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How the Truth of the Trinity Makes Sense of Everything

by Roy Abraham Varghese

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Roy Abraham Varghese explains how the doctrine of the Trinity sheds light on the larger body of Church teaching.

Larger Work

Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Publisher & Date

Ignatius Press, January 2010

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The insight that God is Trinity, three Persons in one God, is the climactic Christian revelation. Sadly, most popular ideas of the Trinity, of foe and friend alike, tend to be caricatures or outright misconceptions. Even such luminaries of the past as Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire and Immanuel Kant had primitive if not juvenile ideas of this greatest of truths. At the popular level, even among Christians, the Trinity is generally thought of as a hopelessly obscure piece of doctrine at best and a self-contradiction at worst.

In response to this common way of thinking, let me say that nothing could be further from the truth. Far from being obscure, the doctrine of the Trinity is the breath-taking Truth that makes sense of all other truths, the Luminous Mystery that illuminates all other mysteries, the dazzling sun that allows us to see all things except itself (and this not because of darkness but its excess of light).

All of human thought and experience point in one way or another to the summit of knowing and loving that we call the Trinity. It is the revelation that makes sense of everything in our experience, everything.

Here we will consider the Trinity in the following sequence: the Trinity in natural knowledge, the biblical revelation of the Trinity and the theological discovery of the Trinity. Two points need to be addressed at the outset: the charge that the doctrine of the Trinity is contradictory and the question of whether the doctrine has any relation to human experience (we will see that Kant could not have been more wrong when he said that the doctrine "has no practical relevance at all").

Contradiction?

Let us consider the charge of self-contradiction that seems plausible even to many Trinitarians. Anyone who has actually read any of its orthodox formulations will see immediately that there is no formal logical contradiction in the doctrine of the Trinity. We are not saying that 1=3 or that what looks like three is actually one. We are not saying that God is one in the same way he is three or that God is three in the same way he is one. Rather, we are highlighting the fact that within the one divine nature—namely, the Godhead—there are Three Persons. Now how this could be so, how one being can have three "centers," is a mystery—a truth we could only know from revelation. But, to repeat, it is not logically a contradiction because we are not saying there are three gods who are one god or three persons who are one person. We're only saying that the one infinite-eternal mind and will are shared equally and indivisibly by three Subjects.

Historically, various analogies to the Trinity have been proposed. Thus St. Augustine compared the Trinity to different threesomes such as the lover, the beloved and the love between them. St. Patrick pointed to the shamrock, a clover plant with a stem and three leaves, as a symbol of the Trinity. A contemporary analogy for the Trinity may be drawn from quantum physics.

According to the famous wave-particle duality idea of quantum theory, the same sub-atomic entities may be thought of as both waves and particles. It all depends on how the entity is measured: for instance, light behaves sometimes as a particle and sometimes as a wave. The instruments and procedures you use for measuring a quantum state determines what you observe: wave or particle. Applying this analogy, we might say that the distinction of the Three Persons in one Godhead is understood in terms of how their relation of origin is "measured": how one of the Persons is related in terms of origin determines who it is.

We consider the same fundamental quantum reality but it is "known" and "acts" differently depending on how it is measured. Likewise, we consider the same Godhead but it is "known" and "acts" differently depending on the "origin" relation being considered: the Son is eternally begotten by the Father, the Spirit is eternally spirated from Father and Son, and the Father is the eternal begetter of the Son and spirator of the Spirit. It is the same divine reality in all three instances just as it is the same quantum reality that acts and is known as wave and particle. I hasten to add that this analogy, like all others, is imperfect and potentially misleading.

Three and One

Turning to the doctrine itself, I grant that the language of one substance and three "hypostases" and traditional formulations in terms of "nature," "person" and "subsistent beings" are not meaningful to many moderns. These formulations are coherent and binding but they do not communicate the truth in all its power to those not already steeped in the subtleties and nuances of the underlying intellectual framework. A more fruitful approach for today is one in which we employ terms that are easily understood. So here is one way to restate the traditional doctrine that is faithful to the underlying Truth.

