Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 8)

Dear Eric,
I must say that there are a few things in your recent letter that disturb me about your understanding of God, such as your statement that "doing good" is rather vague in your mind, and that you don't think that God is required to do good in order to be God. I'm going to address the first point in this letter, and consider whether God must do good in my next letter.

First of all, I think you're confused about what I mean when I define love as "seeking the good of another." You're equating that with "doing good", which, it seems, you're defining as "doing nice things". That's not what I'm saying. I defined "good" above according to philosophical ideas. "Goodness" is to be understood, as I use it above, as the extent to which something conforms to the purpose and end for which it was created. A paintbrush is "good" to the extent that it applies paint to a canvass, or a wall, or whatnot. A "bad" paintbrush is one, then, that does not apply paint to something. There are obviously degrees of the goodness of a paintbrush, in how effective it is at applying paint. There are also, of course, degrees of suitability--I wouldn't use a roller-style brush for wall-painting to paint details in a portrait. It would be a "bad" paintbrush for portrait painting, even if, objectively, it was a good wall-painting brush.

When I say that love is defined as seeking the good of another, I mean good in the sense that true love always seeks to enable a person to fulfil the purpose and the end for which he is made. This doesn't always mean that we do nice things for that person. Sometimes, for a person to fulfil his God-given purpose, he needs a good swift kick in the ass. Ass-kickings aren't always nice, but they can be good for a person if it succeeds in giving him the needed motivation to do what he needs to do to be good--that is, to fulfil his purpose or achieve his ultimate end.

So it is with God's love for us. He isn't always doing nice things to or for us, but He is always doing things that are good for us.

Now, we can begin to see what constitutes our "good" when we look at how we were originally created--that is, at Adam and Eve in the Garden.

When we look at the end of Genesis 1, we see that, first and foremost, our purpose is to be the image of God. Thus, we are good insofar as we reflect God's image. The degree to which we fail to image God is the degree to which we are not good.

The first way Genesis reveals that we image God is in relationship. That is, God, immediately in the expression of creating us in His image, creates us as Male and Female (Gn 1:27). In Genesis 2, the alternative account of the creation, we see God creating Man first, and then saying "It is not good that the man should be alone" (v. 18). Thus, God creates Woman to be his companion. That is, if Man is good insofar as he is the Image of God, and it is not good for Man to be alone, then the conclusion is that Man does not properly image God when he is alone.

Now, Adam was on intimate terms with God Himself, and in that way was not alone. Further, he was given care of all the animals, and in that sense, also was not alone. Yet God still regarded Adam as being alone. Why? Because there was no other according to Adam's own kind. Adam's goodness, his imaging of God, is dependent on his being in relationship with another human being. More, it is through the life-giving relationship between a male and a female--Adam and Eve--in which their goodness is expressed in relationship to each other--it is expressed in each seeking the other's good in that love relationship--and it is expressed in being fruitful within that relationship.

Now, we could continue to examine Genesis 1 and 2 to find other points of purpose and ultimate ends which we as humans are created for, and thus are "good" when we live out, but that would get us way off track. I will highlight only one more--and that is that we are created to be in relationship with God Himself. None of us can be good if we are not in relationship with God. Now, I'm not advocating by saying this some sort of Calvinistic "total depravity", that human beings are thoroughly bad by nature. Rather, simply because we have been created by God we are good, inherently. However, the full consummation of that goodness is only realised when we are in relationship with God.

But let's back up a second. So far, we've seen from Genesis two points of what makes Man good. In fact, both of these points of goodness are branches from one tree, if you will. The "tree" is the Image of God. The first branch is relationship with other human beings, and the second is relationship with God Himself. (I put them in this order not because I think that relationships with others are more important than relationship with God, but because that's the order I laid them out above in this message. Please don't make more of it than it is.)

Now, of course, if we image God through relationship, then God, whom we image, must exist in relationship. As we've both agreed on, God doesn't change. Therefore, the relationship that God has must exist from all eternity. This is why the Doctrine of the Trinity is so crucial--because if God was not Trinity, then there would be no one for Him to be in relationship with. If God was simply solitary, He would be alone from all eternity in precisely the same manner in which He declared that it was not good for Adam to be.

In other words, again, if God was solitary, then He would lack something. He would have had to create us to have that lack, that need, fulfilled by us. But God, as we both agree, lacks nothing. He did not create us because He needed anything, but simply because He wanted to.

