On The Divine Name in Trinity

hilaryby St. Hilary of Poitiers

From On the Trinity – Book II

Believers have always found their satisfaction in that Divine utterance, which our ears heard recited from the Gospel at the moment when that Power, which is its attestation, was bestowed upon us:

Go now and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I command you; and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

Matthew 28:19-20

What element in the mystery of man’s salvation is not included in those words? What is forgotten, what left in darkness? All is full, as from the Divine fulness; perfect, as from the Divine perfection. The passage contains the exact words to be used, the essential acts, the sequence of processes, an insight into the Divine nature. He bade them baptize

in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

that is with confession of the Creator and of the Only-begotten, and of the Gift.

For God the Father is One, from Whom are all things; and our Lord Jesus Christ the Only-begotten, through Whom are all things, is One; and the Spirit, God’s Gift to us, Who pervades all things, is also One. Thus all are ranged according to powers possessed and benefits conferred;—the One Power from Whom all, the One Offspring through Whom all, the One Gift Who gives us perfect hope. Nothing can be found lacking in that supreme Union which embraces, in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, infinity in the Eternal, His Likeness in His express Image, our enjoyment of Him in the Gift.

But the errors of heretics and blasphemers force us to deal with unlawful matters, to scale perilous heights, to speak unutterable words, to trespass on forbidden ground. Faith ought in silence to fulfil the commandments, worshipping the Father, reverencing with Him the Son, abounding in the Holy Spirit, but we must strain the poor resources of our language to express thoughts too great for words. The error of others compels us to err in daring to embody in human terms truths which ought to be hidden in the silent veneration of the heart.

For there have risen many who have given to the plain words of Holy Writ some arbitrary interpretation of their own, instead of its true and only sense, and this in defiance of the clear meaning of words. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; the guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text. Is not truth indestructible? When we hear the name Father, is not sonship involved in that Name? The Holy Spirit is mentioned by name; must He not exist?

We can no more separate fatherhood from the Father or sonship from the Son than we can deny the existence in the Holy Spirit of that gift which we receive. Yet men of distorted mind plunge the whole matter in doubt and difficulty, fatuously reversing the clear meaning of words, and depriving the Father of His fatherhood because they wish to strip the Son of His sonship. They take away the fatherhood by asserting that the Son is not a Son by nature; for a son is not of the nature of his father when begetter and begotten have not the same properties, and he is no son whose being is different from that of the father, and unlike it.

Yet in what sense is God a Father (as He is), if He have not begotten in His Son that same substance and nature which are His own?

Since, therefore, they cannot make any change in the facts recorded, they bring novel principles and theories of man’s device to bear upon them. Sabellius, for instance, makes the Son an extension of the Father, and the faith in this regard a matter of words rather than of reality, for he makes one and the same Person, Son to Himself and also Father. Hebion allows no beginning to the Son of God except from Mary, and represents Him not as first God and then man, but as first man then God; declares that the Virgin did not receive into herself One previously existent, Who had been in the beginning God the Word dwelling with God, but that through the agency of the Word she bore Flesh; the ‘Word’ meaning in his opinion not the nature of the pre-existent Only-begotten God, but only the sound of an uplifted voice. Similarly certain teachers of our present day assert that the Image and Wisdom and Power of God was produced out of nothing, and in time. They do this to save God, regarded as Father of the Son, from being lowered to the Son’s level.

They are fearful lest this birth of the Son from Him should deprive Him of His glory, and therefore come to God’s rescue by styling His Son a creature made out of nothing, in order that God may live on in solitary perfection without a Son born of Himself and partaking His nature. What wonder that their doctrine of the Holy Spirit should be different from ours, when they presume to subject the Giver of that Holy Spirit to creation, and change, and non-existence. Thus do they destroy the consistency and completeness of the mystery of the faith. They break up the absolute unity of God by assigning differences of nature where all is clearly common to Each; they deny the Father by robbing the Son of His true Sonship; they deny the Holy Spirit in their blindness to the facts that we possess Him and that Christ gave Him.

They betray ill-trained souls to ruin by their boast of the logical perfection of their doctrine; they deceive their hearers by emptying terms of their meaning, though the Names remain to witness to the truth. I pass over the pitfalls of other heresies, Valentinian, Marcionite, Manichee and the rest. From time to time they catch the attention of some foolish souls and prove fatal by the very infection of their contact; one plague as destructive as another when once the poison of their teaching has found its way into the hearer’s thoughts.




What We Are Looking For In The Old Testament


by Fr. John A. Peck

The Old Testament is 85%+ of the Bible. That’s a lot, in case you were wondering.

