Essay / Theology

Polanus, Axiom 6b on the Trinity

Here’s our next conversation about the Trinity, following Polanus’ 18 Axioms.

The main thing Polanus wants to clarify in this axiom is that when we speak of difference in God, it can never be difference in essence; it is instead difference in person. In the first half of Axiom 6, Polanus made this point by citing a range of scriptures that show the persons not being each other, but being in relation to each other. The final scripture he cited was John 14:16, “I will ask the Father, and he will send another comforter.” In explaining this “another,” Polanus appeals to a traditional theological phrase about there being alius but not aliud in the Trinity.

Here’s Ryan’s translation, followed by our discussion:

For this reason, there is in the holy Trinity alius et alius, but not aliud et aliud. For the Father is alius, the Son alius, and the Holy Spirit alius; because the Father is one person, the Son another person, and the Holy Spirit another person. But the Father is not aliud, and the Son aliud, and the Holy Spirit aliud, because there is not one essence of the Father, another essence of the Son, and another essence of the Holy Spirit. Rather, there is one essence the same in number belonging to all three persons. The existence of the Father is the existence of the Son and Holy Spirit; thus the Father’s essence is the Son and the Holy Spirit. But “being the Father” is not “being the Son” nor “being the Holy Spirit. Just as the unity of the divine essence in three persons is supreme and individual, so likewise the distinction of persons is real and discrete in the unity of essence. The divine nature is God; thus, it is common to all three persons of the divine nature, just as the attribution “God” is. The divine nature of the Father is the Father; the divine nature of the Son is the Son; and the divine nature of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. This is because one considers the nature as determinate and subsisting in the person, each being simple, both nature and person, but distinct in reason—and then the persons are themselves distinct really. Therefore, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit differ personally, not essentially.

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