Response To Jason Dulle's
"Avoiding The Achilles Heel Of Modalistic Monarchianism"
Dr. William B. Chalfant
This paper attempts to address a proper understanding of the correct placement and application of the distinctions made in Scripture between the Father and the Son, and how this affects oneness theology and hermeneutics. In addition, it seeks to point out an "achilles heel" of modalistic monarchianism in that it allegedly "ignores" distinctions between the Father and the Son. My response will try to show that there is no "achilles heel" as outlined by Jason Dulle in this area, although extreme views of modalistic monarchianism (and modern oneness believers) might give this impression. The revelation of Jesus as "the Father" should not be discarded in order to better explain the incarnation. The revelation of Jesus as the "Father" is from God and should be properly explained to the truth seeker.
I. What Did The Ancient Modalistic Monarchians Really Believe Concerning "Distinctions" Between The Father And The Son?
A possible weakness of this paper is the evident lack of detailed historical research concerning the exact views of modalistic monarchians. It is important that we modern oneness believers not misrepresent the ancient modalistic monarchians (and dynamic monarchians), who have already been grossly misrepresented by the Catholic church fathers.
Dulle wrote in reference to the position of the ancient modalistic monarchians concerning the distinctions between the Father and the Son (although he leaves the impression in this paper that this is also the position of modern oneness Christians):(The modalistic monarchians)...maintained that Father, Son, and Spirit were three modes of the one person of God. The Modalists solved the theological problem by removing any real distinction between Father and Son; indeed, they even the removed any distinct referent to the appellations, "Father" and "Son. They argued that the distinctions were merely nominal, applicable to God in different modes, but did not indicate any real distinction of person (Dulle, q.v.).
Is it true that the modalistic monarchians "(removed) any real distinction between Father and Son", and that they had no "distinct referent" to "the appellations, 'Father' and 'Son'"? Was there supposedly "a theological problem" to be solved? Or is this just a figment of the trinitarian imagination? I do not think that history, and the reported statements and teachings of the ancient modalistic monarchians properly interpreted, shows that the modalistic monarchians "(removed) any real distinction between Father and Son", or "any distinct referrent to the appellations 'Father' and 'Son'."
Dulle wrote concerning Sabellius (180-260 AD):One Modalist, Sabellius, apparently went so far as to call God the huiopater (Son-Father).
Obviously, this is an attempt to show the extremism of this great ancient theologian. I, too, at one time thought that Sabellius himself actually used this term (huiopater, "Son-Father". Please see my study, Sabellius: His Life And Theology), but Eusebius notes in his Eccleisiastical Theology I.1,2 that Sabellius himself did not use the term huiopater, but rather it was considered by his critics to be a fair expression of the sense of his meaning. Furthermore, knowing somewhat of Sabellius' modalistic monarchian teaching, Sabellius would have only been denying any distinctions between the Son and the Father as "two divine Persons", since he held to "one divine Person" (identifying the Son with the Father insofar as divinity goes). The term used by his critics did not take into consideration the fact that Sabellius definitely considered the distinctions pertaining to the incarnation.
We Are Able To Learn From Tertullian Some Of The Distinctions Between The Father And The Son Which Were Held By The Ancient Modalistic Monarchians
Tertullian, a "renegade" and a former oneness Christian, reportedly had earlier sat under the oneness (modalistic monarchian) bishop of Rome, Eleutherus (174-189 AD) as a modalistic monarchian himself. He then apparently left the Roman church and his early Christian faith, and became involved with the Logos supporters, who held that Christ was a separate divine Person from God the Father, and finally joined the trinitarian Montanists c.199 AD. He then moved to Carthage, where he developed his doctrine of three divine Persons, and became an architect of the trinity as a Montanist. It was Montanus who emphasized the Holy Spirit as the "third person". Tertullian wrote a treatise, Against Praxeas c.213 AD, years after he became a Montanist. It was in Against Praxeas that Tertullian outlined his trinitarian model of the Godhead.
Catholic scholars proudly point to the work of the Montanist Tertullian as being a great example of their own trinitarian teaching. Ironically, a man belonging to a heretical sect, became one of the great architects of the trinity doctrine! But this is true also of other trinitarian "architects", claimed as Catholic fathers: (1) Hippolytus, possibly the first or the second "anti-pope", withdrew from the church of Rome when he could not get elected bishop of Rome, and then wrote his trinitarian treatises; (2) Justin Martyr, not seen to be in the general fellowship of the Roman church, and not in communion with any Roman bishop; (3) Origen, condemned by later Catholic councils for "heresy", and (4) Novatian, condemned as a rigorist and an "anti-pope" schismatic. The credentials of the "archetects" of the trinity are suspicious indeed. Were men such as Noetus, Praxeas, and Sabellius "heretics"? Well, then, take a look at these Catholic "fathers" used by Catholic-Protestant writers today to "justify" the "orthodoxy" of the trinitarian doctrine!
In Against Praxeas, Tertullian defines modalistic monarchianism as it was taught by a contemporary-a well known minister from Asia minor, whom Tertullian only identifies as "Praxeas" ("Busybody"). This senior minister, however, had such influence at Rome that when he visited Rome he was able to cause the presiding Roman bishop Victor to retract his letter of reconciliation which he had sent to the Montanists of Asia minor. Praxeas apparently was a participant at a church conference in Rome c.190 AD, since Tertullian bitterly names him as the individual who primarily was behind the recall of the letter of reconciliation by Victor.
The "Rule Of Faith" Was Modalistic Monarchianism In The Roman Church.
The majority of Roman Christians in the late second century and early third century, including the Roman bishop Victor and this senior minister from Asia minor ("Praxeas"), had a "rule of faith" which had maintained from the days of the apostles a strict Jewish monotheism (oneness), and Tertullian admits that they considered him and his other "Logos supporters" (a proto-"Catholic" term) to be "preachers of two gods and three gods", while the common believers (according to Tertullian himself) "take to themselves pre-eminently the credit of being worshipers of the One God" (Against Praxeas, II). The "modalistic monarchians" claimed to "maintain the Monarchy" (q.v.). In other words, the modalistic monarchians were holding on to the older "orthodox" strict monotheistic teaching on the Godhead. The "Logos supporters" at that time held to "two divine Persons", while Tertullian and the Montanists held to "three divine Persons". The Catholics were later to embrace "three divine Persons" (they early on had held to a "triad", but had not been sure about the full divinity and "equality" of the "third person"). They later defined the full divinity and equality of the "third divine Person" in their councils. Modalists simply identified the Father or the Logos as the one Spirit, depending on the circumstances in which the term was to be used.
The modalistic monarchians did not see the pre-existent (pre-incarnate) Word as being a separate divine Person. The Word, in the view of the modalists, was not a "substantive being...having a substance of his own...so that He may be regarded as an objective thing and a person" (Tertullian, q.v.). To the modalistic monarchians, the Word was spirit, God Himself speaking in a creative manner. In this manner the Word was identified with God (e.g., as in Psalms 33.6,9, which plainly shows the singular God speaking the world into existence).
Tertullian acknowledged that there was a difference of opinion among monarchians. Some of "most conceited" monarchians (patripassians) maintained that "He (God) Himself made Himself a Son to Himself". They held that "it was not difficult for God to make Himself both a Father and a Son, contrary to the condition of things among men" (Against Praxeas, X). This was the view of patripassians, but that does not mean that all monarchians or modalistic monarchians held this particular viewpoint.
Tertullian, the Montanist, however, went to the other extreme, understanding three divine "beings":
For we, who by the grace of God possess an insight into both the times and the occasions of the Sacred Writings, especially we who are followers of the Paraclete ((Montanists)), not of human teachers, do indeed definitively declare that Two Beings are God, the Father and the Son, and, with the addition of the Holy Spirit, even Three (Beings), according to the principle of the divine economy... (Against Praxeas, XIII).
Some of the early trinitarians held to two divine Persons (Father and Son), while the followers of Montanus (as Tertullian) held to three divine Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). This was a further development of trinitarian thinking, but the reader should note that the ancient Roman church did not believe more than one divine Person (oneness docctrine). The progression is from: one person (apostolic), to "two persons" (proto-Catholic), and to "three persons" (Montanist and Catholic).
Thus we have a choice of believing that an outsider such as Tertullian, who was part of the aberrant Montanist movement, was "orthodox" as opposed to the lawfully constituted bishopric of Rome, which reputedly had existed continuously since the days of Peter and Paul. Most Catholic and Protestant historians tell us that Tertullian was "orthodox" in his trinitarian teaching, while the legally elected Roman bishops (particularly Victor, Zephyrinus and Callistus) were either "unorthodox" or misrepresented. History shows otherwise.
Can We Describe Trinitarianism As A "Reaction" To The Older Monarchian Teaching?
Dulle wrote concerning his interpretation of the modalistic monarchians' "removing the distinctions between the Father and the Son" that:
Trinitarians violently reacted to this explanation because it disregarded the hundreds of distinctions we find in the NT between Father and Son. They maintained that the distinctions had to be genuine. In this, they were right. Where they were wrong was in their understanding of the nature of the distinctions. They wrongly interpreted the distinctions as eternal and personal within Gods essence, rather than temporal distinctions arising because of the incarnation.
But since the monarchian interpretation of the Godhead preceded the later trinitarian (Logos theology) interpretation, it can not be the case of "trinitarians violently (reacting)". The trinitarians introduced their theology later, and it is the false distinctions within the Godhead made by the trinitarians with their multiple "divine Persons", which caused the reaction of those who were already upholding the Monarchy of God in the lawfully constituted district of Rome, and elsewhere.
Dulle correctly points out that trinitarians "wrongly interpreted the distinctions as eternal and personal within God's essence", but can he sustain the idea that modalistic monarchians, on the other hand, failed to uphold any "temporal distinctions (between Father and Son) arising because of the incarnation"? I do not think so. Since we know that the trinitarians were wrongly upholding distinctions as being "eternal and personal within God's essence", then it behooves us to more carefully examine the position of the ancient modalistic monarchians, who allegedly, according to Dulle, failed to uphold any "temporal distinctions (between Father and Son) arising because of the incarnation". Since there is only one eternal divine Person, then it follows that any "personal" distinctions that might exist would have to exist between that one divine Person and the "human person" of the man Christ Jesus (if there indeed would be any personal distinctions since the man Jesus is the express image of God's being, Hebrews 1.3). Any distinctions would naturally have to be related to the exigencies of the incarnation itself. If the Father is indeed manifest in the flesh (the Son), then we would not expect any "personal" distinctions that are idiosyncratic. We might expect some distinctions that are idiosyncratic to the divine or to the human nature respectively. And this we see in the teaching of the modalistic monarchians.
Did Modalism Go "Wrong" In Ignoring "Distinctions" Between The Father And The Son?
Dulle contrasts the idea of personal "distinctions" between Father and Son (trinitarianism) with the idea of "no distinctions" between Father and Son (modalistic monarchianism), and, in my opinion, incorrectly concludes that both trinitarianism and modalism "went wrong". This approach is too simplistic. The trinitarians, for example, were speaking of personal distinctions within the eternal Godhead itself (as Dulle correctly acknowledges), while the modalistic monarchians were speaking against personal distinctions within the eternal Godhead (which Dulle does not seem to acknowledge).
And while the modalistic monarchians rejected distinctions of multiple divine Persons, they indeed accepted the incarnation and the distinctions evident between the divinity and the humanity of God (within and without the sphere of the activity of the incarnation). Because these "distinctions" did not match the "distinctions" put forward by the trinitarians, or are of a different character, we should not reject the modalistic monarchian approach for that reason, and claim that they made no "distinctions" at all. This gives a false impression that they incorrectly understood the incarnation, and, indeed, implies that most oneness Christians today also incorrectly teach the incarnation.
For example, Tertullian, in order to establish two divine Persons, made a distinction between "One who was invisible" and "One who was visible" (Against Praxeas, XIV, XV). There is no real personal distinction here. He thus uses the capability of God to remain invisible or to become visible (by theophany or incarnation) as a justification for establishing two beings: Father and Son:
Now, then, He must be a different Being who was seen, because of one who was seen it could not be predicated that He is invisible. It will therefore follow, that by Him who is invisible we must understand the Father in the fulness of His majesty, while we recognize the Son as visible by reason of the dispensation of His derived existence....(the modalistic monarchians) have it that the Visible and the Invisible are one and the same, just as the Father and the Son are the same...He is invisible as the Father, and visible as the Son (q.v.)
But this type of contrast in views between the trinitarian Tertullian and the modalistic monarchian do not demonstrate that the modalistic monarchians made no distinction between the Father and the Son insofar as the incarnation and the humanity of Christ are concerned. Notice that Tertullian attributes a "derived existence" to the Son (speaking of Him as a second divine Person). How can the Son be God if He has a "derived existence"? How can God be God with a "derived existence"? The only possible "derived existence" connected to the Son has to be His humanity in the incarnation. Again, we see the trinitarian doctrine floundering on incarnational error.
The modalistic monarchians, on the other hand, correctly distinguished between Father and Son in the context of the incarnation. Tertullian wrote that the modalistic monarchians actually, in his opinion, divided the Father and the Son because of the distinctions involving the incarnation:
(the modalistic monarchians) endeavor to interpret this distinction (between Father and Son) in a way which shall nevertheless tally with their own opinions: so that, all in one Person, they distinguish two, Father and Son, understanding the Son to be flesh, that is man, that is Jesus; and the Father to be spirit, that is God, that is Christ. Thus they, while contending that the Father and the Son are one and the same, do in fact begin by dividing them rather than uniting them. -Tertullian in Against Praxeas, XXVII, (q.v.)
But modalistic monarchians were merely pointing out that it was only one divine Person, who was incarnate (manifested, made known, declared) in the flesh.
Modalistic monarchians argued that Luke 1.35, which states "Therefore that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God", means "that it was the flesh that was born, (and) it must be the flesh that is the Son of God" (Against Praxeas XXVII, q.v.). Thus it is self-evident that the modalistic monarchians distinguished between the titles "Father" and "Son". It is obvious, too, that (unlike the later trinitarian Apollinaris) they considered "flesh" in this context to be referring to the genuine human being (a whole person, consisting of human body, spirit, and soul).
