The Development of the Neo-Platonist Model (No. 17)
(Edition 3.2 19940415-19991027)
This paper traces the development of the neo-Platonist trinitarian system from Greek philosophy into the post-Christian synthesis. It shows the origin of the Cappadocian system using both ancient philosophy and modern Catholic theology in admission of the origin of the doctrine.
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The Development of the Neo-Platonist Model
The concept of God as three hypostases of the superior entity is developed from Greek thought. It has nothing to do with the Bible. Plato developed the concept of forms in his works. Plato uses the philosopher Parmenides as his model. Parmenides was the first of the Greek Monists. He was not Monotheist. The concepts were further developed by those who followed Plato. Plotinus developed a relatively simple metaphysical scheme:
providing for just three hypostases - One, Intellect, and Soul - [this scheme] seems to have suffered elaboration already at the hands of his senior pupil Amelius (who had a special weakness for triads), but from the perspective of the Athenian School it is Iamblichus (c. 245-325) who began the major system of scholastic elaboration which is the mark of later Neoplatonism (Proclus' Commentary on Plato's Parmenides, General Introduction, p. xv, Morrow and Dillon, Princeton University Press, 1987).
Thus the Trinity is prefigured as the One, the Wisdom or Intellect and the Soul becoming the One as Father, Word equated with Wisdom and the Spirit as functional Soul. This Spirit as functional Soul is held to be capable of individuation yet remains complete as an entity separate to and equal with the other two hypostases.
Proclus developed the concept of an Unparticipated Divine Soul. Dillon says of this:
Once again the psychic realm must have its proper monad (or henad), Unparticipated Divine Soul, which itself participates in Nous and presides transcendently over its own realm. In the Elements of Theology, when Proclus comes to discuss Soul (props. 184-211), we find no mention of such an entity, only of souls in the plural, but it is plainly presupposed, and is in fact mentioned earlier, in prop. 164. There we learn that the Unparticipated Soul 'presides primarily over the cosmos' [prootoos huper tou kosmou esti], but does so transcendently and so is distinct from the immanent World Soul, as well as from individual souls (ibid., p. xxiii).
Proclus holds that all monads (unities or single units, henads in Platonic philosophy) in and above the cosmos, intelligible and intellectual are attached to their own monads and ordered with respect to one another, with the One as the leader of secondary monads (ibid., p. 81). Similarly, the One is the source and basis of the triad. Proclus holds:
Parmenides abides in the transcendent One, Zeno projects the many as the One, and Socrates turns back even these many to the Parmenidean One, since the first member in the every triad is an analogue of rest, the second of procession and the third of reversion, and the reversion rounds out a kind of circular path connecting the end with the beginning (op. cit., p. 86).
The concepts of the three begin to emerge but the first step is necessarily that of the dyad (a unit of two parts) but the dyad is a copy of the Unity. Thus the second is inferior to the One of Parmenides which is termed by Zeno himself as logos or discourse. The One is greater than plurality and the paradigm superior to the copy (ibid., p. 87). Thus the logos concept of Greek philosophy is attributed to the One rather than the second. This is contrary to the Bible but the origin of the concept is thus evident. The important concept of the Greeks was to show, as Proclus did by improving on Zeno's arguments, that plurality devoid of unity is impossible. Thus the Godhead was logically required to be a unified plurality (see Intro to Book II, p. 93) but the early Greeks had no concept of Agape. Agape is a transliteration of the Hebrew term ’ahabah from the Song of Songs in the Septuagint. Thus the concept of the love of God by dispensation is limited among the early Greeks. The consequent sharing of godliness they thus regarded, where accidentally acquired, as divine theft (Commentary, p. 90) having no real concept of a plan of salvation as was present in the Hebrew (see the paper Song of Songs (No. 145)).
