Starting with ILL
Illaboratus, Illify, et al.
Illapse, et al.
Illative, et al.
Immire et al.
Immanacle et al.
Oxford Latin Dict.
Imbreast et al.
Immerge et al.
Inadunate et al.
Inabusive et al.
Inane et al, I
Inane et al, II
Inaccommodate et al.
Inactuate et al.
Inadhesion et al.
Inaffectionate et al.
Inaidable et al.
Inamovable et al.
Inanimate et al.
Inanulate et al.
Inark et al.
Inly and Hyaline
Bill Long 5/17/06
Now, To the Problem
Once you have a Trinity of beings of equal power and eternity, and it was no means certain that such a doctrine had to emerge, you have a further problem. How do the three eternal members of this Trinity "relate" to one another? It is here that we really leave the earth and enter into realms of speculation and even magic.
There were many theologians who tried to explain, or at least think about, the problem of the interrelationship of what became known as the three "Persons" in the Trinity. Perhaps the most eloquent was John of Damascus, a 7th-8th century theologian who lived in the heart of the Muslim world but retired from Damascus to a monastery near Jerusalem. In his work on the Orthodox Faith, John tried to take this problem head on. His explanation is that the three members (whom he calls "substistences") of the Trinity relate to each other by perichoresis--"by going around (and through) each other."
John on the Trinity and Perichoresis
The two sections of his work dealing with the Trinity and the interrelationship of members of the Trinity are 1.8 and 1.14. In the former he shows his own orthodoxy by laying out the different roles of the three members of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy spirit as these: generating, being generated, and processing. What this all means, of course, is speculative in the extreme, but John maintained the necessity of the eternal generation of the Son--that is, there was not a time when the Father pre-existed the Son. This rather goes against our understanding of Fathers and Sons, since every father that I know pre-exists his son by quite some time but, then again, in studying the doctrine of the Trinity you may have to, as Dante says in Canto 3 of the Inferno, "Abandon all hope, you who enter here."
Here is a key passage in 1.8 that tries to explain the interrelationship of the members of the Trinity:
"For there is one essence, one goodness, one power, one will, one energy, one authority, one and the same, I repeat, not three resembling each other. But the three subsistences have one and the same movement. For each one of them is related as closely to the other as to itself: that is to say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one in all respects, save those of not being begotten, of birth and of procession. But it is by thought that the difference is perceived. For we recognise one God: but only in the attributes of Fatherhood, Sonship, and Procession, both in respect of cause and effect and perfection of subsistence, that is, manner of existence, do we perceive difference. For with reference to the uncircumscribed Deity we cannot speak of separation in space, as we can in our own case. For the subsistences dwell in one another, in no wise confused but cleaving together, according to the word of the Lord, I am in the father, and the father in Me: nor can one admit difference in will or judgment or energy or power or anything else whatsoever which may produce actual and absolute separation in our case. Wherefore we do not speak of three Gods, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but rather of one God."
Sorry for the length of the quotation, but each sentence is crucial in John's theory. The three "subsistences" have one "movement." The are related "as closely to the other as to itself." They differ in "attributes" or the "manner of existence." These subsistences "dwell in one another, in no wise confused but cleaving together." How does he know? Well, the Scripture (from John 14) tells him it is so. Jesus says: "I am in the Father and the father [is] in me."
More On the Interrelationships Among the Trinity
Then, a similar passage from 1.14, says the following:
"The subsistences dwell and are established firmly in one another. For they are inseparable and cannot part from one another, but keep to their separate courses within one another, without coalescing or mingling, but cleaving to each other. For the Son is in the Father and the Spirit: and the Spirit in the Father and the Son: and the Father in the Son and the Spirit, but there is no coalescence or commingling or confusion And there is one and the same motion: for there is one impulse and one motion of the three subsistences, which is not to be observed in any created nature."
Notice, however, some different language in 1.14. Though the substistences cannot part from one another, they neither mingle or coalesce. Rather they "cleave." Note also that he seems to go beyond the Scriptural statement from John 14 when he says not only that the Son is in the Father and vice versa but "The Son is in the Father and the Spirit." I don't know where he gets that idea. There is no Scriptural reference that says the Son is in the Spirit or the Spirit is in the Father, as if they were separable entities or "subsistences." But John has "sneaked" this into 1.14 without adequate Scriptural support. Perhaps he hoped we wouldn't be looking...
Thus, in sum, the doctrine of periochoresis teaches that the three members of the Trinity don't commingle or mix or coalese or become confused (literally meaning "poured together") but they do "cleave" to one another. What any of this might mean is the subject of my third (and final) essay on the subject.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long