Tertullian's argument against the modalistic monarchian interpretation of Luke 1.35 is quite revealing. First, Tertullian says that the Virgin "conceived of the Holy Spirit" (thus contradicting himself when he said earlier that the conception was of all three Persons, since used the inclusive term of "God"). He then disputes that the term "Holy Thing" could refer to the flesh, since "the flesh is not God, so that it could not have been said concerning it". In effect, he denies that the term "Son of God" can be used of the Man Jesus. Tertulllian uses an unusual version of Psalms 87.5 to establish this falacious argument: "Since God became man in the midst of it, and established it by the will of the Father". And Tertullian asks:
Now what Divine Person was born in it? The Word, and the Spirit which became incarnate with the Word by the will of the Father. The Word therefore is incarnate; and this must be the point of our inquiry: How the Word became flesh, -whether it was by having been transfigured, as it were, in the flesh, or by having really clothed Himself in flesh. Certainly it was by a real clothing of Himself in flesh.
-Against Praxeas, XXVII (q.v.)
One might well ask concerning this convoluted argument: who is giving the proper distinction between the Father and the Son? The simple distinction concerning deity and humanity as given by the modalistic monarchian, or the confusion put forward by the Montanist Tertullian?
Tertullian admits that at least some of the modalistic monarchians (he is presumably referring to Praxeas and the Roman bishops also) made a distinction between the Son and the Father to the degree that they held that it was precisely the Son (the human being) who suffered on the cross, and the Father (the Spirit) was only "His fellow-sufferer" (Against Praxeas, XXIX,q.v.). The modalistic monarchians were making a distinction between the Father and the Son (Spirit and flesh), since the flesh was capable of suffering, while the Spirit suffered compassionately and vicariously through the Son.
Using Tertullian as a contemporary witness to the teachings of the modalistic monarchians (albeit a hostile witness), we can see that it is incorrect to assume that the modalistic monarchians made no distinctions between the Father and the Son in their model of the Godhead in relation to the incarnation.
Since the modalistic monarchians believed it was God the Father who was manifest in the flesh, and that the man Jesus was the "express image of God's being (hypostasis)" (Hebrews 1.3), and further since they they did not hold that the Father and the Son were two divine beings (persons), they saw no need to postulate personal distinctions between the Father and the Son.
It is incorrect, however, to say that they saw no distinctions between Father and Son. They did not see any personal distinctions within the realm of the Godhead, but they did see distinctions (albeit not personal) within the sphere of the incarnation.
Dulle Has Added New Terminology In His Assessment Of Ancient Modalistic Monarchianism
And The Modern-day Oneness Movement
Dulle wrote:Modalism rightly rejected an eternal and personal distinction in God's essence as does Oneness theology, but Modalism wrongly ignored the temporal distinction of identity between the Father and Son that arose in the incarnation because of the addition of humanity to God's previously unmitigated existence as exclusive deity. Whereas Trinitarianism overemphasized and misunderstood the distinctions, Modalism ignored them or explained them away. Oneness theology can rise above the errors of both positions by acknowledging the genuineness of the distinctions and find a better way of explaining the reason for their existence all the while maintaining its insistence on the uni-personal nature of God (q.v.).
By adding "new terminology" in his examination of the ancient positions of modalistic monarchianism and trinitarianism, Dulle has blurred the differences between the two theological positions.
What Does Dulle Mean By "Temporal Distinction Of Identity" Between The Father And The Son?
Dulle opines that this "temporal distinction of identity" between the Father and the Son "arose in the incarnation because of the addition of humanity to God's previously unmitigated existence as exclusive deity". In other words, when the Virgin conceived and bore a Son, God began to exist in an additional way as a genuine human being. The question is: in what manner did the modalistic monarchians fail to address this "distinction in identity", which the incarnation brought forth? Or did they fail to address it?
Perhaps Dulle should elaborate his understanding of the phrase "temporal distinction of identity". What does the term "identity" mean for Dulle in the context of the incarnation?
We know that the trinitarians did not even consider this type of a distinction at all (it is true that some trinitarians began to realize that the scriptures they had been using to make distinctions between the Father and the Son could not apply to the Godhead but rather had to be restricted to the sphere of the incarnation), since they mistakenly emphasized the distinction between two divine Persons, Father and Son (in the case of Montanists, among three divine Persons). To them the incarnation was of secondary consideration, and they mistakenly used the humanity of Christ (the sphere of the incarnation) to establish Christ as a second divine Person. The two divine Persons, Father and Son, in their view, had pre-existed alongside one another throughout the ages (I am speaking of fourth century trinitarians, after the errors of the earlier gross subordinationists were "corrected". All of the earlier ante-Nicene Catholics spoke of the creation or the generation of the Son before time, thus making Him a derived or subordinate God).
Trinitarians Used "Functions" To Describe What They Called "Personal Distinctions"
Finally, trinitarians were forced to use mere "functions" to identify the three separate "Persons" of their trinitarian model: e.g., the Father "commands", the Son "obeys", the Holy Spirit "gives understanding".
The Father would be easily able to "command", to also "obey" through the incarnation, and to "give understanding" by His Spirit.
Some taught that the Father is "He-from-whom-the others-come" as a source, and the Son and the Holy Spirit were "They-who-are-from-another", the one (the Son) by "generation", the other (the Holy Spirit) by procession (although the Catholics disputed among themselves over whether the Holy Spirit "proceeded" from two divine Persons, or from one divine Person through another divine Person). The Jesuit priest Joseph Gill (The Council Of Florence, 1959) wrote, "In the Blessed Trinity, the properties are to generate, to be generated, and to proceed". And he wrote, "...the nature, not the person of the Father, is communicated to the Son". But "properties" are not "personal" distinctions even in identity.
But one of the ancient modalistic monarchians, bishop Callistus of Rome, the first theologian to use the term prosopon ("person") (Tertullian used the Latin term persona), wrote that "the person (prosopon) of God cannot be duplicated" (Against Noetus, q.v.). In other words, Christ's person was not a "duplication" of the divine individual Person of God, but rather a manifestation of the same prosopon. He could not be a "second Person". Christ is the "Image" of God. God's Person was manifested in Christ.
Basil (b.330 AD) wrote "ousia (substance) has the same relation to hypostasis (being) as the common has to the particular...hypostasis is contemplated in the special property of the Fatherhood, Sonship, or the power to sanctify". Gregory wrote: "The proper name of the Unorginate is Father, and that of the unoriginately begotten is Son, and that of unbegottenly Proceeding or Going Forth is the Holy Spirit". To such foolish lengths these "Catholic fathers" went in order to distinguish between their mythical "three divine persons"! Notice that these are not personal distinctions, but are rather functions.
Trinitarians later realized they could no longer apply the erroneous idea of a pre-Bethlehemic "derived existence" for the Son and they concocted an "eternal generation" for the Son (Irenaeus, Origen, et al), which supposedly corrected His earlier "derived existence" in their teaching. By giving the Son a "derived existence", they, in effect, had a "subordinated Son". The trinitarians, as Dulle admits, incorrectly addressed the distinctions because of their misunderstanding that the incarnation was the only factor that produced any "distinctions" that might occur between the Father and the Son. The trinitarian error is basically an incarnational error. There would be no "trinity" if the incarnation had not been misunderstood.
But is the distinction between the Father and the Son a "temporal distinction of identity", or is it more basically a distinction of nature? If it is admitted to be "a temporal distinction of identity", can one then say that there are two "persons" (one divine and another human) of the same essence? Jesus said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10.30). He was speaking of the essence of "spirit". How can we postulate the identity of the Son as being different from that of the Father, if the Son is actually God (that is, the Father Himself) manifest in the flesh? Does the incarnation produce a new identity? Does the incarnation produce a new "person" (human or divine)?
Dulle goes on to pose a "Hegelian" solution (thesis, antithesis, synthesis) to the "contradiction" that he has posed and raised:
Whereas Trinitarianism overemphasized and misunderstood the distinctions, Modalism ignored them or explained them away. Oneness theology can rise above the errors of both positions by acknowledging the genuineness of the distinctions and find a better way of explaining the reason for their existence all the while maintaining its insistence on the uni-personal nature of God (q.v.).
But did ancient "modalism" (and by by inference, modern modalism) "ignore" (the distinctions between Father and Son) or try to (explain) them away? I do not think that Dulle has sufficiently proved this "straw man" that he has set up in order to knock it down. Let me explain further.
Hippolytus-Another Contemporary Of The Ancient Modalistic Monarchians-Bears Witness To Their Teaching:
Hippolytus (c.170-236 AD), bishop of Portus, a suburb of Rome, was a contemporary of the ancient modalistic monarchians, and claims to have personally known Sabellius (c.180-260 AD), Cleomenes, and the Roman bishops, Zephyrinus and Callistus (198-222 AD). Cleomenes was the president of the Roman Bible College, and was himself a disciple of Epigonus and Noetus of Smyrna (asiatic modalists in the vein of the high monarchian teaching of Ignatius, a disciple of the apostles, who lived c.40-115 AD), well-known modalistic monarchians, who were distinguished teachers within the Roman Christian community. With the exception of Hippolytus, who at one time was a recognized minister of the Roman district, and who apparently rejected modalism in favor of the trinitarian doctrine, all of these men were modalistic monarchians. They were all men of authority and stature in the district of Rome, while Hippolytus was someone who left the district upset because he was not elected bishop of Rome.
Hippolytus wrote a number of works, which reveal much about this period (The Refutation of All Heresies, Against All Heresies, the Philosophumena, and Against Noetus). Hippolytus has the effrontery to accuse the majority of the Roman church, as represented by two Roman bishops over a period of 24 years, of being in "heresy", because they did not agree with his own trinitarian teaching. The Bible college, supported faithfully by the Roman bishops Victor, Zephyrinus and Callistus, is "heretical", according to Hippolytus, because it supported the modalistic monarchian teaching of elders like Noetus, Epigonus, Cleomenes, and its most famous pupil, Sabellius! Since the trinitarian doctrine of Hippolytus later prevailed through the power of the Roman state and the Catholic church, we are now led to believe by Catholic-Protestant history that Hippolytus was the "saint" and the arbiter of orthodoxy, when just the opposite is true.
Hippolytus admits that he opposed the official, orthodox teachings of the Roman church and the Roman Bible college, thus convicting himself as being unorthodox. Like his contemporary Tertullian, who had left the Roman district and eventually joined the Montanists, Hippolytus was in the minority- although admittedly the interest in the trinitarian pesuasion was growing so that by 222 AD, trinitarian-leaning pastors were able to elect a trinitarian bishop following the death of Callistus.
Noetus of Smyrna Defends The Monarchy (Oneness) of God Against The Trinitarians
Noetus, like the ancient modalistic monarchians described by Tertullian is seen by Hippolytus contemptuously as also defending the Monarchy of God (the "oneness" of God). Noetus rejects the idea that it was a separate divine Person, the Son, who was incarnated, but maintains that it was God the Father Himself who was incarnated. A key element of the trinitarian incarnational error is to insist that a separate divine Person other than God the Father was incarnated:
Now, that Noetus affirms that the Son and Father are the same, no one is ignorant. But he makes his statement thus: 'When indeed, then, the Father had not been born, He yet was justly styled Father; and when it pleased Him to undergo generation, having been begotten, He Himself became His own Son, not another's. For in this manner, he (Noetus) thinks to establish the sovereignty of God, alleging that Father and Son, so called, are one and the same (substance), not one individual produced from a different one, but Himself from Himself; and that He is styled by name Father and Son, according to vicissitude of times. -Hippolytus, Refutation Of All Heresies
Noetus, according to Hippolytus "alleged that the Christ was the Father Himself". And Noetus reportedly taught: "the Father Himself was born, and suffered, and died" (Against Noetus 1). Hippolytus accused the Noetians of making use of only one class of passages of scripture (which taught "one God") in the Old Testament particularly, just as Hippolytus likewise accused Theodotus (a dynamic monarchian) of making use of a single class of passages of scripture which demonstrated the humanity of Christ.
But Hippolytus fails to mention that he and his colleagues were using that same class of passages showing the humanity of Christ to mistakenly show Christ as a second divine Person separate from God the Father. No wonder Theodotus stressed those passages which showed the humanity of Christ, because he must have known the trinitarians were misusing them to make Christ a second divine Person! I speak of such passages as, "My Father is greater than I", etc. Even today, uneducated trinitarians make use of such passages which only show the humanity of Christ (the incarnation) to prove the existence of more than one divine Person within the sacred Godhead. You can use such passages to demonstrate the incarnation, but you cannot use such passages to show multiple divine Persons in the Godhead!
Here, with the asiatic modalism (patripassianism) of Noetus, we are closer to the definition of ancient modalism that has been given by Jason Dulle, which, he claims, ignores the distinctions between the Father and the Son. Notice the early use (if we are to believe Hippolytus) of the Greek term homoousios ("the same substance") by Noetus. This is centuries earlier than Athanasius, who took the term from Paul of Samosata, another oneness (dynamic monarchian) teacher. The Father and the Son are "the same substance". But Noetus did not mean two divine Persons of (derived from) the "same substance" (homoousios), but was rather identifying the Son with the Father insofar as deity (Spirit) went. It is obvious here that Noetus is speaking about the divinity of the Father and the Son being the identical or same divinity. Insofar as the deity of Christ and the Father are concerned, it is the same deity, the same divine Spirit (and not Another). It is not one divine Individual produced from "a different (divine Individual)", but rather it is "Himself from Himself" (Noetus is speaking of the incarnation here and not about some pre-existent "begetting"). Christ is God the Father manifest in the flesh. Insofar as Spirit goes: the very same substance (homoousios).
Is It A "Distinction Of Existence" (Dulle) Or Is It A "Mode Of Existence" (Modalistic Monarchians)?
