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Is God a Trinity... Part VII
The Cappadocian Fathers.. Greek philosophers and Catholic Mystics

Carol Brooks

    Part I: Definition and Historical Background, Relying On Others To Decide What We Should Believe

    Part II - Plurality in The Godhead 

    Part III - The Deity of Christ & The Deity of The Holy Spirit

    Part IV: Passages That Supposedly "Prove" the Trinity.

    Part V: The Grammar... Can it legitimately be used to support the idea that the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity

    Part VI: The Holy Spirit... a Separate Person, Or The Divine Presence And Power Of The Father Himself

    You Are Here 001orange Part VII: The doctrine of the trinity that has remained virtually unchanged to this day found its roots in paganism not the Bible. This largely due to the part played by the Cappadocian Fathers - three ancient Greek philosophers and mystics.

    Part VIII: The Son is "begotten" of the Father, and the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father. A difference yes, but not what the Cappadocian Fathers made it out to be

    Part IX: Summary and Conclusion


ON THIS PAGE
Introduction... The First Council of Constantinople

The Cappadocian Fathers
Catholic Ascetics and Mystics
Greek Philosophers

Origen... The Stone On Which They Were All Sharpened
Origen's Influence On Gregory of Nyssa's Trinitarian Doctrine.

The Interaction of Theology and Philosophy

Footnotes - Some of Origen's Anti Biblical Ideas. The Philokalia.


Introduction... The First Council of Constantinople
The First Council of Constantinople, held in 381 AD, is considered the second of the Ecumenical Councils - the 325 AD Council of Nicea being the first.

The Roman Emperor Theodosius I, the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire, made vigorous effort to do away with paganism and suppress all non-Nicene forms of Christianity (especially Arianism) thus bringing about unity of faith within the empire. In November 380, after he refused to affirm the Creed Theodosius expelled Patriarch Demophilus of Constantinople and appointed appointed Meletius patriarch of Antioch and the staunchly pro-Nicene Cappadocian Gregory of Nazianzus in his place.  [02]

Although many believe the expanded version to be the "Nicene Creed" it is, in reality, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. In May 381, the emperor convened a council of about 150 Christian bishops in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) with the aim of confirming his decree and clarifying the orthodox position. The Nicene Creed (Emphasis Added)

    gets its name from the First Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), where it was initially adopted, and from the First Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.), where a revised version was accepted. Thus it may be referred to specifically as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed to distinguish it from the original 325 A.D. version. The original Nicene Creed adopted in 325 ended just after the words, "We believe in the Holy Spirit..." Content was added at the First Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D.; hence the name "Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed", which refers to the modified or updated creed. [01]

The Council of Constantinople not only reaffirmed the creed formulated at Nicaea that proclaimed the Son to be consubstantial (i.e. of one and the same substance, essence, or nature) with the Father but taking it several steps further, it conferred the same status on the Holy Spirit, now formally declared to be consubstantial with the Father and the Son. The council added the following words which emphasized the Divinity of the Holy Spirit.

    "We believe in the Holy Spirit the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets...." 

In other words, the doctrine of the trinity, which has remained virtually unchanged to this very day, was given explicit shape at the Second Ecumenical Council.

Many anti-trinitarians point to Emperor Constantine as being somehow responsible for the doctrine of the trinity. In other words, we cannot trust a doctrine that stemmed from pagan sources. Trinitarians will vigorously oppose this idea citing church history as proof that the doctrine had nothing to do with paganism nor the Emperor Constantine.

Neither side is right. Although Constantine was not responsible for the doctrine of the trinity, it most definitely stemmed from paganism. This largely due to the part played by three theologians from Cappadocia (a province in modern day Turkey) who were jointly known as...


The Cappadocian Fathers

Trinitarian Charles Ryrie, professor of systematic theology and dean of doctoral studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, says (Emphasis Added)

    In the second half of the fourth century, three theologians from the province of Cappadocia in eastern Asia Minor (today central Turkey) gave definitive shape to the doctrine of the Trinity and defeated Arianism" They were Basil, bishop of Caesarea, his brother Gregory, bishop of Nyssa, and Basil's close friend Gregory of Nazianzus. [03].

Remember that Nazianzus had already been appointed archbishop of Constantinople by the emperor Theodosius I.

Dr. Alister E. McGrath, a British-Irish theologian, priest, intellectual historian, Christian apologist and author of several books on theology and history is, among other positions, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford and President of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. His book An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought says (All Emphasis Added)

    The Cappadocian fathers, especially Basil of Caesarea, defended the divinity of the Spirit in such persuasive terms that the foundation was laid for the final element of Trinitarian theology to be put in its place. The divinity and co-equality of Father, Son, and Spirit had been agreed; it now remained to develop Trinitarian models to allow this understanding of the Godhead to be visualized.