Thus, God cannot be solitary. He must have, within Himself, a relationship. Hence, we see that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are all the One God, but are themselves distinct persons, able to be in relationship with one another. Thus, the One God exists, from all eternity, as a family of Love. And it is that Love Relationship that is fruitful, and out of which springs all Creation--just as the relationship of Man and Woman in love was designed to image God by being fruitful through procreation.

As for God's love seeking the good of another, the Father seeks the good of the Son, the Son of the Father, and the Holy Spirit of each, and each of the Holy Spirit. But, of course, God is perfect, lacking nothing. The seeking of the good of the other is not meant to indicate that this good is lacking in God. Rather, God is the very source of Good. In seeking the good in the context of the Trinity, each member is entering deeper and deeper into the infinite love of the others. God is eternal union and love of the Three Persons of the Trinity. In the same way, we must ultimately seek our good in God, who is the source of all goodness. God's love for us is always engaged in seeking our good--namely, ultimately, intimate relationship with Him. Everything that God does in the world is designed to bring us into that relationship.

However, I should mention that one aspect of our imaging God is our freedom--our free will. God, who is an utterly free agent, made man to be free, albeit in a more limited and contingent way. God will never violate our freedom in order to make us good. If He did, we would be good in all other respects except for freedom, and since freedom is an essential attribute of our goodness, if God violated our free will to save us and bring us into right relationship with Him, we would still not be good, because we would not be free.

That's enough for now. As I said, in my next letter, I'll discuss whether God can do evil and still be God.

God bless

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 7)

The Love of God

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race
The saints’ and angels’ song.


Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Dear Eric,
You asked me to Google the words to this hymn, because it would speak to what you're saying. I love this hymn. And yes, we cannot fathom the depth of God's love for us, but we can know what that love is, even if we don't know its size. Moreover, it speaks precisely to what I have said, as it declares that God's love is shown through our redemption--that is, in seeking our Good by reconciling us to Him, our ultimate Good.

Earlier, I argued that God's Love necessitates His being Trinity, claiming that this same argument was made by the Early Church Fathers. To this, you ask simply, "What if they were wrong?"

If the Early Church Fathers were wrong, then Jesus either didn't mean what He said about the Church not defecting into error, or was powerless to keep His promise (cf. Matt 16:18). Then the Bible itself is wrong about the Church being the pillar and foundation of the Truth (1 Tim 3:15).

While the Trinity was indeed a new concept to the Early Church, the Spirit was then, as He is now, guiding the Church into all truth. He preserves the Church from erring when it makes official claims about doctrine and morals that are binding on all people. That's what the "keys" represent, biblically--the power to declare doctrines to be binding on people, necessary to be believed and followed. The fact that Jesus says that what is bound and loosed on earth is bound and loosed in heaven means that the Church cannot incorrectly bind falsehood on people. That doesn't mean that whatever the Church "makes up" is automatically true, in the sense that the Church has the authority to change reality on a whim. Rather, it means that the Church is protected by the Holy Spirit from binding error on people. This is the only interpretation of Matthew 16:19 that makes sense.

While privately, yes, the leaders of the Church could make mistakes, when as a whole the bishops of the Church, with the Pope (the bishop of Rome) as their head, "used the keys" to define doctrine, then the Holy Spirit did prevent them from making mistakes. Otherwise, the Church could not truly be called the pillar and foundation of truth.

You ask whether God might want to use this discussion to reveal the Trinity to the world. I would never be so presumptuous as to claim anything like that. Especially since all I am really saying is regurgitating what the Church has taught throughout the ages. The most I can and will ever hope for is to help someone to better understand what the Church has always taught since the beginning until now.

There's a big difference between explaining something so everyone can understand, and receiving new revelation about that thing, which is why I hope ardently for being able to explain it better, but outright reject the notion that God would specially reveal new truth to me.

I hope that makes a bit of sense to you.
God bless
on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 6)

Dear Eric,
You claim that you can see the Doctrine of the Trinity in Scripture, but you still can't cling to it, primarily because you haven't grasped what "purpose" the Three Persons of the Trinity will have when we are all in Heaven.

I still don't understand your question of purpose. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit do and will exist in Eternity simply because they exist. God does not change. Therefore, God cannot exist as Trinity now and not then. What the purpose of each will be when all of us are in Heaven, I have no idea. But the fact that we can't assign a purpose to the Three Persons of the Trinity does not mean that they will therefore cease to exist--or that they don't really exist now.

