God’s Economy in Patristic Usage


I mentioned in my last post that the term God’s economy was used broadly in the early church. This post demonstrates that. Although there are some nuances of meaning here, the near ubiquity of the phrase points to a shared understanding of its significance, if not its meaning. Most quotes revolve around the three of the Trinity, the incarnation of Christ, the whole historical Christ event, our salvation, or God’s ordered plan for salvation. I don’t really expect anyone to read all of these, so I highlighted where the word economy occurs for ease of scanning. Mainly I wanted to put this up as a reference for myself and others when they need it. So scroll through this and enjoy some good quotes on the divine economy!


Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – c. 108 AD)

“Jesus Christ was conceived in the womb of Mary according to the economy of God.” (Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians 18.2)

“For the bishop of Antioch, as for Saint John, the positive aspect of the ‘economy of God’ is summed up in the concepts of ‘life,’ ‘true life,’ ‘eternal life,’ and ‘incorruptibility and eternal life.’ Having been prepared for by the prophets, this ‘plan that was made by God’ was carried out by Jesus Christ by means of ‘His passion and His resurrection.’ Salvation has thus been objectively carried out by Christ. Humankind appropriates it through union with the Savior….For the bishop of Antioch, to attain to God, to be indissolubly united with Him, is the ideal terminus of the Christian life. By all accounts, this is not a matter of a simple moral assimilation through imitation….[but] a direct union with Christ and, through Him, with God the Father and the Holy Spirit….This means that the soteriology of Saint Ignatius is a doctrine, indeed even a mysticism of divinization, without the term.” (Jules Gross, The Divinization of the Christian According to the Greek Fathers, pp. 103-105

Tatian (c. 120 – c. 180 AD)

“The birth of the Logos involves a distribution, but no severance. Whatever is severed is cut off from its original, but that which is distributed undergoes division in the economy without impoverishing the source from which it is derived. For just as a single torch serves to light several fires and the light of the first torch is not lessened because others are kindled from it, so the Word issues forth from the Father’s power without depriving His begetter of His Word. For example, I talk and you listen to me; but I, who converse with you, am not, by the conveyance of my word to you, made empty of my word.” (Tatian, Address to the Greeks 5.1)

Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD)

“There is therefore only one God the Father, and one Christ Jesus our Lord, who has come though the whole economy and who has gathered together [recapitulauted] all things in himself.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.16.6)

[Intelligent interpretation involves] “brining out more fully what was said in parable and adapting it to the plot-structure of the truth; and by recounting in full God’s activity and economy which he effected for humankind.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.10.3)

“Irenaeus was the distinguished theologian of the economy….Irenaeus uses economy as synonym for the Incarnation, but it also includes the new relationship to God that results from being redeemed, namely, divinization of the human nature elevated by grace. Irenaeus’ theology of recapitulation (anakephalaiōsis) must be seen in light of his emphasis on oikonomia. The Christ who was always with God emptied himself of divinity and took on our humanity “by means of the whole dispensational arrangements” and gathered together all things in himself. As a result of the work of Christ, all are restored to communion with God and human nature is elevated (divinized). The economy is the whole plan of God realized through Christ since the beginning of the world, up to its final consummation.” (Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God For Us, p. 26)

“For Irenaeus and the patristic tradition as a whole, scripture is the semiotic medium in which God encodes the pattern of the divine economy.” (R. R. Reno, Christian Theologies of Scripture, p. 24)

Tertullian (c. 155/160 – c. 220 AD)

“We however as always, the more so now as better equipped through the Paraclete, that leader into all truth, believe (as these do) in one only God, yet subject to this dispensation (which is our word for “economy“) that the one only God has also a Son, his Word who has proceeded from himself, by whom all things were made; and without whom nothing has been made: that this <Son> was sent by the Father into the virgin and was born of her both man and God, Son of man and Son of God, and was named Jesus Christ: that he suffered, died, and was buried, according to the scriptures, and, having been raised up by the Father and taken back into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father and will come to judge the quick and the dead: and that thereafter he, according to his promise, sent from the Father the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Tertullian, Against Praxeas 2)