    The Cappadocian Fathers played a pivotal role in establishing the full divinity of the Holy Spirit, a decision which was formally endorsed by the Council of Constantinople in 381. Once this decisive theological step had been taken, the way was open to a full statement of the doctrine of the Trinity. With the recognition of the identity of substance of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it was possible to explore their mutual relationship within the Trinity. Once more, the Cappadocian Fathers played a decisive role in this major theological development. [04]

So, the question then becomes if Basil and the two Gregorys had such an impact on the doctrine of the Trinity, what do we know about them? Two points in particular are important, the second perhaps more pertinent than the first in regards to their influence on the doctrine of the trinity. All three of them were

1) Catholic Mystics

2) Well Trained In And Influenced By Greek Philosophy.

 What we need to do is see to what extent these factors influenced what they believed and taught.  Also note the extreme difference between the men the Savior relied on to promote the truth and the men we have knowingly or unknowingly relied on to formulate the doctrine we hold to so staunchly.


Catholic Mystics and Ascetics
Not only were all three mystics, but Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus pioneered the rules of monastic life, compiling what became known as "the Rule of St. Basil". These rules, heavily drawn on by the founder of the Benedictines, shaped the monasticism in the Eastern Church for centuries. It is little wonder that Basil is considered the founder of monastic communities. See Footnote I

    Note: If you have been told that Catholicism was not alive and well at this time, you have been misinformed. See Catholicism and The Councils

Gregory of Nazianzus’ esoteric approach is clearly evident in the following statement.

    No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Them than I am carried back to the One. When I think of any One of the Three I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of That One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the Rest. When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the Undivided Light. [05]

Basil, Archbishop of Cæsarea
The web site of the orthodox church in America (cited earlier) says this of Basil, Archbishop of Cæsarea (Emphasis Added)

    wishing to acquire a guide to the knowledge of truth, the saint undertook a journey into Egypt, Syria and Palestine, to meet the great Christian ascetics dwelling there. On returning to Cappadocia, he decided to do as they did. He distributed his wealth to the needy, then settled on the opposite side of the river not far from his mother Emilia and sister Macrina, gathering around him monks living a cenobitic life. By his letters, Basil drew his good friend Gregory the Theologian to the monastery... In their solitude, Sts Basil and Gregory occupied themselves in an intense study of Holy Scripture. They were guided by the writings of the Fathers and commentators of the past, especially the good writings of Origen. From all these works they compiled an anthology called Philokalia. [06]

Note: Philokalia means "love of the beautiful, the good". An anthology of older texts published in 1782 was also called The Philokalia. See Footnote II

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395)
The Encyclopedia Britannica describes Gregory of Nyssa as a (Emphasis Added)

    philosophical theologian and mystic, leader of the orthodox party in the 4th-century Christian controversies over the doctrine of the Trinity. Primarily a scholar, he wrote many theological, mystical, and monastic works in which he balanced Platonic and Christian traditions.  [07]

Marianne Dorman, who holds diplomas were in Theology and Christian Education, and researched for her Ph.D in Oxford Catholic says (Emphasis Added)

    The last years of his life seem to have been dedicated to his most sublime mystical works, including the Life of Moses, in which he relies on Origen's approach to drawing out the mystical meaning of scriptural texts where they might not be obvious at first glance. It is here that he gives us his vision of eternal life as forever stretching towards God (epektasis) Some of his other exegetico-mystical works included his homilies on the Song of Songs, On Ecclesiastes, On the inscriptions of the Psalms, On the Beatitudes and On the Lord's Prayer. [08]

The following is an outstanding example of the mystical meanings that Gregory of Nyssa read into Biblical accounts.

    It seems to me that, already, the great Moses knew about this mystery by means of the light in which God appeared to him, when he saw the bush burning without being consumed. For Moses said: "I wish to go up closer and observe this great vision.” I believe that the term "go up closer" does not indicate motion in space but a drawing near in time. What was prefigured at that time in the flame of the bush was openly manifested in the mystery of the Virgin, once an intermediate space of time had passed. As on the mountain the bush burned but was not consumed, so the Virgin gave birth to the light and was not corrupted. Nor should you consider the comparison to the bush to be embarrassing, for it prefigures the God-bearing body of the Virgin. [09]

Neoplatonism
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says the following (Emphasis Added)

    It is an undeniable fact, although nowadays rarely acknowledged, that the general outlook and the principal doctrines of the Neoplatonists proved exceedingly influential throughout the entire history of western philosophy. Through Augustine (354–430) in the West and the 4th-century Cappadocian Fathers (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus) in the East as well as the pseudo-epigraphic writings of Dionysius the Areopagite (early 6th century), Neoplatonism profoundly influenced the emergence of mainstream and not so mainstream Christian theology (John Scotus Eriugena, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Meister Eckhart). [10]

