Nobody Knows

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The more we know, the more we realize we don’t know, or so the aphorism goes. Since we are not angels but mortals, our knowledge is mediated through our senses and gained through a discursive process; we do not intellectually perceive anything apart from the object from which idea is abstracted and drawn forth. Were we intellects like the angels, we would be able to grasp the universal and the concrete at once.

But even intellects as great as an the angels’ are not infinite, and there are finally things that they simply cannot know, for one must be God to know them. The angels are as ignorant about the divine essence as we are, for only one who was divine could see it laid open before him in all its infinite and perfect mystery. And as God’s will absolutely coincides with his essence, what God intends and wills to do is, apart from some revelatory act, something to which the divine substance alone is privy.

It is against this background that one of Jesus’ most difficult sayings occurs, a statement which has provoked endless rounds of controversy and emptied oceans of ink:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32 NIV)

The implications for Christian orthodoxy are, of course, immediately obvious. If Trinitarian theology maintains that the Son is one in substance with the Father, and if that unity of substance is predicated upon an absolute co-incidence of attributes, then for the Father to know something that the Son does not (or for the Son to not know something that the Father does) is, well, somewhat problematic for the whole theological edifice.

St. Hilary summarizers precisely why this particular statement is vexing:

Is it credible, that He, Who stands to all things as the Author of their present and future, should not know all things? If all things are through and in Christ, and in such a way through Christ that they are also in Him, must not that, which is both in Him and through Him, be also in His knowledge, when that knowledge, by virtue of a nature which cannot be nescient, habitually apprehends what is neither in, nor through Him ? But that which derives from Him alone its origin, and has in Him alone the efficient cause of its present state and future development, can that be beyond the ken of His nature, through which is effected, and in which is contained, all that it is and shall be? (St. Hilary, On the Trinity, Book 9)

In other words, if everything came into existence through the Son, that ‘everything’ is exhaustive, including time itself. Thus, the Son contains all things within himself, including what has come before, what is now and what is to come, and thus could not help but know it, since he is the cause of its being in the first place.

Theologians are resourceful, and it is therefore not at all surprising that this passage has been met by some of Christian history’s most prominent thinkers. One fascinating aspect of this passage is that there are numerous ways of explaining how it can be reconciled to the orthodox confession of the oneness of the Father and the Son.

Textual

For example, some of the church fathers maintained that there was an textual issue. Noticing that Matthew’s parallel account does not include the phrase ‘or the Son’ in many of the extant manuscripts, some (such as St. Ambrose and St. Jerome) maintained that the phrase in Mark was a later insertion. However, while many manuscripts of Matthew do not contain the phrase (even though most modern translations contain it), there are only a handful of manuscripts of Mark that lack it, which caused even most of the earliest commentators to avoid taking that approach.

Figure of Speech

One of the more common explanations (and one taken up by luminaries such as St. Augustine and St. Aquinas) is that the term ‘know’ here does not refer to knowledge per se but rather to the revealing of that knowledge. St. Augustine explains by means of other scriptural language:

For He is ignorant of this, as making others ignorant; that is, in that He did not so know as at that time to show His disciples: as it was said to Abraham, “Now I know that you fear God,” that is, now I have caused you to know it; because he himself, being tried in that temptation, became known to himself… For the Scriptures do not use any other kind of speech than may be found in use among men, because they speak to men. (St. Augustine, On the Trinity, Book 1)

According to St. Augustine here, in the case of Abraham God speaks as if he was ignorant and has passed into knowledge, even though it is clear that this is really only a figure of speech rather than positing that God comes to know things by discursive reasoning. St. Augustine would no doubt agree with St. Hilary that since the Son is the source of all that is he could in no way be ignorant of it, and hence his statement here should be taken as a figure of speech as naturally as we do for that of God to Abraham. He expands on this point elsewhere:

I am by no means of opinion that a figurative mode of expression can be rightly termed a falsehood. For it is no falsehood to call a day joyous because it renders men joyous, or a lupine harsh because by its bitter flavour it imparts harshness to the countenance of him who tastes it, or to say that God knows something when He makes man know it (an instance quoted by yourself in these words of God to Abraham, “Now I know that you fear God”). Genesis 22:12 These are by no means false statements, as you yourself readily see. Accordingly, when the blessed Hilary explained this obscure statement of the Lord, by means of this obscure kind of figurative language, saying that we ought to understand Christ to affirm in these words that He knew not that day with no other meaning than that He, by concealing it, caused others not to know it, he did not by this explanation of the statement apologize for it as an excusable falsehood, but he showed that it was not a falsehood, as is proved by comparing it not only with these common figures of speech, but also with the metaphor, a mode of expression very familiar to all in daily conversation. For who will charge the man who says that harvest fields wave and children bloom with speaking falsely, because he sees not in these things the waves and the flowers to which these words are literally applied? (St. Augustine, Letter to Oceanus)

