« AnteriorContinua »
“ The catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one : the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is ; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father is infinite ; the Son is infinite; the Holy Ghost is infinite. The Father is eternal; the Son is eternal; the Holy Ghost is eternal. And yet there are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated, nor three infinites; but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son is Almighty; and the Holy Ghost is Almighty. And yet there are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So likewise the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet there are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; and the Holy Ghost is Lord. And yet there are not three Lords; but one Lord. For as we are compelled in Christian truth to acknowledge each person distinctively to be both God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or three Lords. The Father is made by none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in the Trinity none is before or after another, none is greater or less than another; but all three persons are co-eternal and co-equal. So that in in all things, as above said : the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped.”
It is manifest that these metaphysical affirmations which, together with the assertion of the double procession of the Spirit, completed the confessional development of the Trinitarian view in the Western Church, were meant mainly to fortify the Nicene faith against all Arianism and all forms of teaching that imply an essential subordination of the persons or subsistences of the Godhead.
Our understanding of the Trinity must find its ultimate validity, not in the traditions of the past and formulations of Councils, but from the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. The ecclesiastical formulations are authoritative only as they express, as they essentially do, the doctrine of the word of God. In further considering the subject, some leading facts must here be brought into distinct and guiding view.
1. The Scriptures clearly base the Trinitarian conception of God upon the Divine Unity. In logical relation the Unity is first. Nothing is more fundamental in the Christian Scriptures than that there is only ONE Being that is God. He is ONE AND ALONE. The repudiation of polytheism is absolute. No shadow touches the pure monotheism of Christianity. The fundamental conception of God is Unitarian—in the sense of the absolute Oneness of the Divine Essence or Being. The very proofs of the Trinity find their full conclusive force only when viewed in the light of the Biblical doctrine that polytheistic worship is impiety. The Unity of the God-head is the presupposition for the Trinity. Remove the Unity, and the rendering of homage to Three becomes the thing which the Christian conception of God condemns as flagrant offense. The inviolable oneness of the true God, as alone and unapproachably Eternal Deity, is the starting point in the true Christian thought of the Trinity.
2. The revelation of the truth of the Trinity has been made in the work and history of redemption, and thus comes as a reflection from these Divine activities. This fact compels us to recognize the theological distinction between the immanent (ontological) Trinity and the economic. A simply economic Trinity, merely a threefold form of manifestation, or outward action (opera ad extra), as in Sabellianism, is, of course, conceivable. But the revelation in the Christian Scriptures, in its distinctly practical character, unmistakably makes the threefold forms of divine working in creation, redemption, and sanctification, stand in a trinal distinction within the Godhead, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the immanent Trinity. The revelatory movement brings to light the inner Trinity (opera ad intra) in and through the threefold form of activity. God's truth in acting externally is also truth within His own Being. The manifested Trinity is made to mirror to us the eternal correspondent reality in the divine Life. In the acting of the One God, there is, from beginning to end of the revelation, the acting of three Personal subsistences, represented as existing and divine, with rights to supreme love and worship, within the full unity and fellowship of the One and only God. Both facts are to be borne in mind-the absolute Unity of the Divine Essence or Being and the tripersonality of the Eternal Life. The revelation of the immanent Trinity reaches us through the manifested or economic Trinity. The detail of the Scripture proofs of this will be given later.
3. To secure clearness in the Scripture doctrine, as properly assured in the faith of the Church, the recognized Trinitarian terminology must be distinctly remembered. In it two classes of words are applied to Godone class when His unity or oneness is referred to; the other when the triune distinctions are expressed. Those applied to His existence as One, are: essence (Latin, essentia, Greek, óvola), substance (Latin, substantia), nature (Latin, natura, Greek, pois), being (Greek, ó wr). That is, in respect to that in which God is one, we use the terms essence, substance, nature, being. Those applied to denote the distinctions, as three, are Person (Latin, persona, Greek, ümboTaois), Subsistence (Latin, subsistentia).' Whenever we speak of that in God in which the Trinitarian distinctions exist we employ one or other or all of these terms.
It needs here to be remarked and fixed in mind that the word Persons, thus used to express the trinal distinctions in the Godhead, is not applied in precisely the same sense as when applied to men. Here arises one of the chief difficulties in the explanation and understanding of this truth-the inadequacy and ambiguity of the term “person.” There is a tendency to carry with it from the human connotation some elements of meaning not at all applicable in relation to the divine existence—to adhere too closely to the human analogy. Human personality has an individuality and separateness which will not answer for the conception to be formed of the modes of the subsistences of the Godhead. For instance, the term “person,” when used of man, signifies a subject subsisting by itself, with its own separate essence, like the essence of other men, but yet not theirs; but in the Trinity there is only one undivided and indivisible essence or being. There are many men, but not three Gods. Though we say that each man, as a person, partakes of the “one human nature,” yet the “human nature,” or “humanity," of which we thus speak, is an abstract concept, having no real concrete existence except in individual men. But the “nature or substance" of God is not a mere concept, but actually or concretely exists as the one indivisible essence which is God; and the meaning is that in this one undivided nature there are three differences or distinctions somewhat analogous to the personal characteristics of man. The nature of the whole Godhead is personal, and personality marks it in all the three distinctions or subsist. ences in which it exists as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The natural sense of the word, drawn from individuals who form a class of beings, tends to push thinking in the mould of tritheism-three Gods, the divine class of personalities.
1 The terms apbownov (mask, face, presence), tó ÚTOKELMÉVOV (subsistence), were also used by the Greek trinitarians in this connection. The term ÚTOOTaoig was used till about the middle of the fourth cen. tury in the first class, so used in the original Nicene Creed (Hefele, “History of Christian Councils," pp. 294-295). Subsequently transferred to the second class as a synonym for óvoia.