De Moor V:10: The Son as Autotheos, Part 2

Of course, in Chapter IV, § 20, we saw that by Independence God is of Himself negatively, not in the sense of being His own Cause; and the title Αὐτοθεὸς, God of Himself, means this. 1. Therefore, if the Son is the Most High and Independent God, He is also Αὐτοθεός. 2. And, since the Truth of the Divine Essence is not able to stand without Independence, neither would the Son be True God, unless He were Αὐτοθεὸς at the same time. 3. If the Father is acknowledged as Αὐτοθεὸς, then the Son also must be such, unless it be denied that the Son is the same God in number with the Father, and multiple Gods, multiple Divine Essences, be established. For, the same God, the same Divine Essence, is not able at the same time to be of Himself, and not of Himself. Indeed, the Son is not αὐτουιὸς, Son of Himself; but Αὐτοθεὸς, God of Himself. He is of the Father, as He is Son; but He is of Himself, regarded absolutely as God; since He has the Divine Essence, existing of itself, and not divided or produced from another Essence; but not as having that Essence of Himself. He is God of Himself: not He is of Himself, God, or, which is the same thing, He is not the Son of Himself.


An occasion was given for this debate (let me not mention Origen from ancient times, who according to AUGUSTINE de Hæresibus, chapter XLIII, says, that the Son of God, compared with the saints, is truth; but, placed together with the Father, a falsehood: and as far as the Apostles stand apart from Christ, so the Son from the Father: Whence the Son is not to be worshipped with the Father, because He is not the author of the granting of petitions, but the one supplicating: in whose footsteps the Arians thereafter follow: see GOMARUS’ Diatriben de Christo αὐτοθεῷ in Voetius’ Disputationum theologicarum, part I, page 444 [which is also, because of the latter pains of the Author, is found in GOMARUS’ Operibus, part II, pages 502-505]; and VOETIUS’ Notas ad Diatriben illam, pages 451-453) by Valentinus Gentilis, who, while he says that the Son and the Holy Spirit were Essentiated by the Father, as the sole Essentiator, from whom they had received a numerically different Essence; at the same time he considered God the Father as the primary God and αὐτοθεῷ, God of Himself, but the Son and the Holy Spirit as secondary Gods, and not αὐτοθεοῖς, Gods of themselves, as those that are God, with their Deity borrowed, detached and received from another: see CALVIN’S opera, tome 7, pages 660, 672, 673, 675, 676, 678; GOMARUS’ Diatriben de Christo αὐτοθεῷ in Voetius’ Disputationum theologicarum, part I, pages 444 at the end, 445 at the beginning. Against this Valentinus, CALVIN, in the place cited in his Tractatibus theologicis, opera, tome 7, pages 672-678, and after him BEZA, Tractatibus Theologicis, volume I, page 647, asserted that the Son and the Holy Spirit are no less Αὐτοθεὸν, God of Himself, than the Father: since both are God through Deity, which is of itself, not cut off from or produced by another Deity; although the Son received His Deity from the Father, and the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son.


Then the Papists, Genebrard,[1] Bellarmine, and others, take occasion to calumniate CALVIN and BEZA, and hence they fabricated the heresy of the Autotheans: see PETAVIUS’ Dogmata theologica, volume I, tome 2, book VI, chapters XI, XII, pages 353-361; CHAMIER’S[2] Panstratiam Catholicam, tome 2, book I, chapters V, VI; HEINRICH ALTING’S Scriptorum Heidelbergensium, tome I, part II, pages 328, 329, and similarly Theologiam Problematicam novam, locus III, problem XXXII, pages 225-228; MARCKIUS’ Orationem II, after Exercitationes Miscellaneas, page 431; GOMARUS’ Diatriben de Christo αὐτοθεῷ in VOETIUS’ Disputationum theologicarum, part I, pages 445, 447, and VOETIUS’ Notas ad Diatriben illam, page 453, who observes that at this point the Papists fall into two classes, while some reprehend the very matter in CALVIN, and through calumny thrust heresy, blasphemy, and atheism upon him, as if he were teaching that the Son is not begotten of the Father in the unity of the same Essence: others of them only carp at the expression in CALVIN, like Bellarmin and Gregory of Valentia,[3] and doubt whether a new heresy of the Autotheans ought to be established, which before them Genebrard with others of that stamp had done: add page 459.