There is a certain measure of plausibility to this explanation, but one of the disadvantages is that it requires an equivocation within the text itself. After all, the same deficiency of knowledge seems to be predicated of men, angels and the Son, reserved for the Father alone. While the text could certainly have this meaning, there would appear to be few exegetical clues which would make this obvious, at least to make it a natural reading apart from the theological precondition of what Trinitarianism posits. That is not to say that such a scenario is by any means illegitimate, but rather that it tends to leave a certain amount of ambiguity since we are compelled to understand knowledge in one way for certain beings and the (supposedly) same knowledge another way for others.

Two Natures

The other standard explanation of this passage has recourse to the hypostatic union; how in the person of the Son there are two natures, divine and human, and each nature exercises what is proper to it without mingling with the other. In other words, the human nature of Jesus is completely human, and as such has a limited intellect which naturally cannot know everything.

This understanding has an ancient and luminous pedigree, held by none other than St. Athanasius. The idea here is fairly simple: Jesus’ statement that the Son does not know the day nor the hour refers to the human nature of Jesus, which in and of itself is incapable of knowing such a thing. He explains it this way:

Moreover, after narrating the parable of the Virgins, again He shows more clearly who they are who are ignorant of the day and the hour, saying, ‘Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour Matthew 25:13.’ He who said shortly before, ‘No one knows, no not the Son,’ now says not ‘I know not,’ but ‘ye know not.’ In like manner then, when His disciples asked about the end, suitably said He then, ‘no, nor the Son,’ according to the flesh because of the body; that He might show that, as man, He knows not; for ignorance is proper to man. If however He is the Word, if it is He who is to come, He to be Judge, He to be the Bridegroom, He knows when and in what hour He comes, and when He is to say, ‘Awake, you that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light Ephesians 5:14.’ For as, on becoming man, He hungers and thirsts and suffers with men, so with men as man He knows not; though divinely, being in the Father Word and Wisdom, He knows, and there is nothing which He knows not. In like manner also about Lazarus He asks humanly, who was on His way to raise him, and knew whence He should recall Lazarus’s soul; and it was a greater thing to know where the soul was, than to know where the body lay; but He asked humanly, that He might raise divinely. So too He asks of the disciples, on coming into the parts of Cæsarea, though knowing even before Peter made answer. For if the Father revealed to Peter the answer to the Lord’s question, it is plain that through the Son was the revelation, for ‘No one knows the Son,’ says He, ‘save the Father, neither the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him Luke 10:22.’ But if through the Son is revealed the knowledge both of the Father and the Son, there is no room for doubting that the Lord who asked, having first revealed it to Peter from the Father, next asked humanly; in order to show, that asking after the flesh, He knew divinely what Peter was about to say. The Son then knew, as knowing all things, and knowing His own Father, than which knowledge nothing can be greater or more perfect. (St. Athanasius Four Discourses Against the Arians Book 3.46)

There is a definite advantage to this approach in that one does not have to equivocate about the knowledge (or lack thereof) in this passage. For if the Son’s ignorance is predicated of his humanity, then suddenly the agents in view (men, angels, the Son) are ultimately all created beings, and thus the difficulty is seemingly alleviated. For even if Christ’s human nature could know about the end because of it being revealed by virtue of the hypostatic union, such knowledge would be as unnatural to that nature as to humans or angels.

Another advantage is that it leaves untouched the unity of knowledge between the Son and the Father. After all, if the Son is the Word and Wisdom of God, it would be difficult to predicate any ignorance of him, and that is what many of the church fathers have in view here. This passage can not be understood in isolation but is part and parcel of divine revelation. The Son is clearly said to be one with the Father, to be the Word, and to be, as Sts. Hilary and Augustine have argued, the very one through whom all things have come to be, including time itself.

