The aim of this essay is to give a high-level overview of Irenaeus’s beatific vision, and to suggest that for him, the beatific vision has a temporal dimension (now and future) and a dimension of degree (lesser now, greater in the future). His beatific vision is witnessed as it intersects with at least four main ideas in his writing—the Trinity, anthropology, resurrection, and his eschatology. Irenaeus famously held that ‘the glory of God is living man, and the life of man is the vision of God’ (AH 4.20.7), which speaks to the reality of seeing God in the present, but he could also look forward in anticipation to beholding the face of God in the resurrected body in the new creation. What made the latter possible is the gradual beholding of God in the present that makes one prepared to see God’s glory in the future. Additionally, the visio Dei is Trinitarian. We behold God in Christ, since God the Father is invisible, and it is the Holy Spirit who prepares us incrementally to see God.
This article examines Athanasius’ argument in his work Contra Arianos, focusing on the reasons for the order in which he addresses the biblical texts he considers. While the choice of which texts to discuss is dictated by the need to consider those texts that were evidently important in the Arians’ own exegetical arguments, the order in which Athanasius discusses them derives from his desire to begin with biblical texts that clearly describe the whole sweep of biblical redemption. Texts such as Philippians 2:5-11 and Hebrews 1-2 describe in some detail the movements of humiliation and exaltation which the Son undergoes as he becomes man, and thus these texts demonstrate the need to apply any given assertion about the Son either to his eternal existence as God or to his temporal existence as man. In such texts, the literary context-the subject of the passage itself-explicitly describes the broader redemptive context. As a result, these texts constitute the starting point from which to develop interpretive principles applicable to other biblical texts in which the redemptive context is not as obvious. The article concludes with reflection on the significance of Athanasius’ starting point: the story of redemption begins not with the Gospels or even with Genesis 1, but with the eternal relationship of Father to Son, a relationship we were created to share and redeemed that we might share it anew.
This paper re-evaluates Derek Parfit’s attack on the commonly held view that personal identity is necessarily determinate and that it is what matters. In the first part we first argue against the Humean view of personal identity; secondly, we classify the remaining alternatives into three kinds: the body theory and the brain theory, the quasi-Humean theory, and the soul theory, and thirdly we deploy Parfit’s arguments and related considerations to the point that none of the materialistic alternatives is consistent with the commonly held view. This leaves us with the alternative: either we accept the radical and highly implausible materialistic view Parfit calls ‘Reductionism’, or we accept the view that we are nonphysical indivisible entities—Cartesian egos, or souls. The second part of the paper discusses Parfit’s objections against the Cartesian view: that there is no reason to believe in the existence of such nonphysical entities; that if such entities exist, there is no evidence that they are enduring (to span a human life); that even if they exist and are enduring, they are irrelevant for the psychological profile and temporal continuity of a person; that experiments with ‘brain-splitted’ patients provide strong evidence against the Cartesian view. We argue that these objections are in part mistaken, and that the remaining (sound) part is not strong enough to make the Cartesian view less plausible than Reductionism.
Tertullian is often portrayed as a prescient figure who accurately anticipated the Nicene consensus about the Trinity. But when he is examined against the background of his immediate predecessors, he falls into place as a typical second-century Logos theologian. He drew especially from Theophilus of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus of Lyons. At the same time, Tertullian did introduce some important innovations. His trinitarian language of ‘substance’ and ‘person’, rooted in Stoic metaphysics, offered the church a new way to be monotheistic while retaining the full deity and consubstantiality of the Word. Tertullian also significantly developed the concept of a divine oikonomia, God’s plan to create and redeem the world. The Son and Spirit are emissaries of the Father’s will—not ontologically inferior to him, yet ranked lower in the way that the sent are always subordinate to the sender. For this reason, Tertullian denied that a Father/Son relationship was eternal within the Trinity, seeing it rather as a new development emerging from God’s plan to make the world. Such temporal paternity and filiation distances Tertullian from the eventual Nicene consensus, which accepted instead the eternal generation theory of Origen. While Tertullian did propose some important terms that would gain traction among the Nicene fathers, he was also marked by a subordinationist tendency that had affinities with Arianism. Tertullian’s most accurate anticipation of Nicaea was his insistence on three co-eternal and consubstantial Persons. Historical theologians need to start admitting that Tertullian was a far cry from being fully Nicene. Rather, he offered a clever but still imperfect half-step toward what would become official orthodoxy..
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A presentation by Bishop Christopher Hill at The Eighth Meissen Theological Conference under the theme Ecclesial Communion in the Service of Reconciliation held at Martin-Niemöller-Haus Arnoldshain, Germany, from 11- 14 February 2014. Published in ANVIL with kind permission of the author.
Rt Revd Christopher Hill
This article offers some fascinating ‘snapshots’ into theological activity and awareness between British and German theologians just prior to WW1, between the wars and post WW2. He helpfully surveys the differences between German and English understandings of the Church-Struggle or Kirchenkampf and some of its struggles which we might now name as too much identification with the prevailing culture and not enough critical distance. He considers how public opinion was divided in the 1930s the role of significant Anglican leaders in and post WW2. He concludes with reflections on Luther's two ‘regiments’, the essential spiritual domain of the Church and the temporal, political power of the State and with Harnack's understanding of the church with thoughts on implications for how we relate to church and state today.
This paper considers the topic of Christian hope in the context of today’s environmental crisis. Christian hope needs to be renewed as the world changes, and it needs to engage with the prevalent secular hopes. We are the first people to live at a time when we face the possibility of an entirely human-caused terminal catastrophe. During the Cold War we had the threat of a nuclear holocaust, and now an ecological disaster. The relationship between ultimate and proximate hopes is investigated. Ultimate hope is the final accomplishment of all God’s purposes for his creation. Proximate hopes are those we have for the temporal future. One difference between ultimate and proximate hope is that the former is unconditional and depends only on God’s transcendent act of re-creation. Proximate hopes depend partly on what humans do, and they can be disappointed. Ultimate hope can support proximate hopes, and enables us to work in the direction of God’s purpose. Faith, hope and love are mutually engaging, and needed for the flourishing of the others. We need to scale down our lifestyles, and limitless growth will not be possible. In this scenario hope will need to be both discerning and imaginative. We will also need endurance to keep going and not to give up in the very difficult situation we are facing this century.