Dulle, in his "fourth option" wants us to entertain the idea that the distinctions between the Father and the Son are a:
distinction between YHWH's continued existence apart from and beyond the incarnation, and the same YHWH's existence in the incarnation when He brought a human nature into metaphysical union with His divine nature.
But we are hard pressed to make out the difference between the ancient modalistic monarchian's distinction between "modes (of existence)" and Dulle's distinction of (existence "apart from and beyond the incarnation and...in the incarnation"). This needs to be qualified. It is "the same Yahweh" (God the Father) existing "apart from and beyond" the incarnation, who exists in the incarnation. In what way did the modalistic monarchian fail to distinguish this? Did he not identify the Father and the Son (insofar as divinity went) as being the same divine Person existing in the flesh (incarnate)? As I note in this paper, the idea of a "metaphysical union" between the two natures is a subsidiary point of consideration that is unproven, even though we know there has to be a "union". But the modalistic monarchian certainly differentiated between God existing solely as Spirit and God existing (manifested) in the flesh.
Dulle, however, seems to be arguing that the modalistic monarchians did not make any distinction between the "person" of the Father and the Son. He has chosen to use the word "person"-I suspect since this was important in the trinitarian model to which he is contrasting the modalistic monarchian model. But he is missing the point here. He writes:
They argued that the distinctions were merely nominal, applicable to God in different modes, but did not indicate any real distinction of person. -Dulle (q.v.)
Notice the phrase, "applicable to God in different modes". The distinctions are "applicable to God in different modes". Dulle admits that the modalistic monarchians held "distinctions", but he says that they considered them "applicable to God in different modes". So we can see that Dulle is recognizing that modalistic monarchians indeed held that there were distinctions.
And Dulle notes:
Option three posits the Father/Son distinction as internal to Christ between His two natures, while option four posits the Father/Son distinction as external to Christ between God's two modes of existence (in the incarnation as man and beyond the incarnation as exclusive deity). The distinction must be either internal or external to Christ, but cannot be both. We now turn our attention to an evaluation of these two options.
Dulle Uses The Phrase "Modes Of Existence"
Notice that Dulle is using the phrase "two modes of existence" for his "Father/Son distinction", but he says that this "Father/Son distinction" is "external to Christ between God's two modes of existence". This phrase "modes of existence" is also a phrase that Karl Barth used, when he wrote that "Father, Son, and Spirit are related as modes of the divine existence". How can one use the same terminology that modalists used (or at least are described as using) in attempting to make distinctions, and yet claim that they, however, made no distinctions between Father and Son?
One might wonder how can this "distinction" of Dulle's can be "external to Christ" if the distinction is "in the incarnation as man and beyond the incarnation as exclusive deity" (italics mine), especially when the Bible is explicit in stating that the Father indwelt the Son? If the Father was manifest in the flesh and if the Father was incarnate- then how could that particular "mode of existence" be considered as "external to Christ"? Especially if it is put forward as the ancillary "mode of existence" denoting the incarnated state?
Noetus Had No Problems With Distinctions Involving The Incarnation
When we consider the aspect of deity itself, there is no "real distinction of person" (within the Godhead or in the sphere of the incarnation). But we have to remember that the area of discussion between the trinitarians and Noetus is on the divine side of the incarnation. Noetus is maintaining that the incarnation does not (and indeed can not) disclose multiple divine Persons (i.e., personal distinctions between the Father and the Son). Noetus is not contrasting the humanity with divinity in this argument (only to argue that one and the selfsame individual divinity took part in both natures), but rather he is defending the Monarchy of the divinity only by excluding the introduction of a second "divinity". And he is defending against the "second divine Person" theory of the trinitarians by insisting that the class of passages that they are using to show such a distinction (between two divine Persons) is actually a class of passages showing the humanity of Christ, and insofar as the Son is God's deity, He could not be ever "distinct" from the Father, because deity is the personal property of God the Father alone. Divinity cannot be conferred upon another by birth or generation, since it is unique to the Individual we know as God the Father.
But Dulle's idea of a "God-man" (God existing in another mode as God manifest in the flesh) could lend itself to the notion that two separate divine identities (persons) are involved (this is surely not Dulle's intention). But the danger of compromising the strict monotheism of the Bible is there.
If Christ is the "express image" of God's being (Hebrews 1.3), then one ought not to expect that there would be any distinction of "persons" (as though Christ were a separate, distinct "person", or personal identity, from God the Father). If the man Jesus is God manifest in the flesh, then we ought to expect the reflection of the person of God to shine forth through the flesh (the man Jesus). God may have manifested a complete (temporarily separate due to the exigencies of the incarnation, although not actually separate due to the henosis that existed) human person as Christ, but remember that man was created in the "image" of God, and that this human person Jesus epitomizes that to the nth degree on a personal level!
This is where the "glorification process" needs to be accounted in Philippians 2.5-9, and elsewhere.
Trinitarian "Distinctions" Are Not Appropriate To Be Contrasted With Those Of Modalistic Monarchians
Furthermore, the "distinction of persons" that the trinitarians were putting forward was a distinction of divine persons within the Godhead, which is entirely inappropriate in understanding the incarnation.The incarnation involved a single, solitary divine Person manifested (or shown forth) in the flesh (a human person) (1 Timothy 3.16). In other words, there could be no distinction of divine persons (since that is out of the question), and how could there be a distinction of persons between the divine and human person of God, if Christ (the human person) was the "express image" of God's being?
Yet the man Jesus was a complete human being. To make the human Jesus a separate person would be like saying that one's reflection or image in the mirror was a separate person distinct from the viewer of the mirror. The comparison pales, however, since the man Jesus was a genuine human being, not lacking in human soul, spirit, or body.
Noetus reportedly goes on to say:
But that He is one who has appeared (among us), both having submitted to generation from a virgin, and as a man having held converse among men. And, on account of the birth that had taken place, He confessed Himself to those beholding Him a Son, no doubt; yet He made no secret to those who could comprehend Him of His being a Father...This person suffered by being fastened to a tree, and that He commended His spirit unto Himself, having died (to appearance), and not being (in reality) dead. And He raised Himself up the third day, after having been interred in a sepulchre, and wounded with a spear, and perforated with nails. -Refutation Of All Heresies V (q.v.)
Hippolytus Attempts To Indirectly Charge Noetus With Docetism
The charge of docetism against Noetus (that is, that Jesus only "appeared" to die, and not being "in reality dead") is simply not true. A fair study of the modalistic monarchian teaching demonstrates that there was no "docetism". What Hippolytus is "hitting" upon here is that since Noetus believes that Jesus is actually the Father, and raised Himself from the grave (John 2.19), then Noetus must perforce be teaching that Jesus did not really die (since we know that the Father as Spirit cannot die). He only "appeared" to die. But this high monarchian (patripassian) teaching lends itself to the charge of "docetism", even though such a charge is not substantiated. The Roman bishops, who were modalistic monarchians, repudiated the extreme patripassian stand of some modalistic monarchians, who were struggling against trinitarian's plurality of divine persons, and made a clear distinction between the two natures: deity and humanity. But Jesus did not die as a "nature" (which is merely the property of an individual), but rather Jesus died as a genuine human being.
Hippolytus, in his attack upon Noetus actually launches an attack upon bishop Callistus (who had been a rival of his at one time). Noetus is said to have been deceased by c.200 AD, and Hippolytus did not write until c. 235 AD. But we clearly see the teaching of modalistic monarchianism in the reported statements of Callistus, since Callistus, Zephyrinus, and Victor (c.189-222 AD), were all modalistic monarchians, according to their associations and statements.
This modalistic monarchianism was no passing heretical "fluke", but was the ancient established teaching of the Roman church (reputedly founded by Peter and Paul). Other than a few witnesses such as the discredited forged "decretals", where is the great trinitarian history of this ancient church?
Victor, a modalistic monarchian, also had writings- probably touching upon the issues of the day (Montanism and the Logos controversy). Jerome (b. 347 AD) had access to Victor's writings, and mentions them disparagingly in his own writings. Unfortunately, they seem to have been destroyed or lost. We can only hope that someday some of these writings will surface. Eusebius, the Catholic court-appointed historian apparently had these writings in front of him in the fourth century, and said not a word! It is galling to the trinitarian to think that the earlier Roman church was apostolic and modalistic monarchian!
It is certain that Zephyrinus, like Praxeas from Asia minor, was not a "high monarchian" (an extreme patripassian), since Zephyrinus, when the dispute between trinitarian supporters and oneness Christians flared up in the early third century, publicly made defining statements, such as, "The Father did not die, but the Son (died)", and, "I know that there is one God, Jesus Christ; nor except Him do I know any other that is begotten and amenable to suffering". This was a direct rebuke to the extreme patripassians, but it made a distinction between the Father and the Son, which was based upon the dichotomy between divinity and the humanity. There was no personal distinction between Father and Son as "divine Persons"! Moreover, Zephyrinus termed Jesus Christ the "one God", excluding the idea that there is another divine Person, but, at the same time, carefully excluding the idea that the "Father" (the Spirit) was begotten and died. Only that which was begotten- the humanity (the Son) died. This is the position of modern oneness movement.
The reported teaching of Callistus, who, on the testimony of Hippolytus himself, discloses the opinions of modalistic monarchians. Hippolytus wrote that Callistus taught the following:
The Logos Himself is Son, and...Himself is Father; and...though denominated by a different title, yet...in reality He is one indivisible Spirit...the Father is not one person and the Son another, but...they are one and the same (person); and...all
things are full of the divine Spirit, both those above and those below...the Spirit, which became incarnate in the virgin, is not different from the Father, but one and the same (Spirit). And...this is what has been declared by the Savior: 'Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?'. For that which is seen, which is man...is the Son; whereas the Spirit, which was contained in the Son (is) the Father.
For I will not profess belief in two Gods, Father and Son, but in one (God). For the Father, who subsisted in the Son Himself, after He had taken unto Himself our flesh, raised it to the nature of Deity, by bringing it into union with Himself, and made it one; so that Father and Son must be styled one God, and...this Person being one, cannot be two....In this way the Father suffered with the Son.
-Callistus, bishop of Rome (217-222 AD), quoted in Hippolytus, Refutation Of All Heresies
Callistus identified the one divine Person of the Father and the Son, without addressing any incarnational distinctions between the human Christ Jesus and the divine Person. Callistus did not comment on any personal distinction between the Father and the Son insofar as the aspect of divinity went. He clearly made a distinction between the man Jesus and the Spirit, although he seems to have believed the same identical Individual (Person) was manifest in both natures.
He also allowed the glorification of the man Christ Jesus (John 17 and Philippians 2.5-9), stating that God the Father "had taken unto Himself our flesh, (and He) raised it to the nature of Deity, by bringing it into union with Himself, and made it one". But it is important to note this: the ancient modalistic monarchians did not hold that the flesh of our Lord was "glorified" (or "raised to the nature of deity") or "divinised" until after (or rather through) the resurrection.
Callistus avoided the extreme patripassian position by following the tact of Praxeas, since he taught that "the Father suffered along (with or in) the Son".
Hippolytus saw Callistus as holding to a mixture of the teachings of Theodotus (who was a dynamic monarchian) and Sabellius (who was a modalistic monarchian). But this is rather incongruous, since Hippolytus has already informed us that Callistus himself supposedly "corrupted" Sabellius with the doctrine of Cleomenes (hence modalistic monarchianism).
But it is important to remember that dynamic monarchians and modalistic monarchians were in fellowship until Victor and Theodotus broke fellowship c.194 AD, following Theodotus' arrival in Rome c.190 AD (around the time of the Council of Rome under Victor). Caius of Rome, a hostile contemporary of modalistic monarchians (writing after the Roman district had apparently become a "trinitarian" disrict), tells us that Victor had disfellowshipped Theodotus, because that Theodotus held Jesus to be "a mere man". It is true that those monarchian (oneness) Christians who are now called "dynamic monarchians" overstressed the humanity of Christ in order to combat the trinitarians.
Theodotus and Victor however were in fellowship at least from 190-194 AD in Rome. I suspect there were other reasons for their parting ways. Victor died about four years later, and his successor, Zephyrinus, is said to have reconciled many of Theodotus' followers to the main Roman church.
Their doctrinal stances could not have been too far apart for this to happen.
But can we say that Noetus, and the modalistic monarchians, by inference, held no distinctions between Father and Son, insofar as the incarnation and the humanity of Christ was concerned? I do not think that we can safely say that.
II. Dulle's "Options" Concerning The Incarnation
Dulle comes up with some very interesting "options" for "reconciling" the "distinctions" between Father and Son in his paper:
Dulle's Options For Reconciling The Distinctions Between The Father And The Son
Dulle writes that "when it comes to reconciling the Biblical distinctions between Father and Son with Biblical monotheism we are met with only a few viable options. We could conclude that:
1. It is a separation between two divine essences (Bitheism, Tritheism).
2. It is a distinction between two divine persons within one divine essence (Binitarianism, Trinitarianism).
3. It is a distinction within Jesus, between His divine nature (identified as Father) and His human nature (identified as Son).
4. It is a distinction between YHWH's continued existence apart from and beyond the incarnation, and the same YHWH's existence in the incarnation when He brought a human nature into metaphysical union with His divine nature". -Dulle (q.v.)
Certainly, one is impelled to agree with Dulle that options one and two are not viable in trulying explaining the differences between Father and Son.
Dulle Also Rejects "Option Three" (A "Distinction Within Jesus")
Dulle considers option three and he rejects it, because "(it) makes an internal separation between Christ's natures, thus destroying the unity of His person and His ability to accomplish our redemption" (q.v.).
Dulle's Rejection Of "Option Three": Point One: Redemption Is Not Based On Jesus' Sinlessness
And what are the arguments Dulle brings forward to prove this conclusion? "Redemption is not based on Jesus' sinlessness, nor on the fact that God was in Him, but (rather) on the fact that He was God Himself in a metaphysical way due to the union of the divine and human natures in His Person" (Dulle, q.v.).
