The Power of God

The Power of God: Dunamis in Gregory of Nyssa's Trinitarian theology

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 351
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  • Book Info
    The Power of God
    Book Description:

    This study will be useful for those who study the development of the doctrine of the Trinity, as well as those who are interested in the role of scriptural and philosophical resources in Christian theology. Fi

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1852-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  5. Chronologies
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    There is an important, but largely unexplored, summary by Gregory of Nyssa of his trinitarian faith in the work On the Holy Trinity. There Gregory says that he believes in “three Persons . . . one Goodness, one Power, one Godhead. . . .”¹ Anyone expecting the familiar and “orthodox” formula of “three Persons, one essence (or nature)” must come away surprised by Gregory’s chosen expression of his faith: the “three Persons” one expects is certainly there, but instead of “one essence” or “one nature,” or even “same in essence,” the language of unity is found in the terms “Goodness,...

  7. 1 The Origins and Significance of Δύναμις in Preplatonic Philosophy
    (pp. 21-53)

    Scholarly accounts of the earliest philosophical use of power—δύναμις—have, until recently, set the term within the context of the Presocratic cosmologists. These accounts describe the use of δύναμις in what is commonly called Presocratic “character-power” or “quality-thing” physics. Mourelatos describes this understanding as follows: “What we call a quality was for all Presocratics a characteristic which could not be considered separately from that of which it was a characteristic.”¹ Each perceived characteristic was thought of as a thing or material in itself: an object was “hot” because of the presence of the Hot, which was itself an object...

  8. 2 The Role of Δύναμις in Plato’s Philosophy
    (pp. 54-93)

    In this chapter I turn to Plato’s use of δύναμις in his philosophy. I understand Plato’s use of δύναμις to be indicative of the significant influence medicine had upon him; indeed, Plato’s thought may properly be understood as his application of Hippocratic causality in general, and (where relevant) the medical use of δύναμις in particular, to new subject matters. One of the most important of the new subjects is that of virtue. Plato also uses Hippocratic language to describe different kinds of knowledge. These are both discourses about soul. Δύναμις also figures in Plato’s discussion of an ordered universe, not,...

  9. 3 Δύναμις as a Theological Term among Pagans and Christians in the Early Common Era
    (pp. 94-124)

    In the last chapter I showed how δύναμις received its foundational theological content and application in Plato’s use of the term in Republic 509 to describe causality associated with the Good. The purpose of this and the next chapter is to bridge the period between Plato and Gregory of Nyssa by treating important theological uses of δύναμις by pagan philosophers and Christians in the early Common Era. I make no claim that these chapters constitute an exhaustive treatment of such uses of δύναμις, but they will provide evidence of the continuing role of our key concept in the theologies and...

  10. 4 Doctrines of Power in the Nicene and Pro-Nicene Controversies
    (pp. 125-172)

    Athanasius’ retrospective account of the proceedings at Nicaea emphasizes the debate at that Council over the exegesis and import of the title δύναμις for the second Person. Those opposed to Arius’ theology believed that his doctrines were refuted by descriptions such as “the Word is of God by nature Only-Begotten, Power, Wisdom of the Father, Very God, as John says, and as Paul wrote, brightness of the Father’s glory and express image of his person.”¹ Athanasius’ appreciation of the utility of δύναμις in trinitarian doctrine, and his apparent advocacy for the term at Nicaea, depended upon the understanding that δύναμις...

  11. 5 Eunomius’ Theology of the Trinity
    (pp. 173-219)

    Athanasius’ writings from the 340s and 350s describe the continuing trinitarian controversies as the enduring legacy of Arius’ theology. In Athanasius’ mind, the relationship between the theology of his opponents and the theology of Arius is so strong that he believes that by refuting Arius’ doctrines, he also refutes the doctrines of those who later declined the Nicene doctrine that the Father and Son are oµοούσιος. This same tendency to define the controversy as a crisis provoked by Arius and his sympathizers appears frequently in the West: Latin bishops as late as Ambrose and Augustine quote Arius when they wish...

  12. 6 The Pro-Nicene Doctrine of Divine Productivity
    (pp. 220-259)

    For a significant and influential segment of patristic scholarship, the Eunomian controversy has been understood as a defining episode in the development of a distinctly Christian sense of divine transcendence. Von Balthasar, Daniélou, and Lossky all describe the debate between Eunomius and the Cappadocians as a debate over whether, to what degree, and how, God is knowable by the human mind.¹ In this scholarly tradition the question of divine transcendence is considered a part of Gregory’s “mystical” theology and so is separated from his trinitarian, that is, “doctrinal” theology.² However, authors such as Heine³ and Canévet⁴ have proposed alternative interpretations...

  13. 7 Gregory of Nyssa on the Unity of Nature and Power
    (pp. 260-308)

    One tenet that all sides in the trinitarian controversy could agree upon was that the second Person was to be worshipped as the Creator. Beyond the simple and unadorned piety of this sentiment, common ground vanished, for each side had its own understanding of how and why the Son was the Creator. Eunomius’ doctrine of the Creator has already been described: the Son is the first creature, who receives from God the delegated power to create. The Son is therefore the “Only-Begotten of those things which came into existence after him and through him.”¹ The Son’s creative activity does not...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-324)
  15. Indices
    (pp. 325-333)