I think it is fair to say that the times are getting clearer, as obvious error is obvious. Having said that, I’ve missed a number of weeks with theology. Hold onto your hats, because Aquinas is hitting it out of the park. The issue we have with the trinity is that we have difficulty comprehending it. But that does not mean it is real, it means that we are not able to fully comprehend the mind of God.
And anyone who says that he can fully understand the mind of God has fallen for the temptation of Adam. We are not like Gods. We are human, and broken at that.
1 The truth, of course, excludes every falsehood and dissolves every doubt therefore it is now time to dispose of the arguments which appeared to offer difficulty about divine generation.
2 From what we have said it is already clear that we assert an intelligible generation in God, and not such as that we find in material things wherein the generation is a kind of change which is the opposite of corruption. For not even in our intellect is the word conceived with some change, nor does it have an opposing corruption. It is to this conception that the generation of the Son of God is similar, as is now clear.
3 In like manner, too, the word conceived by our intellect does not proceed from potency to act except in so far as the intellect proceeds from potency to act. For all that, the word does not arise in our intellect except as it exists in act; rather, simultaneously with its existence in act, there is a word conceived therein.
But the divine intellect is never in potency, but is actual only, as was shown above. Therefore, the generation of the Word Himself is not like the process from potency to act rather, it is like the origin of act from act, as is brilliance from light and an understanding understood from an understanding in act. Hence, clearly also, generation does not prevent the Son of God from being true God, nor from being Himself eternal. Rather, He is indeed necessarily coeternal with God whose Word He is, for an intellect in act is never without its word.
4 And since the Son of God’s generation is not material, but intelligible, it is now stupid to doubt whether the Father gave His nature wholly or partially. For, manifestly, if God understands Himself, the whole fullness of Himself must be contained in His Word. Nevertheless, the substance given to the Son does not cease to be in the Father, for not even in our case does the proper nature cease to be in the thing which is understood. One word of our intellect owes it to the very thing understood that it contains intelligibly that very same nature.
5 Since, again, divine generation is not material, clearly there need not be in the Son of God something which receives and something else which is the nature received. For this necessarily happens in material generations in that the matter of the generated receives the form of the one generating. But, in an intelligible generation, such is not the case. For it is not thus that a word arises within an intellect: one part of it is previously understood as receiving, and one part as flowing from the intellect; but in its entirety the word has its origin from the intellect, as even in our case one word in its entirety has its origin from others—a conclusion, for example, from principles. Where one thing in its entirety rises from another there is no marking off a receiver from the thing received, but the entire thing which arises is from him from whom it rises.
6 In this same way it is clear that the truth of divine generation is not ruled out by this: in God there can be no distinction of a plurality of subsistents. The divine essence, subsistent though it be, cannot for all that be separated from the relation which must be understood to be in God, because the conceived Word of the divine mind is from God Himself speaking. For the Word, too, is the divine essence, as was shown, and God speaking, from whom the Word is, is the divine essence; not a first and a second, but an essence numerically the same.
But relations like this are not accidents in God; they are subsistent things; for nothing can happen to God, as was proved above. There are, therefore, many things subsisting if one looks to the relations; there is but one subsistent thing, of course, if one looks to the essence. And on this account we speak of one subsisting God, because He is one subsisting essence; and we speak of a plurality of Persons, because of the distinction of subsisting relations. For the distinction of persons, even in things human, is not worked out in accordance with the specific essence, but in accordance with things adjoined to the specific nature. Now, in all the persons of men there is unity in the specific nature; there is, nevertheless, a plurality of persons simply because men are distinguished in these things which are adjoined to the nature. In divinity, therefore, one must not speak of one Person by reason of the unity of the subsisting essence, but of many Persons by reason of the relations.
7 From this, of course, it clearly does not follow that what serves as principle of individuation is in some other, because the divine essence is not in another god, nor is the paternity in the Son.
8 Although, of course, the two Persons—namely, that of the Father and that Of the Son—are differentiated not by essence, but by a relation, the relation is not, for all that, other than the essence in reality, since a relation in God cannot be an accident.
Neither will this be looked on as impossible if one earnestly considers the points established in Book I. There it was shown that in God are the perfections of all beings, not in any composition, but in the unity of a simple essence, for the diversity of perfections which a created thing acquires by many forms is God’s in His one and simple essence. For a man lives by one form, is wise by another, and is just by another; and all of these belong to God by His essence. Therefore, just as wisdom and justice in a man are accidents indeed, but in God the same as the divine essence, so a relation (say, that of paternity or of sonship), although it be an accident in men, in God is the divine essence.