The theory of Ideas existed as early as the Pythagoreans and was taken up by Plato in the Sophist (248a). Socrates posits the existence of the itself by itself which is taken to be the unmixed simplicity and purity of the Ideas (ibid., p. 106). The Hebrew combines this concept as being present with God (Prov. 8:22). Wisdom was created by God as the beginning of His way, the first of His acts of old. This led the rabbis to assume that the law was the wisdom referred to as it established order instead of chaos (see Soncino and also Ecclesiasticus 24:23 f). The Ideas were distinguished from attributes predicated of particular things. Thus, for the Greeks, the logos as expression of ideas was taken to be appropriated to the prime cause rather than an attribute of the cause.
Hence the logic of the denial of a subordinate logos. From this also came the concept that God is pure thought. It is worth noting that from Acts 7:29 logos is merely an utterance or saying. See also logoi of God translating dabar Yahovah or oracle(s) of God in the LXX and New Testament (see the paper The Oracles of God (No. 184)).
Plato gave Orpheus to say (In Tim. I, 312.26 ff., and 324.14 ff., cf. Proclus ibid., p. 168).
...that all things came to be in Zeus, after the swallowing of Phanes, because, although the causes of all things in the cosmos appeared primarily and in a unified form in him (sc. Phanes), they appear secondarily and in a distinct form in the Demiurge. The sun, the moon, the heaven itself, the elements, and Eros the unifier - all came into being as a unity 'mixed together in the belly of Zeus' (Orph. fr. 167b.7 Kern).
The Demiurgic forms gave rise to the order and arrangement of sensible things (ibid.). All things stemming from the Father thus gave rise to animism, where the nature of the deity was immanent in all matter.
The Greeks, from Parmenides, turned the concept to Monism, making the One immanent. But Proclus shows that these concepts, particularly the Ideas which stemmed from the Will of the Father, have their origin in the Chaldean Oracles (fr. 37 Des Places).
The Intellect of the Father whirred, conceiving with his unwearying will
Ideas of every form; and they leapt out in flight from this single source
For this was the Father's counsel and achievement.
But they were divided by the fire of intelligence
and distributed among other intelligent beings. For their lord had placed
Before this multiform cosmos an eternal intelligible model; And the cosmos strove modestly to follow its traces,
And appeared in the form it has and graced with all sorts of Ideas.
Of these there was one source, but as they burst forth innumerable others were broken off and scattered
Through the bodies of the cosmos, swarming like bees
About the mighty hollows of the world,
And whirling about in various directions -
These intelligent Ideas, issued from the paternal source,
Laying hold on the mighty bloom of fire.
At the prime moment of unsleeping time
This primary and self sufficient source of the Father
Has spouted forth these primally-generative Ideas.
Proclus comments thus:
In these words the gods have clearly revealed where the Ideas have their foundation, in what god their single source is contained, how their plurality proceeds from this source, and how the cosmos is constituted in accordance with them; and also that they are moving agents in all the cosmic systems, all intelligent in essence and exceedingly diverse in their properties (op. cit., p. 169).
The concept of the Father as creator which is the biblical model is clearly understood in the Chaldean systems and in the original Greek texts. The application of the functions of God, however, become misapplied by them. However, the ancient concepts of the Father as supreme God was understood by all nations. It was the neo-Platonists who perverted it.
The Introduction to Book III of Proclus' Commentary holds that the summary (831.25 ff.) shows Proclus to specify:
three basic attributes of Forms - Goodness, Essentiality, Eternity, deriving respectively from the One (the First Cause), the One Being and Aeon. All paradigmatic Forms derive their being from these three (p. 155).
The requirement thus emerges of the three attributes of Goodness, Essentiality and Eternity being predicated to the Triune system. The Greeks thus had to assert that Christ was co-eternal with God in spite of the fact that the Bible clearly says he is not and that only God is immortal (1Tim. 6:16). The aspect of Christ as the Angel of YHVH also was required to be of the primary three, in view of the perceived requirements of the adequacy of the reconciliation of men to God through Christ. The Greeks were themselves limited by their concepts of love to the primary relationships of filial and erotic love, hence they could not understand the biblical paradigms.
