The Exorcist’s Author Injects Himself Into Another Horror Story

Every Halloween, he comes out of hiding:

William Peter Blatty will emerge from his burrow, the stately Bethesda home where he lives with his wife of 33 years, to watch the 7:30 p.m. showing on Halloween. Afterward he will submit to questions from audience members. Blatty will bear the cross of his mammoth success, which was fused long ago to the kitschy holiday by virtue of its terrifying imagery. Never mind, he says, that the story is more about the mystery and power of faith than the ultimate violation of a 12-year-old girl by evil forces.

“I can’t regret ‘The Exorcist,’ ” he says after a moment’s pause for his curtailed comedy career. “It’s done so much for me and for my family. And it’s given me a great deal of freedom to write what I want.”

I never liked horror movies.  Perhaps it was running poor health as a child before I moved to “where the animals are tame and the people run wild” (a horror experience of its own kind) but the idea of paying hard currency to be scared out of my wits has never appealed to me.

So I, taking in much of life in the 1970’s, missed ‘The Exorcist’.  Blatty wasn’t the only one whose career was altered by the success of the film.  Its music came from one Mike Oldfield, who came off from messing around with Kevin Ayers to become a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic.  That did have an impact on my life.  It also changed Richard Branson, whose Virgin Records was getting started and which was transformed by the success of albums such as Tubular Bells (where ‘The Exorcist’ got its music) and the incomparable Hergest Ridge.

But Blatty is involved in another horror:

Mere steps away from lunch is evidence of the fallen, in his eyes: his beloved alma mater, which he believes has drifted perilously into secularism. This month, Blatty submitted to the Vatican a petition with thousands of signatures and a 120-page institutional audit that calls for the removal of Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit designations if it does not comply with every little rule in “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” John Paul II’s constitution for affiliated colleges. The university, for its part, says the “Catholic and Jesuit identity on campus has never been stronger.”

Bill, what are you doing? people have asked him.

Bill, times change. Let it go.

Bill, why are you punishing the school you love, the school whose scholarship money rescued you from a childhood of restless poverty in New York, the school that made possible your life, that cemented your faith?

“If you truly love someone that you think needs to be in rehab, you’ll do everything you possibly can to get them into rehab,” Blatty says. The last straw, he says, was Georgetown’s invitation of Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to be a commencement speaker in May of last year. Sebelius has a record of supporting abortion rights, and abortion is the issue that really sets Blatty’s nerves on fire.

Now this is a horror story I’ve seen before.  An institution that shies away from defending its own tenets in its own institutions won’t do it with anyone else.  That’s the point where the Episcopal Church blinked re James Pike.  I hope that Blatty and his co-signers get a response.

It’s interesting that the controversial speaker was none other than Kathleen Sibelius, who now presides over the slow train wreck of the Obamacare rollout.  Had Georgetown known what was coming, it might have thought twice before inviting her.  As it is, that administrative, legal and economic bungle is now becoming a horror story that will dwarf ‘The Exorcist’ before it’s done.

My Lord and My God: Why Arianism Failed

For an introduction, explanation and links to the entire work, click here.

In the course of our discussion we have made reference to a lot of history surrounding the original Arian controversy. It took nearly a century to sort things out on this. Organisationally the Watchtower is separate from the Arian churches of long ago. To begin with there was too much time separating the two; also, the Watchtower’s Arianism is but one part of its distinctive agenda.[1] The original Arians’ objective was to take over the Christian church in its entirety rather than to found a distinctive organisation. So why did they fail in their task?

The usual Watchtower explanation of this is that Trinitarian doctrine was imposed by the state. They tell us that the emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicea, outlawed Arianism, and that was that[2], until the likes of Russell and Rutherford came along with the Watchtower. This theory is especially dear to the Watchtower because of its aversion to the state at any level. For people who don’t vote, hold public office or even pledge the flag, the state support of any doctrine — even when same state has been gone for over five hundred years – is the kiss of death; it just can’t be right to them.[3]

The problem with this idea is that it is half right. Constantine certainly did make the Nicene formula state policy during his lifetime. But the Arian controversy outlived him; moreover his descendants and successors were active participants in the dispute as much as he was, and not only on the Nicene side. The Arians, semi-Arians and other assorted doctrinalists found state sanction and support too tempting to pass up, just like everyone else. We need to take a deeper look at this issue to see just what the facts are. This is admittedly a difficult task, because the Arian controversy is one of the most complicated and difficult periods in the history of Christianity to keep up with, let alone to interpret. The following is the condensed version of this history.

Since Arius first proclaimed his denial of the deity of the Son in Alexandria, it was here that interest in the subject came up first, and also Arianism’s most important opponent – Athanasius, presbyter and later bishop, who opposed Arianism with a single minded intensity that lasted the rest of his life. It was he who helped to inspire Constantine to call the Council of Nicea in the first place, and he (along with others such as Hosius of Cordoba, in Spain) to force the church to squarely face the problem of Arianism and to do something about it. Arius was condemned at Nicea and the doctrine of the homoousious – that the Father and the Son were “of one substance” – became state supported orthodoxy. But this is where the Watchtower’s account of events begins to run out, because this was not the end of the matter, but only the beginning.

Even though the homoousious was official, it was not received everywhere with equal enthusiasm. In the western, Latin churches, it was accepted almost universally, in large measure because it squared with the Trinitarian theology first developed by Tertullian and expounded by others that had become standard in the west. In Alexandria it was also well received for the most part. But in places such as the lower Balkans, Asia Minor, Antioch and Jerusalem, it was not accepted. This was not because eastern churchmen were prepared to deny en masse the deity of Christ (a few were) but because a) the word homoousious had Monarchian connotations as a result of its use in the east previous to Nicea and b) a natural conservatism just didn’t care for the novelty of a formula set forth in a forum (a “universal” church council) which was as much a novelty as the homoousious. This dislike for the formula was used by the few real Arians (and those who wanted to use the new movement for their own political purposes, such as Eusebius of Nicomedia) to keep their cause alive for many years.

It didn’t take long for this to surface; Constantine’s first priority was unity and peace in the church, and he pardoned many of Arius’ boosters and exiled Athanasius for opposing all of this and thus creating “division.” The process of back-pedalling on the Nicene formula began in Constantine’s lifetime, and was instigated by the emperor himself.

When Constantine died in 337, the Roman Empire was divided between his three sons, Constantine II, Constans and Constantius. The first two divided the western half and promptly got into a war, which ended with Cosntantine’s death in 340 and Constans’ assuming sole control of the west. Constans was a pro-Nicene emperor in a pro-Nicene part of the empire. Unfortunately he in turn was murdered in 350; three years later the last remaining brother Constantius became sole emperor.

This was a problem for Athanasius and his Nicene friends because Constantius was opposed to the Nicene formula. Athanasius, having returned to Alexandria after Constantine’s death, was promptly exiled again until 346; Constantius exiled him again in 356. The real Arians would of course have liked to have replaced the homoousious with the formula that the Son was unlike (anomoios) the Father, but the conservative eastern churchmen were not prepared for this. Instead Constantius’ reign is punctuated by a series of councils (very much under the emperor’s supervision) where the church groped to define the relationship between the Father and the Son in any terms except the two just mentioned. The climax of this took place at Rimini in Italy, where the Son was proclaimed to be like (homoios) the Father. This was a weak as it could get; many things are “like” others in some respects but unlike in many others. Jerome wrote, “The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian.”[4] This also illustrated that Constantius has managed to bring both the eastern and western churches to heel on this issue.

When Constantius died in 361, Julian became emperor, and promptly made public the fact that he was a pagan. He recalled all of the exiles in the hope that the feuding factions of the church would destroy each other and thus the church. But they did not; without imperial interference, and with the mediating work of those who wanted to both affirm the Nicene formula and solve some of the problems that led to its widespread rejection. When Julian’s hope for discord was unrealised, he exiled Athanasius again, but the tide against Arianism in any form (which was becoming more extreme all the while) was turning.

Julian perished on the field of battle in 363; with him perished the last hope of official paganism in the Roman Empire. He was succeeded by the Nicene Christian Jovian, but only briefly; the following year the empire was divided again. Valentian I took the west; he was both of the Nicene faith and tolerant of others. His brother Valens, who ruled the east, was neither; he once again enforced the homoios against the Nicene faith. Athanasius, recalled under Jovian, was exiled again, if briefly. But the church was turning against Arianism in any form, and it was now dependent upon imperial support for its continued domination. That support perished in 378 with Valens’ death on the battlefield at Adrianople. The Nicene Gratian, who was already emperor in the west since 375, succeeded him. Gratian appointed Theodosius as emperor in the east, who called the Council of Constantinople in 381 to affirm the Nicene faith as the faith of the church.

With this Arianism was finished as part of the main body of Christianity; it persisted with barbarian groups such as the Goths and the Lombards for many years afterwards but eventually they either became Nicene themselves or were absorbed into the populations they conquered. In its day it had the support of emperors and at least the sympathy of much of the church, especially in the east where Christianity was the strongest to start with. So how did this doctrine, with so much going for it politically, fail?

