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Platonic/Neoplatonic Background of the Trinity


The Oneà (Emanates into)à Mindà (Emanates into)à Soul

This is not a willed emanation; it is part of the nature of the One to emanate Mind and Soul. Lower emanations desire to return to higher ones, and eventually all seek reunion with the One.

Philo Judaeus

God (unknowable by sense and intelligence)à willsà Logos

The Logos is willed in a two stage process:

  1. God thinks the ideas of the intelligible world--the Mind of God is called Logos and is identical with the essence of God.
  2. The ideas leave the mind of God, taking on external existence as the unintelligible world--no longer identical with God. The Mind (called Logos) which embraces this intelligible world comes into existence as an entity separate from God.

Early Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian are highly influenced by Philo's 2-stage Logos.

In Philo's system, the Logos is both eternal and created:

  1. Eternal--in that it exists as a property of God.
  2. Created--in that it enters its second and external state as an entity separate from God.


  1. Uncompromising monotheism: God is "alone ingenerate, alone everlasting, alone unbegun . . . "
  2. God is utterly incommunicable and absolutely isolated from creation.
  3. Before the advent of time (there was a "once when the Son was not"), God begat/created (the same for Arius--Begat/gennetos; Create/genetos) the Son. The Son was not produced out of the divine nature (ex Deo), but out of nothing (ex nihilo).
  4. The two persons are utterly alien and dissimilar in substance and/or essence.
  5. The Son may be called God, but that is merely nominal. The Son is not "true God."


The Godhead Formulae

Greek: One ousia (essence), three hypostases (substances)

Augustine: One essentia=substantia, three personae

Usual Catholic: One substantia, three personae

Usual Protestant: One essentia, three personae=hypostases

Milton: One substantia, three essentia. Milton divides these as follows: substance="physical," "form," "qualities," while essence="spiritual," "person," "identity."



De Doctrina Christiana I. 5:

  1. It is impossible to find a single text in all Scripture to prove the eternal generation of the Son.
  2. [Scriptural] passages [John 1, Colossions 1: 15-18, etc.] prove the existence of the Son before the world was made, but they conclude nothing respecting his generation from all eternity.
  3. The Son is [not] co-essential with the Father, for then the title of Son would be least of all applicable to him, since he who is properly the Son is not coeval with the Father, much less of the same numerical essence, otherwise the Father and the Son would be one person.
  4. God imparted to the Son as much as he pleased of the divine nature, nay of the divine substance itself, care being taken not to confound the substance with the whole essence, which would imply, that the Father had given to the Son what he retained numerically the same himself.
  5. The Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord."
  6. 1 Corinthians 7:6, "there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things . . . and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things."

The Atheist Milton

Michael Bryson
(Ashgate  Press, 2012)

Basing his contention on two different lines of argument, Michael Bryson posits that John Milton–possibly the most famous 'Christian' poet in English literary history–was, in fact, an atheist.

First, based on his association with Arian ideas (denial of the doctrine of the Trinity), his argument for the de Deo theory of creation (which puts him in line with the materialism of Spinoza and Hobbes), and his Mortalist argument that the human soul dies with the human body, Bryson argues that Milton was an atheist by the commonly used definitions of the period. And second, as the poet who takes a reader from the presence of an imperious, monarchical God in Paradise Lost, to the internal-almost Gnostic-conception of God in Paradise Regained, to the absence of any God whatsoever in Samson Agonistes, Milton moves from a theist (with God) to something much more recognizable as a modern atheist position (without God) in his poetry.

Among the author's goals in The Atheist Milton is to account for tensions over the idea of God which, in Bryson's view, go all the way back to Milton's earliest poetry. In this study, he argues such tensions are central to Milton's poetry–and to any attempt to understand that poetry on its own terms.


The Tyranny of Heaven
Milton's Rejection of God as King

Michael Bryson
(U. Delaware Press, 2004)

The Tyranny of Heaven argues for a new way of reading the figure of Milton's God, contending that Milton rejects kings on earth and in heaven. Though Milton portrays God as a king in Paradise Lost, he does this neither to endorse kingship nor to recommend a monarchical model of deity. Instead, he recommends the Son, who in Paradise Regained rejects external rule as the model of politics and theology for Milton's "fit audience though few." The portrait of God in Paradise Lost serves as a scathing critique of the English people and its slow but steady backsliding into the political habits of a nation long used to living under the yoke of kingship, a nation that maintained throughout its brief period of liberty the image of God as a heavenly king, and finally welcomed with open arms the return of a human king.

Review of Tyranny of Heaven