The concept of omniscience being applied to Christ, contrary to Scripture (e.g. Rev. 1:1), follows from the requirements of the attributes especially Essentiality. Proclus develops the argument from Book IV.1047, op. cit., p. 406. In dealing with knowledge as single or multiple, Proclus shows that it must be single therefore the neo-Platonists had to assert omniscience to Christ to ensure the other attributes of the divine nature. Such assertion was, of itself, biblically absurd.
If, however, we are to state the single principle of knowledge, we must fix upon the One, which generates Intellect and all the knowledge both within it and what is seen on the secondary levels of being. For this, transcending the Many as it does, is the first principle of knowledge for them, and is not the same as them, as is Sameness in the intelligible realm. This is co-ordinate with its Otherness and inferior to Being. The One, on the other hand, is beyond intellectual Being and grants coherence to it, and for this reason the One is God and so is Intellect, but not by reason of Sameness nor Being. And in general Intellect is not god qua Intellect; for even the particular intellect is an intellect but is not a god. Also it is the proper role of Intellect to contemplate and intelligise and judge true being; but of God to unify, to generate, to exercise providence and suchlike. By virtue of that aspect of itself which is not intellect, the Intellect is God; and by virtue of that aspect of itself which is not God, the god in it is Intellect.
The divine Intellect, as a whole, is an intellectual essence along with its own summit and its proper unity, knowing itself in so far as it is intellectual, but being 'intoxicated on nectar,' as has been said, and generating the whole of cognition, in so far as it is the 'flower' of the Intellect and a supra-essential henad.
So once again, in seeking the first principle of knowledge, we have ascended to the One.
Similarly, the first principle was held to be the One (ibid.) and Socrates (Phaedrus 245d) says the first principle is ungenerated.
Here, Trinitarianism becomes confused because it holds Christ to be a generation of the Father. The newer Process Theologians hold the transcendent unity of the Godhead where there was an essential ungenerate co-eternal oneness which regards individuation as illusory. It is properly Monism and not Monotheism, hence it is properly a form of liberation theology akin to Buddhism and Hinduism rather than Christianity. Logically it is popular with Mysticism. Indeed the recent developments of Trinitarianism seek to make God immanent as pure thought, present in matter, e.g. stone, wood, glass etc. This is not only not Christian it is not even transcendental Monotheism. It is Monism.
The logical requirements of the Greek philosophical form of reasoning have to assert equal divinity with Christ in order to predicate unconditional ascent to the One. This objective of ascent to God by individual determination rather than by God's allocation is the underlying motive of Cappadocian Trinitarianism (see also the papers The Holy Spirit (No. 117) and Consubstantial with the Father (No. 81)).
The conclusion is verified from an examination of the history.
C M LaCugna (God For Us, Harper, San Francisco, 1973) states that the Cappadocians, despite the fact that they infrequently used the terms oikonomia and theologia, had considerably altered the concepts and their meaning became firmly set.
Theology is the science of 'God in Godself'; the economy is the sphere of God's condescension to flesh. The doctrine of the Trinity is Theology strictly speaking. In later Greek Patristic theology, usage will remain generally the same. The biblical concept of oikonomia [economy] as the gradual unfolding of the hidden mystery of God in the plan of salvation, is gradually constricted to mean the human nature of Christ, or the Incarnation. Theologia, not a biblical concept at all, acquires in Athanasius and the Cappadocians the meaning of God's inner being beyond the historical manifestation of the Word incarnate. Theologia in this sense now specifies the hypostases in God, but not the manner of their self revelation ad extra. If Christian theology had let go the insistence on God's impassibility and affirmed that God suffers in Christ, it could have kept together, against Arianism, the essential unity and identity between the being of God and the being of Christ (p. 43) (emphasis added).
We are thus now at the illogical position which the process of Greek philosophy had led the theologians. They had to develop theology apart from soteriology (see ibid.). In other words, they considered theology apart from and without reference to the plan of salvation, which was fatal for Christianity.
