These are some of the statements made by St. Irenaeus that I believe put him at odds with the Creed of Athanasius: The Trinity Delusion (St. Irenaenus)

Here are the threats of the Creed: Athanasian Creed

If he was not damned, or even excommunicated for his failure to adhere to the Catholic God/Gospel, why not?

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    Linking to two documents is not the same as presenting a cogent, reasoned argument. It seems we have to do all the deduction ourselves. – Nigel J Feb 2 '19 at 22:45
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    I didn't see any statements at odds with the Trinity or the Athanasian creed. Could you perhaps be more specific in which quotes you are referring to and how it is at odds with the creed or how it suggests he is not Trinitarian? None I saw seem to be particularly problematic. – Alex Strasser Feb 2 '19 at 23:03

By its very nature, a dogma1 makes its deniers officially heretics (ipso facto at the least) only because of its dogmatic, unequivocal nature as taught unambiguously as the faith of the Church, by unanimity of the Fathers, or a General Council, or the Pope ex cathedra.2 Before something is made a dogma, it is simply be, for lack of a better word, unofficial official doctrine—the status quo of the Christian Church, to a more or less unanimous degree.

For example, before the Trintiy was dogmatized (against the hersey of Arianism), it was licit to have differing views on the precise nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son, as no teaching in any official, universal capacity was as yet made so as to be denied obstinately (and thus make heretics of its deniers). But you couldn't deny that the Son was God in general without being clearly having excised yourself by apostasy from the faith, the heart of which is the incarnation of God—Immanuel.

Paul didn't go around teaching that Jesus was homoousios with the Father in the city of Jerusalem, because no one had to be taught this in order for them to accept the doctrine of the divine Son of God—not because it wasn't true: an Arius would have to come along in order for such to be later insisted upon as a necessity.

Dogmas don't work retroactively. You can't bind someone pre-Nicaea to a precise Nicene understanding of the Trinity as though they had this precise understanding available to them. Cf. John 15:22.

So no, Irenaeus, and any Pre-Nicene Father was not a heretic as incurring guilt or excommunication, but of course they could have held that opinion which is objectively heretical, which are different things.

But even according to the Pre-Nicene leniency described above, Irenaeus didn't reject the divinity of Christ (e.g.) anyway.


Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I

The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: . . . one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father ‘to gather all things in one,' and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of *the invisible Father, ‘every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess; to him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all..."

Critics of the Trinity will conflate the identification of the Father as the only true God with that the Son or Holy Spirit are therefore obviously excluded from being God (since there is only one), but this ignores that a Trinitarian a) must accept that the Father is the only true God, since Scripture states it, and more importantly to the fallaciousness of this objection 2) believe the Son and the Holy Ghost ontologically owe their origin and nature to the Father, the only true God—this is what makes them God. The Trinity is in fact a lot closer to Modalism than anything else, since the distinction of the Persons is one that is not of nature, meaning all three Persons are equally eternal and equally have proper to them the ineffable, unique, and only divine nature: the onotological order of 'Father,' 'Son,' and 'Holy Ghost' are only ones of opposition of relation, not of order of coming into being—as soon as there is a Divine Nature, it is the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The Father is the Divine Nature. The Son is the Divine Nature. The Holy Ghost is the Divine Nature. They are ineffably distinct in this way, but not as to their Nature—to be יהוה. They are the same God, but not the same person.

This is why the Trinitarin Creed doesn't say 'We believe in one God, the Father, and one God, the Son, and one God, etc.' But "We believe in one God, the Father, Maker of all things visible and invisible. .... and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God... etc.' only later to declare the divinity that flows from this Sonship of necessity and by its very nature.

This is perhaps synonymous with the objection that 'the Son is not God, He is the Son of God.' But this is a strawman of the Trinity if used as an objection thereto. This is because the Son is only called God because He shares one and the exact same nature with the Father, not because He is the Father (is 'God' in that Unitarian sense). That is 'Son of God' and 'God' are synonymous precisely because the Son is God by virtue of His nature being that of the Father, not because 'the Father' and 'the Son' refer to the same person. They do not: the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Ghost refer to the same God. Any time when the Father is called 'the only true God' it speaks of the fact that the Son and the Holy Ghost are ontologically distinct from this their [ontological] Origin, which can as being such be spoken of as 'the only' of its kind.

1 As used as a technical term, the word dogma means a doctrine declared by the Church in such a capacity as to bind all believers to its acceptance (usually/almost without exception in contradistinction to heretical versions of the doctrine, or its denial). It doesn't mean that before it enoyed this necessity of belief it was not true, or not believed.

