Author Topic: Doesn't the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view?  (Read 1692 times)

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Offline ignatius

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I was speaking with my Parish Priest last evening and I was wondering 'does the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view to make sense?

What I mean is we know from Plotinus that The One in contemplating himself begets the Nous (i.e. The Divine Mind). We know from St. John the Theologian that "In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God". This seems to require the Platonist idea of a 'realm of Spiritual Forms'. So my question is 'does the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity ultimately 'require' a Platonist metaphysical framework to make sense?

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Offline Jetavan

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Re: Doesn't the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view?
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2008, 02:49:39 PM »
What I mean is we know from Plotinus that The One in contemplating himself begets the Nous (i.e. The Divine Mind). We know from St. John the Theologian that "In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God". This seems to require the Platonist idea of a 'realm of Spiritual Forms'. So my question is 'does the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity ultimately 'require' a Platonist metaphysical framework to make sense?

I'm not sure that the idea of a 'realm of spiritual forms' is uniquely Platonic. By 'spiritual form', do you mean simply the reality of a spiritual/subtle kind of matter (otherwise known as 'spirit')?
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Offline ignatius

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Re: Doesn't the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view?
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2008, 03:16:09 PM »
I'm not sure that the idea of a 'realm of spiritual forms' is uniquely Platonic. By 'spiritual form', do you mean simply the reality of a spiritual/subtle kind of matter (otherwise known as 'spirit')?

No, not at all. In Platonic metaphysics thought links to a spiritual realm of forms which gives ideas objective value. For example, when The One contemplated Himself, His thought, because it is perfect, manifested a duplicate emanation (i.e. Intelligence, Nous or Logos) which when contemplating The One engenders the process of ceaseless emanation and outflowing from the One (i.e. Creation).

It seems we share a central cosmology of a chain of hypostases with Platonism.

"...With regard to the existence that is supremely perfect [i.e. "The One"], we must say it only produces the very greatest of the things that are found below it.  But that which after it is the most perfect, the second principle, is Intelligence (Nous).  Intelligence contemplates the One and needs nothing but it.  But the One has no need of Intelligence [i.e. being the Absolute Principle, it is totally self-sufficient].  The One which is superior to Intelligence produces Intelligence which is the best existence after the One, since it is superior to all other beings.  The (World-)Soul is the Word (Logos) and a phase of the activity of Intelligence just as Intelligence is the logos and a phase of the activity of the One.  But the logos of the Soul is obscure being only an image of Intelligence.  The Soul therefore directs herself to Intelligence, just as the latter, to be Intelligence, must contemplate the One....Every begotten being longs for the being that begot it and loves it..."

Christianity appears rife with allusions to Platonist Thought and I was wondering if, as Christian, we ultimately 'require' Platonist metaphysics as a foundation.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2008, 03:23:13 PM by ignatius »
St Basil the Great (330-379 A.D.): “I think then that the one goal of all who are really and truly serving the Lord ought to be to bring back to union the churches who have at different times and in diverse manners divided from one another.”

Offline Jetavan

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Re: Doesn't the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view?
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2008, 07:14:51 PM »
No, not at all. In Platonic metaphysics thought links to a spiritual realm of forms which gives ideas objective value. For example, when The One contemplated Himself, His thought, because it is perfect, manifested a duplicate emanation (i.e. Intelligence, Nous or Logos) which when contemplating The One engenders the process of ceaseless emanation and outflowing from the One (i.e. Creation).

It seems we share a central cosmology of a chain of hypostases with Platonism.

"...With regard to the existence that is supremely perfect [i.e. "The One"], we must say it only produces the very greatest of the things that are found below it.  But that which after it is the most perfect, the second principle, is Intelligence (Nous).  Intelligence contemplates the One and needs nothing but it.  But the One has no need of Intelligence [i.e. being the Absolute Principle, it is totally self-sufficient].  The One which is superior to Intelligence produces Intelligence which is the best existence after the One, since it is superior to all other beings.  The (World-)Soul is the Word (Logos) and a phase of the activity of Intelligence just as Intelligence is the logos and a phase of the activity of the One.  But the logos of the Soul is obscure being only an image of Intelligence.  The Soul therefore directs herself to Intelligence, just as the latter, to be Intelligence, must contemplate the One....Every begotten being longs for the being that begot it and loves it..."