But does the fact that there was some kind of a "union" (henosis) of two natures in Christ- by means of the incarnation- prevent salvation being "based" on the sinlessness of the man Jesus, or on the fact that "God was in Him"? Are there indeed no distinctions between Father and Son based on the two natures (human and divine) of Christ, which can be said to be "within" Christ? I emphasize distinctions based on the idiosyncrasies of flesh and spirit, deity and humanity. There are certainly attributes that are idiopathic to the Supreme deity that we see present in (internal) the life of Christ, are there not?
Was The "Sinless Nature" Of Jesus "Divine" Or Was It "Human"?
The Scripture is quite clear about the sinless human nature of Christ. It was not a sinless divine nature, and so required no divine nature to make it work (although no one denies that the closeness of the union between God and man facilitated this sinless life, but that can be true for every human being). Dulle certainly admits that we are not dealing with divine flesh here, but rather with genuine human flesh.
The apostle Peter tells us that Jesus "did no sin" (1 Peter 2.22), "committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2.23), and "his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2.24). Obviously, Peter is speaking of the humanity (the human nature) of Christ here. And Peter affirms that we were redeemed with "the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot" (1 Peter 1.19). God raised him (the "lamb without blemish") from the dead, and "gave him glory" (vs. 21).
Hebrews 4.15, of course, says that Christ, our "high priest" "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin". James 1.13 is quite clear that "God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man". And so we cannot say that God Himself was tempted with evil in all points like as we are, but we must say that the man Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are. Of what example to us is it that God Himself was tempted in all points like as we are-yet without sin? That means nothing to us, because God cannot be tempted with evil. Moreover, that speaks against the genuine humanity of the Son. It also makes little sense to say that the "God-man" was tempted, but it makes a lot of sense to say that the man Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary, was tempted like as we are-yet without sin. He overcame temptation through the Spirit. He made Him sin who knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5.21). Are we to think that the "divine" was "made sin"? God forbid.
Dulle wrote: "If a mere sinless person could have saved humanity, an incarnation of God was not necessary" (q.v.). But this misses the point. Christ is indeed God manifest in the flesh (incarnate), but it "legally" took "a mere sinless" human being to be tempted (in order to satisfy the justice of God), and to become a genuine human substitute for Adam (and, by inference , through actual DNA descent and association, his posterity). The point is not the fact that there was no genuine sinless human being who could save humanity (that is obvious), but the point is that there had to be an actual, genuine human being, a son of Adam, who could live a sinless life in order to become a pure sacrifice. The incarnation was the means to provide a pure, sinless human being, but the sinless human being had to have a genuine, distinct human nature to be a valid Adamic substitute for the sins of the sons of Adam.
The "union" of human and divine had to nevertheless allow a distinct human son of Adam, who could become a sinless sacrificial substitute for the entire race of Adam. It was this son of Adam ("the last Adam") who commended His human spirit to God on the cross. But since He was God Almighty manifest in the flesh ("the Lord from heaven"), the grave was not able to hold Him. He overcame death and hell. But this henosis has to be "fluid" enough to allow this separation in order to accomplish our salvation.
Dulle has stated, concerning the incarnation:
Yes, it is true that Christ has both a divine and human nature, but His human nature is not a distinct human person. There is only one person in Christ, God, and that one person merely incorporated a human nature/existence into His one divine person. -Personal Communication To The Author, October 5, 2002
This almost seems Apollinarian (Apollinaris, 310-390 AD, who maintained that Christ's humanity was not complete because of the union of the incarnation). If there is not a "distinct human person", then Christ is not a genuine human being. I am not stating that there were thereby "two persons: one human and one divine", but I am saying that the human "person" of Christ was overwhelmed, overshadowed, indwelt and united to the "supreme person" of God Himself, so that He was manifest thereby. It was His "person", His fingerprints, His DNA, His voiceprint, but yet genuinely human, but not just a "human nature", but rather a genuine human being (His own human spirit, human soul, human body, human will, etc.). Through the mystery of the incarnation this was united with God the Father, who thereby was manifest in the flesh. It is not enough to say that "(God) merely incorporated a human nature/existence into His one divine person". It would be better, in my opinion, to say that God incorporated a genuine human being (a true son of Adam) into His one divine Person (through the incarnation process, which includes the glorification of Christ).
Dulle's Second Point In Rejecting "Option Three"
The second point concerning Dulle's rejection of option three is that "an internal separation (or distinction) between Christ's (two) natures", would destroy "the unity of His Person", and would "destroy the ability to accomplish our redemption". But we know far too little about the make-up of the individual to assert with confidence that the "unity of Person" would be destroyed by an internal "separation" (or better yet "distinction") of two natures in such a mysterious occurrence as the "incarnation" of God (a Spirit) in a human body. Certainly both "natures" operated within Christ (although not apparently simultaneously, or at least we are not able to discern this).
Peter tells us that we, as saints, are "partakers of the divine nature (phusis)" (2 Peter 1.4). Our human spirits (and souls) have been born of the Spirit (John 3.3-5), and because of the indwelling Spirit, we are promised that our bodies shall be finally redeemed either by being changed and/or resurrected at the coming of the Lord. There are two distinct "natures" within us: the "old man" and the "new man", but this does not destroy "the unity" of our Person. And while Christ has a much more intimate "union" of divine and human natures (on a higher level-the incarnation), we need not think that a fine distinction between the two natures internally would "destroy" the "unity" of His Person any more than it would destroy the "unity" of our person, even though we are not incarnated in the virgin.
On the other hand, would an internal "distinction" between the "divine" and "human" natures within Christ "destroy" His "ability to accomplish our redemption", as Dulle claims? I think this argument has yet to be proven. Remember the death on Calvary was a human death. It was not (except vicariously unless we accept the extreme conclusion of the patripassians) a "divine death". The "divine nature" could not die. Were the "union" (between humanity and divinity) so total that no distinction could even be seen, then how could Jesus have died that day on the cross? How could He have cried out, "My God, my God, Why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27.46)"
How could such a "God-man", as Dulle posits, die?
How could the divine nature have born the sins of the world in a human body that was so closely "joined" that no internal distinction between the natures could be perceived? How could the man Christ Jesus have yielded up his human spirit to God (a requirement for humans in Eccleisiastes 12.7)? No, the henosis or union, must be "fluid" enough to account for such distinctions between Father and Son. These distinctions are also "internal" within Christ (who is both God and man).
Granted, there are external distinctions since God is greater than the incarnation, but they only peripherally pertain to the incarnation itself. If the distinctions are not "internal" then He could not have died as a human being (since we would have to say the God-man died). Matthew 27.46 becomes unintelligible if there was a "metaphysical union" so blended that the Spirit could not freely "lift" from the Man who bore the sins of the world in His body on the tree and was made sin for us (1 Peter 2.24, 2 Corinthians 5.21). Are we to say that the "God-man" was made sin for us? In what sense was God Himself made "sin" other than vicariously?
"Option Three" Cannot Be Rejected For The Reasons Dulle Lists
Dulle postulates that "option three" is not viable because if there were "internal distinctions within Jesus-because His divine nature and His human nature" (this, in my opinion, subtly, unintentionally "attacks" the genuine humanity of Christ, since it precludes "internal distinctions" within Christ, and seems to ignore the plainly stated fact of the "indwelling Father" in scripture), then, according to Dulle, redemption cannot be based upon the fact that "God was in Him" (that is, indwelling), but rather "on the fact that He was God Himself in a metaphysical way due to the union of the divine and human natures in His person".
There we come up against the word "metaphysical" again!
No one is disputing a "union" of divine and human natures in Christ, but then again there are enough distinctions made by Christ Himself to make us doubt whether or not we have a "mixture" here in the sense that we have a "God-man" (who is "half God" and "half man"). Obviously, Dulle is not advocating a mixture, but he is insisting upon some sort of a "metaphysical" union (henosis) that is not evident in the plain statements of Jesus. Dulle's statements seem to contradict the idea of the "indwelling Father" that Jesus speaks much about.
If it is necessary for the Father (the Spirit) to "indwell" the Son, then where is the justification for the type of "metaphysical" union that Dulle seems to be advocating? A better analysis of the incarnation (which, after all, is declared a mystery by Paul) is needed. Option three, for example, cannot be rejected for the reasons that Dulle lists.
Redemption is indeed based on the sinlessness of the man Jesus, and it is indeed likewise based upon the fact that God was in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5.19). It is not necessarily based upon a required "metaphysical union" upon the Alexandrian model or something like that. Notice that Dulle, in attempting to demolish his "third option", uses the idea that God could have created any "sinless" man (as He did with Adam), but Dulle is not able to carry this idea on through (in other words, no one thinks that a specially created "sinless man" alone could have brought about our salvation. This does not make his point, however, since "option three" really does not demand the requirements he has arbitrarily placed upon it.
Unlike Adam, Jesus overcame by continuing to live a completely sinless life, but did He do this by being a "God-man", did He do this because He was God manifest in the flesh, or did He do this because He was completely obedient to the Spirit and maintained an indomitable human will? Did it take the type of a "metaphysical" union that Dulle is advocating? If so, why? But Dulle is not able to attack the idea of the "indwelling Father" ("the fact that God was in him", as Dulle writes) in such a scenario. This "indwelling" must be considered in analysis of a "union". Option three, as stated by Dulle, does not preclude this. Peter wrote of Jesus:
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. -Acts 10.38
The Scriptural Idea Of "Indwelling" Must Affect The Idea Of A "Metaphysical Henosis"
The Scriptures are quite clear that "God was in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5.19), and
"God" was "reconciling the world unto himself" (q.v.). This necessitates some kind of an internal distinction, if God "was in Christ". Otherwise, the scripture would merely state, "God was Christ".
Dulle wants to foster the idea of the "God-man" in a "metaphysical union", but, taken to extremes, this concept could become the trinitarian (and earlier pagan) idea of the "demi-god" (cf. such mythical heroes as Hercules, the son of Zeus and a woman). This is not what Dulle is postulating, but it is the thought pattern that produced the Chalcedonian "fully God and genuinely man"dogma. Because the Chalcedon formula, when taken in the context of the other trinitarian concepts produces neither "a genuine man" nor Someone who is "fully God (the Father)". We are deceived by this statement because in truth the trinitarians (except dogmatically) do not actually consider Jesus in this sense. It is the same type of dogmatism that asserts that "there is one God and yet there are three Persons". One wonders that if this metaphysical union were true, then why does the Scripture consider such terms as "indwelling" and "manifestation"? Did the incarnation produce Someone who was God manifest in the flesh, or did the incarnation produce Someone who was half-divine and half-human? When we use the concept of "God-man" (and I realize that many apostolic teachers use this concept without even thinking of these considerations) we can promote this type of thinking (half-man and half-God). The idea of a "metaphysical union" also promotes this type of thinking, in my opinion.
Scriptures Pertaining To An "Indwelling" God In The Man Jesus
Jesus repeatedly used the phrase "He that sent me", speaking of God the Father (especially in the Gospel of John).
He also spoke of having come from the Father, and likewise of returning to the Father (in heaven). John 16.28 is a good example of this. This is speaking of His humanity (the Word made flesh, the Word which was spoken by the Father). But a number of passages pertain to the indwelling Father during the time of the incarnation on earth.
Matthew 3.16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
Matthew 3.17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Mark 1.10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
Mark 1.11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Luke 3.22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
John 1.33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
Matthew 17.5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
John 1.18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
John 3.34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
John 14.10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
John 17.21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
Colossians 2.9 For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
1 Timothy 3.16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
2 Peter 1.17 For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
2 Peter 1.18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
Jesus said, "The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (John 14.10).
Dulle wrote concerning "option three". He gives us an 'either-or" choice:
Either Jesus is metaphysically God Himself because of a vital and essential union between His divine and human natures in one existence, or Jesus is just a man who is full of God's Spirit in a greater measure than ourselves, but still not God Himself. The only difference between Jesus and all other believers, then, would be quantitative, not qualitative.
We do not have to accept this "either-or" argument. How does this assessment square with John 14.10? If Jesus can only be "God" because He is "God-man", and the idea of "indwelling" has no substantive reality, then why was it necessary for Jesus to say "The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works"? If Jesus were actually the "God-man", and "metaphysically God" (I emphasize "metaphysically" since I do hold Jesus to indeed be God), as Dulle says, then why would Jesus emphasize that it was the "Father" dwelling in Him that was doing the works? If Jesus were "metaphysically" God (or, put in another way, if Jesus were "God manifest in the flesh", as in a metaphysical union in the way that Dulle maintains (the God-man), then why would Jesus not simply say, "I do the works"? Why would He also actually say, "...The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5.19)?
If the Son were actually the "God-man", in the sense that Dulle is advocating, then it would not be necessary for Him to admit that He could of Himself do "nothing" (if there were no internal distinctions acting within Christ)? If there were no internal distinctions within Christ then Christ Himself should have admitted that "I do the works", and He should not have said, "I can nothing of myself". But this type of thinking goes against the mystery of the incarnation and the genuine humanity of Christ. The genuine humanity if quite apparent in the above statements by Jesus.
Any "metaphysical" union of Christ and the Father must allow for the distinctions I have pointed out. Do we have a "God-man" or do we have "God manifest in the flesh"? The missing element of understanding here is, of course, the process of the glorification of the man Jesus. This affects our understanding of the incarnation. It is being left out when we approach the incarnation from the stance of the Alexandrians.
They look for a "metaphysical union" during the days of His flesh (His time here on earth), and discount what took place in His resurrection and glorification. Dulle has not declared himself on this issue to my knowledge. His "metaphysical union" does not, however, seem to take into account the glorification of Christ.
If we base our idea on what appears to be a strict Dulle interpretation of a metaphysical henosis, then we are faced with explaining the above statements made by our Lord concerning His own distinct human inabilities. And how do we comport this with scriptures speaking of the "indwelling" Father? And why even speak of an "indwelling Father" if such a tight "metaphysical union", as Dulle is advocating, exists?
