I'm reading through Tozer's The Knowledge Of The Holy and I came across this quote from the Athanasian Creed:
The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, not created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son: not made nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
Although I don't think it is the creed's intent, it seems to give a heirarchy to the Trinity. Could you please help me understand this quote better?
Last Edit: Sept 19, 2008 14:24:44 GMT -5 by david76
Post by Mike Miller on Sept 21, 2008 6:01:07 GMT -5
Well, if you read the Athanasian Creed in its entirety, you'll see that it is expressly trinitarian. In fact, it's widely known as the "Trinitarian Creed" and is read in liturgical churches on "Trinitarian Sunday." Of course, I'll not try to defend the wording of the Athanasian Creed, but the language used is typical of those defending the Trinity in the first few centuries. The Nicene Creed uses similar language, but in the final form of the Nicene Creed, the words "before all ages" were added after "begotten of the Father" in order to clear up any misunderstanding that the Son was created. It is also important to understand that both the drafters of the Athanasian Creed (pretty much accepted not to be Athanasius) and the Nicene Creed were not "subordinationists." In other words, they did not believe the Son or the Spirit were not equal to the Father.
As for the terms "begotten" and "proceeding," let's be careful not to impose our 21st century understandings on them. We need to look for what they meant in the time the documents were crafted. I have found Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology helpful at this point. He says that these terms "do not mean anything more than 'relating as a Father,' and 'relating as a Son,' and 'relating as Spirit'" (p. 254, footnote 38).
Therefore, it would seem that the terminology of the Athanasian Creed is what would have been used in the fifth century to describe what we currently believe about the Trinity, namely that the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons eternally existing and relating to one another, yet coequal and of the same nature.
Post by Mike Miller on Sept 23, 2008 10:49:45 GMT -5
Just a note to clarify something from my previous post. When I mentioned "subordinationism," that refers to a belief that the members of the Trinity are not equal in nature. However, we do understand that the Son does submit to the authority of the Father, and the Spirit submits to the authority of the Father and the Son (see John 6:38 and 1 Corinthians 11:3). The three have different roles, but this does not mean that they are not euqal in substance, nature, essence, and worth. In fact, the 1 Corinthians verse cited above is used to show the relationship between husband and wife by comparing it to the relationship between the Father and the Son (as seen in Ephesians 5). The husband has authority over the wife, but they are of the very same nature and worth. This only has to do with different roles.
Anyway, just wanted to clear up any confusion. Hope I didn't muddy the waters. The Trinity is perhaps the most difficult of all Christian doctrines.