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Author Topic: Distinction of properties in the Trinity  (Read 1161 times) Average Rating: 0
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deusveritasest
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« on: June 03, 2009, 08:06:54 PM »

I posted this thread on Monachos as well, but I didn't get much of a response there. I figured it would be worth it to post it here as well.

I'm wondering how is it that we reconcile the fact that there is a distinction of properties between the three persons of the Trinity with the idea that they are supposedly completely one in essence?

How is it that the Father is ungenerate, while the Son is generate, and yet we understand that they are completely one in essence?

And why is it that we do not rather say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of a highly similar substance, differing only in the few properties we know of them to be distinct?

Where and how do we draw the seeming line between properties of a type of ousia and the properties of hypostases? I.e. why is the generate nature of the Word designated as a property of hypostasis rather than a property of ousia? What is the fundamental difference that establishes the grouping of properties?
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« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2009, 11:17:51 PM »

I thought that EkhristosAnesti addressed this very well in another response:

Quote
I've come to learn that the existence of paradox is the quintessential standard by which the Orthodoxy of any given theory/principle is measured. The pursuit to resolve paradox is in turn the hallmark of heresy.

Or, to quote some Fathers
"We have learned that there is a difference between begetting and procession, but the nature of the difference we in no wise understand." -- St. John of Damascus

"You ask what is the procession of the Holy Spirit? Do you tell me first what is the unbegottenness of the Father, and I will then explain to you the physiology of the generation of the Son, and the procession of the Spirit, and we shall both of us be stricken with madness for prying into the mystery of God."

I've noticed a tendency among many Western Christians to think that in defining the Trinity as 3 Hypostasis with 1 Ousia, the Fathers had somehow logically resolved the paradox that God is 1 and God is 3 and to move from there to attempts to understand the difference between Ousia and Hypostasis in logical terms (i.e., your question). However, for the Nicean-era Fathers, Hypostasis and Ousia were synonyms. The Hypostis/Ousia distinction was useful for defending the revelation of the Trinity not because it explained away the paradox but because it enshrined it. The Fathers could have as easily reversed the terms and it would have meant the same thing--God is distinctly 3 and He is indivisibly 1 and the how 1=3 is not something we can understand. The 3 properties (Ungenerate, Begotton, Proceeding) belong to the 3 Hypostasis because it has been revealed to us that the Father is without beginning, the Son is Begotten of the Father, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father, so just as we know there are 3 persons, we know each possesses one of these properties. But that is something that is revealed to us, not something any Father reasoned out.
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« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2009, 05:02:52 PM »

I posted this thread on Monachos as well, but I didn't get much of a response there. I figured it would be worth it to post it here as well.

I'm wondering how is it that we reconcile the fact that there is a distinction of properties between the three persons of the Trinity with the idea that they are supposedly completely one in essence?

How is it that the Father is ungenerate, while the Son is generate, and yet we understand that they are completely one in essence?

And why is it that we do not rather say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of a highly similar substance, differing only in the few properties we know of them to be distinct?

Where and how do we draw the seeming line between properties of a type of ousia and the properties of hypostases? I.e. why is the generate nature of the Word designated as a property of hypostasis rather than a property of ousia? What is the fundamental difference that establishes the grouping of properties?

According to St. Gregory of Nyssa, in the same way that we understand that you are "man" and I am "man" and my next door neighbor Selma is "man."  There is one essence, or nature, of man, but different persons within the one essence.   As St. Gregory pointed out, just as Adam, Eve, and Seth are one in the essence or nature of man, yet only one of these three was not generate from another human being (Adam).  The other two are generated from another human being.  Of course, St. Gregory pointed out its obvious limits with regard to the fact that one is creature and the other creator that we are discussing, and also the degeneration of human nature from the fall, and the obvious other limits of the analogy.  Also, of course, Adam still had an origin, but not a human origin.  God the Father has no origin.  Nonetheless, it is sufficient to show 3 persons of one essence.     
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« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2009, 06:28:25 PM »

I thought that EkhristosAnesti addressed this very well in another response:

Quote
I've come to learn that the existence of paradox is the quintessential standard by which the Orthodoxy of any given theory/principle is measured. The pursuit to resolve paradox is in turn the hallmark of heresy.

Excellent definition.
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« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2009, 06:28:49 PM »

I posted this thread on Monachos as well, but I didn't get much of a response there. I figured it would be worth it to post it here as well.

I'm wondering how is it that we reconcile the fact that there is a distinction of properties between the three persons of the Trinity with the idea that they are supposedly completely one in essence?

How is it that the Father is ungenerate, while the Son is generate, and yet we understand that they are completely one in essence?

And why is it that we do not rather say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of a highly similar substance, differing only in the few properties we know of them to be distinct?

Where and how do we draw the seeming line between properties of a type of ousia and the properties of hypostases? I.e. why is the generate nature of the Word designated as a property of hypostasis rather than a property of ousia? What is the fundamental difference that establishes the grouping of properties?

According to St. Gregory of Nyssa, in the same way that we understand that you are "man" and I am "man" and my next door neighbor Selma is "man."  There is one essence, or nature, of man, but different persons within the one essence.   As St. Gregory pointed out, just as Adam, Eve, and Seth are one in the essence or nature of man, yet only one of these three was not generate from another human being (Adam).  The other two are generated from another human being.  Of course, St. Gregory pointed out its obvious limits with regard to the fact that one is creature and the other creator that we are discussing, and also the degeneration of human nature from the fall, and the obvious other limits of the analogy.  Also, of course, Adam still had an origin, but not a human origin.  God the Father has no origin.  Nonetheless, it is sufficient to show 3 persons of one essence.     

Thank you! That was actually a very helpful analogy.
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« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2009, 07:15:11 PM »

I thought that EkhristosAnesti addressed this very well in another response:

Quote
I've come to learn that the existence of paradox is the quintessential standard by which the Orthodoxy of any given theory/principle is measured. The pursuit to resolve paradox is in turn the hallmark of heresy.

Excellent definition.

I agree. Very well put!
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