Now knowing and willing are the two fundamental acts of human beings and God. A human being has a mind and a will and God has an infinite mind and an infinite will. Each human mind and will is, so to speak, "operated" by one agent that we call the self. The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that there is one God, i.e., one infinite mind and will, but that this one and the same Mind and Will is equally and without confusion "operated" by three Agents, three Selves, three "I"s. The idea of the Persons of the Trinity as "I"s is eminently biblical. The Father declares: "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11 and in the other three Gospels). The Son proclaims: "The Father and I are one" (John 10:30). The Spirit commands: "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them" (Acts 13:2). The three Selves are inextricably related to each other (and not self-enclosed) and their mutual relationships are usually described by reference to their "origin": the Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten from the Father and the Holy Spirit is neither unbegotten nor begotten but proceeds from the Father through the Son.

These relations of origin have no bearing either on priority in time or equality. All Three entirely, equally and eternally possess the divine being. But the Father gives all that he is to the Son, the Son receives all that he is from the Father and their love for each other "breathes" forth the Spirit. Thomas Weinandy observes, "A proper understanding of the Trinity can be obtained only if all three Persons, logically and ontologically, spring forth in one simultaneous, nonsequential, eternal act in which each Person of the Trinity subsistently defines, and equally is subsistently defined by, the other Persons. The Trinity is one simultaneous and harmonious act by which the Persons are who they are, and they are who they are only in the one act of being interrelated."{1}

Laurence Cantwell suggests another way of looking at the mystery: "The divine nature is possessed in three distinct ways. The same infinite power, knowledge and love, all the things we have to attribute to God when we think about him, are possessed equally and indivisibly from three distinct centers of freedom. They are possessed by the Father as sourceless source of self-giving and ultimate goal to which everything proceeds, by the Son as totally responsive recipient and counterpart of the Father, by the Holy Spirit as love given and received. The Father is personal because he is God in all his inviolability, hiddenness and spontaneity.... The Son is personal because he is God in all his radiance, manifestation and presence.... The Holy Spirit is personal because he is God in all his mutual possession, communication and gift."{2}

When you ask this question of any spiritual being, "Are you one being?" the question really is: "Is there one mind and will here?" When you ask this of God, the answer is yes; there is only one mind and will and therefore one God. This one Mind and Will are exercised by three selves, subjects, centers. We can say that each one of these "centers" or Persons is God because each has the mind and will that is God. So it is equally true to say that the Father is God or the Son is God or the Holy Spirit is God as to say there is a God. By God we mean the one infinite Mind and Will that is indwelt by Three Persons. And, as Weinandy puts it, "the three persons are the one nature of God. One does not have a 'nature' or 'substance' apart from or even distinct from the three persons, and thus there is neither a priority of person nor of substance because what the one God is a trinity of persons."{3}

We might well ask how this one and the same Mind and Will could be "possessed" by three Subjects. But there is a more fundamental question we should ask. How is it the case (as you know from your own experience) that there is such a thing as mind and will and why is it that each "instance" of mind and will is possessed by one—and only one—self? Where did mind and will and, most significant, self, come from? Is there a law that says that each mind and will can be "occupied" only by one self? We do not know about any such law. More important, we are puzzled that there is such a thing as self that has a mind and a will. When it comes to the infinite mind and will, there is no reason to assume that that Mind and Will must be "possessed" by a single Self. This is simply an anthropomorphic idea, the mistake of making God in the image of a human being. Also, the fulfillment of each human self comes in communion with other selves and so we wonder where this phenomenon of communion between persons, of selves inter-related with other selves, comes from. Likewise, how is it that two selves can bring into being a third self? We take these mysteries for granted but only because we have not given them a second thought—for that matter, we have not even recognized that they are mysteries!

The Trinity and everyday experience

All of this brings us to the second point. While the doctrine of the Trinity could only have been known from the direct revelation of God, it nevertheless "fits in" with all of our experience and makes sense especially of the greatest mysteries.

  • How is it that there is such a phenomenon as knowing, the capacity for understanding, pondering, seeing meaning?
  • How did willing, the power of intending, choosing, loving and giving of oneself arise?
  • How is it that there is such a thing as the self, the "I" that knows and loves and finds fulfillment in communion with other "I"s?
  • How is that a new "I" comes to be from the loving union of two other "I"s (a kind of loving that is also called "knowing" in the Bible)?
  • How is it that we have life, the dynamism that powers all other activities?