Why the need to stress an "indwelling Father" if such a metaphysical union of a "God-man" was already in place? No one ought to deny that there is a "union" (henosis) between the human and the divine in Christ, but the process of the incarnation needs, as I have stated, to be better understood (e.g., the "glorification process" seen in the New Testament must be incorporated in understanding the total incarnation).
The Meaning Of The Term "Metaphysical."
Perhaps a better explanation of the use of the word "metaphysical" would help. The Dictionary Of Philosophy, edited by Dagobert D. Runes (Littlefield, Adams & Co: Ames, Iowa, 1958) states that "metaphysical" means: "Anything concerned with the supra-physical; Any scheme of explanation which transcends the inadequacies of ordinary thought". The reader will note that this is a rather large and broad panorama of meaning. Of course the "union" is "supra-physical" (God manifest in the flesh, His Word made flesh), and, of course, it an "explanation which transcendes the inadequacies of ordinary thought". That is why Paul writes, "great is the mystery of godliness..." (1 Timothy 3.16). But we need to beware of using the phrase "God-man" in any sense which might indicate that there was a "mixture" between human and divine (e.g., "half-God" and "half-man"). Concerning the phrase in John 1.14, "the Word was made flesh", we have to also consider Hebrews 2.14, which states:
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise too part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.
Does The "Partaking Of Flesh And Blood" Imply A "Metaphysical Union" Between Christ And The Father? In What Context Do We Understand The Term Henosis?
But in what way did He "partake" of flesh and blood? To "partake" of something means to avail oneself of something that is offered and is at hand. It does not have the sense of "creating" something new that did not heretofore exist (the writer of Hebrews compares this "partaking of flesh and blood" similar to the that of the "children of men". And Hebrews 2.17 states plainly that "in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren". When we say "the Word was made flesh", we must also understand it in this context.
And then we have to do with Galatians 4.4, which states, "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law". And so this idea of henosis must be understood in these contexts, and, as I noted, in the context of the Father "indwelling" the Son. Is "option three" then immediately invalidated? I do not think so.
Let me restate Dulle's "option three" for the sake of convenience:
It is a distinction within Jesus, between His divine nature (identified as Father) and His human nature (identified as Son).
I am not comfortable with Dulle's wording of "option three", because it seems to "depersonalize" the two natures (much in the sense as some oneness teachers have, in the past, spoken of "one nature" praying to the "other nature", which, of course, does not adequately explain the relationship between Father and Son). Let us be forthright: when Jesus prayed, He prayed as a genuine human being to the Spirit (God), but then also God was in Christ, God was manifest in the flesh. The Father dwelt in the man Jesus.
When Jesus spoke as God, it was God indeed speaking through the lips of clay. But the question pertains to the distinction between the Father and the Son. But would not these differences in speech betray some distinction? And Dulle's proposition here (which he proceeds to knock down) is: is it "a distinction within Jesus, between His divine nature (identified as "Father") and His human nature (identified as "Son").
But in Christ, the divine Person is manifested, the divine nature is manifested, and the divine Spirit is manifested. This is the "indwelling Father" by means of the incarnation. But Christ Himself makes a distinction between Himself and His Father. But not a personal ,idiosyncratic distinction in reference to distinct divine egos. He does, however, speak of separate "wills", but then He acknowledges that His human "will" is always subject to the divine "will". This makes us wonder if the human will is not subordinated to the divine will through the circumstances of the incarnation itself. Granted that there is the "I-thou" relationship seen between the man Jesus and His heavenly Father (i.e., He prays to His Father, and He speaks to His Father, and His Father speaks to Him, and He contrasts His own will with that of the Father). This, too, is possibly an exigency of the incarnation, which is unique in creation.
This means that comparison is made difficult by the uniqueness. But the idea of a "personal" distinction is modified by the very words of Christ (for example, when He identifies Himself as the Father speaking to the disciples in John 14.7-9). When He indicates that He (as a human being) can do "nothing of himself". These are idiosyncratic distinctions pertaining to His natures, but they do not disclose any real personal distinction in egos, and they only possible separate "Person" could be the human "person" of Christ, which is subordinated through the incarnation. This narrows down the possibilities that any personal "distinctions" can be seen in the incarnation. One divine Person manifested in a human that He created (from the stock of humans that He created).
But, then, how can we apply Dulle's argument against "option three" that such an option would "destroy the unity of His person", and "His ability to accomplish our redemption"? If the Son can "do nothing of Himself", and if it is the "indwelling Father" who "doeth the works", then where is the particular type of "unity" that Dulle postulates in the "unified" "God-man"? If there is a "metaphysical" union (in the loose sense of the word as we have seen), it does not seem to fit the description required by Dulle in his rejection of "option three". If we have a (human) Son who can "do nothing of himself", and we have an "indwelling Father" (I emphasize the word "indwelling" since Dulle objects to option three precisely because of internal considerations), who "doeth the works", then to claim that there are no internal distinctions based on "nature" is rather inconclusive.
The term "indwelling" necessitates internal distinctions. Thus, "option three" still retains some validity in the context of examining what kind of a henosis we are talking about. It need not be "Nestorian" (which seems to be Dulle's bogeyman, but it need not be Alexandrian either). And I do not claim that Dulle is advocating an "Alexandrian" view of the incarnation. I believe he is desiring to clarify the oneness view, but I feel that much more study in this area needs to be done.
Let's re-examine another portion of Dulle's rejection of "option three":
Option three is not a viable option because it makes an internal separation between Christ's natures, thus destroying the unity of His person and His ability to accomplish our redemption. Redemption is not based on Jesus' sinlessness, nor on the fact that God was in Him, but on the fact that He was God Himself in a metaphysical way due to the union of the divine and human natures in His person. If a mere sinless person could have saved humanity, an incarnation of God was not necessary. All that would be necessary for redemption would be the sacrifice of a man without the sin nature. Such a man could have been brought into existence through miraculous means, in the same way Adam was brought into existence by miraculous means without a sin nature. If such a man existed, however, in what manner could his death be vicarious for all of humanity? What would give his death infinite value, sufficient to atone for the sin of the whole world? At best, his sinlessness could secure his own personal salvation, but not the salvation of all men.
Further Consideration Of Dulle's View Of The Incarnation:
If Jesus humanity were separate from His deity, so that when the Bible says Jesus prayed to the Father it means that Jesus human nature (only) prayed internally to His divine nature (only), then we must confess that Jesus is just a man in whom the Father dwells. At best, then, it could be said that Jesus and the Father are close because of proximity of location, but it could never be said that Jesus is God Himself. For Jesus to be God, and for God to be man requires an ontological union of Jesus' divine and human natures in one existence. A mere indwelling of God in Christ does not describe such a union, and is hardly an incarnation of God in a human existence. For a real incarnation to occur there must be an ontological union of the divine and human natures, so that God actually comes to be man. If God merely dwells in a human person, the union between deity and humanity in Christ would be phenomenological and relational, not real and ontological. A true incarnation, however, demands that Christ's two natures have become united in one individual and ontological reality, not merely one external appearance (Nestorianism). Only by such a union can Jesus claim to be God.
First of all, how well is Dulle able to substantiate all of the statements that he is making in support of his position? For example, he wrote above:
If Jesus humanity were separate from His deity, so that when the Bible says Jesus prayed to the Father it means that Jesus human nature (only) prayed internally to His divine nature (only), then we must confess that Jesus is just a man in whom the Father dwells.
Many oneness scholars and teachers already agree that the idea of "one nature praying to another nature" is perhaps an inadequate explanation of the Son praying to the Father. We have in the Scriptures an example of a man praying to His God. Jesus, of course, prayed as a genuine human being. But even if one continued to uphold internal distinctions between the divine and human natures within Christ, that does not mean that one is necessarily holding to Jesus being "just a man in whom the Father dwells". There is John 1.14, which must be considered. Then again, there is 1 Timothy 3.16, and 2 Corinthians 5.19, etc.
The conclusion is strictly Dulle's own interpretation.
But Dulle goes a step further. After defining the idea of the indwelling Father to his own definitions, he states:
At best, then, it could be said that Jesus and the Father are close because of proximity of location, but it could never be said that Jesus is God Himself.
If I understand his argument correctly, Dulle is saying that if one holds "internal distinctions within Christ" (especially, in the example of one nature praying to the other nature), then it could only be said that "Jesus and the Father are close because of the proximity of location, but it could never be said that Jesus is God Himself". But the real question here is obviously adroitly "skirted": what kind of an indwelling are we speaking about? We already know two things about Christ before we even discuss the "type or kind" of union required: (1) The Word was made flesh through the power of God overshadowing Mary (John 1.14, Luke 1.35), and (2) God was manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3.16). And so any type of "indwelling" must be in the context of this.
I think it is incumbent upon Dulle to prove that "God being manifest in the flesh", or "the Father indwelling Christ" precludes Jesus from being called God.
Then again, on the other hand, it is incumbent upon Dulle to prove that only a "metaphysical union" between God and man could make Jesus to be God.
Dulle continues on his argument for a metaphysical union in this manner:
For Jesus to be God, and for God to be man requires an ontological union of Jesus' divine and human natures in one existence. A mere indwelling of God in Christ does not describe such a union, and is hardly an incarnation of God in a human existence. For a real incarnation to occur there must be an ontological union of the divine and human natures, so that God actually comes to be man.
In this argument, Dulle uses another technical term, which may not be familiar to the average reader: ontological. I cannot give the precise sense in which Dulle understands this term himself, but I can give the definition taken from reference sources. Ontology comes from two Greek words (onta, "existing things", or on "being", and logos, science or logic). And so an ontological union would be a union that is based upon actual being or upon actual existence.
A union, one might say, that is concrete and real. But this says a lot without really saying anything. Furthermore it does not really describe the kind of union that is in question. How, then, can Dulle rule out other types of union on the slim grounds that he is exercising? We know indeed that a "real incarnation" did occur, but we do not know the precise type of union required by God for "God actually (to come) to be man". One problem is that we do not know the properties of Spirit.
When we talk about a "metaphysical" union between Spirit and flesh, we must admit that we do not know how this could come to pass. God could dwell in the man Christ Jesus in a real incarnational way without having to submit to what Dulle is calling "a metaphysical union". Moreover, Jesus is not just an ordinary man in the sense that He is the Word made flesh, born of a virgin. We do not know how much this affects the process of the incarnation
(which we believe to have taken place at the moment of conception, but we have no solid evidence in Scripture that this is so). Dulle says, A mere indwelling of God in Christ does not describe such a union, and is hardly an incarnation of God in a human existence.
But where is Dulle's evidence that God's indwelling of Christ is simply "a mere indwelling"? He does not know to what degree the "indwelling" of God in Christ is similar to the indwelling of God, for example, in His saints. He is assuming that such a statement implies this only. No one in oneness ranks that I know about, assumes that there was a "mere indwelling" of God in Christ, in the sense that Dulle is giving. The indwelling is always modified by John 1.14, "the Word was made flesh", and 1 Timothy 3.16, "God was manifest in the flesh...", etc. Jesus Himself identified Himself with the Father.
And so Dulle is using a view of the "indwelling" of God in Christ, which I must assume that he knows no one in oneness ranks holds. To be sure, he is not accusing oneness believers of holding such a view, but I point this out to indicate that I do not know of anyone who is holding the view that he is refuting concerning a simple "indwelling". Then it must be possible to hold a view of God "indwelling" Christ in another way that has nothing to do with Dulle's refutation, and which has nothing to do with his idea of a "metaphysical union"!
And Dulle further argues: For a real incarnation to occur there must be an ontological union of the divine and human natures, so that God actually comes to be man. This phrase of Dulle's, "so that God actually comes to be a man" is a little awkward. It is furthermore a very touchy phrase.
Obviously, even Dulle knows that this phrase has to be qualified. God Himself could NOT actually "become a man" in some kind of a "metaphysical" transformation that changed God into a man so that what had been God was now man. And so this phrase absolutely has to be qualified. This necessity weakens Dulle's insistence upon an ontological, metaphysical union. He knows that God has always remained the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent Spirit throughout eternity. In this He cannot be changed. He is unchangeable. "I am the LORD. I change not" (Malachi 3.6). And so the incarnation must be accomplished in a way that does not change God. Which is another reason why I would have a problem with an "ontological, metaphysical union", in the sense that there was now in the incarnation a "God-man". A "union", yes, but one which was effected through a "partaking ((not a mixing)) of flesh and blood", "the Word being made flesh" in the operation of this process, and God Himself being manifested in that flesh, which after the mission was accomplished, ((the flesh, the man)) was glorified and taken up into heaven.
The spoken Word came down from heaven, and was made flesh, suffered, died, and was resurrected, glorified and caught back up into heaven (see the modalist passage of John 16.28). In John 16.28, Jesus, the man, is speaking as the Word made flesh. He is not speaking directly as the Father. But this was the Lord God Himself come among us, intricately united with His own human body, also His own Son. His fingerprints. His DNA, His voice print. His human personality. His human spirit. His human will. His human soul, born of Him, which manifested Him to a lost and dying world.
Dulle continues, however, to insist that "the indwelling of the Father in the Son" cannot help to explain the incarnation (in fact, if his "God-man" idea explains the incarnation, then he ought to explain the need for an "indwelling" at all):
If Gods residence in Christ could make Him divine, then we must confess all believers to be divine, because we too have God residing in us. Having someone in you, and being that someone are different things. The first is a relational association while the latter is an ontological reality/identity. One who is not something in his or her very identity can at best only be near that something. Either Jesus is metaphysically God Himself because of a vital and essential union between His divine and human natures in one existence, or Jesus is just a man who is full of God's Spirit in a greater measure than ourselves, but still not God Himself. The only difference between Jesus and all other believers, then, would be quantitative, not qualitative.
But more study must be done upon the "indwelling". For example, John 3.34 states, "For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him". It is certain that the "indwelling" of Christ was not like any common indwelling of a saint of God. John the Baptist tells us that Christ is unusual, "for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him". Jesus had unlimited access to the Spirit. This is one reason why He pointed out to the Disciples that if He did not go away, the Holy Spirit could not come.