“…As though the one [God] were not all [these things] in this way also, that they are all of the one, namely by unity of substance, while none the less is gaurded the mystery of that economy which disposes the unity into trinity, setting forth Father and Son and Spirit as three, three however not in quality but in sequence, not in substance but in aspect, not in power but in manifestation, yet of one substance and one quality and one power, seeing it is one God from whom those sequences and aspects and manifestations are reckone out in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Tertullian, Against Praxeas 2)

“This will be the Truth’s ‘projection’, the guardian of unity, that projections by which we say that the Son was brought forth from the Father, but not made separate. For God brought forth the Word, as also the Paraclete teaches, as a root brings forth the ground shoot, and a spring the river, and the sun its beam: for these manifestations also are ‘projections’ of those substances from which they proceed. You need not hesitate to say that the shoot is son of the root and the river son of the spring and the beam son of the sun, for every source is a parent and everything that is brought forth from a source is its offspring—and especially the Word of God, who also in an exact sense has received the name of Son: yet the shoot is not shut off from the root nor the river from the spring nor the beam from the sun, any more than the Word is shut off from God. Therefore according to the precedent of these examples I profess that I say that God and his Word, the Father and his Son, are two: for the root and the shoot are two things, but conjoined; and the spring and the river are two manifestations, but undivided; and the sun and its beam are two aspects, but they cohere. Everything that proceeds from something must of necessity be another beside that from which it proceeds, but it is not for that reason separated from it. But where there is a second <one> there are two, and where there is a third there are three. For the Spirit is third with God and <his> Son, as the fruit out of the shoot is third from the root, and the irrigation canal out of the river third from the spring, and the illumination point out of the beam third from the sun: yet in no respect is he alienated from that origin from which he derives his proper attributes. In this way the Trinity, proceeding by intermingled and connected degrees from the Father, in no respect challenges the monarchy, while it conserves the quality of the economy.” (Tertullian, Against Praxeas 8)

Hippolytus of Rome (170 – 235 AD)

“A man, therefore, even though he will it not, is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God, who, being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject, Himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these, therefore, are three. But if he desires to learn how it is shown still that there is one God, let him know that His power is one. As far as regards the power, therefore, God is one. But as far as regards the economy there is a threefold manifestation.” (Hippolytus, Against Noetus 8)

“‘God is in thee; and there is no God beside thee. For Thou art God, and we knew not; the God of Israel, the Saviour’ [Isa 45:14-15]. ‘In thee, therefore,’ says he, ‘God is.’ But in whom is God except in Christ Jesus, the Father’s Word, and the mystery of the economy? And again, exhibiting the truth regarding Him, he points to the fact of His being in the flesh when He says, ‘I have raised Him up in righteousness, and all His ways are straight.’ For what is this? Of whom does the Father thus testify? It is of the Son that the Father says, ‘I have raised Him up in righteousness.’ And that the Father did raise up His Son in righteousness, the Apostle Paul bears witness, saying, ‘But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.’ Behold, the word spoken by the prophet is thus made good, ‘I have raised Him up in righteousness.’ And in saying, ‘God is in thee,’ he referred to the mystery of the economy, because when the Word was made incarnate and became man, the Father was in the Son, and the Son in the Father, while the Son was living among men. This, therefore, was signified, brethren, that in reality the mystery of the economy by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin was this Word, constituting yet one Son to God.” (Hippolytus, Against Noetus 4)

Origen (185 – 254 AD)

“The first thing we have to know is this: that in Christ there is one nature, his Divinity, because he is the only-begotten Son of the Father, and another, human nature, which in recent times he took on for the economy.” (Origen, On First Principles 1.2.1)

