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The Fatherhood of God in Fourth-Century Pro-Nicene Trinitarian Theology

SMITH, D.,BLAIR (2019) The Fatherhood of God in Fourth-Century Pro-Nicene Trinitarian Theology. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Not until the fourth century did the fatherhood of God become an issue of sustained analysis in Christian theology. This thesis explores the distinctiveness of the Father within four representative Trinitarian theologies: Athanasius of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Basil of Caesarea. It will be shown that Athanasius presents problems in offering a coherent account. I will argue, however, for a subtle progression within his thought and across the chapters, which reaches maturity in Basil’s integrative theology of fatherhood. The Father-Son relation served as the starting point for discussing the shape of the Godhead. Within that relation, the logic of the eternal birth affirms the Father as source while also creating theological ‘space’ for understanding the Father’s ‘loving gift’ of himself. The consequences of the perfect gift within divine simplicity lead to emphases on the coinherence and inseparability of operations of the divine persons. Strong notes of unity are struck by such teaching, yet they lead back to the source of that unity and, thus, to the mystery of the Father. Within pro-Nicene thought, attention eventually turned to the Holy Spirit. While the Spirit does not possess a filial relation, he, too, was conceived of in terms of an origin in the Father. A mature doctrine of the Spirit brings about a robust understanding of the inseparability of the Trinitarian persons in God’s redemptive purposes. One movement of grace extends from the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, so that worshippers are enabled to return back to their source. The tension brought about in speaking of source and inseparability highlights the mystery of the Father whose ‘loving gift’ not only eternally constitutes the shape of Trinitarian relations – it also is the genesis of his own ‘perfection’ as through it the fullness of the Father is understood.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Trinity; God; Fatherhood; Patristics; Early Christian; Father; Pro-Nicene; Nicaea
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:29 Aug 2019 10:38

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