To answer this question – and really to get to the main practical point of a book such as this – we need to start by looking at the main protagonist for the Nicene cause – Athanasius. His entire life was spent in defending the Nicene cause, not because it was philosophically “good and beautiful” (to use an old expression of the Greeks) but because he realised from the start that only a fully divine Saviour was capable of redeeming people from their sins and bringing them to eternal life. He himself put it this way:

For seeing that men, having rejected the contemplation of God, and with their eyes downward, as though sunk in the deep, were seeking about for God in nature and in the world of sense, feigning gods for themselves of mortal men and demons; to this end the loving and general Saviour of all, the Word of God, takes to Himself a body, and as Man walks among men and meets the senses of all men half-way, to the end, I say, that they who think that God is corporeal may from what the Lord effects by His body perceive the truth, and through Him recognise the Father.[5]

But is it really necessary for Jesus to be God in order for him to save people? Watchower theology tells us that Jesus was a perfect ransom for the sins of mankind; his work on the torture stake was precisely enough to redeem the sins of people, both past and present. Once this ransom was paid, the sin problem was solved; the perfect man had come, the ransom was paid without need of “change” if you please. Today millions of people in the Watchtower believe this for their eternity. Why couldn’t Arius and his friends, with the frequent backing of the government, convince the world of this so many years ago, before the Nicene faith became so rooted in Christian belief that it was necessary to go off and form a well disciplined cult such as the Watchtower to perpetuate such beliefs? And is this correct in any case? We now pose two crucial questions to try and sort this out.

Why Should God Care About Us?

When you engage people to talk about such things as God, the afterlife and other related subjects, one of the amazing assumptions that frequently surfaces is that God will simply save everyone just because he could not bear to see anyone go to Hell, because everyone is good, or whatever reason they might want. The underlying assumption of this is that God has some kind of obligation to “do the right thing” in the eyes of man, and that this binds him.

One of the real achievements of the philosophers is to put this issue into focus. They told us that God is uncreated, that his existence is entirely self sufficient, that he is eternal, that he is above time, that he is entirely different from his creation, that he does not change, and so on. All of these concepts are Biblical. Where one main divergence comes is in how God relates to his creation. As we have noted, one of the underlying assumptions of the Bible is that God takes an interest in the affairs of people and that he intervenes on our behalf in many different ways, whether it is in delivering the Israelites out of Egypt, giving them the Law, sending them the prophets, and of course in the fullness of time sending Jesus Christ.

The philosophers, on the other hand, saw no good reason why God should be involved in the creation, let alone in the affairs of people. He does not need this creation to exist, or to add anything to his own existence, or for any other reason. If we do not assume that the creation is eternal, then God had to stop what he was being to accomplish this; this implies change, which God does not do. More change comes if he decides to actually intervene in the affairs of people, or to alter the course of creation, or whatever. There is simply no compelling reason here why God should be involved in the creation. People who have not thought this out have no real basis to show why God should save them or do anything else. They simply assume that, because they are, God should do something about it. It is amusing to see people who on the one hand laugh at the idea that people believed that the earth was at the centre of the universe and on the other seriously think that God is under some kind of obligation to help them just because they are human and “deserve” it. If there is any “centre” of this universe it is God himself, not us.

People in the Watchtower like to use phrases such as “God-dishonouring[6]” to describe the doctrine of the Trinity, but the basic truth is that any contact that God has with his creation is “God-dishonouring” especially if we restrict God to be the Father. Under this scenario any time God steps out of his eternal, timeless, self-sufficient existence he is degrading himself. Inserting the “perfect man” as the Watchtower does doesn’t really solve the problem because the perfect man is in reality as much a part of the creation as anything else; God doesn’t have any reason to have to do with the perfect man than with anyone else. According to Arian theology, the perfect man appeared at a definite time just as anything else did. So the existence of this “perfect man” doesn’t help our problems at all; he just adds to the confusion.

The deists, some of whom helped to found the American republic, picked up on this and posited that God simply put the creation out to run by itself without divine intervention. But the Bible does not teach this; as we have noted, the Bible tells us that God is certainly interested in the course of his creation in general and in us in particular. The Bible also tells us why this is so: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The whole process of God’s dealings with us are driven by love; moreover they are not out of necessity but an act of God’s free will and desire. This is the point where we come past the philosophers; they correctly discerned the nature of God, but they could not tell us that God loved us or would come and meet with us and help us.

But how can God carry this out, when he is so far above us? The answer, of course, is that God set forth a mediator, who on the one hand is really God and on the other is able to meet us poor creatures where we are. That mediator is the Son, and to follow up on the work of the Son the Spirit. Arians of all kinds immediately object and say that such a combination is in reality impossible. In doing so they basically end any worthwhile discussion of God meaningfully intervening in the affairs of the creation. Arianism is a losing proposition because, when they deny the existence of a truly divine mediator, they end any meaningful discussion of a relationship between God and his creation.

And the process of mediation started with the creation itself; this is why the Bible tells us that all things were created through the Son. This is why many of the Church Fathers tell us that it was the Son that appeared at every theophany in the Hebrew-Aramaic Scriptures. Finally of course this is why God came to become a man and to live among us, to die and rise again, to procure our salvation. All of this is possible because, at the point of negative infinity, the Father generated the Son and the Spirit, that, though God be alone, we might not. As is always the case with God, there are no accidents; things are planned before the foundation of the world, in reality in the foundation of God himself.

Our considerations of the nature of infinity and divinity have shown that we can look at both multidimensionally. This is not a defect; it makes it possible for the Son and the Spirit to interact with us while at the same time to be God. In addition to making time contact possible, it also made possible contact in the worst possible way, namely with our sin, and it is to this subject that we now turn.

How Can We Be Redeemed?

Now that we have established that a) God is not obligated to redeem us and b) God made provision in his beginning to solve the problem, we need to take a look at just how this works. This is the question of utmost importance to us because without such a solution we will never achieve eternal life; we will be consigned to eternal death, death that does not end. Here again we need to consider the Watchtower’s solution to the problem. They tell us that only a certain amount of sin needs to be redeemed, and that Jesus Christ, the perfect man, was just enough for that sin.

Such a view, however, presumes a totally inadequate concept of the problems that people have in getting from the state they are in to God. To begin with, why should the “perfect man,” created at a finite point in time as they claim he was, be a sufficient sacrifice for anything? The Law set forth an involved and specific system of sacrifices of animals and other foods for all kinds of sins that the Jews might commit. How did each of these animals, both in kind and number, be allocated for certain sins? Why not just, say, sacrifice one animal on a periodic basis and be done with it? Why was it necessary for the “perfect man” to come along and do the whole job when other created beings could have done as well?

The reason why any sacrifice is acceptable to God is because he himself said that it was. No created being, however wonderful it might be, has any value in and of itself – we refer to this as intrinsic value – and only becomes a worthy sacrifice when God himself sets a value on it. A good example of this is in the first sacrifice, that of Cain and Abel:

And Abel came to be a herder of sheep, but Cain became a cultivator of the ground. And it came about at the expiration of some time that Cain proceeded to bring some fruits of the ground as an offering of Jehovah. But as for Abel, he too brought some firstlings of his flock, even their fatty pieces. Now while Jehovah was looking with favor upon Abel and his offering, he did not look with any favor on Cain and upon his offering. (Genesis 4:2a-4)

Although there are some important symbolic considerations here, the fact remains that Jehovah designated Abel’s offerings of animals as acceptable while Cain’s offerings of grains were not. This designation was completely in Jehovah’s prerogative and the offerings themselves had no intrinsic value one way or another. If they did, then we could still make these offerings and they be effective. The Jews went through this system for many years and never really got ahead of their sins. What was and is really needed was something with some intrinsic value to be offered up and completely clear the sin problem once and for all.

That took place when Jesus Christ, as both God and man, offered himself up for the sins of the world. He had intrinsic value from the very beginning not only because he had received it from the Father but also because he was God himself. This enabled him to not only redeem the sins of the world – both present and future – but also to really go far past them. This is the point of the whole diatribe in the book of Hebrews on the subject of the old covenant and the new. In the old covenant a flawed priest offered an inadequate sacrifice for sins in a man made temple; Jesus Christ, a perfect priest, offered himself in a temple made by God. As God, both Jesus’ worth and his perfection are fully guaranteed; such could not be assured under any other circumstance.

This, however, does not explain what was obvious from the last part, i.e., how could a changeless God take on sin? When John saw Jesus coming to his baptism, he exclaimed, “The next day he (John the Baptist) beheld Jesus coming toward him, and he said: ‘See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29) Taking away that sin was the centre of Jesus’ mission; there can be no getting around this. How could God even touch the sin of the world, let alone take it away? And doesn’t this very act in a specific point of time imply change? Neither sin nor change is proper to God. How can this all take place with God involved?

Our considerations have shown that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God. They also show that they are all one. We have seen that God’s place in things is unique; there can be no other like him. “Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) The Father did not generate the Son and the Spirit to result in three gods. There can be but one divine essence, one who is the foundation of the universe. We have shown, however, that the Son is the mediator between God and his creation, that the Son is capable of being God while at the same time having the ability to accommodate both the sin of the world (in order to take it away, not to come to some kind of agreement) and interaction with us. This interaction includes his incarnation. The ability of the Son to limit himself is not only the result of his humanity, but also because of the nature of his divinity, which is as good as the Father’s but, as we have seen, not as great as the Father.

We need at last to consider another important matter: is taking away sin all there is? The idea of a perfect ransom implies this. It tells us that, once the sins are taken away, there are no more problems with God. But the Scriptures don’t support this view either, and in not doing so they add a whole new dimension to getting to God that many overlook.

Removing the sin problem is important. We don’t need to take this lightly, even though it is so easy to do in this age where the whole concept of sin is almost passé. It is not passé with God however; our sins are an obstacle we cannot ourselves surmount if we plan to be in unity with God. Sins, however, come from somewhere and are not just accidental. They are the result of acts of our will. It is reasonable to say that, if our sin alienates us from God, then the root causes in our will and nature do the same. So it is necessary to fix both if we plan to spend our eternity with God.

How did we get into this fix? The beginning of the Scriptures tell us that God set our first parents in the garden to live the kind of life with God that he had intended from the start. Our first parents responded to this by doing the one thing that God had instructed them not to do, i.e., eat of the tree of the knowledge of good an evil. This act ended their time in the garden and set them out to have to make it on their own, with all the problems and woes that come with that.

