A Manual Of Catholic Theology, Based On Scheeben's “Dogmatik”
Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., PHD. And Thomas B. Scannell, D.D.
With A Preface By Cardinal Manning

Vol. 1. The Sources Of Theological Knowledge, God, Creation And The Supernatural Order
Third Edition, Revised, London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Lt.
New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Benziger Bros.





THE whole doctrine of the Trinity has been extensively dealt with by the Fathers who opposed the Arian heresy. The classical writings are the following: St. Athanasius, Contra Arianos Orationes Quatuor (on the Divinity of the Son; see Card. Newman's annotated translation), and Ad Serapionem Epistola Quatuor (on the Divinity of the Holy Ghost); St. Basil, Contra Eunomium (especially the solution of philosophical and dialectical objections the genuineness of the last two books is questioned), and De Spiritu Sancto ad Amphilochium; St. Gregory of Nyssa, Contra Eunomium; Didymus, De Trinitate and De Spiritu Sancto; St. Cyril of Alexandria, Thesaurus de SS. Trinitate; St. Hilary of Poitiers, De Trin. (a systematic demonstration and defence of the dogma); St. Ambrose, De Fide Trinitatis (specially the consubstantiality of the Son), and De Spiritu S.; St. Augustine, De Trinitate the latter part of this work (bks. viii.-xv.), in which St. Augustine goes farther than his predecessors, is the foundation of the great speculations of the Schoolmen. St. Anselm first summed up and methodically arranged in his Monologium the results obtained by St. Augustine; Peter Lombard and William of Paris (opusc. de Trinitate) developed them still further; Richard of St. Victor, in his remarkable treatise De Trinitate, added many new ideas. The doctrine received its technical completion at the hands of Alexander of Hales, i., q. 42 sqq.; St. Bonaventure in 1. i., Sent.; and St. Thomas, esp. /., q. 27 sqq.; C. Gentes, 1. iv., cc. 2-26, and in Qq. Dispp. passim. All the work of the thirteenth century was summed up by Dionysius the Carthusian in 1. i., Sent. After the Council of Trent, we have excellent treatises, positive and apologetic: Bellarmine, De Verbo Dei; Gregory of Valentia, De Trinitate; Petavius; Thomassin; but the best of all the positive scholastic treatises is Ruiz, De Trinitate. Among modern authors, Kuhn, Franzelin, and Kleutgen deserve special mention. On the Divinity of the Son, see Canon Liddon's Bampton Lectures. Cardinal Manning has written two valuable works on the Holy Ghost: The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost; The Internal Mission of the Holy Ghost. For the history of the Dogma, see Card. Newman's Arians; Schwane, History of Dogma (in German), vols. i., ii.; and Werner, History of Apologetic Literature (in German). Division. We shall treat first of the Dogma itself as contained in Scripture and Tradition; and afterwards we shall give some account of the attempts of the Fathers and Schoolmen to penetrate into the depths of the mystery.


SECT. 91. --The Dogma of the Trinity as formulated by the Church.

THE mystery of the Trinity, being the fundamental dogma of the Christian religion, was reduced to a fixed formula in apostolic times, and this primitive formula, used as the symbol of faith in the administration of Baptism, forms the kernel or germ of all the later developments.

I. The original form of the Creed is: "I believe in one The God Father Almighty, . . .and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord, . . .and in the Holy Ghost." Father and Son are manifestly distinct Persons, hence the same is true of the Holy Ghost. They are, each of Them, the object of the same act of faith and of the same worship, hence They are of the same rank and dignity. Being the object of faith in one God, the Son and the Holy Ghost must be one God with the Father, possessing through Him and with Him the same Divine Nature. The Divinity of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is not expressed separately, because it is contained sufficiently in the assertion that they are one God with the Father. Besides, the repetition of the formula "and in one God" before the words Son and Holy Ghost, would be harsh, and would obscure the manner in which the Three Persons are one God.

II. The heresies of the first centuries, which had Jewish, pagan, and rationalistic tendencies, distorted the sense of the Catholic profession in three different directions.