If you are going to take the Old Testament Challenge, which starts next Tuesday, Sept. 15, then in order to help you see things with the eye of the Church as we read it, I want to give you a few things to consider, and when I say ‘consider’ I mean specifically consider writing them down so you have them in front of you as you read.

Look for shadows and images of,

  • The Trinity – you might be surprised to know that there are only a few places we actually hear the voice of the Father. Genesis isn’t one of them.
  • The Christ – especially of two natures (fire and matter, for example), three days (always a sign), and of sacrifice.
  • The Church – the worshipping community of believers who fulfill the Lord’s covenant. Watch for contrasts between the elder and the younger, where the younger receives the inheritance. This is a symbol and type of the Church (younger) supplanting the Synagogue (elder) as the bearer of revelation.

These are the lenses through which the Church ‘sees’ the entire Bible, because through the revelation of Christ the Church sees the Bible, in three ways.

  • Trinitarian – pertaining to the Trinity, the source of all existence;
  • Christologically – pertaining to our Lord Jesus, the source of all revelation;
  • Eccesiologically – pertaining to the Church, the source of our adoption.

Keep an eye out for these. Call them out if you think you have one!



The Trinity: Scripture and the Greek Fathers

by Fr. John Behr

Some 30 years ago, Karl Rahner claimed that most Christians are “mere monotheists,” that if the doctrine of the Trinity proved to be false, the bulk of popular Christian literature, and the mindset it reflects, would not have to be changed.

Unfortunately, this is largely still true.

Defining the doctrine of the Trinity as a mystery which cannot be fathomed by unaided human reason invites a position such as Melanchthon’s:

“We adore the mysteries of the Godhead. That is better than to investigate them.”

But the danger of not reflecting carefully on what has been revealed, as it has been revealed, is that we remain blinded by our own false gods and idols, however theologically constructed.

So how can Christians believe in and worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and yet claim that there is only one God, not three? How can one reconcile monotheism with trinitarian faith?

My comments here follow the structure of revelation as presented in Scripture and reflected upon by the Greek Fathers of the fourth century, the age of trinitarian debates. To avoid the confusion into which explanations often fall, it is necessary to distinguish between: the one God; the one substance common to Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and the one-ness or unity of these Three.

The Father alone is the one true God. This keeps to the structure of the New Testament language about God, where with only a few exceptions, the world “God” (theos) with an article (and so being used, in Greek, as a proper noun) is only applied to the one whom Jesus calls Father, the God spoken of in the scriptures. This same fact is preserved in all ancient creeds, which begin: I believe in one God, the Father…

“For us there is one God, the Father… and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 8:6).

The proclamation of the divinity of Jesus Christ is made no so much by describing Him as “God” (theos used, in Greek, without an article is as a predicate, and so can be used of creatures; cf. John 10:34-35), but by recognizing Him as “Lord” (Kyrios).

Beside being a common title (“sir”), this word had come to be used, in speech, for the unpronounceable, divine, name of God Hiself, YHWH. When Paul states that God bestowed upon the crucified and risen Christ the

“name above ever name” (Phil 2:9),

this is an affirmation that this one is all that YHWH Himself is, without being YHWH. This is again affirmed in the creeds.

“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God… true God of true God.”

According to the Nicene creed, the Son is

“consubstantial with the Father.”

St Athanasius, the Father who did more than anyone else to forge Nicene orthodoxy, indicated that

“what is said of the Father is said in Scripture of the Son also, all but His being called Father” (On the Synods, 49).

It is important to note how respectful such theology is of the total otherness of God in comparison with creation: such doctrines are regulative of our theological language, not a reduction of God to a being alongside other beings. It is also important to note the essential asymmetry of the relation between the Father and the Son: the Son derives from the Father; He is, as the Nicene creed put it, “of the essence of the Father” – they do not both derive from one common source. This is what is usually referred to as the Monarchy of the Father.

St Athanasius also began to apply the same argument used for defending the divinity of the Son, to a defense of the divinity of the Holy Spirit: just as the Son Himself must be fully divine if He is to save us, for only God can save, so also must Holy Spirit be divine if He is to give life to those who lie in death. Again there is an asymmetry, one which also goes back to Scripture: we receive the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead as the Spirit of Christ, one which enables us to call on God as “Abba.” Though we receive the Spirit through Christ, the Spirit proceeds only from the Father, yet this already implies the existence of the Son, and therefore that the Spirit proceeds from the Father already in relation to the Son (see especially St Gregory of Nyssa, To Ablabius: That there are not Three Gods).

