Sunday, February 15, 2015

Blessed Newman Discovers the Formal Distinction

And here, let it be observed, that we have a sort of figure or intimation of the sacred Mystery of the Trinity in Unity even in what has been now said concerning the Divine Attributes. For as the Attributes of God are many in one mode of speaking, yet all One in God; so, too, there are Three Divine Persons, yet these Three are One. Let it not be for an instant supposed that I am paralleling the two cases, which is the Sabellian heresy; but I use the one in illustration of the other; and, in way of illustration, I observe as follows: When we speak of God as Wisdom, or as Love, we mean to say that He is Wisdom, and that He is Love; that He is each separately and wholly, yet not that Wisdom is the same as Love, though He is both at once. Wisdom and Love stand for ideas quite distinct from each other, and not to be confused, though they are united in Him. In all He is and all He does, He is Wisdom and He is Love; yet it is both true that He is but One, and without qualities, and withal true again that Love is not Wisdom. Again, as God is Wisdom or Love, so is Wisdom or Love in and with God, and whatever God is. Is God eternal? so is His wisdom. Is He unchangeable? so is His wisdom. Is He uncreate, infinite, almighty, all-holy? His wisdom has these characteristics also. Since God has no parts or passions, whatever is really of or from God, is all that He is. If there is confusion of language here, and an apparent play upon words, this arises from our incapacity in comprehension and expression. We see that all these separate statements must be true, and if they result in an apparent contrariety with each other, this we cannot avoid; nor need we be perplexed about them, nor shrink from declaring any one of them.

- Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons VI.24, "The Mystery of the Holy Trinity"


M said...


How do you respond to the following objection:

God is said to be Wisdom inasmuch as Wise is said of the individual God eminently and absolutely, and similarly for Love.
Wisdom is said to be Love inasmuch as they are said of one and the same individual eminently and absolutely, but they are said to be different inasmuch as they are said of that individual in different respects; Wisdom with respect to the Divine Intellect and Love with respect to the Divine Will.
Thus, their equivalence is only in their denotation of one and the same individual eminently and absolutely.
But the same cannot be said of the Three Persons of the Trinity, which are not so equivalent.
Therefore, the identity of the Divine Attributes with the Divine Essence does not illuminate the Trinity, and so we remain in the dark as before this illustration, which rightfully should not be considered as a parallel either.


Jim Given said...

Dear Michael Sullivan,
Sorry to post on this article, but I don't know how else to contact you.

Lee said you have read the Newman-Scotus Reader rather carefully. Is this volume worth $40, if I can find $40? Discussion suggests it is a useful contribution to Scotist-Thomist dialogue, and this is very important to me.

Jim Given