“There are in Him some dispensations wrought before the Incarnation, and some wrought by the Incarnation. That part of the Word of God which in the divine economy was exercised before He took flesh, can be regarded as His right hand; and that which functioned through the Incarnation can be called His left [S.S. 2:6; Prov. 3:16]. It is for this reason that He is said to have in His left hand riches and glory; for through the Incarnation He won riches and glory—that is to say, the salvation of all nations. We are told, however, that length of life is in His right hand; and that doubtless points to the fact of that sempiternity of His, whereby the Word was God with God from the beginning….For we must think of all ‘right-hand’ things as being where there is included nothing of the grief of sinners, nor of the fall of weakness; and the ‘left-hand’ things as being of that time when He Who was Himself mad sin and made a curse for us, healed our wounds and bore our sins.” (Origen, Commentary on the Song of Songs 3.9)

“And we quote these passages, making no distinction between the Son of God and Jesus. For the soul and body of Jesus formed, after the economy, one being with the Logos of God. Now if, according to Paul’s teaching, he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit, every one who understands what being joined to the Lord is, and who has been actually joined to Him, is one spirit with the Lord; how should not that being be one in a far greater and more divine degree, which was once united with the Logos of God?” (Origen, Against Celsus 2.9)

“For even with His own apostles and disciples He was not perpetually present, nor did He constantly show Himself to them, because they were not able without intermission to receive His divinity. For His deity was more resplendent after He had finished the economy (of salvation).” (Origen, Against Celsus 2.65)

“The Son will reveal the Father by means of the economy, on account of which ‘God has been glorified in him.'” (Origen, Commentary on John 32.359)

“But consider if we can take what the Evangelist indicates about this being the second sign after the Lord came down from Judea into Galilee to refer to the economy of salvation.” (Origen, Commentary on John 13.436)

Eusebius (260 – 340 AD)

“My work will begin, as I have said, with the economy of the Saviour Christ,—which is loftier and greater than human conception,—and with a discussion of his divinity [theologia]; for it is necessary, inasmuch as we derive even our name from Christ, for one who proposes to write a history of the Church to begin with the very origin of Christ’s economy, an economy more divine than many think.” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 1.1.8-9)

“After outlining the overall plan of the work and noting the difficulties involved, Eusebius defines for the reader his basic approach to the task, or what we might call his theological method. He calls the introduction “the economy and theology of Christ” (H.E. 1.1.7). By “economy” Eusebius means God’s ordered dealings with creation, which culminate and have their focus in the incarnation of Christ. He discusses the incarnation briefly in the preface, and more extensively in the later sections of book 1, when he begins the actual history of the church with the human life of Christ (H.E. 1.2.17–27; 1.5–13). By “theology” Eusebius means the confession of the divinity of Christ (H.E. 1.2). Christian theology, which is “the beginning of the economy of Christ,” is, Eusebius says, “more divine than most people imagine”; it will require particular instruction and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (H.E. 1.1.8). Theology and the economy are not, for Eusebius, two different modes or sets of Christian doctrine, as they are often imagined in modern scholarship. Theology is the result, or the interpretation, of the economy, and it is the beginning of the economy in the sense that the being and will of God and Christ are the beginning and foundation of the economy; hence, the incarnate Christ is the basis of true theology (Proof 3.6). Eusebius presumably sees his discussion of Christ’s divinity and preexistence in Ecclesiastical History 1.2-4 as “theology,” followed by a full treatment of the incarnation, or the “economy,” in section 5, both of which are “too lofty and great for humans to conceive” (H.E. 2.pref.1).” (Christopher Beeley, The Unity of Christ, p. 64)

Athanasius (293 – 373 AD)

“The God of all then,—creating us by His own Word, and knowing our destinies better than we, and foreseeing that, being made ‘good,’ we should in the event be transgressors of the commandment, and be thrust out of paradise for disobedience,—being loving and kind, prepared beforehand in His own Word, by whom also He created us, the economy of our salvation; that though by the serpent’s deceit we fell from Him, we might not remain quite dead, but having in the Word the redemption and salvation which was afore prepared for us, we might rise again and abide immortal, what time He should have been created for us ‘a beginning of the ways,’ and He who was the ‘First-born of creation’ should become ‘first-born’ of the ‘brethren,’ and again should rise ‘first-fruits of the dead.'” (Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians 2.75)