So there is one God and Father, one Lord Jesus Christ, and one Holy Spirit, three “persons” (hypostases) who are the same or one in essence (ousia); three persons equally God, possessing the same natural properties, yet really God, possessing the same natural properties, yet really distinct, known by their personal characteristics. Besides being one in essence, these three persons also exist in total one-ness or unity.

There are three characteristics ways in which this unity is described by the Greek Fathers. The first is in terms of communion:

“The unity [of the three] lies in the communion of the Godhead”

as St Basil the Great puts it (On the Holy Spirit 45). The emphasis here on communion acts as a safeguard against any tendency to see the three persons as simply different manifestations of the one nature; if they were simply different modes in which the one God appears, then such an act of communion would not be possible. The similar way of expressing the divine unity is in terms of “coinherence” (perichoresis): the Father, Son and Holy Spirit indwell in one another, totally transparent and interpenetrated by the other two. This idea clearly stems from Christ’s words in the Gospel of John:

“I am in the Father and the Father in me” (14:11).

Having the Father dwelling in HIm in this way, Christ reveals to us the Father, He is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15).

The third way in which the total unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is manifest is in their unity of work or activity. Unlike three human beings who, at best, can only cooperate, the activity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one. God works, according to the image of St Irenaeus, with His two Hands, the Son and the Spirit.

More importantly,

“the work of God,” according to St Irenaeus, “is the fashioning of man” into the image and likeness of God (Against the Heretics 5.15.2),

a work which embraces, inseparably, both creation and salvation, for it is only realized in and by the crucified and risen One: the will of the Father is effected by the Son in the Spirit.

Such, then, is how the Greek Fathers, following Scripture, maintained that there is but one God, whose Son and Spirit are equally God, in a unity of essence and of existence, without compromising the uniqueness of the one true God.

The question remains, of course, concerning the point of such reflection. There are two directions for answering the question. There are two directions for answering the question. Theological reflection is, to begin with, an attempt to answer the central question posed by Christ Himself:

“Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15).

Yet at the same time, it also indicates the destiny to which we are also called, the glorious destiny of those who suffer with Christ, who have been

“conformed to the image of His Son, the first-born, of many brethren” (Rom 8:29).

What Christ is as first-born, we too may enjoy, in Him, when we also enter into the communion of love:

“The glory which though hast given me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22).


The Trinity in the Writings of Ignatius of Antioch

It’s a bit anachronistic to speak of St. Ignatius of Antioch (died about 117 A.D.) and Trinitarian theology as the doctrine of the Trinity developed in the first centuries of Christianity and its associated terminology was finalized in the third and fourth centuries as a reflection of the realities it had experienced. J.N.D. Kelly explains that the monotheistic faith Christianity had inherited from Judaism had to be integrated with “the fresh data of the specifically Christian revelation. Reduced to their simplest, these were the convictions that God had made Himself known in the Person of Jesus, the Messiah, raising Him from the dead and offering salvation to men through Him, and that He had poured out His Holy Spirit on the Church” (Early Christian Doctrines, pp. 87-88). Kelly’s book is an excellent resource to see how the Church’s understanding of the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit developed in the early Church.

Fr. Edmund Fortman gives this analysis which shows the high view St. Ignatius had of the Son and Holy Spirit:

Ignatius delves more deeply into some matters than do the other Apostolic Fathers and adds his personal reflections but without developing any systematic theology.1

The core of his thought is the divine ‘economy’ in the universe. God wished to save the world and humanity from the despotism of the prince of this world. And so He ‘manifested Himself in Jesus Christ His Son, who is His Word proceeding from silence, and who in all things was pleasing to Him who sent Him’ (Magn. 8.2). ‘Our God, Jesus the Christ, was born of Mary . . . of the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit’ (Eph. 18.2). He ‘was truly crucified and died. . . and was truly raised from the dead when His Father raised Him’ (Trall. 9).

For Ignatius God is Father, and by ‘Father’ he means primarily ‘Father of Jesus Christ’ : ‘There is one God, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son’ (Magn. 8.2). Jesus is called ‘God’ 14 times (Eph. inscr. 1.1, 7.2, 15.3, 17.2, 18.2, 19.3; Trall. 7.1; Rom. inscr. 3.3, 6.3; Smyrn. 1.1; Pdyc. 8.3). He is the Father’s Word (Magn. 8.2), ‘the mind of the Father’ (Eph. 3.3), and ‘the mouth through which the Father truly spoke’ (Rom. 8.2). He is ‘His only Son’ (Rom. inscr.), ‘generate and ingenerate, God in man . . . son of Mary and Son of God . . . Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Eph. 7.2). He is the one ‘who is beyond time the Eternal the Invisible who became visible for our sake, the Impalpable, the Impassible who suffered for our sake’ (Polyc. 3.2).

