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De Moor V:10: The Son as Autotheos, Part 3

Certainly the Scripture itself teaches that the Son is Equal to the Father, John 5:18, 23; Philippians 2:6: but hence it is certain that Τριθεότητα/Tritheism is not introduced, but rather overthrown: since Τριθεότης/Tritheism posits three divine Essences, but Αὐτοθεότης/ Autotheism is acknowledged as common to the Three Persons on account of their Ὁμοουσιότητα/Homoousioteta, or one and the same Essence, which they have in common with each other. Contrariwise, if the Son and the Holy Spirit do not possess Deity, which is of itself, they will have a Deity or divine Essence diverse from that of the Father, whence manifestly emerge multiple Gods. Neither is the Numerically Same divine Essence able to be said, except with complete absurdity, to be naturally subordinated to itself; for thus the greater and the lesser would be the same.


Neither is it as They Object, α. in John 5:26, where Life is said to have been given to the Son by the Father. For, I Respond that the Donation is eternal, not temporal; by nature, not by grace; not of another Essence, but of the same Essence communicated; implies personal Order, not inferiority. In the passage cited, with the distinct Mode of Subsistence at the same is related the Identity of the Independent Essence, and so Αὐτοθεότης/Autotheism. Neither does the distinct Mode of Subsistence, with the Personal Order flowing from it, remove the Equality of Essence. Since inferiority and inequality are not compatible with the One True God. And the Niceans did not have regard to anything other than the personal Order of subsistence, when they said that the Son is God of God, Light of Light: while absolutely and essentially considered, the Son is the same God, the same Light, with the Father. Which Mystery of Personal Order, arising from the Generation of the Son from the Father, in the Unity of the divine Essence, TERTULLIAN also attempted to explain, Apologia, chapter XXI, writing: “And we, in like manner, ascribe to the Word, and Reason, and Power, by which we have said God made all, Spirit as their proper Substance…. We have been taught that He proceeds forth from God, and in that procession He is generated; and hence He is the Son of God, and is called God from unity of substance. For God is also a Spirit. Even when a ray is shot from the sun, it is a part of the whole: but the Sun will still be in the ray, because it is a ray of the Sun; the substance is not divided, but extended. Thus He is Spirit of Spirit, and God of God, as light kindled from light. The material matrix remains entire and undiminished, even if you borrow from it multiple shoots possessed of its qualities. So also, that which has come forth out of God is God, and the Son of God, and the two are one. In this way also, as He is Spirit of Spirit and God of God, He is made a second in manner, not in number; in position, not in nature: and He did not withdraw from the matrix, but went forth.”

They Object, β. the Subjection of the Son under the Father. I Respond, 1. that this is applicable to the Son as Mediator and Man, not as God absolutely considered. 2. And that this Subjection is economical and voluntary according to the Economy of the Three divine Persons, among whom the work of Redemption has been Economically distributed in such a way that the Father engages in the roles of the one Choosing men as sinners, of Judge avenging the injured divine Majesty, and of one drawing estranged sinner to Himself; the Son, of the one redeeming them and reconciling them to God; the Holy Spirit, of the one giving faith, and through that applying the Redemption of the Mediator to the elect. Which Economy, since it is voluntary and common to the entire Trinity, rather implies the Equality of the Son with the Father, rather than a Subordination of the same to the latter with respect to the divine Nature. Hence also, when the Father is said to be greater than Christ, John 14:28, this is to be understood with respect to His undertaken Humanity and Office, for the fulfilling of which He had emptied Himself, Philippians 2:6-8. Neither is it strange for the same Person to be able to be at the same time equal and less than another in different relations: in this way indeed the King of Britain is at the same time equal to the King of Gaul, and at the same time inferior in dignity: equal as King; lesser as the Duke of Brunswick and Luneburg.

If You should Object, γ. that this Subordination of the Son to the Father and Subjection of the Son under the Father ought to be natural, because a Son must honor his Father, Malachi 1:6. I Respond, that is true in human things, that hence the minority of the Son under the Father is implied, in which the Father communicates only a particle of essence to the Son, whence the latter obtain an essence the same only with respect to species and later in duration. But in divine things the Son possesses an Essence the Same in Number and equally Eternal with the Father, an Essence for this reason worthy of the same veneration also: while the Son honors the Father in such a way that the Father in turn seeks the honor of the Son, John 8:50.

