« Prev Chapters IV, IX. The Opinion of Photinus touching… Next »

CHAPTERS IV, IXThe Opinion of Photinus touching the Son of God, and its rejection880880Photinus, bishop of Sirmium, in the middle of the fourth century, a Unitarian in his doctrine of the Godhead, denied the divinity of Jesus Christ, though he allowed His miraculous birth.

IT is customary in Scripture for those who are justified by divine grace to be called sons of God, — John i, 12: Rom. viii, 1: 1 John iii, 1: and begotten of God, James i, 1: 1 John iii, 9; and, what is more wonderful, even the name of Godhead is ascribed to them, Exod. vii, 1: Ps. lxxxi, 6: John x, 35. Going upon this usage, some wrong-headed men took up the opinion that Jesus Christ was a mere man, that His existence began with His birth of the Virgin Mary, that He gained divine honours above the rest of men through the merit of His blessed life, that like other men He was the Son of God by the Spirit of adoption, and by grace was born of God, and by a certain assimilation to God is called in the Scriptures God, not by nature, but by some participation in the divine goodness, as is also said of the saints, 2 Pet. i, 4. And this position they endeavoured to confirm by authority of Holy Scripture: All power is given to me in heaven and on earth (Matt. xxviii, 18): but, say they, if He were God before all time, He would not have received power in time. Also it is said of the Son that He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and predestinated the Son of God in power (Rom. i, 3, 4): but what is made and predestinated is not eternal. Again the text, He was made obedient unto death, even the death of the cross: wherefore hath God exalted him, and given him the name that is above every name (Phil. ii, 8, 9), seems to show that by merit of His obedience and suffering He was granted divine honours and raised above all. Peter too says: Let all the House of Israel most certainly know that this Jesus, whom ye have crucified, God hath made Lord and Christ (Acts ii, 36). He seems then to have become God in time, not to have been born so before all ages. They also allege in support of their opinion those texts of Scripture which seem to point to defect in Christ, as that He was carried in woman’s womb (Luke i, 42: ii, 5), that He grew in age (Luke ii, 52), that He suffered hunger (Luke iv, 2) and fatigue (John iv, 6), and was subject to death, that he continually advanced (Luke ii, 40, 52), that He confessed He did not know the day of judgement (Mark xiii, 32), that He was stricken with fear of death (Luke xxii, 42, 44), and other weaknesses inadmissible in one who was God by nature.

But careful study of the words of Holy Scripture shows that there is not that meaning in them which these Photinians have supposed. For when 342Solomon says: The abysses as yet were not, and I (Wisdom) was already conceived (Prov. viii, 24), he sufficiently shows that this generation took place before all corporeal things. And though an endeavour has been to wrest away these and other testimonies by saying that they are to be understood of predestination, in the sense that before the creation of the world it was arranged that the Son of God should be born of the Virgin Mary, not that her Son existed before the world; nevertheless the words which follow show that He was before Mary not only in predestination, but really. For it follows: When he weighed the foundations of the earth, I was with him arranging all things: but if He had existed in predestination only, He could have done nothing. This conclusion may be drawn also from the Evangelist John: for, that none might take as referring to predestination the words, In the beginning was the Word, he adds: All things were made by him, and without him was made nothing: which could not be true, had He not real existence before the world was. Likewise from the texts John iii, 13: vi, 38, it appears that He had real existence ere He descended from heaven. Besides, whereas according to the above-mentioned position, a man by the merit of His life was advanced to be God, the Apostle contrariwise declares that, being God, He was made man: Being in the form of God, he thought it no robbery, etc. (Phil. ii, 6.)

Again, among the rest who had the grace of God, Moses had it abundantly, of whom it is said: The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man is wont to speak to his friend (Exod. xxxiii, 11). If then Jesus Christ were only called ‘Son of God’ by reason of the grace of adoption, as is the, case with other Saints, Moses might be called ‘Son of God’ on the same title as Christ, allowing all the while that Christ was endowed with more abundant grace: for among the rest of the saints one is filled with greater grace than another, and still they are all called ‘Sons of God.’ But Moses is not called ‘Son’ on the same title as Christ: for the Apostle distinguishes Christ from Moses as the son from the servant: Moses indeed was faithful in his house as a servant: but Christ as the Son in his own house (Heb. iii, 5).

