Ryan Hedrich has continued his attack on the Trinity, but thankfully in doing so he now correctly identifies his present opponents as “Clarkians.” In a recent blog post where he further explores his new found belief in the ontological subordination of the Son, he writes:
Several Reformed theologians hold to the position that the “person” of the Son is generated whereas the “essence” of the Son is not.
… I imagine that these Clarkians who argue that the Son’s essence is not generated mean that the divine nature or set of attributes of the Son is not generated. In other words, the Father doesn’t “communicate” the [or a] divine nature to the Son if such implies the divinity of the Son is in some sense derived from the Father; rather, Clark (and probably these Clarkians) thinks “communicate” merely suggests that the Son has the [or a] divine nature “in common” with the Father. This would suggest that the Son may well communicate the [or a] the divine nature to the Father…
As strange as these things may sound to Ryan, had he been more of a “Clarkian,” or even a better theologian (armchair or otherwise), he would have realized that the idea of communication in Nicene orthodoxy is not a transfer of something from one person to another, much less from a superior to an inferior, rather it carries the idea of sharing something in common. As difficult as it may be for Ryan, this is why the communication of essence in one sense is perfectly acceptable, and, in another, the more common or colloquial sense, the one Ryan prefers, it is not acceptable at all. In Clark’s discussion of Hodge in his chapter on the Eternal Generation he notes that “Hodge complains that the Nicene fathers went too far when they derived the essence of the Son from that of the Father.” Clark called this “an historical mistake” and explains:
The common English usage of communication has lost the meaning of the Greek koinonia. To communicate does not mean the Father hands over or gives certain things to the Son. To communicated means to have something in common. The Father and the Son hold in common the essential characteristics of the Godhead. The English word share would be a better translation.
Of course, Hodge clearly asserts the generation of the Son, and correctly rejects the generation of the essence. His theology is impeccable. It is an historical question here, and so far as any criticism of Hodge is concerned, not a theological issue. It is therefore a matter of Hodge’s misunderstanding of the Greek term communicate. He writes: “That the essential idea [of paternity] is assumed to be the communication of the essence of the parent to his child; and therefore it is maintained the there must be a communication of the essence of the Godhead from the Father to the Son.” Note the words from and to. This suggests that the Father gives the essence to the Son. But such is not what the Greek fathers meant. Communication means that there is a quality common to the Father and the Son. (The Trinity, 113,114)
Even Wikipedia has this right and states; “Koinonia is the anglicisation of a Greek word (κοινωνία) that means communion by intimate participation …The essential meaning of the koinonia embraces concepts conveyed in the English terms community, communion, joint participation, sharing and intimacy.”
My objection to Ryan in his dogmatic rejection that the Son is autotheos, along with his insistence that if self-existence can only be predicated on the Father who then communicates His existence to the Son, is that he ends up with the from/to relationship that Hodge rightly rejects and Clark said was never intended by the Nicene fathers. While thinking he is being faithful to Nicene orthodoxy he rejects it. As Kevin Giles explains in his book, The Eternal Generation of the Son: Maintaining Orthodoxy in Trinitarian Theology:
The begetting of the Son by the Father, the creed goes on to assert, means that the Son is “God of [ek] God, Light of Light, true God of true God.” In other words, whatever the Father is, so too is the Son. Then comes the climactic statement, the Son of the basis of his begetting is “one in being [homoousios] with the Father.” T.F. Torrance says that “an absolutely fundamental step” was made in the Christian understanding of God when the words, “one in being with the Father” (homoousios to parti) were included in this creed . . . These words clearly assert that on the basis of the Son’s eternal begetting “there is no division between the being of the Son and the being of the Father, but also that there is no division between the acts of the Son and the acts of the Father.” They are one in being and power. Similarly, Carl Beckwith says that when the bishops of Nicaea included the term homoousios they not only “assert” that “the Father and Son are of the same essence” but also, “Whatever we predicated of the Father’s being or essence, so too we predicate of the Son. This means when we say the Father is almighty, we also say the Son is almighty. When we say the Father is all-powerful, good, wise and holy, we also say the Son is all-powerful, good, wise and holy.
… The Nicene bishops also in this creed confess that while the Son is fully God in all might, majesty and power “for our salvation [he] came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and became man and suffered.” The Lord of glory stooped to save. These two affirmations in this christological clause affirm both the eternal and unqualified deity of the Son and his temporal subordination for our salvation, reflecting the teaching of Philippians 2:4-11.” (119,120)
Unitarians, Arians, and assorted subordinationists are of a different opinion and think a from/to relationship is precisely what is meant and therefore affirm the ontological subordination of the Son to the Father. The problem with their interpretation is that they end up losing the Son while thinking they still have the Father when in fact they end up with neither. That’s why Unitarianism is heresy. Unitarians are going to hell. There is really no other way to say it. (more…)