So what is Neoplatonism?
Neoplatonism is considered the last of the great pagan philosophies, developed by Plotinus in the 3rd century A.D. Although its original form was altered by his followers, neoplatonism has had a lasting influence on Western metaphysics and mysticism. According to The Free Dictionary,

    It is based on Platonism with elements of mysticism and some Judaic and Christian concepts and posits a single source from which all existence emanates and with which an individual soul can be mystically united.A philosophical system developed at Alexandria in the third century ad by Plotinus and his successors. It is based on Platonism with elements of mysticism and some Judaic and Christian concepts and posits a single source from which all existence emanates and with which an individual soul can be mystically united. [11]

    Plotinus believed that people potentially sought a life in which the individual soul would rise through contemplation to the level of intelligence (the Divine Mind) and then through mystic union would be absorbed in the One itself. Conversely, a privation of being or lack of desire toward the One was the cause of sin, which was held to be a negative quality. [12]

In other words, Neoplatonism was very concerned with divine union - the highest activities being contemplation and unio mystica (mystical union or the union of the individual human soul with the Godhead). So, as much as things change, they remain the same. As the Bible puts it, there is nothing new under the sun.

The ultimate goal of the modern mystic is personal union with God or what they see as a 'universal principle'. Themystica.com, an on-line encyclopedia of the occult, mysticism, magic, paranormal and more, defines mysticism as

    "a belief in or the pursuit in the unification with the One or some other principle; the immediate consciousness of God; or the direct experience of religious truth. [13]

Note: Many Christian mystics claim that the contemplative prayer movement in the church can be traced back to the desert fathers who taught a form of contemplative prayer but that does not explain how and why it so closely resembles Eastern and Occult meditation techniques.  See Contemplative Prayer www.inplainsite.org/html/contemplative_prayer_index.html


Greek Philosophers
The word "philosophy" stems from the Greek words philo (loving) and sophia (wisdom) embraced the dual concepts of 'love of knowledge and pursuit of wisdom'. Greek philosophy, that eventually led to Western intellectualism, focused on the importance of reason and evidence in understanding even inscrutable questions about the universe and the nature of God. Although mythological explanations were rejected in favor of naturalistic ones, there were those philosophers who attempted to reconcile philosophy and religion. Unfortunately the problem was that as long as the logic was sound, it seemed not to matter whether the conclusion contradicted the Scriptures.

All three of the Cappadocian Fathers were formally trained in Greek philosophy and at least two and possibly all three were all greatly influenced by the writings of Origen, known for introducing Greek ideas into Christianity. In fact, Basil, bishop of Caesarea and his close friend Gregory of Nazianzus edited a collection of Origen's writings, which they called Philokalia. (not to be confused with other small works of spirituality written later but which bore the same name) 

Basil, bishop of Caesarea (c. 329 - 379)
was educated first in Caesarea then Constantinople then in Athens. At that time Constantinople was "distinguished for its teachers of philosophy and rhetoric" - the art of using language effectively and persuasively. Rhetoric aims to improve the capability of writers or speakers who wish to persuade or motivate others. The word was also used of language that was elaborate and high-flown.

According to the web site of the orthodox church in America, Basil was also called "the revealer of heavenly mysteries". He ...  (Emphasis Added)

    "... studied under the finest teachers in Caesarea of Cappadocia, and it was here that he made the acquaintance of St Gregory the Theologian (January 25 and January 30). Later, Basil transferred to a school at Constantinople, where he listened to eminent orators and philosophers. To complete his education St Basil went to Athens, the center of classical enlightenment. .

At Athens a close friendship developed between Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzus), which continued throughout their life. In fact, they regarded themselves as one soul in two bodies" [14]

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395).
Little is known of Basil's brother, Gregory of Nyssa's education, but it is believed that he studied in Caesarea, where he read classical literature, philosophy and perhaps medicine.

Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329 – 389/390)
Nazianzus was also known as Gregory the Theologian, or the "Trinitarian Theologian". He and his brother first studied at home with their uncle, but he later went on to study advanced rhetoric and philosophy in Nazianzus, Caesarea, Alexandria and Athens. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (All Emphasis Added)

    "Gregory was recognized as one of the very foremost orators who have ever adorned the Christian Church. Trained in the finest rhetorical schools of his age, he did more than justice to his distinguished teachers; and while boasting or vainglory was foreign to his nature, he frankly acknowledged his consciousness of his remarkable oratorical gifts, and his satisfaction at having been enabled to cultivate them fully in his youth. Basil and Gregory, it has been said, were the pioneers of Christian eloquence, modeled on, and inspired by, the noble and sustained oratory of Demosthenes and Cicero, and calculated to move and impress the most cultured and critical audiences of the age. [15]

    Note: Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. [16]. Cicero was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator and political theorist trained in philosophy and rhetoric in Rome, and educated in the teachings of the ancient Greek philosophers. [17]

The Department of Internet Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, says this about Gregory of Nazianzus

    His extant writings, both prose and poems in every type of metre, demonstrate his lofty eloquence and his wondrous breadth of learning. In the beauty of his writings, he is considered to have surpassed the Greek writers of antiquity. [18]

Even more alarmingly....

