Subsistent Relations

St Thomas has shown what a person is, and, when he explained the parallels in the Greek theological terminology, he established that the name is sovereignly fitting to God. When he drew on the rules of analogy, he pinpointed the fact that the person exists in God in a different way from in creatures. Faith recognizes three 'distinct subsistents' in the unity of the divine substance it was precisely in order to articulate this that the Church called on the words person and hypostasis. What...

The Order Of The Trinitarian Processions

Reflecting on the procession of the Holy Spirit creates another refinement. It relates to the order of the processions.84 In using the analogies of mind and will, does Thomas grasp the procession of the divine persons on the basis of God's mind and will, taken as essential attributes In that case, would he not be conceiving the Son and the Spirit as somehow deriving from the divine essence But then, the project of understanding the faith would be empty, since as Thomas himself has explained,...

The Processions

In the Summa Theologiae, the very first question in the treatise on the Trinity is about the processions. To see why he begins by asking about this, one must look at where the question is leading St Thomas wants to show that, because it secures a roundly Trinitarian monotheism, relation enables one to grasp the divine person. In the previous chapter, we noted the contribution of the systematic reflection in the Disputed Questions De potentia the truth is that the role of the processions in...

Contents

Revelation, Creation, and Salvation 7 2. The Revelation of the Trinity through its Works 9 2. Thomas' Exposition of Speculative Trinitarian Theology 18 1. Biblical Exegesis and Trinitarian Theology 18 2. The Aim of Speculative Trinitarian Theology 22 (a) The Prerogatives of the Faith 22 (b) The Rejection of Rationalism 23 (c) Understanding the Faith 26 (d) Why Investigate Notions, Relations, and Properties 31 3. The Structure of Thomas' Treatise on the Triune...

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The Structure of Thomas Treatise on the Triune

The meaning of the Trinitarian doctrine of the Summa Theologiae is closely related to its structure. The structure is important because it contains a miniature depiction of the basic ideas guiding Thomas' unfolding of the doctrine. It has also been the occasion of some misunderstandings.1 So it is worthwhile to look at how the principle aspects of Trinitarian faith are integrated within Thomas' treatise. 1. ST THOMAS VARIOUS ACCOUNTS OF THE MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY Several of Thomas' works...

C Understanding the Faith

We are now in a position to understand the problem which presents itself to Trinitarian theology if, on the one hand, natural human intelligence has no access to the existence of a Trinity of persons in God (since only faith gives knowledge of it), and if, on the other hand, the speculative reasons advanced by Christian theology are not demonstrations, what could be the value of a speculative discussion which makes use of'reason', and what is the discussion for The treatise on the Trinity...

The Plan Of The Trinitarian Treatise In The Summa Theologiae

St Thomas assembles the whole of Christian reflection around the mystery of God considered as he is in himself, and considered as the source and goal of creatures this is what theology is about, its 'subject'.12 Evidently, the concern is to bring out the theocentricity of Christian doctrine, while maintaining the transcendence of God. The treatise on God in the Summa Theologiae is a well-organized unity. The structure appears in the Prologues, enabling one to grasp the purpose of the treatise....

Relation The Heart Of Trinitarian Theology

Once we have got hold of the divine person as a 'subsistent relation' Thomas follows up his meditation by systematically comparing persons and relations. This thorough analysis is carried out in question 40 of the Summa, in the section devoted to comparing the persons with what we conceive as the other aspects of the Trinitarian mystery, so far as we can grasp it. This question deals with 'The most arduous problems in Latin Trinitarian theology'.88 Here the points of divergence between the...

Relations

For St Thomas, the relations which distinguish the divine persons constitute these persons. Relation thus becomes the basis of a theological understanding of the divine persons. In working this out, Thomas is following the path opened up by his teacher, St Albert the Great, which diverges from that of the Franciscan school. The theme of relation does not occupy a comparable position in the theology of St Bonaventure, for example. But for Thomas, even more than for Albert the Great, the notion...

