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Bulgakov. Triunity Category: Theosis Meyendorff. Triunity

God. Trinity. Triunity
In the works of Fr. Thomas Hopko

The «One God» of the Trinitarian theology

Fr. Thomas Hopko:
“ … the one God, in Whom we believe, strictly speaking, is not the Holy Trinity. The one God is God the Father.”

Now here we have to see a very important point for Trinitarian theology. And that is in the Bible, in the Scriptures, and then, therefore, in the Creeds — and particularly in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, which became the creedal statement for ancient Christianity and remains the baptismal, liturgical creed for the Eastern Orthodox Churches and most Christian Churches for this very day, as it was formulated and put together and received from the first two Ecumenical Councils (Nicaea in 325 and Constantinople in 381) — that [is] in this Creed and as it is proclaimed in liturgical prayers — and certainly in the Liturgical Prayer, the Anaphora (which is a word that means «raising up» or «offering up», which is a technical term for the Eucharistic prayer, the Eucharistic canon, where the bread and wine, the prosphora, are first elevated and offered to God as we lift up our hearts and have our hearts on high when we remember the saving activity of Christ at the Holy Eucharist service) — in the Bible, in the creeds, and in the Liturgy, it's very important, really critically important, to note and to affirm and to remember, that the one God, in Whom we believe, strictly speaking, is not the Holy Trinity. The one God is God the Father. That in the Bible, the one God is the Father of Jesus Christ. He is God Who sends His only-begotten Son into the world. And Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And then, of course, in a parallel manner, the Spirit, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. That the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of God, is therefore also the Spirit of Christ, the Messiah, because the Christ is the Son of God, upon Whom God the Father sends and affirms His Holy Spirit. I think this is very important, because there are wrong understandings of the Holy Trinity.

Three instances of divine life in a perfect and total unity

Fr. Thomas Hopko:
“ … the other terrible error … is where people say: there is «one God Who is the Holy Trinity», there is «He Who Is the Trinity»”
“ … we Orthodox Christians … can never say: there is «one God Who is the Holy Trinity». There is «one God Who is the Father».”
“ … Those three Whos are called … three Persons or three Hypostases … three instances of divine life in a perfect and total unity.”

On the other hand, there is another terrible error, and the other terrible error, usually called Modalism in technical theological terminology, is where people say: there is «one God Who is the Holy Trinity», there is «He Who Is the Trinity». And we Orthodox Christians, following scripture, and the creedal statements, and the liturgical prayers, can never say: there is «one God Who is the Holy Trinity». There is «one God Who is the Father». And this one God Who is the Father has with Him eternally, Whom He begets timelessly before all ages, His only-begotten Son — Who is also His Logos, His Word, and also His Chokhmah, His Sophia, His Wisdom, also His Eikona, His Ikon, His Image. But this Wisdom and Word and Image and Ikon of God is divine with the very same divinity as God, the One True and Living God, because «He is Who He is», and His is another Who from the Father. There are three Whos. There is He Who is the Father, He Who is the Son, and He Who is the Holy Spirit. Those three Whos are called the three Persons or three Hypostases. Probably the term «hypostases» is a better term, because it means three instances of divine life in a perfect and total unity. But it is important to remember that the one God is the Father of Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God. As the Nicene Creed said, “He is God from God, true God from true God”. Here the Christians would say and insist that the one God and Father, from all eternity, has with Him His Son.

Point of view of Liberal Protestantism

In Christian circles (well… so-called Christian…) we see it developing Liberal Protestantism in the late 19th — early 20th centuries to detach the idea of God from Christ. It is central to the program of Liberal Protestantism in many of its forms. And as soon as it is done the Trinity makes no sence any more. God as Father does not really make sence. From there we get things like the development of renaming the Trinity as Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer… We see an emphasis on Christ as the moral figure but not redemptive, not the focal point.