One final advantage is that there is a convenient correspondence between this explanation and others in which a human aspect of Jesus seems to be in contradiction to his divinity. The agony in the garden is the most prominent example, for even though the Father and the Son are one in being, we see that the Son seems to have a different will than the Father, something that would be impossible if they were truly one in substance. One prominent explanation is that the disjunction of will is that of the human will of Jesus and the divine will of God (and thus the Son). Jesus in his humanity did not wish to die, even though the cross was the Father’s will. Ultimately, the human will of the Son came into oneness with that of the Father, as seen in those famous words “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

Due to this and many other considerations, the two-nature explanation is one of the most common in the modern experience, for it appears to obviate the apparent contradiction between Jesus’ words and Trinitarian orthodoxy.

Problems

Notwithstanding the immense theological and historical pedigree, I have always found this explanation somewhat wanting and less than intellectually satisfying. These lingering difficulties make understanding this passage slightly frustrating, for I find myself always wondering what is going on here, and why Jesus would actually say such a thing.

It is incredibly difficult to parse out the two natures in one person, and there seems to be no method for ascribing one thing to the human substance and another to the divine except for reconciling a passage to a theological presupposition. However, surely the purpose of an inspired text is not to serve as a way of reconciling another but rather to reveal something profound.

One of the greatest difficulties I have with there two natures explanation arises from the hierarchy of being that Jesus seems to indicate in this deficiency of knowledge. He begins with humanity, rises to angels, and finally moves on to the Son, all of whom do not know what the Father alone does. The two-nature proposal would seem to go from humanity to angels and back to humanity, which seemingly flies in the face of what is being clearly stated here. referring back to the communication of idioms, while something of a stopgap measure, ultimately does not bring about intellectual harmony in me, most likely a user error.

Needless to say, these questions are not easy to answer.

Getting Everything

It wasn’t until I started working my way through Richard of St. Victor’s De Trinitate that another approach opened up, one which has the convenience of finding itself on Jesus’ lips. Richard’s explanation of the Trinitarian relations revolves around the relations of charity-love. Given that charity-love requires another to receive it, and given that God is the fullness of the perfection of charity-love, in God there must necessarily be a plurality of persons among whom this dynamism of charity-love is expressed.

There thus become several movements of charity-love, corresponding to the various persons of the Trinity. The originating movement of charity-love is that where a person loves and desires to be loved in return. The receiving of the fullness of this charity-love results in a reciprocity, in which the receiver loves and wishes to be loved in return. And since this reciprocity of love already exists, a third person completes the circle, so to speak, by receiving this co-love.

The crucial point for the subject at hand is that even in the Trinitarian relations there is a person from whom all the perfections of the Godhead flow and are communicated in their totality. Even the eternal existences of the Son and the Spirit are eternally communicated by and originated from the Father. This distinction in origination underlies the distinction in persons, and for Richard makes intelligible the personal properties that allow God to be one substance but three persons (or existences, in his terminology).

This understanding ultimately illuminates Jesus’ statement about the Son’s supposed deficiency in knowledge in light of his statements of unity with the Father. For we read this elsewhere:

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (John 5:19-24 NIV)

It can be tempting to read this statement as an admission of helplessness and dependency, but in respect to Jesus’ insistence of unity it is actually a profound admission of that very indissoluble union. The Son can only do what he sees the Father doing not because he is powerless but rather because his very activity is that of the Father.

Understood in this way, one does not have to equivocate on the meaning of knowledge or try and parse out the distinction between the divine and human natures in Jesus. Rather, since Trinitarian orthodoxy asserts that the Son is eternally generated by the Father, and since Jesus himself states that he does what he sees his Father doing, the most natural way of understanding this is- shockingly enough- in exactly the way that Jesus states it.

The Father alone knows because he is the one who is the eternal origination of the Son, certainly not in time but rather in existence. The existence of the Son (Richard of St. Victor’s ex-sistence) is externally originated by the Father, and thus the unity of divine attributes that the Son possesses is something that he has eternally received. Going back to Richard’s conception of the movements of charity-love, The Son possesses charity-love eternally by having eternally received it from the Father; without the Father’s movement of charity-love he would not possess it.

Therefore, as humans and angels cannot know God’s will in this manner because their minds are incapable of perceiving the divine essence and could only know it if God were to reveal it to them, so analogously the Son does not know because he can only know what he has received from the Father.