9 It is not, of course, said that the divine wisdom is His essence whereas in us wisdom adds something to the essence, because the divine wisdom is, as it were, something lesser than our wisdom; it is said because His essence exceeds our essence, so that a thing which exceeds our essence (namely, to know and to be just) is possessed by God in His essence perfectly. Therefore, whatever is fitting to us which is distinguished in accord with essence and with wisdom must be ascribed to God by reason of His essence at one and the same time. And a like proportion must be observed in other cases.
Now, since the divine essence is the very relation of paternity or of sonship, whatever is the property of paternity must belong to God, although paternity be His very essence. However, this is the property of paternity: to be distinguished from sonship. For one is said to be a father to a son as to another. And this is, essential to a father: to be the father of a son. Therefore, although God the Father is the divine essence, and in the same way God the Son is, from His being the Father He is distinguished from the Son, even though they be one in that each of the two is the divine essence.
10 From this it is also evident that a relation in divinity is not without an absolute. But a comparison to an absolute in God is other than a comparison to an absolute in created things. For in created things a relation is compared to an absolute as an accident to a subject; not in God, of course—there the comparison is by way of identity, just as it is also in other. things which are said about God.
An identical subject, of course, cannot have opposed relations in itself: the same man, for example, being his father and his son. But the divine essence, by reason of its all round perfection, is identified with its wisdom and its justice and other things of this kind, which in our case are contained in differing genera. And in the same way nothing stops the one essence from being identified with paternity and sonship, and the Father and the Son from being one God, although the Father is not the Son; for it is by an identical essence that God has by nature being and His very own intelligible Word.
11 From what has been said it can be made clear that the relations in God are in reality, and not in understanding alone. For every relation which follows on the proper operation of any thing, whether potency, or quantity, or anything of this kind, really exists in that thing; otherwise, it would be in the thing by understanding alone, as is apparent in the instance of knowledge and the knowable.
For the relation of knowledge to the knowable follows on the action of the knower; not, of course, on the action of the knowable. The knowable maintains itself as it is in itself, both when it is understood and when it is not understood. Accordingly, the relation is in the knower really, but it is in the knowable consequently upon understanding only, since one says that the knowable is understood relatively to the knowledge because the knowledge is related to the knowable.
The other issue moderns have — since they have been taught that their feelings are the final reality, not what is — is that they feel betrayed, hurt, and abandoned by their physical fathers, and therefore mistrust the idea of fatherhood or sonship. There is a hermaneutic of suspicion within the colleges of theology, that is too ready to call things sins that are. This calling God evil, and good similarly, is a deep error, driven by shame.
For we are not able to be truly a father as God is, nor are we a Son in partnership with our father as Christ was.
Calvin is clear here.
5. As Adam’s spiritual life would have consisted in remaining united and bound to his Maker, so estrangement from him was the death of his soul. Nor is it strange that he who perverted the whole order of nature in heaven and earth deteriorated his race by his revolt. “The whole creation groaneth,” saith St Paul, “being made subject to vanity, not willingly,” (Rom. 8:20, 22). If the reason is asked, there cannot be a doubt that creation bears part of the punishment deserved by man, for whose use all other creatures were made. Therefore, since through man’s fault a curse has extended above and below, over all the regions of the world, there is nothing unreasonable in its extending to all his offspring. After the heavenly image in man was effaced, he not only was himself punished by a withdrawal of the ornaments in which he had been arrayed—viz. wisdom, virtue, justice, truth, and holiness, and by the substitution in their place of those dire pests, blindness, impotence, vanity, impurity, and unrighteousness, but he involved his posterity also, and plunged them in the same wretchedness. This is the hereditary corruption to which early Christian writers gave the name of Original Sin, meaning by the term the depravation of a nature formerly good and pure. The subject gave rise to much discussion, there being nothing more remote from common apprehension, than that the fault of one should render all guilty, and so become a common sin. This seems to be the reason why the oldest doctors of the church only glance obscurely at the point, or, at least, do not explain it so clearly as it required. This timidity, however, could not prevent the rise of a Pelagius with his profane fiction—that Adam sinned only to his own hurt, but did no hurt to his posterity. Satan, by thus craftily hiding the disease, tried to render it incurable. But when it was clearly proved from Scripture that the sin of the first man passed to all his posterity, recourse was had to the cavil, that it passed by imitation, and not by propagation. The orthodoxy, therefore, and more especially Augustine, laboured to show, that we are not corrupted by acquired wickedness, but bring an innate corruption from the very womb. It was the greatest impudence to deny this. But no man will wonder at the presumption of the Pelagians and Celestians, who has learned from the writings of that holy man how extreme the effrontery of these heretics was. Surely there is no ambiguity in David’s confession, “I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me,” (Ps. 51:5). His object in the passage is not to throw blame on his parents; but the better to commend the goodness of God towards him, he properly reiterates the confession of impurity from his very birth. As it is clear, that there was no peculiarity in David’s case, it follows that it is only an instance of the common lot of the whole human race. All of us, therefore, descending from an impure seed, come into the world tainted with the contagion of sin. Nay, before we behold the light of the sun we are in God’s sight defiled and polluted. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one,” says the Book of Job (Job 14:4).