    Gregory of Nazianzus is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age. As a classically trained orator and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials. [19].

Note: According to Merriam Webster, Hellenism is devotion to or imitation of ancient Greek thought, customs, or styles. [20]


Origen... The Stone On Which They Were All Sharpened

Both Alexandria and Caesarea, where the Cappodocian Fathers were educated, were the former stomping grounds of Origen, who was born in Alexandria to Christian parents. Origen's school in Caesarea functioned for more than twenty years and 

    ... exercised a magnetic attraction not only over the neighbouring country but on hearers from abroad, who came to hearken to his wisdom from all parts, as the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon. [21]

Gregory of Nazianzus made a very telling statement. He wrote:

    "Origen is the stone on which all of us were sharpened." [22]

This declaration makes what Origen believed and taught extremely important. One biography says (Emphasis Added)

    Origen lived through a turbulent period of the Christian Church, when persecution was wide spread and little or no doctrinal consensus existed among the various regional churches. In this environment, Gnosticism flourished, and Origen was the first truly philosophical thinker to turn his hand not only to a refutation of Gnosticism, but to offer an alternative Christian system that was more rigorous and philosophically respectable than the mythological speculations of the various Gnostic sects. Origen was also an astute critic of the pagan philosophy of his era, yet he also learned much from it, and adapted its most useful and edifying teachings to a grand elucidation of the Christian faith. [23]

    Gnosticism is the doctrines of some Jews and early Christians who claimed superior spiritual knowledge, held the conviction that matter is evil and that the soul can transcend material existence (be saved) through esoteric knowledge.

One Of The Greatest Christian Theologians? Seriously?
Origen is considered by many to be the father of systematic theology, and has been called "one of the greatest Christian theologians" [24] and the "greatest by far" of the ante-Nicene writers of the Eastern Church, both as a theologian and as a "prolific Biblical scholar". [25].

As said by G.L. Prestige, fellow and chaplain of New College, Oxford Origen was ".. one of the greatest teachers ever known in Christendom" who (Emphasis Added)

     "...finally, and completely established the principle that Christianity is an intelligent religion, by bringing all the strength and vigour of Greek philosophical insight to bear on the elucidation of Hebrew religious intuition and Christian spiritual history" [26].

He adds that Origen

    ....chose the wrong path; instead of abjuring the illegal superstitions of the Gospel, as his tutor had done, he gave them fresh support by introducing Greek ideas into Christianity. [27]

Several points in Origen's theology were rejected by Church authorities and, in 543 the Emperor Justinian (527–65) issued an edict denouncing Origen by name...

    Among the condemned doctrines were his Christological subordinationism; his eschatological speculation, which included the conjecture that all rational beings including Satan and the demons may eventually be restored to grace; the doctrine of pre-existence of souls; his theory about previous worlds and future world cycles; his speculation that the final state of salvation may be disembodied; and his purgatorial understanding of hell. [28]

However, his admirers appeared to have viewed his errors as those of a pioneer, not a heretic

    In spite of posthumous anathematizations against him, his condemnation never really "took.” "In both the East and the West Origen had many admirers, including Gregory Thaumaturgus, Pamphilus the Martyr, Eusebius of Caesarea, Athanasius, Didymus the Blind, Ambrose, the early Jerome, Rufinus, Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Evagrius Ponticus, and John Cassian.

    His admirers did not deny his errors, but viewed them as those of a pioneer, not a heretic. Origen's defenders noticed that he had spoken tentatively and never with the intention to violate the Church's rule of faith. In most cases his erroneous opinions were simply questions brought forward for the sake of discussion, not dogmatic assertions, and usually with the intention of refuting Gnostic heresies, leading him somewhat unwittingly to advocate extreme or unconsidered views. [29]

The problem is that Origen's writings and opinions do not read like questions brought forward for the sake of discussion

See Origen and Genesis 1-3 Footnote III
Origen and Christ's Position as a Demiurge Footnote IV
Origen's "On First Principles" - Footnote V.

Although indirectly, Origen's beliefs and influence had tentacles that have enveloped the church all the way into the 21st century.


Origen's Influence On Gregory of Nyssa's Trinitarian Doctrine.
Origen stated that, since there are "certain secret analogies or affinities" between the things below and the things above, we must "read within ourselves the reflection of truths" that we could not otherwise know.

