Musing and contemplating the trinity is something I find myself often engaged in. I search out fresh thoughts in the scriptures and add the findings to my ever-growing notes from which I drew the following comment which relate to this post.
“if they were simply different modes in which the one God appears, then such an act of communion would not be possible.”
The understanding of the trinity that the church has come to harmonizes the diverse revelation of scripture. However God is then often described with a number of terms that are incomprehensible to the man in the street. In an attempt to communicate more simply I found a simple definition helps.
“There is one God perfectly united and existing in three eternal and personal modes”.
The difference between ‘appears’ and ‘existing’ is the difference between heterodox and orthodox.
Of course we need to go on to explain the manner of God’s unity as it is expressed in Trinitarian doctrine but the above seems to give easier access to those explanations.
“The Father alone is the one true God.”
This seems to impute deity only to the Father. As Jess said the phrase ‘startles’ and we might wonder where the room is left for Christ and the Holy Spirit – clearly things are explained as you move on but that phrase still sticks and I can’t swallow it easily. However you cut it seems to say that the Father alone (As in Father, Son and Holy Spirit is “Alone The One True God’)
Surly this ‘form of words’ cannot be precisely true or uphold the deity of the ‘The Son’ and ‘The Spirit’.
I shall have to consider how reference to ‘an article’ apply only to ‘The Father’ is to be understood but as of now am happier with the following:-
“The one true God is Our Father”
This attributes both deity and Fatherhood to the Trinity.
The way in which ‘an article’ maybe being applied to the Father (alone) might be in the contexts of the Fatherhood of the ‘Triune God’, this will require a survey through the scriptures I had not noticed before that ‘an article’ was used exclusively in this way.
‘The Son’ is begotten of ‘The Father’ and ‘The Spirit’ proceeds from the Father through the Son – which indicates a Father relationship within the trinity towards ‘The Son’ and Holy Spirit. Several texts teach that the Spirit proceeds from the Father is the correct understanding in relation to the Holy Spirit e.g. Luke 11:13; Jn.14:16 & 26; Acts 1:4, 2:33 & 38.
The term Father must be understood differently in terms of the FSS interrelationships within the Godhead than it is understood in relation to us and God as our Father.
Jesus foretelling His death said “I go to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God”. He did not say “I go to our Father etc”. Although that is how he taught us to pray.
Christians have a common relationship to the Father, Son and Spirit who gave us existence and through who we become a new creation and sons of God. Jesus eternal and un-created relationship to the Father is one of an entirely different order.
The Trinitarian God is our Father:
a) The Father is our Father Matt. 6:9;
b) The Son is a Father to us Isaiah 9:6;
c) The Holy Spirit is a Father Spirit, in Jn. 14:18.
Jesus speaking of the Holy Spirit in Jn. 14:16-17, is speaking in the context of Philip’s request to see the Father Jn. 14:8, and states:
“I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you”.
So in the Spirit’s coming Christ comes to us and in the Spirits coming we are no longer ‘orphans’ – we are no longer Fatherless. In this way Jesus applies Fatherhood to both Himself and the Holy Spirit. These passages are breathtaking clear in establishing the unity and trinity of God.
Additionally many experience a unique relationship with each of the persons of the trinity. No wonder even God’s transport is ‘Wheels within wheels’.
I think Christians often speak too glibly mixing up references to God and the Father e.g. Jesus’ statements:-
“No man comes to the Father except by me”
I’ve heard this quoted as “No one comes to God except ….” In evangelism this presents a barrier and causes un-necessary objections and was certainly untrue of Cornelius’ approach to God which was accepted and prompted the Lord’s response Acts 10:1-2 & 4. However no one comes into the intimacy of relationship with God as Father except through Jesus, while it is also true that all those reconciled to God will be reconciled through His blood.
Then again our Lord’s cry of dereliction from the cross:-
“My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”
I have heard it said the Father forsook Christ on the cross turning away from the sin He bore. What happened at the cross is the greatest mystery. I believe Fr. John would confirm it is an Orthodox saying “He reigns from the cross”. Whatever went on I do not think the trinity could have been torn asunder at the cross. The trinity created the cosmos and continually upholds it. How could ‘the stuff of the universe’ continue with a disassembled trinity?