These five mysteries are simply inexplicable in themselves but make sense in the light of the doctrine of the Trinity. It is only through the Trinity that we can find coherent answers to these fundamental questions.

At the origin of all things, all phenomena, is God, the eternally existent Plenitude of all Perfections. It is well known that all human knowledge of God is analogical. When talking of God we extrapolate from our experience of the world since by the nature of the case his creation will in some fashion reflect him. We see likenesses between things in the world and God but also unlikenesses: there is resemblance but not identity. On the natural level, we learn of God's attributes by the process of negation and affirmation: God is good but not good simply in the way we are (or can be) good; his goodness infinitely surpasses human goodness.

Now the created world does not tell us anything about the inner being of God. Only the direct revelation of God can do this. Nevertheless, given that we have received such a revelation (see below) we consequently come to see that the world of our experience reflects God's inner being. In other words, the Trinity is neither alien to human experience nor discontinuous with our natural knowledge of God. It is, in fact, embedded in everything we know; implicit in being as a whole; all-pervasive.

The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that the most fundamental mysteries in our experience originate from and embody the most basic Truth about things. We know because God is Knowing, we love because Loving is the Life of God, we are selves with minds and wills who commune and reproduce because the infinite Mind and Will is a communion of interacting Selves Who eternally beget and receive and proceed.

Given the finitude of human intellect and imagination, even the divine revelation of God's being is unveiled in analogies. The three "centers" who know and love with the same infinite Mind and Will are presented as Father, Son/Word and Holy Spirit. Now God is a spirit with the activities essential to any spirit, knowing and willing. When I know I generate an intellectual image and when I exercise my will by loving, I leave my self to reach out to another. If the perfect knowing of the divine being is the perfect intellectual image of Itself, the Word that is generated or fathered, then the perfect loving between the Source (Father) and its Image (Son) is a perfect and total giving of Self which is thereby Itself a Person that is breathed-forth, the Spirit of the Father and the Son. God is an infinite-eternal Act of Love, an Act where the Ground, Fountainhead and Plenitude of all Perfections begets all that it is in an Other, thus becoming Father; and the Other receives all that it is from the Father, thus becoming Son; and the Love proceeding between Father and Son in the infinitude, intensity and intimacy of its Self-giving is itself a communication of the divine Nature such that it is a Someone, the Spirit.

This act of begetting and receiving and breathing-forth or spirating, of knowing and loving, has no beginning and no end. The Father always generates the Son. The Father and Son always breathe forth the Spirit. The Son spirates because he receives the power to spirate from the Father and thus the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. The "breathing-forth" of the Spirit is a single act of the will of Father and Son. And the Three Persons subsist in the same indivisible unity of being. To put it another way, the life of God is a life of infinite activity, the actualization of all possibilities, infinite knowing and willing. The infinite knowing is the generation of the Logos and the infinite willing is the spiration of Love. (The Spirit, by the way, is called the Holy Spirit because holiness is a product of the will and not the intellect. Said St. Bonaventure: "That Divine Person Who is the love of God is called not only the Spirit but the Holy Spirit.")

Essentially, the doctrine of the Trinity tells us that the mysteries of knowing and loving and reproducing that constitute human experience spring forth from and participate in the infinite-eternal knowing and loving of the divine Being. Every time we think and love, every time we bring a new person into being, we manifest, however imperfectly, the beginningless-endless act of knowing and loving, generating and spirating that is the Trinity. How mysterious it is that we can understand and see meaning, feel compassion and "fall" in love, unite ourselves with another to "create" a conjoint "copy" of our selves. Nothing in physics or biology, cosmology or neurology can describe, let alone explain, understanding and willing, concept-generation and idealistic self-sacrifice. How humans are able to generate concepts (a universal idea without a concrete object, e.g., the concept of intelligence) is a mystery for philosophers. Also, scientists have no idea how the phenomenon of reproduction that we take for granted in living beings originated. Even more puzzling, in this context, is the reproduction of persons found in human beings. The fruit of the love of man and woman is a person, a child that is a living embodiment of their love. Neither science nor philosophy can tell us how this is possible and why reality is structured this way (genetics simply tells us what codes and processes are involved in the system of transmitting traits but not how the system originated let alone how "persons" can come to be).