You state that you see the purpose for the Trinity is to show us who we are. I'm not sure what you mean, again. I don't particularly like talking about the "purpose" behind God, since that means that if this purpose is achieved somehow, then God is no longer necessary--or, on the other hand, that God is only necessary because He has a purpose. God is simply Necessary. He simply exists, and acts because He exists. There need not be any purpose for God for Him to exist.

You ask whether I've thought about whether in Heaven there will be three sections, each devoted to seeking one Person of the Trinity. I confess that I have not thought about that, because I'm not sure that that makes any sense. God is One. We do not and cannot really seek the Father without seeking the Son, etc. When we seek God, we seek all three together, because the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, while distinct Persons each, are all nevertheless the One God. There is distinction, but no division. Moreover, God is everywhere, so we cannot go to one "part" of heaven to seek the Father, but not the Son or the Spirit.

You claim again that you're not sold on the idea of three Gods, or even parts of God. Nor should you be sold on the idea of three Gods or of three parts of God. These are erroneous concepts, and not what the Trinity is. There is only One God, but in three Persons. The Persons are not thirds of God, but each one is entirely God, while remaining distinct from the other two Persons who are each entirely God.

You're right; when it comes right down to it, it doesn't make sense. Not when approached in a straight-on manner. When we talk about God, we can only understand what and who He is by saying what or who He isn't. That is why we say things like God is eternal. Eternal is a negative word, meaning "unending". It is a statement about what God isn't rather than what God is. But by understanding what God isn't, we have a better idea of what God is. Yet, God is greater than anything that we can conceive, and so we should never expect to have God all figured out.

We can demonstrate why errors about God aren't true--such as God being three different gods, or one solitary God, or divided up like a pie chart. While we can't accurately conceive of what God is, we can, by eliminating the alternatives of what God isn't, thus arrive at a better understanding, informed by His grace and our faith, about who He is. If we could perfectly understand God, it would simply be a sign that He is not actually God, but that we really made Him up.

You write that all the fullness of the Deity resides in Jesus (Colossians 2:9), and that if we remain in Jesus, we are promised eternal life, and therefore don't need to delve too deeply into the Trinitarian mystery to be saved. This is absolutely true. However, in failing to think through the vastness of the mystery of God whatsoever, we can open ourselves up to misconceptions and errors that could in the end lead us away from Jesus, or to a false understanding of Jesus--in other words, a false Jesus. This is why theology is important, and why God calls some people to be theologians. Not all people are called to this vocation, and those who aren't are called to have faith in the true teachings put forth by those who are. There is one body, and many gifts.

This, again, is why I disagree with the concept of Sola Scriptura. In the end, it makes all Christians responsible to operate in gifts that God may have never given them, or to function in vocations that God has not called them to. Christ gave some people in the Church the gift of apostleship, prophetic ministry, evangelisation, pastoral and teaching ministries, to bind all Christians together for service and to build up the Body of Christ. Each part of the body works according to its function, but we don't all have the same function (cf. Ephesians 4:11-16). We don't all have the function of having to study and interpret and puzzle through every aspect of the Bible and theology. Most people don't even have the time necessary to devote to this. Some don't have the intelligence to do so. Some don't have the education. Some can't even read. Some can't even get their hands on a Bible. That is why God gave us a Church, so that we can all make up the body, and fulfil our individual callings together.

God bless,

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 5)

Dear Eric,
In reply to my last letter, you ask,
"Is [seeking another's good] the ONLY expression [of love]?

Yes, I do believe so. Every expression of love can be summed up by this phrase. There is nothing loving that we can do for another person that is not for their good. If we do something harmful to another person, this is not love, but hate. If we do nothing at all for another person, this is not love, but indifference. The only other alternative is to do good for another person.

By Good, I mean that for which we are created and properly ordered. A "good" car is one that runs properly and gets the ideal gas mileage, etc. that it was designed to achieve. A car whose brakes are shot or whose tires are flat, etc. is not a good car.

Seeking another's good is not the same thing as simply doing nice things for them. Sometimes the things we (or God) must do for one's good do not seem nice, at least at the time, but they are designed to bring about a greater Good, a greater orientation and achievement of the purpose for which that person was ultimately created.

