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Radio Replies Second Volume - The Holy Trinity ^ | 1940 | Fathers Rumble & Carty

Posted on 08/27/2010 9:45:47 PM PDT by GonzoII

The Holy Trinity

519. Let us turn to your abstract and intangible dogmas; and firstly the doctrine of the Trinity.

Though no human mind can fully comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity, yet the concept is not unintelligible. It certainly conveys a definite meaning to Christians. In revealing Himself to us God had to employ terms on our own level which could not but be inadequate to express His infinite perfection. But the terms used are not nevertheless without meaning. We know what a nature is, and we know what a person is. It may be, and in fact must be, that the Divine Nature, and the real character of Personality in God will be mysterious to us. But that does not mean that our ideas are wrong, or that they have nothing in them. It only means that if our ideas are right as far as they go, they do not go far enough to completely exhaust the reality.

520. To the lay mind it seems a hair-splitting of terms which cannot be of supreme importance.

I can but assure you that the matter is of supreme importance. For if the doctrine of the Trinity be false, that would be the end of the Christian religion.

The very essence of the Christian religion is that the Eternal Son of God became man for our salvation. If there is no Trinity of Persons in God, there would be no Eternal Son to become man at all, and the whole of Christianity would be built on a mere flight of fancy. If I believed the doctrine of the Trinity to be false, or in the least uncertain, I would abandon Christianity altogether. That would be the only logical thing to do. So from the Christian point of view you can see that it is no question of hair-splitting, but a matter of supreme importance.

521. Wherein lies the significance?

The doctrine of the Trinity lifts the notion of God, and carries it beyond the most powerful created intelligence, as befits the dignity and majesty of God. By it, God takes life instead of being the great unknown X of the universe. One, He is not solitary. And the multiplicity of the universe is but the shadow of the diversity of God in Himself according to the Trinity of relationships. How conceive of God save as knowing and loving? And how conceive of thought and love in God save as God Himself, yet distinct as operations? How conceive of God as happy without society and reciprocal activity, before the universe; and after its creation, since the universe adds nothing to God Himself? The Trinity gives us a living rather than an abstract God, individualizing Thought and Love in Him, giving interior multiplicity with His eternal unity. If my thought became myself intimately and adequately, and my happiness in myself were essentially identified with myself, I would be a trinity while remaining myself. But what is not possible with me is a fact with God; and His living unity is the Trinity.

522. Isn't it merely ways of thinking of God, drawn from Plato?

The philosophy of Plato has contributed towards explanations of the subject, as it has contributed much towards many other departments of human thought. But the dogma of the Trinity in no way came from Plato, or from any other merely human source. The Trinity of Persons in God was taught as a fact by Christ to explain His own Person and work. He gave the dogma, and the dogma gave rise to philosophical explanations of it. Nor does the doctrine merely give ways of thinking of God. Aspects of our own thinking would not be Divine Persons. The dogma tells us of God's own intimate life within the Divine Nature.

523. Are the names Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, merely different titles of the one Being?

They are not merely three different titles of the one Being as if they were names only and in no sense realities. They are three relative personal aspects of one absolute and substantial Being. One and the same Absolute Being can have relative aspects distinct from one another. In God, of course, we meet with what should not be an unexpected mystery. The three relative aspects of the one Divine Nature are Personal. Our experience of finite and created man is of one nature and one person. But our knowledge of finite and created man cannot give us an adequate knowledge of the Infinite Creator unless we are prepared to work on a very crude and anthropomorphic basis. The fact that in the one Absolute God there are three relative Personalities, distinct in virtue of their relationship to each other, yet identically possessing the Divine Nature, is known to us by revelation alone. And we know the fact without being able to comprehend it fully, not because of any defect in God, but because of the defect in our finite selves.

524. Who first promulgated the doctrine that Christ is equal to the Father in power and glory?

That doctrine was first promulgated by Christ Himself, as recorded in the Gospels. Thus Christ said, "I and the Father are one." The doctrine was also clearly taught by St. Paul. Against various heretics in the early Church again and again the Bishops re-declared the truth both implicitly and explicitly. The General Councils of Nicea, and of Ephesus, as well as other Councils, excluded all ambiguity as to what Christ had revealed by their specific definitions and formulas.

525. Can you find one Scripture text containing the word Trinity?

No. Nor is there any need to do so.

526. Can we suppose that the doctrine of the Trinity is taught in the Bible, yet no such word is there?

There is no question of supposition. The doctrine is clearly given by Christ in His words, "Baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." Mt 28:19.

527. The recurring genitive indicates a plurality of names, so that we should say, "In the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Ghost." In that case the one name does not indicate one Divine Nature.

The one name of the Three Persons was certainly meant to indicate the unity of God despite triple Personality.

528. If you discount grammar in the interests of a particular exegesis words lose the power to prove anything.

Our exegesis involves no violation of grammar. And all danger of distortion is removed by the use of the usual safeguards of exegesis; namely, the analogy of faith, the interpretations of the Fathers, and the constant tradition of the Catholic Church. No argument based on grammatical form arises where the baptismal formula is concerned; nor can any such considerations rob the words of their trinitarian value.