“How at all, before men were created, did He predestinate us unto adoption, but that the Son Himself was ‘founded before the world,’ taking on Him that economy which was for our sake?” (Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians 2.76)

“For as, being the ‘Word,’ He ‘became flesh,’ so when become man, He became by so much better in His ministry, than the ministry which came by the Angels, as Son excels servants and Framer things framed. Let them cease therefore to take the word ‘become’ of the substance of the Son, for He is not one of originated things; and let them acknowledge that it is indicative of His ministry and the economy which came to pass.” (Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians 1.13.62)

“And men are clothed in flesh in order to be and to subsist; but the Word of God was made man in order to sanctify the flesh, and, though He was Lord, was in the form of a servant; for the whole creature is the Word’s servant, which by Him came to be, and was made. Hence it holds that the Apostle’s expression, ‘He made,’ does not prove that the Word is made, but that body, which He took like ours; and in consequence He is called our brother, as having become man. But if it has been shown, that, even though the word ‘made’ be referred to the Very Word, it is used for ‘begot,’ what further perverse expedient will they be able to fall upon, now that the present discussion has cleared up the word in every point of view, and shown that the Son is not a work, but in Essence indeed the Father’s offspring, while in the economy, according to the good pleasure of the Father, He was on our behalf made, and consists as man? For this reason then it is said by the Apostle, ‘Who was faithful to Him that made Him;’ and in the Proverbs, even creation is spoken of. For so long as we are confessing that He became man, there is no question about saying, as was observed before, whether ‘He became,’ or ‘He has been made,’ or ‘created,’ or ‘formed,’ or ‘servant,’ or ‘son of an handmaid,’ or ‘son of man,’ or ‘was constituted,’ or ‘took His journey,’ or ‘bridegroom,’ or ‘brother’s son,’ or ‘brother.’ All these terms happen to be proper to man’s constitution; and such as these do not designate the Essence of the Word, but that He has become man.” (Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians 2.10-11)

“The Son is Offspring of the Father’s essence, and He is Framer, and other things are framed by Him, and He is the Radiance and Word and Image and Wisdom of the Father, and things originate stand and serve in their place below the Triad, therefore the Son is different in kind and different in essence from things originate, and on the contrary is proper to the Father’s essence and one in nature with it. And hence it is that the Son too says not, ‘My Father is better than I,’ lest we should conceive Him to be foreign to His Nature, but ‘greater,’ not indeed in greatness, nor in time, but because of His generation from the Father Himself, nay, in saying ‘greater’ He again shows that He is proper to His essence. And the Apostle’s own reason for saying, ‘so much better than the Angels,’ was not any wish in the first instance to compare the essence of the Word to things originate (for He cannot be compared, rather they are incommeasurable), but regarding the Word’s visitation in the flesh, and the economy which He then sustained, he wished to show that He was not like those who had gone before Him; so that, as much as He excelled in nature those who were sent afore by Him, by so much also the grace which came from and through Him was better than the ministry through Angels.” (Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians 1.58-59)

“Athanasius read the Bible, from beginning to end, as the historical narrative of the economy of salvation, that is of God’s providential actions, beginning with the act of creation and culminating in the redemptive actions of the Son of God incarnate. The divinely established goal of this economy was to ensure that human beings would obtain eternal life and so everlasting communion with God.” (Thomas Gerard Weinandy, Athanasius: A Theological Introduction, p. 11)

“Athanasius… argues that the soteriological end, that is, human beings obtaining a proper knowledge of Father and the divinizing benefits of incorruptibility, are achieved only through the whole of the soteriological economy—the incarnation of the Word and the salvific actions that he undertakes as man, especially his death on the cross with his resulting glorious and incorruptible resurrection. It is through the whole economy of salvation that the Son accomplishes what needs to be done fore human beings to be once more created in his likeness and so be divinized.” (Thomas Gerard Weinandy, Athanasius: A Theological Introduction, p. 43)

