I’m enjoying Aquinas, which I did not think I would ever do, but he carefully deals with a series of errors, one after the other. If you think of theology as iterative, for we are not God and we are stretching ourselves to comprehend something far greater than we are, then you can consider that Augustine summarised and systematised much of the teaching of the church fathers and inadvertantly, because he wrote in Latin and not Greek, started a Western Tradition of Theology.
Well before the schism between the Eastern and Western branches of the church. Leaving that aside, Aquinas wrote at the peak of scholasticism, and corrected errors that had arisen since Augustine. Calvin rants against “the Schoolmaster” — his education was that of the renaissance, and he returned to the original text whenever possible.
And then there are those who would correct both. But Briggs is correct: most modern thought is in error. So, on the divinity of Christ, The schoolmaster takes the monophysites (muslims included) to the woodshed for correction.
1 Since, of course, the fixed mental conception of all who think rightly about God is this: There can be but one God—certain men, conceiving from the Scriptures that Christ is truly and naturally God and the Son of God, have confessed that the one God is Christ the Son of God and God the Father; and that God, nevertheless, is not called Son in His nature or from eternity, but that He then received the name of sonship when He was born of the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Incarnation.
Thus, all the things which Christ bore in the flesh they used to attribute to God the Father: for example, that He was the son of the Virgin, conceived and born of her, that He suffered, died and rose again, and all else which the Scriptures say of Christ in the flesh.
2 They attempted to strengthen their position by Scriptural authorities. For it says in Exodus (i.e., Deut. 6:41): “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”; and in Deuteronomy (32:39): “I alone am and there is no other God besides Me”; and John (14:10, 9, 11): “The Father who abides in Me, He doth the works”; and again: “He that sees Me, sees the Father also… I am in the Father and the Father in Me.” From all these they used to conceive that God the Father was being called the very Son incarnate of the Virgin.
3 This was, of course, the opinion of the Sabellians, who were also called Patripassionists because they confess that the Father suffered, holding that the Father Himself was Christ.
4 Now, the latter position differs from the one just described with respect to Christ’s divinity (for the latter confesses that Christ is true and natural God which the first denied); nevertheless, with respect to generation and sonship, each of the two opinions conforms with the other: for, as the first holds that there was no sonship and generation by which Christ is said to be Son before Mary, so the latter also maintains.
Therefore, neither of these positions relates the generation and sonship to the divine nature, but to the human nature only. The second position has this special feature: that when one says “Son of God” one designates not a subsisting person but a kind of additional property of a pre-existing person, for the Father Himself, in that He assumed flesh from the Virgin, received the name of Son; it is not as though the Son is a subsisting Person distinct from the Person of the Father.
5 The authority of Scripture makes the falsity of this position quite manifest. For Scripture does not call Christ merely the Virgin’s son, but also the Son of God. We made this clear before. But it cannot be that one be his own son, for, since a son is begotten by a father, and he who begets gives being to the begotten, it would follow that he who gives is identified with him who receives being-and this is entirely impossible. Therefore, God the Father is not Himself the Son, but the Son is other than He, and the Father is other than the Son.
6 Then, too, our Lord says: “I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me”; and: “Glorify Me, O Father with Yourself” (John 6:38; 17:5). From all, of these and similar sayings the Son is shown to be other than the Father.
7 Of course, it can be said within this position that Christ is called the Son of God the Father in His human nature only; namely, because God the Father Himself created and sanctified the human nature which He assumed. Thus, then, the same one is in His divinity called His own Father in His humanity. Thus, there is also no objection to saying that the same one in His humanity is distinct from Himself in His divinity.
But in this fashion it will follow that Christ is called a son of God as are other men, whether by reason of creation, or by reason of sanctification. It has, however, already been shown that Christ is called the Son of God for another reason than other holy men are. It cannot, therefore, be understood that the Father Himself is Christ and His very own son.
8 There is more. Where there is one subsisting supposit, it does not receive a plural predication. But Christ speaks of Himself and the Father in the plural; He says: “I and the Father are one (John 10:30). The Son, therefore, is not the Father Himself.
