A Simple God – Part 3

The last blog looked at the design of the Temple.  This blog will look at the design of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Man Designed the Trinity

The concept of the Trinity primarily evolved over the course of 1,000 years, from 200 A.D. to 1,200 A.D.  As evidence that the Catholic Church has not always believed the Trinity, the doctrine of Callixtus I, the Bishop of Rome (i.e., Pope) between 217 – 222 A.D. and a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, is summarized as follows:

“For the Father, who subsisted in the Son Himself, after He had taken unto Himself our flesh, raised it to the nature of Deity, by bringing it into union with Himself, and made it one; so that Father and Son must be styled one God, and that this Person being one, cannot be two.” ~ Hippolytus, the Refutation of all Heresies: Chapter XXIII

While a familiar phrase to describe the Trinity is “God in Three Persons”, Callixtus I declared that God is one Person, not more.  The origins of the phrase “God in three persons” instead traces back to a man named Valentinus, who was recognized as a heretic by the early church fathers.

“Valentinus, the leader of a sect, was the first to devise…the notion of three subsistent entities and three persons – father, son, and holy spirit.” ~ Marcellus of Ancyra, On the Holy Church, 9

Callixtus I, by Richard de Montbaston

According to the Online Catholic Encyclopedia, www.newadvent.org, the Latin word for person (“persona”) was originally used to denote a mask worn by an actor.    This article then uses the words of Boethius (480 – 524 A.D.) and St. Tomas of Aquinas (1225 – 1274 A.D) to explain how the Latin language evolved so that the word ‘persona’ did not refer to a mask worn by an actor at the time of the First Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D., but instead meant an individual.  It was this Council that officially endorsed the doctrine of the Trinity.

Early Christians who did not follow the doctrine of the Trinity are often referred to as ‘Modalists’ by Trinitarians.  NewAdvent.org describes ‘Modalists’ as those who “exaggerated the oneness of the Father and the Son so as to make them but one Person.”  However, the problem with the use of the word “person” is that its Latin meaning changed drastically over the course of history, as explained above.  Actually, while the English definition of the word ‘person’ relates to a physical individual, the English definition of the word “persona” still relates to a character or role in a literary work.  The reason for the lengthy definition of the word ‘Person’ on NewAdvent.org is critical, because if ‘persona’ had meant a mask worn by an actor in the year 381 A.D., the members of this council would have been Modalist rather than Trinitarian.

The New Advent article also states that Boethius description of the word “can hardly be considered a satisfactory one…[as it] can be applied to the rational soul of man, and also the human nature of Christ.”   In other words, using Boethius definition of the word “Person” may lead you to a doctrine such as I have been describing in this series of blogs.

Callixtus I doctrine was further recorded as follows:

“And Callistus…acknowledges that there is one Father and God, viz., the Creator of the universe, and that this (God) is spoken of, and called by the name of Son, yet that in substance He is one Spirit. For Spirit, as the Deity, is, he says, not any being different from the Logos, or the Logos from the Deity; therefore this one person, (according to Callistus,) is divided nominally, but substantially not so.” ~ Hippolytus, the Refutation of all Heresies: Chapter XXIII

Logos is Greek for “Word” (see John 1 for more on this topic).  When Callixtus I describes the Spirit as “not any being different from the Logos” he is saying that the Spirit and the Logos are the same being.

By this definition Callixtus I was an unorthodox Modalist, saying “this Person” in reference to the Father and Son, while a man recognized by the early church fathers as a heretic (Valentinus) might now be considered orthodox in his understanding of the Godhead.  Based on Colossians 2:9, “God in one person” is a more fitting description of Jesus Christ, the temple of God.

The next blog will talk about why the average Christian may not be as Orthodox as the clergy.

This entry was posted in Godhead. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.