No one doubts the "ontological identity" of Christ and God, but this is not simply answered by reaching back to the Alexandrian, or some earlier concilar, idea of the incarnation. Most of the things we have learned from the trinitarians we have had to unlearn! I cannot say without a doubt that this is the intention of Dulle: to bring us to an acceptance of the Alexandrian idea of the incarnation, but I merely make this comment based upon what I am seeing. On the other hand, it is time for oneness theologians to fully consider the incarnation. Dulle cannot be faulted for attempting to shake the bushes.
If we reject Dulle's hypothesis of an "ontological metaphysical union", then are we indeed guilty of not really teaching that Jesus is God? I think not.
Dulle gave another one of his "either/or's" in the following statement:Either Jesus is metaphysically God Himself because of a vital and essential union between His divine and human natures in one existence, or Jesus is just a man who is full of God's Spirit in a greater measure than ourselves, but still not God Himself. The only difference between Jesus and all other believers, then, would be quantitative, not qualitative.
But the proof of the pudding is in the eating: in what sense must Jesus be "metaphysically God Himself"(italics mine)?
And what kind of a "vital and essential union" between His divine and human natures are we speaking about here? This is the crux of the whole question. Dulle claims that it must be a "metaphysical" union, but has he proved this in this paper?
Dulle's "Incarnational Becoming"
Now we come to a critical section of Dulle's entire thesis: Dulle attempts to prove that the proper interpretation of one scripture (John 1.14, "And the Word was made flesh") must demonstrate a metaphysical union in the incarnation:
One of the most important Christological texts in Scripture is John 1:14, where John declared that the Word became flesh (John 1:14). To better understand the nature of the Father/Son distinction, and the need for rejecting certain conceptions of the distinction, we need to have a basic understanding of the incarnational becoming. The question at the center of the Christological dilemma is: what does it mean for God to become man? How can God become man without undergoing change, or compromising the integrity of Christs humanity?
Throughout church history, scholars have understood this incarnational becoming in several ways. Some, such as Eustathius of Antioch, Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Nestorius have understood the becoming as coming to be in (dwell in) a man. Others, such as Arius, Eutyches, and the Kenetocists understood the becoming as changed into a man. Both views are soteriologically deficient, however, in compromising Christs ability to provide redemption for humanity. The first fails to ground Christ's deity in reality, while the latter fails to preserve God's immutability and/or the genuineness of Christ's humanity. -Dulle (q.v.)
Let us examine Dulle's reasoning here. First of all, Dulle speaks of the "need for rejecting certain conceptions of the distinction (between Father and Son)". I understand the constraints of the size of a paper such as the one offered by Dulle in this case. There is insufficient time to properly evaluate all possible "conceptions" of Father/Son distinctions. He has most succinctly identified the real question: "How can God become man without undergoing change, or (without) compromising the integrity of Christ's humanity"? But then Dulle made a propositional point for "understanding" this "Christological dilemma": "...we need to have a basic understanding of the incarnational "becoming". Or do we rather need a basic understanding of the incarnation?
Dulle must at least admit that there is some dispute (which he does not in this paper) over the translation of the Greek verb ginomai (especially in reference to the doctrine of the incarnation) in John 1.14 and in Galatians 4.4. Two particular passages in dispute include incarnational scriptures: John 1.14 ("the Word was made flesh") and Galatians 4.4 ("God sent forth His Son...made of a woman").
I am not a Greek scholar, but it seems to me that this is one of those Greek verbs that is admissible also to contextual influence upon its meaning. Liddell & Scott's Greek-English Lexicon (NY: Harper & Bros., 1889) lists a second meaning for this verb, "to occur, to happen (of events)".
Vine's Dictionary (Nashville: Thom. Nelson, 1996) acknowledges that the newer English versions prefer translating ginomai as "became" (John 1.14), and "born" (Galatians 4.4), but nevertheless notes (see above) that in over 25 places in the KJV the verb is translated by the passive voice of the English verb "to make". The Greek scholars of the KJV seem to have been aware of this difference in rendering ginomai, since they translated John 1.14, "the Word was made flesh", and Galatians 4.4 "made of a woman".
Why is it that so many doctrinal controversies seem to hinge upon the inconclusive translation of a Greek verb? Could it be possible that in the case of John 1.1 that "the Word (Logos)" should be seen as the spoken word of God (as the ancient modalistic monarchians taught)? This particular interpretation may be seen as allowing a transmutation of the substance of Spirit (not the Individual Himself), or, on the other hand, it may be seen in a creative sense. In Genesis 1.3, God spoke the Word and said, "Let there be light", and, of course, light came into existence. Psalms 33.6,9 explains that this is how God brought the world into existence: by speaking the Word.
John 1.14 cannot be interpreted in a clinical vaccuum, and neither can the verb ginomai, of course. For example, Hebrews 2.14 uses the verb metecho in speaking of the incarnation. God "shared" with the children in the "same" ("He took part of the same") flesh and blood (the difference from the children being that the virgin birth was accomplished by the overshadowing of the power of the Highest, the Holy Ghost), and the babe conceived in Mary was without the sin nature of Adam, which has come upon all other men except Adam, the Son of God.
And so there need not be an insistence upon translating John 1.14 as "the Word was born flesh" (which I note that Dulle is avoiding), or even "the Word became flesh" (as the modern English versions are wont to do). It would be my opinion that using the English verbs "born" or "become" would tend to encourage the erroneous idea of a second divine Person, the Word, "becoming" flesh in some mysterious "metaphysical" way. This would actually play right into the hands of an interpretation of a pesonal "mutation". It is interesting that modern versions of the Bible have done away with monogenes being understood in the sense of "only begotten", but they wish to consider ginomai in the sense of "became" or "born" in relation to the Son.
But if we consider the idea that God the Father "spoke" the baby into existence in the womb of Mary (in a miraculous way by His creative spoken Word), also "partaking of flesh and blood" from the virgin so that a baby was conceived by the virgin, we can avoid the idea of a heavenly being somehow himself (a separate personal, pre-existent Word alongside the Father, for example) being metaphysically changed, or "becoming" or (being) "born" flesh.
I think a fresh look is needed at the question Dulle poses: What does it mean for God to become man? We know that the Bible teaches that God came down to earth and walked among men in the person of Jesus Christ. God was manifest in the flesh. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Jesus Christ was God Almighty.
But the method (the incarnation) of bringing this about we do not understand so perfectly. Part of it, in my opinion, is because we have not really considered the glorification process of the man Christ Jesus (the Son of God). We do not see the need of the glorification process for the incarnation to be completed. There is a Man seated on the throne of heaven right now (on the right hand of the Majesty on high), but that could not have occurred without the glorification of that Man.
Dulle exercises a general principle in considering the incarnation. He looks at it from the angle of the Antioch school and then from the aspect of the Alexandrian school. Although it is my humble opinion that we need to discard these approaches and use an apostolic approach that is strictly scriptural. I really believe that Dulle is attempting to do this, but that in order to fully accomplish this, he must lay aside the idea of a "metaphysical union", since that reeks of pagan-philosophical concepts (of which we Gentiles are all highly susceptible, myself not excepted).
God's ability to bring redemption through the sacrifice of the Man Christ Jesus is evident. But the involvement of humanity through the Son of Mary ought to be recognized also. Remember the first prophecy of the Book, which is that the Seed of the Woman would bruise the head of the Serpent (Genesis 3.15). He did not say that the "God-man" would do it. He did not say that the "divine flesh" would do it, but rather "(the seed) of the woman".
What Is Dulle's Solution To The Incarnational "Mystery"?
Dulle, in my opinion, correctly rejects the Nestorian, the Eutychian, the Kenoticists, and the Monophysitian viewpoints (notice he does not reject outright the view of Cyril and the Alexandrian view). He then writes:All three positions felt the need to sacrifice one or two of the three Christological maxims because they incorrectly understood the incarnational becoming as a compositional union of two natures into one, rather than a personal union of a human nature to Gods eternal being.
What does Dulle mean by "a personal union of a human nature to God's eternal being"? He has used the more restricted term "nature" rather than the whole "human being", as though the incarnation only encompassed the "nature" alone. The phrase "personal union" explains his idea somewhat. The "personal union" of a "human nature" to God's being could be accomplished in the virgin's womb at conception. The conjoining of the human nature of the human Jesus with the "being" of God could have happened at the moment of conception, but would just the conjoining of the human's "nature" mean that the man Jesus was "God"? I hardly think so.
Dulle has two professed goals in describing what he believes would be a biblical view of the incarnation: (1) Christ's deity must be grounded in reality, and (2) God's immutability and the genuineness of Christ's humanity must be preserved. A "personal union of a human nature to God's eternal being" does not seem to satisfy these two goals.
Dulle correctly, in my opinion, rejects a "compositional union" (in the incarnation):
A compositional union always requires a changing of the divine and human natures into some new nature/being, whether it be by the mixing, diminution, or obliteration of the human and/or divine natures, and therefore must be rejected.
By taking this stand, however, Dulle actually "endangers" one of his three "maxims", because his model requires an ontological metaphysical union.. If such a union is not "compositional" then how can it be anything more than what Nestorius and the Antiochenes saw? This is one reason why they wished to avoid a "compositional" union (the "immutability" of God and the "genuine humanity" of Christ).
Dulle makes a number of propositional statements, which have not been proved. For example, he wrote:
It is God's immutability that guarantees that it is God who is man, and man that God is
This requires a number of assumptions! There is no "evidence" that it is "God's immutability" that guarantees the validity of the incarnation! On the contrary, God's "immutability" seems to "contrast" with the validity of the incarnation. That is part of the mystery of the incarnation. How could God, who is indeed "immutable" be manifested in the mortal flesh, which is subject to like passions as we are? But it is not the "immutability" of God that guarantees the incarnation, but rather God's love, power, and wisdom.
"Is anything too hard for the Lord"?
Dulle realizes the untenability of his statement concerning the fact that "God's immutability guarantees that it is God who is man, and man that God is":
...however, it is often assumed that Gods immutability would prevent Him from becoming man in any ontological way. It is reasoned that an ontological becoming implies change, and such change is not possible if God is immutable, therefore the becoming cannot be ontological.
Dulle rejects the Nestorian position (as he describes it), because "the union cannot be moral because it is not sufficient to account for Jesus' ontological deity, nor a true incarnation of God into a human existence". Personally, I do not think this has been proven, although a moral union is not the common understanding of the two main incarnational scriptures: John 1.14 and Galatians 4.4 (i.e., we do not see the "Word" being "made flesh", and Galatians 4.4, Jesus being "made of a woman", when we think of a "moral union"). But, on the other hand, to say that a "moral union" is not "sufficient to account for Jesus' ontological deity, nor a true incarnation of God into human existence" is really to lean towards some kind of a "compositional union" willy-nilly. First of all, the "deity" is a Spirit (John 4.24) manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3.16).
The flesh could never be thought of as "deity" until the glorification. Even then the epistles are careful to distinguish the incarnation (that is, the glorified humanity of Christ). The deity of God the Father cannot be "duplicated", and so the incarnation did not "duplicate" the "deity", which is non-transferable, but was rather manifested. The incarnation brought the "deity" into a very close "union" with the man, but we cannot, before the resurrection and glorification, call the Man "deity" (see John 17.5, e.g.). Jesus is very careful to preserve this distinction (Matthew 19.17). I do not believe that it is scriptural to say that "God became flesh", but rather that He "took part" of the same "flesh and blood" (as the children), and He spoke the Word that was "made flesh". In this sense, God "became" Man, and entered into human existence as a man through the incarnation. But the Man Jesus was not "perfected" (or "completed") until the "third day" (Luke 13.32). The book of Hebrews tells of the post-resurrection glory of Jesus.
"Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1.3).
Dulle calls the incarnation "a new manner of existence" for God, a "human mode of existence". But how, then, has Dulle progressed beyond the ancient modalistic monarchians, who saw God the Father existing in eternity, and then born of the virgin as the Son? Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Spirit in the church? Modes of existence. What modalist would have objected to Dulle's "human mode of existence" for God the Father?
Dulle wrote:God (takes) on a new manner of existence (a human existence), all the while continuing to exist beyond the incarnation as He always has (as God). He has come to be in a human mode of existence by metaphysically uniting a human nature to His one eternal person. God continues to exist as God, but also comes to exist as man with a real human psychology, and thus a real human consciousness. This personal and existential becoming no longer threatens God's immutability or the integrity of Christ's humanity, but does provide an ontological basis for God to be man, and for Jesus to be God.
Ah, but in what way does God effect this "new manner of existence"? We already know that God continued to exist beyond the incarnation (and always has) as God. But in what way does he come to "exist as man with a real human psychology, and thus a real human consciousness"? What is this "personal and existential becoming"? And how could it be effected without "threatening" God's immutability or the "integrity of Christ's humanity". In what way does it provide an "ontological basis for God to be man, and for Jesus to be God"? That is still the "sixty-four million dollar" question. The same one that the early Catholic church fathers were wrestling with.
In rejecting the "compositional union" of the Eutychians and other trinitarians, Dulle wrote:
The union cannot be compositional because a compositional union always changes, diminishes, or destroys the humanity, deity, or both. Gods incarnational becoming was not God coming to be in man, or God changing into man, but God coming to exist as man, taking on a human manner of existence. Only such an understanding of the incarnational becoming can preserve the fullness of Christ's deity, the integrity of His humanity, and the ontological unity of both.
Is this "understanding" of the incarnation actually "new"? It is self-evident that any view of the incarnation which would portray the humanity or the deity of Christ as "diminished" or in any way "destroyed" is unacceptable. Dulle writes, "God's incarnational becoming was not God coming to be in man". But this statement flies in the face of a number of scriptures (e.g., 1 Timothy 3.16, 2 Corinthians 5.19, John 14.10), which all speak of an indwelling Father ("God coming to be in man). Obviously, the incarnational bespeaks a closer union than that, but it does bespeak that. The indwelling of the Father cannot be denied. And so to exclude this "indwelling" from having any association with the incarnation itself is rather risky. "God was in Christ" Paul wrote. "The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works", the Man Jesus stated flatly (John 14.10). "God was manifest in the flesh", the apostle Paul declared. John 1.14 cannot be fully understood outside of the context of such passages, including passages such as Hebrews 2.14, which makes God a "partaker" of "flesh and blood".
