Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: Examination of the meaning of 'subjection:' in that he says that the nature of the Holy Spirit is subject to that of the Father and the Son. It is shewn that the Holy Spirit is of an equal, not inferior, rank to the Father and the Son.
§16. Examination of the meaning of subjection: in that he says that the nature of the Holy Spirit is subject to that of the Father and the Son. It is shewn that the Holy Spirit is of an equal, not inferior, rank to the Father and the Son.
Let us first, then, ascertain the meaning of this word subjection in Scripture. To whom is it applied? The Creator, honouring man in his having been made in His own image, hath placed the brute creation in subjection under his feet; as great David relating this favour (of God) exclaimed in the Psalms 109 : “He put all things,” he says, “under his feet,” and he mentions by name the creatures so subjected. There is still another meaning of subjection in Scripture. Ascribing to God Himself the cause of his success in war, the Psalmist says 110 , “He hath put peoples and nations in subjection under our feet,” and “He that putteth peoples in subjection under me.” This word is often found thus in Scripture, indicating a victory. As for the future subjection of all men to the Only-begotten, and through Him to the Father, in the passage where the Apostle with a profound wisdom speaks of the Mediator between God and man as subject to the Father, implying by that subjection of the Son who shares humanity the actual subjugation of mankind—we will not discuss it now, for it requires a full and thorough examination. But to take only the plain and unambiguous meaning of the word subjection, how can he declare the being of the Spirit to be subject to that of the Son and the Father? As the Son is subject to the Father, according to the thought of the Apostle? But in this view the Spirit is to be ranked with the Son, not below Him, seeing that both Persons are of this lower rank. This was not his meaning? How then? In the way the brute creation is subject to the rational, as in the Psalm? There is then as great a difference as is implied in the subjection of the brute creation, when compared to man. Perhaps he will reject this explanation as well. Then he will have to come to the only remaining one, that the Spirit, at first in the rebellious ranks, was afterwards forced by a superior Force to bend to a Conqueror.
Let him choose which he likes of these alternatives: whichever it is I do not see how he can avoid the inevitable crime of p. LIV blasphemy: whether he says the Spirit is subject in the manner of the brute creation, as fish and birds and sheep, to man, or were to fetch Him a captive to a superior power after the manner of a rebel. Or does he mean neither of these ways, but uses the word in a different signification altogether to the scripture meaning? What, then, is that signification? Does he lay down that we must rank Him as inferior and not as equal, because He was given by our Lord to His disciples third in order? By the same reasoning he should make the Father inferior to the Son, since the Scripture often places the name of our Lord first, and the Father Almighty second. “I and My Father,” our Lord says. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God 111 ,” and other passages innumerable which the diligent student of Scripture testimonies might collect: for instance, “there are differences of gifts, but it is the same Spirit: and there are differences of administration, but it is the same Lord: and there are differences of operations, but it is the same God.” According to this, then, let the Almighty Father, who is mentioned third, be made subject to the Son and the Spirit. However we have never yet heard of a philosophy such as this, which relegates to the category of the inferior and the dependent that which is mentioned second or third only for some particular reason of sequence: yet that is what our author wants to do, in arguing to show that the order observed in the transmission of the Persons amounts to differences of more and less in dignity and nature. In fact he rules that sequence in point of order is indicative of unlikeness of nature: whence he got this fancy, what necessity compelled him to it, is not clear. Mere numerical rank does not create a different nature: that which we would count in a number remains the same in nature whether we count it or not. Number is a mark only of the mere quantity of things: it does not place second those things only which have an inferior natural value, but it makes the sequence of the numerical objects indicated in accordance with the intention of those who are counting. Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus are three persons mentioned according to a particular intention. Does the place of Silvanus, second and after Paul, indicate that he was other than a man? Or is Timothy, because he is third, considered by the writer who so ranks him a different kind of being? Not so. Each is human both before and after this arrangement. Speech, which cannot utter the names of all three at once, mentions each separately according to an order which commends itself, but unites them by the copula, in order that the juncture of the names may show the harmonious action of the three towards one end.
This, however, does not please our new dogmatist. He opposes the arrangement of Scripture. He separates off that equality with the Father and the Son of His proper and natural rank and connexion which our Lord Himself pronounces, and numbers Him with subjects: he declares Him to be a work of both Persons 112 , of the Father, as supplying the cause of His constitution, of the Only-begotten, as of the artificer of His subsistence: and defines this as the ground of His subjection, without as yet unfolding the meaning of subjection.
Psalm viii. 6-8.LIII:110
Psalm xlvii. 3 (LXX.).LIV:111
John x. 30; 2 Cor. xiii. 13.LIV:112
he declares Him to be a work of both Persons. With regard to Gregorys own belief as to the procession of the Holy Spirit, it may be said once for all that there is hardly anything (but see p. 99, note 5) clear about it to be found in his writings. The question, in fact, remained undecided until the 9th century, the time of the schism of the East and West. But here, as in other points, Origen had approached the nearest to the teaching of the West: for he represents the procession as from Father and Son, just as often as from one Person or the other. Athanasius does certainly say that the Spirit unites the creation to the Son, and through the Son to the Father, but with him this expression is not followed up: while in the Roman Church it led to doctrine. For why does the Holy Spirit unite the creation with God continuously and perfectly? Because, to use Bossuets words, “proceeding from the Father and the Son He is their love and eternal union.” Neither Basil, nor Gregory Nazianzen, nor Chrysostom, have anything definite about the procession of the Third Person.
Next: Discussion as to the exact nature of the 'energies' which, this man declares, 'follow' the being of the Father and of the Son.
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