That this idea originated in occult literature is in little doubt. See Footnote VI However, Origen did not himself apply this line of reasoning to the trinity. This fell to Gregory of Nyssa who actually said we would have no content for our thoughts about Father, Son, and Spirit, if we did not find an outline of their nature within ourselves.

In other words, Gregory found the key to the trinity in the triple nature of our soul stating that you learn "the secret of God" from the things within yourself... a "testimony above and more sure than that of the Law and the Gospel". How Gregory of Nyssa based his conception of the Trinity on Origen's ideas is found on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library .

    Gregory employs sometimes a method which he has caught from Origen. Origen supposes, not so much, as Plato did, that things below are images of things above, as that they have certain secret analogies or affinities with them. This is perhaps after all only a peculiar application for his own purpose of Plato's theory of ideas. There are mysterious sympathies between the earth and heaven. We must therefore read within ourselves the reflection of truths which are too much beyond our reach to know in themselves.

    With regard to the attributes of God this is more especially the case. But Origen never had the occasion to employ this language in explaining the mystery of the Trinity. Gregory is the first Father who has done so. He finds a key to it in the triple nature of our soul. The * noûs, the logos, and the soul, form within us a unity such as that of the Divine hypostases.... Not only does this instance illustrate trinity in unity, but we should have no contents for our thought about the Father, Son, and Spirit, if we found no ... outlines at all of their nature within ourselves

    Gregory, then, had reason in recommending even a more systematic use of the method which he had received from Origen: 'Learn from the things within thee to know the secret of God; recognise from the Triad within thee the Triad by means of these matters which you realise: it is a testimony above and more sure than that of the Law and the Gospel (De eo quod immut., p. 30) [30]

Note: noûs means the mind, the reason, while logos means a word. The article uses the original Greek words which I cannot reproduce here.

In so few years the entire lot of them had forgotten Paul's words (as have some of us). Instead, by relying on cleverness of speech, and the wisdom of men, they did exactly the opposite.

    For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness [1 Corinthians 1:17-23 NASB]

    and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. [1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NASB]

    See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. [Colossians 2:8 NASB]

 Sadly, even today, people defend the ...

The Interaction of Theology and Philosophy
As an example, Melinda Penner, executive director of Stand to Reason says the councils "used Scripture as their authority", but the early theologians brought their training in philosophy to bear on the debates.

    The ecumenical councils used Scripture as their authority, but sought to work out the details in an intellectually rigorous way. The early theologians were also philosophers, and brought these categories of thought to bear on the debates. After all, if God is a rational being, His revelation must make logical sense, though this is different than being fully comprehensible to finite minds... So theology and philosophy must interact to express the most accurate and logical doctrines possible. [31]

Unfortunately, this is a bunch of hogwash on several levels.

Scripture as the authority, Although the Scriptures provide evidence aplenty for the Deity of Christ, as this article shows there is none for the Holy Spirit being a 'person' at all. This means the Council of Constantinople did not use Scripture as its authority but instead allowed itself to be influenced by the Cappadocian Fathers who applied to the trinity Origen's groundless (and possibly occultic) theory about affinities between the things below and the things above .

Besides which, we do not need philosophy to come up with accurate doctrine. If handled correctly and without preconceived bias, the Bible itself tells us all we need to know, much of which cannot be understood "logically". or make logical sense to us simply because God is "a rational being".

For example, the Old Testament is very clear that God is more than a single Being and no amount of 'rationalization' is going to tell us how this can even be possible. Most importantly, while I am certainly very grateful that it is so, Christ being able to pay for the sins of a multitude makes NO logical sense whatsoever. Logically, a person has to answer for their own misdeeds.

So why in the world do we have to use Greek philosophy in the effort to explain that which is not explainable. Is it too much to ask that instead of endless abstract and elaborate 'reasoning' we accept that this is what the Bible says thus this is what is true.

Formulating the doctrine of the trinity from Greek lines of reasoning was not the only thing the Cappadocian fathers got completely wrong.


Continue On To Part VIII - Begotten and Proceeds. The Cappadocian fathers believed and taught that both Son and spirit derive from the father, but are derived in different ways i.e the Son is "begotten" of the Father, and the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father. Gregory of Nyssa missed the fact that Jesus also spoke of 'proceeding' or 'coming from' the Father. Also the word "begotten" means something else entirely. HERE


Footnote I - Basil

About a.d.357, when still under thirty, Basil left Caesarea to seek the most celebrated ascetics upon whose life he might model his own.

 Visiting Alexandria and Upper Egypt, Palestine, Coelesyria, and Mesopotamia He records  his admiration of the abstinence and endurance of the ascetics whom he met, their mastery over hunger and sleep, their indifference to cold and nakedness, as well as his desire to imitate them (Ep. 223, §  2)

The year 358 saw Basil again at Caesarea resolved on the immediate carrying out of his purpose of retiring from the world, finally selecting for his retreat a spot near Neocaesarea, close to the village of Annesi, where his father's estates lay, and where he had passed his childhood. His glowing description attracted Gregory for a lengthy visit to study the Scriptures with him (Ep. 9), together with the commentaries of Origen and other early expositors. At this time they also compiled their collection of the "Beauties of Origen," or "Philocalia" (Socr. iv. 26; Soz. vi. 17; Greg. Naz. Ep. 87).