I. The Antitrinitarians (Monarchians and Sabellians,) denied the real distinction between the Persons, looking upon Them simply as three manifestations or modalities (Greek) of one and the same Person.

2. The Subordinatians insisted too much on the real distinction between the Persons and on the origin of the Son and the Holy Ghost from the Father. They held that the Son and the Holy Ghost were the effect of a Divine operation ad extra, and thus were inferior to God, but above all other creatures.

3. The Tritheists taught a system aiming at the maintenance of the distinction of Persons and the equality of Nature and dignity, but "multiplying the nature" at the same time as the Persons, and thus destroying the Triunity.

III. Pope Dionysius (A.D. 259-269), in the famous Councils of dogmatic letter which he addressed to Denis of Alexandria, lays down the Catholic doctrine in opposition to the above-named heresies. The Bishop of Alexandria, in his zeal to defeat the Sabellians, had laid so much stress on the distinction of the Persons, that the Divine unity seemed endangered. The Pope first confutes the Sabellians, then the Tritheists, and lastly the Subordinatians. We possess only the last two parts, relating to the unity and equality of Essence or to the "Divine Monarchy." They are to be found in St. Athanasius, Lib. de Sent. Dion. Alex. (See Card. Newman's Arians, p. 125.) The letter of Pope Dionysius lays down the essential lines afterwards followed in the definitions of the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople concerning the relations of the Son and the Holy Ghost to the Father. The last-named Council was, more- over, guided by the "Anathematisms" of Pope Damasus, which determine the whole doctrine of the Divine Trinity and Unity more in detail than the epistle of Pope Dionysius. The Councils, on the contrary, deal only with one of the Persons: that of Nicaea with the Son, that of Constantinople with the Holy Ghost.

IV. The Council of Nicaea defined, against the Arians, what is of faith concerning the Son of God, positively by developing the concept of Sonship contained in the Apostles' Creed, and negatively by a subjoined anathema. The text of the Nicene Creed is: "And [I believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten and born of the Father, God of God, Light of light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial (Greek) with the Father by whom all things were made, which are in heaven and on earth. . . . Those who say: there was a time when the Son of God was not, and before He was begotten He was not and who say that the Son of God was made of nothing, or of another substance (Greek) or essence, or created, or alterable, or mutable these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes."

V. The Council of Constantinople defined, against the First Macedonians, what must be believed concerning the Holy Ghost. The text is: "And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Life-Giver (completely in Greek text) Who proceedeth (Greek text) from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets." The words, "Who proceedeth from the Father," indicate the reason why the Third Person is equal to the two others, viz. by reason of His mode of origin. The procession from the Son is not defined explicitly, because it was already implied in the procession from the Father and was not denied by the Macedonians.

VI. Although the "Anathematisms" of Pope Damasus are anterior in date to the Council of Constantinople, and
were taken as the basis of its definitions, still the last of them may be regarded as a summing up and keystone
of all the dogmatic formulas preceding it. Like the formula of Pope Dionysius, it is directed against Tritheism and Subordinatianism. See the text in Denzinger, n. 6, or better in Hardouin, i. p. 805.

VII. The Athanasian Creed, dating probably from the Athanasian fifth century, expounds the whole dogma of the Trinity by developing the formula, "One God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity." It teaches that the Persons are not to be confounded nor the Substance divided, and especially that the essential attributes "uncreated," "immense," "eternal," etc. belong to each of the Persons because of the identity of Substance, but that these attributes are not multiplied any more than the Substance to which they belong: "not three uncreated, but one uncreated."

VIII. The most complete symbol of the dogma formulated in patristic times, is that of the eleventh Synod of Toledo (A.D. 675), which expounds the Catholic doctrine as developed in the controversies with earlier heresies. First, following the older symbols, the Synod treats of the Three Divine Persons in succession; then, in three further sections, it develops and sets forth the general doctrine, viz. (1) the true unity of Substance, notwithstanding the Trinity of Persons; (2) the real Trinity of the Persons, notwithstanding the unity of Substance; and (3) the inseparable union of the three Persons, demanded by their very distinction.