Obviously, the Ultimate Good is God Himself, and so our ultimate good is union with Him.

You say that you could agree with this entire argument, if seeking the good of another was all there was to love. I'm not sure what else there is to love, once one understands what is meant by "good".

In my last letter, I wrote,

God chose to create us, not because He needed to, but out of the infinite Love that He is, within Himself. He does not need us to love Him, nor does He need us in order for Him to be Love, because all the love He needs, all the Love that He is, is summed up within Himself--in the Three Persons of the Trinity. Everything else is simply an overflow of that great love, finding its expression in creation, redemption, and relationship with Him.
I italicised the pertinent portions, because you quoted this paragraph back to me, and stated that you disagreed with it because I am "somewhat mandating that God needs to create us", as you put it.

Eric, forgive me for saying so, because this might sound harsh--but I'm not sure how else to make myself clear. You're disagreeing with me above because you seem to think that I just said the exact opposite of what I actually did say. I said, paraphrasing, that God doesn't need us, because He is perfect and unchanging. Thus His love mandates that He is Trinity, so that His perfect Love would be unchanging and not need anyone or anything to complete it.

You object to this by saying that God doesn't need anything, because He is perfect, and that somehow, in saying just that very same thing, I said that God does need something.

So, my frustration lies here: First, you seem unable to define or understand the definition of Love. Second, you seem unable to define or understand the definition of Good. Third, you completely misunderstand what I've just stated in plain English, to mean the utter and exact opposite of what I just said. After doing all of this, you claim that you disagree with me. In other words, you claim that I am wrong.

If you cannot understand these basic philosophical concepts, nor understand what I write to you, being from the same or at least a similar culture to you, speaking the same (though spelled slightly differently) language as you, how can I expect you to properly interpret the Bible, which was originally written in two ancient languages between 3500 and 1900 years ago, in entirely different cultures? How can, in light of this, you absolutely make the claim that I am wrong, and you are right, if you cannot even understand what I have said? This is why discussing theology with you has been so frustrating.

Our conversation so far, I think, has been going nicely here. But please, that can only continue if you take the time to read and understand my comments.

May the Spirit of Understanding guide our minds and hearts to the Truth.

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 4)

Just for the record, I edited the introduction to the first post of this series to address Eric's concerns that I had misrepresented his theological position, which he took issue with yesterday. I'm mentioning it here so that you, dear reader, can go back and read the edit so that I may fairly represent him, and no unfair prejudices can be levelled toward him. God bless.

Dear Eric,
I'm afraid there seems to be some misunderstanding between us, with regard to the definition of "Love" that I have used thus far. I never said that God is Love because He does good for us. He does good for us as an expression of His love for us.

But more specifically, I never said that God is Love because He seeks our good. I defined Love as seeking the good of another. That "other" does not have to be humanity--in fact, it could not be, until God created humanity. My point is, seeking another's good is what Love is. God is Love and can only be Love in an eternal, unchanging sense, because God is eternal and unchanging. And God can only be Love in such an eternal and unchanging sense, if the Trinity is true--that the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, and each love the Spirit and the Spirit loves each. At this point, it has nothing to do with us, or God's action towards us. At this point, conceptually, we haven't even been created yet.

God chose to create us, not because He needed to, but out of the infinite Love that He is, within Himself. He does not need us to love Him, nor does He need us in order for Him to be Love, because all the love He needs, all the Love that He is, is summed up within Himself--in the Three Persons of the Trinity. Everything else is simply an overflow of that great love, finding its expression in creation, redemption, and relationship with Him.

Obviously, my efforts to explain God to you (or to anyone) will be incomplete. Now we see through a mirror darkly--then, face to face. But what we know now we can know with certainty.

And that is, that what we can agree on--God being Love--necessitates the Trinity. Otherwise the alternatives can only be that God is not Love, or that God changes. This is the point, the thrust, of my argument--the same argument put forth since the Early Church first began pondering the issue.

May God demonstrate His love for you,

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 3)

Dear Eric,
After my last letter to you, where I rebuked you for dismissing an important part of my argument for the Trinity, you replied by apologising for having offended me. I just want to assure you that you haven't offended me; I merely wanted to point out that dismissing some point in your opponent's argument is rather frustrating. People do it to me all the time, so I see how it almost always leads to miscommunication, since the dismissed portion is almost always essential to the argument.

