Archive for the ‘Filioque’ Tag

Judgment and Mercy, Part XV   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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For Trinity Sunday, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, who hast given to us, thy servants, grace,

by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity;

we beseech thee, that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith,

and evermore defend us from all adversities;

who livest and reignest, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 182

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Ezekiel 18:30-32 or Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalms 149 and 150

Ephesians 1:3-14

John 3:1-15

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Trinity Sunday is one of those feasts for which I dread writing, due to having rewritten the same post repeatedly.

I can, however, bring the readings from Ezekiel, Ephesians, and John together and weave the threads into a pattern.  The pattern is one of divine love being consistent with divine judgment and mercy.  Judgment need not occur; human repentance is one way to avoid it.  Another way of preventing judgment is direct divine action, meant to, among other goals, invite people to repent.  One may recall scenes of Jesus associating with notorious sinners in the Gospels, for example.  Furthermore, there is the matter of the Atonement.  Yet many continue to reject grace.  They condemn themselves.

The Holy Trinity is a great mystery.  The Church does not grasp this mystery, despite Ecumenical Councils and millennia of theological development.  The Eastern and Western branches continue to disagree about the filioque clause of the Nicene Creed.  Furthermore, Christological differences separate the Eastern Orthodox from the Oriental Orthodox.

The mystery will sort itself out.  We can, however, acknowledge the mystery and listen for the Holy Spirit urging us along spiritual pathways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF FOLLIOT SANDFORD PIERPOINT, ANGLICAN EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, SCOTTISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1615

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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A Glorious Mystery, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

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Trinity Sunday is the only feast on the calendar of Western Christianity solely about a doctrine.  Other feasts have events, as in the life of Jesus, attached to them.

The three persons (“masks,” literally, in Nicene terminology) of the Trinity are present in the assigned readings for this feast.

  1. Proverbs 8 offers Sophia, the divine wisdom personified as a woman.  Sophia influenced the Logos, identified as Jesus in John 1.  Portions of the text also sound as if they could refer to the Holy Spirit.  And does the Holy Spirit proceed from just the Father or from both the Father and the Son?  Trying to reason through the theology of the Holy Spirit makes my head hurt, figuratively, so I rarely delve too deeply into it.
  2. YHWH is God in Psalm 8.  God is unitary in Jewish theology.  We humans are, according to the text, literally, “a little less than the gods,” not “a little lower than the angels.”  “The gods” are members of the court of YHWH.  The Hebrew word for “gods” is elohim.
  3. Romans 5:105 mentions that the Holy Spirit does not act independently, and that it glorifies Christ.

By the way, “Holy Spirit” or “Spirit of God” is feminine in Hebrew and Arabic yet neuter in Greek.  The Holy Spirit is technically an “it,” not a “he,” in the New Testament.

My advice regarding the Trinity is to frolic in its glorious mystery, not to try to understand it.  One cannot understand the Trinity.  Attempts to do so have frequently yielded or reinforced heresies.  I try not to commit any of these.

How can God simultaneously be on the Earth, getting baptized, in Heaven, and descending from Heaven?  That is a mystery.  We can accept the findings of early Ecumenical Councils Nicea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, et cetera) while bowing in humility before God, who loves us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF FOLLIOT SANDFORD PIERPOINT, ANGLICAN EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, SCOTTISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1615

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/03/10/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-c-humes/

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A Glorious Mystery, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Zephaniah 3:14-20

Luke 1:67-80

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 1:57-66

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St. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.  Perhaps one would expect the pericope from the Hebrew Bible to be a messianic prophecy, given the cluster of readings for this Sunday in Advent.  One would be mistaken.  Zephaniah wrote of a time when God would rule directly on the planet; the prophet did not write of the Messiah.  Bishop N. T. Wright picked up on God ruling directly on the planet, as in Zephaniah 3.  Wright wrote in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996) that God (YHWH), not Jesus, is the king in Biblical eschatological prophecy, even in the New Testament.

I write and think of the Trinity with all due theological caution; I prefer not to commit any of the plethora of Trinitarian heresies.  My reading of the history of Christian theology informs me that well-meaning attempts to explain the Trinity have frequently led to or bolstered heresies.  I also know that I have been guilty of entertaining notions bordering on Sabellianism, although I did not know that term when I did so.  Yes, I affirm that Jesus of Nazareth (the human being whom Roman officials executed on false allegations in 29 or 30 C.E.) was the incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity.  In my mind, “Jesus” runs together with “Second Person of the Trinity” after the beginning of the Incarnation.  Likewise, I refrain from calling the pre-Incarnation Second Person of the Trinity “Jesus” or “Christ,” due to my chronological manner of thinking.  And, when I write “God,” the meaning varies, according to context.  Sometimes I mean the Trinity.  On other occasions, I narrow to the focus to one of the three Persons (literally, “masks,” in Greek) of the Trinity, especially YHWH.  (That is mask, as in a mask a Greek actor used.)  Etymology is one issue.  How accurate Greek word choices are is another matter.  Sometimes language fails us; even our our descriptions cannot always do justice to reality.  I do not attempt to explain the Trinity, a glorious mystery.