Now it should be obvious to us that the basic goods and values we recognize in this world could not originate in anything less than themselves. Thus consciousness, intellect, beauty, could not possibly have arisen purely and simply from particles and energy fields. Only a consciousness and an intelligence free of any limitation whatsoever could serve as an explanation for the existence of any consciousness and intelligence in this world. When it comes to love and the communion of persons that we experience in the world, it is just as clear that these exist only because there is loving and giving and receiving and communing at the very heart of reality.

The Trinity, then, is not a mystery that dropped out of anywhere. It is, rather, the Picture that connects for us all the disjointed dots, the great Theory of Everything that integrates all the mystifying data of our experience of the world and ourselves. It's not as if everything about us was normal and clear until we were asked to believe the paradox of the Holy Trinity. On the contrary, nothing seemed normal and clear until we received, accepted and grasped this revelation of the true nature of Reality. At the center of being, we now know, there is meaning and communion, knowing and loving, agent-hood and activity. And the entire dynamic of the universe is driven by the endless creativity, rationality and energy of the Triune Life.

The revelation of the Trinity

Why do we believe in the Trinity? Ultimately it can only be if we believe that this truth about God has been revealed to us by God.

The New Testament account of Jesus leads inevitably to the affirmation that he is divine and human. This faith in the divinity of Jesus is majestically presented in John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Gospel narratives go beyond the claim that Jesus was the Son of God. If you take the teachings of Jesus seriously, then we are compelled to also consider the Father he pointed to as the one who sent him. And the Holy Spirit who he said would continue his work once he left the world. In other words, the life and teaching of Jesus makes sense only in terms of a new doctrine of the Godhead. Clearly, he thought of the Father and the Spirit as divine ("God" and "Father" are used synonymously, the sin against the Holy Spirit is called blasphemy). It is surely significant also that both Father and Spirit are shown in a "joint appearance" with Jesus on at least two key occasions—his conception and baptism:

"The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Luke 1:31).

After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:16-7).

Later commentators have suggested that the Transfiguration is also a Trinitarian event with the cloud signifying the presence of the Spirit: "Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, 'This is my beloved Son. Listen to him— (Mark 9:7).

If the divinity of the Son emerges as the New Testament narratives unfold, the divinity of the Father is assumed from the start. The term "God" (ho theos) is, in fact, used synonymously with "Father." What is distinctive in the Gospels is the special relationship that Jesus affirmed between the Father and himself. In fact, to see him was to see the Father. All of Paul's epistles begin with an invocation of "God our Father."

The identity and activity of the Holy Spirit is amply laid out in the New Testament as well. After the conception of Jesus, the Spirit is active in the presentation of Jesus in the Temple speaking through Simeon. He appears like a dove at the baptism of Jesus and later leads Jesus into the desert. Jesus says that the Spirit will help the disciples when they are persecuted (Mark 13:9). In one of his most striking statements, he says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this world or the next (Matt. 12:31). In his final discourse, Jesus speaks at length about the Spirit, linking him to the work undertaken by the Father and his Son: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it" (John 14:16-7). This mysterious presence is "the Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything" (John 14:26). The Son is also involved in the sending of the Spirit: "When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me" (John 15:26). In the Acts of the Apostles, sometimes called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is shown as an active participant in the life of the Church starting with his fiery appearance at Pentecost. The Spirit is sometimes called the Spirit of the Father and at others the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9; 2 Cor. 3:17), signifying his relationship to both.

In his epistles, Paul explores the role of Father, Son and Spirit in both salvation and the lives of believers. A striking illustration of this is Gal. 4:4-7: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God." It is significant that the Spirit uses the Son's language of "Abba, Father." "The indwelling of the Spirit," writes Gerald O'Collins, "is the way that both the Father and the Son are present in the believer's life. The Son, who effected the redemption and secured sonship' for us, now indwells through the Spirit. The same verb is used for the Son and the Spirit being sent by the Father; this parallel language suggests that both the Son and the Spirit preexisted with the Father, from whom they were sent on two related missions."{4} This theme is evident again in Rom. 8:14-7: "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, 'Abba, Father!' The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him." Paul also gave us a classic Trinitarian formulation at the end of his second epistle to the Corinthians: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with you" (2 Cor. 13:13).

