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Last week, in the course of our discussions of the Trinity, my friend Jabba pointed out that there were errors in what I wrote, and he has been kind enough to expound on what they were. I’d like to spend a little time with his erudite remarks because I think it will help us go forward from where we were. The first part of our dialogue is the easiest, so I will deal with it first.

Jabba: OK, then I’m more and more convinced that you just said a couple of things by sheer and basic human error, rather than actually meaning what they more fully signify theologically and philosophically and dogmatically.

You did in fact describe the Father as being “the dynamic cause” of the Trinity — which this doctrine in Mystici Corporis Christi does not support, because it places that Cause in God, not in the Persons of the Trinity nor in any one of Them.

Me: Yes, this has to be right, and I apologise, as I did at the time, for the word ‘dynamic’ I should have stuck with the Patristic ‘begotten’ for the relationship between Father and Son, and not said anything which could even sound as though the Father was the cause of the Trinity.

This certainly shows the problem of trying to write about the Trinity, and in truth, the moment I used the word I realised it would have been better to have stayed with the Fathers and used the word ‘begotten’ and confined it to the Father and the Son, rather than strayed into the area of applying a word used on the relationship between two of the Persons, to the trinity itself.

As Jabba wisely admonished me:

Jabba: That is why the advice of St Gregory in his 32nd Oration that I posted is so extremely valuable — because he advises in the wisest and most prudential manner to always keep a humble kind of delicate reverence for the precision of the doctrines, and be correspondingly very careful never to betray them with any overzealous interpretations.

That has to be right. Indeed, I ought to have remembered the advice of St, Gregory in Oration 28, not least because it was always at the head of our Patristics reading list:

It is difficult to conceive God but to define Him in words is an impossibility, as one of the Greek teachers of Divinity taught, not unskilfully, as it appears to me; with the intention that he might be thought to have apprehended Him; in that he says it is a hard thing to do; and yet may escape being convicted of ignorance because of the impossibility of giving expression to the apprehension. But in my opinion it is impossible to express Him, and yet more impossible to conceive Him. For that which may be conceived may perhaps be made clear by language, if not fairly well, at any rate imperfectly, to any one who is not quite deprived of his hearing, or slothful of understanding. But to comprehend the whole of so great a Subject as this is quite impossible and impracticable, not merely to the utterly careless and ignorant, but even to those who are highly exalted, and who love God, and in like manner to every created nature; seeing that the darkness of this world and the thick covering of the flesh is an obstacle to the full understanding of the truth.

It is with that wisdom in mind that I will deal with the second set of issues raised by our dialogue.