In the garden Adam and Eve were given all the provision they needed to live with and for God. They were certainly endowed with free will (they proved that the hard way) but God offered them a way to live with him. In turning this down, however, they discovered that getting back to Eden wasn’t as easy as they might have thought. Their own sin stood in the way, obviously, and their sinful propensities only made things worse. But the central problem was that, once they had walked out on God’s plan of mutual dwelling, they discovered that they lacked the capability of getting back to God by their own resources. There are several ways to explain this, but our considerations of our finite, limited nature and God’s infinite, unlimited nature show that we as creatures of semi-infinite life and finite nature simply do not have what it takes to get to God.

Now this is an awful situation: what is to be done? The solution came from God in the long successions of covenants and dispensations that are described in the Scriptures. Their object was first to establish a relationship between man and God, to form an alliance between the two, and to provide some kind of system to enable man to have the sin taken out of his life. The Hebrew-Aramaic Scriptures show a real awareness that sin just doesn’t happen. People make sinful decisions; however, at that stage of the walk between man and God, just getting the sin paid for was made the priority.

Sooner or later the whole problem of the sinful nature of man needed to be addressed. This is the point where the perfect ransom gets into trouble; we can obtain redemption for all the sins we want, but if the nature that commits them isn’t addressed, then we really haven’t solved the problem. The solution came with and by Jesus Christ, and he himself put it to Nicodemus by night: “In answer Jesus said to him: ‘Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him: ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter into the womb of his mother a second him and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:3-5)

We hear people talk about being “born again” so much that it doesn’t have the impact to us that it did with Nicodemus. If we really step away from the way we have made such a revolutionary concept so conventional it hits us that Jesus’ message is simple: we need to be made into new people. “Consequently if anyone is in union with Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away, look! new things have come into existence.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We need to be recreated, and recreated by the one who created us in the first place, God himself. For us to have fellowship with God it is necessary that we be recreated with God himself living in us: Once this takes place God can live in us and we in him, and we can participate in his divinity, as man does not have the resources to be or be made into God.

It was this which Jesus prayed for: “…in order that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they may be in union with us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth.” (John 17:21) God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one because they are all God and of one essence. We too can be in union with God if God lives in us and we live in him.

Jesus himself made this possible. We said that all things that are attributed to God are a part of his being. We remember that Jesus said that he is the bread of life, the way, the truth and the life, etc. It is central to God’s perfect plan that Jesus himself in his life and very being would make this union between us and God possible.

  • Jesus was generated at negative infinity in such a way that he could accommodate us in our created state; thus, it was necessary that the Father be greater than him, but not better. This accommodation included his union with a human soul and body to be a man and ultimately to take on – and away – the sin of the world.
  • At the fullness of time, Jesus was united in a complete union with a human soul and a human body and took on our human state, with all of its limitations. He directed his divinity into the situation he was in through his authoritative teaching and through the miracles he performed during his ministry. He became living proof that it was not only possible but also desirable for God to live in man.
  • Jesus took on our sins at Calvary. He was at once a perfect high priest, the perfect sacrificial victim, and the shedder of the perfect blood that was sufficient for all sins.
  • In the power of God he rose from the dead. In doing this he not only undid Adam’s sin but also the consequence of this, namely death. He gave us the authority to become God’s children. (cf. John 1:12) He had this authority as God.
  • He returned to the Father from where he came, and will return to rule the earth as God intended it to be done in the first place.

The plan of our salvation was not an accident; it was planned from the beginning. God himself went though the whole thing rather than leaving it to a simply created surrogate. The Spirit, God’s own presence in his plan, does the follow up to this. God’s intimate participation in our redemption, made possible by the special nature of the Son and the Spirit, sets Christianity apart from any other proposed way to God because God himself is the road to himself, the only really worthy road. When Christians realised this, Arianism was doomed, and consigned to the margins of history.

[1]We spend a lot of time on the Watchtower as the chief defenders of the idea that Jesus is not God, but we should not overlook the fact that Unitarians have been doing this for a long time as well. The problem here is that Unitarians and the Watchtower may be at one on this issue but this is where it ends; beyond this we are looking at two groups which are very different in outlook. Unitarians tend to be very open and sceptical about a wide variety of issues while the Watchtower is equally dogmatic and rigid. The Unitarian denies the deity of Christ because no one in their opinion can prove it right; the JW denies same because headquarters in Brooklyn has declared that it is wrong. Such a reality speaks of an entirely different approach to belief.

[2] The Da Vinci Code sets forth the same proposition, and it has no more merit there than it does in the hands of the Watchtower.

[3]No, we’re not missing it by a thousand years; the Byzantine Empire was in fact one and the same state with the Roman Empire, despite its vastly different approach to a lot of things. It did not end until the Turks took Constantinople in 1453.

[4]Jerome, Dialogue Against the Luciferians, 19.

[5]Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 15.

[6] The concept of “God-dishonouring” is strong in Islam, too: “It does not befit the Majesty of ALLAH to take unto Himself a son.” (Qur’an, 19:35a)

The Saudi “Tipping Point” With the U.S. Is Iran

It’s finally boiled over to the point where our sycophantic media can’t ignore it:

The breach became dramatic over the past week. Last Friday, Saudi Arabia refused to take its seat on the United Nations Security Council, in what Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi intelligence chief, described as “a message for the U.S., not the U.N,” according to the Wall Street Journal. On Tuesday, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former head of Saudi intelligence, voiced “a high level of disappointment in the U.S. government’s dealings” on Syria and the Palestinian issue, in an interview with Al-Monitor.

And the problem is broad-based, too:

What should worry the Obama administration is that Saudi concern about U.S. policy in the Middle East is shared by the four other traditional U.S. allies in the region: Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. They argue (mostly privately) that Obama has shredded U.S. influence by dumping President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, backing the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, opposing the coup that toppled Morsi, vacillating in its Syria policy, and now embarking on negotiations with Iran — all without consulting close Arab allies.

The list of grievances is long.  In the case of Syria, it wasn’t Obama’s fault–liberal interventionists like Samantha Powers were itching for a fight with Assad–but because the American people, another group wearying of the current Occupant, were tired of more Middle Eastern adventures.  Other than that, everything else, like Obamacare, is now “owned” by same Occupant.

Although all of this has soured things, the one thing that has led the Saudis to make the break “cleaner” was the Occupant’s footsies with Tehran.  Evangelicals are fed a steady diet of former Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s mantra to “wipe Israel off the map”.  While I wouldn’t minimise such a threat, I wouldn’t take it at face value either.  Iran’s strategic dream is to establish hegemony over the Arabian Peninsula, as I noted many years ago:

Iran’s real objective in developing nuclear weapons is to rule both sides of the Persian Gulf, and that includes Saudi Arabia. Obtaining that would also accrue to them Mecca and Medina, which would make a Shia state the guardian of the Muslim holy sites for the first time in history. It would also give them the bargaining power to do pretty much what they wanted with the West, and that would include their objectives with the State of Israel. Calling for Israel’s destruction whips up the Arab street; getting Saudi Arabia warms the hearts of the rulers.

Middle Eastern politics is not an amateurs’ game, wasn’t in Bible times, isn’t now.  But foreign policy has never been this country’s strong suit.  When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the elites swooned because they thought we had, at last, left our boorish provincialism behind.  But that was only possible if we had left them behind.  That too, given the right circumstances, can be arranged as well.

Obamacare’s Ecommerce Chickens Come Home to Roost

And HHS Secretary Sibelius is on the hot seat:

Embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify before Congress next week about the botched rollout of ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges after rejecting GOP demands to appear this week.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee confirmed Monday night that Sebelius would meet with the committee next Wednesday.

The notice capped a day of wrangling between Sebelius and congressional Republicans who repeatedly attacked her for rejecting calls to testify at a Thursday hearing.

Let me ask a really stupid question: did anyone really expect anything different?  And if so, what planet do you live on?  Leaving aside the merits and demerits of the system, what this boils down to is an enormously complex ecommerce system, complete with the code and security complexities that go with it.

Experience teaches that ecommerce is the trickiest thing to get right on the internet, which is why companies that do it right are so successful.  A long test period and roll-out was certainly called for.

But this is what happens when Americans’ obsession with “leadership” is unaccompanied by strong administrative skills and the willingness of the “leadership” to listen to its administrators.  Barack Obama, instead of trying to use his opponents’ intransigence to make a point, should have taken a delay in the individual mandate to prevent it poisoning the 2014 election and giving his “defeated” opponents new ammunition.

A great deal of Americans’ distrust of government stems from administrative screw-ups like this.  Obama promised to make government “cool” again, but that promise too has been left unfulfilled in a big way.

I Just Can’t Trust Justin Welby

He’s made quite the splash at GAFCON II:

The Archbishop of Canterbury offered his qualified personal endorsement to Gafcon today, telling the congregation of All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi his vision for the future of the Anglican Communion was of a Bible-based church dedicated to mission and evangelism – goals shared by the Gafcon movement of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA).

While Archbishop Justin Welby stopped short of giving Gafcon his formal imprimatur, he conceded the existing instruments of communion were no longer fit for purpose in ordering the life of the Anglican world.

I can’t put my finger on it, but I can’t bring myself to trust this man.  Maybe it’s the years I’ve spent in the oil industryI think he’s trying to find a business deal between the two sides of the Anglican Communion when such is inappropriate, to say the least.  It’s like the oil company executive who’s trying to convince a state-owned monopoly to start a joint venture; not only will it violate the monopoly’s principles, but generally there are only two results: either the oil company takes over everything, or it gets taken to the cleaners (or nationalised) by the parent country.  In the more “colonial” past, the former was the usual result; since the rest of the world has “come up to speed” the latter is not unusual.