Thank you for taking the time to ask for clarification--I appreciate it, and can attest that you are seeking the truth, as evidenced by this behaviour. I too seek only the truth, and to share with others the truth that I have found.

Now, as to your other comments, you state outright that you disagree with my definition of love, but you supply no other alternative definition except to say "GOD IS LOVE." Yes, God is love, but that does nothing to define what Love is, so simply stating that you disagree with the definition is rather unhelpful. My whole point is that God is Love, and that Love is by nature the seeking of the good of another. Thus God, who is Love, is always by definition performing the Act of Love. Hence, St. Thomas Aquinas writes in his Summa Theologica, that God is pure act. He is never passive. He is always loving because He is Love. But before Creation, there was no one to love, and thus God could not have been acting in Love (and thus, passive, which is a change--and God does not change). That is, before creation, God could not be acting in Love, unless God is triune, and acting in Love within Himself, through the Love of the Father for the Son, the Son for the Father, each for the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit for each. Thus God exists, as Love, in one unending Act of Love, in the Trinity.

Therefore, simply stating that God is love, and following up by quoting 1 John, that love is of God and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God, does not negate my statements. I wholeheartedly agree with them, because they were my starting point. As such, I'm sad to say that you haven't contributed to furthering the conversation at this point.

In hope,

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 2)

Dear Eric,
Thanks for your response, and your brief critique of my article. You state that certain of my arguments were weak, particularly about how God being love means that He needs a beloved, and thus cannot be solitary from all eternity.

In my last letter, I wrote,

The point of my article was that God, who does not change, is Love. Yet, if that's the case, the love requires a beloved. If God is solitary, then there is no one to love, and thus, God cannot be love. Either, then, God created us to fill His eternal need for love (which makes God dependent on us, which is impossible), or God did not become love until He created us (which means He changed, which is impossible).
You reply that you don't understand why love needs someone to love, and thus dismissed this argument altogether, trying to make a comparison by asking whether a single person is therefore incapable of love. Hopefully I can elaborate on why Love requires a Beloved.

Love by definition is the act of seeking the Good of the other. A single person can love because even if he is not in a romantic relationship with another person, there are other people whose good he can seek.

The difference, when it comes to God, is that before He created the heavens and the earth, there was no one else. He could not seek the good of another, before there was another whose good He could seek. That is, if God was a solitary being. God, however, is Trinity--three consubstantial Persons together as One God. The Father can love and seek the good of the Son, and vice versa, and both can love and seek the good of the Spirit, and vice versa.

I just wanted to comment on one more thing you said. "[Y]ou did not develop this claim it but don't explain it, that's why I dismissed it."

I didn't develop it more in the article, because honestly, I thought it was self-explanatory. In the same way I suppose you thought your questions [in previous conversations that we've had] were self-explanatory, and couldn't understand why I needed them explained. However, rather than dismissing your questions, I asked for clarification. I think that much of our conversations up to this point could have been better resolved if you had asked for clarification rather than simply dismissing points that I'd left "undeveloped". I don't develop all my points in one post because doing so would require a book-length of writing. As it is, people say my posts are too long to bother reading through as it is. But what I say is important to my points, and so I ask that if you're tempted to dismiss something as irrelevant, please don't, because it's often, to my mind, the crux upon which my argument hangs--as in the case of God being unchanging Love.

God bless

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Trinity: Letters to Eric (Part 1)

Recently on Facebook, I'd had the "pleasure" of engaging a few anti-Catholic Protestants on a particular Christian group. One of them, after a while, decided to post a thread about what all Christians must believe in order to be Christian. He produced a list of four points:

1) God became incarnate (flesh) in the man Jesus.
2) Christ atoned (paid for) man's sin through His death on the cross.
3) Christ rose in bodily form from the grave, conquering death and proving He is God.
4) The Bible is the inspired, authoritative Word of God.
I responded by saying that I agree quite readily with this list (which, of course, means that contrary to his and other people's assertions, the Catholic Church must be Christian!), but I mentioned that there seemed to be a few essential points missing--namely, for starters, the Doctrine of the Trinity. The person who posted this discussion, Eric, who claims to be a pastor, disagreed that the Trinity was a necessary doctrine, and furthermore exhibited a rather poor understanding of the Doctrine, espousing a rather Modalistic view of God (that God represented Himself variously as Father, Son, or Spirit). I directed him to my recent article on the Trinity, and we began a private conversation via Facebook about it. I asked whether I could republish the conversation here, since I had put a good deal of work into replying to him, and because it was directly related to the aforementioned article, but he declined letting me use his words directly. Hence, I will post my side of the conversation in a similar format to the series, "Catholicism: Letters to Daniel".

