Thursday, 7 February 2019
Gregory Wiebe: Deus and the Monarchy of the Father in Augustine’s De Fide: Comparisons of Latin and Greek Traditions and Arguments
In his treatise The Trinity, Augustine speaks of “the Trinity which God is." Taking each of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as the Trinity together to be the referent of the term “God” has occasionally raised the suspicions of certain scholars and theologians, who are concerned that Augustine thereby compromises the monarchy of the Father. This issue has been raised recently by John Behr, who suggests the Greek idiom of the Cappadocians avoids this problem by more consistently using the word “God” to refer uniquely to the Father. This paper will explore the background to Augustine’s theological terminology in his early work, On Faith and the Creed. There we see both this more expansive use of the word “God” that does not simply refer to the Father, and an explicit attempt to postulate the monarchy of the Father as the sole source of Godhead. The underlying logic is that “God” refers to that which the three share, namely Godhead itself. Select texts from the Cappadocians suggest this usage, while perhaps more idiomatically Latin, is not at all foreign to Greek arguments for a Nicene understanding of the unity of the Trinity. There are, it turns out, important theological reasons for using “God” to refer to both the Father and that which he is and shares, such that what is needed is not a preference for one or the other, but a reflection on what these historical uses by diverse authors says about how to coordinate them.