Real Relations In

Thomas explains that Catholic faith in the Trinity requires the acknowledgement of real relations. To show this, he does not just argue from authority, on the basis of the tradition we have described, but looks for the reasons for the truth which has been handed on to him. These reasons depend on a detailed analysis of relation, or, more precisely, 'relatives'. A 'relative'25 is the thing itself which is referred to another thing, or the word by which our language signifies one thing which is...

Acknowledgements

Many people have helped me to prepare this book. In attracting my attention to what is interesting and difficult in many of the questions of Trinitarian theology, the students of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Fribourg have encouraged me to project this introductory work. My confreres at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC gave me the fraternal and intellectual hospitality which enabled me to redraft it. Father Jean-Pierre Torrell's critical reading of the book gave me...

D Why Investigate Notions Relations and Properties

In his treatise on the Trinity, Thomas seeks to clarify the relations of the persons, that is, the properties which, by distinguishing the persons in a way which accounts for their plurality, enables us to perceive the features proper to each person. Why did the Schoolmen and Thomas devote such painstaking attention to relations, properties, and notions Was it necessary or wise At Wrst glance, it is tempting to see it as a brilliant logical exercise, a sort of theological Glass-Bead Game. 51...

A Immanent and Economic Trinity

The first distinction is between God in his immanent being (ST I, qq. 2-43), and God in his creative and saving action (qq. 44 ff.). This distinction takes us back to the origins of speculative Trinitarian theology. It is founded on the Christian doctrinal requirement, as formulated in the fourth century the existence of the divine persons and their personal properties is dependent neither on creation nor on the divine action in the world. To avoid considering the Son and the Holy Spirit as...

C The Game Plan of the Treatise on the Trinity

Using the elements which we have just brought to mind (the common and the proper), and in line with the project of thinking about faith which we sketched in the previous chapter, Thomas' thesis aims at giving an account of the divine persons who are the one God (the common essence), each of whom is characterized by a personal property (the distinction of persons). The notion of person as 'subsistent relation' which we will look at in detail later on4s is thus the synthesizing principle of...

Procession Which Is The Generation Of The Word

Catholic faith 'advances on a middle ground'33 between the errors, but also radically overturns their perspective. It does this by considering procession not as an action ad extra, but as an immanent action 29 ST I, q. 27, a. 1. 30 De potentia, q. 10, a. 2. 31 SCG IV, ch. 6 (no. 3387). This idea is drawn from Augustine, De Trinitate XV.XX.38. 32 See especially SCG IV, chs. 5-6. On Thomas' knowledge of Arianism, see P. Worrall, 'St. Thomas and Arianism', RTAM23 (1956), 208-259 24 (1957), 45-100....

The Consubstantiality Of The Persons

The recognition of the plurality of the persons is the counterpart of the unswerving affirmation of the identity of person and essence. This identity was emphasized earlier in the scrutiny of the notion of 'person' (q. 29). Thomas comes back to this examination when he deals systematically with the relationships of persons and essence, much later in the Summa Theologiae 65 De potentia, q. 9, a. 7. The transcendental multiplicity thus consists in one aYrmation and De potentia, q. 9, a. 7, ad 4....

Elements Of The Patristic Teaching On Relation

Relation was brought into Trinitarian theology right at the start of the Arian crisis. Before the Council of Nicaea, in his Profession of Faith to Alexander of 4 For instance, the Libellus defide Trinitatis (a compilation of Eastern patristic commentaries, that St Thomas examined at the request of Pope Urban IV) presented the thought of Gregory Nazianzus like this 'The Father is called ''unbegotten'' and Father not because of his essence, but in a relative way because of his property of...

The Being Of Divine Relations

The existence of real relations having been laid out, it remains to be shown that the relations do not divide the divine essence. The theory of relations seeks to account for the fact that Trinitarian faith is monotheist. Along 50 ST I, q. 28, a. 1. In his questions De potentia, Thomas mentions the three factors which are required for two things to have a mutual 'order' these things must really exist (ens), they have to be distinct from each other (distinctum), and they must be 'orderable'...

B The Essence and the Distinction of Persons the Common and the Proper

The second distinction structuring the treatise on God in the Summa Theo-logiae touches specifically on Trinitarian doctrine. It is about 'that which concerns the divine essence' and 'that which concerns the distinction of persons'. It is not, as some have said, about dividing the treatise into De Deo Uno and De Deo Trino in the style of certain neo-scholastic theology manuals.33 Still less is it a matter of a division between a philosophical approach to God and a theological one, as if the...

The Cycle Of The Trinitarian Processions

In the Summa Theologiae, after having set out the procession of the Word and Love, St Thomas concludes his investigation of the processions by showing that no other procession takes place in God (q. 27, a. 5). This last stage could seem odd. Since, effectively, it is solely by faith that we hold the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit, one could ask why anything should be added to this. The final article actually supplies a synthesis, which successfully authenticates the...

The Theological Terminology Of Plurality

Following upon these elucidations, St Thomas examines the name which Christians give to God Trinity. The discussion of this term sometimes takes up a very large place in the scholastic Trinitarian treatises.20 The mid-thirteenth-century authors generally recognize that this is a relative name.21 Thomas confines himself to a rapid exposition, emphasizing both the plurality of the persons (numerically three) and their essential unity. The word Trinityrefers to 'the determinate number of persons'....

Transcendental Multiplicity

The study of the plurality of persons has made us touch on the question of 'number' in God. We have already hinted at this in relation to the word Trinity. Trinitarian faith compels us to acknowledge 'multiplicity' no 'multiple', no real Trinity. But what is this plurality to do with The problem arose very early, and with an acerbic punch, in the very first Trinitarian debates within scholastic theology. One of Abelard's first masters, Roscelin de Compiegne, aroused a heated debate by refusing...

Personal Plurality In The Triune

The first harvest yielded by the theory of subsistent relations is the disclosure of an authentic plurality and alterity within the Triune God. St Thomas begins by exhibiting the plurality of persons professed by Christian faith. The theme of plurality within unity has nothing to do with any kind of mathematical hypothesizing or hermetic speculation on the meaning of numbers. Thomas explains it with the utmost clarity in his Questions De potentia the plurality of persons in God is an article of...

Person And Analogy

According to Boethius' precise definition of its features, the person signifies 'that which is most perfect perfectissimum in all of nature' and thus the name person is eminently applicable to God.i7 Like most other theologians,is Thomas recognizes that the name person is a term which is applied analogously, in diverse modalities, to human beings, to angels, and to God. As with all analogous attribution, one has to be aware of the fact that one is in the presence of a perfection which God...

Biblical Exegesis And Trinitarian Theology

The previous chapter brought to our attention some fundamental features of Thomas' reading of Scripture Written in the faith of the Church, Scripture 1 Thus, for instance, the question of our knowledge of God 'How can we know God ' and that of our language for God the 'divine names' are not placed at the beginning of the treatise on God, but in the middle of it ST I, qq. 12-13 , after the discussions of the existence of God and of the attributes of God's being. directs us to the divinity of the...

The Revelation Of The Trinity Through Its Works

We must distinguish the pathway by which we discover the Trinity the Trinity's self-revelation by acting in the world from the way in which theological understanding lays out the revealed mystery the processions and the eternal properties of the persons , illuminating their action in the world. On the path giving us access to the Trinitarian mystery, the manifestation of the Trinity through the action of the Son and the Holy Spirit takes precedence. According to the Apostolic witness, the...

Thomas Exposition of Speculative Trinitarian Theology

In order correctly to understand Thomas' treatise on Trinitarian theology in the Summa Theologiae, one has to begin by paying attention to the broad underlying intention in his presentation of the treatise. Thomas does not launch his treatise with epistemological and methodological prologues, describing his intention. He refines it in the course of his research, when particular questions come up, following the procedure which one can see in other parts of the Summa the epistemological elements...