And the provinces that make up GAFCON have certainly come up to speed.

Then there’s this back-pedalling:

The archbishop also hinted the Communion may not be able to count upon the Church of England to hold the line on issues close to the heart of the Gafcon movement. Archbishop Welby recounted his strong public opposition to the British government’s same-sex marriage bill, noting it had come at a great “personal cost” to him as the culture and government were hostile to the church. However, he was silent on whether the Church of England would permit the blessing of gay civil unions.

No kidding.  The Church of England is, after all, a creature of the state.  That’s something that both Welby and his GAFCON audience ignore at their peril.

My Lord and My God: Divinity and Infinity

For an introduction, explanation and links to the entire work, click here.

Having cleared up the matter of the Son being “created” or more informatively “generated” we must turn to the problem of the Son being God and subordinate to the Father at the same time. Like the generation of the Son, this is a problem that only became a serious one with the coming of Arius.

As we have seen, ante-Nicene church fathers had no trouble envisioning the Son and the Spirit as subordinate to the Father. The reason for this is twofold. The first reason is that the Bible clearly taught this subordination. Those who weren’t bogged down in philosophy weren’t concerned with the technicalities of such a declaration; God said it, they believed it, and that settled it. Those who were concerned with philosophical niceties could console themselves with the second reason: the whole universe and everything in it was set up in a hierarchical manner; numerous philosophical schools affirmed this.

Arius, however, mindful of the philosopher’s concept of God such as we have presented earlier, couldn’t see how subordination could exist with all of this primal omni-everything, so he simply rejected the idea of the Son and Spirit being God. Having disposed of this problem, he could happily affirm the subordination of the Son because the Son, being an ordinary creature, would be subordinate to the Father like everyone else. This was one of the appeals of Arianism in its early stages; as long as the Son was important to salvation and subordinate to the Father, many couldn’t see the problem in it.

Trinitarians examined this problem at length and realised that they could agree with the Arians on one point: they couldn’t see how the Son and Spirit could be God and subordinate at the same time either. So Trinitarians, while making the usual allowances for the procession of the persons of the Trinity, basically stated that the Father, Son and Spirit were equal. They found it easier to take this position against the Arians rather than to attempt to work out a way by which the Son and Spirit could be subordinate to the Father. Put another way, faced with the choice of denying the deity of the Son versus his subordination, the Trinitarians chose to jettison subordinationism to preserve the deity of the Son and the Spirit.

This was an entirely sensible and correct choice; recognising that the Son is God is too important to the whole plan of salvation to sacrifice it for the concept of subordinationism. It also made sense in the Greek philosophical system of thought that prevailed at the time. In doing this we lose an important Biblical concept for philosophical reasons that are largely forgotten.

This is one place where Greek philosophy, which furnished Judaism and Christianity (and even Islam in the early years) with some very powerful assistance in understand the nature of God, really fell flat, where the living God of the Bible, who could feel regret and take on the sin of the world, was deprived of these freedoms for the sake of a perfectionistic concept. We need to find another vehicle to examine this subject. We could of course resort to a mystical, subjective approach to the problem, and many have, but since we have worked on an objective plane up to now, we need to stick to it.

Enter the Mathematicians

They who are of the priesthood, or of the clergy, shall not be magicians, enchanters, mathematicians, or astrologers; nor shall they make what are called amulets, which are chains for their own souls. And those who wear such, we command to be cast out of the Church.[1]

It is with a little sense of apprehension that we approach this topic in the way we do, not only because “scientific” explanations of spiritual phenomena frequently fall flat but because of people’s perceptions of math itself. Involving mathematics in a pursuit such as this conjures images of a mad Unabomber blowing up things and people for arcane reasons.

The reason why we have resorted to this, however, is rather simple: mathematics deals more informatively about the concept of infinity better than any other branch of science or art for that matter. Theologians routinely throw out such terms as “omnipotent,” “omnipresent,” “omniscient” and others about God; each of these described a quality (all of which are essentially God’s in any case) that is infinite. While theologians can set these things forth and leave them, mathematicians must actually deal with infinity, sometimes in a theoretical way, sometimes in a practical one. If we can use the concept of infinity to understand the nature of deity then we can make some more realistic assessments of the situation and hopefully understand better what we see in the Scriptures rather than throwing up our hands in confusion.

In employing mathematics to understand these things, we must be careful not to get so far into our analysis that we either lose sight of the main object or lose the comprehension of most of the people we are communicating with. Fortunately the mathematics we employ are relatively simple and, better yet, can be described with pictures and graphs. So we can proceed with some confidence that we will not lose everyone in the process.

Life in One Dimension

Let us begin by considering the one dimensional co-ordinate system shown below.


We have a line that extends from negative infinity to positive infinity. At the “centre” of this line is the origin, the point “0.” Extending to the right is the positive part of the line, divided up into spaces indicated by the tic marks. These spaces can represent any unit of time, space or whatever you might imagine: inches, feet, meters, seconds, years, etc.. For our present purpose we plan to discuss this as the time line for the entire universe so these units are units of time of whatever length you care to think of.

If we look at this we see that the origin is at a certain spot on the line. However, this is an entirely arbitrary decision. In the course of using co-ordinate systems to describe physical phenomena, people find it convenient to do something called “co-ordinate shifting,” which means moving the origin from one point to another. For example, if they are using the co-ordinate system to describe the motion of an object, and that object starts at a certain point, it makes sense to set the zero point of the co-ordinate system to the place where the object’s motion actually starts.[2]  This makes calculations easier later.

If we employ co-ordinate shifting on the time line of the universe, we can place the origin at any point we like. In fact we have been doing this all along. The Jews (and Christians for many years) defined the year “zero” at the point of creation; Christians then took up the idea of having dates from the birth of Jesus Christ, even though they didn’t hit the event accurately when they set up the “co-ordinate system” of the years. Muslims picked Mohammed’s flight from Mecca to Medina in 622 as their origin; to make matters more complicated, they adopted a lunar calendar, which means that the length of the years (the distance between the tic marks mathematically) is different. These are straightforward examples of co-ordinate shifting in time. To change from one to another can be confusing to us with all of the associations of time we have but as we see we can define a point in time in literally an infinite number of ways.

The one thing that doesn’t change, however, is that the origin – wherever we place it – is always at the centre of the co-ordinate system! The reason for this involves the nature of infinity. No matter how far to the left or the right we move the origin, it is still an infinite distance (or strictly speaking a semi-infinite distance) from the origin to infinity. No matter how far the origin goes, it never reaches the infinite point, nor gets any closer, because the remaining distance is infinite. John Newton put it very succinctly in “Amazing Grace:”

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Then when we’ve first begun.

Theologians and philosophers say that God’s existence is limitless in time; mathematicians would say that God exists from negative infinity (-∞)  to positive infinity (+∞) (cf. Ps. 90:2) and at all points in between. Thus at once we set very definable “limits” for God’s existence, yet in reality they are not limits at all.

Having set forth both the co-ordinate system and its relationship to the universe, let us make some observations based on both. The first is that there is no real proportion between anything finite and infinity. By “proportion” we generally mean division; any finite quantity divided by infinity is, in reality, zero.[3] On our co-ordinate system, this means that, no matter how long of a finite distance or time period we consider, it is basically nothing in comparison to the infinite time period God exists in. This certainly helps us in conceiving of the real nature of the proportion of God’s existence and his essential attributes as compared to ours; such a comparison is certainly Biblical.

Second, there is certainly nothing impossible about the Son and the Spirit being generated at -∞. It is as valid a point on the time line as any other. It is both this possibility and this necessity that we established in our discussion on the nature of the arche in John 1:1. In fact, we can say that -∞ is in fact the arche of our co-ordinate system; however, we could also say that +∞ is likewise an arche of our system, and that God (and only God) exists at both. Put another way, we could say that α=-∞ and ω=+∞; this is certainly correct since the Scriptures teach that God, the “Alpha and the Omega,” is at both. So we have further illustrated the nature of the arche relative to the whole co-ordinate system, and thus to the entire universe.

Using this to clarify our examination, we have said that the Father is the arche and exists from -∞ to +∞. We have also said that the Son and the Spirit were generated at -∞ and exist to +∞. In doing this we have removed the time proportion of Father, Son or Spirit relative to anything that is finite in nature. This is an essential attribute of deity. There was never a time when the Son and the Spirit did not exist, but on the other hand if we say that the Father generated the Son and the Spirit at -∞ we can maintain at the same time the priority of the Father, as we see in the Scriptures.

Turning to the creation, since it was created ex nihilo, there was a time when the creation – both material and spiritual – did not exist. Let us consider this event as our zero point, which is fine since the selection of this zero point is arbitrary. The time before this point is infinite, and the time afterwards is likewise infinite.[4]  As we said before, if we consider the position of this point relative to infinity, then its position becomes irrelevant, because any point we choose is in the centre of the co-ordinate system. This should help us in answering the question “Why did God create the heavens and the earth when he did?” because the specific time is in reality not a serious consideration relative to God. We can also say that any other finite point of time is the same distance from either infinite point; thus, time in general is not significant relative to God, as we have said before.

We now must consider the course of the universe after this event. The end of the universe and of matter is a debatable point, because we know from physics that matter (or more accurately the matter-energy continuum) cannot be created or destroyed, but only transformed. Since we have undermined the first point (it had to come from somewhere[5]), we could say that at the end of time matter would be destroyed. But the Scriptures do not necessarily teach this; the end of “things” can either be taken to be their annihilation or their transformation. But we know that spiritual beings have an eternal existence from the time of their creation forward.[6]  This leaves them, however with at best only half of the existence in time as God has and furthermore they are subjected to other limitations such as limited intelligence, lack of omnipresence and omnipotence, etc.

