Essay: Holy Trinity Doctrine Basil's Argumentation

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[. . .] Basil's opponents assert. Numbers deal with quantity, not with essence. One may use numbers to weigh gold or tin. Numbers are practical tools, but they deal with quantity and never with the essence of a thing. To suppose a thing's essence could be modified by applying higher or lower numbers to it, or by placing it in a different order, is patently absurd. Therefore, Father, Son and Holy Spirit possess one divine nature, not three varying natures (Basil 71).

Regarding the Holy Trinity, one may count but never add. In this context Christians do not say, "one, two, three," or "first, second, third." God says (Isa. 44:6), "thus says the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God." Christians have never heard of a second God. Christians confess the uniqueness of the three persons, but worship God from God, maintaining the unity of the Monarchy. Divine knowledge is not divided. The power is neither divided nor the glory separated. Christians give glory, not glories, to God. The Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son. What the one is, so is the other. The persons are unique, but remain one since they share a common nature. The Holy Spirit is one, as is the Father and the Son, since He is joined to the Father through the Son, completing the all-praised and blessed Trinity (Basil 71).

As is the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is described in the singular, never ranked with the plurality of creation. Since reason demands the distinction of the singular from the plural, the Holy Spirit cannot have a created nature. He is united to the Father and the Son as unit dwells with unit. Since the divine nature is not composed of parts, the unity of the persons is achieved by partaking of the whole. The persons are distinct and always united through sharing one divine essence.

Acknowledging the one divine essence uniting the Holy Trinity avoids the error of polytheism. This is suggested by the three essences, or degrees of essence, that derives from any natural subordination of one divine person to the other (Basil 72). St. Basil affirms the uniqueness of each divine person. The three persons in the trinity are one essence but, distinct in their eternal relations of origin (Basil 72). These are as follows: the Father is unoriginate, the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit comes from the Father. There is no confusion of persons here as, for example, three Unoriginate Ones. The Holy Spirit comes from the Father and is not begotten like the Son. Of course, the reverse is logically implied and applies as well (Basil 73). So there is one God, one divine essence, in three distinct and eternal persons.

It is essential to understand that these relations of origin are eternal, and thus outside of time and creation. Hence they are not derived from divine cooperation in the creation and redemption (Basil 71). Because these relationships are eternal and not temporal, there are no temporal gaps between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. St. Basil expresses this with extraordinary clarity when speaking of the begetting of the Son from the Father. In no way is the Son ranked after the Father, in time, rank, or dignity. The Son cannot be younger than the Father. One cannot, in fact, conceive of one without the other. The supreme eminence of the Father is inconceivable (Basil 75).

Conclusion

Thought and reflection are utterly incapable to get across the begetting of the Lord. As the evangelist John says in John 1:1, "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Thought cannot reach beyond that "was," nor imagination beyond that "beginning." Thus, true religion teaches us to think of the Father with the Son (Basil 30) Although St. Basil does not make it explicit in this treatise, the progression of the Holy Spirit from the Father is also eternal. As a result, the three persons of the Holy Trinity have never been without each other since temporal succession does not apply… [END OF PREVIEW]

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