St. Augustine seems to anticipate this sort of understanding:

It remains, therefore, that these texts are so expressed, because the life of the Son is unchangeable as that of the Father is, and yet He is of the Father; and the working of the Father and of the Son is indivisible, and yet so to work is given to the Son from Him of whom He Himself is, that is, from the Father; and the Son so sees the Father, as that He is the Son in the very seeing Him. For to be of the Father, that is, to be born of the Father, is to Him nothing else than to see the Father; and to see Him working, is nothing else than to work with Him: but therefore not from Himself, because He is not from Himself. And, therefore, those things which “He sees the Father do, these also does the Son likewise,” because He is of the Father. For He neither does other things in like manner, as a painter paints other pictures, in the same way as he sees others to have been painted by another man; nor the same things in a different manner, as the body expresses the same letters, which the mind has thought; but “whatsoever things,” says He, “the Father does, these same things also does the Son likewise.” He has said both “these same things,” and “likewise;” and hence the working of both the Father and the Son is indivisible and equal, but it is from the Father to the Son. (St. Augustine, On the Trinity, Book 2.1)

The Son’s mode of receiving charity-love and existence in the Trinitarian communion thus appropriately unites itself to the human nature which receives the totality of its substance from the divine being. In the hypostatic union there is a true union of receiving love and thus of receiving knowledge, and in in this manner Jesus’ statement need not be understood as equivocation or as idiomatic or as referring to a particular nature, since the Son truly receives all he has from the Father.

This somewhat impenetrable mystery thus moves this passage out of the realm of potential embarrassment and into that of absolute profundity, for here in this moment we catch a glimpse of the deep unity between the divine and human natures in the person of the Son.

4 comments

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  • Ok my friend, love the above posting. I of course have misgivings about this language Richard of St. Victor, you and now St Augustine use in terms of “origination” like “externally originated” or “eternal origination”. I don’t think “eternal” and “originated” make any sense together. The whole idea of “origination” in a timeless existence such as where the trinity dwells in my opinion holds no meaning.

    I do of course think the concept of reciprocated love and co-love is brilliant and a reasonable argument for the trinity, but trying to find the personhood of the godhead in the origination of that love is to create a distinction where none exists, truly where none CAN exist.

    There is incommunicable personhood, but I believe it resides in the individual purpose they serve in their relation with what occurs in time/space. In other words, the only distinction in the trinitarian Godhead is that the Son is doing a unique work in space/time, likewise the Spirit, likewise the Father. This distinction therefore only exists in eternity in that they were always “to” do these unique works and post resurrection to “have” always done them. I believe this is the only way to maintain the “unity of substance predicated upon an absolute co-incidence of attributes.”

    Because of this I find St. Athanasius to be correct and have no misgivings or unsatisfied feelings. Jesus as a man was a creature of faith. He was the “first born among many brethren” who are the “children of faith”. It is in this aspect his “I do only what I see the Father doing” statements are to be understood. Pre and post the Son’s divesture or emptying of Himself in His incarnation, He of course knew the hour, the day, the minute, the plank time of the “manifestation of the sons of God”, or else there is no “absolute co-incidence of attributes”.

    Also I have no problem with the order of hierarchy He uses in His answer. The disciples believed they were asking “The Son of God” this question. It is perfectly natural for Him to start with them, those who are asking, humanity in other words, then moving on to angels and finally to Himself. Again however I do not believe Jesus is saying here, “Even the second person of the trinity in eternity does not know the day nor hour…” only that it is not given Him in His incarnated state where He does nothing but of the Father.

    Jason if you accept my response then your reverence for St Athanasius can remain in tact. 🙂

    Lance

    • Hey Lance- thanks so much for the great comments. I really appreciate you taking the time to interact with the post! A few thoughts:

      I think the term ‘originated’, while perhaps problematic on a colloquial level, is nevertheless not necessarily incompatible with an eternal action. In Richard and Augustine’s sense it does not have the notion of coming to be or any sort of temporal overtones (which, btw, I don’t think you are saying), but rather is intending ‘origin’ in the sense of ‘source.’ There is certainly nothing incompatible with ‘eternal’ and ‘source’ on the level of being, since the divine substance is the source of its own eternal being. To possess the divine being is to possess it in its totality, and thus the origin of one existence (say, the Son) as having his existence out of the Father is to eternally receive that existence. In patristic thought there was a fondness for conceiving of the relations by means of the figure of the sun; the ray of the sun is distinct in that it is not the sun, yet the nature of the sun is such that it is never without its ray. An imperfect analogy, to be sure, but one that nevertheless gets towards the idea of an eternal relation having an eternal source.