6. We thus see that the impurity of parents is transmitted to their children, so that all, without exception, are originally depraved. The commencement of this depravity will not be found until we ascend to the first parent of all as the fountain head. We must, therefore, hold it for certain, that, in regard to human nature, Adam was not merely a progenitor, but, as it were, a root, and that, accordingly, by his corruption, the whole human race was deservedly vitiated. This is plain from the contrast which the Apostle draws between Adam and Christ, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned; even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Rom. 5:19–21). To what quibble will the Pelagians here recur? That the sin of Adam was propagated by imitation! Is the righteousness of Christ then available to us only in so far as it is an example held forth for our imitation? Can any man tolerate such blasphemy? But if, out of all controversy, the righteousness of Christ, and thereby life, is ours by communication, it follows that both of these were lost in Adam that they might be recovered in Christ, whereas sin and death were brought in by Adam, that they might be abolished in Christ. There is no obscurity in the words, “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Accordingly, the relation subsisting between the two is this, As Adam, by his ruin, involved and ruined us, so Christ, by his grace, restored us to salvation. In this clear light of truth I cannot see any need of a longer or more laborious proof. Thus, too, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, when Paul would confirm believers in the confident hope of the resurrection, he shows that the life is recovered in Christ which was lost in Adam (1 Cor. 15:22). Having already declared that all died in Adam, he now also openly testifies, that all are imbued with the taint of sin. Condemnation, indeed, could not reach those who are altogether free from blame. But his meaning cannot be made clearer than from the other member of the sentence, in which he shows that the hope of life is restored in Christ. Every one knows that the only mode in which this is done is, when by a wondrous communication Christ transfuses into us the power of his own righteousness, as it is elsewhere said, “The Spirit is life because of righteousness,” (1 Cor. 15:22). Therefore, the only explanation which can be given of the expression, “in Adam all died,” is, that he by sinning not only brought disaster and ruin upon himself, but also plunged our nature into like destruction; and that not only in one fault, in a matter not pertaining to us, but by the corruption into which he himself fell, he infected his whole seed. Paul never could have said that all are “by nature the children of wrath,” (Eph. 2:3), if they had not been cursed from the womb. And it is obvious that the nature there referred to is not nature such as God created, but as vitiated in Adam; for it would have been most incongruous to make God the author of death. Adam, therefore, when he corrupted himself, transmitted the contagion to all his posterity. For a heavenly Judge, even our Saviour himself, declares that all are by birth vicious and depraved, when he says that “that which is born of the flesh is fleshy” (John 3:6), and that therefore the gate of life is closed against all until they have been regenerated.
For the non calvinists: what the good lawyer is arguing here was defined by the apostles, as he shows, and this is straight orthodoxy, for we are not followers of Pelagius. So I have to follow these quotes from the masters with an explanation from Sproul.
Humanism, in all its subtle forms, recapitulates the unvarnished Pelagianism against which Augustine struggled. Though Pelagius was condemned as a heretic by Rome, and its modified form, Semi-Pelagianism was likewise condemned by the Council of Orange in 529, the basic assumptions of this view persisted throughout church history to reappear in Medieval Catholicism, Renaissance Humanism, Socinianism, Arminianism, and modern Liberalism. The seminal thought of Pelagius survives today not as a trace or tangential influence but is pervasive in the modern church. Indeed, the modern church is held captive by it.
What was the core issue between Augustine and Pelagius? The heart of the debate centered on the doctrine of original sin, particularly with respect to the question of the extent to which the will of fallen man is “free.” Adolph Harnack said:
“There has never, perhaps, been another crisis of equal importance in church history in which the opponents have expressed the principles at issue so clearly and abstractly. The Arian dispute before the Nicene Council can alone be compared with it.” (History of Agmer V/IV/3)
The controversy began when the British monk, Pelagius, opposed at Rome Augustine’s famous prayer: “Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire.” Pelagius recoiled in horror at the idea that a divine gift (grace) is necessary to perform what God commands. For Pelagius and his followers responsibility always implies ability. If man has the moral responsibility to obey the law of God, he must also have the moral ability to do it.