We have thus seen that the mathematics that we have employed are useful in quantifying (if that term can be intelligently used relative to infinite matters) the relationship between God and his creatures. We have seen that, in drawing the analogy between an infinite God and infinity as a mathematical quantity, we can understand more about what it really means for God to be infinitely anything and everything that he is. We also see that the existence of created beings cannot be compared with God except that, if they have existence at -¥, they can be said to exist in a sense half as long as God has. Our one dimensional graph – as is the case with the Greek philosophers and their Christian students – cannot explain how the Son and the Spirit can be both subordinate to God and God at the same time, so we must expand our view on this subject.

A Broader View

Let us consider the co-ordinate system as shown below.


Instead of the one-dimensional representation we have been used to up to now, we have a two dimensional representation.[7]  The following discussion could apply to co-ordinate systems of more than two dimensions but it is simpler to discuss a two-dimensional representation.[8]  We also should note that co-ordinate shifting applies to this system as it does to our one dimensional one; moreover, in addition to the translation (linear movement) of the origin we can also rotate the co-ordinate system relative to its original orientation; we also have the option of doing both. Now let is superimpose a circle in the centre of the co-ordinate system of a finite radius as shown below and consider the area contained within.


We know that the area of this circle, as long as the radius is finite, is also finite. We also know from our previous discussion that, if this area is compared with any area with a boundary at infinity, then there is no comparison; the division results in essentially zero. Our use of the term “boundary at infinity” is mathematically sensible but in reality an understatement, since there is no boundary properly at infinity. It makes no difference how far the circle (or any other shape) is extended, as long as it is finite then any comparison with (division by) infinity results in zero.

Now let us look at an area that encompasses the entire co-ordinate system.


We now have an area that is infinite; its “boundary” is at infinity at all points and angles. No matter in what direction from the origin one goes we are still within the area. If we consider the finite area of the previous graph and divide this by the infinite area of the present one, we will still obtain zero.


In this graph we see an area that takes up “half” of the co-ordinate system. It is infinite in all directions to the right of the origin. Its area is likewise infinite because it has a boundary (in this case a 180° boundary) at infinity. Moreover, if we shift the origin in either direction, or rotate the co-ordinate system, the area is still infinite, no more or less so than in the original position.


We previously set forth an area which makes a 180° fan about the origin. We should note that this angle can vary, as we see above. It is important to note, however, that if the angle is greater than zero then the area is still infinite, as the area contains a boundary at infinity. As before any finite area has no meaningful proportion to this infinite area irrespective of how large or small the angle is as long as it is non-zero.

Up to now we have gone through very quickly some very detailed mathematics about areas. It is time to apply this to the matter at hand and come to some definite conclusions.

We need to be clear from the very start that what we are dealing with here is a group of analogies. It is not our purpose to make an exact mathematical representation of the Godhead. Analogies concerning God and the Trinity have been used since the subject first came up. The advantage in using a mathematical analogy is that mathematics can be used to precisely quantify and qualify things that do not have a physical representation, and certainly spiritual things fall into that category. However, we should be aware that it is no more possible to make an exact model of the Godhead using mathematics than with anything else. We are dealing with things that are beyond finite intellectual definition.

So what are we to make of these areas? The areas represent the extent of God’s activity and being, which are both one and the same with God. For such an area to make sense for deity it must be infinite; moreover in being infinite we can draw lines within the area that are infinite, just as the one-dimensional time line is infinite. We should note that these areas are not specifically meant to deal with time progression, although one could pick one of the axes to do this.

If we consider an area, we can consider any number of lines or curves within the area, or even sub-areas within the area. These can be considered to be the various aspects of God’s being, and thus his activity. We should be careful how we delineate these because we are normally used to categorising God’s attributes — power, love, eternity, knowledge, etc. – into a few categories. But these categories reflect how we look at God. Since God is one such categorisation is for our convenience.

The voids we see in the later graphs may be more instructive. In these graphs the area under consideration is still infinite and still has a border on infinity. But there are parts that are missing. What could these parts consist of? What could be missing in God, be it Father, Son or Holy Spirit? It is neither our place nor desire to deprive God of anything, even if it were possible (which it is thankfully not.) The Scriptures, however, speak of things that indicate the existence of these blank areas; some examples are as follows:

  • The Son does not know things the Father does. (Matthew 24:36)
  • The Father has reserved certain decisions to himself. (Matthew 20:23, Matthew 26:42, John 5:30)
  • The Father is greater than the Son. (John 14:28) It is important to note here that the difference here is “greater” and not “better;” it is quantitative, not qualitative.
  • The Son was sent to take away the sins of the world, which he did. (John 1:29) How is it possible for the Son to accommodate these sins?

Such things are explained by the voids.

Let us start by stating that the Father – the arche – can be likened[9] to our graph with the entire co-ordinate system part of the shaded area. He is infinite in all respects. There is no comparison to him by any finite creature. Movement by him is meaningless – and philosophically non-existent – because he extends to all infinities completely. Beyond the Father, beyond God, a beyond cannot be said because it does not exist.

Next we may consider the Son as an infinity with a non-zero angle. He is still infinite, but not as great as the Father. Let us assume for simplicity’s sake that that angle is 180°. Strictly speaking this makes the Son “semi-infinite,” but still infinite. Under this assumption the Son is, for practical purposes, half of the Father, but it is important to note that there is in any case some kind of reasonable comparison to the Father. If we turn to comparing the Son to finite creature we discover once again that there is no comparison – no proportion – between the Son and creatures because the Son is infinite.

This then is the key to John 17:3 and indeed where our analysis reaches the critical moment. Jesus, preparing to go to the Cross for our redemption, accurately calls the Father “the only true God.” Why? Because the Father has the quality of “infinity” in all directions, while the Son (and presumably the Spirit as well) have it only in some, albeit having been generated at -∞. Jesus could look at the Father from the garden and, understanding this proportion (or something like it[10] could call the Father the only true God. On the other hand we, finite and created at a certain point in time as we are, have no proportion with either the Father, the Son, or the Spirit; they are all God in the true sense of the word. So we have established the reason why Jesus could on the one hand call the Father the only true God and himself be really God as well.

The one difficult question that comes out of this concerns the proportionality of the Son and the Spirit to the Father. We know that it is less than unity, but how much? This is a question that the Scriptures are loath to answer. Among those who maintain both the deity and the subordination of the Son and the Spirit, there is variance in this. We have seen that many ante-Nicene thinkers such as Origen were prepared to make this proportionality very small; this makes some very nervous. At this point we are in the realm of speculation, something that is very dangerous, but we need to at least hypothesise a bit about it.

If we stick to the “pie shaped” diagrams that we presented above, we said that, as long as the “angle” (which establishes the proportionality) is between 0° and 360°, then we have something reasonable, although small angles, as we have said before, make some uneasy. We should like to present an interesting alternative for consideration.


This depicts an area that encompasses the entire co-ordinate system except for a line directly to the left of the origin (the negative x-axis in Cartesian co-ordinates.) The angle is of course 360°, but we leave out the line where the angle starts and ends. This line of course has zero width as is the case with all lines; the line is depicted with additional thickness for visual purposes. Since the line has zero width it has zero area; thus, this area is the same as the one for the entire co-ordinate system. We see, however, that this area is not continuous as the previous one but has a break, a break that extends back to infinity. Such a break is referred to as a “branch cut” and is important in complex analysis.

Where We Stand

We have completed a very unusual analysis of the concept of the subordination of the Son and the Spirit within the Godhead. Our purpose is not to denigrate the Son and the Spirit but to show that their subordination, which is taught in the Scriptures, is not contradictory to their divinity. We have employed mathematics to accomplish this because it is a convenient language to do so; it contains the concept of infinity while at the same time enabling us to look at such infinity in a multi-faceted way.

The main weakness of Greek philosophy in this regard is that it looks at the unique existence of divinity in a one-dimensional way; divinity according to this model has characteristics that do not really describe the relationship amongst the Father, Son and Spirit. To make a Trinitarian concept work in this framework either involves the denial of the deity of the Son or the denial of his subordination to the Father. From a strictly Biblical view this is unacceptable, but its upholding of the divinity of the Son has outweighed this problem for many years, and certainly still does as opposed to Arianism.

The evident question now is this: what use is all of this, other than making the Arian’s life miserable? We want to turn to this subject now, while at the same time investigating the basic reason why Arianism failed in the first place and why it is not a viable system of belief now.

[1]Canon 36, Synod of Laodicea. In this case “mathematicians” are those “who hold the opinion that the celestial bodies rule the universe, and that all earthly things are ruled by their influence.” (Balsamon) Such activity presupposes that the stars, planets, etc. are living beings, a very common belief in antiquity.

[2]We should note that co-ordinate shifting in more than one dimension can involve both rotation of the co-ordinates as well as translation of the origin. However, in one dimension it should be obvious that only translation can be done.

[3]This is a simplification of how one would state this mathematically. Strictly speaking, this should be stated as


assuming x is a finite quantity.

[4]Strictly speaking, the correct term for this is “semi-infinite.” This means that something is infinite in “one direction.” With a line, it proceeds from a point to infinity in one way; with a plane, it is everything from one side of a bisecting line onward; in a three dimensional space, it is everything on one side of a bisecting plane, etc.

[5]This is a complicated point because even people who admit that the universe was created at one point in time deny the occurrence of creative miracles because they contend that matter cannot be created further. But it should be evident that, if God had the power and intelligence to create the universe in the first place, he could create other beings or matter at a later time. It should be clear, though, both that matter cannot be created by natural means and that God is capable of using pre-existent matter for his own purposes, in addition to retaining the option of a fully creative miracle.

