The Neglected Doctrine of the Monarchy of the Father

Okay, all of you doctrine-of-the-Trinity people. Philosopher Beau Branson has made available a series of five powerpoint presentations, with audio narration, on the neglected doctrine of the Monarchy of the Father. In the course of these he addresses objections that have been advanced by analytic philosophers—specifically, Dr Dale Tuggy of Trinities.org fame. So if you have a burning interest in Trinitarian doctrine (either pro or con), you will want to carve out some time and listen to these lectures.

1. Monarchy of the Father (Part 1)

2. Monarchy of the Father (Part 2)

3. Monarchy of the Father (Part 3)

4. Monarchy of the Father (Part 4)

5. Monarchy of the Father (Part 5)

Who knows? Perhaps Dr Branson has earned himself a podcast interview with Dr Tuggy.

Enjoy the lectures and come back and tell us what you learned and what questions you still have.

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9 Responses to The Neglected Doctrine of the Monarchy of the Father

  1. Tom says:

    I confess I was surprised when he referred to the Father, Son and Spirit as three “beings” (Part 1, Slide 2). I was encouraged to chalk it up to untechnical or informal misspeak. I’ll try to do that, but it’s hard to imagine someone who did a PhD dissertation on the Trinity (Gregory of Nyssa) being capable of even informally describing Father, Son and Spirit as three beings. But he clearly doesn’t think the Persons are a federation of very intimately related ‘beings’. So I apologize. I’m being picky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Tom, I haven’t listened to the presentations (I’m eschatologically waiting for a text to read), but let’s consider the possible English words one might use for hypostasis: substance, subsistence, particular, identity, concrete object, objective form, being, entity, individual. Any other words come to mind? (I have intentionally omitted “person.”)

      So which one works best for hypostasis?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tom says:

        I don’t know of any definition of “being” that doesn’t include that being’s “nature,” i.e., “being” is the all-inclusive term. So I don’t know how to posit discrete ‘beings’ without positing discrete ‘natures’ – and we don’t want to do that. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that “being” doesn’t discriminate between what we call ‘hypostasis’ on the one hand and ‘nature’ on the other. The other word he uses just before “being” is “individual” which also doesn’t really allow for the kind of distinction between ‘person/concrete/objective form’ and ‘nature’ that we want to make.

        I’m sure he’s just being less than formal-exact with his terms.

        Like

  2. Ed says:

    I just listened to the first two lecture and would like to make a brief comment. Dr. Branson states that the oneness of God is primarily due to the fact that there is one source, i.e., the Father. I don’t disagree with this, but it seems to me that he divorces this concept too much from the essence. After all, if we say that the Father is source, we must also ask: source of what? If we understand the word God to refer to the hypostasis of the Father without any relation to the divine essence, then what does the word “God” mean when we say that the Son is “God from God.”? Clearly, the Son is not God the Father. What we mean to say here is that the Father communicates His nature to the Son, so that the Son can also be called God in a derivative but wholly equal sense. And it is precisely because the Son shares the same nature as the Father (who is the one source of that nature) that we can say there is one God.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Art says:

    This article, as with many of the posts here, was quite timely and impacting. Your site is a Godsend.

    I had no idea, following the hyperlinks, that such depth of discussions were taking place on the scale that they are. It hearkens back to the very same period of time in which these debates occurred originally though they have obviously resurfaced with a vengeance.

    I’ve been reading Richard Rubenstein’s “When Jesus Became God” (for some reason I like to pummel myself with those fiery darts that bring opposing views to what is considered ‘orthodox’ and what I am traditionally “supposed” to believe) and the following jumped out at me just this past weekend.

    To quote Rubenstein’s summary of Arius’ (hypothetical) argument to Constantine in response to Athanasius’ (hypothetical) arguments to him:

    “…since [Athanasius] cannot find any basis in Scripture for his conception, he and his friends
    borrow a word from Greek philosophy—homoousios—to express it.

    He…hastens to add that the Father’s method of generating the Son is beyond human understanding.

    …this is a matter that is beyond human understanding!”

    It dawned on me, as his arguments on the surface sound reasonable, why I have been more and more drawn to Eastern Orthodoxy (through books, mind you): its surrender to the mystery, the inevitable apophaticism, and a willingness to live in that experience of the “perichoresis” (I’m sure I’m taking conceptual liberty with that term) between us and Him into which I have been grafted in.

