Augustine on the Trinity

Faith Promoting Rumor has an interesting conversation about the LDS view of Augustine’s (pre-Nicene) formulation of the Trinity.  I recommend you read the post and the discussion.

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12 thoughts on “Augustine on the Trinity

  1. Tim,

    Minor correction, Augustine is wrote after the first two ecumenical councils (Nicea I and Constantinople I), so he can only be post-Nicene. Indeed, that was one of the things that fascinated me about his formulation. If it had been pre-Nicene an orthodox Christian could just argue that it had been superseded by Nicea.

    One argument would be to say that Nicea got it right and Augustine got it wrong. I don’t think it’s correct. Another argument is that they are both correct, which I think is the better argument for a Protestant Christian since a lot Protestant theology intellectually owes a lot to Augustine (grace, election, predestination, etc.).

  2. Another argument is that they are both correct, which I think is the better argument for a Protestant Christian since a lot Protestant theology intellectually owes a lot to Augustine (grace, election, predestination, etc.).

    No need to get snide. Protestants don’t claim that Augustine was infallible, a prophet, or that his words were holy scripture, right? So being completely and totally bonkers wrong about x has absolutely nothing to do with whether he was right about y.

    Being flat-out wrong about the trinity doesn’t undermine anything else he says, and in no way discredits Protestantism for theologically “owing a lot” to Augustine.

  3. Yeah, well… I find that often Mormons ought to be treating their own prophetic commentary with the same rigor that other Christians treat Augustine and others.

    Anyway, it hardly matters if someone like Calvin was formally a prophet or not if your dealing with Christians who treat his thoughts and assumptions with the sort of reverence they would if he was one. For some Evangelicals Calvin and Luther’s paradigms are allowed sovereign control over the bare Biblical text (even if Evangelicals won’t acknowledge this).

    The entire TULIP, for instance, has support in Biblical passages, but is not required by them. But the way some Calvinists treat this framework, you’d think Calvin basically was a prophet, in all but title.

  4. Kullervo,

    I never claimed that Augustine is infallible. I am merely observing that a Protestant (or Catholic for that matter) would probably want to conclude that Nicea and Augustine are BOTH right, i.e. that they are using two different formulations to arrive at the truth.

    FWIW, I like Augustine’s formulation. I don’t know why you have dismissed it without any reason at all. The misunderstanding may be coming from where I mistyped, “I don’t think it’s correct,” it should have been, “I don’t think that’s correct,” referring to the argument that Nicea is correct while Augustine is wrong. Meaning, I think it wiser for an orthodox Christian to take the second route I suggested, that they are both correct.

  5. I am merely observing that a Protestant (or Catholic for that matter) would probably want to conclude that Nicea and Augustine are BOTH right, i.e. that they are using two different formulations to arrive at the truth.

    Why? Why would they want to conclude that Augustine was right? Why would it matter?

  6. Why would they want to conclude that Augustine was right?

    Because I think that Augustine is correct. And so does the lecturer who presented it, Philip Cary, professor of philosophy at Eastern University, and Anglican in good standing.

    Beyond that, I leave it as an exercise, to you, to do an exhaustive comparison of Nicea and Augustine and let me know if the formulations are equivalent. Again, I think that a well read orthodox Christian would conclude that they are equivalent.

    Why would it matter?

    Because it’s vastly simpler to understand than Nicea, also see above.

  7. I want to talk about this again. In what way is Augustine’s formulation of the Trinity unorthodox or inconsistent with the Nicene creed?

  8. I’d say that Augustine’s statement is consistent with the Nicene Creed but not the equivalent.

    The difference is that Augustine’s formulation suggests that the three Persons are all related to each other in the same way (although it doesn’t directly state so). But the Nicene Creed seems to indicate that there are some distinctions in how the three Persons relate to each other. The Father and Son are consubstantial, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from them (or, in the Eastern formulation, from just the Father). There’s nothing directly stated in the Nicene Creed about the Holy Spirit being consubstantial with the Father and Son, but neither does it say that they aren’t all three consubstantial.

    Because of the ambiguity, I don’t see Augustine and the Nicene Creed as saying the same thing. But they don’t directly contradict each other either.

  9. Augustine’s statement seems to be in line with the Athanasian Creed (which is of course not really a creed and probably not written by Athanasius).

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