The concept of personality in the doctrines of the Trinity taught by Origen, Athanasius, and Augustine.
Mosgrove, Ronald George
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The purpose of this thesis is primarily to investigate the concept of personality as it properly applies to the doctrine of the Trinity. On the one hand there are those who hold firmly to the view that the concept of personality is properly applicable to each of the three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three distinct Persons of the one Godhead. On the other hand, there are those who hold the position that the concept of personality is properly applicable only to the one God as a unitary divine Being, God Himself. Hodgson is an outstanding representative on the one side of this controversy who speaks of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as being individual persons, or as having selfhood, analagous to human personalities. On the other hand there is the position taken by Barth that it is only proper to speak of God as one Personal Being, who has manifested or revealed Himself in three manners or modes as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Ultimately the problem involved is precisely whether the concept of personality, that is, a self-conscious, free self-directing person, is properly understood for each of the distinctions of the Trinity, namely the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or for only the unity of God as a singular being or sole Person of the Godhead. The scope of investigation centers primarily in the patristic period of the Early Church, not only due to the fact that both Hodgson and Barth claim to be orthodox in accordance with the teaching of the patristic period, but also it is assumed that the closer we get to the first promulgation of this doctrine in the early tradition of the Church the closer we will be to the fundamental core of kerygmatic truth as the doctrine was understood and meant to be taught in the New Testament period. Indeed our investigation begins with the Biblical background of the doctrine, where the concept of a personal God is readily apparent in both the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament it was also found that even though the hypostases as the Divine Word, Divine Wisdom, and Divine Spirit were personified, yet they were actually understood as distinct hypostases of the nature of the one God, and as such they represented or manifested the personality of one God, and not any individuality of their own. It was precisely with the advent of Jesus Christ and the experience of the Holy Spirit in the Christian Church that the troubling of the waters of Jewish monotheism first became apparent. In the New Testament period Jesus Christ was primarily viewed as revealing the Father to the world. Jesus was not God alone, in and of Himself, but rather "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (II Cor. 5.19)." In the post-Nicene period, Augustine stands as the great spokesman culminating the Trinitarian tradition of the past and setting the pattern for their future. The primary emphasis of Augustine is on the unity of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one in all and all in one. For Augustine, the Son is the Wisdom of God, and not at all in any sense an individual being. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is the conmunion of fellowship between the Father and Son, and the Spirit of love of the Father to His creation, and as such not in any sense an individual being. Hence the Son and Spirit, as the Wisdom and Love of the Father, are primarily viewed by Augustine as modes of revelation of the one and only Divine Being, God Himself, to whom he does clearly attribute the concept of personality. Therefore, on the basis of the teachings primarily of Origen, Athanasius, and Augustine, it is concluded on the one hand that Hodgson's view of three individual personal beings of the Trinity has virtually no support in the patristic period, but rather on the other hand, Barth's concept of One Person in three modes of revelation is perhaps as clear an expression of the actual teaching of the New Testament and patristic period as can be found in modern orthodox theology.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University
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