next to both of them on a throne of dazzling crystal and holds a dove in his hand. Surrounding them are three tiers of hanging lamps glittering with precious stones. At quite a distance from this inner circle stand countless angels, all adoring and glorifying them.

"Furthermore, God the Father is continually discussing with his Son which people should be granted justification.74 Between the two they arrive at a decision and they decree which people on earth are worthy to be accepted by them among the angels and crowned with eternal life. God the Holy Spirit hears the names and immediately rushes across the world to those people, bringing gifts of justice as proof of salvation for those granted justification. As soon as he arrives and breathes on them, he blows away their sins like someone with a fan blowing the smoke out of a furnace and then whitewashing it. He also takes from their hearts the hardness of stone and gives them instead the softness of flesh. At the same time he renews their spirits or minds and makes them born again, giving them the face of a child. Finally, he marks their foreheads with the sign of the cross and calls them the chosen ones and children of God."

When his lecture came to an end, the leader said to me, "When I was in the world that is how I untangled this great mystery. And because many of our priests there applauded the views I have expressed to you, I am convinced that you as a layman will likewise put your faith in them."75

[2] After the leader said this I observed him and the ministers with him, and I perceived that they were all in complete agreement. So, launching into a reply, I said, "I have considered the beliefs you just uttered, and from them I gather that you are attached to, and you cherish, an utterly physical and sensory picture of the triune God; in fact I would even call your view materialistic. The idea of three gods inevitably flows from your picture. Isn't it a sensory idea of God the Father to think of him sitting on a throne with a scepter in his hand? And to think of the Son as sitting on his own throne with a crown on his head? And to think of the Holy Spirit sitting on his own throne with a dove in his hand and then rushing all over the world following the orders he has heard? Since your depiction leads to a physical picture of God, I cannot put my faith in what you said. Ever since I was a little child I have not been able to allow any other idea of God into my mind except the idea of one God. And because I have allowed this idea and it is the only one I hold, nothing you have said has any effect on me.

"Later I came to see that the throne on which Jehovah sits, according to Scripture, means his kingdom. His scepter and his crown mean his governing and his power. Sitting at the right hand means the omnipotence God has through his human manifestation. And the things said about the Holy Spirit refer to the actions of the divine omnipresence.

"Please, my lord, give consideration to the idea of one God, and use your reason to ponder the idea appropriately. In time you will come to see clearly that it is true.

[3] "Now, all of you do indeed say there is one God, because you give the three persons one essence, as well as giving each person an individual essence; but you do not allow anyone to say that that one God is one person. You maintain that there are three persons, because you do not want to lose your idea of three gods. You give each person different characteristics from the others. Yet doesn't that divide this divine essence of yours?

"Given all that, how could you think and say that there is one God? I would understand if you had said there is one divineness; but when someone hears that 'The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and each person is individually God,'76 how can that person think there is one God? It is a contradiction to which faith could never adhere.

"Therefore you cannot say 'one God,' though you could have said 'the same divineness.' For example, many people go together to make one senate, one committee, or one council. You cannot call them one person; but when each and every one of them has the same opinion, you can say that they share one point of view. Three diamonds are made of the same substance; you cannot call them one diamond, but you can say they are of one substance. Yet you can also say that the diamonds differ in value according to each one's weight, which you couldn't say if there was one diamond rather than three.

[4] "I gather, however, that you call three divine persons, each of whom is God by himself or individually, one God. You order each person in the church to speak in this way, because sound and enlightened reason across the globe recognizes that there is one God; so you would blush with shame if you did not do the same. And yet, while you are pronouncing 'one God,' even though you are thinking 'three,' somehow that sense of shame does not keep the two sets of words stuck in your throat, but instead you utter them both."

After this exchange the bishop and his ministers left. While he was walking away, he turned back and wanted to shout, "There is one God," but he could not do it, since his thought stopped his tongue. Instead he opened his mouth wide and thundered, "There are three gods!"77 When the people who had been standing nearby saw this bizarre occurrence they burst out laughing and went elsewhere.

Afterward I asked where I might run into the scholars with the sharpest wits who stand in favor of a divine Trinity divided into three persons. There happened to be three such people present. I asked them, "How can you divide the divine Trinity into three persons and claim that each person is individually or by himself God and Lord? Surely your verbal confession that there is one God is as distant from your thought as the south is from the north."

"There is no distance at all," they replied. "Those three persons have one essence, and the divine essence is God. In the world, we were tutors teaching the trinity of persons; the pupil we were responsible for was our faith. In our faith each divine person plays his own role: God the Father's role is to give spiritual credit or blame78 and to bestow [grace], God the Son's role is to intercede and mediate, and God the Holy Spirit's role is to put into effect the actual credit or blame and the mediation."

[2] So I asked, "What do you mean by 'divine essence'?"

They said, "We mean omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immensity, eternity, and equality of majesty."79

To this I said, "If that essence makes many gods one God, couldn't you add even more? How about a fourth god mentioned by Moses, Ezekiel, and Job: God Shaddai?80 The ancient people in Greece and Italy did something similar. They assigned equal attributes and a similar essence to their gods, such as Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Apollo, Juno, Diana, Minerva; and Mercury and Venus as well.81 But nonetheless they couldn't call all of them one God. In fact, you are three people, and to my mind you seem academically similar, so you have a similar essence as far as scholarship goes; but you couldn't combine yourselves into one scholar."

They laughed at this, and said, "You're joking! It is different with the divine essence. The divine essence is one thing; it doesn't come in three parts. It is single and undivided. Partition and division don't apply to it."

[3] When I heard this I retorted, "Then let's go down into the ring and fight.—What do you understand a 'person' to be?" I asked. "What does that mean?"

They answered, "The term person means that which is not a role of, or a quality in, someone else, but an entity subsisting on its own.82 This is the definition of person used by all—by the leaders of the church and by us as well."

"Is this truly your definition of person?" I asked.

So I replied, "Then the Father and the Son have nothing in common, and neither of them has anything in common with the Holy Spirit. Therefore each one has his own free choice, responsibility, and power. They share nothing, then, other than the fact that each one has a will, which he can communicate if he wishes. Aren't these three persons three distinct gods? And listen to this: You have in fact defined a person as someone who subsists on his or her own. Therefore there are three 'subsistings' or substances into which you have divided the divine essence, and yet you said that the divine essence is indivisible; you said there was one undivided essence. Furthermore you attribute to each substance or person characteristics that are not in the others and could not be shared with them: giving spiritual credit or blame, mediating, and putting into effect. What other conclusion is possible except that the three persons are three gods?"

At my saying this, they drew back and said, "We will discuss these points among ourselves, and after our discussion we will give you our response."

[4] A wise person was standing nearby. On hearing all this, the wise person said to them, "I do not wish to sift such a sublime topic with such a fine mesh. Setting subtleties aside, I see in a clear light that there are three gods in the ideas of your thought. If you publicized your views before the whole world it would cause you shame, because you would be labeled either insane or stupid. Therefore saying that there is one God helps you avoid losing respect."

The three scholars, however, held on to their opinion and paid no attention. As they went away they were muttering terms borrowed from metaphysics.83 This alerted me that metaphysics was the oracle they planned to consult in giving their response.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment