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The doctrine of the Trinity

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Christopher Barnett

on 21 March 2016

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Transcript of The doctrine of the Trinity

Origins of Trinitarian Doctrine
Scripture: OT Gen 18; Isa 55:10-11; Ezk 37:1-14 / NT Matt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:13; 1 Pet 1:2


Church tradition and theological insight

una substantia et tres personae
Analogical Explanations of the Trinity




“Imaging” God
Icon: an image of something sacred

Jean Luc Marion: idol vs. icon

“[T]he icon summons sight by allowing the invisible to saturate the visible, but without any attempt or claim of reducing the invisible to the visible icon. The icon attempts to render visible the invisible as such, and thus, strictly speaking, shows nothing. It teaches the gaze to proceed beyond the visible into an infinity whereby something new of the invisible is encountered. Thus the iconic gaze never rests or settles on the icon, but instead rebounds upon the visible into a gaze of the infinite.”

Андре́й Рублёв / Andrei Rublev (died ca. 1430)

“Old Testament Trinity” (Genesis 18)

Painted ca. 1415
I believe in God,
the Father Almighty…

The Doctrine of the Trinity
Diagram of the Trinity
Key Trinitarian Concepts
: the divinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit have in common; what unites them.

(“mutual interpenetration”): each person is distinct; yet each participates in the life of the others through perichoresis.

: attribution to a single divine Person of those characteristics or activities of God which are in fact *not* proper to an individual Person but rather common to the three Persons of the Trinity (e.g., wisdom to the Son, love to the Spirit)
Key Trinitarian Concepts
How *Not* to Approach the Trinity

: ca. 3rd Century

: the most noteworthy Modalist was Sabellius, a priest whose teachings on the Trinity found pockets of popularity in Roman Christendom, particularly in North Africa.

: Modalism arose out of a concern to defend the oneness of God opposite the perceived tritheism of certain approaches to the Trinity.

: For Modalists, there are not three persons sharing the one divine substance. Rather, the one God reveals himself in different ways or “modes,” sometimes as Father (creator), sometimes as Son (savior), sometimes as Spirit (sanctifier).

: (1) Chronological Modalism: God appears as different modes at different points in history; (2) Functional Modalism: God acts in different modes at any given time.
How *Not* to Approach the Trinity

: throughout history, but especially up to the Eleventh Council of Toledo (675)

: from John Philoponus (490-570) to Anton Günther (1783-1863)

: Tritheism was concerned to protect the distinctiveness of the Trinitarian persons over against Modalism.

: In some cases, Tritheists simply rejected the claim that the Trinitarian persons share one substance. More common, however, was (and is) a neglect of or a lack of emphasis on una substantia--that is, on the unity of the divine persons. Tritheism is all too easy to lapse into.
Contemplating the mystery with Rublev
The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord,[a] do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”
Genesis 18:1-5
Immanent Trinity vs. Economic Trinity
: "the Trinity of God's dealings with us is already the reality of God as he is in himself" (K. Rahner)

God’s internal divine processions
: the Father generates (not creates!) the Son, and the Father and the Son breathe (or “spirate”) the Spirit.

The filioque clause
(added 589 / schism 1054)
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