How can I explain the Trinity when even orthodox Trinitarian theology makes no sense?  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal, right?  Okay.  Then how can the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father or from the Father and the Son?  And does one accept or reject the filioque clause?  Orthodox Trinitarian theology, established by a series of Ecumenical Councils, is as close to the Trinitarian reality as one can get in this life.  Nevertheless, The confusion that results from following orthodox Trinitarian theology proves that one should accept the glorious mystery, refrain from overthinking it, and revel in that mystery.  The beautiful reading from Philippians provides some advice for this revelry:

  1. “Let your tolerance be evident to everyone.”
  2. Do not worry; trust in God.
  3. “Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honor, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise.”

The context for this counsel is Christian community, of course.

The translation is The Jerusalem Bible (1966).

May we, in the words of the Larger Westminster Catechism,

glorify God, and fully…enjoy Him forever.

The details of Trinitarian theology, Trinitarian reality, and Messianic prophecy will tend to themselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF FOLLIOT SANDFORD PIERPOINT, ANGLICAN EDUCATOR, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, SCOTTISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1615

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/10/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-humes/

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A Glorious Mystery, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Symbol of the Holy Trinity

Image in the Public Domain

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For Trinity Sunday, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and giver of the Holy Spirit.

Keep us, we pray thee, steadfast before the great mystery of thy being,

and in faith which acknowledges thee to be the one eternal God.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Isaiah 6:1-8

1 Peter 1:10-21

John 4:7-24

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The doctrine of the Trinity, as we know it, is the result of centuries of debates and numerous ecumenical councils.  Although the word “Trinity” never occurs in the New Testament, that portion of the Bible mentions the Father (YHWH), the Son (incarnated as Jesus of Nazareth), and the Holy Spirit many times.  Some passages contradict subsequent Church doctrine.  In Pauline writings and the Gospel of John, for example, the Son is subordinate to the Father.  Furthermore, in those same epistles, the Son and the Spirit are interchangeable sometimes.  And the filoque question remains current.

The nature of God is a mystery no human being can fully solve.  So be it.  The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity is the best answer in human religion.  So be it.  My Western tradition tries to explain too much; it should frolic in glorious mysteries more often.  The ultimate nature of God is one of those glorious mysteries.  So be it.

The doctrine of the Trinity invites us to give up trying to explain the nature of God and to focus instead on relating to God.  The creation, Father Robert Farrar Capon wrote in The Third Peacock, resulted from a “Trinitarian bash.”  We should, in the words of the Westminster Catechisms, glorify and fully enjoy God forever.  Love and enjoyment do not require full understanding, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 29, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Authority and Grace   1 comment

St. Paul by Theophanes the Cretan

Above:  Icon of St. Paul, by Theophanes the Cretan

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 16:1-19 (Monday)

Numbers 16:20-35 (Tuesday)

Micah 4:8-13 (Wednesday)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:7-17 (Monday)

Acts 28:23-31 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)

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But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

The spirit of the LORD shall alight upon him:

A spirit of wisdom and insight,

A spirit of counsel and valor,

A spirit of devotion and reverence for the LORD.

He shall sense the truth by his reverence for the LORD:

He shall not judge by what his eyes behold,

Nor decide by what his ears perceive.

Thus he shall judge the poor with equity

And decide with justice for the lowly of the land.

He shall strike down a land with the rod of his mouth

And slay the wicked with the breath of his lips.

Justice shall be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his waist.

The wolf shall lay down with the lamb,

The leopard lie down with the kid;

The calf, the beast of prey, and the fatling together,

With a little boy to herd them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

Their young shall lie down together;

And the lion, like the ox, shall eat straw.

A babe shall play

Over a viper’s hole,

And an infant pass his hand

Over an adder’s den.

In all of My sacred mount

Nothing evil or vile shall be done;

For the land shall be filled with devotion to the LORD

As water covers the sea.

–Isaiah 11:1-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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In the Torah Moses was God’s choice to lead the Hebrews for many years.  To oppose Moses, therefore, was to sin, according to that extended narrative, as it has come down to us in its final form.  Disobedience to the principles of the Law of Moses, according to the theology of subsequent biblical books, led to the destruction of two Hebrews kingdoms.  Yet, texts indicated, restoration and good times would follow the Babylonian Exile.

