Friday, February 01, 2008

Apparent Contradiction in the Trinitarian Faith

Share/Bookmark The following is quoted from the blog called "Three Anachronisms":

"Disproof of Catholic doctrine?

No, I'm not going Protestant. :P I simply thought of this last night and can't get it out of my mind. I got this while reading Surprised by Joy, by C. S. Lewis, interestingly enough.

So, Jesus is fully human and fully divine, i.e. he's a divine person with both human and divine natures. Ok, got that. Now the question. If he has divine nature (Creator) and human nature (created) wouldn't he, in a sense, have to have created himself? And if so, isn't that a contradiction (as one cannot both be creator and created at the same time). The answer to the question that arrises immediately is that he was God before he was man, but God is above time and thus that is irrelevant. I suppose that since he created his human nature and not his own human person that he wouldn't have created himself, but rather just his nature...but that to me does not make much sense. I suppose also that some might think that the person of the Father was the creator, and not the Son, but John 1:3 "All things were made by him [the Word i.e. Jesus]: and without him was made nothing that was made." All persons of the Trinity were directly involved in all the steps of salvation, creation, redemption, and sanctification.

I suppose I may have disproved it, but I'm altogether not sure enough. If any of you would like to help, please do!
posted by Immortal Philosopher at Thursday, January 31, 2008 "

Dear Ambrose,

A few points:

1) It is true that the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity do operate together when they operate ad extra through their Divine Nature. Therefore, the acts of creation and conservation of the universe, the general and specific motions of Divine Providence, etc., are caused ad extra by all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. (NB.: This is not true of ad intra operations; and it is not true when the Second Person operates through his Human Nature only.)

2) The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity was caused ad extra by the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, acting together. That is, they (together) created the Human Nature--both body and soul--inside the womb of the Blessed Virgin AND they (also together) caused this nature to be hypostatically united to the Second Person. (NB.: These two events happened simultaneously.)

3) Therefore, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity did not create Himself. Rather, the Second Person created his Human Nature only and caused it to be hypostatically united to Himself.

4) Here is the the battle-song of the Trinitarian faith, the "Athanasian Creed" (aka, Quicumque vult), one of the Four Official Creeds of the Church, which is traditionally recited during Matins of Sundays within Trinitytide, and which marvelously summarizes our Faith in the Trinity and in the Hypostatic Union:
Whoever wishes to be saved must before all else adhere to the Catholic Faith. He must preserve this Faith whole and untarnished; otherwise he will most certainly perish forever.

Now this is the Catholic Faith: that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity; neither confusing the persons nor distinguishing the nature. The Person of the Father is distinct; the Person of the Son is distinct; the Person of the Holy Spirit is distinct. Yet the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit possess one Godhead, equal glory, and coeternal majesty.

As the Father is, so is the Son, so is the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is infinite, the Son is infinite, the Holy Spirit is infinite. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal. Nevertheless, they are not three eternals, but one Eternal. Even as they are not three uncreateds, or three infinites, but one Uncreated, and one Infinite. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Spirit is almighty. And yet they are not three almighties, but one Almighty. So also the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but only one God. So too the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord. And still there are not three Lords, but only one Lord. For just as we are compelled by Christian truth to profess that each Person is individually God, so also are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to hold there are three Gods or Lords.

The Father was made by no one, being neither created nor begotten. The Son is from the Father alone, though not created or made, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son, though neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding. Consequently, there is one Father, not Three Fathers; there is one Son, not three Sons; there is one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. Furthermore, in this Trinity there is no “before” or “after,” no “greater” or “less”; for all three Persons are co-eternal and co-equal. In every respect, therefore, as has already been stated, Unity must be worshipped in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.

This is what everyone who wishes to be saved must hold regarding the Blessed Trinity. But for his eternal salvation, he must also believe according to the true Faith in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now the true Faith requires us to believe and acknowledge that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and Man. He is God, begotten of the substance of the Father before the world began; He is Man, born in the world of the substance of His Mother. Perfect God, perfect Man, a substance composed of a rational soul and a human body. Equal to the Father in divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity. And although He is God and man, still He is only one Christ, not two. One, not by any turning of the divinity into flesh, but by the taking up of humanity into God. One only, not by any confusion of substance, but by the unity of His Person. For just as the rational soul and the body form one man, so God and Man form one Christ.

He suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father all-powerful, and whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. At His coming, all men must rise with their bodies and must give an account of their own deeds. And those who have done good shall go into eternal life, while those who have done evil shall go into eternal fire.

This is the Catholic Faith, and anyone who does not believe it fully and firmly cannot be saved.
5) Ergo, there is no contradiction in the truths that God revealed. If you ever find a contradiction within the Truths revealed by God, that should be an indication, not of any deficiencies in the Revealed Truth, but of the deficiencies in your own reasoning. Here's what Holy Mother the Church teaches infallibly on this subject:

"[A]lthough faith is above reason, nevertheless, between faith and reason no true dissension can ever exist, since the same God, who reveals mysteries and infuses faith, has bestowed on the human soul the light of reason; moreover, God cannot deny Himself, nor ever contradict truth with truth. But, a vain appearance of such a contradiction arises chiefly from this, that either the dogmas of faith have not been understood and interpreted according to the mind of the Church, or deceitful opinions are considered as the determinations of reason. Therefore, "every assertion contrary to the truth illuminated by faith, we define to be altogether false" [Lateran Council V, see Denzinger n. 738 ]." (Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Denzinger n. 1797.)
6) I suggest you take a look at one of the traditional manuals of scholastic Theology that go into these issues, the most basic, popular, and widely-circulated in the English-speaking world being Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (reprint availabe through TAN Books). (Another popular one in English is the two-volume set by Adolphe Tanquerey, Manual of Dogmatic Theology; it is out of print, but if budget is not a problem you can easily buy a used copy off the internet.) Ott is by no means the best--it sometimes errs on the finer points due to its overly-simplistic approach--but it is a good starting point and it is very-readily available. I read it when I was in my junior year in high school and, through it, I discovered my vocation to study theology (and, therefore, philosophy). I hope you enjoy it as well.

1 comment:

Ambrose said...

Mr. R,

Thanks for answering the question!

You're right, if an apparent contradiction is found one should not immediately disbelieve the faith, but instead lay the blame on his insufficient reason. I knew that, and hence I didn't become an atheist when I came across this. ;)

I know I should have a better background in philosophy and logic before I do this kind of stuff, but I can't help it! The mysteries of Catholic doctrine are too intriguing.

He may also be winking because I'm in that philosophy curriculum...