Alexis Torrance
The Concept of the Person in Orthodox Theology
[video] 51:18 — 52:23

Holy Scripture

30 I and my Father are one.

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name (τὸ ὄνομα) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος):

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος

14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM (אֶֽהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶֽהְיֶה): and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM (אֶֽהְיֶה) hath sent me unto you.

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God (Ἀναβαίνω πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου καὶ πατέρα ὑμῶν καὶ θεόν μου καὶ θεὸν ὑμῶν).

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God (ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου).

Creed

 

Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed

1. I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
2. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

1. Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Θεόν, Πατέρα, Παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς, ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων.
2. Καὶ εἰς ἕνα Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ, τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων· φῶς ἐκ φωτός, Θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί, δι οὗ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο.
8. Καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ κύριον, τὸ ζωοποιόν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, τὸ σὺν Πατρὶ καὶ Υἱῷ συμπροσκυνούμενον καὶ συνδοξαζόμενον, τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν.

 

Athanasian Creed

 

15. … the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God.
16. … they are not three Gods; but one God.
24. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another.
25. … the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped.

3. And the catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
4. neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence.
5. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost.
6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.
7. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost.
15. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God.
16. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God.
17. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord.
18. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord.
24. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another.
25. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped.

Incorrect equation of the trihypostatic I with God the Father

Impersonalistic thought tends to equate the Divine Absolute Subject, the triune trihypostatic I, with God the Father. To a certain degree this veils the impersonalistic conception of Divinity.

John of Damascus, too, is not averse to making such an equation.

But this is incorrect.

Impersonalistic thought tends to equate the Divine Absolute Subject, the triune trihypostatic I, with God the Father. To a certain degree this veils the impersonalistic conception of Divinity. John of Damascus, too, is not averse to making such an equation, as is attested, in particular, by the following statement: "Of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit we speak not as of three Gods but rather as of one God, the Holy Trinity, since the Son and the Holy Spirit are referred to one Cause, but, despite Sabellius' opinion, are not combined and do not merge" (Precise Exposition of the Orthodox Faith I.8). This identification of "Divinity" with the Father is even more evident in John's further affirmation: "When we look at Divinity, the first cause, the monarchy, the unity and identity of Divinity … we then imagine one. But when we consider what Divinity consists in, or more precisely what Divinity is and what proceeds from it, what exists eternally from the first cause with equal glory and without separation, i.e., when we consider the hypostases of the Son and the Spirit, we then get three" (I.8).

Despite all the imprecision of these definitions, one can nevertheless conclude that, in a certain sense, St. John of Damascus follows Origen in conceiving the Father as the Neoplatonic One, as proto-divinity, proto-will, proto-hypostasis (and not only as the First hypostasis). But this is incorrect. God, as the triune trihypostatic Subject, as the Absolute Person, is not the Father as one of the three hypostases, even if the First (and on this pathway it is impossible to avoid Origenistic subordinationism); rather, He is the tri-une subject in which three are one and one is three.

Fr. Sergius Bulgakov
The Comforter
VIII. The Trinitarian and Pneumatological
Doctrine of St. John of Damascus

Although Arianism was, in its epoch, rejected and anathematized by the Church, theologically it has by no means been fully overcome, which is attested by its continuing vitality in different forms … even to the present day.

In general, subordinationism has enjoyed a kind of illegal citizenship in theology, since it has been neither genuinely clarified nor condemned.