All of us ought to be able to agree that God the Father came to "exist as a man", and, as Dulle notes, "taking on a human manner of existence" (I am uncomfortable with the qualifier word "manner" here-which seems to smack of docetism-even though I am sure this is not Dulle's intent). But, in what way, did God come to "exist as a man". That is still the question and Dulle has not answered it.
And Dulle comes to the "meat" of his argument: which is to give his reasons for rejecting "option three" (which he sees as the ancient modalistic monarchian and the modern oneness way of explaining the distinctions between the Father and the Son):
This brief discussion on the incarnational becoming is important to this topic because it demonstrates why I believe we must explain the Father/Son distinction as an existential distinction, and not as a distinction between Christ's two natures. The tendency of Oneness theology toward the latter is, I believe, rooted in an inadequate understanding of the incarnational becoming. By elaborating on the necessary components of an incarnational theology, I hope to elucidate why all explanations of the Father/Son distinction that divide Christ's natures must be rejected. Only by understanding the incarnational becoming as a personal and existential becoming, wherein God assumes a human mode of existence, can we maintain the three Christological maxims, a genuine distinction between the Father and Son, and avoid splitting up the unity of Christ's person. We now turn our attention to an exploration of this existential distinction.
Is Oneness Theology Inadequate Because It Considers Internal "Distinctions" Between Christ's Two Natures?
Dulle's thesis, then, is that "the Father/Son distinction (is) an existential distinction, and not a distinction between Christ's two natures". Dulle believes that "God...assumes a human mode of existence". To insist upon a distinction between "Christ's two natures", in his view, is indicative of "an inadequate understanding of the incarnation becoming". This is the "tendency of Oneness theology" today. And, "all explanations of the Father/Son distinction that divide Christ's natures must be rejected". The "incarnational becoming", as Dulle describes it, is to be understood "as a personal and existential becoming, wherein God assumes a human mode of existence".
But this raises more questions than it answers. Should we not assume that if God "assumes a human mode of existence" that God in Christ (in the sphere of the incarnation) will undoubtedly have "two natures"? God cannot deny His divine nature (in any mode of existence). And in Christ we see the divine nature manifested almost as often as the human nature. The effect of these two natures are perceived in the very words and deeds of the Christ Himself. Christ Himself does not specifically identify each nature as it is reflected in His actions and in His speech, but the differences are there.
Dulle seems to want to "compartmentalize" God's existence (or perhaps place His existence on two "planes"). But on the one plane, God's "existence" is the existence of deity on a human "plane", while on the other "plane", God's existence is seemingly "transcendental" above the other plane. He wrote:
Because Oneness believers recognize Jesus deity to be that of the Father, it would be easy to conclude that there is no metaphysical distinction between the Father and Son. Such a conclusion is inaccurate, however, in light of the incarnation and hypostatic union. The Son is not identical to the Father, because the Father's existence consists of deity-only while the Son's existence consists of deity and humanity united in one theandric existence. The Father is the deity of the Son, but the Son has a distinct existence from the Father because Son speaks of Gods existence as a human being, while Father speaks of Gods continued existence apart from the incarnation. To confuse the issue of deity and existence when discussing the "Father/Son" distinction is to confuse the entire issue. Yes, Jesus' deity is the deity of the Father, but no, Jesus does not have the same existence as the Father because Jesus has a "component" to His existence that the Father (God's continued existence apart from the incarnation) does not have, namely humanity.
But one might ask concerning these conclusions above: has Dulle "qualified" the deity of Christ, even though he insists it is the "deity of the Father"?. First of all, he questions the oneness believer's recognition of the deity of Jesus as that "of the Father". Did the incarnation "compromise" the "deity" of the Father? Is there one "deity" of God incarnate and another "deity" of God "unincarnate"? He says "no", but his qualifying statements make us to doubt that the "deity" is the same.
Jesus Himself always gave glory to the Father, and specified that the Father was God. Just before He ascended into heaven, He told Mary to tell His disciples, "I ascend unto...my God and your God" (John 20.17). This does not sound very "theandric". Could it be that we need to examine the verses speaking about the glorification of the Son just a little closer? They may shed some light on the process of the incarnation.
The following statement by Dulle is, in my opinion, highly detrimental to the oneness of God:
The Son is not identical to the Father, because the Father's existence consists of deity-only while the Son's existence consists of deity and humanity.
Are we really talking about two "modes of existence" only here, or are we subtly speaking about two "individuals" (one who has the nature of "deity-only" and another one who has the nature of "deity and humanity"? If we are speaking of the former (one individual only, who has "two modes of existence", then we must conclude that the Son is indeed "identical" to the Father insofar as deity goes, since there cannot be "one" who possesses "deity" only, and another "one" who possesses both "deity" and "humanity" united.
If, on the other hand, we are speaking of two individuals who are not "identical", then we are going down the road to trinitarianism by positing the Son (the Logos) as a separate divine Individual from God the Father. In the first conclusion, we are merely repeating the assertions of the ancient modalistic monarchians, who discussed "modes of existence" (from whence, "modalism"). In the second instance, we are dangerously close to the early trinitarians' "God from God", "Light from Light".
Dulle is concerned about confusing the issue of "deity" and "existence" in the explanation of the incarnation. He wrote:
To confuse the issue of deity and existence when discussing the "Father/Son" distinction is to confuse the entire issue. Yes, Jesus' deity is the deity of the Father, but no, Jesus does not have the same existence as the Father because Jesus has a "component" to His existence that the Father (God's continued existence apart from the incarnation) does not have, namely humanity.
Dulle, if I understand him correctly, is maintaining that the Father only has an existence of "deity", while the Son has a "theandric" existence (Jesus has "a component to His existence that the Father does not have"). Phillip Schaff, church historian (1819-1893), says that ancient Catholic fathers such as Apollinaris held a theos sarkophorus (a "God bearing flesh", cf. God "robed in flesh"), while Nestorius had an anthropos theophorus (a "God-bearing Man"). Schaff notes that it ought to rather be theandrotos (a "God-man"). This is exactly correspondent to Dulle's "theandric man", since it is the Greek noun in adjectivial form, although Schaff's view of the incarnation is different from Dulle's in that Schaff believed as the ancient Catholic fathers that it the second Person of a Trinity who was incarnated.
Athanasius (295-373), his On The Incarnation, wrote that "the Savior has worn a body", the Word (Logos) was "manifested to us in a human body...". And Athanasius stated:
But he (the Word) takes a body of our kind, and not merely so, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, knowing not a man, a body clean and in very truth pure from intercourse of men. For being himself mighty, and artificer of everything, he prepares a body in the virgin as a temple unto himself, and makes it his very own as an instrument, in it manifested, and in it dwelling. -On The Incarnation 8
Phrases like "robed in flesh", "wore a body", "manifested to us in a human body", and "prepared (himself) a body" are quite common in incarnational teaching, although the trinitarian error of denying the incarnation of God the Father is quite apparent in Athanasius.
Apollinaris of Laodicea (310-390 AD) fell into the Christological error that paved the way for Monophysitism (that Christ had only one nature). His error basically was that, while Christ had human flesh and human spirit, the Word (Logos) replaced Christ's human soul (nous, "mind", or "higher intellect"), so that Christ was the "Man from heaven" (1 Cor. 15.47), in that it was what came from heaven that gave Him full human existence (Christology Of The Later Fathers, III, Edward R. Hardy and Cyril K. Richardson, eds., Philadelphia: Westminister Press, n.d.). It seems that Apollinaris later repudiated statements attributed to him that the flesh of Christ as well was "heavenly in origin".
To say that "Jesus does not have the same existence as the Father" is merely to speak of the humanity of Christ. It does not speak of His divinity or His essential "being". Existence may be predicated of "being", but it may not be used to establish a separate real "identity" for the same being. A "being" does not change his basic "identity" because he changes his "mode of existence". A "being" may have a different "mode of existence", but the "mode" does not alter his "being". The incarnation provided an additional "created" substance or "essence" (ousia) for God, but it did not duplicate or add to His "identity" so as to make two "identities" (or "persons"). Melito of Sardis (c.160 AD) wrote:
(Christ) proved His manhood in the thirty seasons before the baptism, when, because of fleshly unmaturity, He hid the signs of His Godhead.
In this manner, concluded Melito, Christ "assured us of His two essences (tas duo autou ousias)". Christ proved His Godhead "through the signs in the three years after His baptism". After His baptism, wrote Melito, "Christ manifested the Godhead...hidden in flesh, and assured the world of it". There was no question in Melito's mind that there were "two essences (ousiai)" within (internal to) the Christ.
And to say that "Jesus has a 'component' to His existence that the Father does not have" is merely a testimony to the incarnation, but it does not demonstrate that Jesus and the Father are not identical insofar as their "deity" goes. Indeed, they must be "identical" for there to be an valid incarnation. There is no "incarnation" if "God the Father" is not identical to "our God Jesus" (as early modalists called Him).
The humanity of Jesus is not just a "component", as Dulle suggests, but rather the Man Jesus is a genuine human being (my point here is that we cannot "dogmatically", like the Chalcedonians state His genuine humanity, but rather we must believe it-I do not say that Dulle therefore does not believe in Christ's genuine humanity, but rather I say that His humanity cannot simply be seen as a "component" of His existence, because that would seem to "compromise" His genuine humanity.
Dulle brings this idea down just a little further in the statement below:
When the human and divine natures were united in one person in Christ, the result was a metaphysically distinct existence from Gods normal and continued existence apart from and beyond the incarnation as exclusive deity. The Son, because His human nature is in hypostatic union with His divine nature, has a theandric existence (divine-human), while the Father as exclusive Spirit apart from the incarnation has a purely theistic existence (divine). As such, it becomes plain that there is a metaphysical and existential distinction between Jesus and the Father because of the incarnation, although not an eternal distinction within Gods essence apart from, and prior to the incarnation. This distinction arises because of God's newly acquired human existence, not between Christ's deity and the deity of the Father, or between Jesus' divine and human natures.
Notice, that in order to achieve his argument, Dulle must make a distinction between the Father and the Son that he calls "metaphysical and existential".
But this borders on the parameters of the personal and divine distinctions within the Godhead that are maintained by trinitarians (I do not impugn Dulle's intentions by saying that this is intentional at all). Because a trinitarian could easily agree to accept a distinction between the Father and the Son that was "metaphysical and existential". Remember our dictionary definition of metaphysical at this point: "anything concerned with the supra-physical", and also "relating to the transcendent or supersensible", as well as simply "supernatural".
But if we leave the idea of a Greek "metaphysical union" for just a moment, we come back to the modalistic monarchians, who described the differences concerning His two natures or essences during His earthly incarnation in biblcial terms: "God is a Spirit" (John 4.24). Jesus is a "man" (anthropos) (John 8.40). These are differences between human and divine natures, between flesh and Spirit.
And yet Dulle insists:
This distinction arises because of God's newly acquired human existence, not between Christ's deity and the deity of the Father, or between Jesus' divine and human natures.
Well, yes, the "distinction" arises "because of God's newly acquired human existence", but it is not correct to say there is no "distinction" between "human" and "divine" natures in the incarnation after God has acquired His "human existence". Here, Dulle says that "the distinction (between the Father and the Son) arises...not between Christ's deity and the deity of the Father". This seems to be in contradiction to what he was saying above, when he wrote:
As such, it becomes plain that there is a metaphysical and existential distinction between Jesus and the Father because of the incarnation, although not an eternal distinction within Gods essence apart from, and prior to the incarnation.
One might well ask: what kind of a "metaphysical and existential distinction" is there between the Father and the Son if the Father is manifest in the flesh as the Son? And if the Son identifies Himself as the Father (e.g., John 14.7-9)? Certainly, this is not a "personal distinction"? Then what are we left with? We are left with some sort of "modalism" ("modes of existence"). If the Son has a "theandric" existence (divine-human), as Dulle proposes, then from whence did the Son derive this existence?
And if the Father is manifest in the flesh, and if the Father is dwelling in the Son, then what significance would we place upon "distinctions" between the Father and the Son? They could not be "personal" distinctions, since, as Dulle maintains, an "ontological" union has to exist between the Father and the Son. The Son is called "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1.15), and so we would expect no "personal" distinctions. The "distinctions" that would remain would be distinctions between His two natures or essences: Spirit and flesh. That is exactly where the modalistic monarchians placed the distinctions between Father and Son (that is, defining differences between Christ's two natures), while maintaining that there was only one divine Person.
Since God was manifest in Christ (indwelt Christ) there should be no problem in discussing "Christ's two natures or essences", since not only was Christ a human being, but through means of the incarnation, He was God Almighty Himself manifest in the flesh. This would also define His "theandric" existence, since the two natures are not "mixed", but remain distinct.
Dulle wrote concerning these "distinctions":
It cannot be said that the Son is the Father, or that the Father is the Son because the Son is by definition both divine and human, while the Father is only divine
The above statement could give the wrong impression that there is a personal distinction between the Son and the Father (in other words, the Father is not the same Person as the Son, and therefore we could end up postulating "two divine Persons", since while the Father is "only divine" in Dulle's theory, the Son is "both divine and human"). But actually the statement is merely expressing the exigencies of the incarnation ("the days of His flesh") which came about following the conception of the virgin.
The same divine Person who was (and is) solely divine, manifested Himself in the flesh, which became the Son, who is the same Person both divine and (then) human by means of the incarnation. When we are speaking of the Son insofar as His deity goes, it is not improper to identify Him as the Father. Although granted this is confusing to a proper understanding of the exigencies of the incarnation. The Son ought to first be understood as the human being, the Man Christ Jesus, the flesh, whereas the Father ought to first be understood as the Spirit, the Deity who is not only incarnate, but who remains "supra-incarnate". But it is not incorrect to identify the Son as the Father, as long as this identification respects the reality of the incarnation.