    In this secluded spot Basil passed five years, an epoch of no small importance in the history of the church, inasmuch as it saw the origin under Basil's influence of the monastic system in the coenobitic form... monastic communities were a novelty in the Christian world, and of these Basil is justly considered the founder. His life was one of the most rigid asceticism. He had but one outer and one inner garment; he slept in a hair shirt, his bed was the ground; he took little sleep, no bath; the sun was his fire, his food bread and water, his drink the running stream (Greg. Naz. Or. xx. p. 358; Greg. Nys. de Basil. p. 490).  [32]  [PLACE IN TEXT]


Footnote II The Philokalia
For the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the principal spiritual text has come to be the Philokalia, an anthology of older texts edited by Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain (1749-1809) and Makarios of Corinth (1731-1805) and published in 1782. These monks of the Greek Orthodox Church collected sayings on prayer and spirituality from Eastern, mostly monastic writers that span more than a millennium, from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries. The Philokalia, more than any other text, reflects the Eastern Church’s interpretation of the Bible’s meaning. In the anonymous nineteenth-century Russian classic The Way of a Pilgrim, the pilgrim asks a staretz, or spiritual father, whether the Philokalia is “more exalted and holier than the Bible.” The staretz answers:

    No, it is not more exalted or holier than the Bible, but it contains enlightened explanations of what is mystically contained in the Bible, and it is so lofty that it is not easily comprehended by our shortsighted intellects. Let me give you an illustration. The sun is the greatest, the most resplendent and magnificent source of light, but you cannot contemplate or examine it with the simple naked eye. You would need to use a special viewing lens, which, though a million times smaller and dimmer than the sun, would enable you to study this magnificent source of all light and to endure and delight in its fiery rays. Thus the Holy Scriptures are like a brilliant sun, for which the Philokalia is the lens needed in order to view it. [33]  [PLACE IN TEXT]


Footnote III - Origen and Genesis 1-3
About Genesis 1-3 Origen wrote,

    "Could any man of sound judgment suppose that the first, second, and third days (of creation) had an evening and a morning, when there were as yet no sun or moon or stars? Could anyone be so unintelligent as to think that God made a paradise somewhere in the east and planted it with trees, like a farmer, or that in that paradise he put a tree of life, a tree you could see and know with your senses, a tree you could derive life from by eating its fruit with the teeth in your head? When the Bible says that God used to walk in paradise in the evening or that Adam hid behind a tree, no one, I think, will question that these are only fictitious stories of things that never actually happened, and that figuratively they refer to certain mysteries.” [34] [PLACE IN TEXT]


Footnote IV - Origen's Belief that Christ Is a Demiurge
Origen's debt to Holy Scripture is obvious; he quotes the bible at great length, often drawing together seemingly disparate passages to make a profound theological point. Yet his thought is all the while informed by his Greek philosophical education, specifically that of the Middle Platonic tradition, notably the works of the Jewish Platonist Philo of Alexandria and the Neopythagorean philosopher Numenius of Apamea (fl. 150-176 C.E.). ... From Numenius, Origen likely adopted the conception of a "second god" proceeding from a first, ineffable being called the One, "First God," or Father. Numenius referred to this "second god" as Demiurge or craftsman, and taught that he created the cosmos by imitating the intellectual content of the " First God.”

Origen applied this basic notion to his doctrine of Christ, whom he also called Demiurge (Commentary on John 1.22), and went on to describe Christ as a reflection of the Truth of the Father, stating that compared to human beings Christ is Truth, but compared to the Father He is falsehood (Jerome, Epistle 92, quoting Origen; see also On First Principles 1.2.6). [35]

Note: A Demiurge is a powerful creative force or personality. [PLACE IN TEXT]


Footnote V - Origen's "On First Principles"
Origen's On First Principle is called "the most systematic and philosophical of Origen's numerous writings". 

