Nov 26, 2012

Augustine’s view of the Trinity

Augustine used analogies for the Trinity and made contributions to Trinitarian thought. Of course, the Trinity is not an Augustinian invention, as some have claimed, but to deny his great contribution to the development and understanding of the doctrine would be foolish.

He wrote a masterful work called 'On the Trinity', for example. In 'On the Trinity' he spent a great amount of time and ink reflecting on ... The Trinity!

Augustine used several analogies to assist in understanding the Trinity, not to explain or defend it (he once said “I believe in order that I may understand”). One had to do with eyesight and how (he thought) vision works. Another had to do with human mental powers, or the different functions of the mind. Another had to do with three things needed for a person to do something.

professor Dr. Richard C. Gamble of Reformed Theological Seminary explained this analogy by giving an illustration of a person taking a test. They must have the desire or willingness to take the test as well as the ability to recollect the information, for example. A number of things (3) are needed to be able to take the test. Another analogy had to do being and objects, as in there is the object but then there is the mental recollection of the object in the mind or the presentation of the object.

The analogies he used were quite philosophical and nuanced, too subtle to easily explain. Augustine was more insightful and precise in his analogies than others, though. He hashed out the relationship between the Father and the Son, and the Spirit as well in a much more detailed way.

Augustine knew that language has its limits and was felt hampered by human expression in his Trinitarian discussions but still his reflections were greatly helpful then as they are now.

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