[6]We are aware that our friends in the Watchtower teach that many beings are annihilated as opposed to receiving eternal punishment. But this does not affect our argument because at least some created beings according to their own teachings remain forever.

[7]We have elected to use a polar co-ordinate system as opposed to a Cartesian one. The reasons for our choice are rather involved but it will make some of the following discussion simpler. As was the case with the “zero” point on the one dimensional system a choice of co-ordinate systems can be made to make the solution of a given problem simpler.

[8]Three-dimensional systems are the first ones to come to mind, although mathematically any number of dimensions can be represented. The physical representation of more than three dimensions, however, becomes difficult.

[9]We choose this word very carefully; it is the same word Jesus used to compare the kingdom of Heaven to various things.

[10]This proportion manifested itself in a number of ways which we have already seen, i.e., the fact that Jesus did not know the hour of his return, that the Father’s will prevailed in the garden and on the cross, etc. The most important aspect of this concerns how the Son could take on the sins of the world; this will be dealt with later.

If You Want to be Caesar, You’ve Got to Cross the Rubicon

Even an old Democrat pro like Leon Panetta is getting discouraged with the current Occupant:

Then, to Obama. “This president — he’s extremely bright, he’s extremely able, he’s somebody who I think certainly understands the issues, asks the right questions and I think has the right instincts about what needs to be done for the country.”

Next came the “but” — without a name but with a clear message. “You have to engage in the process. This is a town where it’s not enough to feel you’ve got the right answer. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves … listening to other people, figuring out what they need … that’s what governing is all about.”

The idea that the President can simply carry out an agenda and leave the “renegades” (to use a Maoist term) behind isn’t the way our system was intended to run.  It’s more reminiscent of a parliamentary system, but our Founding Fathers didn’t set that up.  Our system, to work properly, requires a lot of horse trading.  When that doesn’t happen, things get ugly.

So, since Barack Obama doesn’t think that his Republican opponents are worth the time of day, he needs to move more decisively.  After all, this is still a country that values action, albeit not as much as before.

First, the debt ceiling crisis is entirely artificial.  He has the authority under the Fourteenth Amendment to do what he has to do to preserve the credit worthiness of the United States.  He’s playing political games when he needs to show that he’s somewhat worthy of the adulation his supporters have showered on him.  (There’s no way he can make a complete proof of that, given the impossible hype he’s received over the years).

Second, he can probably end the government shut-down by stating that, since Congress authorised all the programs, agencies, etc., then things must continue until same Congress gets around to repealing a few things.  (And, to be honest, an “all repeal” session would be an excellent thing for this over-regulated Republic).

But he, being the person he is, would rather cast himself as a victim of others than to step up and do what he ostensibly wants to do.  In a sense such decisiveness defeats the purpose of his party and his idea, a conundrum which has bedevilled the left and the Democrats for a long time.

If he did either or both of the above, I have no doubt that the Republicans would start impeachment proceedings.  But I don’t think they have the votes to make it stick, any more than back in 1998.

So, Barack Obama needs to understand that, if you want to be Caesar, you must cross the Rubicon.  If he did, we would then know a lot about what he’s made of–and his opponents as well.

Go ahead, make our day.

An Interesting (?) Exchange on Health Care

Recently a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook with the following caption: “He says Vladimir Lenin, founder of Communism in Russia, believed socialized medicine was the key to a socialist government”.

To which I added the following:

At the other end of the Soviet Union, the health care system–such as it was–was a place of corruption and inefficiency. It was widely known and practiced to bribe the doctor to get something done. Another reason why the USSR collapsed?

To which one of his left-wing friends came back as follows:

That May be what Lenin believed but it does not make it true. And There is a pesky fact which gets in the way here. Every developed OECD nation (decidedly not socialist in economic form) has a form of health care or universal insurance scheme. And a final pesky fact: Obama care is a Market based system where private insurance companies supply the insurance coverage. How is that socialist? Just curious. Don and Mr. Carson need to do a bit of reading.

And I, seldom at a loss for comeback, returned fire as follows:

No, Don doesn’t, at least not on this subject.

My statement is factual re the late years of the USSR, and you can’t deny it. Life expectancy was going in reverse, to boot, and the health care system (along with their appalling environmental record) was part of the problem.

As far as the difference between Obamacare and nationalised health care in the rest of the world, the difference is simple.

In most of the world, the minimal objective of universal health care is crappy, mediocre health care at 10% of GDP.

The end result of Obamacare (assuming the system doesn’t get completely nationalised along the way) will be crappy, mediocre healthcare at 18% of GDP. This is progress? Not only that, other systems are a lot simpler: you pay a tax, you get health care, instead of this Byzantine…system we’re getting saddled with.

Lowering the GDP portion will leave people more money to travel elsewhere when they need medical procedures in an expeditious fashion. That’s common practice in the rest of the world.

I’ve drawn some analogies between the old USSR and our “new” health care system here.  But the truth of the matter is that the “Affordable Care Act” is the worst of both worlds: it’s neither a real market solution nor a good universal coverage one.

The Easy Way Out for Frederica Mathewes-Green (and everyone else) on Gay Marriage

Her series on this is a little different:

I could sum it up: 1, I haven’t spoken out against gay marriage because I don’t see it damaging marriage any more than straight people have already done.

2, my spiritual tradition has found by experience, over millennia, that sex apart from hetero marriage damages one’s spiritual health. (Actually, a lot of world religions have observed the same.) This is just one part of a much larger process of spiritual therapy, and I don’t expect it to make sense to those outside the faith. It’s certainly not the thing I’d first want to talk about with nonbelievers. Jesus comes first. So, as far as this issue goes, I just want to live and let live.

I’ve differed with her before on issues.  In this case, however, I think her greatest fault is that she has both oversimplified and overcomplicated the issue at the same time.

Let’s start with the positive: she’s right that straights have damaged marriage in a serious way.  And her statement about sex apart from hetero marriage is a major understatement.

Having said that, let’s start with the over-complication: it seems to me that she’s written diligently and at length with the central purpose of differentiating herself from other Christians who take a more militant stance on the subject.  Sooner or later she’s going to find out what Jim Wallis did: it’s not enough to make the militants on the other side happy.  In that respect it’s an exercise in futility.

The over-simplification is that she, in common with just about everyone else in this debate, doesn’t differentiate between Christian marriage and that meted out by the state.  At this point I must plead ignorance on one point: I don’t know if either the Byzantine Empire or the Russian one (the premier Orthodox states in history) required marriages to be registered by the state.  In the West, after the Roman Empire’s collapse the Catholic Church pretty much took over the process until it was taken back from them either via the Reformation or by state action, both violent and non-violent.  Today, of course, just about everywhere Orthodoxy has a presence requires state marriage with church ceremony following.

The easy way out of this is to advocate the abolition of civil marriage.  In this way everyone can do what they either want or believe God wants them to do, and their life together is unimpinged by the shifting sands of changing family law (like this).  Frederica envisions a long process about the truth of the differences between heterosexual and homosexual relationships, and that certainly applies to ending civil marriage.  But it’s worth the effort.  Doing so up front would have taken the wind out of many sails, but our leadership is unimaginative, to say the least.

It’s interesting to note that these days the main antagonist against the LGBT community in the West (outside of Islam) is none other than Russia, Orthodoxy’s “crown jewel”.  But Frederica may regard Russia for Orthodoxy the same way that Scotland and the Scots-Irish were to Protestantism: it may be the crown jewel, but the after effects are, to say the least, unpredictable.

My Lord and My God: In the Beginning…

For an introduction, explanation and links to the entire work, click here.

We have come a long way through a complicated part of church history to stand where we do. We should note, however, that our main purpose is not a history lesson but to get at the truth of a very important part of theology, to improve our understanding of the most important subject we can, namely that of God himself.

Nevertheless, we see that this subject has been and is discussed in great detail; some reference to these discussions and their conclusions is unavoidable. Some would like for us to take a completely ahistorical approach to this problem and to cut directly to a “Biblical” solution to the problem. The immediate problem of this is that there are many “Biblical” solutions devised by people. Trinitarians, disarmed of the Johannine Comma[1], nevertheless insist that the doctrine of one God in three Persons is totally Biblical. Arians, such as those in the Watchtower, tell us that this is not the case, and that their solution is also totally “Biblical.” The record shows, however, that both sides have had recourse to two very important sources of authority in order to gain both adherents and respectability.

The first is the teaching authority of a church organisation, with or without the co-operation of the state. In the case of the Trinitarians, their first victory took place at the Council of Nicea in 325. We have seen that the church up that point had been going in such a direction, but without complete understanding of why or how. The Arian controversy forced such a question to be answered. Much later councils confirmed the Nicean formula and went further on questions such as the human and divine nature of Christ and other subjects. The effectiveness of this later activity was dependent upon both the state of the church and the support of the state.

This last “if” was of course the Arians’ opportunity; the Arians had sympathetic prelates and others in the church, they had at certain points in time the support of the state and they called councils to confirm their position. Their objective was to obtain the long-term acceptance of their doctrine; in this they failed, although certain groups of people (such as the barbarian Goths and Lombards) continued in their Arian ideas for a long time afterwards.

The Trinitarian position managed to become the generally accepted position, not only of those churches which are direct descendants of the men who met at Nicea (the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches) but also of most other Christian churches that have come after. With the advent of the Watchtower and its progeny, we have an organisation that is able to both make Arian doctrine “official” through its claimed teaching authority and to propagate it through the efforts of its members.

The second source of authority is, for want of a better word, philosophical. The Arian position rose in the first place became of a philosophical problem; Arius could not reconcile the idea of one God with Jesus being an independent yet subordinate personality, so they rejected his divinity. The Trinitarians responded that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit were equal (first implicitly, then explicitly) with the Father as one God in three Persons. This solution gave them the most Biblical solution they could find while at the same time meet the philosophical problems that they saw in the subordinationist position that was historical in the church before Nicea.

