Thursday, July 21, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: The Trinity (Part 2)

Having had something of a general introduction to Zubiri's concept of God, we now move to more specific aspects of the doctrine of God, beginning with the Trinity. I will be citing relevant portions from Joaquin Redondo's translation of Christianity. Kindly note the following copyright notice in using this material, as Mr. Redondo has been responsible for bringing several of Zubiri's works into English and has earned the gratitude of any English-speaking student of Zubiri:

© 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo
Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged.

Zubiri begins by discussing the concept of person in the Trinity, and because of the possibility of equivocation, offers his own neologism "terminus" (which approximates in meaning to "subject") in place of person. This introduction is not to dissent from the usage of Nicaea, but rather to avoid the rather common misinterpretation of the term "person" according to modern usage. Zubiri explains:

The term “person” never appears in the New Testament, but only later in the history of the Church with Tertullian. The Greeks employed the term hupóstasis, which really means substance. Only further on did they manage to distinguish substance from person, calling the substance ousía and the person hupóstasis. At any rate this term did not have a formally revealing and revealed characteristic in the first centuries of Christianity. It is important to remember this because when we say today that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three persons, one thinks that the person is an entity each having its own freedom, initiative, and responsibility. To say, in this sense, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three persons is a perfect heresy, this would be a tri-deism. This is absurd and monstrous. Not even remotely are they three persons. Because of this I rather prefer to use the innocuous term of three “termini”. If I continue mentioning persons it is because the use of tradition imposes itself, but person in those places means purely and simply terminus.
In the end, the revealed text tells us that we have just one God and that this God has three termini: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, these three termini do not constitute a triplicity, but something more difficult to apprehend, the meaning of a Trinity. The very term Trinity (triás) appeared for the first time with Theophilus of Antioch towards the end of the II century, where he mentions the first three days of creation and tells us they are “images of the Trinity (triádos)”4. And in the year 675 the XI Council of Toledo precisely defined that haec est Sanctae Trinitatis relata narratio: quae non triplex, sed Trinitas (DS 528). God is not triplicity, but Trinity.

Zubiri then proceeds to a discussion of "functionality." There is a close connection between this concept and that of economy in the patristic literature, which will become clearer later but which can be appreciated in Zubiri's discussion of the undesirable extremes of either making the Trinity entirely functional (modalism) or reducing the idea of functionalism to meaninglessness. Zubiri sees the latter as a serious error in Latin Triadology:

Of course, this presents no obstacle to consider functionality to be an essential element in the revelation of the Trinitarian mystery, and in the action of the Trinity itself. Certainly the Trinity does not consist in functionality, but is functional. For this reason, the exposition of this concept should be the exordium of the Trinitarian theology as revelation itself was. Latin theology, in contradistinction to the Greek, has made an appendix of functionality labeling it with the name of appropriations and missions of the divine persons. From my point of view, the fact that some functions belong to the three persons does not mean they pertain to the divine “nature”, as if God in His action ad extra were not Triune. The divine essence as creative, for example, is presented as if creation were an act of a God who is certainly Triune, but that what He does has nothing to do with His Triune condition, that it is an effect of the one God. This is absurd. One case is that the three persons concern themselves with creation, and quite another that each has a specific function to accomplish inside the same. God never ceases to function as Triune in all cases. St. Thomas puts the matter as follows: “de processione creaturarum a Deo, et de omnium entium prima causa”9. Is that really and actually how creation has to be necessarily understood?

To forestall the error of construing the Trinity entirely as functionality, Zubiri affirms the transcendence of the Trinity, its being apart from creation:

Functionality is, therefore, the first structural moment of the revelation of the Trinitarian mystery. Thus, since the Trinity is functional, but does not consist in functionality it forces us to take another step. In addition this step is expressed in a second concept, which I call transcendence. The error of Modalism consisted in thinking that the Trinity is a structure ad extra of the divinity. On the contrary, not only God, but {108} the Trinity itself is something ad intra at least from the divine order. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as such are prior to any creation. And, in this sense, the Trinity as such transcends the creation of the world.
Certainly it would not be the case of a temporal generation, but of a generation in this other order, which is precisely the one I call transcendence.

Zubiri also warns of the danger of affirming transcendence without considering functionality, which he recognizes as Arianism (rendering only the Father transcendent):

Functionality is not derogated, but absorbed into transcendence. Here it was possible to repeat the same type of mistake made with functionality, namely, not to consider that the Trinity is not functionality, but to make the easy assumption that the Trinity consists only of functionality. Similarly, it is not that these aspects of transcendence I have just mentioned may not exist, but that it was possible to think the Trinity consists precisely in transcendence. That was precisely what was inadmissible: the work of Arius.

If we take wisdom, for example, as a mere quality of God, the fundamentation of the Son in the Father might lead to think that the Son presents a kind of exalted participation in the wisdom of the Father. The Son would then be a kind of diminished God, a simple participation in the divinity. If we call him Word or Logos it would only be in the sense of this participation, but nothing more. The Son would be a reality produced by God. He would be founded in God only by creation. Fundamentation would be a causal effect. The Word would be transcendent to the world, but something created ex nihilo, in a creation certainly anterior to time (áchronos), but a creation in the eternal duration of God. As a creature of God the Word would be God only through grace, katá chárin.

But even these two, transcendence and functionality, do not suffice to make the Word and the Holy Spirit part of the very reality (which Zubiri always construes as structure) of God. According to Zubiri, that requires consubstantiality:

The Word and the Holy Spirit, actually, not only belong to the divine world, but their transcendence is something else, i.e., the very structure (sit venia verbo) of God as such. This is what the third concept expresses, which I shall name by the term consecrated by the Council of Nicea, with the reservation to immediately make some comments about it, the concept of consubstantiality.
In such fashion, consubstantiality is the characteristic and ultimate fundament of transcendence. It is the precise and formal point of the Trinitarian mystery. Because of this it is the mystery of mysteries, because it is the mystery of the very reality of God qua {116} God. Consubstantiality does not derogate transcendence, but founds it. While transcendence consists in affirming that the Word and the Spirit belong to the divine order, consubstantiality affirms the characteristic of this belonging and of this order. Conversely, in the functions we really and effectively live not only the Trinity of three transcendental termini, but we live the very reality in which God consists, we live God in his formal and intrinsic Trinitariness. Functionality is founded on transcendence and transcendence is founded on consubstantiality.

So that outlines the basic notion of how Zubiri sees the Trinity as the fundamental reality (structure) of God. In my next installment, I will proceed to Zubiri's metaphysical construction of ousia and persona as well as his critique of Latin theology's "terrible dialectic of the one and the three."