Note: I had to break the discussion on this chapter up into two. I will post the other one, I hope, something this afternoon or perhaps later tonight.
In the first section of this chapter, Dr. Kelly exposes us to some of the early writers who readily defined God as one, as Creator and as Father only in the aspect of His creator ship. He states (pg83) that “‘Father’ (in this period) referred primarily to His role as creator and author of all things. This comes at the end of a series of statements where Hermas writes (88-97) that the first commandment is to ‘believe that God is one, Who created and established all things, bringing them into existence out of non-existence’. Moving to Clement of Rome (88-99), we read that Clement saw God as ‘the Father and creator of the entire cosmos’ while for Barnabas (c100), He is ‘our maker’. Kelly acknowledges that this ideas derived directly from the Bible and from latter-day Judaism, and rarely from the philosophy of the day. Acknowledging this leads us to ask, ‘if the bible was a sturdy foundation for these first generation writers, then what lead to the change?’
The Apologists, those coming after the Apostles, seemed to flirt with the idea of secular thought (i.e., paganism and philosophy) as a defense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Doctrine of the Church. This, however, is an interpretation 1800 years removed. Dr. Kelly, citing on the first apologist, Aristides of Athens, says he opened his letter to the emperor Hadrian with a demonstration of God’s existence based on Aristotle’s argument from motion. (pg84) Aristides does go one to acknowledge only one God, ‘and apart from Him worship no other God.
In moving to Justin Martyr, Kelly focuses on his language ‘strongly colored’ by the ‘Platonizing Stoicism of the day’. Tertullian, separate from Justin by the Mediterranean Sea, stated,
“What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? what between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from “the porch of Solomon,” who had himself taught that “the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart.” Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief. For this is our palmary faith, that there is nothing which we ought to believe besides.
Justin, however, felt completely comfortable combining Christian doctrine with pagan philosophy, establishing an Academy instead of teaching from the Porch. The Martyr went so far as to sincerely hold to the notion that the great Greek thinkers ‘had access to the works of Moses’. Kelly points out that much of Justin can be found in Plato’s Timaeus (pg84) ‘which Justin supposed to be akin to, and borrowed from, that contained in Genesis’. For Justin, God was ‘everlasting, ineffable and without name, changeless and impassable, and ingenerate’. He is also ‘Creator of the Universe, maker and Father of all things; Himself above being, He is the cause of all existence.’ It is worth nothing that Justin’s conversion experience leaves doubt in the mind of the modern believer as to the intentions of the philosopher. Was it repentance or merely a search for purer philosophy that attracted Justin to Christianity?
The era of the Reformation has not been kind to Justin. Flacius discovered “blemishes” in Justin’s theology, which he attributed to the influence of pagan philosophers; and in modern times Semler and S.G. Lange have made him out a thorough Hellene, while Semisch and Otto defend him from this charge. In opposition to the school of Ferdinand Christian Baur, who considered him a Jewish Christian, Albrecht Ritschl has pointed out that it was precisely because he was a Gentile Christian that he did not fully understand the Old Testament foundation of Paul’s teaching, and explained in this way the modified character of his Paulinism and his legal mode of thought. M. von Engelhardt has attempted to extend this line of treatment to Justin’s entire theology, and to show that his conceptions of God, of free will and righteousness, of redemption, grace, and merit prove the influence of the cultivated Greek pagan world of the second century, dominated by the Platonic and Stoic philosophy.
Kelly then moves to Tatian, the pupil of Justin, however, Tatian is a worthy mention. According to Irenaeus, was expelled from the Roman Church because of his encratitic ways. This is a heretical sect which Tatian is accused of starting which attempted to live a very ascetic way of live, forbidding marriage and abstaining from meat. Supposedly his excommunication was a result of his following of Valentinus the Gnostic, of course, this did not stop Tatian from establishing a school of thought as well as, as some say, teaching Clement of Alexandria.