“The Father having eternally begotten his Son, is the source of all life through his Son. Human beings are created in the likeness of the Son through whom they were created and through whom they possess union with the Father. In the aftermath of sin that same Son recreated them in his own divine image by becoming one like them. He takes on his own image in order to renew it through his death and resurrection. Having become the exalted risen Lord, the Son, through the Holy Spirit, unites human beings to himself, and so transforms them into his perfect likeness, thus elevating them to communion with the Father. This culminates in their full divinization by taking on, in the resurrection, the incarnate Son’s own incorruptible nature. For Athanasius, this is the marvellous story, the economy of humankind’s salvation—a plan conceived by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and terminated, within the lives of human beings in the Holy Spirit.” (Thomas Gerard Weinandy, Athanasius: A Theological Introduction, p. 100-101)

“Athanasius thus conceives the relationships between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in a soteriological fashion for it is these very relationships that not only reveal who they are in themselves, but also determines what they distinctively do conjointly within the economy of salvation so as to embrace believers within the communion of their own divine life.” (Thomas Gerard Weinandy, Athanasius: A Theological Introduction, p. 107)

Basil the Great (330 – 379 AD)

“He clearly does not speak about the very essence of God the Word, which was in the beginning with God, but of him who emptied himself in the form of a slave and is conformed to the body of our lowliness and was crucified in weakness. [The statement] is not given in the manner of theology, but clarifies the principles of the economy.” (Basil, Against Eunomius 2.3)

“For as there be gods many and lords many, but to us there is but out God, the Father, of whom are all things; and one Lord Jesus Christ by Whom are all things.” Here we enquire why when he had said “one God” he was not content, for we have said that “one” and “only” when applied to God, indicate nature. Why did he add the word Father and make mention of Christ? Paul, a chosen vessel, did not, I imagine, think it sufficient only to preach that the Son is God and the Holy Ghost God, which he had expressed by the phrase “one God.” without, by the further addition of “the Father,” expressing Him of Whom are all things; and, by mentioning the Lord, signifying s the Word by Whom are all things; and yet further, by adding the words Jesus Christ, announcing the incarnation, setting forth the passion and publishing the resurrection. For the word Jesus Christ suggests all these ideas to us. For this reason too before His passion our Lord deprecates the designation of “Jesus Christ,” and charges His disciples to “tell no man that He was Jesus, the Christ.” For His purpose was, after the completion of the economy, after His resurrection froth the dead, and His assumption into heaven, to commit to them the preaching of Him as Jesus, the Christ. Such is the force of the words “That they may know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent,” and again “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Everywhere the Holy Ghost secures our conception of Him to save us from falling in else direction while we advance in the other, heeding the theology but neglecting the economy, and so by omission falling into impiety.” (Basil, Letter 8.3)

“Again, as is said through Solomon the Wise in the Proverbs, “He was created;” and He is named “Beginning of ways” of good news, which lead us to the kingdom of heaven. He is not in essence and substance a creature, but is made a “way” according to the economy.” (Basil, Letter 8.8)

“The Lord Himself undertook the economy, that by the blood of His cross He might make peace between things in earth and things in heaven.” (Basil, Letter 97)

“Are not [Apollinarius’] discourses about God full of impious doctrines, the old impiety of the insane Sabellius being now renewed by him in his writings? For if the works which are current among the Sebastenes are not the forgery of foes, and are really his composition, he has reached a height of impiety which cannot be surpassed, in saying that Father, Son, and Spirit are the same, and other dark pieces of irreverence which I have declined even to hear, praying that I may have nothing to do with those who have uttered them. Does he not confuse the doctrine of the incarnation? Has not the economy of salvation been made doubtful to the many on account of his dark and cloudy speculations about it? To collect them all, and refute them, requires long time and much discussion.” (Basil, Letter 265)

