of Israel, was a Demiurge.

Irenaeus on Theology and Christology 2

So then we must believe God in all things, for in all things God is true. Now that there was a Son of God, and that He existed not only before He appeared in the world, but also before the world was made, Moses, who was the first that prophesied says in Hebrew: Baresith bara Elowin basan benuam samenthares. And this, translated into our language, is: “The Son in the beginning: God established then the heaven and the earth.” This Jeremiah the prophet also testified, saying thus: Before the morning-star I begat thee: and before the sun (is) thy name; and that is, before the creation of the world; for together with the world the stars were made. And again the same says: Blessed is he who was, before he became man. Because, for God, the Son was (as) the beginning before the creation of the world (Irenaeus, Demonstration, 43)

He makes an even clearer ontological distinction a bit later:

So then the Father is Lord and the Son is Lord, and the Father is God and the Son is God; for that which is begotten of God is God. And so in the substance and power of His being there is shown forth one God; but there is also according to the economy of our redemption both Son and Father. Because to created things the Father of all is invisible and unapproachable, therefore those who are to draw near to God must have their access to the Father through the Son. (Irenaeus, Demonstration, 47)

So the Son is as the beginning of creation, in other words, he is not eternal. The Son’s begetting is not presented as being eternal, but “before” creation, which seems to put it in a sequence.


Irenaeus on Theology and Christology 1

Thus then there is shown forth One God, the Father, not made, invisible, creator of all things; above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God. And, since God  is rational, therefore by (the) Word He created the things that were made; and God is Spirit, and by (the) Spirit He adorned all things: as also the prophet says: By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and by his spirit all their power. Since then the Word establishes, that is to say, gives body and grants the reality of being, and the Spirit gives order and form to the diversity of the powers; rightly and fittingly is the Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God. Well also does Paul His apostle say: One God, the Father, who is over all and through all and in its all. For over all is the Father; and through all is the Son, for through Him all things were made by the Father; and in us all is the Spirit, who cries Abba Father, and fashions man into the likeness of God. (Irenaeus, Demonstration, 5)

There is, for Irenaues, one God: The Father, defined as the highest God, not made, invisible, and the creator of all things. This God creates by his “word,” because of his rationality (continuing the trend found in Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Tatian, of thinking of the word as a kind of attribute of God). The way this is done seems to be, in a sense, similar to the way the Logos works in Platonism in the Timeaus: The Logos gives “body”, or reality, to being. Yet over all is the Father. So far we could fit this with a fully subordinationist Christology, but it could argueably also fit with a monarchian trinitarian Christology. Either way, there is most definately a heirarchy, and the Son functions as a kind of demiurge.

An Irenaeun cosmological argument.

The cosmological argument (as well as the contingency argument) is well known, a famous version being that of Thomas Aquinas in his 5 ways.[1] The argument, broadly, relies on the necessity of a first cause, or a necessary being from which all contingent reality receives its existence, and the impossibility of an infinite causal regress (be that causal regress temporal or atemporal) or an infinite regress of contingency. Irenaeus argues, in his Against Heresies, against the Gnostic idea of a higher pleroma above the creator, which I think can be restated, bringing together different arguments in Against Heresies, as a cosmological argument for the existence of God.

Continue reading “An Irenaeun cosmological argument.”

Tertullian on Theology and Christology 8

Let Hermogenes then confess that the very Wisdom of God is declared to be born and created, for the special reason that we should not suppose that there is any other being than God alone who is unbegotten and uncreated. For if that, which from its being inherent in the Lord was of Him and in Him, was yet not without a beginning — I mean His wisdom, which was then born and created, when in the thought of God It began to assume motion for the arrangement of His creative works — how much more impossible is it that anything should have been without a beginning which was extrinsic to the Lord! But if this same Wisdom is the Word of God, in the capacity of Wisdom, and (as being He) without whom nothing was made, just as also (nothing) was set in order without Wisdom, how can it be that anything, except the Father, should be older, and on this account indeed nobler, than the Son of God, the only-begotten and first-begotten Word? (Tertullian, Hermogenes, 18)

Tertullian, as was common at this time, associates Wisdom of Proverbs 8 with the Son of God, the first-begotten Word. Tertullian is very clear that there is only one being that is unbegotten and uncreated: God; and that because of this Wisdom is born and created. This Wisdom, being created, seeing that nothing other than God is uncreated, was the beginning of creation, and this Wisdom is the Word of John’s prologue: the Son of God. This is confirmed a little later on.

They did not even mention any Matter, but (said) that Wisdom was first set up, the beginning of His ways, for His works. Proverbs 8:22-23 Then that the Word was produced, through whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made. John 1:3 Indeed, by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all their hosts by the breath of His mouth. (Tertullian, Hermogenes, 45)

Tertullian on Theology and Christology 1

As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not In substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  (Tertullian, Against Praxeus, 2)

Here Tertullian brings about the term “Trinity.” The typical trinitarian formulation is found here: one God, three persons. They are three in degree, in form, in aspect; yet one in substance, condition, and power. There is one God devided under the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It seems here that we have a solid basis for tinitarianism, however, in some following posts we will look at some clarification from Tertullian.

God as Love

1 John 4:8 (my own translation):

The one not loving does not know God, Because God is Love.

I am not alone in taking this is an ontological statement on the very essence of God; there are not many places elsewhere in scripture that make such a bold claim. There are different ways to interpret this statement, one way is to interpret it as the an eternal trinitarian love between the persons of the Trinity, this idea goes back as far as Augustine’s work on the Trinity (at least) where he says:

Continue reading “God as Love”