Parts of St. Thomas’ Discussion

Parts of St. Thomas’ Discussion About Whether There Is a Trinity of Persons in God, part one.

As Dionysus says, the good is communicative of itself. But God is the highest good, therefore he will be communicative in the highest possible way. But he does not communicate himself in the highest possible way to creatures, because they cannot receive his whole goodness. That the communication might be perfect, therefore, it is necessary that God communicate his whole goodness to another. This cannot happen through diversity of essence, therefore it is necessary that there be many distinctions in the unity of the divine essence.

On the Sentences

Book 1, Q.2, art. IV.

This argument, though compelling, is not the response to the question of whether there is a distinction of persons in God- which is much shorter:

There are in God a plurality of supposits or persons in a unity of essence. This must be conceded without any ambiguity- not because of any reasons set forth (which do not conclude with necessity), but because of the truth of the faith.

And so we believe in the Trinity when we have in some sense no reason to do so. So what do we make of the sed contra then, which seems to give three separate reasons for the why the there should be a some kind of plurality of persons in the divine essence? The arguments seem relatively straightforward:

1.) God cannot have “diversity of essence” (insert your favorite argument for the unity of God here- it is one of the most thoroughly established theological claims.)

2.) God is the highest good (again, almost axiomatic, and relatively easy to prove)

3.) Good is communicative of itself (this is probably the hardest proposition of the bunch to prove, but is still pretty much a Plato/ St. Thomas 101 proof. Good grief, the idea is in Plato’s Cave metaphor: Sun= good.)

4.) Creatures cannot receive all of God’s goodness, and so God can only partially communicate his goodness to them (and so if a higher kind of expressed goodness were possible, then God would have it. All one has to do then is show that some plurality of persons is possible in the divine essence. This is difficult, but within reach.)

And nevertheless, St. Thomas leaves no ambiguity about where he stands on the question of giving proofs for the Trinity:

Whoever, then, tries to prove the trinity of persons by natural reason, derogates from faith in two ways.

Firstly, as regards the dignity of faith itself, which consists in its being concerned with invisible things, that exceed human reason; wherefore the Apostle says that “faith is of things that appear not” (Heb. 11:1), and the same Apostle says also, “We speak wisdom among the perfect, but not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world; but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery which is hidden” (1 Cor. 2:6,7).

Secondly, as regards the utility of drawing others to the faith. For when anyone in the endeavor to prove the faith brings forward reasons which are not cogent, he falls under the ridicule of the unbelievers: since they suppose that we stand upon such reasons, and that we believe on such grounds.


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