“According to the blameless faith of the Christians which we have obtained from God, I confess and agree that I believe in one God the Father Almighty; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost; I adore and worship one God, the Three. I confess to the economy of the Son in the flesh.” (Basil, Letter 360)

“We must not, however, regard the economy undertaken by Son as a compulsory service, resulting from a servile humility, but rather as the voluntary solicitude, in goodness and compassion, according to the will of God the Father, working for his own handiwork.” (Basil, Spirit 8.18)

“The economy of our God and Savior concerning man is a recall from the fall and a return from the alienation caused by disobedience to intimacy with God. This is the reason for the sojourn of Christ in the flesh, the examples of evangelic comportment, the sufferings, the Cross, the tomb, the Resurrection, so that the human being saved by imitation of Christ, might receive that ancient adoption.” (Basil, Spirit 15.35)

Gregory of Nazianzus (329 – 390 AD)

“In sum: you must predicate the more sublime expressions of the divinity, of the nature which transcends bodily experiences, and the lowlier ones of the compound [i.e., human nature: body and soul], of him who because of you was emptied, became incarnate and (to use equally valid language was ‘made man.’ Then next he was exalted, in order that you might have done with the earthbound carnality of your opinions and might learn to be nobler, to ascend with the divinity and not linger on in things visible but rise up to spiritual realities, and that you might know what is the expression of the nature and what is the expression of the economy.” (Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations 29.18)

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395 AD)

“Just as he is called Son of Man because of the consanguinity of his flesh with that of her from whom he was born, so also surely he is reckoned Son of God because of the bond between his essential being and that from which he derived his existence….The same one both is Son of God and became Son of Man by economy, so that by his own sharing in each he might join together elements distinct in nature.” (Gregory of Nyssa, Contra Eunomium III 3.1.92)

“Christ [is] always, both before the economy and after it; [the] man, however, [is] neither before it nor after it, but only during the time of the economy. Neither [is] the man before the virgin, nor, after the ascent into heave, [is] the flesh still in its own properties.” (Gregory of Nyssa, Antirrheticus 3.1)

John Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD)

“And in another sense too a mystery is so called; because we believe, not the very things which we see, but some things we see and others believe. For such is the nature of our Mysteries. I for instance feel differently upon these subjects from an unbeliever…He hearing of the Resurrection, saith, the thing is a legend; I, aware of the facts which demonstrate it, fall down and worship the economy of God.” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians 7.2)

Maximus the Confessor (c. 580 – 662 AD)

“As the centerpoint of creation and of the economy of salvation, the incarnation of Christ shows preeminently how the being and activity of God support and fulfill the natural existence of creatures. Here again Maximus’s main source and guide is Gregory Nazianzen. In the first place, the full presence and operation of God are perfectly compatible with natural creaturely functioning….Yet even more, the presence and will of God uniquely fulfill creaturely nature through what Gregory termed divinization.” (Christopher Beeley, The Unity of Christ, p. 301)

John of Damascus (c. 675 – 749 AD)

Chapter 1: Concerning the Divine Economy and God’s Care Over Us, and Concerning Our Salvation