The theologians cut theology adrift from the Bible and, hence, it achieved even greater levels of incoherence.
More particularly, the requirement for God to have suffered in Christ is not a biblical requirement; it is a requirement of Greek philosophy, which places improper limitations upon the adequacy of a subordinate sacrifice. The early Christian Church writers were all subordinationist. None of the early theologians ever claimed that Christ was God in the sense that God the Father was God. This was a late invention of Greek philosophy imported into Christianity (see also the paper The Purpose of the Creation and the Sacrifice of Christ (No. 160)).
LaCugna says that:
The Cappadocians were highly competent speculative theologians. They brilliantly synthesized elements of Neo-Platonism and Stoicism, biblical revelation, and pastoral concerns to argue against both Arius and Eunomius. Their central concern remained soteriological. They saw as their task to clarify how God's relationship to us in Christ and the Spirit in the economy of Incarnation and deification reveals the essential unity and equality of Father, Son, and Spirit. In the process Basil and the Gregorys produced a sophisticated ‘metaphysics of the economy of salvation’ (ibid.).
Unfortunately that was not, in fact, the aim of Basil and the two Gregorys as Gregg had demonstrated from the texts in his Consolation Philosophy etc., Philadelphia Patristic Foundation Ltd, 1975. Basil was attempting to separate from the world altogether in the one escape (Basil EP., 2 tr. Defarrari, I, 11, Gregg, p. 224). The passions were to be removed from the soul. The soul must be perfected for separation from the flesh. God Himself becomes visible to those who have seen the Son, His image.
Illuminated by the Spirit, souls become themselves spiritual [psuchai pneumatikai] and are initiated into life in which the future is known, mysteries come clear, and all the benefits of heavenly citizenship are enjoyed. The climax, Basil writes is:
...joy without end, abiding in God, being made like to God [he pros Theon homoioosis], and highest of all, being made God [Theon genesthai]
(Basil 9.23. trans from NPNF, V, 16) Gregg adds (fn3) Much of the thought of Basil's Spir. 9 was taken from Plotinus, as P Henry demonstrated in his Les etats de texte de Plotin (Brussels; n.p., 1938, p. 160). Jaeger argues that the ideas were borrowed from Basil by Gregory of Nyssa in his De Institutio Christiano, in Two Rediscovered works of Ancient Christian Literature: Gregory of Nyssa and Macarius (Leiden: E J Brill, 1954, pp. 100-103).
LaCugna noted that the Cappadocians oriented theology in a direction which further contributed to the separation of economy and theology. This trajectory led to the:
via negativa of Pseudo-Dionysius and, finally, to the theology of Gregory of Palamas (Chapter 6).
In the Latin West, in the period immediately following Nicaea, theologians such as Hilary of Poitiers and, perhaps to an extreme degree, Marcellus of Ancyra, retained the connection between the divine hypostases and the economy of salvation. Augustine inaugurated an entirely new approach. His starting point was no longer the monarchy of the Father but the divine substance shared equally by the three persons. Instead of inquiring into the nature of theologia as it is revealed in the Incarnation of Christ and deification by the Spirit, Augustine would inquire into the traces of the Trinity to be found in the soul of each human being. Augustine's pursuit of a 'psychological' analogy for the intratrinitarian relations would mean that trinitarian doctrine thereafter would be concerned with the relations 'internal' to the godhead, disjoined from what we know of God through Christ in the Spirit (LaCugna, p. 44).