Was it Jesus in his perfect humanity that was torn apart and God forsaken or was it His sense of God’s abandonment. This must surely be the deepest mystery of the trinity for us to comprehend but the depth of love so demonstrated is deeper.
Just my meditation – I’m interested in how those with knowledge of creeds and councils consider this.
Carl D'Agostino said:
I never had a problem understanding of Trinity as you present. For me the whole thing collapses with that “Mary is the mother of God” thing for which all explanations thereof seem inadequate to me. To simply see Mary as God’s vessel through whom God brings Jesus to the world is more than adequate for her most esteemed veneration than to insist she is God’s mother which complicates that matter. Yes, I know all the citations alleged contradicting my idea but still never made sense to me. If Mary is the mother of God how can God be the father of Mary? Then Mary must have a mother which makes God female and the Trinity has a fourth component.
Servus Fidelis said:
Mary, Mother of God refers ‘only’ to her relationship to the human nature of Christ which by DNA or any other measure would show Her as the Mother to Christ’s Human nature which He took fully from Her (as His Father, in this instance, was the Holy Spirit and thus from all time in possession of His Divine Nature – as the other half of His Dual Nature – both human and Divine). One must distinguish between the two natures just as one must distinguish between the difference of a Person and a Nature (a Person answers WHO while a Nature answers the question, WHAT). Christ residing outside of time was and perpetually possesses His Divinity while Christ (in time) takes on a Human nature as well, one Divine Person with 2 equally valid Natures – human and Divine. Mary is the mother of the Human Nature of Christ – and it is not an eternal boast – having no beginning or end. It instead is ‘eviternal’ as is our soul: being created at a point in time but eternal in the sense that it will never cease to exist. So questions pertaining to a fourth component to the Trinity are not part of the preexistent Trinitarian Godhead, but a form of a new adoption of humanity into the existing Godhead as we are no longer simply another creation destined for an end that is simply temporal like a rock or a blade of grass. We have been lifted, thanks to Christ’s Human Nature (and His taking to Himself of His Mother’s Human Nature) which raised His human sacrifice, as such, into the Divine realm. Should we but allow Christ to transform us into ‘other Christs’ we too are called into a share of His Divinity and an everlasting Holy Family that is fecund beyond all our imagination. This is a God Who is Self-Giving and humble enough to count Mary as the Mother of His human nature – though all natures that exist have their beginning in the One God Who, without Him, nothing that is, would be.
I like SF’s: comments about the ‘New humanity in Christ’ there are a number of questions – that go off topic perhaps suggesting further posts but first:-
SF: wrote: “Mary, Mother of God refers ‘only’ to her relationship to the human nature of Christ …”
This gets very tricky I do not think the above clause is exactly accurate.
I thought SF: had fallen into the error Nestorius was claimed to have made, ‘splitting Christ into two persons’ by saying Mary was only the Mother of Jesus human nature. A careful reading of what SF: wrote avoids that as he differentiates between the ‘two natures’ and the ‘one persons’ Jesus. Explaining that Mary contributed the human nature to Jesus and the Holy Spirit contributed the divine nature to Jesus the divine person (singular).
Nevertheless the phrase “Mary, Mother of God refers ‘only’ to her relationship to the human nature of Christ” slightly misses the mark as she was the mother of the ‘Divine person Jesus’, so I think it would have still got him in trouble at Chalcedon.
Maybe if SF: would have been at Chalcedon and contributed the additional word ‘incarnate’ to ‘Mother of God incarnate’ the split with Nestorius would have been avoided by providing an accurate and acceptable definition while avoiding Nestorius’ preferred ‘Mother of Christ’ which is open to misunderstanding.
SF: I hope I have got this right and avoided the excommunication from his church of one of my favorite Roman Catholics on this site!
Further questions raised:-
a) Is Christ now bereft of His human nature or has he elevated it and in so doing redeemed us?
b) Are the souls of the lost immortal, is man innately immortal from the moment of his natural birth – ‘only God has immortality’ and it is a gift to the redeemed.