“Man, then, was thus snared by the assault of the arch-fiend, and broke his Creator’s command, and was stripped of grace and put off his confidence with God, and covered himself with the asperities of a toilsome life (for this is the meaning of the fig-leaves ); and was clothed about with death, that is, mortality and the grossness of flesh (for this is what the garment of skins signifies); and was banished from Paradise by God’s just judgment, and condemned to death, and made subject to corruption. Yet, notwithstanding all this, in His pity, God, Who gave him his being, and Who in His graciousness bestowed on him a life of happiness, did not disregard man. But He first trained him in many ways and called him back, by groans and trembling, by the deluge of water, and the utter destruction of almost the whole race, by confusion and diversity of tongues, by the rule of angels, by the burning of cities, by figurative manifestations of God, by wars and victories and defeats, by signs and wonders, by manifold faculties, by the law and the prophets: for by all these means God earnestly strove to emancipate man from the wide-spread and enslaving bonds of sin, which had made life such a mass of iniquity, and to effect man’s return to a life of happiness. For it was sin that brought death like a wild and savage beast into the world to the ruin of the human life. But it behooved the Redeemer to be without sin, and not made liable through sin to death, and further, that His nature should be strengthened and renewed, and trained by labour and taught the way of virtue which leads away from corruption to the life eternal and, in the end, is revealed the mighty ocean of love to man that is about Him. For the very Creator and Lord Himself undertakes a struggle in behalf of the work of His own hands, and learns by toil to become Master. And since the enemy snares man by the hope of Godhead, he himself is snared in turn by the screen of flesh, and so are shown at once the goodness and wisdom, the justice and might of God. God’s goodness is revealed in that He did not disregard the frailty of His own handiwork, but was moved with compassion for him in his fall, and stretched forth His hand to him: and His justice in that when man was overcome He did not make another victorious over the tyrant, nor did He snatch man by might from death, but in His goodness and justice He made him, who had become through his sins the slave of death, himself once more conqueror and rescued like by like, most difficult though it seemed: and His wisdom is seen in His devising the most fitting solution of the difficulty. For by the good pleasure of our God and Father, the Only-begotten Son and Word of God and God, Who is in the bosom of the God and Father, of like essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Who was before the ages, Who is without beginning and was in the beginning, Who is in the presence of the God and Father, and is God and made in the form of God, bent the heavens and descended to earth: that is to say, He humbled without humiliation His lofty station which yet could not be humbled, and condescends to His servants , with a condescension ineffable and incomprehensible: (for that is what the descent signifies). And God being perfect becomes perfect man, and brings to perfection the newest of all new things, the only new thing under the Sun, through which the boundless might of God is manifested. For what greater thing is there, than that God should become Man? And the Word became flesh without being changed, of the Holy Spirit, and Mary the holy and ever-virgin one, the mother of God. And He acts as mediator between God and man, He the only lover of man conceived in the Virgin’s chaste womb without will or desire, or any connection with man or pleasurable generation, but through the Holy Spirit and the first offspring of Adam. And He becomes obedient to the Father Who is like us, and finds a remedy for our disobedience in what He had assumed from us, and became a pattern of obedience to us without which it is not possible to obtain salvation.” (John of Damascus, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 3.1)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

“The Fathers of the Church distinguish between theology (theologia) and economy (oikonomia). ‘Theology’ refers to the mystery of God’s inmost life within the Blessed Trinity and ‘economy‘ to all the works by which God reveals himself and communicates his life. Through the oikonomia the theologia is revealed to us; but conversely, the theologia illuminates the whole oikonomia. God’s works reveal who he is in himself; the mystery of his inmost being enlightens our understanding of all his works.” (CCC 236)

“The whole divine economy is the common work of the three divine persons.” (CCC 258)

“Being a work at once common and personal, the whole divine economy makes known both what is proper to the divine persons, and their one divine nature.” (CCC 259)

“The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity.” (CCC 260)

8 thoughts on “God’s Economy in Patristic Usage

  1. Although it isn’t often-used today (in the proper sense), it should come as no surprise that it pops up all over the place in church history since it is used in the original language of the Bible…


  2. Hi brother Kyle, I’m a brother originally from Hong Kong and now studying in Chicago. So glad found out your blog. I enjoyed it so much. Thank the Lord! I wrote an article (which is my last term paper regarding the doctrine of Church) on “Sacramental Understanding of the Church: On her Nature and Eucharist – From the Perspectives of Eastern Orthodoxy and Local Church Movement” (http://briancsk.blogspot.hk/2016/05/sacramental-understanding-of-church-on.html). See if you have any comment on it. Praise the Lord for knowing you. Best wishes

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  6. I’m still not clear as to what refers to God’s economy. I came across this question and I couldn’t get how to answer it. ‘Does the application of 1Timothy 4:16 have any impact on economic growth and development?’


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