We realise, however, that philosophy has some limitations that makes it an inadequate transmitter of the Gospel. Do these limitations apply to the subject at hand? In approaching this subject, our plan is to give the “philosophical” concept of God a full hearing, to see how it can be helpful to us, and if possible to achieve a suitable union of the two, while at the same time insuring that what we end up with is Biblical. We want to start at a point where the philosophers have been helpful to us, namely in the distinction of created and uncreated beings.

Created and Uncreated

The origin and course of the universe around us is an important question and has been a point of investigation for a long time. The Bible starts with the creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) The pagans around the Jews and Christians had a plethora of stories about how the creation resulted from a wide variety of sources, usually the result of conflicts amongst the gods. The philosophers had also mused about the origin of the universe, or if it had one at all.

Once the existence (if not the identity) of a one, “universal” God was established, it became apparent that there was an important distinction between an eternal, self-existing being and a creation that always changed from one day to the next. This distinction fits well with the Biblical concept of God who brought the universe into existence through his sovereign power and intelligence, and who was and is far above this creation in his ways and mode of existence. So we have an important point of contact between the philosophers on the one hand and the Jews and Christians on the other. This point was not lost on many; Christians especially who were familiar with both worlds used it to both understand the Bible and to communicate the Gospel to those outside.

Let us begin by setting forth in a way that is both Biblical and philosophical the difference between an uncreated God and the creation and then discuss the implications of this, both in more immediate concerns and for our present subject. We forewarn the reader that we will repeat some of the previous material for clarity.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) This simple yet fundamental statement marks the beginning of the differentiation between God and the rest of what we see in the universe. The Creator is inevitably before the creation, and moreover the Creator must have a nature that is different that those things which he has brought into existence.

Uncreated Being

Let us consider first consider the characteristics of an uncreated being, in this case God himself.

Existence the Fundamental Attribute

When we speak about a person or thing, the first thing that must be true about this person or thing is that it must be; it must exist. If it does not then we cannot speak about them, except as a figment of our imagination or a theoretical postulate. Existence remains the fundamental attribute of any being.

With God (and since he is the only uncreated being, we will refer to no other) his existence is not only his most important attribute, it is his defining one. For we read, “Nevertheless, Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I am now come to the sons of Israel and I do say to them, ‘The God of your forefathers has sent me to you’, and they do say to me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?’ At this God said to Moses: ‘I am who I am.’ And he added: ‘This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13,14)[2]  Again we read, “’Abraham the father of you exulted in order that he might see the day the mine, and he saw and rejoiced.’ Said therefore the Jews toward him ‘Fifty years not yet you are having and Abraham you have seen?’ Said to them Jesus, ‘Amen amen I am saying to you, Before Abraham to become I am.’” (John 8:56-58 KIT) The Jews understood clearly that Jesus’ use of the phrase “I am” was a statement of his divinity, and they attempted to stone him as they thought his claim to be blasphemy. Although the Jews’ reaction was wrong, they were correct in their understanding of Jesus’ statement.

So therefore we can say that a fitting name or title for God is “He who is” because he is his existence. This leads to some important conclusions.

God is Eternal

Since God’s existence is his all in all, so to speak, it makes sense that such an existence be eternal, otherwise it could not be fundamental. “Before the mountains themselves were born or you proceeded to bring forth as with labor pains the earth and the productive land, from even time indefinite to time indefinite you are God.” (Psalms 90:2) We cannot properly speak of a beginning or an end of God; in fact, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says Jehovah God, “who is, and who was, and who is coming, the Almighty.’” (Revelation 1:8), and again “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)

God is Above Time

Since God existence is both fundamental and eternal, it follows that God is above time, that is to say he does not experience the passage of time. It is really meaningless to say that he is at one point in time or another. So we say that he is at all points at once, because he not only comprehends the finite points he comprehends the infinite ones as well. In describing this we are attempting to tell about something that is above telling; so, we can boldly say that the Scriptures are making an understatement when they say “For a thousand years are in your eyes but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch during the night.” (Psalms 90:4)

God Sees All Things in One Vision

A necessary corollary of the last point is that God sees all things in one vision. When we look around us, we can only see and experience one moment at a time. With God, however, since time essentially means nothing with God, all things are seen with one vision. This is an important point because, although we say that God has foreknowledge of all events or induces predestination, in reality all knowledge in God is in his eternal present.

God’s Attributes are Essential

Since being is God’s all in all, so to speak, we can also say that any attribute or characteristic of God is essential to him. Usually, when we say that something is essential, we say that it is necessary and without it something cannot exist. This is certainly the case with God’s attributes but in reality it goes deeper than this with God, because all of God’s attributes are a part of his very being. For example, when “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6), he is not only telling the disciples how to get to heaven; he is making a very important theological statement, because not only does he have the way, the truth, and the life, he is all of these things.[3]

God’s Existence is Independent

Since he is uncreated, God’s existence cannot be dependent upon anyone else or anything else. Job was reminded of this: “Gird up your loins, please, like an able-bodied man; and let me question you, and you inform me. Where did you happen to be when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you do know understanding. Who set its measurements, in case you know, or who stretched out upon it a measuring line? Into what have its socket pedestals been sunk down, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars joyfully cried out together and all the sons of God began shouting in applause?” (Job 38:3-7)

God is Changeless

Since God is independent of time, it makes sense that God does not change, since change requires the passage of time. Moreover change implies either an improvement or a deterioration; since he is perfect, neither one of these can take place. So neither can he change. The Bible tells us that “God is not a man that he should tell lies, nor a son of mankind that he should feel regret. Has he himself said it and will he not do it, and has he spoken and will he not carry it out?” (Numbers 23:19), and “And besides, the Excellency of Israel will not prove false, and He will not feel regrets, for He is not an earthling man so as to feel regrets.” (1 Samuel 15:29), and again, “Jehovah has sworn (and he will feel no regret): “You are a priest to time indefinite, according to the manner of Melchizedek.” (Psalms 110:4), and once more “For I am Jehovah; I have not changed. And you are sons of Jacob; you have not come to your finish.” (Malachi 3:6), and “Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights, and with him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow.” (James 1:17)

Created Beings

Now we need to turn to created beings, which include everything in the universe apart from God.

Existence is Dependent

Since created beings did not bring themselves in to existence, their being is dependent upon an outside agent. Therefore, although existence is the most important aspect of a created being (because if one doesn’t exist, it isn’t a being in the first place) it is not the defining attribute as it is with God.

Characteristics are Composite in Nature

Since the existence of created beings is not as it is with God, their attributes are not either.  Created beings are composite in nature; they lack the simplicity of uncreated God, and thus their attributes and indeed the structure of their beings, although working together is still made up of “pieces” of various kinds, which can vary in their makeup.  These pieces are also subject to variation with time and circumstance as well.[4]

Created Beings are Subject to Time

Created beings live or exist in time. They only know one moment as the present, i.e., the moment that they are in. All other points in time are either past or future, and are in reality out of our control. The Bible is replete with references to the shortness of life, such as “…whereas you do not know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing.” (James 4:14) This also is a part of being subject to time. To live in the present is to live in a period of time that in reality infinitely small; even if all of the presents are put together, the total span of life is very short. However, even if we consider inanimate objects, their total span of existence is very short if we compare it to the existence of God.

Created Beings Have a Starting Point of Existence

This follows from two truths: a) the previous point, and b) the fact that created beings are created, thus there was a time when they were not. It does not necessarily follow, however, that they have an end point. This depends upon the nature of the created being. If the created being is material, then it has an end point; it cannot go on forever, although its elements can be reconstituted either as matter or energy in another form. If the created being is spiritual, then it certainly can have infinitely long existence after its starting point; we can say that its life is semi-infinite, but the more common term is eternal life. Since this is only semi-infinite but not infinite, as is the case with God, then “eternity” is entirely different business with created beings than it is with God.

Created Beings are subject to Change

Because they exist in time, created beings are subject to change; this change can either be an improvement or a deterioration. This manifests itself differently in spiritual and material beings. With material beings, the idea that they can deteriorate or improve is rather obvious; we see it all the time.

Relationship of God and His Creation

The foregoing discussion is rather abstract in its nature, and may seem far removed from anything in the Bible (the Biblical citations notwithstanding,) but there are some very important implications of the above that we need to understand.

