And that you may understand it to be said as a mystery and not in reference to the bare number that two are better than one, he adds a mystical saying, A threefold cord is not quickly broken*. For that which is threefold and uncompounded cannot be broken. Thus the Trinity, being of an uncompounded nature, cannot be dissolved; for God is, whatever He is, one and simple and uncompounded; and what He is that He continues to be, and is not brought into subjection.
Ambrose of Milan, The Letters of S. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (trans. H. Walford; A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church; London; Oxford; Cambridge: Oxford; James Parker and Co.; Rivingtons, 1881), 464.
God is—and the Christian faith adds: God is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three and one. This is the very heart of Christianity, but it is so often shrouded in a silence born of perplexity. Has the Church perhaps gone one step too far here? Ought we not rather leave something so great and inaccessible as God in his inaccessibility? Can something like the Trinity have any real meaning for us? Well, it is certainly true that the proposition that “God is three and God is one” is and remains the expression of his otherness, which is infinitely greater than we and transcends all our thinking and our existence. But if this proposition had nothing to say to us, it would not have been revealed. And as a matter of fact, it could be clothed in human language only because it had already penetrated human thinking and living to some extent.
Joseph Ratzinger, The God of Jesus Christ: Meditations on the Triune God (trans. Brian McNeil; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), 29.
Bernard of Clairvaux, as shown in the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria. Portrait (1700) with the true effigy of the Saint by Georg Andreas Wasshuber (1650-1732), (painted after a statue in Clairvaux with the true effigy of the saint) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
LVI. But how far does the testimony of Otto of Frisingen tell against the holy Doctor or in favour of Abaelard? He says that “Bernard had a fervent jealousy for the Christian religion, and was credulous from his habitual gentleness of character,” so that he had little love for those Professors who attached too much importance to their human reasonings and their worldly wisdom, “and if anything was reported of such persons which seemed to show that they were out of harmony with the Christian faith, he listened willingly to it” (Otto, B. i. c. 47). But this judgment is rather praise than blame for the holy Doctor, since there is nothing more in the duty of a Catholic Doctor than to repress as soon as possible men of that class, who attach too much value to their philosophical reasonings, especially when they devise new terms of philosophy, which may easily lead into error incautious persons. I may adopt the words of William, that “the excess of zeal which is blamed in him will be itself praiseworthy to pious minds … happy is he to whom the only crime which can be imputed is that which others are accustomed to consider as doing them honour” (Life, B. i. 41). But Otto himself, although he favours Abaelard, yet acknowledges that he had weakened too much the distinctions between the Three Persons of the holy Trinity, not having followed good precedents, “and that because of this he was considered a Sabellian heretic in the provincial synod of Soissons.” How then can it be wondered at, if repeating the same errors a second time he was regarded with extreme suspicion by lovers of the orthodox faith?
Concerning the plurality of Persons within the unity of nature, true faith bids us believe that, in the one nature, there are three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The First does not originate from any of the others; the Second originates from the First alone through generation; and the Third, from both the First and the Second through spiration or procession. And yet, Trinity of Persons does not exclude from the divine essence a supreme unity, simplicity, immensity, eternity, immutability, necessity, or even primacy; more, it includes supreme fecundity, love, generosity, equality, kinship, likeness, and inseparability; all of which sound faith understands to exist in the blessed Trinity.
Saint Bonaventure, Breviloquium (trans. José De Vinck; vol. 2; The Works of Bonaventure: Cardinal Seraphic Doctor and Saint; Paterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1963), 35.
This godly Saint also declared Theology the only perfect science,
And so theology is the only perfect science, for it begins at the beginning, which is the first Principle, and proceeds to the end, which is the final wages paid; it begins with the summit, which is God most high, the Creator of all, and reaches even to the abyss, which is the torment of hell.
I can allow that if we understand that science of the physical world is imperfect not to its detriment but because we are human, ever seeking, ever curious, and not always knowing.