    To say ‘it’s a mystery’ is not because I don’t understand it or because I don’t want to take the time to try or because I just accept it without question, it’s a ‘mystery’ because it has taxed, continues to tax and always will tax (even as this, perhaps ironically, leads to growth by decreasing dependence on the same) all my resources as I continue the fight to surrender.

    To quote Gregory of Nazianzus:

    “The three are God when know together, each God because of the consubstantiality, one God because of the monarchy. When I first know the one I am also illumined from all sides by the three; when I first distinguish the three I am also carried back to the one. When I picture one of the three I consider the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part escapes me.” (Oration 40, On Baptism)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dr. Beau Branson has also commented here on a similar theme – https://contramodalism.com/2018/07/09/do-you-believe-in-the-son-of-god/

    I wonder what you all make of it.

    Like

  5. To be clear, he commented on the post, not commented by authoring the post.

    Like

  6. Tom says:

    Art: I had no idea, following the hyperlinks, that such depth of discussions were taking place on the scale that they are. It hearkens back to the very same period of time in which these debates occurred originally…

    Tom: That should make Fr Aidan’s day. I agree – this is hands down the best online theological conversation I’ve encountered. I’m not old enough to remember the days when these debates first occurred, but Fr Aidan may remember a thing or two from then!

    ———–

    Sean: Dr. Beau Branson has also commented here on a similar theme…I wonder what you all make of it.

    Tom: I think there’s a place for Beau Bransons’s criticism of Augustine’s “God=Trinity” proposition in De Trinitate – ‘historically’ speaking. That is, it’s hard to disagree with the observation that in the New Testament “God” refers to the Father. But as the Church’s understanding of the relations Father/Son/Spirit developed, we find “God” used to refer to the Triune God in his indivisible unity and fullness, and you even have “God” referring to Jesus. Gavrilyuk reviews the shocking language (Byzantine hymnographers addressing Christ as “the crucified God” and speaking of his passion as “God’s death”). It’s hard to imagine such attributions if the Monarchia of the Father meant circumscribing the use of the word “God” to refer exclusively to the “Father.” The Church’s worship makes that impossible.

    One could make a case for it being a mistake to take Augustine’s “God=Trinity” as necessarily limiting the use of the word “God” to the Trinity. But that seems to make the same mistake in the other direction.

    I think Aristotle Papanikokaou (‘Being with God’), comparing/contrasting Lossky and Zizioulas, argues that it’s no violation of the Monarchia to argue that the Father is constituted in the act of ‘begetting’ just as the Son constituted in the act of ‘being begotten’. I get the sense that Branson thinks the Monarchia means the Father first possesses himself hypostatically and then begets the Son. Even if one grants there is no temporal movement in the priority, one can still incorrectly think the Father is somehow “there,” qua hypostasis, antecedent to begetting the Son. I’m guessing that’s a mistake because the Father’s “begetting the Son” is a relation that defines the Father hypostatically just as it defines the Son. The monarchia defines the relation perspectivally but utterly mutually. It’s the simple irreducibility of this mutuality that makes it not just OK, but in some contexts, necessary to say “God=Trinity.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I’m pretty much in agreement with Tom here. I suppose I need to make a confession: I have never read St Augustine’s De Trinitate and do not have a good grasp of Latin trinitarian theology. All my ministry I have largely followed the Eastern model (albeit mediated through Robert Jenson). But I have never thought that Eastern and Western Christians have believed in a different God than the one confessed in the Nicene Creed. After all, most prayers in the Latin tradition—and this is particularly true of the prayers in the Mass—are addressed to God (the Father) through the Son in the Holy Spirit; and that is how Augustine prayed back in his day.

      A small number of prayers are addressed to the Holy Trinity, but again, I have never interpreted them as being addressed to the essence of God and not to the hypostases. So for me personally, this is not a big issue.

      The simple fact is that even in the Eastern tradition the title “God” is predicated of both the Son and Spirit. We see this taking place already, e.g., in the Cappadocians. This represents a development in linguistic usage. I don’t know how this development could have been avoided after Nicaea; indeed, not only was it inevitable but necessary, in order to make clear the divine equality of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

      As far as the term “Holy Trinity”—I see this simply as a form of shorthand. I have no problem whatsoever speaking of God the Holy Trinity.

      Liked by 3 people

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