Technical question regarding the aseity of the Holy Spirit

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Antipas_14, Jul 15, 2019.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Antipas_14

    Antipas_14 Puritan Board Freshman

    I have a question that I can’t wrap my head around lately and was hoping you guys could point me in the right direction or share some insight into your understanding.

    1) How are we to understand the Aseity of the Holy Spirit in terms of the following:
    According to John 5:26,

    “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.”

    We see that aseity then was eternally communicated to the Son. In terms of the Nicene Creed, since the Son is eternally begotten, this attribute is eternally communicated to the Son. I could be wrong on my thinking here, correct me if I am. But allow me to conclude...

    According The the Nicene Creed, the Holy Spirit proceeds (ἐκπορεύομαι) from the Father and the Son. Does that also imply that the aseity of each the Father and the Son is communicated in the proceeding? I’m trying to make a distinction between begotten (brought forth) and proceeding (sent forth) as well as reconciling the uniqueness of the begotteness of the one and only Son of the Father. If I think of a father and son on earth, DNA is communicated from the father to the son. Yet in sending forth someone, there would be no communication of the DNA (forgive my weak analogy). So the Son shares in the essence of the Father because he is eternally begotten of the Father. But in what way is this divine attribute communicated in the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father and Son?

    Sorry for the lengthy question. Reason I thought I’d ask is because I spent my life as a Roman Catholic and finally found the truth that is in Christ alone after starting to ask these types of questions. That all led me to finding the reformed faith and an OPC church close to home. Maybe this just one of those questions we won’t find out until glory!

    Thanks for any help you can provide!
  2. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Luke, as you mention this is a highly technical question, and of course an accurate answer depends to a large degree on the definition of terms.

    If you take the view that begetting involves an entire communication of the whole numerically identical divine essence, then begetting and proceeding would both "convey" aseity. The difference between generation and spiration has nothing to do with any of the essential attributes of God. The difference pertains exclusively to the hypostasis who is the terminus of begetting or spiration, not to the divine essence or any of the qualities we use to talk about it.

    In other words, it would not be right to think of distinct attributes being transmitted separately. If divine simplicity means anything at all, you couldn't think of eternity or any property pertaining to God's essence as being communicated separately or in a different way than the communication of the essence itself -- the properties are not accidental, not detachable, from the essence.

    With regard to distinguishing being begotten and proceeding, Leonard Rijssen suggested that the difference between generation and spiration might be understood specifically in terms of the Son being the express image of the Father, and that unique personal likeness to the Father is exhibited in that the Spirit proceeds from both, whereas no person proceeds from or is generated by the Spirit.

    If you don't have a copy of Richard Muller's Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms you would probably find a great deal of profit in it. The best book I know of on the logic of Trinitarian relations remains Richard of St. Victor's On the Trinity.
  3. Antipas_14

    Antipas_14 Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the response and the resources, I will be looking them up in the near future.

    Just for clarification, how would you respond to the following summary of John Calvin’s perspective:

    “Through an examination of Calvin’s writings and his debates with orthodox trinitarians like Pierre Caroli and antitrinitarians like Valentine Gentile, Ellis argues that Calvin strove to distinguish essential and relative predication in articulating the triunity of God, thus articulating a formal distinction between the Son being God and the Son being Son. When Calvin affirmed that the Son is autotheos (God-of-Himself), he denied that the Son possesses aseity as he possesses it from the Father, rather the Son simply possesses aseity because he possesses the same essence as the Father.“

    And B.B. Warfield’s summary of Calvin on the same topic:

    “The point of view which adjusted everything to the conception of ‘generation’ and ‘procession’ as worked out by the Nicene Fathers was entirely alien to him. The conception itself he found difficult, if not unthinkable; and although he admitted the facts of ‘generation’ and ‘procession’, he treated them as bare facts, and refused to make them constitutive of the doctrine of the Trinity. . . . He was ready not only to subordinate, but even to sacrifice, if need be, the entire body of Nicene speculations”
    (Calvin and Calvinism, 257)

    I’m not trying to change the subject to focus on the aseity of the Son of God, or thinking Calvin has a monopoly on the doctrine, I am thinking if I can properly understand the aseity of the Son of God, I will be able to better understand the aseity of the Holy Spirit.

    Hope that makes sense, it’s been on my mind and really want to understand the inter-Trinitarian relationships more concisely, questions like these have always led to stronger faith in the past, just have to be patient with the answer!

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  4. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I'm no Calvin scholar, but the summaries from Ellis and Warfield seem accurate to me as representations of Calvin. He was very willing to return to the drawing board, and there's a very interesting episode in his early letters where he relates quite an emotional crisis provoked by his mishandling of a question about the Apostle's Creed. I think he quickly came to value that creed more highly.

    And that's the other way of taking the questions of generation and procession; don't see them as communications of the divine essence, but as descriptions of the uniqueness of each hypostasis. I think there is something to be said for the restraint of this view, in that it avoids a lot that could easily become speculative and closes doors to what could well turn into erroneous conceptions. But I would not say that anyone willing to say or suggest more than that is wrong or unorthodox or even imprudent. Calvin is a great theological genius, but in some important respects he was not an academic theologian the way Turretin unmistakably was.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page