ETS and the trinity: Augustine and una potestas
This is one more story that never ends! I have to trash the details in order to make any headway at all. I am finding no consistency at all in the translation of words in the domain of “power” and “authority.” Since “power” is a catch all in English, I have been working in French and German, but not finding consistency there either. In French, potestas is pouvoir, and potentia, puissance, usually but not consistently. Au(c)rtoritas, does occur, and is translated into French as autorité but this does not have the meaning of “authority over” in English. It, rather, refers to an authoritative source of knowledge, something that has integrity, but has no actual power to act over others. Therefore, authority was not used in the creeds with reference to the trinity. The expression was always potestas or potentia, pouvoir or puissance, and power, as an expression of both exousia and dunamis. English lacks two seprarate words to fill this domain.
We will go with what we have. English translations of Latin and Greek – either the scripture or the church fathers – use “power” indiscriminately. It means either power (might) or power (authority over) or both at once. But Erasmus and Luther both designate the Latin potestas for exousia, and potentia for dunamis. This is something tangible.
The phrase una potesta, “one power” and by definition in English, “one authority over” is recurring throughout the centuries, and, of course, has its origin in Augustine, – his sermon 215, to be exact, an exposition on the creed. Here is section 8.
This is from the sermon in English. Where is says “one might” that is th translation for una virtus, the common translation for the Greek dunamis, and where it says “one power” that is una potestas the translation for the Greek exousia.
I have to say unequivocally that, according to Augustine, those who teach that the Son is under the potestas of the Father, and is therefore of lesser authority than the Father, are anathemitized. Ware writes of the “inherent authority of the Father, and inherent submission of the Son” Father, Son and Holy Spirit, page 80.
I do know that many try to reconcile this, to say that the Father and the Son are one in authority vis-a-vis humanity, but are in an assymetrical relationship in inner trinitarian relations. But it seems to me that we only know what God is vis-a-vis humanity. If we argue that God is quite different within the trinity than He appears to us, we are certainly arguing from ignorance.
If the Westminster Catechism and the doctrinal basis of the ETS in any sense, refers back to Augustine’s exposition on the creeds, then it appears that “power” means “authority over.” However, we have no proof of that. It remains open.
To read all the posts in this series, click on the ETS tag at the top right. More tomorrow.