Last night during service, our pastor was preaching and came to this section of Scripture. It glued itself to conscience.
Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.
(Act 17:29 NKJV)
γενος ουν υπαρχοντες του θεου ουκ οφειλομεν νομιζειν χρυσω η αργυρω η λιθω χαραγματι τεχνης και ενθυμησεως ανθρωπου το θειον ειναι ομοιον
For those who are familiar with this blog, you will know that I have stated my opposition to theology being developed/formulated in a Council, so when I lighted upon this verse, I begin to wonder what the Apostle Paul would have said about the church councils that met to formulate doctrine (vs. administrations of the Church), especially the doctrine of the Godhead.
Robertson had this to say,
Graven by art and device of man (charagmati technēs kai enthumēseōs anthrōpou). Apposition with preceding and so charagmati in associative instrumental case. Literally, graven work or sculpture from charassō, to engrave, old word, but here alone in N.T. outside of Revelation (the mark of the beast). Graven work of art (technēs) or external craft, and of thought or device (enthumēseōs) or internal conception of man.
Whereas the NET translators have this,
Or “thought.” BDAG 336 s.v. ἐνθύμησις has “thought, reflection, idea” as the category of meaning here, but in terms of creativity (as in the context) the imaginative faculty is in view.
Easily said is that Paul is speaking purely about monuments, statues, icons, or anything else that iconoclastic people choose to call those things that other men bow to; however we must look past that and understand that every created work of the hand, either from stone or by the pen, first has the foundation in the mind of man. Hence, I believe that is acceptable to say that a creed or other theological formulation produced by men can be considered devised by man and thus falls under Paul’s prohibition.
Can we rightly argue with the Apostle Paul that some 200 to 300 years, Councils were allowed to formulate doctrine and Tradition by the device of man who used non-canonical words and allusions along with philosophy to determine the Godhead? Can we not say that from the Alexandrian School – Panteanus, Clement, Origen, Gregory Thaumaturgus – we gained philosophers instead of theologians? We gained scholars instead of soldiers?
The idea that one should be allowed to formulate doctrine from centuries of progression is beyond my reach at the moment. Yes, I understand their reasoning and their insistence on Tradition, but I do not see their foundation. Creeds and Council formulations are from the device of man, and those, like those Athenian monuments, dead.
The idea of the Trinity contains in itself the contradiction of polytheism and monotheism, of imagination and reason, of fiction and reality. Imagination gives the Trinity, reason the Unity of the persons. According to reason, the things distinguished are only distinctions;according to imagination, the distinctions are things distinguished, which therefore do away with the unity of the divine being. (Ludwig Feuerbach, George Eliot, The Essence of Christianity 1843)