In later times the dogma received a more distinct formulation only in two points, both directed against most subtle forms of separation and division in God.

IX. The Fourth Lateran Council declared, in its definition against the abbot Joachim (cap. Damnamus), the absolute identity of the Divine Substance with the Persons as well as with Itself; pointing out how the identity of Substance in the Three Persons makes it impossible for there to be a multiplication of the Substance in the several Persons, which would transform the substantial unity of God into a collective unity: "There is one Supreme, Incomprehensible, and Ineffable Thing (res} which is truly Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Three Persons together and each of Them singly."

X. On the other hand, the unity of the relation by which the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son was defined more precisely in the repeated declarations of the Second Council of Lyons and that of Florence against the Greeks. The Greeks, in order to justify their ecclesiastical schism, had excogitated the heresy of a schism in the relations between the Divine Persons; for this and nothing else is the import of the negation of the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son.

The XI. The compact exposition given by the Council of Florence in the decree Pro Jacobitis establishes with precision (1) the real distinction of the Persons, based upon the difference of origin; (2) the absolute unity of the Persons, and Their consequent immanence and equality, (3) especially Their diversity and unity as principles ("Pater est principium sine principio. . . . Filius est principium de principio," etc.).

XII. Among decisions of more recent date, we need only mention the correction of the Synod of Pistoia by Pius VI in the Bull Auctorem fidei, for having used the expression “Deus in tribus personis distinctus" instead of "distinctis;" and the declarations of the Provincial Council of Cologne (1860) against the philosophy of Gunther.

XIII. According to the above documents, the chief points of the dogma of the Trinity are the following:

1. The one God exists truly, really, and essentially as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that is, the Divinity, as Substance, subsists in the form of three really distinct Hypostases or Persons, so that the Divinity, as Essence and Nature, is common to the Three.

2. The three Possessors of the one Divinity are not really distinct from Their common Essence and Nature, as, for instance, a form is distinct from its subject; They only represent three different manners in which the Divine Essence and Nature, as an absolutely independent and individual substance, belongs to Itself.

3. A real difference exists only between the several Persons, and is based upon the particular personal character of each, which consists in the particular manner in which each of Them possesses or comes into possession of the common Nature.

4. The diversity in the manner of possessing the Divine Nature lies in this, that only one Person possesses the Nature originally, and that the two Others, each again in His own way, derive it. The First Person, however, communicates the Divine Nature to the Second Person and to the Third Person, not accidentally but essentially, and These latter receive the Divine Nature likewise essentially because the Nature, being really identical with the Three Persons, essentially belongs to, and essentially demands to be in, each of Them.

5. The diversity existing between the Three Persons implies the existence of an essential relation between each one and the other two, so that the positive peculiarity of each must be expressed by a particular name, characterizing the Second and Third Persons as receiving, and the First as giving, possession of the common Nature.

6. Although the Three Persons, being equal possessors of the Godhead, have a distinct subsistence side by side, still They have no separate existence. On the contrary, by reason of Their identity with the one indivisible Substance and of Their essential relations to each other, none of Them can be conceived without or separate from the other two. Technically this is expressed by the terms circumincessio (= in Greek, coinherence), cohaerentia (Greek), and (Greek) ( = mutual possession).

7. For the same reasons, the most intimate and most real community exists between the Persons as to all that constitutes the object of Their possession. This applies not merely to the attributes of the Divine Substance, but also to the peculiar character of each Person, viz. the producing Persons possess the produced Person as Their production, and are possessed by This as the necessary originators of His personality. Hence, notwithstanding the origin of one Person from another, there is neither subordination nor succession between Them.

8. The activity of a person is attributed to his nature as principium quo, and to the person himself as principium quod. Hence the Divine activity, in as far as it is not specially directed to the production of a Person, is common to the Three Persons. Further, the Divine Nature being absolutely simple and indivisible, the activity proper to the Three Persons is also simple and indivisible; that is, it is not a co-operation, but the simple operation of one principium quo.

9. Thus the Three Persons, as they are one Divine Being, are also the one Principle of all things, the one Lord and Master, the Divine Monarchy (Greek).