      Richard would also argue that the very terms Father and Son point to this reality, since the essence of being a father is to generate a son, and conversely to be a son is to receive existence from a father. The biological analogy certainly doesn’t exhaust the relation, but at the same time he would argue that the fact that revelation includes such terms means that they point to the eternal and ineffable relations.

      As far as the distinction (or lack thereof) in charity-love, I am curious and would like for you to elaborate on why the origination of charity-love is creating a distinction that not only does not exist, but cannot exist.

      One danger I would perceive in locating the distinction in persons in the eternal missions viz-a-viz their roles in salvation history is that is would seem to base the distinctions on something other than the eternal divine being and the relations thereof, which would seem to immediately contradict the distinction existing only in ‘eternity.’ Granted, God’s will is eternal and his ideas are as well, but that does not mean that the actualization of God’s creative will and act is thus eternal, not only because creation has not always existed but more primarily because, unlike God, it is not the source of its own existence. Since this is the case, for the distinction in relations to exist in eternity relative to that which isn’t God would actually seem to undercut the absolute co-incidence of God’s attributes, since the distinctions themselves are predicated on something that is not absolutely co-incident with the divine being.

      One final thought- I don’t necessarily think that St. Athansius’ treatment of this question is necessarily wrong; in fact, I think that the explanation I have given latently contains his treatment within it and there isn’t any real incompatibility. That being said, I suppose I would consider it somewhat incomplete, as I mentioned (perhaps more obliquely) in my post. I think that the same applies to Jesus’ statements about him doing what he sees the Father doing; in fact, given the reality of the hypostatic union, I think it ends up harmonizing both approaches since on the one hand the human nature is, as a creature, entirely dependent on God for being, while on the other the Son eternally receives all the he has from the Father. Richard of St. Victor (and myself) would see in this an appropriateness and fittingness as far as the Incarnation is concerned, since assumption of the human nature holds an analogical relation to the Son and the Father in the eternal, inter-Trinitarian life. The temporal mission of the Son in the Incarnation thus meaningfully iconizes the relation between the Father and the Son.

      I will end there before I write another blog post within the comments! Thanks again for your comments, and definitely keep them coming 🙂

      – Jason

  • I knew relying on your affection for St. Athanasius in the end wouldn’t work. I love the opportunity to interact Jason, we must do this face to face sometime. However having to write out my ideas probably cuts down on the rambling you would undoubtedly have to endure.

    I do understand your, Richard’s and for that matter Augustine’s point about the use of the term originate being more along the lines of “source” when speaking in eternal parlance. My question is why think that way about the trinity when you don’t have to?

    Perhaps its just preference, but in my mind I want to see the trinity in eternity as having NO distinction. Even to the point of not being able to discern which way love and all other attributes are flowing. Reciprocated love being just that, eternally reciprocated, mutual in absolute every respect. I believe keeping the Godhead pristine in it’s unity of substance and it’s absolute co-incidence of attributes is paramount. Of course I know you do too.

    In light of this I don’t see the eternal, perfect attributes flowing in a circle A to B to C to A etc… I think more in terms of A to B, A to C, B to A, B to C, C to A etc… there being no source or origination or flow, just… being.
    Even if my perspective is preference isn’t an idle one, assigning movement (as in flow) to a being outside of time is risky. So again why think of the Godhead like this if one doesn’t have to. It really felt that in his book, Richard was struggling to come up with a way for the trinity to have some form of eternal distinctness after he spent so much time establishing unity of substance. Origination, flow, source, just feels forced.

    That’s why I offer my explanation that the personal distinctiveness of the Godhead be found in the purpose that each one serves in the consummation of their eternal covenant in space/time. As to your objection, I agree “that the actualization of God’s creative will and act is (NOT) eternal” so that Christ is not eternally on the cross and eternally walking the earth. However I do believe the purposes that each of the Godhead serves in their actions in space/time IS eternal. I.e. they are eternally the Father, Son and Spirit and that distinction of those purposes is contained in their eternal covenant.
    Where Richard contends that the Godhead’s Fatherness, Soness, and Spiritness is somehow extant in the origination or source or flow of divine attributes, I believe it resides eternally in the mind of God and their covenantal relationship. It resides in what they have freely chosen to be their roles in the consummation of the covenant. I believe this explanation of personal distinction is more elegant and logically consistent.

