An Explosion of Trinitarian Glory

That is my thought on this Friday afternoon.  I am not yet in heaven, but I feel like I am.  It is the here and now – gracious, miraculous, heavenly union with God.  The Lord’s words in the second half of John 14 are my sweet meditation.

Last Sunday morning, I spent the whole sermon on Jesus’ words in John 14:15, seriously considering the ramifications of this simple declaration. 

This Sunday morning, we move forward, delving into the Person and work of another Paraclete.  The Trinity of verse 16 is directly related with obeying, because of agape, the Lord’s commandments .

First question:  What is the “official” LDS teaching on the Holy Spirit?  Does it matter what LDS believe about the Spirit?

Second question:  Who or what do you think is the Holy Spirit?

Third question:  Where do you stand on the rift between the West and the East wings of Holy Mother Church on the Holy Spirit?

(I can’t wait till Sunday!)

16 comments

  1. You sir are in good company. In Robert Letham’s book “The Holy Trinity” he quotes Sinclair Ferguson, “I’ve often reflected in the rather obvious thought that when his disciples were about to have the world collapse in on them, our Lord spent so much time in the upper room speaking about the mystery of the Trinity. If anything could underline the necessity of Trinitarianism for practical Christianity, that must surly be it!”

    As to your third question I think that Paul’s uses of the Spirit in Romans 8:9 and 11 shows that Paul is teaching that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. I’m not a scholar but as I understand it Calvin was very open to Eastern thoughts about the Trinity and appreciated the work of the Cappadocians but he maintained the western view that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.

  2. Gundeck: of course Calvin did, being that he read everything (except ecclesiology and sacramental theology) through an Augustinian lens. Regarding Paul’s using “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ” interchangeably, see below.

    Todd: The most basic issue here is that Jesus, in John 15:26, states that the Spirit “proceeds from the Father”. The Nicene Creed, given its present form at the Council of Constantinople (AD 381) and ratified as THE Creed of the Church at Ephesus (AD 431), repeats this statement word for word. Without advocating that the Creed be changed, Augustine advanced the notion that Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”, apparently in an over-reaction to Arianism. Some centuries later, a Pope unilaterally mandated that the Creed of the Western Church reflect this and a Western Council (Florence) ratified this understanding. Unfortunately, this model distorts the the early patristic understanding of the Trinity (above-mentioned Cappodocians, for example) in which the Father is the personal principle of unity and single source of origin in the Trinity, whereby He, by one eternal act, simultaneously generates (“begets,” “births”) the Son and spirates (“breaths forth”) the Spirit, who then “rests on” the Son. Within time, this is, of course, the pattern we see in both the Incarnation and at Jesus’ baptism. This model is perichoretic, the Western model linear, rooted in the Augustinian notion that the Divine Essence itselft, not the Father, is the principle of unity in the Trinity. As far as the Pauline usages goe, Jesus, also in John, states that after the ascension the Father will send the Spirit “in [Jesus]’ name.” Thus, from Pentecost on, the Spirit is the representative, in time, of both Father and Son; however, this does not change the essential, immanent relationships with the Trinity itself.

  3. LDS tend to view the Holy Spirit as something mysterious that we don’t have a lot of information about – ontologically at least.

    We view it as a distinct personage (usually assumed to be male, though I see no particular reason for this). No physical body, but a spiritual body. We also believe it to be subordinate to the Father and acting through His power. But we have no well-known teaching that it is subordinate to the Son. Not that I’m aware of anyway…

    Usually, most talk of the Holy Spirit in Mormon contexts is about how it can guide our actions and how to live so as to be “in tune” to hear its promptings. We tend to ignore questions of ontology.

  4. FrGregACCA,

    I readily acknowledge Augustine’s influence on Calvin, but even though I am not a scholar I know that there are a great many differences besides ecclesiology and sacramental theology; immaculate conception, prayers to saints, relics, continuation of apostolic gifts etc.

    It is not just Paul who makes these distinctions but John in his Gospel 16:7.

    Since I don’t get this opportunity every day, is it true that the Eastern Churches accept terminology, “from the father through the Son”?

  5. Gundeck: I was saying that it is in the areas of sacramental theology and ecclesiology that Calvin most diverges from Augustine. Ironically, Augustine is least in the patristic mainstream where Calvin agrees with him most.

    John 16:7 refers to the “temporal mission” of the Spirit after the ascension.

    Some Byzantine Orthodox writers have spoken in this way, but none to the point of accepting the addition of the filioque to the Creed.

  6. FrGregACCA,

    I understand, when I ask about an Eastern view on “from the father through the Son” that it would not be an acceptance of the filioque.

    With regard to John 16:7 what about Moltmann’s claim that, “the divine Trinity cannot appear in the economy of salvation as something other than it is in itself. Therefore we cannot posit temporal trinitarian relations with in the economy of salvation which are not grounded in the primal trinitarian relations” Or to put it in my own understanding why would the temporal relation between the Son and the Spirit be different than the ontological?

    So that I understand, Is it true that the major objection from the Eastern Orthodox view to the filioque is a confusion or outright compromise of the monarchy of the Father? What about your beliefs that the filioque causes a confusion between the Father and the Son? Of these two, what does your tradition hold to be the greater concern, compromise of the monarchy or confusion between the Father and the Son?

    What would the Orthodox response be to the western belief that without the Filioque you can fall into the heresy of subordination, with the Son and the Holy Spirit receiving their divinity from the Father?