After that, this Αὐτοθεότητα/Autotheotes/Autotheism, of the Son and of the Spirit was also assailed by James Arminius, and especially by Simon Episcopius, and however many with him maintain that the Son and the Spirit are naturally subordinated to the Father, while they cry that Τριθεότητα/Tritheism is introduced through the acknowledgement of Three Equal persons in the Deity: although Episcopius also acknowledges that faith in the Trinity can be saving, even if the Numeric Unity of Essence be not received: see HEINRICH ALTING’S Scriptorum Heidelbergensium, tome I, part II, pages 328, 329, and similarly Theologiam Problematicam novam, locus III, problem XXXII, pages 225-228; SPANHEIM’S Elenchum Controversiarum, column 861, § XI, opera, tome 3, who here notes Episcopius, Curcellæus, etc., but passes over Arminius in silence. The words of Episcopius regarding this are cited by TRIGLAND, Antapologia, chapter V, pages 77b, 78a, who refutes them on page 79, and in chapter XLV, pages 579b, 580a. James Arminius discourses concerning this controversy in his Declaratione Sententiæ suæ ad Ordines Hollandiæ et West-Frisiæ, pages 60-65, and in his Responsionibus ad XXXI Articulos, pages 137-141. In the former place, among other things he writes, page 64: “The Son is not able to be called Father; neither is He able to be said to have His Essence from Himself or from no one. Nevertheless, in this it is indeed incumbent that these things be excused: in saying that, while the Son of God as God is said to have His essence from Himself, that is nothing other than if the divine essence be said not to be from anyone. But, if it seemed right to speak so, nothing could be said so perversely, that it could not be excused.” And thereafter: “Therefore, in no manner is it able to be excused as well said, that the Son of God is αὐτοθεὸν, God of Himself.” In the latter passage, he speaks more moderately, and only the matter itself he does not grant; but he appears to have been carried off unto the negative opinion, so that he might more keenly oppose himself to those that were indeed acknowledging a divine Essence common to the Father and the Son, but were denying the same to have been communicated to the Son by the Father, which he believed also to follow from the expression Αὐτοθεὸς, God of Himself, used of the Son. Thus he discusses, page 137: “I said that the term αὐτοθεὸς, God of Himself, is able to be taken in a twofold sense according to its etymon, that it signifies either one that is God truly and in Himself, or one that is God of Himself: I said that the term is able to be tolerated in that former sense, but in the latter sense it contravenes the Scriptures and orthodox antiquity.” On page 138: “Let no one think me in every sense to deny the Son to be αὐτοθεὸν, God of Himself, and for this reason not to be truly God.” On page 139: “I answer that it is not the same thing, that the Essence that the Son has is from no one, and that the Son, who has the Essence, is of no one. For Son is the name of a person, which has a relation to the Father, and therefore is neight able to be defined nor considered without that relation. But Essense is something absolute.” On page 140: “If, that God has His being and essence from no one, are rightly posited as parallel, then either the Father alone is God, or there are three collateral Gods. But God forbit that I should fasten that opinion on those that say that the Son is αὐτοθεὸν, that is, God of Himself. For I know that those sometimes explain themselves agreeably: but that explanation does not harmonize with the expression. For which reason Beza also excuses Calvin, manifestly acknowledging that he did not thus strictly observe the distinction of the particles à se, of Himself, and per se, through Himself.” Hence VOETIUS also warns concerning Arminius, Notis ad Diatriben illam, page 461: “James Arminius produces nothing new, that has not been abundantly refuted by the authors now cited, especially by Zanchi.[4] And he himself in his XXXI articulis, article XXI, appears to concede more than in his Declaratione; and appears to dispute against the peculiar expression and hypothesis of Trelcatius, more than against the common opinion.” On page 463: “Nevertheless, far be it from me here to fix upon Arminius (who other errors are not unkwown) either heresy or willful betrayal of the cause; as indeed his writings just now cited, compared with his Disputatione, both to public and private men urge nothing to be thought worse concerning that, than concerning the Papists and Lutherans, who concerning τὸ αὐτοθεὸς, God of Himself, have likewise strayed with him.” Nevertheless, the same VOETIUS rightly subjoins, page 464: “It is one thing to distinguish in conception deity in the abstract from God in the concrete with respect to His personal and proper attributes: and another things to distinguish with respect to attributes common according to one and the same deity. If in the latter sense they be thus distinguished, so that what is able to be attributed to deity in the abstract (for example, αὐτοουσία/self-existence, αὐτοὼν/self-existence, αὐτοθεὸς, God of Himself), is not to be attributed to God in the concrete (as Arminius appears to maintain), certainly the case is surrendered to Valentinus Gentilis.” But neither do various Lutherans endure here the phraseology of CALVIN and his followers: see GERHARD’S Loca Communia, tome I, locus V, chapter V, § 179, page 142. According to VOETIUS, Notis ad Diatriben illam, page 454, many Lutherans disapprove, not only of Calvin’s language, but also of his very opinion, and charge him with heresy on this account, as do Heshusius[5] and Hunnius,[6] and Stegmann, who more recently rehashed the matter:[7] while on the other hand the Lutheran Meisner defended Calvin against the Socinians:[8] page 459.