Kelly then goes on to mention Theophilus and Athenagoras in describing creation ex nihilo. It is interesting to here Theophilus’ description of God, which Kelly relates,
‘Without beginning because uncreated, immutable because immortal, Lord because He is Lord over all things, Father because He is prior to all things, most high because He is above all things, almighty because he holds all things; for the heights of the heavens, the depths of the abysses and the ends of the world are in His hands’.
It is noteworthy because of what is lacking: any notion of a ‘Son’ and thus a traditional understanding of the Father-Son relationship in the Trinity. We also see that the notion of ‘Father’ and ‘Almighty’ is in line with Clement of Alexandria and Barnabas. Even here, in the philosophers, we fail to find any mention of the Father as described in the Trinity.
Theophilus was ‘particularly critical of the Platonic notion of the eternity of matter, arguing that, if it were true, God could not be the creator of all thing, and therefore His ‘monarchy’, i.e His position of sole first principle, must go by the board, ‘ says Dr. Kelly. We have to first understand that if Clement (who was in the apostolic succession from Peter) as well as these early Apologists, never used the word ‘Father’ in relation to an co-eternal Son, then the idea of a Trinity as proposed by Nicaea is unknown to the Apostles. If, as according to Theophilus, God is the sole source, the first principle of Creation, then that means that the Wisdom and the Word, or the Spirit and the Son, are created beings at the very least, dismissing the notion that later develops that the Son and the Spirit are both co-eternal with the Father.
Dr. Kelly moves to Irenaeus, often times called the first Orthodox theologian for this strict adherence to Tradition. The author states that the task of this theologian was different that that of the Apologists, ‘being to rebut the Gnostics’ theology of a hierarchy of aeons descending from an unknowable Supreme God.’ Dr. Kelly provides us with texts to make the position taken by Irenaeus clear. In Haer. 2, I, I, Irenaeus states:
It is clear that we should start with the first, most important proposition, vis. God the Creator (a demiurgo deo), Who made heave and earth and everything in them, the God Whom they (the Gnostics) blasphemously describe as an abortive product; and that we should show that there is nothing above or after Him…since He is alone God, alone Lord, alone creator, alone Father, and alone contains all things and bestows existence on them’.
In another work, Irenaeus cites the first article of faith as:
God the Father, increate, unengendered, invisible, one and only Deity, creator of the universe.
Irenaeus taught that “God exercises His creative activity through His Word and His Wisdom, or Spirit, and was a firm believer in creation ex nihilo, point out that ‘mean indeed cannot make anything out of nothing, but only of material already before them.’” We fail to see yet a clear distinction, in the vein of the Trinity, in the words of Irenaeus. It is by the Word (which is Christ) that God creates, yet Irenaeus does seem to argue with Paul who said that Christ was the Wisdom of God. Kelly goes on to say that Irenaeus, in his war waged against the Gnostics, believed ‘every subordinate emanation must share the nature of its principle, but thy very notion of Godhead excludes a plurality of Gods.’ (pg87)
Irenaeus says, ‘Either there must be one God Who contains all things and has made every creature according to His will: or there must be many indeterminate creators or gods, each beginning and ending at his place in the series’, and in saying such, Irenaeus stands as an accuser of the Trinity belief that God is divisible, and that each Person of the Godhead, distinct from one another, has only a place in a series.
Moving into the section which Dr. Kelly has named ‘The Church’s Faith’, he notes that the New Testament, yet uncanonized by the middle of the Second Century, was exerting a ‘powerful influence’. Dr. Kelly also notes ‘how deeply the conception of a plurality of divine Persons was imprinted on the apostolic tradition and the popular faith’ ignoring Tertullian’s quote that the majority of believers knew of only Person in the Godhead, assuming that a plurality lead to paganism. Dr. Kelly does, however, being to build the concept that the dyadic and triadic pattern of the Godhead began to take shape; however, he ignores the monad creeds that are found on the pages of Holy Writ, namely:
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
(1Ti 3:16 NKJV)
That if you will profess with your mouth that Jesus is God, and will believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved!