    I hope you take this in the spirit it is intended. I do consider this a privilege to respectfully discuss this with you. I have to say, I have great respect for how the Orthodox have kept the Trinity central in beliefs and especially worship. To be frank you do not suffer from modalism.

  7. Gundek: Please forgive the delay. My computer time is pretty limited at the moment. I’ve written out a response to your very good questions longhand, which I will probably be able to input tomorrow evening.

  8. Okay, here we go. Again, sorry about the delay. I now remember why I long ago quit writing anything substantial in long hand.

    To address the last first: Orthodoxy is certainly not modalistic, as you point out. I never really understand the Trinity to the extent that it is possible to do so, until I was exposed to Orthodoxy.

    The confusion between the roles of Father and Son which results from the filioque leads to confusion about the monarchy of the Father. These two problems are two sides of a single coin.

    Regarding Moltmann, what he is saying here is often expressed by Karl Rahner’s slogan, “The economic Trinity IS the immanent Trinity.” While some aspects of this may be debatable, I think perhaps that the filioque is related to a failure to take this fully into account, particularly with regard to the Spirit’s role in the Incarnation and in anointing Christ at his baptism. Especially in the Incarnation – the conception of the Jesus – we see the Eternal Word “proceeding” – at least in time – from the Spirit and not vice-versa. Because of this, and recognizing the problems with the filioque in this context, at least one RC theologian has suggested that, in fact, the Spirit is eternally involved with the generation of the Son, even as, according to the filioque, the Son is eternally responsible, along with the Father, for the proceeding of the Spirit. He coined the word “spiritique” to describe this. I think it better, however, to focus on the relationship between Son and Spirit in the economy of salvation, which is clearly one of interdependence and mutual interaction – perichoresis (not to exclude the Father from this process by using this word), such that, as St. Ireneus writes, the Word and Spirit are the two “hands” of the Father in the creation, maintenance, redemption, and restoration of the world. Christ says, “The Spirit proceeds from the Father.” Given this, and the rest of the data that we have, there is no reason to beyond this in describing the eternal relationships of the immanent Trinity, and plenty of reason not to in that, as Kallistos Ware writes, “Orthodox writers also argue that these two consequences of the filioque — subordination of the Holy Spirit, over-emphasis on the unity of God [i.e., Divine Unity being a result of the Divine Nature rather than the monarchy of the Father] — have helped to bring about a distortion in the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Church. Because the role of the Spirit has been neglected in the west, the Church has come to be regarded too much as an institution of this world, governed in terms of earthly power and jurisdiction. And just as in the western doctrine of God unity was stressed at the expense of diversity, so in the western conception of the Church unity has triumphed over diversity, and the result has been too great a centralization and too great an emphasis on Papal authority.” (The Orthodox Church)

    The question of subordinationism can be raised with regard to both the Eastern and Western conceptions of the Trinity. If the filioque is true, then it can be said that the Spirit is subordinate to both Father and Son. However, both sides agree that the unoriginate Father is the unique source of both Spirit and Word, neither of which are unoriginate, but given their existence by the Father in a single, eternal, kenotic act (an act with which, according to the West, the Son is involved in the case of the Spirit). Thus, for both positions, there is a definite hierarchy of origin; both sides, however, would agree that this hierarchy implies nothing with regard to differences in power, attributes, or value. Thus, the Trinity is a perichoretic “hierarchy-in-equality”. There is a lesson for humanity here, “created in the image and likeness of God” and, in the Church, recreated in the image of Christ. Thus, Orthodoxy insists that the Church is “an ikon of the Trinity”.

  9. So much to talk about and so little time . . .

    But what better is there to talk about than the Trinity! eh?

    And are not keyboards great, Greg? I remember in seminary having to write down answers in longhand as fast as I could for a systematic theology professor. My right hand shook so bad that the writing on paper would look like foreign tongues by the end of my quiz and test sessions.

    Greg, for now, as I am deep into the John’s Gospel communication of Father, Son, and Spirit, I tend to swing toward the West wing of the Church on this very important heart issue.

    And to broaden the discussion somewhat, I am thinking how Eastern Orthodoxy and Pentecostalism might perhaps fit together on the role of the Spirit. Secondly, I am still puzzled by what LDS say about God the Holy Spirit.

  10. Greg,

    I hope that you did not take my last comment about modalism as an insult, it was my attempt at a compliment. My limited knowledge of the Eastern views on the Trinity show me that Protestants, even conservative ones, can learn a lot about how well the the East has integrated the Triune God into all aspects of its theology and worship.

    Give me a little time to digest the rest of your comments.

  11. Gundeck: I did not take your comment about modalism as an insult at all, and of course, I agree completely with your last comment (-:

    Both you and Todd might enjoy reading John Zizioulas’ “Being as Communion” which expressly integrates Trinitarian theology and ecclesiology.

    Todd: from an Eastern POV (and as a post-charismatic), it seems to me that Pentecostalism represents, within a Western framework, an over-reaction to the scholasticism and institutionalism arguably generated by the filioque. It is interesting, is it not, that Pentecostalism, under any form, has not made significant inroads into Eastern Christianity?

  12. I would see the filioque as deeply connecting the Son and the Spirit and helping avoid this two-stage idea promoted by some charismatics in their relationship to God.

    Hey, I just read an interesting quote, today. Let me put it up as a new post.

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