The Medieval Latin theology followed Augustine and the separation of theology from economy or soteriology. The entire structure became embroiled in neo-Platonism and Mysticism. The important notations of LaCugna are that from Augustine the Monarchy of the Father was no longer paramount. The Trinity assumed co-equality. This was the second step following on from the false assertion of co-eternality. The correct premise was the concept of the manifestation of the Godhead in each individual, namely the operation of the Father by means of the Holy Spirit which emanated from Him through Jesus Christ. This direction through Jesus Christ enabled Christ to monitor and direct the individual in accordance with the will of God who lived in each of the elect. Christ was not the origin of the Holy Spirit. He was its intermediary monitor. He acted for God as he had always acted for and in accordance with the will of God. But he was not the God. The Trinitarians lost sight of this fact, if indeed they ever really understood the matter. As LaCugna says the:
Theology of the triune God appeared to be added on to consideration of the one God (p. 44).
This affected fundamentally the way Christians prayed. That is, they no longer prayed to the Father alone in the name of the Son as the Bible directs (from Mat. 6:6,9; Lk. 11:12) worshipping the Father (Jn. 4:23), but to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Further, the scholastics developed a metaphysics of theology itself. But the entire edifice was built in disregard to, or manipulation of, the Bible.
That is why Trinitarians never address all Bible texts on a subject and mistranslate and misquote other key texts ignoring the ones they cannot alter. But their system is based on Mysticism and Platonism. LaCugna states that:
The Cappadocians (and also Augustine) went considerably beyond the scriptural understanding of economy by locating God's relationship to the Son (and the Spirit) at the 'intradivine' level (p. 54).
The One God existed as ousia in three distinct hypostases. We have seen (in the paper The Elect as Elohim (No. 1)) that the Platonic term ousia and the Stoic term hypostases mean essentially the same thing.
The theology of Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa, his brother, and Gregory of Nazianzus:
was formulated largely in response to the theology of Eunomius. Eunomius was also a Cappadocian, and for a brief time, bishop of Cyzicus. He was a neo-Arian, a rationalist who like Aetius believed in the radical subordination of Son to Father (heterousios). For Eunomius, as for Arius, God is a unique and simple essence. But Eunomius drew further consequences for this essentially Arian premise. According to Eunomius, God is supremely arelational, God cannot communicate the divine nature, God cannot beget anything from the divine essence. Since the Son is begotten or generated (gennetos) by an energy, the Son cannot be of the same substance as the Father. Thus there is no sense, not even a derivative sense, in which the divinity of the Son could be maintained.
Second, Arius had believed that while God is incomprehensible, the divine Son makes the incomprehensible God comprehensible. Eunomius believed human reason is capable of apprehending the very essence of God. His name for God is Agennesia: Ungenerateness, or Unbegottenness (LaCugna, p. 56).
Here we come to the issue. The Cappadocians repeatedly asserted that God can never be fully comprehended by human reason or language. Gregory of Nazianzus in his Theological Orations (hence the title Theologian) held that purity of heart and the leisure of contemplation are preconditions for the knowledge of God. Even this personal interaction does not enable the knowledge of God's ousia. Only God's works and acts (energeiai) can be known, that which constitutes the hinder parts of God exposed to Moses between the gaps in the cliff in Exodus 33:23 (ibid.). Thus, Christ showed by this example that only an (as yet) imperfect knowledge of the Godhead was available to him.
The Cappadocian response to Arianism* and Eunomianism must be understood against the backdrop to mystical theology. The threads of the mystical theology of the Cappadocians are found already in their predecessors and in Middle Platonism. The centrality of mysticism in the theology of Gregory of Nyssa, combined with his intellectual acumen, produced a powerful refutation of the Eunomian position that God is knowable, and the Arian position that the Son is created (genetos). Both Gregorys worked out a theology of divine relations in the process. But they were emphatic that even if we are able to explain what divine paternity means, words like begotten and unbegotten, generate and ungenerate, do not express the substance (ousia) of God but the characteristics of the divine hypostases, of how God is toward us. The title 'Father', for example, does not give any information on the nature or qualities of divine fatherhood but indicates God's relation to the Son (LaCugna, p. 57).