Christianity appears rife with allusions to Platonist Thought and I was wondering if, as Christian, we ultimately 'require' Platonist metaphysics as a foundation.

I would say that Platonism (or Neo-Platonism, as the case may be) is simply one possible way to conceptualize the relationship among the Absolute, the Creation, and Who/What mediates the two. There are other ways to conceptualize those relationships (e.g., Vedic, or Taoist). The Platonic way was the way that happened to predominate over the Hellenistic world, so it was quite readily available to be adopted and modified by the early Church. The Jewish scriptures themselves did not delve philosophically into the question of how the Absolute could interact with Creation, but the Platonists did, and so provided a potent way to think about the significance of Jesus Christ.
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Offline Athanasios

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Re: Doesn't the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view?
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2008, 11:48:08 PM »
In the Early Church, the pagan world was very Hellenistic - and most of the intellectuals of that time were taught the teachings of Plato. Thus, the Early Church made extensive use of Platonism to dialogue with the pagans on their own terms. In many areas, they Christianized the philosophy. Later on in the Christian West, Aristotle was rediscovered and the majority of the Faith was re-articulated in that school of thought, though Platonic thought never left.

As for being required - no, it isn't. A philosophical school is like a spoken language - every one can communicate the basic points - and some are better at certain details than others.
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Offline Heorhij

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Re: Doesn't the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view?
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2008, 12:53:58 AM »
In the Early Church, the pagan world was very Hellenistic - and most of the intellectuals of that time were taught the teachings of Plato. Thus, the Early Church made extensive use of Platonism to dialogue with the pagans on their own terms. In many areas, they Christianized the philosophy. Later on in the Christian West, Aristotle was rediscovered and the majority of the Faith was re-articulated in that school of thought, though Platonic thought never left.

In the famous fresco by Raphael (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Raffael_058.jpg) Plato is shown pointing his finger up to the sky (heavens), and Aristotle down to the earth... How, actually, un-Christian of them BOTH :) (although I still think Aristotle did less damage:))

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Offline Jetavan

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Re: Doesn't the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view?
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2008, 08:55:20 AM »
In the famous fresco by Raphael (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Raffael_058.jpg) Plato is shown pointing his finger up to the sky (heavens), and Aristotle down to the earth... How, actually, un-Christian of them BOTH :) (although I still think Aristotle did less damage:))

Aristotle, the patron saint of empiricists. :o
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Offline Heorhij

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Re: Doesn't the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view?
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2008, 02:49:37 PM »
Aristotle, the patron saint of empiricists. :o

And Plato, one of body-haters? :)

Seriously though, I remember reading somewhere that St. John of Damascus was strongly influenced by Aristotle...
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Offline Jetavan

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Re: Doesn't the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view?
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2008, 04:10:34 PM »
And Plato, one of body-haters? :)

Yes, but only if one defines "hate" in the sense that Jesus defined it in Luke 14:26: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple."



« Last Edit: August 18, 2008, 04:11:52 PM by Jetavan »
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Offline Heorhij

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Re: Doesn't the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view?
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2008, 04:27:13 PM »
Yes, but only if one defines "hate" in the sense that Jesus defined it in Luke 14:26: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple."

I meant something different - the notion that body is a prison ("soma sima"), and that acquizition of materiality is a punishment (e.g. in Origen). A Platonist cannot accept Chalcedon.
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Offline orthodoxlurker

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Re: Doesn't the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view?
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2008, 04:55:38 PM »
I was speaking with my Parish Priest last evening and I was wondering 'does the Doctrine/Dogma of the Trinity 'require' a Platonist view to make sense?


No, it doesn't.

It should be noted that a Latin Catholic gave, IMHO, the best answer:

In the Early Church, the pagan world was very Hellenistic - and most of the intellectuals of that time were taught the teachings of Plato. Thus, the Early Church made extensive use of Platonism to dialogue with the pagans on their own terms. In many areas, they Christianized the philosophy. Later on in the Christian West, Aristotle was rediscovered and the majority of the Faith was re-articulated in that school of thought, though Platonic thought never left.

As for being required - no, it isn't. A philosophical school is like a spoken language - every one can communicate the basic points - and some are better at certain details than others.

Platonistic, or for hat matter Aristotelian or any other philosophic view, not only isn't required for the teaching of the Holy Trinity, but is actually damaging.

Holy Fathers of first centuries just used Platonic concepts in polemics with platonists.
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