Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Trinity and Identity

MYTH
If there is one God and the Father is God and the Father is not the Son, then the Son is not God

1. There is no need to worry that the Trinitarian identity heptad is inconsistent. St. Gregory of Nyssa proved that the following is true:
(A) The Father is God.
(B) The Son is God.
(C) The Holy Spirit is God.
(D) The Father is not the Son.
(E) The Father is not the Holy Spirit.
(F) The Son is not the Holy Spirit.
(G) There is exactly one God.

2. (D), (E), and (F) are true because the Three Persons are distinguished by the four relations. These propositions entail the falsity of Modalism/Sabellianism/Monarchianism. (G) is necessary in order to preserve monotheism.

3. According to the brilliant blogger Brandon Watson of Siris, St. Gregory of Nyssa implied the following in order to prove the possibility of (A)-(G) above:
(H) Peter has a human nature.
(I) Paul has a human nature.
(J) John has a human nature.
(K) Peter is not Paul.
(L) Paul is not John.
(M) Peter is not John.
(N) There is exactly one nature that is human nature.

4. Brandon Watson says (K), (L), and (M) are true because Peter, Paul, and John not the same person. (N) is true because everything human shares one human nature. (N) is parallel to (G) because another way of phrasing (G) is (G'): "There is exactly one nature that is Divine nature." And another way to phrase (A) is (A'): "The Father is the Divine nature."{1}

5. Watson ponders whether the analogy is valid. Watson grants that the metaphysics differ: the Persons of the Trinity have the same nature via the eternal processions (the Persons are the subsisting relations themselves and so it is no prejudice to Divine simplicity to say that the Persons are distinguished by the relations), while Peter, Paul, and John share the human nature by division. But we are not concerned with a metaphysical difference, Watson observes. There is no logical difference between the two heptads and so (H)-(N) show that (A)-(G) do not make up a contradictory heptad; i.e. (A)-(F) do not contradict (G) because they do not entail Tritheism.

6. Those who deny that we can coherently affirm (D)-(F) in light of (A)-(C) are making a fundamental mistake. They would have it that if the Father is God and the Son is God then the Father is the Son (F=G,S=G,F=S), i.e. the Father is the same Person as the Son, which would be Modalism. But this would only be true if the relations of paternity and filiation (which are really the same as the divine essence) did not import opposite respects in their own proper idea and definitions, as "from which" and "which is from."{2}

Notes and References
{1} Lateran IV, A.D. 1215 (Denzinger 804): “Each of the Persons is that supreme reality, viz., the Divine substance, essence, or nature.” Because God the First Being is altogether simple we say that He is His nature rather than He has nature, just as we say that God does not merely have life, but that He is life itself [Jn 14:6].
{2} St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor Angelicus, ST 1.28.3.1r.

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