But this leads to a new and more general question (one that has already arisen in kenotic theology): the question of the interrelation between the Father and the Son. In the doctrine of the sending of the Son by the Father and of His filial obedience to the Father, do we not have a hidden subordinationism, which in the history of dogma is then made more acute in different variants of Arianism, ancient and modern? The Arians used in their own manner this general character of the relation of the Son to the Father, as well as certain texts and, first and foremost, Christ's words: "my Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). Pertinent here is the entire series of texts where the Son is represented as praying to the Father: [page 281] first of all, the prayer at Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39, 40, 53; Mark 14:36; cf. John 12:27-28; 18:11); the prayer on the cross (Luke 23:34); the prayer of John 14:16 ("I will pray the Father"); and the high-priestly prayer (John 17). Then there are Mark 13:32 (cf. Matt. 24:36; 20:23; 25:34 ["Come, ye blessed of my Father"]) and Luke 22:29 ("I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me"). The most essential testimony of the Gospels, which is more important than any particular text, is the fact that, over the course of His entire earthly ministry, Christ addresses the Father not only as the Father, with whom He abides in fullness of union, but also as His God ("to my God, and your God" [John 20:17]). This entire paradox, which one cannot fail to see in the Gospels, poses a difficult and serious problem for theology, and the christological difficulty (which is also the trinitarian difficulty) of this problem remains unresolved. Although Arianism was, in its epoch, rejected and anathematized by the Church, theologically it has by no means been fully overcome, which is attested by its continuing vitality in different forms, immediately after the First Ecumenical Council as well as later, even to the present day. In general, subordinationism has enjoyed a kind of illegal citizenship in theology, since it has been neither genuinely clarified nor condemned.

Fr. Sergius Bulgakov
The Lamb of God
Ch. IV. 3. Christ's Divine-Human Consciousness of Self

Perfect Deity and Perfect Humanity

Heresies converge in their only result — in the denial of the true divine-human combination, in which the strength of both uniting elements is preserved with the fullness of their internal connection.

Turning to the whole person, and not to an abstract mind, and to all of humanity, and not to solitary chosen ones, Church Christianity declares its ability to live and act in world history. … The whole pagan society, on the initiative of the state power, submits to Christianity, and pagan views also submit to Christianity. … Both forces hostile to Christianity, both the religious speculation of the East, and citizenship, taken from the West, now act more from within, and their action is all the more dangerous.

In the field of religious beliefs, they no longer deny Christ as the Son of God and at the same time the son of man (as the former heretics did), they do not reject the combination of the divine and human elements in him, but only distort the meaning of this combination, not seeing in it a complete and essential combination of the perfect Deities with perfect humanity. Thus, the first and most famous of these new heresies — the Arian one — understands the God-man as something in between or intermediate between one and the other nature; Christ here is something less than God and something more than man, not quite God and not quite man; the perfect Divinity remains inaccessible and incomprehensible, and man cannot receive true deification. Instead of reuniting in Christ the Creator with the creature, there is some kind of indefinite and strange rapprochement between them. This rapprochement is so imperfect that even the first-born of all creation, Christ, according to the Arian teaching, does not have real knowledge of the supreme God, does not know Him as He is, while, according to Orthodox teaching, the perfect man, being inwardly conformable to the perfect Deity as his true image has full knowledge of him.

When the Church, after the great turmoil caused by this heresy and its ramifications, resolutely rejected the Arian demigod and finally formulated (at the first two Ecumenical Councils) the dogma of the consubstantiality of the divine hypostases, Nestorius appeared, not denying this consubstantiality, not denying the perfect deity in the Logos, not rejecting the perfect humanity of Jesus, but not allowing a complete internal and continuous coincidence between them, but recognizing only a certain stay of the Logos in Jesus, as in his dwelling or temple. Arguing that only a man was born in Judea, on whom God later descended — the Word, Nestorius denied the human birth of God (i.e. from a human mother) and, because of this, rejected the Mother of God. The wickedness condemned in the temple of Our Lady of Ephesus soon turned into another, opposite, apparently, but essentially unambiguous form. If Nestorius allowed only an external, incomplete union of the deity with humanity, then Eutyches and his followers, the Monophysites, asserted a union so complete that humanity completely turns into the Divine. But such a union, in which one of the things being joined disappears completely, is no longer a union, but an absorption. Thus, both heresies, despite their apparent opposition (one divides, the other merges), converge in their only result — in the denial of the true divine-human combination, in which the strength of both uniting elements is preserved with the fullness of their internal connection.

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