Monday, July 04, 2022

The issue of divine relations and the issue of being

Rather, the issue is whether the Son is also the ontological source of the Holy Spirit, along with the Father. [Marc A. Pugliese, "How Important is the Filique for Reformed Orthodoxy," WTJ 66 (2004): 159]

In the one being of God, the three persons subsists, in an eternal and unique relationship. If the three persons are all God, then obviously it would be troubling to state that the relation is ontological. This was one reason why John Calvin hold to Christ being autotheos or "God in Himself." That is precisely why one needs to be careful when talking about the relations between the persons of the one God. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the monarchy of the Father states that the Father is the source of the persons of the Son and the Spirit, not the one divine essence. The divine being can be said to be "transmitted" from the Father to the Son and the Spirit only in the sence of an eternal perichoresis, with the understanding that there was never a logical moment that the Son and Spirit have not the one divine being. The monarchy of the Father, in its orthodox sense, does not separate the one divine essence or make the divine essence properly belonging to one person who must then transmit the being to the other persons in order for them to be. The divine relations must therefore just be a matter of stating emphasis or priority or order (taxis).

It is therefore not helpful when words like "ontology" or "essence" or "being" keeps on being thrown around casually. Or even the newfound fascination with the word "thing." We need to be careful about the words we use, unless we want to slide into either modalism, subordinationism or tritheism. Ontology or essence belongs to ontology, and the ontology of God is His "what-ness." We need to limit the use of ontology to only ontology instead of trying to make everything about ontology. The "what-ness" question merely circumscribes the issue of divine relations, which must be limited to the issue of either emphasis, priority and/or order, unless one makes nonsense of the biblical truths that God is both one essence, and three persons. If one make the divine relations ontological, then one either separates the relations (tritheism), makes the relations one of no real distinction (modalism), or makes the relations one of substantial dependence (subordinationism).

The divine relations are linked to the essence in the sense that they state how the persons can be three in the one essence. Therefore, by making the category of "persons" separate from ontology, one is free to show the "three-neess" of God in the divine persons, while using the divine relations to link the persons to the category of essence. That it seems to me is the correct way to go, as opposed to the internet New Thomists who are busy collapsing their doctrine of God into modalism.

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