It has been said that for Ignatius Jesus’ ‘divine Sonship dates from the incarnation,’ 2 and that he ‘seems rather to ascribe the divine sonship of Jesus to the fact that Mary conceived by the operation of the Holy Spirit.’ 3 If he did date Jesus’ sonship from the incarnation he did not thereby deny His pre-existence. For he declared very definitely that Jesus Christ ‘from eternity was with the Father and at last appeared to us’ (Magn. 6.1) and that He ‘came forth from one Father in whom He is and to whom He has returned’ (Magn. 7.2). But just how He was distinct from the Father, since both are God, Ignatius does not say. Perhaps he hints at an answer when he says that Christ is the Father’s ‘thought’ (Eph. 3.2).

While Ignatius concentrated most of his thought on Christ, he did not ignore the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was the principle of the Lord’s virginal conception (Eph. 18.2). Through the Holy Spirit Christ ‘confirmed . . . in stability the officers of the Church’ (Phil. inscr.). This Spirit spoke through Ignatius himself (Phil. 7.1). Ignatius does not cite the Matthean baptismal formula, but he does sometimes mention Father. Son, and Holy Spirit together. He urges the Magnesians to ‘be eager . . . to be confirmed in the commandments of our Lord and His apostles, so that “whatever you do may prosper” . . . in the Son and Father and Spirit’ (Magn. 13.2). And in one of his most famous passages he declares: ‘Like the stones of a temple, cut for a building of God the Father, you have been lifted up to the top by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the Cross, and the rope of the Holy Spirit’ (Eph. 9.1). Thus although there is nothing remotely resembling a doctrine of the Trinity in Ignatius, the triadic pattern of thought is there, and two of its members, the Father and Jesus Christ, are clearly and often designated as God.

It has been urged 4 that for Ignatius there is no Trinity before the birth of Jesus, but that before the birth there was only God and a pre-existent Christ, who is called either Logos or Holy Spirit. There is, however, no solid evidence that Ignatius either in intention or in words made any such identification either in his letter to the Smyrnaeans (inscr.) or in that to the Magnesians (13.1,2). On the contrary. when Ignatius writes that ‘our God, Jesus Christ, was born of Mary . . . and of the Holy Spirit’ (Eph. 18.2), he seems to indicate that before this birth both ‘our God Jesus Christ’ and the Holy Spirit pre-existed distinctly and that thus there was a Trinity before His birth.


1. Quasten, Patrology, 1 : 63-76; Lawson, A Theological and Historical Introduction to the Apostolic Fathers, pp. 101-152.
2. J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (New York and London. 1965), p. 92.
3. J. Tixeront, History of Dogmas (3 vols. St. Louis, 1910) 1 : 123.
4. Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, pp. 184, 191.

Taken from The Triune God: A Historical Doctrine of the Doctrine of the Trinity by Edmund J. Fortman, pp.  38-40.

HT: Orthocath


Sermon 77 – Third Sermon on Pentecost

by St. Leo the Great

Our father among the saints, Leo the Great was the bishop of Rome during difficult times. He was an eminent scholar of Scripture and rhetoric. During an invasion by Attila the Hun, St. Leo met him outside the gates of Rome. After some short words, to everyone’s surprise, Attila turned and left. Three years later, during an invasion by Genseric the Vandal, St. Leo’s intercession again saved the Eternal City from destruction.


I. The Holy Spirit’s work did not begin at Pentecost, but was continued because the Holy Trinity is One in action and in will.

Today’s festival, dearly-beloved, which is held in reverence by the whole world, has been hallowed by that advent of the Holy Spirit, which on the fiftieth day after the Lord’s Resurrection, descended on the Apostles and the multitude of believers , even as it was hoped. And there was this hope, because the Lord Jesus had promised that He should come, not then first to be the Indweller of the saints, but to kindle to a greater heat, and to fill with larger abundance the hearts that were dedicated to Him, increasing, not commencing His gifts, not fresh in operation because richer in bounty.

For the Majesty of the Holy Spirit is never separate from the Omnipotence of the Father and the Son, and whatever the Divine government accomplishes in the ordering of all things, proceeds from the Providence of the whole Trinity. Therein exists unity of mercy and loving-kindness, unity of judgment and justice: nor is there any division in action where there is no divergence of will. What, therefore, the Father enlightens, the Son enlightens, and the Holy Spirit enlightens: and while there is one Person of the Sent, another of the Sender, and another of the Promiser, both the Unity and the Trinity are at the same time revealed to us, so that the Essence which possesses equality and does not admit of solitariness is understood to belong to the same Substance but not the same Person. Continue reading Sermon 77 – Third Sermon on Pentecost