De Moor V:28: The Sublimity of the Doctrine of the Trinity, Part 4

They Object, 3. various Arguments and Similitudes, reviewed by our AUTHOR. I Respond with our AUTHOR, that both of these are only discovered after Revelation, and that they are invalid and dissimilar in many ways: so that the Arguments adduced do not at all have the force of demonstration; and the Similitudes, which in other things illustrate to a certain degree, here do more to obscure, on account of the greater dissimilarity, and because some are too contrived.


Petrus van Mastricht

α. Thus POIRET, Cogitationibus Rationalibus, book III, chapter I, pages 227-229, thinks that, from a consideration only of the nature of God, considered without respect to creatures, it is evident that holy and inviolable is in God, which he attempts to show by one and another argument; in which he closely imitates the Scholastics, whom in § 12 we heard contending that the Generation of the Son is to be conceptualized by way of an act of the divine Intellect, and the Spiration of the Spirit by way of an act of the divine Will: whose opinion we also refuted in that place. The things that POIRET mentions are also Essential, not Personal, Acts, whence a Single Person, rather and three, would have to be imagined in the One Essence of God. For who would have said that in the divine Mind is a plurality of Persons, because it is the case that He knows Himself, that is, He sets forth to Himself the Idea of Himself, and that He loves Himself and acquiesces in Himself with joy? And thus our little reasonings do more harm to our apprehension of so great a Mystery, than help the same: compare VAN MASTRICHT, Gangræna Novitatum Cartesianarum, posterior Section, chapter XVII, § 13.


β. Thus they reason, a. From the Goodness of God: Since every Good is Communicative of itself, God as infinite Good must infinitely communicate Himself: since He does not and cannot do this outside of Himself through the production of finite creatures, God must fulfill the same within Himself through the production of Persons of the same Essence with Himself and infinite Nature. But, a. how in thus reasoning will you more certainly conclude the necessity of a plurality of Persons in the Deity, than the necessity of the Creation of the World? b. If hence the necessary Communication of the divine Essence to multiple Persons now follows, whence will you gather the number of the Persons to be fixed at three? compare VAN MASTRICHT, Gangræna Novitatum Cartesianarum, posterior Section, chapter XVII, § 11, 14. b. They reason in a similar manner from the Blessedness of God, that it requires a plurality of divine Persons, since the possession of no good is pleasant without a companion. But this is wont only to be said concerning creatures and men, who are not sufficient for themselves: but God is sufficient for Himself: see VAN MASTRICHT, Gangræna Novitatum Cartesianarum, posterior Section, chapter XVII, § 12.


γ. Thus they set forth the similitudes of the Triangle, which has three distinct angles, of which one is not another. Of the three dimensions, which all Bodies enjoy, in length, width, and depth. Of the Soul, the three faculties of which include Intellect, Will, and Memory or Power; see ALTING’S Dissertation V Heptadis Sextæ, Dissertationibus Academicis, § 20-26. Of Light, in which three things offer themselves to the mind for consideration, a. the Sun, b. the Rays emanating from the Sun, c. the Light emanating from the rays of the Sun. Of the Rainbow, of which there are three principal colors, scarlet, yellow, and green. Of a Tree, which has three things, a root, a trunk, and branches. Just as they also observe that the Ternary Number is believed to contain in itself something mystical; whence that saying, everything in threes is perfect.


But what do all these things ultimately have in common with the concept of Three Persons in one Essence? or in what manner are they able to be of service to illustrate this Mystery, or to render it probable? On the other hand, the various Similitudes that are brought together for comparison instill in us overly crass and corporeal conceptions of this Spiritual Mystery. And so it is better to abstain from them altogether.


Gerardus de Vries

VRIESIUS soberly philosophizes here, Determinationibus Pneumatologicis, Section III, chapter VIII, § 3: “Holier Religion dictates a Trinity of Persons in one Essence. But the Light of Nature supplies no reasons, either à priori, or à posteriori, for this assertion; indeed, not even accurae similitudes. So that it is better to abstain from the whole matter, than to philosophize dangerously concerning so great a mystery of Faith.” HOORNBEECK prudently also, in his tractate de Conversione Indorum et Gentilium, book II, chapter II, page 97, 98, after a review of the opinion of Mornæus: “As far as I can see, there is a vast difference between proving by reason alone the mystery of the Trinity, and confirming it, as not indeed prior and of itself by reason, but with the matter asserted and believed from the Scriptures, by a number of reasons or examples sought from nature; nevertheless, I judge neither the former nor the latter to be done advantageously: since that mystery is so above nature, and οἰκεῖον/proper to supernatural revelation, that in nature, or by natural reason, you are able to show no vestige of it. No exemplar in the world or nature, in whatever way setting forth anything threefold, expresses the divine Trinity in such a way that it is not as able to be drawn unto the side adverse to the faith, as unto the side favoring it: so, whatever is wont to be alleged here is not founded either in any true Trinity, or in a threefold subsistence, without arguing the diverse and multiple nature of the three; certainly not the Trinity, with perfect Simplicity of Essence, which sort is altogether believed here: but take whichever of those, it is more of a hindrance than a help to the truth. You will say then, Is the faith of the Holy Trinity incompatible with natural reason? not at all: and here reason is able to show against Adversaries, that this is not resistance, rather than agreement, with it…. Distinguish, therefore, that it is one thing to prove a thing by reason; or, if you do not quite prove it, but demonstrate it from elsewhere, hence to confirm it; or neither properly this nor that, but simply to defend with reason, in such a way that nothing of proof and argument is hence sought, only against one abusing reason, and reasoning falsely, you might show his reasoning sophistical and guard the truth.”


The subtleties of the Scholastics, and the περιεργία/over-elaborations of some of our Men, are able to be said to be the πρῶτα ψεύδη, fundamental errors.


On § 28 thoroughly compare SPANHEIM, Decadum Theologicarum quarta, § 1, 2, opera, tome 3, column 1208; PFANNER,[1] Systemate Gheologiæ gentilis purioris, chapter III.


[So that thence the Lutherans take occasion to calumniate use:] See HEINRICH ALTING, Theologia elenctica nova, locus III, page 87; ECKHARD’S Fasciculum Controversiarum inter Augustanos et Calvinianos, chapter II, question IV, pages 38-42, compared with ARNOLDI’S Scopas dissolutas Eckhardi, page 10.


[But others have taken occasion to mock that Mystery:] Compare what things were related concerning Ahmed the Persian, a Mohammedan, above, § 12.

[1] Tobias Pfanner (1641-1716) was a German Lutheran theologian, and served as secretary of the archives to the duke of Saxe Gotha.

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