Good afternoon to you all, and I believe Happy New Year is in order?
Yes indeed, this is my first blog post of 2011 and what better way to kick off the New Year with a very inspiring and interesting ramble of the philosophical type! I must concede, that it is to my very good friend and fellow classmate (and philosopher) Ryan Michejew/Kisel I owe the inspiration needed to even considering writing this; so a thousand “thank you”s. I guess to all of you of reading this who couldn’t care less about what I’m about to write have him to blame, so I’ll leave it to you to search him on Facebook and abuse him – if you dare.
Some of you (if you made it past the title let alone the first paragraph) must be wondering where on Earth I got the idea to write about this topic from; well, as you all know I’m studying Theology and Religious Studies as my degree and the most recent essay I was set involved discussing the origins of the Trinity in Christianity. Now I’m not going to bore you with meticulous details, hell, I’m not even going to reference! I just thought as a budding young theologian, philosopher, politician, teacher and everything else I aspire to be, I should perhaps provide my conclusions and thoughts on the topic in a place where those whom are interested may read them – a new direction for the blog? Perhaps.
But for now ladies and gentleman, may I present you with history’s first paternity battle, the first DNA test episode of Jeremy Kyle which results in parities exiting on both sides of the stage. This my friends, is my view of the Trinity…in short.
So from my reading of countless books (hyperbole never goes a miss) something came to my attention, the Trinity is a lot more complex than those not studying it would come to expect. Who’d have thought the question of Jesus’ relation to God could spark so much controversy? Surely everyone knows that Jesus is the Son of God? I’m afraid folks, it’s a little more complex than that.
I’m trying to keep this as brief as possible so to make sure I don’t bore you to death and alienate any chance of you coming back to read any future posts I may write. All we need to know is that, as always, there were/are two sides to the question of the Trinity. One states that God and Jesus are mutually related to each other and are made up of the same stuff (homoousios for those of you wanting the fancy word). The other came from an Egyptian priest called Arius, he’s the ‘bad guy’ in church history.
Arius suggested that Jesus was in fact subordinate to God, on a different level in some form of celestial hierarchy; God being the superior naturally. He applied Plato’s idea of an unknowable and eternal God and says that if this is the case then Jesus cannot be, in essence, the same as God. Jesus is not completely God yet he is not completely human. This being Christianity there of course had to be some form of ceremonial meeting in which to discuss these very issues and indeed, there was! The Council of Nicaea in 325CE came up with the Nicene Creed, something most Christians will recite every Sunday in church, blissfully unaware of the controversy it caused in the past.
The real problems arrive though, with the addition of one word to the creed, filioque. This word meaning “and from the son” describes the Holy Spirit’s relationship to Father and Son. As you’ve probably already worked out this addition suggests that the Holy Spirit comes from both Father and Son which makes sense; if Father and Son are mutually related and are of the same substance then the Spirit must derive from both.
No. The Eastern church didn’t like this. They claimed that to have the Holy Spirit proceeding from two sources calls into question God as the sole origin of divinity; an idea fundamental to Christianity. They moved to say that the Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son was begotten from Him, they both came from the Father just in different manners.
My problem comes with attempting to understand the problems with either of these arguments; they both make perfect sense theologically and can base their theories on verses from the Bible. So why then, if both appear valid ideas on the Trinity did the West’s version become to accepted version and (amongst other reasons) force the Eastern Church to split?
My answer? The power of politics. The Nicene Council met at the behest of Emperor Constantine and the phrase homoousios was chosen by him to include in the declaration of faith forged there. All but two of the bishops agreed with the Homoousion‘s inclusion but that doesn’t necessarily demonstrate the fact that people were happy with the idea, more in my view, the political influence and power held by the Emperor at the time. Who would dare argue with Emperor of Rome? Especially on the topic of something as important as religion. Who wouldn’t want to be seen in leagues with and in favour with the most powerful nation in the world? Very few people.
So, my basic conclusion is that politics played the biggest part in the forming of the Trinitarian doctine. Both theologies appear sound and so cannot be favoured over one another. Please bare in mind however, this summary and conclusion is based merely on a two thousand word essay researched in a couple of weeks – I’m sure there is more to it than that and I know there is; the Trinity is a huge area of Christian history.
I would like to the following for helping in writing my essay: Alister McGrath (a million times), Diarmaid MacCulloch, Chris Maunder, Ryan Michejew and most importantly Prince, for had it not been his music keeping me going on Thursday night I would’ve surely lost the will to live.
Hope that has been of some interest to you. That is officially the longest (non-essay) ramble ever posted, let’s crack open some champagne? Or maybe we should just down a bottle of vodka? Whatever takes your fancy…
Good day and much love to you all.