Sunday, March 02, 2014

Theologian Karl Rahner Explains the Trinity Doctrine

Within the conceptual system of scholastic theology, no real question remains once the Trinitarian doctrine itself has been presupposed(i.e. once the linguistic usage of the New Testament has been taken to conform to that of theology): the word and concept ‘God’ signifies (significat) the Person to whom the divine nature is proper; and so ‘God’ can stand for (supponitur)each of the three Persons who possess this nature, or again ‘God’ can stand for all three Persons together. When, for example,the Logos is called ‘Son of God’, ‘God’ in this predication stands for the Father, in so far as he is one of the divine Persons, for ‘God' can stand for each of the three Persons, while the Father alone has a Son. Or again, in the statement, ‘God creates the world’, according to the conceptual system of Latin theology ‘God’ stands for the divine Person, this time indeed for the three Persons together, in so far as they are one God by reason of the unity of nature and thus one Source of the world by reason of the unity of their operation ad extra. For the theology of the Schools, then, ‘God’ is one with respect to the general concept of personality, if we may so put it, and consequently can stand for each of the three Persons individually and for all three together. Once more we do not of course wish to deny that such a view of the concept and the word ‘God’ is possible, legitimate and in the long run unavoidable. But the question nevertheless remains whether this is also the usage of the New Testament.

See Theological Investigations, page 101


Matt13weedhacker said...

It's kinda like three men, (numerically), standing for the one Man, because they all share the same human nature, though having individual person-alities and functions they perform.

Yet how, and in what way does that, prevent them, or not make them THREE NUMERICAL MEN?

This is the very: "...Monstrous dilemma..." Gregory of Nyssa faced in:



Which is evidence that they were being accused of Tritheism.

This is how Gregory himself puts it:

GREGORY OF NYSSA (circa. 335-395 C.E.): "...In truth, the question you propound to us is no small one, nor such that but small harm will follow if it meets with insufficient treatment. For by the force of the question, we are at first sight compelled to accept one or other of two erroneous opinions, and either to say “there are three Gods,” which is unlawful, or not to acknowledge the Godhead of the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is impious and absurd. The argument which you state is something like this:—Peter, James, and John, being in one human nature, are called three men: and there is no absurdity in describing those who are united in nature, if they are more than one, by the plural number of the name derived from their nature. If, then, in the above case, custom admits this, and no one forbids us to speak of those who are two as two, or those who are more than two as three, how is it that in the case of our statements of the mysteries of the Faith, though confessing the Three Persons, and acknowledging no difference of nature between them, we are in some sense at variance with our confession, when we say that the Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is one, and yet forbid men to say “there are three Gods”? The question is, as I said, very difficult to deal with: yet, if we should be able to find anything that may give support to the uncertainty of our mind, so that it may no longer totter and waver in this monstrous dilemma..." - (Paragraphs 2-3, Translated by H.A. Wilson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 5. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1893.)

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Matt13weedhacker,

I love the quote from Gregory. You asked about Alister McGrath the other day. Notice what he reports in his introduction to theology:

"Tritheism invites us to imagine the Trinity as consisting of three
equal, independent, and autonomous
beings, each of whom is divine. Many students will regard this as an absurd idea. However the same idea can be stated in more subtle forms, as can be seen from the understated form of tritheism which is often regarded as undergirding the understanding of the Trinity found in the writings of the Cappadocian fathers . . . The analogy which these writers use to describe the Trinity has the virtue of simplicity. We
are asked to imagine three human beings. Each of them is distinct; yet they share a common humanity. So it is with the Trinity. There are three distinct persons, yet with a common divine nature. When all is said and done, this analogy leads directly to an understated tritheism."

McGrath insightfully adds:

"While Gregory may wish us to think of 'Peter, James and John' as
different instances of the same human nature, the more natural way of interpreting the illustration is to think of them as three distinct and independent individuals" (McGrath 303-304).

Alister McGrath himself is a Trinitarian.

Matt13weedhacker said...

Thanks Edgar.

Was it McGrath himself who did the analytic's of Tertullians neologisms? I mean, was it McGrath who did the actual count up of the amount of new words that Tertullian coined in Latin? Or did he quote from someone else' research?

I'm just trying to chase down that study if possible. If you don't know either, that's fine. I appreciate your correspondence always.



Edgar Foster said...

Hi Matt13:

I don't believe that McGrath did that research on the statistics because it's been around for a while. I read those stats in grad school in more than one work.

You might also want to look in the encyclopedia "Trinitas" which has been quoted in the Trinity brochure. But I'm fairly certain that McGrath is not the originator of those stats.

Anonymous said...

What stats, could you be more specific as it could be very helpful.

Edgar Foster said...

Dear Anonymous,

Matthew13 was talking about this information from Alister McGrath:

“...The theologian who may be argued to have been responsible for the development of the distinctive trinitarian terminology is Tertullian (c. 160-225). According to one analysis, Tertullian coined 509 new nouns, 284 new adjectives, and 161 new verbs in the Latin language. […] Trinitas. Tertullian ( invented ) the word: “Trinity” (Trinitas), which has become so characteristic a feature of Christian theology since his time...” - (Page 239, Subheading: “The Historical Developement of the Doctrine,” Chapter 12, “The Doctrine of the Trinity,” Section 2: “Christian Theology,” in the Book: “Christian Theology: An Introduction,” By Alister E. McGrath, Welley-Blackwell, 5th Edition, 2011.)