Harnack summarizes Pelagian thought:
“Nature, free-will, virtue and law, these strictly defined and made independent of the notion of God – were the catch-words of Pelagianism: self-acquired virtue is the supreme good which is followed by reward. Religion and morality lie in the sphere of the free spirit; they are at any moment by man’s own effort.” The difference between Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism is more a difference of degree than of kind. To be sure, on the surface there seems like there is a huge difference between the two, particularly with respect to original sin and to the sinner’s dependence upon grace. Pelagius categorically denied the doctrine of original sin, arguing that Adam’s sin affected Adam alone and that infants at birth are in the same state as Adam was before the Fall. Pelagius also argued that though grace may facilitate the achieving of righteousness, it is not necessary to that end. Also, he insisted that the constituent nature of humanity is not convertible; it is indestructively good. Over against Pelagius, Semi-Pelagianism does have a doctrine of original sin whereby mankind is considered fallen. Consequently grace not only facilitates virtue, it is necessary for virtue to ensue. Man’s nature can be changed and has been changed by the Fall.
However, in Semi-Pelagianism there remains a moral ability within man that is unaffected by the Fall. We call this an “island of righteousness” by which the fallen sinner still has the inherent ability to incline or move himself to cooperate with God’s grace. Grace is necessary but not necessarily effective. Its effect always depends upon the sinner’s cooperation with it by virtue of the exercise of the will. It is not by accident that Martin Luther considered “The of the Will” to be his most important book. He saw in Erasmus a man who, despite his protests to the contrary, was a Pelagian in Catholic clothing. Luther saw that lurking beneath the controversy of merit and grace, and faith and works was the issue of to what degree the human will is enslaved by sin and to what degree we are dependent upon grace for our liberation. Luther argued from the Bible that the flesh profits nothing and that this “nothing” is not a little “something.”
Augustine’s view of the Fall was opposed to both Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. He said that mankind is a massa peccati, a “mess of sin,” incapable of raising itself from spiritual death. For Augustine man can no more move or incline himself to God than an empty glass can fill itself. For Augustine the initial work of divine grace by which the soul is liberated from the of sin is sovereign and operative. To be sure we cooperate with this grace, but only after the initial divine work of liberation.
Augustine did not deny that fallen man still has a will and that the will is capable of making choices. He argued that fallen man still has a free will (liberium arbitrium) but has lost his moral liberty (libertas). The state of original sin leaves us in the wretched condition of being unable to refrain from sinning. We still are able to choose what we desire, but our desires remain chained by our evil impulses. He argued that the freedom that remains in the will always leads to sin. Thus in the flesh we are free only to sin, a hollow freedom indeed.
This is why the Orthodox concentrate on teaching people to follow the work of god, by prayer and by discipline, as does every other branch of Christendom. We struggle against our fallen nature, which remains, though we now have the ablity to no longer be a mess of sin. Here a great sinner, Roosh, now repentant, in his discussion with monks, helps.
Father Theodore made the astute observation that Satan leaves you alone when you’re committing sin. “When you used to watch pornography,” he asked me, “were you ever distracted?”
Never. While watching porn, my mind would be totally fixated on the screen with the utmost concentration. Any problems or anxieties in life I had were temporarily gone so that I could commit the sin.
“And how about with prayer? Do you get distracted?”
I can count on my two hands the number of prayer sessions where I was in complete peace. Prayer is a continual struggle, because Satan does not want me to perform it. There is a noise outside my window—time to look! There is dust on my icons—time to clean it! There is a meal in an hour—what will I eat?!
When you want to do something unnatural that destroys your faith, such as masturbation, Satan leaves you alone, but when you want to do the natural act of speaking to your Creator, in a similar way that a child speaks to his father, Satan makes it very difficult. That should be a clue to the Christian to persevere in that which is hard, because if it’s not hard, and you seem especially focused without expending any of your willpower, it may be something that Satan wants you to do.
One of my correspondants says she is praying for Kea and me bedcause the storms are raging. They are. But anything that will glorify God is hard.
I don’t understand the Trinity. I don’t have to. My task is to stand, and glorify God with my words and doings. Perhaps, then, I will understand, in this life, much more deeper, what it is to be a child of God.