Maybe we should move away from the dichotomy of high/low and instead create better terms. Critical scholars will generally agree that the Trinitarian Christology is not present in Paul, although many would argue that a high christology is.
Again, maybe better terms are needed. Is Jesus first pictured as a man given/awarded/adopted into a high place next to God? This is still pretty high if by low you think of Jesus as only a prophet or good teacher.
What if Jesus is God made man and only a man? Sure this is high Christology as well since, again, it doesn’t include Jesus as always only a man.
There are dilemmas here, but I have to wonder if part of the issue is not deciding what high and low means but having only two real choices to choose from.
For my part, I have come to believe that rather than a low Christology at the start, the death of Jesus presents us a rather high Christology even by the victim. While others things were codified later, such as “Messiah,” I believe Jesus must have thought of himself as something rather high before his death, with the verification to his disciples made in his resurrection.1 What would this high Christology look like? Maybe Jesus didn’t think of himself as YWHW, but it is quite possible Jesus believed of himself as divine in some sense.
The whole creation saw clearly that for humanity’s sake the Judge was condemned, the Invisible was seen, the Unlimited was circumscribed, the Impassible suffered, the Immortal died and theHeavenly one was laid in the grave. (Discourse on the Soul and the Body, fragment, ACD vol 1 pg 53)
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (NASB)
It did not take long for the early Christians to start to qualify (or quantify) the relationship between the Father and the Son, not to mention what role if any the Holy Spirit played in this family of sorts.
Yesterday, while discussing the Book of Acts with my Sunday School class, I read this as a measure of the author’s (not Paul’s) Christological stance. The developing Trinitarian motif of the verse stood out in stark contrast to Paul’s subordinationism.
Here, all three Persons play a role in the Church.
The Church belongs to God (the Father, as indicated by the relationship to the spilt blood), but is governed by the Spirit. The blood (of the Son) is what secured the Church. Throughout Paul’s speech in Acts 20.17-29, the role of the Spirit is heightened much more so than it is in the Pauline Corpus, making it parallel to the role of the Spirit in the life of the Church in Ephesians. Further, the speech begins with a salutation to Jesus but ends with a commendation to God the Father.
Unless, of course, you believe God has blood and can die?
Thanks to Jason for bringing this to my attention, of just how awful the ESV Study Bible notes really are.
God’s act of creation is the foundation for the entire biblical history. - ESVSBGen 1:1
That there, folks, is just plain blasphemous.
Pretty sure that the New Testament says Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of this house of ours, a foundation laid on the Apostles and Prophets:
Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. (Eph 2.20 NLT)
There are plenty of other verses testifying to just how heretical the ESV SB really is at this point.
Sure, the ESV SB says “biblical history” (a foreign concept, really), but if Jesus is not the cornerstone, and the Apostles and Prophets are not the foundation of the Church and the Gospel, what “biblical history” is there? In other words, there is no “biblical history” for Christians without Jesus Christ. Jesus is where “biblical history” starts, and not Ken Ham.
Not to mention just how badly they get Genesis 1-11 wrong, as well as the over all idea of what Creation is according to Scripture…
because a child was born for us,
a son also given to us,
whose sovereignty was upon his shoulder,
and he is named Messenger of Great Counsel,
for I will bring peace upon the rulers,
peace and health to him
Now, read Galatians 4.14
Instead, you welcomed me as though I were an angel of God, as though I were Christ Jesus himself
I am more troubled by what United Methodists will not be talking about at General Conference. For example, what are the odds that United Methodists at General Conference will have a lively conversation about the Holy Trinity or about the need to recover a more prominent role for Mary in United Methodist beliefs and practices? And what are the chances that we will have an animated conversation about the nature of holiness or about whether two sacraments are really sufficient?
In my opinion, I fear that the skepticism of miracles espoused by Hume and others undergirds the cessationist’s viewpoints, without, of course, their realizing it. This is nothing less than the triumph of the many (humanity) over the one (the Spirit). (270)