The paperback edition carries an endorsement by Pope Benedict XVI, who said..."Origen of Alexandria was a figure crucial to the whole development of Christian thought", and includes a new foreword by John C. Cavadini, who is a Catholic professor of theology. The description of the 2013 paperback edition, published by Christian Classics inc., says it is a

    "foundational work in the development of Christian thought and doctrine....  the first attempt in history at a systematic Christian theology.. written in a time when "fundamental doctrines had not yet been fully articulated by the Church, and contributed to the very formation of Christianity" [36]

I guess my question is what brand of Christianity this book contributed to?  The following excerpts are from Origen of Alexandria on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP). All Emphasis Added

    Souls and their Fall:
    According to Origen, God's first creation was a collectivity of rational beings which he calls logika. "Although Origen speaks of the logika as being created, they were not created in time. Creation with respect to them means that they had a beginning, but not a temporal one" (Tripolitis 1978, p. 94). As Origen explains, the soul of Christ was no different from that of any of the souls that fell away from God, for Christ's soul possessed the same potential for communion with God as that of all other souls. What distinguished the soul of Christ from all others – and what preserved Him from falling away – was His supreme act of free choice, to remain immersed in the divinity.

    What are now souls (psukhê) began as minds, and through boredom or distraction grew "cold" (psukhesthai) as they moved away from the "divine warmth" (On First Principles 2.8.3). Thus departing from God, they came to be clothed in bodies, at first of "a fine ethereal and invisible nature," but later, as souls fell further away from God, their bodies changed "from a fine, ethereal and invisible body to a body of a coarser and more solid state. The purity and subtleness of the body with which a soul is enveloped depends upon the moral development and perfection of the soul to which it is joined. Origen states that there are varying degrees of subtleness even among the celestial and spiritual bodies" (Tripolitis 1978, p. 106). When a soul achieves salvation, according to Origen, it ceases being a soul, and returns to a state of pure "mind" or understanding.

    Multiple Ages, Metempsychosis (Reincarnation), and the Restoration of All
    Origen was unable to conceive of a God who would create souls that were capable of dissolving into the oblivion of evil (non-being) for all eternity. Therefore, he reasoned that a single lifetime is not enough for a soul to achieve salvation, for certain souls require more education or 'healing' than others. So he developed his doctrine of multiple ages, in which souls would be re-born, to experience the educative powers of God once again, with a view to ultimate salvation. [37]

The quote immediately above, makes me wonder whether Origen ever read the book of Hebrews which so clearly states ... "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27 KJV). But then, as I said before, Greek philosophy trumped the Scriptures.

The real tragedy is the large number of believers who consider Origen one of the "greatest Christian theologians". Can we, at the very least, require people to actually be in agreement with the Scriptures before we hang labels like the "Greatest Theologians" and "prolific Biblical scholar" on them?   [PLACE IN TEXT]


Footnote VI... As Above, So Below
Legend has it that Hermes Trismegistus was the first being to communicate divine knowledge to mankind in writing. According to themystica.com

    The forty-two sacred books of wisdom allegedly written by Hermes Trismegistus or "thrice great Hermes." The books combine the mythological wisdom and attributes attributed to the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek god Hermes.

     The dating of the books is somewhere between the third century BC and the first century AD. Their influence has been tremendous on the development of Western occultism and magic. Neo-pagan witchcraft contains many rituals and much esoteric symbolism based upon Hermetic writings. [38]

The site also says (emphasis added)

    The Emerald Tablet, or the Emerald Table as it is frequently called is part of the Hermetica and is one of most revered magical documents in Western occultism. Hermes Trismegistus is portrayed in art as holding an emerald upon which he inscribed the entire Egyptian philosophy.

    The most significant part of The Emerald Tablet is within its opening: "That which is above is like that which is below and that which is below is like that which is above, to achieve the wonders of the one thing." Therefore, "This is the foundation of astrology and alchemy: that the microcosm of mankind and the earth is a reflection of the macrocosm of God and the heavens." [39]

Sound familiar? [PLACE IN TEXT]


Continue On To Part VIII - Begotten vs. Proceeds. The Cappadocian fathers believed and taught that both Son and Spirit derive from the father, but are derived in different ways i.e the Son is "begotten" of the Father, and the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father. They apparently missed the fact that Jesus also spoke of 'proceeding' or 'coming from' the Father and that "begotten" was used in an entirely different situation. HERE


End Notes... The Cappadocian Fathers
[01] Theopedia. The Nicene Creed. https://www.theopedia.com/nicene-creed

[02] New World Encyclopedia. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/First_Council_of_Constantinople.

[03] Charles C. Ryrie Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Hardcover. Moody Publishers; New Edition edition (January 11, 1999) Pg. 65   

[04] Alister E. McGrath. Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought. Wiley-Blackwell; 2 edition (July 23, 2012). Paperback. Pgs. 55, 57

[05] G. E. H. Palmer. Philokalia: The Eastern Christian Spiritual Texts (SkyLight Illuminations) Skylight Paths Publishing; Annotated edition (August 1, 2006) Paperback. Pg. 8

[06] The Orthodox Church in America. St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia.
http://oca.org/saints/lives/2013/01/01/100003-st-basil-the-great-archbishop-of-caeligsarea-in-cappadocia

[07] Encyclopedia Britannica. Saint Gregory of Nyssa. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Gregory-of-Nyssa