529. When St. John says, "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God," God was the subject of attribution where His word was concerned just as your hand is the instrument of your own conduct.

The Word of God was personal. My hand is not a person. The Word was with God, because the Second Person of the Trinity is distinct by personality from the Father and the Holy Ghost; yet the Word was God because possessing the same Divine Nature with them. To suggest that the Word of God is no more personal than my hand is quite opposed to the truth. St. John, who declares that the Word was with God, and was God, says also that the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us; that in "Him" was life; that "He" was in the world; that "He" dwelt amongst us; that we saw "His" glory, and of "His" fullness we receive grace. The Word was the Eternal Son of God, every bit as personal as the Father.

530. God the Father is explicitly stated.

It is also explicitly stated that the Word is "the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father." God may act in a fatherly way towards us men, but He is a true Father to the only-begotten Son, generated in the same Divine Nature, and equally the uncreated God with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

531. When Christ said, "My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?", whom did He address? Was He speaking to Himself?

He was addressing His heavenly Father, and in virtue of the sufferings of His created human nature.

532. What did the expression imply?

It did not imply any distinction between Himself and His Father so far as the Divine Nature was concerned. It implied that, in His human nature, He experienced that sense of dereliction by God which man deserved. If man abandons God he deserves to be abandoned by God. Jesus took the place of sinners, and suffered the sense of dereliction deserved by sinners.

533. I certainly do not understand the mystery of the Trinity.

Centuries ago St. Augustine replied to a similar complaint with the words, "If you do understand, then that is what God is not." He meant, of course, that no human being can fully comprehend God. We cannot exclude mystery when speaking of God, for if He came within the limits of our finite intelligence He would be finite and not God at all. At the same time, we can understand on our own level what the doctrine of the Trinity means. The idea of personality is not foreign to us, nor is the idea of a given nature. If the Trinity is a mystery it is because both the Nature and the Persons in God transcend all our notions of these things, our ideas giving but a faint and most inadequate reflection of the truth. It is also a mystery because our experience is limited to a single nature with a single personality. A single Divine Nature with a threefold Personality is not on the same plane as any of our ordinary experiences, and is known by revelation alone; and even then only insofar as human words can express the transcendent truth. But the terms are not meaningless, and we do find a profound significance in the doctrine.

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TOPICS: Catholic; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; radiorepliesvoltwo; trinity
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Preface To Volume One of "Radio Replies"



Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing. These millions can hardly be blamed for hating Catholics because Catholics "adore statues"; because they "put the Blessed Mother on the same level with God"; because they say "indulgence is a permission to commit sin"; because the Pope "is a Fascist"; because the "Church is the defender of Capitalism." If the Church taught or believed any one of these things it should be hated, but the fact is that the Church does not believe nor teach any one of them. It follows then that the hatred of the millions is directed against error and not against truth. As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.

If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times, as Our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which, in seasons of bigotry, men say must be destroyed in the name of God as men crucified Christ and thought they had done a service to God. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because He called Himself the Truth. Look for the Church which is rejected by the world as Our Lord was rejected by men. Look for the Church which amid the confusion of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its Voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly, it is other-worldly. Since it is other-worldly it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself. But only that which is Divine can be infinitely hated and infinitely loved. Therefore the Church is Divine.

If then, the hatred of the Church is founded on erroneous beliefs, it follows that basic need of the day is instruction. Love depends on knowledge for we cannot aspire nor desire the unknown. Our great country is filled with what might be called marginal Christians, i.e., those who live on the fringe of religion and who are descendants of Christian living parents, but who now are Christians only in name. They retain a few of its ideals out of indolence and force of habit; they knew the glorious history of Christianity only through certain emasculated forms of it, which have married the spirit of the age and are now dying with it. Of Catholicism and its sacraments, its pardon, its grace, its certitude and its peace, they know nothing except a few inherited prejudices. And yet they are good people who want to do the right thing, but who have no definite philosophy concerning it. They educate their children without religion, and yet they resent the compromising morals of their children. They would be angry if you told them they were not Christian, and yet they do not believe that Christ is God. They resent being called pagans and yet they never take a practical cognizance of the existence of God. There is only one thing of which they are certain and that is that things are not right as they are. It is just that single certitude which makes them what might be called the great "potentials," for they are ready to be pulled in either of two directions. Within a short time they must take sides; they must either gather with Christ or they must scatter; they must either be with Him or against Him; they must either be on the cross as other Christs, or under it as other executioners. Which way will these marginal Christians tend? The answer depends upon those who have the faith. Like the multitudes who followed Our Lord into the desert, they are as sheep without a shepherd. They are waiting to be shepherded either with the sheep or goats. Only this much is certain. Being human and having hearts they want more than class struggle and economics; they want Life, they want Truth, and they want Love. In a word, they want Christ.

It is to these millions who believe wrong things about the Church and to these marginal Christians, that this little book is sent. It is not to prove that they are "wrong"; it is not to prove that we are "right"; it is merely to present the truth in order that the truth may conquer through the grace of God. When men are starving, one need not go to them and tell them to avoid poison; nor to eat bread because there