The Importance of the Monarchy of the Father according to John Zizioulas

This post generated some interest two and a half years ago. I even received a request for permission to translate it into Romanian (though I never heard anything more about it). I welcome critique, suggestions, discussion.

Eclectic Orthodoxy

“For the Christian faith,” Fr John Behr declares, “there is, unequivocally, but one God, and that is the Father” (Nicene Faith, II:307). Western Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, hear this declaration and wince. It just does not accord with their understanding of the Holy Trinity. The Eastern construal of the monarchy of the Father seems like a relic of a bygone era that has now been transcended by superior models of divine triunity (see, e.g., “Beyond 4th-century Trinitarianism” by Michael Liccione). Not only are there the classical formulations of St Augustine of Hippo and St Thomas Aquinas; but in the last century we have witnessed a renaissance in trinitarian reflection—Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, Jurgen Moltmann, Catherine LaCugna, Wolfhart Pannenbert, Robert W. Jenson, Colin Gunton. None of them speak of the divine monarchy as Orthodoxy does, yet Eastern theologians remain insistent: the Father is the one God.

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3 Responses to The Importance of the Monarchy of the Father according to John Zizioulas

  1. Mina says:

    I think it’s a good post. It is thought-provoking. The first time I heard about this was not from Metropolitan Zizioulas, but from Dr. George Bebawy, who happened to have translated his writings into Arabic. It brought a shock value simply because of limited human logic.

    As Arab Christians, it seems we inherited this scholastic thought, that the “one God” is not the Father, but the Holy Trinity. A scholastic would predictably ask, “then is the Son and the Holy Spirit not the one God”? It took me some time to get used to this expression, and that this does not contradict believe in just One God. After much meditation, I felt this truly is a more complete Trinitarian understanding, and it brings together ante-Nicene into post-Nicene thought very fluidly I think, forcing one to rethink accusations of “subordinationism” against some of the earliest writers.

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  2. Archpriest Dr Lawrence Cross says:

    Thank you for the opinion piece on Zizioulas, but there is still further unfinished trinitarian business to consider. In a true sense both western and eastern trinitarian pronouncements are both imperfect and it is important to note that even the Cappadocians were not at one. Basil’s much praised accommodation to the semi-Arians at the second council did not accord with the wish of Gregory the Theologian. For him the council failed because it did not go far enough. It did not declare that the Holy Spirit is homousios with the Father and the Son. What trouble that would a have saved us. And while Latins use the filioque still, which I as an Eastern Catholic reject, they would certainly affirm that the Holy Spirit is homousios with the Father and the Son, and no Greek would ever dare say otherwise.Maybe the 8th Ecumenical Council will declare the Spirit homousios as Gregory wanted and that would end the matter?

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Fr Lawrence, given that St Gregory the Theologian’s understanding of the full divinity of the Spirit triumphed in the Church, both East and West, I’m curious why you think that a specific dogma is needed. Could you elaborate.

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