[08] Marianne Dorman's Catholic Website, Arianism, Macedonianism , Apollinarianism and the Cappadocian Fathers.
http://mariannedorman.homestead.com/CappadocianFathers.html

[09] Homily on the Nativity of Christ, by St. Gregory of Nyssa
https://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2011/12/homily-on-nativity-of-christ-by-st.html

[10] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Neoplatonism. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/neoplatonism/

[11] http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Neoplatonism

[12] Plotinus and the Nature of Neoplatonism. http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Neoplatonic

[13] Alan G. Hefner. http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/m/mysticism.html

[14] The Orthodox Church in America. St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia.
http://oca.org/saints/lives/2013/01/01/100003-st-basil-the-great-archbishop-of-caeligsarea-in-cappadocia

[15] The Orthodox Church in America. St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia.

http://oca.org/saints/lives/2013/01/01/100003-st-basil-the-great-archbishop-of-caeligsarea-in-cappadocia
AND Hunter-Blair, O. (1910). St. Gregory of Nazianzus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved February 4, 2014 from New Advent:  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07010b.htm

[16] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demosthenes

[17] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicero

[18] Gregory The Theologian. http://www.iconograms.org/sig.php?eid=403. (2014 © Iconograms is a service of the Department of Internet Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

[19] McGuckin, John (2001) Saint Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography, Crestwood, NY. As quoted on Wikipedia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_of_Nazianzus

[20] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hellenism

[21] G.L. Prestige. Fathers and Heretics: Six Studies in Dogmatic Faith with Prologue and Epilogue (Bampton Lectures for 1940). London: SPCK, 1940.  "Lecture 3: Origen: OR
The Claims of Religious Intelligence," Fathers and Heretics. http://www.earlychurch.org.uk/pdf/origen_prestige.pdf. Pg.48-49

[22] Description of Origen's "On First Principle" (2013 paperback edition, published by Christian Classics Inc.) on numerous sites such as https://b-ok.cc/book/2854480/18c435 AND http://www.amazon.com/dp/0870612794/ref=dp_bookdescription?_encoding=UTF8&n=283155

[23] Origen. https://sciencetheory.net/origen/

[24] The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Origen of Alexandria (185—254 CE). http://www.iep.utm.edu/origen-of-alexandria/#SH5b

[25] The Development of the Canon of the New Testament. Origen. http://www.ntcanon.org/Origen.shtml. Pages created by Glenn Davis, 1997-2010

[26] G.L. Prestige. Fathers and Heretics: Six Studies in Dogmatic Faith with Prologue and Epilogue (Bampton Lectures for 1940). London: SPCK, 1940.  "Lecture 3: Origen: or, The Claims of Religious Intelligence," Fathers and Heretics.
http://www.earlychurch.org.uk/pdf/origen_prestige.pdf  Pg. 43

[27] ibid. Pgs. 45-46

[28] Origen. Commentary On The Epistle To The Romans. Books 1–5. Translated By Thomas P. Scheck. Click on full text
https://idoc.pub/documents/origen-commentary-on-the-epistle-to-the-romans-books-1-5-by-origen-thomas-p-scheck-klzzdm2m1vlg. .

[29] ibid

[30] NPNF2-05. Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, Etc. Edited by Philip Schaff. Chapter III.—His Origenism. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf205.vii.iii.html . All emphasis Added

[31] Melinda Penner. The Doctrine of the Trinity at Nicaea and Chalcedon.
http://www.str.org/articles/the-doctrine-of-the-trinity-at-nicaea-and-chalcedon#.Un5oFtLTmCi

[32] Henry Wace (1836-1924) A Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies. Basilius, bp. of Caesarea in Cappadocia.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wace/biodict.html?term=Basilius,%20bp.%20of%20Caesarea%20in%20Cappadocia

[33] Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Daily Meditations - The Philokalia. https://saintsophiadc.org/2012/07/the-philokalia/

[34] Origen, De Principiis 4:3:2. The Allegorical Interpretation Of The Scriptures. St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church, Jersey City, NJ http://copticchurch.net/topics/patrology/schoolofalex/I-Intro/chapter3.html[35] Origen of Alexandria. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://iep.utm.edu/origen-of-alexandria/#H2 I

[36] http://www.amazon.com/On-First-Principles-Origen/dp/0870612794

[37] Origen’s Life and Times. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) http://www.iep.utm.edu/origen-of-alexandria/. Note that quotes attributed to "Tripolitis" are from The Doctrine of the Soul in the Thought of Plotinus and Origen (New York: Libra 1978), by Antonia Tripolitis

[38] Hermetica. http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/h/hermetica.html

[39] The Emerald Tablet. http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/e/emerald_tablet_the.html

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The Trinity Part VI - What Is The Holy Spirit?