[1] Gilbert Genebrard (1535-1597) was a French Benedictine scholar, specializing in Oriental studies. He served the Roman Church as a professor of Hebrew at the Collège Royal, and later as Archbishop of Aix. He is especially noteworthy for his commentary on the Psalms and his translation of Rabbinic works into Latin. [2] Daniel Chamier (1565-1621) was a Huguenot theologian. He studied at the University of Orange and at Geneva under Theodore Beza. After his ordination, he was installed as pastor at Montélimar. In 1607, he established an academy at Montpellier, and served there for a time as professor, concluding his career as Professor of Theology at Montauban (1612). [3] Gregorius de Valentia (1549-1603) was a Jesuit scholar, originally from Spain. He served as Professor of Theology at Dillingen (1573-1575) and at Ingolstadt (1575-1592). [4] Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590) was an Italian Reformed theologian. At the age of fifteen, he entered the monastery of the Augustinian Order of Regular Canons. He came under the personal influence of Peter Martyr Vermigli; and the writings of the Reformers, especially Calvin, had a profound impact upon his thinking. Zanchi served as Professor of Old Testament at Strassburg (1553-1563), and Professor of Theology at Heidelberg (1568-1577). [5] Tilemann Heshusius (1527-1588) was a strict Gnesio-Lutheran. Because of his inclination to controversy, he was unable to settle in any place for long, teaching theology at Rostock (1556-1557), Heidelberg (1558-1559), Jena (1569-1571), and finally Helmstedt. [6] Ægidius Hunnius (1550-1603) was a Lutheran theologian. He was fiercely committed to Lutheran Orthodoxy, and so he spent much of his career in the polemical struggle with the encroaching Calvinism. [7] Josua Stegmann (1588-1632) was a German Lutheran theologian, serving as Professor of Theology at Rinteln (1621-1632). In his Photinianismo, hoc est, Succincta Refutatione Errorum Photinianorum, he revisits the Autothean controversy. [8] Balthasar Meisner (1587-1626) was a German Lutheran theologian. He defended Lutheran orthodoxy against the Socinians.


Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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