The second part of our dialogue is one where the need for care in these matters is even clearer.

We start here [Jabba is in italics, my response is not]

Jabba: Your claim that the Father is “not” the Son is wrong, because even though the Father and the Son are different to each other, claiming that they are “not” each other as starkly as you did is not theologically sustainable — which basically boils down to meaning that the opposite interpretation, that they “are” each other, is perfectly licit too.

Me: I was basing myself on this diagram:

which is from a Catholic source and which has been used for centuries to teach the Trinity. If one translates the top line into English one gets: ‘The Father is not the Son’. If this is not ‘theologically sustainable’, then it is not my claim which is ‘theologically unsustainable’ it is that of Jabba’s own Church. I am sorry to have to put it so starkly, but to claim that it is wrong to state that the ‘Father is not the Son’ is wrong. I did so in the context of a version of this diagram in English, and in the context of making it clear that the Father and the Son were of the same sybstance, the same nature, that they were ‘consubstantial’. I agree when Jabba says:

Jabba: One has to take an especially great degree of care when discussing any of the Mysteries or Arcana of the Faith — because these are the dogmata that are the most productive of heresies in interpretation, teaching, statement, philosophy, or belief.

But not when he writes:

My basic problem is that I think that you were not as careful as you should have been, as you are required to be.

When he writes:

The Son is different to the Father — this is sound dogma.

I am uneasy. I agree, but that wording is quite as liable to misinterpretation as the statement to which Jabba objects – with the difference that the one to which he objects has been used in catholic schools for many generations, and his own formulation has not. I would rather say with that the Church has allowed.

Jabba: The Son is not the Father, insofar as we are always very clear that the Son and the Father are One with the Holy Spirit — this too.

Me: The Son and the Holy Spirit are of one essence with the Father, if you mean this when write ‘are one with’ then I agree, but the formulation you choose is not one I read in any of the Fathers, and is as liable to be misunderstood as any other wording; I see no reason to think it superior.

Jabba: But to use such a statement as “The Son is not the Father” — or “The Son is the same as the Father” — is wrongful, because you can have no idea how people will read such a statement, and because as singular statements they do not express the fullness of the Truth.

Me: I agree that had I not used the ‘Son is not the Father’ in the context of the document reproduced above, and in the context of saying that the Father and the Son are of the one essence or nature, that would have been so; but it was very carefully used in precisely that context for precisely the reasons Jabba so rightly gives.

Jabba: You should, and this is my honest and starkly theological position, refrain from using the phrase “The Son is not the Father” ever again, and restrict yourself to such statements as “The Son is different to the Father” or “The Son and the Father are not identical” or other such paraphrases expressing more properly their differences not as a strict 1/0 either/or yes/no difference of the binary logic that is inherent to the broadly Oxonian intellectual methodology

Me: Perhaps this is where your difficulty lies Jabba?  I have no idea what the ‘Oxford intellectual methodology’ is. My own background is in Patristics, and I use only language and concepts found in the Fathers. Take me beyond the nineth century and I am lost. As the Church itself uses ‘the Father is not the Son’ (see above), and as the Church does not use the formulations you offer, if we are to exercise care, we should, err, if at all, on the side of extreme caution and use the words the Fathers used.

I am grateful to Jabba for his comments and for the chance to do what we try to do here, which is to discuss these matters in irenic fashion.