This series is especially timely since Pentecost has just passed, and Trinity Sunday is next Sunday. After this series, I plan to start a series on the Eucharist, beginning on the Feast of Corpus Christi. God bless.

EDIT: Eric took some offense to my characterising him as a Modalist. Apparently, it turns out, he does believe in the Trinity as espoused by traditional, orthodox Christianity. According to him:
I believe in the Trinity as has been taught to me. There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, undivided in essence and co-equal, in power and glory.
Apparently, our entire discussion was his attempt to model a "Christian" who didn't believe in the Trinity, and thereby prove his point that one doesn't have to believe in the Trinity to be a Christian. He seems here, nevertheless, to be a bit confused. A Christian is one who adheres to Christianity, which fundamental tenet is the Trinity. A religious tradition which denies the Trinity is not Christian, and adherents to such a tradition themselves are therefore not Christians. This, of course, is a different question than whether a person who does not believe in the Trinity (without wilfully rejecting It) can be saved. Unfortunately, due to the foundational misunderstanding in our dialogue, I've come to feel that it's been rather a waste of time. Hopefully that time can be redeemed by posting the exchange here, and that someone might thereby benefit from it.

Dear Eric,
Thank you for taking the time to dialogue with me about this difficult yet important topic, and for visiting my blog and reading my article, On the Holy Trinity. I appreciate most the fact that we can conduct this conversation without the inflammatory rhetoric that has accompanied our discussions in the past, and hope we can maintain a charitable and academic tone throughout.

I quite agree with you that the Trinity is a difficult and mysterious concept, which is why the Muslims with whom you have talked were obviously put off by it. However, the mathematical formulation you propose, "1+1+1=1", is not an accurate formulation of the Trinity, which of course is why it breaks down. I'm not sure mathematics quite covers the Infinite God. As to whether the different ancient heresies all said the same thing as orthodox Christianity, but with different emphases, I would contend that you haven't looked at them nearly closely enough, if you arrive at that simplistic conclusion. The fact is, the heresies said similar-sounding things, but with radically different concepts behind their statements, that were recognised as leading to radically different and contradictory conclusions. As for your particular questions, I confess that they would never have occurred to me, so allow me to muddle through them as I answer you.

You ask what the purpose of the Son and the Spirit will be in Heaven--claiming that the Son's purpose was to reveal the Father and to save us, and that the Spirit's function is to sanctify and empower us. What then will they do in Heaven, when we are saved and sanctified?

I think the difficulty with your questions arise from an utterly utilitarian concept of the Three Persons of the Trinity. The Son and the Spirit do not exist only to fulfil a particular function, such as redemption and sanctification. This is why I reject outright such reformulations of the Trinity that I've heard, like "Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier" instead of Father, Son, and Spirit.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have existed together as the One God from all eternity, before there was a world with fallen people in need of redemption and sanctification. As such, they will continue to exist together as the One God after the world ends and we are united with Him in Heaven.

God does not change, as St. James tells us (Jas 1:17). There was never a time when the Father was not the Father, the Son, not the Son, and the Holy Spirit not the perfect expression of their love for each other.

The "purpose" of Jesus--that is, of the Son of God becoming incarnate, was to save us and restore us to proper relationship with the Father, but God the Son did not begin to exist at the conception of Jesus.

The point of my article was that God, who does not change, is Love. Yet, if that's the case, the love requires a beloved. If God is solitary, then there is no one to love, and thus, God cannot be love. Either, then, God created us to fill His eternal need for love (which makes God dependent on us, which is impossible), or God did not become love until He created us (which means He changed, which is impossible).

Thus, the "purpose" of the Son and the Spirit is that they make God a community of Love entire within Himself. Thus, God is Love without change, without dependence on us. This will continue after the world ends, when we are caught up into His great, infinite overflow of love. But the Trinity is essential to Who God Is. It will not cease to be Who God Is simply because the Son and the Spirit are not "needed".

I hope that helps. If not, please let me know, and we can continue this very pleasant discussion.

God bless

(Category: Theology Proper: The Holy Trinity.)