The Epistle to the Hebrews is noteworthy for its portrayal of the Three Persons. "By putting biblical texts into the mouths of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," writes O'Collins, "Hebrews vividly appropriates the OT scriptures to articulate faith in the tripersonal God."{5} Thus the Father is shown as saying: "You are my Son; today I have begotten you" and "I will be his Father and he will be my Son" (Heb. 1:5). The Son says, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'See, God, I have come to do your will, O God' (in the scroll of the book it is written of me)" (Neb. 10:5-7). "The holy Spirit says, 'Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, as on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors put me to the test, though they had seen my work for forty years," (Heb. 3:7-9).

By far the most important Trinitarian formula of Scripture is Jesus' final command to his apostles in the Gospel of Matthew. Here Jesus commands his apostles: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). Critics have said that this was not an actual utterance of Jesus but an addition reflecting first-century Church teaching. But this contention actually concedes the critical point that from its earliest days the Christian Church considered the Trinity as the foundation of its Proclamation and Mission. And such a foundation could hardly have been created from scratch without any warrant in the teaching of the Founder of the Church. This baptismal formula, in fact, became the starting point of doxologies and creeds and liturgies.

The Trinitarian revelation laid out in the New Testament texts and the faith of the early Church was the wellspring from which all future theses, formulations and dogmas flowed. O'Collins points out that certain biblical themes and texts were of particular importance for later Trinitarian doctrine: "Jesus' virginal conception and baptism, the triadic baptismal formula supplied by Matthew 28, the gift of the Spirit in John 19 and 20, John's prologue, various Christological hymns such as Phil. 2:6-11, and the Pentecost scene in Acts 2."{6}

The discovery of the Trinity

The "revelation" of the Trinity was followed by the "discovery" of the Trinity. This "discovery" took place in three stages: (1) the recognition of Father and Son; (2) the apprehension of Son and Spirit; and (3) the Great Synthesis. By talking of three stages of discovery, I do not wish to imply that the essential truth of the Trinity was a later-stage "construction" or evolutionary by-product. On the contrary, the truth of three "centers" in the one God was already present in the New Testament writings and alluded to in the Old Testament. It was implicitly accepted by all the Fathers. The word "Trinity" was in fact used in the second century (by Tertullian in the West and Theophilus of Antioch in the East). But although the essential truth was known and accepted from New Testament times, its systematic formulation was necessarily a progressive process, one which took centuries. This formulation had to be true to Christian experience and revelation. It could not be instantly generated because brand new tools of thought had to be developed to reflect an utterly new revelatory experience. The resources of the Greek and Latin languages, the concepts of Aristotle, Plato and other thinkers, were all pressed into service. But the resultant formulation and doctrinal structure would have been unrecognizable to prior users of Greek and Latin and to the ancient thinkers whose concepts were "baptized" and raised to new life.

In the first stage, the Church Fathers who lived and taught before and during the Council of Nicaea forcefully articulated the divinity of the Son and focused their attention primarily on Father and Son. In stage two, the post-Nicene Fathers upheld the divinity of the Holy Spirit and explored the implications of this doctrine for the Godhead in the so-called "Greek" and "Latin" theologies of Son and Spirit. In the third and final stage, Trinitarians from East and West mined the classical corpus that emerged from the crucible of the councils to disclose the underlying Logic of Love. It is this Great Synthesis that helps us to make sense of the Trinity as a doctrine of God.

The Great Synthesis is embodied in the works of Richard of St. Victor, St. Bonaventure, St. John of the Cross, and St. Maximilian Kolbe from the West and St. Gregory Palamas, Sergei Bulgakov, and Paul Evdokimov from the East. Historically, the Synthesis has parallels in the work of the Greek Fathers as well as in that of St. Augustine, the greatest of the Latin Fathers. The Synthesis is centered on the idea that the Love of God is the Life of God.

