Next we have the Binitarianism of the 2nd Century AD; a Christology which viewed both Father and Son as uniquely God in their own right, but neither co-eternal nor co-substantial. In other words, the Son was considered to be a unique creation of the Father; deemed "god" merely by virtue of his origin from the one true God.
Church historian Harry Boer explains:1. The Apostolic Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers wrote between A.D. 90 and 140. Their discussion of the person of Jesus Christ simply repeated the teaching of the New Testament.
None of the apostolic fathers presented a definite doctrine on this point. In this respect the New Testament, the Apostolic Fathers, and the Apostles’ Creed stand in one line.
2. The Apologists: With the Apologists, Greek philosophy became associated with Christianity.
The best known of them was Justin Martyr, a man from Samaria whose parents were Roman. He was a student and a teacher of philosophy before his conversion. He remained a philosopher, regarding Christianity as the highest philosophy. He died a martyr for the faith between 163 and 167. Justin taught that before the creation of the world God was alone and that there was no son.
Within God, however, there was reason, or mind (logos). When God desired to create the world, he needed an agent to do this for him. This necessity arose out of the Greek view that god cannot concern himself with matter. Therefore, he begot another divine being to create the world for him.
This divine being was called the logos or the Son of god. He was called son because he was born; he was called logos because he was taken from the reason or mind of God.
However, the Father does not lose anything when he gives independent existence to the Logos. The Logos that is taken out of him to become the Son is like a flame taken from a fire to make a new fire. The new fire does not lessen the older fire. Justin and the other Apologists therefore taught that the Son is a creature. He is a high creature, a creature powerful enough to create the world but, nevertheless, a creature. In theology this relationship of the Son to the Father is called subordinationism. The Son is subordinate, that is, secondary to, dependent upon, and caused by the Father. The Apologists were subordinationists.Boer (1976), A Short History of the Early Church.
Of course, if the Son is believed to be created
by the Father, we do not actually have Trinitarianism. We have the Son represented as a being of tremendous power - a form of "super-angel", if you like - but certainly not eternal, and certainly not God Himself.
A few quotes from the Early Church Fathers - as found in Bercot's Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs
(1999) - will serve to illustrate the point:
- Listen therefore to Wisdom, expressed in the character of the Second Person: ‘At the first, the Lord created me as the beginning of His ways, with a view to His own works, before He made the earth, before the mountains were settled. Moreover, before all the hills did He beget me.’ That is to say, ‘He created and generated me in His own intelligence.’
Tertullian (213W), 3.601.
- What need is there to speak of Wisdom, which ‘the Lord created the beginning of His ways, for His works’? This is the One in whom His Father rejoiced. The Father delighted in His manifold intellectual beauty, seen by the eyes of the mind alone. Whoever discerns His divine and heavenly charm is incited to love.
Origen (228, E), 9.317.
- The Beginning is Wisdom. For Wisdom is said by one of the Divine company to speak in this manner concerning itself: ‘The Lord created me the beginning of His ways for His works.’
Methodius (290, E), 6.381, as quoted by Plotinus.
The Christological significance of these statements simply cannot be ignored. They reflect a solid, Binitarian Christology (in fact, a proto-Arian Christology) that would remain in place for the best part of two centuries.