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Clement speaks of Wisdom as "created before all things" protoktistos , and Tatian terms the Word the "first-begotten work of ergon prototokon the Father. In Colossians , St. Paul says that all things were created in the Son. This was understood to signify that creation took place according to exemplar ideas predetermined by God and existing in the Word. In view of this, it might be said that the Father created the Word , this term being used in place of the more accurate generated , inasmuch as the exemplar ideas of creation were communicated by the Father to the Son. Or, again, the actual Creation of the world might be termed the creation of the Word , since it takes place according to the ideas which exist in the Word.

The context invariably shows that the passage is to be understood in one or another of these senses. The expression is undoubtedly very harsh, and it certainly would never have been employed but for the verse, Proverbs , which is rendered in the Septuagint and the old Latin versions, "The Lord created ektise me, who am the beginning of His ways. It is further to be remembered that accurate terminology in regard to the relations between the Three Persons was the fruit of the controversies which sprang up in the fourth century.

The writers of an earlier period were not concerned with Arianism , and employed expressions which in the light of subsequent errors are seen to be not merely inaccurate, but dangerous. For before anything came into being, He had Him as a counsellor, being His own mind and thought [i. But when God wished to make all that He had determined on, then did He beget Him as the uttered Word [ logos prophorikos ], the firstborn of all creation , not, however, Himself being left without Reason logos , but having begotten Reason , and ever holding converse with Reason.

Expressions such as these are undoubtedly due to the influence of the Stoic philosophy : the logos endiathetos and logos prophorikos were current conceptions of that school. It is evident that these apologists were seeking to explain the Christian Faith to their pagan readers in terms with which the latter were familiar. Some Catholic writers have indeed thought that the influence of their previous training did lead some of them into Subordinationism, although the Church herself was never involved in the error see L OGOS.

Yet it does not seem necessary to adopt this conclusion. If the point of view of the writers be borne in mind, the expressions, strange as they are, will be seen not to be incompatible with orthodox belief. The early Fathers, as we have said, regarded Proverbs , and Colossians , as distinctly teaching that there is a sense in which the Word , begotten before all worlds, may rightly be said to have been begotten also in time.

This temporal generation they conceived to be none other than the act of creation.

They viewed this as the complement of the eternal generation, inasmuch as it is the external manifestation of those creative ideas which from all eternity the Father has communicated to the Eternal Word. Since, in the very same works which contain these perplexing expressions, other passages are found teaching explicitly the eternity of the Son , it appears most natural to interpret them in this sense.

It should further be remembered that throughout this period theologians , when treating of the relation of the Divine Persons to each other, invariably regard them in connection with the cosmogony. Only later, in the Nicene epoch, did they learn to prescind from the question of creation and deal with the threefold Personality exclusively from the point of view of the Divine life of the Godhead.

When that stage was reached expressions such as these became impossible. The trinity as a mystery The Vatican Council has explained the meaning to be attributed to the term mystery in theology. It lays down that a mystery is a truth which we are not merely incapable of discovering apart from Divine Revelation , but which, even when revealed, remains "hidden by the veil of faith and enveloped, so to speak, by a kind of darkness" Constitution, "De fide.

In other words, our understanding of it remains only partial, even after we have accepted it as part of the Divine message. Through analogies and types we can form a representative concept expressive of what is revealed , but we cannot attain that fuller knowledge which supposes that the various elements of the concept are clearly grasped and their reciprocal compatibility manifest. As regards the vindication of a mystery , the office of the natural reason is solely to show that it contains no intrinsic impossibility, that any objection urged against it on Reason.

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More than this it cannot do. The Vatican Council further defined that the Christian Faith contains mysteries strictly so called can. All theologians admit that the doctrine of the Trinity is of the number of these. Indeed, of all revealed truths this is the most impenetrable to reason. Hence, to declare this to be no mystery would be a virtual denial of the canon in question.

Moreover, our Lord's words, Matthew , "No one knoweth the Son , but the Father," seem to declare expressly that the plurality of Persons in the Godhead is a truth entirely beyond the scope of any created intellect. The Fathers supply many passages in which the incomprehensibility of the Divine Nature is affirmed. The controversy with the Eunomians , who declared that the Divine Essence was fully expressed in the absolutely simple notion of "the Innascible" agennetos , and that this was fully comprehensible by the human mind , led many of the Greek Fathers to insist on the incomprehensibility of the Divine Nature , more especially in regard to the internal processions.