Dulle goes on to explain his statement:
Although the deity of the Son is of the same essence as that of the Father, the deity of the Son is inextricably joined with the humanity to form an existence distinct from God's existence as transcendent Spirit. The deity of the Father is in the Son, but the Son's existence is different from the Father's. There is, therefore, a distinction between the Son and the Father, but there is no separation.
And now we have entered "dangerous waters". Dulle states, "Although the deity of the Son is of the same essence as that of the Father...". This is echoes the language of Nicea (this is assuredly not Dulle's intent).
Nicea also declared that the Son was "of the same essence as that of the Father", but yet the Son was "another Person". If we teach that the Son had a "distinct existence" from that of the Father, and was only "of the same essence (italics mine)", then we get very near the dogmatism of "one essence or substance and three persons" (Western Christendom) and "treis hypostaseis, mia ousia" ("one essence, three beings"), although these credal statements have been variously interpreted. This needs explanation.
For example, Joseph Gill (q.v.) wrote concerning these doctrinal formulae:
The Greeks (at the Council of Florence 1439 AD) said: God is one hypostasis (existing reality) or three hypostases (three individual realities or persons). Gradually, however, the formula prevailed of one ousia in three hypostases. The Latins said: one substantia and three prosopa (persons). Substantia equaled the Greek ousia.
And Gill notes that the problems facing the Greeks and the Latins at the Council of Florence was, "How then to turn hypostasis, which purely on principles of derivation was the same as substantia". So then the Greeks were saying, "one essence and three substances or beings" in the mind of the Latins.
And for their part, the Greeks would not for long "accept the parallel Greek word prosopon, being used by the Latins, since prosopon, to the Greeks, suggested playing a part (e.g., the face of an actor), and suggested not reality but only appearance, which when it was applied to the Son, was heresy. The Latins later used subsistence for the Greek hypostasis. And Gill notes, "Substance was a subsisting reality existing in an individual. Hypostasis was this Person".
Gill's explanation of these doctrinal exercises in legerdemain was this:
The substance or essence or nature is one in all three Persons, but it is distinguished in them by what is individual to each.
These individuating marks are the relations that obtain between the Persons. The Father is He-from-whom-the-others-come as a source; the Son and the Holy Spirit are "They-who-are-from-another, the one by generation, the other by procession.
By arbitrarily assigning these functions, which might seem to be divided up among the three divine Persons, Gill identified "individuating marks" for each "member" of the trinity (even though Catholic scholars have long held that all three Persons of the trinity, for example, participated in the creation, and in the work of the incarnation). Gill goes on to note that: essence is communicated between the Persons of the trinity, while the properties are not. The properties are: to generate, to be generated, and to proceed.
What kind of "properties" are these? They are properties of function and not distinctions of persons. And if we only have distinction of functions, then why are separate, distinct persons really necessary? Because the functions used to distinguish the divine eternal persons are all non-eternal functions connected with creation, and therefore not even eternal in their necessary uses.
Dulle is actually closer to the modalist position than perhaps is shown from his remarks. He wrote:
In light of the distinction arising in the incarnation, we cannot use the terms "Father" and "Son" interchangeably. While it is true that the Father and Son are the same personal deity, and not two distinct persons within God, it is not true that "Father" and "Son" are synonymous referents. Biblically speaking, "Son" refers to God's existence in the incarnation, while "Father" refers to God's existence apart from the incarnation. The Father/Son distinction is not indicative of two distinct persons in the Godhead, nor is it indicative of a internal distinction between Christ's two natures, but of the one uni-personal God's two modes of existence: in the flesh, and apart from flesh. To erase the distinction of terms simply because we understand Jesus' deity to be the same as the Father's is to disrespect God's revelation, and to obliterate the distinction between Gods existence as man, and His continued existence apart from the incarnation as exclusive deity.
I believe Dulle's concern about the careless use of the terms "Father" and "Son" is actually not his primary concern. He seems to be interested in some kind of a "rapprochement" with trinitarian terminology.
The Bible Unequivocally Identifies Christ as The Father
The scripture actually calls the Son "God" (which we understand to be the Father): "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom".
Isaiah 9.6 gives the title of "everlasting Father" to the Son: "his name shall be called...The mighty God, The everlasting Father...". And so it is not precisely true that we cannot use the terms "Father" and "Son" interchangeably, seeing that the scriptures have identified the Son as "the Father" (also see John 14.7-9, where Jesus admits that He is the Father). To see Jesus is to see the Father. Naturally, these statements must be qualified, and I think this is what Dulle means.
Dulle is a oneness scholar and asserts that the Father and the Son are "the same personal deity", and "not two distinct persons within God" (I would have said, "within the Godhead" because of the exigencies of the incarnation). And it is generally true (except for the purpose of revelation and understanding the mechanics of the incarnation) that the terms "Father" and "Son" are "synonymous referents". But, on the other hand, if they are both "terms" which refer to the same personal deity, then there are synonymous elements in the terms, as seen in their partircularized use. Websters says concerning the word "synonym" that it is: (1) "one of two or more words or expressions of the same language that have the same or nearly the same meaning in some or all senses", and (2) "a symbolic or figurative name".
Technically, Dulle is correct in keeping the use of the term "Son" restricted to the sphere of the incarnation, and in keeping the use of the term "Father", not only as a "supra-incarnational" reference to God, who is above and beyond the incarnation itself, but also in a relational sense since Jesus is the Son of God the Father. But in the necessity of keeping the identity of the Father and the Son as only one God intact (in the context of explaining the incarnation), it does not seem out of place to use the terms interchangeably in that manner. And this is the use that modalists exercise.
And Dulle's argument against the use of the terms "Father" and "Son" interchangeably is further advanced with these comments:
The Father/Son distinction is not indicative of two distinct persons in the Godhead, nor is it indicative of a internal distinction between Christ's two natures, but of the one uni-personal God's two modes of existence: in the flesh, and apart from flesh. To erase the distinction of terms simply because we understand Jesus' deity to be the same as the Father's is to disrespect God's revelation, and to obliterate the distinction between Gods existence as man, and His continued existence apart from the incarnation as exclusive deity.
However, I cannot agree that "the Father/Son distinction" is "not indicative...of an internal distinction between Christ's two natures". The nature or essence of the Father is "Spirit" (John 4.24), while the basic nature of the Son produced in the incarnation is "flesh". Since the "Father" (Spirit) indwells the "Son" (flesh) there is indeed indications of an "internal distinction". If the Father did not "indwell" the Son, then one might make the conclusion that Dulle is making (since the Father would remain "external" to the Son), but this is not the case. "God was in Christ" (2 Cor. 5.19). There is an internal distinction necessitated by the incarnation and by the fact that there is no real "mixture" of humanity and divinity, but rather a "union". In the "union" the distinction must remain and it must also be "internal".
It is not "proper", in my view, to say that "Jesus' deity is..the same as the Father's" (as though there were two deities) since this has Nicean overtones, and could support the idea of Jesus as a separate divine Person (this is not Dulle's intention of course). Jesus' deity is the deity of the Father. Jesus does not possess a "deity" that is merely "the same" as (or similar to) the Father's deity. Let me explain why.
The modalists (e.g., Noetus and Paul of Samosata) used the term homoousios to mean that Jesus' deity was the deity of the Father (since Father and Son were actually the same Person). The trinitarians rejected this term as being "anathema" until they were forced to adopt it themselves at Nicea to refute the Arians. But the Athanasians did not understand homoousios to represent the Individual, but rather the essence only of the Individual. In other words, Christ was, in their view, a separate Person from God the Father, but He shared the same "essence" (ousias) with the Father. So the trinitarians could then say that Christ was homoousios with the Father, but a separate divine Person. This was different from the earlier modalists who taught that Christ was homoousios with the Father because He was the Father (manifest in the flesh).
Dulle makes it rather clear that he is using the trinitarian language here when he writes:
It cannot be said that the Son is the Father, or that the Father is the Son because the Son is by definition both divine and human, while the Father is only divine. Although the deity of the Son is of the same essence as that of the Father, the deity of the Son is inextricably joined with the humanity to form an existence distinct from God's existence as transcendent Spirit. The deity of the Father is in the Son, but the Son's existence is different from the Father's. There is, therefore, a distinction between the Son and the Father, but there is no separation.
Note carefully that Dulle writes, "Although the deity of the Son if of the same essence as that of the Father...". We cannot say that "the deity of the Son is of the same essence as that of the Father". Once we say this, we have opened up ourselves to the interpretation of holding that Christ "shared" in the essence of the Father (in perhaps a similar way as we are said to be "partakers of the divine nature", 2 Peter 1.4). but the deity of Christ is the deity of the Father since Christ is the Father-not as though the Father could impart deity to Another by sharing His essence). The phrase "of the essence" is, as I said, trinitarian, and strikes at the very heart of oneness belief, in my opinion.
Dulle explains his intentions in the following statement:The deity of the Son is known as "YHWH" before the incarnation, and "Son" only after the incarnation for the purpose of distinguishing God's new existence as a human being from God's continued existence apart from humanity. In the incarnation, "Son" and "Father" are relational terms used to describe the temporal relationship between God as He exists apart from the incarnation, and God's limited existence as a genuine human being with a genuine human consciousness.
Here Dulle clearly identifies the "deity" of the Son as being the "deity" of God the Father (Jehovah)-and not just being "of the same essence". Dulle also accurately describes the use of the term "Son" to distinguish "God's new existence as a human being" from the term "Father" (which describe God's "continued existence apart from humanity"). But we have seen that the scripture recognizes a higher, particularized use of the term "Son" as being (in certain instances) interchangeable with the terms "God" and "Father" (some other examples: Romans 9.5, where the Son is called "God", and Titus 2.13, where the Son is called "the great God"). These are post-resurrection titles, and they just make it even more important that we pay attention to the effects of the glorification of Jesus, as in Philippians 2.5-9. The incarnation was a process.Dulle's Conclusion:
Dulle concludes his remarks by again counseling modalists to cease the practice of calling Jesus "Father":
While we understand the Scripture to teach that the deity of Jesus is the deity of the Father, this does not mean that we should call Jesus the Father. We can recognize His deity to be that of the Father, but nevertheless, because His identity goes beyond that of the Father in the hypostatic union, and due to the fact that His human existence was fathered by Gods Spirit, He is called the "Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus identity may include the deity of the Father, but we do Scripture an injustice when we insist on saying that Jesus name is Father. Jesus name is Jesus, not Father. Jesus and Son of God are terms incorporating Jesus existence as deity and humanity perfectly united in one theandric existence.
Even though we understand the scripture to teach that "the deity of Jesus is the deity of the Father", Dulle says, "this does not mean that we should call Jesus 'the Father'." To the oneness believer, the passage from Isaiah 9.6 immediately comes to mind: "his name shall be called...the everlasting Father". And Philip's request to Jesus to show them the Father, and the answer of Jesus in the first person singular, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" (John 14.9). The appellation of "Father" to our Lord Jesus Christ comes by revelation, and it is not something that we should give up lightly only for the sake of attempting to clarify the incarnation for unbelievers.
Dulle notes that Jesus' Name is "Jesus, not Father", and "Jesus and 'Son of God' are terms incorporating Jesus' existence as deity and humanity perfectly united in one theandric existence". We have already seen that the term "theandric" (God-man) has unpleasant trinitarian overtones (although the expression "God-man" has been used in a slightly different way by oneness teachers for years). But we do not do Jesus an "injustice" (nor the scriptures) by calling Him "Father". Indeed, we glorify Him as the "Almighty God"
(see Revelation 1.8). The use of the term "Father" for Jesus is revelatory praise. It takes a revelation to understand this about Jesus. As I have noted, we have seen scriptural examinations calling Jesus "Father", which are revelatory. Another "revelatory" scripture is Acts 20.28, wherein Paul speaks of the "blood of God". In the KJV we have 1 John 3.16 stating that "God...laid down his life for us". In John 20.28, we have Thomas bowing before Jesus and calling Him, "My Lord and my God". We know that Thomas was a devout Jew and realized that "the Lord and God" was "God the Father". These are revelatory passages, but we cannot be asked to give up our revelation of who Jesus is simply to clarify the incarnation for those who are ignorant of it.
In attempting to explain the incarnation in such a way that we can no longer call Jesus "Father", Dulle has skirted dangerously close to picking up trinitarian phrases, which were used to establish the idea of separate divine Persons in the development of the doctrine of the trinity. Moreover, in order to establish his thesis that the terms "Father" and "Son" cannot be used interchangeably in describing Jesus Christ, Dulle has, in my view, impugned the understanding of the incarnation by the ancient modalistic monarchians-at least as we can understand it from contemporary writers who were hostile to them. This is not good, because the stream of modalistic monarchianism in church history is important to the history of oneness Christianity. If the modalistic monarchians were just as wrong as the ancient trinitarians, then where does that leave our claims to apostolicity in terms of a continuing eccleisiastical body down through the centuries? And if modern oneness believers are wrong in calling Jesus "the Father", then perhaps our understanding of the incarnation is "wrong". We certainly do not wish to "correct" it by adopting even more trinitarian terminology (such as "of the same essence").
Dulle has gone where few are brave enough to go: he has delved into the mechanics of the incarnation, which, after all, Paul terms a "mystery" (1 Timothy 3.16). Hopefully he will continue his investigation, but I sincerely hope he will come to the realization that "modes of existence" is not a phrase that is unfamiliar to modalists, and that ancient modalistic monarchians (as well as modern oneness Christians) are not doing Jesus an injustice in calling Him "Father".
I think of a passage in Isaiah that encourages me as a Gentile who has turned to Christ and become a "spiritual Jew":
Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our Redeemer: thy name is from everlasting. -Isaiah 63.16
William B. Chalfant, Easton, KS, August 7, 2003
Here is the pasted copy of my reply to Jason Dulle's "Avoiding The Achilles Heel Of Modalistic Monarchianism". Feel free to post it if you desire to do so.