2 The objective infalliblity of the doctrine in such instances simply means that since Christ promised His Church will not be overcome by the gates of Hell, not overthrowing of the faith will happen—which would have happened if a doctrine was taught in these respective capacities by necessity (e.g. the Pope binding the Church to a specific understanding of Scripture/doctrine would require all to believe it, hence it must, if Christ's Church really never will fail absolutely, be true and dogmatically so).

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    @curiousdannii I'm thankful for the hypothetical upvote, but I cannot apologize for what is your misunderstanding of the comparative adjective "closer." Comparative means it is not Modalism... The Trinity is a lot closer to Modalism than the accused 'poly'theism because the unity of the Divine Essence is, we might say, more important than recognition of the distinction of the Persons, ontologically speaking (only ontologically speaking, because you neither the unity of the Divine Essence, that there is only one, and the distinction of the Persons are expendible facts about God). – Sola Gratia Feb 3 '19 at 14:12
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    "So if the scriptures were to say that Jesus' substance was not one and the same as the Father's, then the Trinity bubble would pop?" No, no doctrine of Christianity is subject to later revision or testing. That reading of Scripture would simply be invalid. Otherewise we'd have the sola scriptura mess and countless 'denominations' all 'just going by what the Bible says.' And going with every wind of doctrine and thought in their mind—or should I say 'guidance of the Holy Spirit.' I fundamentally reject the claim that the faith was not a once-for-all deposit, in any of its forms. – Sola Gratia Feb 3 '19 at 14:16
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    Scripture doesn't speak to later specific theological distinctions is the whole point (my point about St. Paul). You don't need to use homoousios in order to speak of the Son as God, for example. You can believe on without having a clue about the other or the logical distinctions involved. – Sola Gratia Feb 3 '19 at 14:17
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    I don't understand what value you see in making modalism look better than other heresies. It doesn't contribute to the answer and might mislead people into thinking it's less a catastrophic error than it is. – curiousdannii Feb 3 '19 at 14:26
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    I find it more important to stress the unity of God than the distinction of Persons who are that God. This is because today, the greatest and most prevalent attack on and misunderstanding of the Trinity is that it is 'poly' (many) theism (many gods). Insisting on the real distinction of the Persons just fuels this misunderstanding (in their minds). In truth, the Trinity is closer (a relative term) to Modalism than other Trinitarian heresies because the distinction of the Persons is closer to a virtual one than the anthropomorphic language we (rightly) insist on using of the Persons. – Sola Gratia Feb 3 '19 at 14:31

Irenaeus was a trinitarian. The citation provided in the OP simply misunderstands Irenaeus' thoughts and words.

And through the Word Himself who had been made visible and palpable, was the Father shown forth, although all did not equally believe in Him; but all saw the Father in the Son: for the Father is the invisible of the Son, but the Son the visible of the Father. And for this reason all spake with Christ when He was present [upon earth], and they named Him God. Yea, even the demons exclaimed, on beholding the Son: “We know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God.” And the devil looking at Him, and tempting Him, said: “If Thou art the Son of God;”—all thus indeed seeing and speaking of the Son and the Father, but all not believing [in them]. AH IV VI 6

As well, there are other proofs of what Irenaeus truly thought.

  1. Therefore neither would the Lord, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the apostles, have ever named as God, definitely and absolutely, him who was not God, unless he were truly God; nor would they have named any one in his own person Lord, except God the Father ruling over all, and His Son who has received dominion from His Father over all creation, as this passage has it: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” Here the [Scripture] represents to us the Father addressing the Son; He who gave Him the inheritance of the heathen, and subjected to Him all His enemies. Since, therefore, the Father is truly Lord, and the Son truly Lord, the Holy Spirit has fitly designated them by the title of Lord. And again, referring to the destruction of the Sodomites, the Scripture says, “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven.” For it here points out that the Son, who had also been talking with Abraham, had received power to judge the Sodomites for their wickedness. And this [text following] does declare the same truth: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity: therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee.”3331 For the Spirit designates both [of them] by the name, of God—both Him who is anointed as Son, and Him who does anoint, that is, the Father. AH III VI 1
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  • I don't see Trinity, three in one, the number three, eternally co-equal, glory the same, etc. in that quote. He discusses the ways that he can be legitimately called "God" and the limits. You will hear of the "two powers" from Jews and non-Trinitarians alike. That is a feature of scripture. What is a matter of creed are those 44 assertions, none of which except the most banal appear in the scriptures. – Ruminator Feb 2 '19 at 23:06
  • @Ruminator Oh! But it does. – Ken Graham Feb 3 '19 at 3:34

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