Basil , Against Eunomius I. At a later date , however, some famous names are to be found defending a contrary opinion. Anselm "Monol.

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Victor "De sacram. Victor "De Trin. In explanation of this it should be noted that at that period the relation of philosophy to revealed doctrine was but obscurely understood. Only after the Aristotelean system had obtained recognition from theologians was this question thoroughly treated. In the intellectual ferment of the time Abelard initiated a Rationalistic tendency: not merely did he claim a knowledge of the Trinity for the pagan philosophers , but his own Trinitarian doctrine was practically Sabellian.


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Anselm's error was due not to Rationalism , but to too wide an application of the Augustinian principle "Crede ut intelligas". Hugh and Richard of St.


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Victor were, however, certainly influenced by Abelard's teaching. Raymond Lully's errors in this regard were even more extreme. They were expressly condemned by Gregory XI in In the nineteenth century the influence of the prevailing Rationalism manifested itself in several Catholic writers. Pius IX reprobated their opinions on more than one occasion Denzinger , sq.

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A somewhat similar, though less aggravated, error on the part of Rosmini was condemned, 14 December, Denz. The doctrine as interpreted in Greek theology Nature and personality The Greek Fathers approached the problem of Trinitarian doctrine in a way which differs in an important particular from that which, since the days of St.

Augustine , has become traditional in Latin theology. In Latin theology thought fixed first on the Nature and only subsequently on the Persons.

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Personality is viewed as being, so to speak, the final complement of the Nature : the Nature is regarded as logically prior to the Personality. And when theologians speak of God without special mention of a Person , conceive Him under this aspect. This is entirely different from the Greek point of view. Greek thought fixed primarily on the Three distinct Persons : the Father, to Whom, as the source and origin of all, the name of God Theos more especially belongs; the Son , proceeding from the Father by an eternal generation, and therefore rightly termed God also; and the Divine Spirit , proceeding from the Father through the Son.

The Personality is treated as logically prior to the Nature. Just as human nature is something which the individual men possesses, and which can only be conceived as belonging to and dependent on the individual , so the Divine Nature is something which belongs to the Persons and cannot be conceived independently of Them.

2. The doctrine of the Trinity is not illogical.

The contrast appears strikingly in regard to the question of creation. All Western theologians teach that creation , like all God's external works, proceeds from Him as One: the separate Personalities do not enter into consideration. The Greeks invariably speak as though, in all the Divine works, each Person exercises a separate office. Irenaeus replies to the Gnostics , who held that the world was created by a demiurge other than the supreme God , by affirming that God is the one Creator, and that He made all things by His Word and His Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit Against Heresies I.

The Nicene Creed still preserves for us this point of view. In it we still profess our belief "in one God the Father Almighty , Creator of heaven and earth. The consubstantiality of the Persons is asserted by St. The purport of the phrase is evidently to indicate that the Second and Third Persons are not substantially distinct from the First. A more philosophical description is the doctrine of the Recapitulation sygkephalaiosis. This seems to be first found in the correspondence between St.

Denis of Alexandria and St. Dionysius of Rome. The former writes: "We thus [i.

1. The Trinity is something God wants us to know.

Here the consubstantiality is affirmed on the ground that the Son and Spirit , proceeding from the Father, are nevertheless not separated from Him; while they again, with all their perfections, can be regarded as contained within Him. This doctrine supposes a point of view very different from that with which we are now familiar. But while in creatures the powers and faculties are mere accidental perfections, in the Godhead they are subsistent hypostases. Denis of Alexandria regarding the Second and Third Persons as the Father's "Powers", speaks of the First Person as being "extended" to them, and not divided from them.

And, since whatever they have and are flows from Him, this writer asserts that if we fix our thoughts on the sole source of Deity alone, we find in Him undiminished all that is contained in them. But with the Greeks this is not a starting point, but a conclusion, the result of reflective analysis. The sonship of the Second Person implies that He has received the Divine Nature in its fullness, for all generation implies the origination of one who is like in nature to the originating principle. But here, mere specific unity is out of the question.