On this controversy concerning rightfully calling Christ, the Son of God, Αὐτοθεῷ/Autotheos, God of Himself, read thoroughly GOMARUS’ entire Diatriben just not cited, and VOETIUS’ Notas on that, in his Disputationum theologicarum, part I, pages 442-466, in which it is read, page 442:“A certain man (that is, James Arminius) has dared to asserted that this term (αὐτοθεὸς/autotheos) is not found in the writings of the Fathers.”At the same time, in Arminius’Responsionibus ad XXXI Articulos, page 137, this is found:“I said that the term is not contained in the Scripture, but, because it has been made use of by the Orthodox, both by Epiphanius, hæresi LXIX, and by some learned doctors of our age, I do not reject it, if it be received in the right manner.”But, with respect to the sense of the term Αὐτοθεὸς/autotheos, used and asserted concerning the Son by CALVIN against Valentinus Gentilis, GOMARUS gives the best advise, page 447: “What Bellarmine objects, that Calvin incorrectly states that the Son has His essence from Himself, he cavils at again.For, in the first place, by those passages that he adduces he does not prove this:for, it is one thing to borrow essence from another, which Calvin says, but another to have essence from another. For, the former denotes the having of essence, not by nature, but by grace.In the next place, it is one thing to speak absolutely, but another relatively to certain material and expressions of adversaries; and in this manner, if the persistence of an adversary should require, why would it not be lawful to say, with the sentence rightly explained, that the Son has essence of Himself, not in such a way that the word of/from denotes only a limit, for in this way the Son has it from the Father through communication by eternal generation; nor in such a way that of Himself denotes positively an effect from Himself, but in such a way that it negatively removes the reception of efficient power, and denotes ἀναίτιον, a thing uncaused, or an effect from none, against the opinion of Valentinus Gentilis, who confesses that the Son has His essence from the Father, but as an effect, that He was essentiated by the Father, which opinion Calvin contradicted, and in this manner Damascenus speaks, Concerning the Orthodox Faith, book I, chapter VIII, when he calls God jointly αὐτοουσίαν ὡς μὴ παρ᾽ ἑτέρου τὸ εἶναι ἔχουσαν, self-existent, as not having being from another, that is, effectively, but not communicatively. For, this does not diminish αὐτοουσίαν/self-existence, but very much confirms it.” And on page 448: “Valentinus Gentilis was continually boasting that the Father alone is αὐτοθεὸν/autotheos, God of Himself, and was understanding by this title, that the Pather alone has a truly divine, uncreated essence, but the Son and the Holy Spirit have another essence produced by the Father, and so, with respect to essence, they are not αὐτοθεὸν/autotheos. Therefore, Calvin, wanting to oppose Valentinus, asserted the contrary, namely, that the Son is αὐτοθεὸν/autotheos with respect to essence in the same sense in which it was denied by Valentinus. Therefore, while Calvin thus spoke with respect to the opinion of his adversary, but not absolutely, with his adversary Bellarmine acknowledging it; the Jesuit acts the part of a Sophist, when he takes it absolutely.” But, just as VOETIUS solidly proves the orthodox opinion, pages 454-460, so he dexterously meets the objections of adversaries, with sources of solutions indicated through some hypotheses and distinctions most acutely proposed, which see on pages 461-464. Concerning this controversy, MARESIUS also thus speaks, Decade Assertionum theologicarum, § I, in Sylloge Disputationum, part II, pages 214, 215, in such a way that I do not make my own his phraseology, in the assertion ofsubordination of the Son, both economical, and personal, under the Father, and of dependence of order, whereby the Son depends upon the Father. JOHANN HEINRICH HOTTINGER[1] spoke not at all incorrectly in his Cursu Theologico, locus III, The Ambiguity (of the term αὐτοθεὸς/autotheos) is removed by a distinction. Considered absolutely, the Father alone is αὐτοθεὸς/autotheos, because neither with respect to essence nor person is He from another, as simply αὐτοθεὸς/ autotheos. Considered relatively, the Son and the Holy Spirit are also αὐτοθεὸς/autotheos, not with respect to person, but with respect to essence, which of itself and by itself existed from eternity.

[1] Johann Heinrich Hottinger (1620-1667) was a Swiss Reformed theologian philologist. He served as Professor of Church History, Oriental Languages, and Rhetoric at Zurich (1642-1655), and later as Rector of the same (1661-1667), with a brief stay in Heidelberg as Professor of Oriental Languages (1655-1661).

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