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Trinity 5: The Co-eternal Son (Apologia Pt 7)

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Written by Basil on 09/1/2004 12:43 PM. Filed under:


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In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. All things were created through him, and nothing that was made was made without him. And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. St. John the Theologian (Jn 1.1,3,14)

As the Logos of God, the Son reveals God the Father. Logos is a multivalent word borrowed from Greek philosophy that the evangelist and theologian St. John used to allude to the Hebrew creation story while capturing a sense that the Logos continues to uphold creation. Logos literally means “Word,� but it also has strong connotations of “Principle� and “Reason.�

In the Hebrew creation story, God creates by his word. In Christ, creation is upheld in continuing creative activity. Beginning with St. Justin the Martyr in the second century, Christian writers talk about the Logos, the Principle “by whom all things were made,â€? while discussing the logoi or principles of creatures, which participate in the Logos and are upheld by him. This sense of Logos was especially favored by St. Maximus the Confessor. Logos is typically translated as “Wordâ€? in most English Bibles, but this loses much of the connation the word held for the original Greek readers of Scripture. In some Chinese Bibles, Logos is translated as Tao — “Pathâ€? or “Wayâ€? — recalling that early Christians called their faith “the Way.” Furthermore, Logos is etymologically at the root of the English word “logic,â€? reinforcing the sense of “principleâ€? or “reason.â€?

The Son is coeternal with the Father. He is eternally begotten — born or generated — of the Father. Being begotten of the Father is not an event that happens in time; it is a relationship of love between the Father and the Son in which God the Father is always and eternally bringing forth the Son and bestowing upon him the one, eternal divine nature.

As a man Jesus Christ has a beginning in time, when his conception was announced to the Virgin Mary; however, as God, he has no beginning. We will discuss this apparent contradiction further after we have explored the Incarnation. The fathers of the Council of Chalcedon — the fourth universal council of the Church — tackled this very knotted dilemma.

The Father is not first in time — the Father and the Son, along with the Holy Spirit, have eternally existed together in a communion of love — rather, he has a primacy of order. He is “firstâ€? because he is the fountainhead of the Trinity, sharing his divine nature with the Son and the Holy Spirit. But, as St. Basil reminds us, this explanation is for the weakness of our finitude, to help us understand the loving communion shared by the persons of the Trinity. It is not meant to exhaust it in our shifting, inadequate words. “When the Lord taught us the doctrine of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he did not make arithmetic a part of this gift! …There is one God and Father, one only-begotten Son, and one Holy Spirit. We declare each of the persons uniquely, and if we must use numbers, we will not let an ignorant arithmetic lead us astray into polytheism.â€? (St. Basil, Treatise on the Holy Spirit)

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2 Responses to “Trinity 5: The Co-eternal Son (Apologia Pt 7)”

  1. James Says:

    I wonder what has inspired you to write all these posts on theological/spiritual matters.

  2. basil Says:

    The Holy Spirit, of course. 😛

    Actually, I’m not sure what you’re asking there. Do you mean the Apologia series? Or are you referring to all of my theological/spiritual posts from the beginning? (Sorry, Miles. That just happens to be the first post on Christianity!)