God and His Creation are Unlike in Nature

We see rather clearly that God and his creation are unlike in their nature. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9), and “But will God truly dwell with mankind on earth? Look! Heaven, yes the heaven of heavens themselves, cannot contain you; how much less, then, this house that I have built? “ (2 Chronicles 6:18), and again “Can you find out the deep things of God? Or can you find out to the very limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven. What can you accomplish? It is deeper than Sheol. What can you know?” (Job 11:7-8)

The Creation is Dependent Upon God

We also see that the creation, far from being a self-sustaining, self-contained business, is dependent upon God for its existence. From a human standpoint, the practical implication of this is that human beings are not in a position to place themselves at the pinnacle of everything nor to make demands of God. This was Satan’s mistake: “Son of man, lift up a dirge concerning the king of Tyre and you must say to him: ‘This is what the Lord Jehovah says: ‘You are sealing up a pattern, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. In Eden, the garden of God; you proved to be. Every precious stone was your covering, ruby, topaz and jasper; chrysolite, onyx and jade; sapphire, turquoise and emerald; and of gold was the workmanship of your settings and your sockets in you. You were the anointed cherub that is covering, and I have set you. On the holy mountain of God you proved to be. In the midst of fiery stones you walked about. You were faultless in your ways from the day of your being created until unrighteousness was found in you. Because of the abundance of your sales goods they filled the midst of you with violence, and you began to sin. And I shall put you as profane out of the mountain of God, and I shall destroy you, O cherub that is covering, from the midst of the fiery stones.’“ (Ezekiel 28:12-16)

A Distinction with a Difference

We have set forth a model that is at once based on philosophical considerations and on Biblical teaching. We can see that the Creator and his creation are very much separate matters with separate attributes. The distinction between the Creator and the creation is an essential one; it separates Christianity (and Judaism for that matter) from paganism, as the distinction there is rather blurred. It gives us a very elevated view of God, which is both appropriate and correct. Moses Maimonides states this as follows:

Those who follow the Law of Moses, our Teacher, hold that the whole Universe, i.e., everything except God, has been brought by Him into existence out of non-existence. In the beginning God alone existed, and nothing else; neither angels, nor spheres, nor the things that are contained within the spheres existed. He then produced from nothing all existing things such as they are, by His will and desire…We say that God existed before the creation of the Universe, although the verb existed appears to imply the notion of time; we also believe that he existed an infinite space of time before the Universe was created…This is our first theory, and it is undoubtedly a fundamental principle of the Law of our teacher Moses; it is next in importance to the principle of God’s unity. Do not follow any other theory. Abraham, our father, was the first that taught it, after he had established it by philosophical research. He proclaimed, therefore, “the name of the Lord the God of the Universe.” (Genesis 21:33); and he had previously expressed this theory in the words, “The Possessor of heaven and earth.” (Genesis 24:22)[5]

There are many implications that this concept gives us and these can take up a lifetime to explore. There are also some difficulties that need to be resolved. Why do our prayers matter when God never changes? How does God’s knowledge affect our free will? How does God, who is above time, interact with us who are not? These are serious questions, and we may touch on some of them as we proceed, but they are not central to our present task, which is to explore the nature of the Godhead in general and the nature of the Son and the Spirit in particular.

The central problem we have here is the problem of the “creation” of the Son. Arius made a big deal of the fact that the church taught in his day that the Son was created; this was based on such Biblical passages as Proverbs 8:22 and Colossians 1:15,16. Arius was as aware as anyone of the line of reasoning about created and uncreated beings, so he concluded that, since the Son was created, he cannot be divine, and must be subject to the limitations that created beings normally are. He also concluded that there must have been a time when the Son was not, since creation is by definition ex nihilo (out of nothing.) The Watchtower has followed him in all of these respects. This is a fine piece of philosophy but is it correct?

At this point it is tempting to simply revert to our Biblical exposition earlier and state that the Bible teaches that the Son came from the Father and that he is God. Both of these assertions are correct, but they do not go into the kind of detail that we need at this point to settle the Arians on this question. We must come to some kind of explanation of how this actually works.

Out of Nothing, Out of Eternity

One question that comes to mind when reading the preceding exposition concerning created and uncreated beings is simply this: Why should there be such a distinction? Do created beings inherently have the limitations they do? Why couldn’t God create beings with characteristics such as he himself has?

The answer to this is somewhat complicated, but basically it starts with the observation that only God has existence that is independent of anything or anyone else. Every created being’s existence – whether of the original matter and energy that came into existence at the time of creation or in a form reconstituted by the action of God’s physical laws – is ultimately dependent on someone, namely God, bringing the creation into existence at some point in time. If the created being’s very existence is dependent, then everything else associated with same being is likewise both dependent and not intrinsic in the being, since existence itself came from outside. This is not the case with God, whose existence is independent on everything and everyone else.

Inherent in this line of thinking is the formal definition of creation: the bringing into existence of something out of nothing (ex nihilo.) We speak of people being “creative” and the breadth of human ingenuity at all levels never ceases to amaze but when people “create” something they have to start from something pre-existent and take a step beyond that. When God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) he started with no pre-existent materials at all; only he himself was pre-existent for the semi-infinite period of time before he brought the creation into existence.

And here we meet the first important point as regarding the Son: the Bible clearly teaches that the Son was “created” from all eternity. This means that the Son (and by extension the Spirit) are co-eternal with the Father. The Son did not thus come into existence from nothing. He was in existence before the creation was made to be through him irrespective of how far back that happy event was; it is in this light that we must understand the phrase, “first born of all creations” (Colossians 1:15) The Son is that not only in priority but in time as well; this includes all purely spiritual beings as well as corporal ones.

Based on what we have said about the creation, this puts the Son’s existence is a decidedly ambiguous position. On the one hand, we know that the Son came into existence through the agency of the Father; such an event is necessary for any kind of “Father-Son” relationship. On the other hand this happier event took place outside of time, in eternity past, so the Son was not brought out of non-existence into existence. This violates the basic definition of creation, since there is no ex nihilo event. What is to be done?

The usual answer to this question is that the Son and Spirit’s existence were not in fact made a reality by a creative act. This is based on creation as ex nihilo; since this is not the case, we need to call it something else. So Trinitarian theologians speak of such things as the “procession” of the Son from the Father and the “procession” of the Spirit from the Father or from the Father and the Son (depending on which end of the Mediterranean you find yourself on.) In doing this they place the existence of the Son and the Spirit outside of creation and in with the Father. The main problem with this is that, if we posit that the Father, Son and Spirit are all “uncreated” in the same way then sooner or later someone will get up and say that what we have in reality are three equal, separate beings and ultimately three gods. This is totally unacceptable.

We need to look at the existence of the Son and the Spirit in a different light from the uncreated Father on the one hand and the semi-infinite creation on the other. We should start with what we know rather than speculating about what we don’t. What we know is the following:

  • The Son and the Spirit were brought into existence by the act of the Father (Colossians 1:15). This is half of the definition of “creation.”
  • The coming into being of the Son and the Spirit is an event that is outside of time (Proverbs 8:22). There was not a time when they did not exist. This violates the other half of the definition of “creation.”
  • Both the Son and the Spirit are God and were intended to be such from the beginning (John 1:1). They thus have their attributes as God has them, including (as we have seen) the attribute of self-sustaining existence (John 5:26) and creative power, even though their existence is a product of the act of the Father.
  • Neither the Son nor the Spirit are intended to be separate from the Father, but one with the Father in the fullest sense of the word. (John 17:21) The Son and the Spirit are to be a part of the one God. The Son and the Spirit can participate in this unity fully because they are not subject to the limitations that we have as finite, created (in the full sense of the word) beings. Created beings, on the other hand, are separate from God in their existence, in addition to a lot of other ways as well.

We can see from this that the existence of the Son and the Spirit is certainly different from ours as created beings (in the strict sense of the word) but also not identical to the Father either. We could say for convenience that the Son and the Spirit are “created” but such would create confusion. It is probably more informative and exact to say that the Son and the Spirit are “generated” because, although their existence was the result of the act of the Father, they were generated outside of time and to remain in perfect unity with the Father.

While we are here we might as well make one important affirmation: all of the above necessitate that the Son and the Spirit are “of the same substance” (homoousios) with the Father. The idea of “substance” in God may seem strange to us but in this case it refers to the spiritual “stuff” which constitute God. The Son and the Spirit are constituted of this “stuff” as is the Father. This declaration was the main result of Nicea.


We have theologically come a long way in a very short space. We have seen that the Arian contention that the Son and the Spirit are merely created beings cannot stand. But we have also seen that it is not necessary to assert that the Son and the Spirit are uncreated in the same way as the Father is uncreated. If their generation either took place in time or resulted in beings that were separate from the Father then we would be moving down the slippery slope towards Arianism. But we are not. We will see other important reasons why the Son and the Spirit have the position that they do, but we must now turn to the other major issue that involve our blessed Saviour and the Paraclete.

[1]1 John 5:7,8, which have an insertion in to the original manuscripts that ended up in the KJV and all other translations that used the received text.

[2]The NWT’s rendition of “I am” is modified here. This was explained more fully earlier.

[3]In setting this forth, we should mention the objection that, since there is only one God, and many attributes, that these multiple attributes cannot be said to actually exist in God but are only the results of God’s actions, which in turn proceed from his essence.  John of Damascus sets forth the problem: “The Deity is simple and uncompound.  But that which is composed of many and different elements is compound.  If, then, we should speak of the qualities of being uncreated and without beginning and incorporeal and immortal and everlasting and good and creative and so forth as essential differences in the case of God, that which is composed of so many qualities will not be simple but must be compound.  But this is impious in the extreme.” (The Orthodox Faith, 1,9)  Moses Maimonides is emphatic about this: “What we have explained in the present chapter is this: that God is one in every respect, containing no plurality or any element superadded to His essence: and that the many attributes of different significations applied in Scripture to God, originate in the multitude of His actions, not in a plurality existing in His essence, and are partly employed with the object of conveying to us some notion of His perfection, in accordance with what we consider perfection, as has been explained by us.” (Guide for the Perplexed, 1,51).  The problem with this, as Thomas Aquinas points out (Disputed Questions on Truth, q. 2, a. 1) is that, in order for God to communicate to us those things that are in Him, they must be in Him to start with.  Perhaps the best way to leave this difficult problem is to say that, although we see God’s attributes as multiple, they are a) in him essentially, as we have said above and b) they are all the same in God, i.e., love, knowledge, truth are all the same in God although they are plural with us.

[4] The Scholastic term for this is that the characteristics of created beings are “accidental” as opposed to God whose characteristics are “essential” to Him.  The problem with this terminology for modern discourse is that it leads to the idea that created beings are the result of both a random process of development and a random make-up.  But created beings cannot have come into existence nor can they sustain existence unless those elements that go into their make-up are so designed that they work together for the perpetuation of the organism or thing.  This of course forms the basis for intelligent design, a further discussion of which is beyond the scope of this work.

[5]Guide for the Perplexed, II, 13