* Arianism is applied generally to encompass subordinationists who all believed that Christ was a creation of the Father. This included Irenaeus, Polycarp, Paul, the apostles and even Christ himself. Thus, early theologians are often termed Arians or early Arians even though they wrote centuries before Arius was born. It helps Trinitarians assert a spurious relativity to their position. The correct term is Subordinationist Unitarianism – or simply Unitarianism.
Trinitarians do not see or understand the universal relationship of the Sons of God to the Father.
The important aspect, which emerges from the above summary by LaCugna, is that we are able to see the non-biblical premises from which the Cappadocians attempt to reason. For example, Christ clearly states that God is knowable. Christ knows and is known by the elect as he knows the Father and the Father knows him (Jn. 10:14). This knowledge was given to Christ by the Father as he was given power to lay down his life (Jn. 10:18). The Son of God came and gave understanding to the elect to know him who is true and the elect are in him who is true and in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life (1Jn. 5:20). Thus the true God is He who is true and the Son is Jesus Christ. The elect are in both of these entities. But the Son is not the true God, he is the Son through whom the elect are to know God. Thus the elect know God, where they did not formerly know God (Gal. 4:8), but came to know Him through the Father's willing self-revelation in the Son. For what is known of God is manifested by God (Rom. 1:19 see Marshall's Interlinear), namely His invisible nature, His eternal power and deity (Rom. 1:20). It is a source of shame to the elect that some do not have a knowledge of God (1Cor. 15:34).
The knowledge is hence conditional and relative. It is revealed through the Spirit, which searches everything, even the depths of God (1Cor. 2:10).
The Cappadocians are thus wrong. Further, their insistence that the Son is ungenerate or unbegotten, is not only contrary to Scripture but also contrary to logic and that is why they had to resort to Mysticism – because the logic of subordinationism, whether or not it is incorrectly labelled Arianism, is compelling. Christ is an image or eikõn of the God, the first begotten (prõtotokos) of all creation (see Marshall's Interlinear Col. 1:15). Hence, Christ is the beginning of the creation of God (Rev. 3:14). Christ said this to the Laodicean Church because it is in that Church that the apostasy became evident as it does in the last days with the man of lawlessness. It is the Gentiles who do not know God (1Thes. 4:5) and who reap God's vengeance (2Thes. 1:8) as the Cappadocians so amply demonstrate from their mystical cosmology. You cannot be punished for not knowing God if that knowledge is unobtainable. God would be an unjust judge and thus unrighteous and hence not God.
The second point of error of the Cappadocians was that the divine paternity was not confined to Jesus Christ as we see from Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7. Satan was also a Son of God before his rebellion typified by Genesis 6:4 and Jude 6 (see the paper The Government of God (No. 174)).
We are all to become Sons of God (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:14; 1Jn. 3:1,2) and hence co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17; Gal. 3:29; Titus 3:7; Heb. 1:14; 6:17; 11:9; Jas. 2:5; 1Pet. 3:7).
Because we are Sons, God has sent the spirit of His Son into our hearts (Gal. 4:6). Thus the Spirit is extended through the Son to the Sons of God in Christ.
Paul's writings are subordinationist but confusing to Gentiles unfamiliar with the allocation of name by authority. For example, in Titus 1:3 he refers to God as the saviour of us. In Titus 1:4, he distinguishes from God the Father and Christ and refers to Christ as the saviour of us. Thus, Trinitarians assert that the function of God as saviour is here asserted as the aspect known as Son. This is incorrect. The authority of the Son is derived from the Father as we have seen in John 10:18. The adequacy of the sacrifice was determined by the Father, as it was to reconcile man to the Father that it was required to be made. God determines the adequacy of the sacrifice as it was to Him that the debt was owed.
There is no question that Paul makes clear distinction between God and Christ. Paul is an absolute and incontestable subordinationist. No apostle was a Trinitarian – not because they did not need to develop the theory but because it is blasphemy.
