Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Trinitarian logic in John 14.26

John 14.26 reads: 'But the Advocate [Helper], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.'

I am more and more struck by the trinitarian logic which arises throughout the New Testament, and it is generally more profound than the typical formula of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit". That's not to say that it invalidates "F, S, HS", but that it is richer and deeper than that, honoring and preserving the traditional formula but expanding on it, too.

Here, the Father sends, continuing to engage the creation through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is sent 'in Jesus' name', and so the Spirit is given the authority (or perhaps better, 'extended identity') of the Son, an authority which is itself from the Father. The authority/identity of Son, which is not apart from the Father, is then extended in the Holy Spirit, which will recall the words of Jesus (which are the works of the Father), and will, further, teach 'everything'.

So here is the Father, whose mission is worked out through Son and Spirit, and whose identity, in some sense, depends radically on the Son and Spirit as the Father gives them place, status, and honour in the mission in the world. Here is the Son, who is completing the work of the Father, and whose extended identity comes from the Father, which extends out into the Spirit. And here is the Spirit, who returns the disciples to the Son, who brings them to the Father (who gave them to the Son in the first place), and even does more, teaching the disciples 'everything'.

Beyond the three names Father, Son, and Holy Spirit which are either present or implied, this notion of 'extended identity' seems to imply the 'oneness' of the doctrine of the Trinity. Perhaps this oneness might be further expounded along the lines of a speech-action: the will to speak (Father), the word spoken (Son), and the effects of the word on the hearers -- all one act, with three interpenetrating aspects.

I am not entirely sold on the one/threefold scheme of the last sentence. It is also possible that someone -- Kevin Vanhoozer? -- already said something like that, and in my forgetfulness I expropriated it. (I do not feel similarly cautious about what came before that, though; I'm pretty sure that is original.) In any event I do not intend to claim originality where there is borrowing, either intentional or even vaguely suspected.

But I wanted to communicate some of the sense of wonder I've felt in researching and writing my dissertation, and it occured to me when I ran across this little nugget today that this might be one way to do so.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three in one, blessed Trinity: lead us into all truth!

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Blogger Gaunilo said...

Very interesting - the notion of 'extended identity.' (btw, Vanhoozer does work something out of the trinitarian relations in terms of locution, illocution, and perlocution in Is There a Meaning in This Text?).

The notion of extended identity would function very similarly to the Nicene notion (developed by Augustine) of the unity of Trinity's acts ad extra that we've talked about before - a similar economic trinitarian manifestation of the eternal subsistent relations. It seems it would be very rich to develop this notion of 'identity' vis-a-vis God's acts; in one sense that's the entire logic of Christian theology, but I don't know that it's been thematized in terms of trinitarian relations the way you're doing here. Although I don't think Rogers ever fully develops it, this seems to be the meaning of his notion of identity in narrative act of the Spirit - the Spirit is 'anonymous' because the Spirit is a Person and character in a drama, and as such is opaque.

My little idiosyncratic observation: such a schema at least complicates the complex of relations codified in the filioque, or at least warrants a closer look at the more original (and ecumenical) formulation of "proceeds from the Father through the Son."

Friday, May 26, 2006 2:32:00 PM  

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