In This Chapter

Seeking Clarity

Authored by: Karen Kilby

The Routledge Companion to the Practice of Christian Theology

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415617369
eBook ISBN: 9781315724799
Adobe ISBN: 9781317532026


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Readers of Augustine’s De Trinitate usually come to realize that the doctrine of the Trinity is more confusing than ever they had imagined. They realize this, not because Augustine presents them with an especially clever or convoluted explanation of how to understand three-and-oneness or of the deep meanings of technical Trinitarian terms: rather, it is because Augustine is so very persistent in returning time after time to how confused he himself is – so persistent in raising again and again questions which he cannot, or cannot immediately, answer. Augustine, the reader quickly discovers, has thought of more difficulties with the doctrine of the Trinity than any sceptic. What kind of three are the three in the Trinity, if they are not three Gods? What do we actually mean by ‘Persons’? And how can the One who is sent not be less than the One who sends? And why is the Holy Spirit not also called a Son if the Holy Spirit also comes forth from the Father? Why does the Holy Spirit have no distinctive name, since ‘Holy’ and ‘Spirit’ both also are said of Father and of Son? And if Christ is ‘the power of God and the wisdom of God’, does that mean that the Father himself is not wise, but only attains wisdom through the Son? The questions come thick and fast.

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