This is a time when there is an active hatred of those of Christ, and there is great fear that we will lose all livelihood, status and property because of our faith. There are those who would discharge our accounts, so we cannot buy nor sell nor trade, and those who will split bands up because of wrongthink. But we need to understand that all things work, even evil, for God. It is not fun when you are oppressed: when you are harrassed, when you are dealing with your enemies.
We should never discount the malice of others. We should be discreet in our plans. But we should never pretend that we don’t have a loving God who will care for us.
So, Calvin, writing as someone who had to flee his homeland, writes:
6. These calumnies, or rather frenzied dreams, will easily be dispelled by a pure and holy meditation on Divine Providence, meditation such as piety enjoins, that we may thence derive the best and sweetest fruit. The Christian, then, being most fully persuaded, that all things come to pass by the dispensation of God, and that nothing happens fortuitously, will always direct his eye to him as the principal cause of events, at the same time paying due regard to inferior causes in their own place. Next, he will have no doubt that a special providence is awake for his preservation, and will not suffer anything to happen that will not turn to his good and safety. But as its business is first with men and then with the other creatures, he will feel assured that the providence of God reigns over both. In regard to men, good as well as bad, he will acknowledge that their counsels, wishes, aims and faculties are so under his hand, that he has full power to turn them in whatever direction, and constrain them as often as he pleases. The fact that a special providence watches over the safety of believers, is attested by a vast number of the clearest promises. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” “Casting all your care upon him: for he careth for you.” “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye.” “We have a strong city: salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Nay, the chief aim of the historical books of Scripture is to show that the ways of his saints are so carefully guarded by the Lord, as to prevent them even from dashing their foot against a stone. Therefore, as we a little ago justly exploded the opinion of those who feign a universal providence, which does not condescend to take special care of every creature, so it is of the highest moment that we should specially recognise this care towards ourselves. Hence, our Saviour, after declaring that even a sparrow falls not to the ground without the will of his Father, immediately makes the application, that being more valuable than many sparrows, we ought to consider that God provides more carefully for us. He even extends this so far, as to assure us that the hairs of our head are all numbered. What more can we wish, if not even a hair of our head can fall, save in accordance with his will? I speak not merely of the human race in general. God having chosen the Church for his abode, there cannot be a doubt, that in governing it, he gives singular manifestations of his paternal care.
7. The servant of God being confirmed by these promises and examples, will add the passages which teach that all men are under his power, whether to conciliate their minds, or to curb their wickedness, and prevent it from doing harm. For it is the Lord who gives us favour, not only with those who wish us well, but also in the eyes of the Egyptians (Exod. 3:21), in various ways defeating the malice of our enemies. Sometimes he deprives them of all presence of mind, so that they cannot undertake anything soundly or soberly. In this ways he sends Satan to be a lie in the mouths of all the prophets in order to deceive Ahab (1 Kings 22:22), by the counsel of the young men he so infatuates Rehoboam, that his folly deprives him of his kingdom (1 Kings 12:10, 15). Sometimes when he leaves them in possession of intellect, he so fills them with terror and dismays that they can neither will nor plan the execution of what they had designed. Sometimes, too, after permitting them to attempt what lust and rage suggested, he opportunely interrupts them in their career, and allows them not to conclude what they had begun. Thus the counsel of Ahithophel, which would have been fatal to David, was defeated before its time (2 Sam. 17:7, 14). Thus, for the good and safety of his people, he overrules all the creatures, even the devil himself who, we see, durst not attempt any thing against Job without his permission and command. This knowledge is necessarily followed by gratitude in prosperity, patience in adversity, and incredible security for the time to come. Every thing, therefore, which turns out prosperous and according to his wish, the Christian will ascribe entirely to God, whether he has experienced his beneficence through the instrumentality of men, or been aided by inanimate creatures. For he will thus consider with himself: Certainly it was the Lord that disposed the minds of these people in my favour, attaching them to me so as to make them the instruments of his kindness. In an abundant harvest he will think that it is the Lord who listens to the heaven, that the heaven may listen to the earth, and the earth herself to her own offspring; in other cases, he will have no doubt that he owes all his prosperity to the divine blessing, and, admonished by so many circumstances, will feel it impossible to be ungrateful.
Trust God. Pray for the brothers. Mistrust our rulers: they are of the synagogue of satan. And whenever it is possible, do the true, the beautiful, the noble, that which is worthy of praise. So God will be glorified.