    I can tell you are vested more and more in the validity of the idea of the flow of divine attributes defining the trinity’s Persons, hence your application to the passage in question. But just understanding the direction the divine attribute of knowledge flows from the Father to Son still doesn’t explain why the flow of information is staunched, and why the Son is somehow unaware of the future “day or hour”. Athanasius is still our best answer.

    Wow thanks for this Jason, it makes my thoughts rise above the mundane. I really appreciate you my brother.

  • Lance- great comments again! A few responses:

    While I don’t necessarily think Richard’s particular way of understanding the relations of the Trinity is necessary, I would disagree that there is no necessity in understanding the distinctions in terms of origination, for a number of reasons.

    Firstly. the longstanding orthodox understanding is that the Father is the source of the divine being, something with which St. Athanasius would certainly agree. Hence the terms ‘generation’ and ‘spiration’ being part and parcel of the orthodox formulations.

    Secondly- and along the same lines- the revelation of distinctions in persons viz-a-viz the titles/names Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been understood within orthodox formulations to describe the inter-trinitarian life as it is in itself and in regards to the divine being. Hence, while the temporal missions have a certain fittingness to the divine relations, the fact that the persons’ distinctions are in respect to the divine being itself automatically makes the particular missions in respect to creation irrelevant, since the temporal mission would flow forth, if at all, from the eternal personal distinction.

    That being the case, if divine revelation is going to be meaningful at all, the terms ‘Father’ and ‘Son,’ for example, are not simply designations relating to the temporal order or the temporal missions but have some analogical relationship to the eternal relations. That is why one finds terms such as ‘eternal generation’ being employed of the relationship between the Father and the Son.

    The reason, imo, that Richard spends so much time establishing the unity of the divine substance is precisely so that the divine relations will not be located in either a parceling out of the divine substance nor in the temporal missions. After all, if creation only participates to some extent in the divine being, then a divine relation cannot be defined by reference to a participated being without forfeiting its divine nature, since its personal property would then be predicated not on its possession of the divine being but by the participation of a being which does not posses the totality of the divine substance.

    On a related note, I think one major difficulty in conceiving of A to B, A to C, B to A, etc., is that there is ultimately no meaningful distinction between any of those in and of themselves. That is, the only way one could say that A is ‘A’ is some prior determination that marks out A as ‘A’. For the Trinitarian relations it thus becomes quite crucial what this determination is, for if it arises from the divine substance then one has parceled up the divine being, and if it arises from a relation to that which isn’t the divine substance or the divine persons then one has made the divine, personal distinctions relative to that which is not not divine, and thus renders the distinctions meaningless as far as it relates to the divine relations in respect to themselves.

    Richard’s model actually is not a circular flow, for (in respect to existence) the Father is giving only, the Son is giving-receiving, and the Spirit is receiving only. The same relation exists analogously in respect to charity-love, since the Father is gratuitous love, the Son is co-love, and the Spirit is due love. The term ‘movement’ is meant to be analogous here, and, since God transcends the categories of being, relation is not merely a category of being to other beings or accidents but, in being co-incidental with the divine substance, is just the existence of a divine person in relation to another.

    As far as the distinction of persons contained in the eternal covenant in God’s mind- I’d agree as far as the temporal relations and missions are concerned, but I think one needs to definitely make a distinction between levels of eternality. Creation, after all, is eternally contained in the mind of God without being either eternal itself (as God is) or the cause of its own coming into being (as if God, because he ‘thought’ of creation from all eternity, was thus compelled to create). Since all that is not God only participates to some extent in the divine being, it likewise only participates, so to speak, in the eternality of its ‘existence’ in God’s thoughts.

    The more salient point is that since creation is definitionally not God, it can afford no bearing to the relations in the Godhead. On the other side of the coin, since God is the totality of being in and of himself, there is nothing external to God in and of himself which could define the distinctions in persons. If it is the case that God is complete and the perfection of his attributes in and of himself, I don’t how it would logically consistent to maintain that participated being could render the eternal distinctions in divine persons who possess that same fullness of of being. Rather, the danger would seem to be manifoldly greater in understanding the eternal relations in respect to participated being.

    Finally, I don’t think I was suggesting that the ‘flow of information is staunched’ in this passage. Rather, I was trying to draw an analogous relationship between the mode of knowledge of humans and angels and that of the Son. As I mentioned before, I think Athanasius’ answer is correct as far as it goes, but IMO it doesn’t go as far as it can.

    thanks again!

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Jason Watson

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