Servus Fidelis said:
Rob, I agree that the word ‘incarnate’ would have been a better choice. As to a) above: I would seem to think so. As to b) above: I would think that all souls are created to live beyond death. As to whether it is to be an eternal existence of bliss or of suffering is what we are trying to work out during our incarnate lives now that the doors to Heaven have been opened to us.
Tom McEwen said:
bob- I agree with St Augustine story that he saw a child pouring the sea into a hole in the sands, and he told the boy, you will not get the ocean into that hole and the Christ child said, “True I will not get the ocean into this hole, and you will not get the mystery of the Trinity in your mind”. I find your writing on this subject to be an honest stretching of understanding.
As far as Mary, Mary for Catholics is not just the Mother of the Lord, she is also the true promise of God to redeem the path of grace lost by Eve. Eve was created full of grace, Mary as the new Eve, must be created to be full of grace, Jesus is the bridge to restore the path of Grace. As the New Ark, she must have God’s law encoded in Jesus, the manna from Heaven, the Eucharist and the staff of Mose, the new rod of iron to rule the nations. She is the woman, both in Genesis and in Revelation. For me she keeps Christ my brother, she keeps him someone I can relate too, my mind is small, Jesus who is God, is massive, as Mary’s son I can approach him and learn.. To often I see Jesus portrayed as a massive God on a golden throne, who is required to do everything, we do nothing but say some words, because what I see in that results from a lack of Mary, Mary had the Holy Spirit for over 33 years, she wiped his bottom, fed him, protected him, followed him, witnessed his passion and his resurrection, words no, not many, but she started his time at the wedding and If she had the Holy Spirit, she knew. Her life was not words but a work.
Carl – it centre around who you think Jesus is. Is He God? If He is then is He human or is He just God? If He is just God, then how can He redeem our humanity? If He is just human, then how can He pay the price of atonement for all humanity? If He is God and human – as the Church holds, then the product of Mary’s womb is God. That makes Mary the Mother of God (the Word, the Second Person of the Trinity). No one has ever claimed she was the Mother of the Father or the Holy Spirit – but she is the Mother of God Incarnate. This seems pretty straightforward to me and not to require any fourth person in the Trinity. Mary is the daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Word Incarnate and, if it takes you that way, the Bride of the Holy Spirit. C
Fr Aidan Kimel said:
I agree. It’s just simple Chalcedonian logic:
Jesus is God (specifically, God the Son).
Mary is the Mother of Jesus.
Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God (specifically, God the Son).
It all makes sense as long as one properly distinguishes between person and nature.
I wonder if Carl isn’t having trouble with God being outside of time. Mary is of course descended from God’s creation, not God himself, and as Jesus’ Mother she becomes the Mother of God. But as humans, we are time bound, and it is hard to see that God is not only always present but always in the present, he has no past or future, only the present. Or something like that, I still have trouble with it as well.
Most interesting, Rob.
In terms of ‘My God, My God’, Jesus is quoting Psalm 22:1 which begins: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”. Jesus quoted this Psalm in order to draw attention to it and the fact that He was fulfilling it there on the cross; verses 11-18 provide the context.
I am more uneasy that Jessica is about Fr John’s comment about only the Father being God; I agree he qualifies it, but it is the sort of too-clever by three-quarters comment which leaves the road to heresy wide open; it does not seem to me to be a very responsible statement for a priest in his position to make; I thought that sort of thing was left to members of the Western Churches 🙂
I have something on God the Father coming up later. C
Yes but “My God My God etc” as He quoted it must have been true in some sense.
Imagining the ongoing reference brought to the Jews minds whether Jesus continued his citation or not “they pierced my hands and my feet … they divide my garments … cast lots for my clothing”, as the events were in progress causes us to wonder they did not recognize their Messiah at this late moment.
I remember one day going into a park in UK finding a group of older teenagers. I read bit of this passage and of Isaiah 53 and asked who it was about. In some derision, being un-spiritual types and those I’m drawn to, they said.
“Well its Jesus obvious!”
When I explained who wrote the words and the prophetic implications for each one of them I got their attention.
I suspect that even on the Cross Jesus was, as you suggest, teaching.
I have heard it suggested that as Jesus was at this point ‘made sin’ that God, who cannot look at evil, abandoned him; not very convinced by it, but know some who are. C
The idea of God abandoning the sinner and unable to look on them does not convince me either – Jesus did not show this attitude and God even went searching (metaphorically) in the bushes for Adam.