The major point made by Richard of St. Victor (d. I 173) is that the infinite perfection of God demands that the Godhead be a Trinity of Persons. He starts off with the affirmation that true love is not possible if it is not love directed to another, if it is not self-transcending and self-donating—and this is especially true of infinite love. God being the supreme and absolutely perfect Good must have true and supreme love. For his love to be perfect it must be directed to another of equal dignity, a divine person. Moreover, the fullness of happiness that God as God necessarily enjoys must come from a mutual love, a love that arises from giving and receiving. Thus the total self-donation that is fundamental to true love calls for at least two divine Persons in one God who are eternal and equal. Taking this train of thought one step further, Richard points out that two perfect lovers would want to have a common object of their love, a communication of their love for each other that is itself a person.

St. Bonaventure (c.1217-1274) starts with the insight that God as supreme Goodness is self-diffusing. God is self-sufficient but, because of his primacy of will, he is self-communicating. "The Good is said to be diffusive of itself. Therefore the Most High Good is most highly diffusive of itself," writes Bonaventure in his Journey of the Mind to God. "Therefore unless there be eternally in the Most High Good an actual and consubstantial production, and a hypostasis equally noble, as is one producing through the manner of generation and spiration—so that it be the eternal (production) of an eternally co-principating principle—so that it be beloved, co-beloved, begotten and spirated, that is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; it would never be the Most High Good, because it would not diffuse itself most highly."{7}

In this Logic of Love the Holy Spirit embodies the Love that is the Life of God. St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) points out: "And who is the Holy Spirit? The flowering of the love of the Father and the Son." Again, "The Father begets; the Son is begotten; the Spirit is the 'conception' that springs from their love." The Holy Spirit is "the Love of the Father and of the Son, the Love by which God loves himself, the very love of the Most Holy Trinity."{8}

This recognition of the blueprint of Love was echoed in the East. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359) said memorably: "The Spirit of the Word is like a love of the Father for the mysteriously begotten Word, and it is the same love that the beloved Word and Son of the Father has for the one who begot him. That love comes from the Father at the same time as it is with the Son and it naturally rests on the Son."{9} In the same vein, Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1944), a modern Orthodox thinker, writes: "If God in the Holy Trinity, is love, then the Holy Spirit is Love of that love."{10}

The Great Synthesis remains faithful to our pre-revelation intuitions and insights about God. So much so, Richard of St. Victor has even been accused of trying to "prove" the Trinity from reason (without recourse to revelation). Unquestionably the Trinity is not a doctrine you can "deduce" from our natural knowledge. But once we have been (supernaturally) shown the Big Picture, there is no reason why we cannot recognize how the (natural) pieces of the jigsaw fit together.

The Trinity is "the Big Picture"!

End notes

1 Thomas Weinandy in "Clarifying the filioque: The Catholic Orthodox dialogue," Communio 23, Summer 1996, 364.

2 Laurence Cantwell, The Theology of the Trinity (Notre Dame, Indiana: Fides, 1969), 86.

3 Thomas Weinandy, "The Trinity and Ecumenism," New Blackfriars, September 2002, 411.

4 Gerald O'Collins, The Tripersonal God (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999), 66-7.

5 Ibid., 77.

6 Ibid., 82.

7 St. Bonaventure, Chapter VI, "On the Sight of the Most Blessed Trinity in His Name, Which is the Good."

8 St. Maximilian Kolbe cited in H.M. Manteau-Bonamy, Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit (Libertyville, IL: Franciscan Mary-town Press, 1977), 3-4.

9 Gregory Palamas, Cap. 36 (PG 1150, 1144D-1145A), cited in Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Volume 3.

10 S. Bulgakov, Le Paraclet (Paris, 1946), 74, cited in Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Volume 3.


Mr. Roy Abraham Varghese is the author and editor of various books on the interface of science, philosophy and religion. His Cosmos, Bios, Theos ( 1992)was described as "the year's most intriguing book about God" by Time magazine. His Cosmic Beginning and Human Ends won the Templeton Book Prize. His next book, The Rendezvous of the Religions—A History of Salvation is being published by Paraclete Press, Orleans, Mass. His last article in HPR appeared in December 2007.

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