History of the Trinity, Part 13

History Of The Doctrine Concerning The Nature Of God In The Early Centuries Of Christianity

Part 13

The Roman Catholic Admission

The New Catholic Encyclopedia, after discussing the “doctrinal evolution and theological elaboration of the mystery of the Trinity,” says:

“There is the recognition of the part of exegetes and biblicalt heologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics, that one should not speak of Trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely parallel recognition on the part of historians of dogma and systematic theologians that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins, to say, the last quadrant of the fourth century. It was only then that what might be called the definitive Trinitarian dogma “One God in three Persons” became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought.

Herein lies the difficulty. On the one hand, it was the dogmatic formula “one God in three Persons” that would henceforth for more than fifteen centuries structure and guide the Theological essence of the Christian message, both in the profession of faith and in theological dialectic. On the other hand, the formula itself does not reflect the immediate consciousness of the period of origins; it was the product of three centuries of doctrinal development.

… Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective; among the second century Apologists, little more than a focusing on the problem as that of plurality within the unique Godhead.”