Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Reflections on the Trinity

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

Well, I've completed my posts on the Code of Chivalry. Who knows, maybe I'll revisit them some day. For now, though, I'm going to turn to something more theological--the Trinity. Now, these are just going to be my own reflections on the Doctrine of the Trinity, and if you find it helpful, then great! If not, well, that's okay too.

So, we have this apparent contradiction in Scripture. God is said, very clearly, to be the One God. And yet, in the person of Jesus, we have this conundrum. He very clearly claims to be the God of Israel, and at the same time prays to the God of Israel, His Father in heaven. Likewise, the other person we read about, this Spirit of God, is also very clearly another person that has identification with the God of Israel. So, there's this apparent contradiction. God is one, but we observe three persons in Scripture identified as this One God.

After wrestling with this paradox for a few centuries, the Church clarifies precisely what is going on here. She teaches that God is one in being, and three in person. No, I'm not going to try to clarify this by analogy, because invariably analogies about the Trinity end up being fundamentally heretical, usually taking the forms of modalism or partialism, or perhaps something else. So, in the interest of not being labelled a heretic, I will not consider this in the form of an analogy, and hopefully, I won't end up saying something heretical anyway.

Six Questions

When we think about a creature (so, getting away from the Trinity question for now), we can generally as five questions about it. What is it? Where is it? When is it? How is it? And why is it? All other questions we might ask about it are actually just variations of these four. "What" questions are questions about substances or essences. "Where" questions are about locations or presences. "When" questions are time or sequence. "How" questions are about agency or modes. And "why" questions are about purposes or directions.

There is a sixth question that may be asked of creatures, but only of a subset of creatures. In other words, this question can't be asked of all creatures, but only of some (namely, humans and angels). This question is "who is it?" And this kind of question is about personality or identity.

The first five questions we may ask about a thing are questions of being. Every being is a particular substance, in a particular place, in a particular time, in a particular way, and for a particular purpose. And every being has substance, location, sequence, order and purpose. However, not every being has personhood. This means that there are at least five essential aspects of being, but that personhood is not one of them, otherwise all beings would have it. In other words, there is a particular distinction between being, as such, and personhood. I'm going to write a post about the Hypostatic Union another time that I hope will demonstrate this point further.

So, because we have this distinction between being and personhood, we may have (that is to say, it is possible) a difference in quantity between the two. But, this is only really possible for a being or person that is actually infinite, without an real limits. Think about it, if you have two people who are actually infinite in being, what difference, in being, would there be between the two? There would be no difference, otherwise either or both of them wouldn't actually be infinite, one possessing some quality that the other lacks. And since that being is itself actually infinite, it is therefore all-encompassing, and must necessarily encompass the being of the other person wholly and completely, otherwise, again, its being would not actually be infinite. So, from that simple thought experiment, you can see that it is possible to have a multiplicity of persons and a singular being when we're talking about true limitlessness.

I hope that, with this, I've established at least the real possibility of this Trinitarian Doctrine. I think I will leave it at this for now. Perhaps I will reflect more on the personalities of the Three Persons in a future entry.

Thanks for reading!

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