(Rom 10:9 CTV-NT)
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider Deity something to be held so tightly to, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
(Php 2:5-8 CTV-NT
It must be noted that these early ‘creeds’ of the Church exhibited only a monad theology, that Jesus Christ was God.
Moving to the issue of baptism, Dr. Kelly notes that the baptismal rite provides evidence of a triadic formula of the Godhead, yet throughout Acts and even into the epistles baptism is seen only in the name of Jesus Christ. Many scholars even today note that the original formula of baptism was in the singular name while Catholic commentators often note the doubt as to the validity of the tri-part name in Matthew 28:19, yet Dr. Kelly fails to acknowledge these meager facts that demonstrate that the early Church’s baptism, in line with the Apostles, was first changed which led to a triadic view of the Godhead.
How ever, Dr. Kelly does bring to light that Justin first used a dyadic formula for baptism and only later changed it to use the third part, that of the Spirit. In the earlier models, Justin would quote ‘In the name of God the Father and master of all things, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, they are washed in the water’ while later, he added in great detail, ‘in the name of God the Father and master of all things, of Jesus Christ, Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate’, and of the Holy Spirit, Who foretold by the prophets the whole story of Jesus’. This of course greatly adds to both baptismal formulas (Matthew 28.19 and Acts 2.38).
If baptism was a keystone in the development of the Godhead, then the Apostles who baptized only in the name of Jesus Christ would surely have failed to recognize the Trinity doctrine that developed later from the heavy reliance upon the singular instance in the New Testament of baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Moving into the Apostolic Fathers, the apocryphal book of 2nd Clement opens with the monad formula,
Brethren, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ, as of God, as of the Judge of quick and dead. 2Clem 1:1
And again, the author says,
If Christ the Lord who saved us, being first spirit, then became flesh, and so called us, in like manner also shall we in this flesh receive our reward. 2Clem. 9:5
Neither of these statements lead to a dyadic formula, but rather seeing on Christ, as God, as a Spirit. Barnabas seems to have the same problem in placing the ‘spirit’ as an adjective instead of a person. In 7.3 and 11.9 the author of Barnabas calls the body of Christ the vessel of spirit, ‘presumably denoting by the word the spiritual nature of the diving element in the Lord.’ (pg91). It must also be fairly noted that the Epistle of Barnabas was not written by Paul’s companion and John Mark’s uncle; however, this book does given prominence to the pre-existence of Christ, for as Dr. Kelly points out Barnabas says that it is Christ whom God spoke to in Genesis 1.26.
“And I perceived that the world and all that is therein are moved by the power of another; and I understood that he who moves them is God, who is hidden in them, and veiled by them” – It is not uncommon for someone to search based on secular methods for something greater, but when finding the Greater, realizes the futility of the secular methods. Aristides used Paul’s method of discourse by using something familiar to the Roman elite to bring forth Christ, but in no way used philosophy to shape Christ and His doctrine.
In the opening of the “Dialogue,” Justin relates his vain search among the Stoics, Peripatetics, and Pythagoreans for a satisfying knowledge of God; his finding in the ideas of Plato wings for his soul, by the aid of which he hoped to attain the contemplation of the God-head; and his meeting on the sea-shore with an aged man who told him that by no human endeavor but only by divine revelation could this blessedness be attained, that the prophets had conveyed this revelation to man, and that their words had been fulfilled. Of the truth of this he assured himself by his own investigation; and the daily life of the Christians and the courage of the martyrs convinced him that the charges against them were unfounded. So he sought to spread the knowledge of Christianity as the true philosophy.
But he admits that Justin is a Christian in his unquestioning adherence to the Church and its faith, his unqualified recognition of the Old Testament, and his faith in Christ as the Son of God the Creator, made manifest in the flesh, crucified, and risen, through which belief he succeeds in getting away from the dualism of pagan and also of Gnostic philosophy.