Doctrinal Development and the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

While much of the first four centuries of Church History concern the deity of Christ, His relationship with the Father, the nature of the union of God and Man, and even the generation of the Son, less attention was paid to the development of the Holy Spirit, or the 3rd Person of the Trinity. For most of the formative years, the Holy Spirit was not seen as a separate person, and indeed, during the great debates of the 4th century, was pushed to side as a topic. It was only after the council in 381 that a doctrine of the Spirit as an entity separate and distinct from the Father and the Son began to develop.

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Gregory Nazianzen on Doctrinal Development

Many of the readers of this blog know that I disagree with the idea that Doctrine has developed over time. My basis for this belief is that idea that many times the New Testament writers spoke about the Faith that was once for all delivered unto the Saints. In Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, we read that the new Christians continued steadfastly in the doctrine of the Apostles. If the Church is to continue in the Doctrine of the Apostles then that Doctrine must not change. You might call it Doctrinal Procession or Development, but I do not see a scriptural basis for it.

This week, while reading Early Christian Doctrines I came across a que to a thought by Gregory of Nazianzus. So, I went searching for it, in hopes of finding something biblical about it. This is the quote:

XXVI.  To this I may compare the case of Theology3733 except that it proceeds the reverse way.  For in the case by which I have illustrated it the change is made by successive subtractions; whereas here perfection is reached by additions.  For the matter stands thus.  The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely.  The New manifested the Son, and suggested the Deity of the Spirit.  Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of Himself.  For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further (if I may use so bold an expression) with the Holy Ghost; lest perhaps people might, like men loaded with food beyond their strength, and presenting eyes as yet too weak to bear it to the sun’s light, risk the loss even of that which was within the reach of their powers; but that by gradual additions, and, as David says, Goings up, and advances and progress from glory to glory,3734 the Light of the Trinity might shine upon the more illuminated.  For this reason it was, I think, that He gradually came to dwell in the Disciples, measuring Himself out to them according to their capacity to receive Him, at the beginning of the Gospel, after the Passion, after the Ascension, making perfect their powers, being breathed upon them, and appearing in fiery tongues.  And indeed it is by little and little that He is declared by Jesus, as you will learn for yourself if you will read more carefully.  I will ask the Father, He says, and He will send you another Comforter, even the spirit of Truth.3735 This He said that He might not seem to be a rival God, or to make His discourses to them by another authority.  Again, He shall send Him, but it is in My Name.  He leaves out the I will ask, but He keeps the Shall send,3736 then again, I will send,—His own dignity.  Then shall come,3737the authority of the Spirit.

Theology, the translator tells us, is restrict to the Doctrine of the Deity of the Son. We can accept that. Gregory’s use of Father does not equal the use by the Jews, the Apostles, the Apostolic or the early Church Fathers. For them, Father was the principle, the source of Creation. The Son is proclaimed not as Son, but as Messiah, as the Hope of Israel.

The problem with Gregory’s analysis of the Old and the New and the Now (Father, Son, Spirit) is that it only provides Inspiration for the two. We are the base our doctrine on the Scriptures. If this is the case, then we have no real scriptures pointing to the deity of the Spirit and thus, no justification of the third person of the Trinity.

There is of course problem with the ‘gradual’ indwelling of the Apostles by the Spirit. There is no scriptural evidence for that. Christ did not give the Spirit measured in John 20.

Well, I don’t want to dissect him too much, but I would rather stick with Chrysostom