Those who profess to know God must demonstrate their knowledge by their deeds (Titus 1:16). Thus the law is kept from a knowledge of and love of God. The law must be kept because sin is the transgression of the law (1Jn. 3:4) and, if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:26). Those sins are carried to judgment as a profanation of the blood of the covenant by which we are sanctified (Heb. 10:29).
The elect understand that Christ is a subordinate God. Further, that they will be co-heirs with Christ as subordinate theoi or elohim. They do not think that they can be equal to the God.
2Thessalonians 1:5-8 This is the evidence of the righteous judgement of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering - since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
The punishment is meted out upon those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of Christ. There is no doubt that Paul distinguishes God from Christ in this text from 2Thessalonians 1:12:
2Thessalonians 1:12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus.
More particularly, the apostasy (apostasia) must come first before the coming of Christ when the Man of Sin or Lawlessness is revealed taking his seat in the shrine or the naos of God (2Thes. 2:4), the holy of holies of which we are. Thus the Man of Sin is found amongst us as one of the elect. He sits in the naos of ton Theon, the Eloah or Elohim, placing himself above everything being called God declaring himself to be the God. Thus he is not one of the elect as subordinate theoi or elohim. He declares himself in equality to God as Basil sought to do by the introduction of trinitarian Mysticism.
The next development of Trinitarianism was by Augustine where the linear representation of the Cappadocians from Father to Son to the Holy Spirit was altered to an interrelationship which came to be represented as a triangle with each of the entities equally placed. His work De Trinitate is the most sustained treatment of his theology. Written over the period 399-419 it was fundamentally influenced and probably altered by his reading of Gregory of Nazianzus' Theological Orations around 413 (LaCugna, p. 82, noting also Chevalier). Augustine sought to explain that:
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit constitute a divine unity of one and the same substance in an indivisible equality (LaCugna, p. 82, quoting De Trinitate 1.4.7 PL 42,824).
Augustine's schema sought to return to God whom the soul images through contemplation (LaCugna, p. 83). Thus, he also was concerned with mystical contemplation.
The understanding of all the apologists of the second century, not to mention the first century, Church thought that the Son and Spirit had appeared in the Old Testament theophanies – for example, that the Son alone appeared to the Patriarchs (Novatian Treatise on the Trinity quoted also by LaCugna, p. 83 but see also the papers The Elect as Elohim (No. 1) and God Revealed Chapter 1 Ancient Monotheism (No. G1).
The modern position is that all three as Father, Son and Holy Spirit appeared at Sinai because, in fact, God is pure thought and is expressed through the Son as logos. This misapprehends the nature of the Holy Spirit and the way in which it acts in the Son and, in fact, confers Godhood on the Son.
LaCugna argues that Arians interpreted the texts differently arguing that, if the Son appeared without the Father, this must indicate a difference in their natures (p. 83). We will assume that she is referring generically to Unitarians as the term Arian limits the nature of the inquiry. The arguments of early theologians were quite clear and specific. Christ was a creation of the Father, in fact the primary act of the creation and hence its beginning. This is the position of the Bible. It was the Athanasians and the later Cappadocians who altered the structure contrary to the Bible. Consequently, that is why the Cappadocian apologists in churches with a Bible foundation are caught up in this absurd position of denying the literal intent of the Bible. The Process Theologians and neo-Buddhists in Christianity are attempting to assert a monist structure where the Godhead is an immanent non-divisive blob.
The true inheritors of the mainstream system are the Gnostics or, in the reverse, Gnosticism has been the true inheritor of the mainstream Christian tradition.
Those of the faith who do not love the truth, will be sent a strong delusion by God. Marshall translates it an operation of error so that they will believe the lie. This is done so that all of those who did not believe the truth may be judged. Thus the failure to discern the nature of God is the fundamental issue of judgment of the last days and is the issue upon which the elect are divided. Those who do not care enough to study and discern the truth will be given even further delusion so that they will fall into the correction or krithõsin of the second resurrection. It is thus imperative that the elect do not blindly follow men in the last days. They must study and prove the Scriptures and doctrine, also being taught diligently.