The Pattern Of The Father: Divine Fatherhood In Gregory Of Nazianzus -- By: D. Blair Smith

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 21:2 (Summer 2017)
Article: The Pattern Of The Father: Divine Fatherhood In Gregory Of Nazianzus
Author: D. Blair Smith

The Pattern Of The Father: Divine Fatherhood In Gregory Of Nazianzus1

D. Blair Smith

D. Blair Smith is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina. He earned his ThM in Theology from Harvard Divinity School, where he wrote his thesis on “Athanasius’s Trinitarian Theology of Redemption, with Special Reference to the Holy Spirit,” and he is currently a PhD candidate in Historical Theology (Patristics) at Durham University in England. The working title of his dissertation is “The Fatherhood of God in Fourth-Century Pro-Nicene Trinitarian Theology.” Blair has also served as a Research Visitor at the University of Notre Dame. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and has served as the Pastor of Adult Education at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland.


One of the more evocative elements of Gregory of Nazianzus’s (hereafter, Nazianzen) teaching on the Trinity is that of a “superabundant” one which moves to two and stops at three (Ors. 23.8; 29.2). If we associate the “one” with the Father, we see a dynamism which moves out from his person resulting in the eternal generation of the Son and procession of the Spirit. This “dynamic movement” not only moves out from the Father but also returns to him in a convergence within the divine life (Ors. 29.2; 20.7; 42.15).

This is the “pattern of the Father” because, according to Nazianzen, the “beginning” and “end” of this pattern is the person of the Father. This pattern is not without antecedents, both philosophical (perhaps Plotinus) and theological (Origen). While these will be briefly explored, the thrust of this article will be concerned with arguing for what we learn of divine

Fatherhood within Nazianzen’s theology by taking note of a pattern that begins with priority in the divine life yet is unmistakably mirrored within Nazianzen’s thought in the economy of God’s actions and human involvement in θεωρία. We will see that an account of the monarchy of the Father within the dynamic movements of the Trinity is crucial for understanding Nazianzen’s articulation of the unity and diversity of the Godhead. Out to these considerations we will be able to conclude with some thoughts on whether Nazianzen’s articulation of the Father entails an understanding of a hierarchy of authority among the Trinitarian relations.

The Pattern Observed

Before referring to its manifestations elsewhere, we begin with an extended section from Or...

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