The Divine Trinity

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Feast of the Holy Trinity

Interpret Another Verse. When we speak of processions, we normally think of something that comes forth from another, implying change and movement. Since we ourselves have been created in the image and likeness of the triune God cf. Gen , the best human analogy for the divine processions we can find is in the human soul, where the knowledge we have of ourselves remains within us: the concept we form of ourselves is distinct from us, but is not outside us. The same can be said of the love we have for ourselves.

Similarly in God, the Son proceeds from the Father and is his Image, just as the human concept is the image of the known reality. Except that this Image, in God, is so perfect that it is God himself, with all his infinity, eternity, and omnipotence: The Son is one with the Father, with the same existence that is, with the unique and undivided divine nature, although being another Someone.

The same can be said of the Holy Spirit, who proceeds as the Love of the Father and the Son for each other.

He proceeds from both because he is the eternal and uncreated Gift that the Father gives to the Son in engendering him, and that the Son returns to the Father in response to his Love. The third Person is, therefore, the mutual love between the Father and the Son. The processions give rise to the distinctions in God, while their immanence accounts for his unity.

Just as it is impossible to be father and to be son of the same person in the same sense, so it is impossible to be at the same time the Person who proceeds by spiration and the two Persons from whom he proceeds. However, we need to keep in mind that in the created world relations are accidental, in the sense that they are not identical with their being. In God, since the whole divine substance is given in the two processions, the three relations are eternal and are identified with that same substance.

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These three eternal relations not only characterize, but are identical with the three divine Persons, such that to think of the Father is to think of the Son; and to think of the Holy Spirit is to think of those in respect to whom he is the Spirit. This is not the same as three human beings who participate in the same nature without being identical to human nature. The three Persons are each the fullness of divinity, identical with the one divine nature.

Jn , Since God is an eternal communication of Love, it makes sense that this Love should overflow externally in his action. But whoever knows the persons in that family would be able to recognize the role each individual played through the personal traces left by them in that single gift.

Thus the ultimate meaning of reality—what all men desire, what philosophers and religions of all times have sought—is the mystery of the Father who eternally engenders the Son in the Love that is the Holy Spirit. It is in the Trinity that the original model of the human family is to be found. Therefore, we're unable to count, and shouldn't speak of three distinct deities Thus, a series of plannings and drawings, etc. And one thing or event may be the result of a great many activities by different agents, as when dozens of construction workers contribute their actions to one result, such as a building or the coming into existence of a building.

Nyssa siezes on examples of the actions of the Father, Son, and Spirit having a single result. Moreover, Nyssa speaks of the divine persons in the plural, and holds them to differ. Thus, while it is left unclear what the persons are, it is emphasized that a distinction between them hasn't been obliterated. Being a Platonist about universals, he holds that the Three share one universal nature i.

But he is hard pressed to show why it doesn't follow that there are three gods In the end, his main aim is simply to uphold the mysterious tradition passed down to him ; cf. Nyssa Great , ch.

The bedrock of pro-Nicene trinitarianism is a metaphysics of God as unique, simple lacking any sort of parts, composition, or differing intrinsic aspects , and therefore incomprehensible we can't grasp all truths about God, or any truths about God's essential nature and ineffable such that no human concept applies literally to it. Thus as Ayres notes,. Any analogy offered is therefore quickly supplemented by others.

Its opponents view this as obfuscation, while its proponents consider the differing analogies to be complimentary and in some sense informative.

While pro-Nicenes hold the persons to be somehow distinct, they show little interest in developing a metaphysical account of what it is to be a divine person. In sum, the Nicene pattern of speech and thought about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is held by them to be spiritually beneficial, but it doesn't admit of clarification. This view is strongly mysterian see main entry, section 3.

Part 2: St. Faustina and the Secret of the Holy Trinity

Augustine is arguably a one-self trinitarian. For him, the one God is the Trinity. And this one God is almost always addressed and described using personal pronouns. He is an object of our love, as much as our neighbors and ourselves, and he has all the features of a self described in the main entry, section 1. He is a simple, timeless, and perfect self, a subject of complete knowledge, who freely creates all other things, and who exists in a truer or deeper way.

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He argues that the Bible implicitly teaches this sort of trinitarianism, on which the rest of the book is an extended meditation. This meditation, he concedes, fails to yield much by way of understanding. He holds that sin has corrupted our minds, so that we can't understand the doctrine, which we should still hope to understand in the next life —2 [VII.

Augustine's goal is not so much to understand the Trinity and communicate this to others, but rather to say some things that will deliver a small shred of understanding, which may entice the reader to pursue the experience of God —7 [XV. Because of this dim view of what humans are equipped to understand, much of the book is actually about how to talk about the Trinity, rather than about the Trinity itself. We may at least confess the correct doctrine, even if only later we come to understand what we've been saying.

Despite this pronounced negative mysterian note see section 3. It is supposed to be one in the items which share it, and to make them, in some sense, numerically one Cross Further, temporal processes seem ill-suited to represent the nature of an essentially immutable God. Augustine holds that God is simple and thus essentially immutable. Applied to us, these words signify properties we happen to possess, and which we might have not possessed, but applied to God, they all indicate the same thing, God's simple essence.

As God can't have accidental features, these can't be predicated accidentally. But Augustine doesn't want to say that they are essentially predicated either. He suggests that they are relationally predicated, that is, applied to God not because of his essence or accidents, but rather because of how God is related to himself.

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He finally holds that some terms apply equally to each of the three divine persons, whereas certain relational terms apply primarily to one of the three. In sum,. But Augustine thinks that no what understands what those are anyway; the doctrine is in the end a negative mystery.

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See main entry, section 3 on mysterianism. See Thom , ch 2 for a formal treatment of Augustine's theory. Most later trinitarinas interact in some way with Augustine's huge body of work on the topic, and many consider that they are following in his footsteps. See sections 4.


Augustine's medieval successors all reject three-self approaches to the Trinity Cross , Important medieval philosopher-theologians not discussed here who develop Augustine's trinitarianism include Boethius ca. The so-called Athanasian Creed also known by the Latin words it begins with, as the Quicumque vult is a widely adopted and beloved formulation of the doctrine.

It shows strong Augustinian influence, and is thought to be the product of an unknown early 6th century writer. Contemporary philosophical discussions often begin with this creed, at it puts pro-Nicene trinitarianism into a memorably short and palpably paradoxical form. By the latter part, it follows by the indiscernibility of identicals that no person of the Trinity is identical with any other. And by the earlier part, it seems to follow that there are thus at least three eternal etc. But it asserts there's only one eternal thing.

Hence, the creed seems contradictory, and has been attacked as such Biddle , i; Nye a, 11; Priestley , Showing where the above argument for inconsistency goes wrong is a major motivation of recent Trinity theories see sections 1 and 2 of the main entry. In contrast, mysterians hold that it somehow goes wrong, though no one can say quite where. See section 3 of the main entry. Finally, some simply reject the creed.

Church council decisions are treated by Catholicism and Orthodoxy much like supreme court decisions in American jurisprudence. While early rulings may be bent and twisted to meet new needs, they are at least in theory inviolable precedents. Thus, the structure of Christian churches ensured that these boundaries weren't violated, and theorizing about the Trinity from around CE until the Reformation ca. Thus, most medieval trinitarian theories are essentially elaborations on the pro-Nicene consensus in a more confident and metaphysical mode.