The like argument may be gathered from many other places of Scripture, where Christ is styled ‘Son of God’ in a singular manner above others, as at His baptism, This is my beloved Son (Matt. iii, 17); or where He is called ‘the Only-begotten,’ — The Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared (John i, 18): for were He Son in a general way, as others are, He could not be called ‘Only-begotten’: sometimes too He is designated as ‘First-born,’ to show that there is a derivation of sonship from Him to others: To be made conformable to the image of his Son, that he may be the first-born among many brethren (Rom. viii, 29): God hath sent his Son, that we might receive the adoption of sons (Gal. iv, 4: which texts show that He, by the likeness of whose Sonship others are called sons, is Son Himself after another way than they.

Furthermore, in the Holy Scriptures some works are set down as so peculiarly proper to God as to be never attributable to any one else, e.g., the sanctification of souls and the forgiveness of sins: for it is said, I am the Lord who sanctify you (Levit. xx, 8): I am he who blot out thy sins for mine own sake (Isai. xliii, 25). Yet both these works Scripture attributes to Christ, Heb. ii, 11: xiii, 12. He declared of Himself that He had the power of forgiving sins, and proved His assertion by a miracle (Matt. ix, 1-8); and the angel foretold of Him that He should save his people from their sins (Matt. i, 21). Christ therefore as sanctifier and forgiver of sins is not called 343‘God’ in the same sense as others are called ‘gods,’ who are sanctified and whose sins are forgiven, but as one having the power and nature Godhead.

As for those testimonies of Scripture whereby the Photinians endeavoured to show that Christ is not God by nature, they do not serve their purpose: for we confess in Christ the Son of God after the Incarnation two natures, a human and a divine: hence there are predicated of Him at once attributes proper to God, by reason of His divine nature, and attributes seeming to involve some defect, or shortcoming, by reason of His human nature. Thus His saying, All power is given to me, does not mean that He then received the power as a new thing to Him, but that the power, which, the Son of God had enjoyed from all eternity, had now begun to appear in the same Son made man, by the victory which He had gained over death by rising again.881881Or, on St Paul’s showing (Phil. ii, 9), that Christ as man had now received all power on a new title, the title of the redemption which He had just wrought out in His blood (Apoc. v, 9). Hereby it is also clear that Peter’s saying (Acts ii, 36) of God having made him [Jesus] Lord and Christ, is to be referred to the Son in His human nature, in which He began to have in time what in His nature He had from eternity.882882Still this text, Acts ii, 36, does not refer to the time of the Incarnation, but to that of the Resurrection. In the Resurrection, God gave to His Incarnate Son for the first time the full glory of Messiahship and Lordship, the glory of the Only-begotten (John i, 14), which was His by right, but was not actually enjoyed by Him, in the time of His voluntary kenosis (Phil. ii, 7), in the days of his flesh (Heb. v, 7). Similarly St Paul (Acts xiii, 32, 33) interprets the text, This day have I begotten thee (Ps. ii, 7), to mean, ‘This day of thy resurrection have I shown thee forth for my Son.’ — An example from history. According to the maxim, ‘The king never dies,’ Charles II was king the instant his father’s head fell, January 29, 1648: he came into possession of his kingdom when he entered London, May 29, 1660.

Nor does the Apostle (Rom. i, 3) say absolutely that the Son was ‘made,’ but that He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh by the assumption of human nature. Hence the following words, predestinated Son of God, apply to the Son in His human nature: for that union of human nature with the Son of God, which made it possible man to be called Son of God, was not due to any human merits, but to the grace of God predestinating.883883For predestinated the Greek is ὁρισθέντος, marked out, declared, a better reading.


« Prev Chapters IV, IX. The Opinion of Photinus touching… Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |