A brief history of the doctrine of the Trinity in the early church

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The Western Churches believe that they are pretty much the same and that human beings meet God fully and completely as he is through his actions. The 'economic' Trinity is the 'immanent' Trinity and the 'immanent' Trinity is the 'economic' Trinity. To put it another way: God's actions reveal who God is. And since God acts as a threefold God, God himself must be threefold. Some Western writers hint at the idea that there is no more to God than his actions in the world. The Eastern Churches disagree, and teach there is much more to God than human experience can reveal.

Modalism teaches that Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not distinct personalities, but different modes of God's self-revelation. The idea is that there is only one God, but that this one God reveals himself in different ways and different forms - sometimes as Father, sometimes as Son, sometimes as Holy Spirit. One of the standard analogies for the Trinity is a good example of modalism: The Trinity is like water because water comes in three forms - ice, water, steam.

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This is Modalism because these are three states or modes of the substance water. Some modalists believe that God revealed himself differently at different times in history, others believe that during any particular period of history God can reveal himself in different ways; so when God is acting as redeemer, that's God the Son, and so on.

Tritheism portrays Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three independent divine beings; three separate gods who are linked together in some special way - most commonly by sharing the "same substance" or being the same sort of thing. People often make this mistake because they misunderstand the use of the word "persons" in defining the Trinity; it does not mean that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separate personalities. This would suggest that each of the persons of the Trinity is only part God, only becoming fully God when they are together.

Monarchianism stresses God as One and downgrades the idea of the Trinity; it comes in various versions:. This isn't a strictly Trinitarian heresy but it's relevant because it's the idea that the Son is in some way less fully God than the Father. Well it's true: The greatest row in the history of Christianity centred on a single word filioque and on the doctrine of the Trinity.

There were other matters at issue as well, but the row over "the filioque clause" led to the Great Schism of The Churches were arguing about whether the Son played any part in the origin of the Spirit as one of the persons of the Trinity from the Father, who is the only ultimate source. The Latin word filioque , which means "and from the son", was gradually inserted by Western churches into the Nicene Creed so that it stated that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the God the Father alone, as the early Church Fathers believed, but from both God the Father and God the Son.

The Eastern wing of the Church believed and believes that the Father alone had given rise to the Holy Spirit, and the idea that both Father and Son had done so was condemned as heretical. Even today, the creed used by the Eastern Churches professes faith "in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father," without mentioning the Filioque. The Western Churches i.

There were fundamental problems of authority as well as of doctrine. The Eastern wing of the Church was angry that the Western wing of the Church had altered a fundamental part of the creed without their agreement - indeed without even consulting them. This didn't seem to them like the behaviour of a united church, and so the two wings eventually went their separate ways.

Many church historians think that the Western wing of the Church did behave very badly by trying to introduce such a major change to Christian belief in such a cavalier way. This is the name that theologians give to the idea that the Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son. When Christians say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son , what do they mean, and why do they use such an odd word?

The word comes from the Greek text of John The Greek word has the sense of movement out of , and early theologians used it to show that the Spirit's origin was within the person of the Father. Greek theologians restricted this Greek word to this particular technical use - the coming forth of the Spirit from the Father - so that it has a unique reference to the relationship of the Father and the Spirit. The Greek theologians also thought that the way in which the Spirit comes from the Father is similar to, but significantly different from, the way the Son comes from the Father.

The equivalent Latin word is " procedure ", but unlike the Greek word it doesn't include the notion of a starting point within something; it's a more general word for movement. This different meaning may have contributed in a small way to the dispute. Latin theologians taught that the Spirit comes from both the Father and the Son, but comes from each of them in significantly different ways.

These differences do not diminish the Father's role as the only cause of everything that exists. The arguments in the dispute are highly technical, and seem pretty dull to anyone except a theologian - but they stirred hugely passionate debates in the church because they were about something that mattered terribly: the nature of God.

To get a flavour of the passion the debate aroused, look at this comment from a 9th century Patriarch:. But when the Counsellor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be unto you. As the Father has sent me, even so send I you. In December Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople revoked the excommunications of and called for an active pursuit of mutual understanding.

Appropriation and Perichoresis are two ideas that are important in reconciling God's one-ness with the three-ness of God in human experience. Appropriation teaches that all three persons of the Trinity do everything God does, but that it is appropriate to see some actions as being particularly associated with one specific person of the Trinity. So the Father is associated with creation and the Son with redemption, but all three persons are actually involved with these actions. This is the idea that each of the persons of the Trinity shares completely in the life of the other two. Theologians say that each of the persons of the Trinity "interpenetrates" the others, so that the distinctions between the persons are preserved and the substance of God is not divided into three.

The theologian Leonardo Boff described perichoresis as "the intimate and perfect inhabitation of one Person in the other," meaning that the three persons of the Trinity live in and relate to each other perfectly. Many modern writers prefer to use the word indwelling to express the idea of perichoresis. They say there is a mutual indwelling of the persons of the Trinity. All facets of divine activity are reflected in all three persons of the Trinity.

They are dynamically intermingled.

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They may not be separated. The traditional statement of the doctrine of the Trinity is this: There are three persons within the Godhead; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


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These three persons have equal status and are equally divine. But the word person in this definition doesn't mean person in any sense that modern people understand it - it's an ancient technical philosophical term, which originally meant the mask worn by actors playing parts in an ancient Greek play. The Greek word was hypostases the singular term is hypostasis.

The doctrine of the Trinity in the early church

The ancient writers said that there were three distinct hypostases in one ousia ousia is the word now translated as substance - see below. There's a hint here of a very important concept in the idea of the Trinity. Actors playing a part in a play do so in relationship to other members of the cast, and a key element of the doctrine of the Trinity is that the three persons of the Trinity are in relationship with one another.

He tries to see the often bitter discussion not as a barren dispute but as an evolutionary process in which the rivalry is a necessary and positive factor in moving the debate forward. After an introduction to the problem, the book describes the beginning of christology and the first models of the relationship between 'Father' and 'Son': it then describes the controversies leading up to the Council of Nicaea, which are discussed at length, going on to show how Nicaea didn't settle the question and continuing the account up to the Council of Constantinople in It brings out the political influences which governed this second stage of the discussion in an illuminating way.

What is the origin of the doctrine of the Trinity? | dimitohogavo.cf

A survey and bibliography round the book off. Preface 1. Introduction to the Problem 2. The Beginnings of Christology 3. First Models of the Relationship between 'Father' and 'Son' 4.

The Trinity

The Controversy between Logos Theologians and Monarchians 5. The Development in the Period after the Council 8. The Theological Split in the Empire 9. Serdica - the Failed Imperial Council



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