Yes, that would be my reaction. Interestingly, given your own background, the people from whom I heard that were Plymouth Brethren. I don’t know if that view is common in such quarters?
I became a Christian through the Plymouth Brethren at the age of 11 and was there till age 21.
It is their commonly held view. One young man seeking God was told that none of his prayers to God had been heard as he was not a Christian. He first needed to convert to Christ. Again mixing access to God – and to God as Father, as I discussed. This Brethren idea did not fit the Cornelius’ example.
C: I read the transcript of the podcast by Fr Thomas Hopko on the Trinity
http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/the_holy_trinity#2140. The section below summarizes where I think we both come from in relation to the cry of dereliction.
“… some Syriac Christians and Egyptian Christians say it is not totally wrong to sing, “Holy God, holy Mighty, holy Immortal,” to anyone of the divine Persons: you can sing it to Christ. They even used to sing, “Holy God, holy Mighty, holy Immortal, who was crucified for us,” because the Father is not crucified, the Holy Spirit is not crucified, but the Son is incarnate and crucified, but God is in him and with him at all times, and he is never separated from the Father. Even when he experiences in his humanity the abandonment by God in order to cleave unto his sinful bride and to die the death, which is the wages of sin, he is not separated from the Father. God is in him; the Holy Spirit is in him, destroying death in and through him, raising the dead. God the Father is raising the dead through him by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Thank you, Rob. Yes, I have heard that sung in Coptic liturgies too.
Fr Aidan Kimel said:
Here is a comment that I left on my blog in critique of Fr John Behr:
It seems to me that Behr overstates his case. Once the word “God” begins to be used as a predicate for the Son and Spirit, then it becomes almost too picky to insist that the Father is the one true God. It’s one thing to stick close to the biblical-creedal usage; it’s another thing to say suggest that we may not also say, e.g., that the one true God is God the Holy Trinity. Consider, e.g., this passage from St Epiphanius:
And St Gregory the Theologian:
I bet one can find similar kinds of language in St Cyril of Alexandria. Blaming the linguistic development on St Augustine doesn’t seem plausible. In fact, the development seems quite natural and inevitable.
Also see the usage displayed in the Orthodox/Reformed Agreement on the Trinity.
Fr Aidan Kimel said:
To understand Fr John Behr’s statement “The Father alone is the one true God,” one needs to fully appreciate how the divine Monarchy functions in Cappadocian theology in securing the unity of the Godhead. We Western Christians don’t think like St Basil and St Gregory of Nyssa when it comes to the Trinity; hence the surprise and confusion that Fr John’s statement engenders.
Thank you for your comments. Please enlighten us a little or perhaps provide a link.
Fr Aidan Kimel said:
The place to begin, I think, is with John Behr’s exposition of the 4th century Fathers: The Nicene Way (two volumes).
Thanks for that
Thank you so much, Father. Chalcedon, here, has Fr John’s books, so I will endeavour to read them when I have finished Lewis Ayre’s book on Nicaea and its legacy, which I am finding so informative. Jess
Fr Aidan Kimel said:
Here’s a short article/podcast by Fr Thomas Hopko: The Holy Trinity.
Carl D'Agostino said:
Chal, Rob and Neo have given me much to ponder and all the explanations seem very reasonable. Appreciate that you guys took the time to enhance my understanding. This is a post I will bookmark because it will require focus and prayer and extended contemplation for me.
Carl D'Agostino said:
…and Servis F too is helpful.
One God, the Father Almighty
Fr Kimel kindly provided link http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/the_holy_trinity#2140 to Fr Hopko’s transcript on the Trinity it’s a fairly long article 8,000 words. My précis of about 1,400 words helped me digest it and understand what was meant by ‘I believe in One God, the Father Almighty’.
I will attempt to explain this careful presentation as briefly as possible to assist our understanding as follows:-
“There is no divine person called ‘Trinity’ in whom the unity of the Godhead subsists. Not that any of us thought there was, but stating the obvious leads us to consider in whom the unity does resides; which is of course ‘The one God The Father Almighty’ within whom is the Son and The Holy Spirit.”
I think this phrase explains what is to be understood i.e. simply ‘GOD is FATHER’ the eternal source of all from whom ‘The Son is Begotten’ (being where the Spirit resides), while ‘The Spirit Proceeds’ eternally from the Father through The Son.
As such the Father is the source of the un-created Son and Spirit and all that is created”.
Hence – I ‘believe in One God, the Father Almighty’
I think my original statement “The one true God is Our Father” hits the mark and that its implications are understood more clearly, when considered along with the above.
You will have to consider the 8,000 words of the link or least my précis in contemplating this, but I am not sure whether it’s appropriate to post the latter.
Fr Aidan Kimel said:
“The one true God is Our Father.”
I find this potentially more misleading than Fr Behr’s statement (“The Father alone is the one true God”). God is first and foremost the Father of Jesus, the eternal Son. Even if he had never created the world, even if he were not in relationship with us, he would still be Father.
I suppose one can speak metaphorically of either the Son or the Spirit as our Father; but I have never ever proclaimed such in my sermons nor would I, as it is so confusing. One could just as easily, of course, speak metaphorically of the Father, Son, or Spirit as our Mother.
“Father” is a designating title for the first person of the Holy Trinity. That is it’s primary trinitarian meaning.
I am rather confused in light of your response and unsure if you are in agreement with the link from Fr. Hopko on: The Holy Trinity.
I tried to summarize such passages as that below:-
“… the one God is God the Father and his Son and his Holy Spirit, how he is one God with his Son and with his Holy Spirit. Very often, the preposition “with” is used, but “and” is also used … there is no Father without The Son … no Holy Spirit without the Father and The Son … no Son without the Father and the Spirit … no Son and Spirit without the Father and the Son and the Spirit are what the Father is.”
How do you understand this last clause? (“the Son and the Spirit are what the Father is.”)
I thought this last clause was close to what I had originally said “The one true God is our Father”.
“… in Eastern Orthodoxy, the term “Triune God” is not a traditional formula. … You find the expression “Tri-Personal, tri-Hypostatic divinity,”… There is no tri-Personal Theos, God. There is the one … God and Father: “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty…” That’s the one God. But then that one God is Father eternally with his Son, who is God from God, and with his Holy Spirit.”
Thank you I will read the link and consider it again.
Fr Aidan Kimel said:
Rob, I’m quite sure that I am the one who is confused. 🙂
Perhaps the best way to think on this is simply to begin with the historical development, as expressed in Scripture and the Creeds.
We begin first with the one God of Israel, the God who names himself YHWH and who summons Israel to be his people.
Jesus appears on the scene and names this God as “Father,” specifically, his Father.
In apostolic usage, the one God becomes known as “Father,” specifically, the Father of Jesus Christ the Son. His Fatherhood is defined by his eternal relationship to the crucified and risen Son. And Jesus is confessed as the Son, the Son of the Father.
The baptized are invited to address the one God, through and with the Son (in the Spirit), as “Father.”
Fairly early on the Son is located on the Creator side of the Creator/creature divide and confessed as divine and even occasionally as God. But the creeds maintain the primitive structure: We believe in one God, the Father Almighty … and in Jesus Christ … and in the Holy Spirit.
How is this not polytheism? If I read the Cappadocians rightly (and I may not be), because the Son and Spirit are generated by the one God, the Father, and are consubstantial with him.
Does that sound similar to what you read in Hopko?
Tom McEwen said:
This was a good conversion, covering orthodox, and Latin Catholics, I agree that Christ was quoting My God, My God’, Jesus is quoting Psalm 22, any Jews listening to the first line would understand the whole of what Jesus is saying. I think that since the universe is a universe of space and time and Christ is not the subject of time nor space, but its master, he wrote the play and selected each character he met to say the words he needed to reflect the subject he wished to discuss. Each word he said was selected, there were no accidents. With it is ‘Finished’ he closed the passover of the true paschal lamb. I find “The one true God is Our Father” something I have never heard, it may just be the arrangement of the words, with the meaning being the same. I will look in the catechism and see what it says, I do not have the Holy Spirit, that was left to the Apostles and the Church alone.