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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Trinitarian speculation of the day

Here is my trinitarian speculation of the day. If it is heretical then please ignore it.

The tradition speaks of the Father eternally begetting the Son and spirating the Spirit.

I have always considered these to be two distinct inner-Trinitarian actions. But what if they are the same action viewed from two different perspectives? Might we imagine that the Father begetts the Son by means of the spiration of the Spirit? That the one action, viewed in terms of the Spirit, is procession from the Father but also, viewed in terms of the Son, begetting by the Father.

The Son, in turn, gives himself in the Spirit back to the Father in eternal self-giving.

Just thinking ...

14 comments:

Terry Wright said...

It's been a while since I read it, but doesn't Tom Smail's Giving Gift suggest something similar?

Robin Parry said...

I have no idea. Have not read it. But it may well do.

Micah said...

Hmm... Maybe so! I wonder on what basis that would be considered a heretical idea, whether or not it's ultimately revealed to be correct. I'm sure somebody would be ready to throw stones over it, though.

The concept of the Trinity makes eternity past seem a bit more bearable from my finite human perspective. It would seem kind of lonely to me for there to be God as a static singularity. Instead, the idea that a dynamic relationship of begetting and spirating is the eternal fundamental reality, that there has always been the demonstration of Love within the Godhead rather than it requiring the creation of the cosmos to be enabled, seems to resonate more with me.

James Goetz said...

Hmm, anything that is eternal (timeless) is not an action.

Robin Parry said...

James

Why?

The tradition would disagree. God is timeless and so possesses the fullness of his life "at once." As such God is pure act. The timeless and changeless God was never conceived of as static but supremely active and dynamic.

That's where I am coming from.

I appreciate that this tradition is contested and controversial but I remain to be persuaded that it is incoherent. It makes sense to my mind (though my mind is feeble—not a joke—so I may be mistaken)

Pax

Robin

James Goetz said...

Robin,

The best way for me to approach this is to first outline my ideas:

I assert that the essence of God in eternity is altogether internally simultaneous and immutable. The three divine persons who are one indivisible God have always infinitely loved each other. God has always been completely perfect and satisfied in eternity without need.

Perhaps Aquinas would have completely agreed with my above paragraph.

Everything about God in eternity is perfect actuality, but no internal action. Action began with the first moment of creation.

In my case, I believe in the eternal Trinity but doubt the two Nicene points about (1) eternal begottenness and (2) eternal procession/spiration. But if those two points are fact, then they are not an action but an actuality that always existed.

Perhaps I missed important parts of church history. Did Aquinas ever imply that *actus purus* implied divine internal activity or dynamics.

Peace,

Jim

Robin Parry said...

James

That sounds like William Lane Craig's view.

Where I (and Augustine) would differ is that you do not consider the dynamic love within the Trinity as action. This is (I imagine) because you define action as requiring change. But I don't see it that way. All God's actions are performed in his timeless eternity. They are still acts nonetheless.

If you conceive of divine acts as requiring change in God then God is not timeless in the sense the tradition has conceived it.

I am unclear why those two points from the Creed are problematic for you. They fall into the category that you describe as "perfect actuality." The tradition explicitly denies that they are temporal actions. So you are, in fact, agreeing with the Creed on them.

Internal dynamics is an appropriate description of the inner-trinitarian relations so long as one removes the notion of temporal change from the idea. God possesses all of his life at once rather than in succession. Or so I think.

But God is just mind blowing so getting things wrong goes with the territory

Robin Parry said...

By which I mean that I am highly liable to get it wrong (as are we all)

Micah said...

This is probably just me projecting my own limited understanding of things onto God, but I was wondering how we can be sure that time is not something that just always was, just part of the fundamental reality that just is what it is. When we say that God is timeless, are we saying that 'eternity past' is really a nonsensical notion? Would God necessarily have to be 'outside time' in order to have omniscience about all events in time?

Micah said...

And when we say God is 'unchanging', how does this square up with apparent changes such as the Son taking on the flesh? Does 'unchanging' refer to only certain aspects of God never changing, or all aspects?

James Goetz said...

Hi Robin,

I need to revisit Augustine's views on divine activity and divine essence. I lately focused on responses to Aquinas while neglecting Augustine. I suppose that Augustine wrote about God's external activity without internal activity, but I need to reexamine the relevant sources with a fine-tooth comb. I will get back to you on that.

Per eternal generation and eternal procession, I suppose that they are metaphysically conceivable and can possibly fit into my view of eternity, but I reject those doctrines because I do not see them in the Bible and they offer no benefit to my faith in and love of the triune God.

Hi Micah,

In my case, I am an open theist and believe that God could have traditional omniscience (such as exhaustive definite knowledge) in the case of complete determinism, but this world is not governed by complete determinism. I am also in the minority of open theists who hold to the Kalam view of time that logically indicates that an infinite series of time could never completely pass, so successive time had a beginning.

In the case of the Son, Aquinas said that the activity of the Son in successive time was nonessential activity. I agree with Aquinas on that. But I suppose that Aquinas was ultimately inconsistent with his classical theism.

Micah said...

Hmm...He is the Author and Finisher, the Beginning and the End...

JRR Tolkien was the 'subcreator', the author and finisher of the world and timeline of Middle Earth. He as the author exists outside the timeline of the story, just as we exist outside the timeline of the movie contained on a DVD on our shelf. But that doesn't mean the author himself therefore has no timeline himself -- it's almost like an independent or orthogonal timeline. Could God be on His own timeline, and we are merely the characters within a timeline of a story on his bookshelf?

Sorry -- thinking out loud here. :)

James Goetz said...

Hi Robin, After rereading Augustine's CONFESSIONS, Book 11, chapter 31, I suppose in short that Augustine sees all divine activity as one undivided simultaneous action. Peace, Jim

Robin Parry said...

James

I think you are right

Robin