The theology of obeying religious leaders, which occurs in Hebrews 13, meshes well with the composite pericope from Numbers 16.  The historical context of Christian calls to obey approved religious leaders, present in the Bible as well as in early Christian writings from subsequent centuries, occurred in the context of doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not fall from Heaven or appear magically, fully formed.  No, human beings debated them and sometimes even fought (literally) over them.  Orthodoxy, as approved church leaders have defined it, has changed over time.  For example, Origen (185-254 C.E.) was orthodox by most of the standards of his time.  Yet he became a heretic ex post facto and postmortem because the First Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.) contradicted elements of his Trinitarian theology.

Throughout the Christian past orthodox leaders have disagreed with each other and with those they have labeled heretics (often accurately) in real time.  This raises a legitimate question:  Whom is one supposed to regard as authoritative.  This is an old problem.  The ultimate answer has ways been God, but even heretics have tended to agree with that answer.  Early Christianity was quite diverse–more so than historians of Christianity understood for centuries.  How was one supposed to avoid following a false teacher?  St. Paul the Apostle understood the answer as being to listen to him and his associates.  Apostolic succession was another way of establishing orthodox credentials.  There were always critics of orthodox leaders (who were no less imperfect than heretics), as there had been of Jesus and St. John the Baptist before them.

The question of who speaks for God remains a difficult one much of the time.  I think, for example, that I am generally on the right path theologically, but I know people who disagree with that opinion strongly.  My best answer to the difficult question is to evaluate people and their messages according to certain criteria, such as the following:

  1. Do they teach and practice love of others, focusing on the building up of community without sacrificing the individual to the collective?
  2. Do they teach and practice respecting the image of God in their fellow human beings, even while allowing for the reality of difficult moral quandaries relative to that issue?
  3. Do they focus on the lived example of Jesus, leading people to God via him, instead of focusing on any human personality, especially that of a living person?
  4. Do they teach and practice compassion, as opposed to legalism?

Salvation, which is for both the community and the individual, is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.  That grace demands much of its recipients.  Go, take up your cross and follow Jesus, it says.  Share your blessings and take risks for the glory of God and the benefit of others, it requires.  Fortunately, it does not command that I have an answer for the question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or just from the Father.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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We Are All Heretics (And Many of Us Are Also Orthodox)   1 comment

Episcopal

Above:  Part of the Nicene Creed, According to The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Below:  Part of the Nicene Creed, According to The Orthodox Study Bible (2008)

Eastern Orthodox

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Great indeed, we confess is the mystery of our religion:

He was manifested in the flesh,

vindicated in the Spirit,

seen by angels,

preached among the nations,

believed on in the world,

taken up in glory.

–1 Timothy 3:16, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Recently I completed the viewing of The Teaching Company’s 2008 thirty-six-part course, The History of Christian Theology.  The professor, Dr. Phillip Cary, of Eastern University, did an excellent job.  He was very well-informed.  He also expressed his opinions, labeling them as such.  I noticed that I disagreed with some of his subjective points.  That, however, did (and does) not bother me, for I never agree with anyone on everything;  I think too much to do that.

The bottom line regarding that course is that I look forward to watching it again and picking up details I missed the first time.  Cary is a skilled academic and an engaging speaker, one whom I like to watch.  I am, in fact, working my way through his 2004 course, Luther:  Gospel, Law, and Reformation.  Cary, a scholar of St. Augustine of Hippo, possesses an impressive grasp of comparative Christian theology.

I have spent time pondering the history of Christian theology regarding a series of disputed points and widely agreed-upon ones.  Hence topics ranging from imputed grace to baptismal regeneration to filoque (“…and the Son”) to details of Incarnational theology have been dancing vigorously upon my neurons.  (Please, O reader, do not tell the Free Lutherans that theological matters have been dancing inside my head; they would disapprove of the metaphor.)  I tell you, O reader, such material has been doing the Charleston and the Jitterbug upstairs.  (I am devout and punchy simultaneously.)

My standard of theological orthodoxy is God.  By that standard all of us are, to some extent, heretics.  I stand with the Eastern Orthodox on various points, including the insistence that we ought not to try to explain too much about certain points, such as some aspects of the Atonement.  Attempting to explain too much opens the door to heresy (as in trying to make sense of every detail of the Trinity) and minimizes the beauty of divine mystery.

Yet there is heresy and there is heresy.  Whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father or from the Father and the Son, for example, is a minor point.  One of those positions is erroneous.  I do not know or care which is correct.  My brain, however, is accustomed to prompting my mouth to say

and the Son

reflexively.  Crucial, however, are other points, such as affirming the Incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth.  A great and magnificent mystery surrounds that theological reality.  I would not have it any other way.

Regardless of how orthodox we are relative to God, we are all somewhat heretical.  That is unavoidable.  Yet, as Martin Luther understood well, we stand on the sure promises of Christ, which we have no right to disbelieve and in which we must trust faithfully if they are to benefit us.  Those promises, I argue, deal with matters weightier than filoque.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT KUNTSEVYCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SIMEON, ANGLICAN PRIEST