Good afternoon, readers, followers, and visitors.
I find myself very reluctant in posting this, since it doesn’t concretely lead anywhere and instead just stimulates possible discussion. I thought about simply not posting it, but I’d be curious, if there are any, to know thoughts on the matter outside my own. So, in the end, here’s the post, posted.
This is something that I would warn you not to try just skimming. You’ll end up confused, disappointed, or both. Read it when you have time to read it, then you’ll find it more appreciable.
Recently I saw a blog post somewhere that was highly critical of Catholicism for its supposedly violent character. As you might guess, one of the primary examples of this violence that the blogger used was the Crucifixion. The argument went like this, and if you’ve ever come across someone opposed to Christianity, you’ll recognize it all too well: “What kind of God would make his own son go down and die like that?”
In response, I—well, I helping someone else—pointed out that Jesus, the Only-Begotten Son, is Himself God together with that God that sent Him to die, and the Son, having the same divine will as the Father, chose to die of His own accord (as is implied in John 10:18, Matthew 26:52-53, Ephesians 5:25, and many others, I’m sure). Viewing it this way shifts it from being “mean old God sending child to die” to being “God suffering and dying of His own will for the well-being of others”. At the same time, this shifting of focus makes the Crucifixion look no longer like a cruel act of a mean God, but a loving act of a merciful God.
Now, a thought sort of spontaneously occurred to me while I was making that response, and while I ultimately decided to take it out (since it was only loosely connected to the blogger’s argument), I wasn’t ready to let go of it completely. And that discarded thought, my friends, is what you’ll be reading about shortly (we’ll need to make a detour or two before the idea is finally given, though).
Ultimately, the “discarded thought” was a further response to the accusation that God the Father is cruel for sending the Son to die, and it rests on the fact that anything done by or to one of the Divine Persons will affect all three. For example, any time we pray the Our Father, we’re only actively addressing the Father, but it has to be the case that we’re also addressing the Son and the Holy Spirit. Any time we adore the Holy Eucharist, we are not adoring the Son in isolation, but are also adoring the Father and the Holy Spirit. Any time we pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we’re asking those same gifts from the Father and the Son. This is not because we’re modalists. We don’t believe that the Father is the Son or the Son is the Holy Spirit or any of that. Each Person is wholly Himself. However, there is only one divine nature and only one allotment of that divine nature which can be possessed. Let me attempt to prove that point as succinctly as possible—”succinctly” for me, though perhaps not in your view of things—before moving on.
Stating that there’s only one nature and one allotment of it stands in contrast to us here below. We all have “human nature”, and indeed, every human is alike insofar as he is a rational animal with five senses, two arms and two legs, etc… But as you’ll readily agree, each human has his own share of “humanness”. I’m a different human than Joe, Joe is a different human than Stephanie, Stephanie is a different human than Rick. However, this cannot be the case with the divine nature of God. Why?
Because the divine nature carries with it claims of infinity: infinite knowledge, infinite justice, infinite love, infinite power, and infinite whatever else. So if the divine nature is infinite, then there can only be one of it. Two infinites can’t exist. If something is infinite, it is endless. An endless thing will be greater than everything else. It keeps on going when other things have reached a limit due to their finitude. So, if an infinite thing will be the only thing that keeps on going, it has to be isolated. It has to be by itself, only one, not many. This being the case, there’s only one divine nature. Not one divine nature for the Father, one divine nature for the Son, and one divine nature for the Holy Spirit. No, They all must have the exact same, identical one (and They must possess it completely, each of Them, since it is infinite and can’t be split among Them like a thing with a boundary could)*. It would be kind of as though two other persons possessed, as much as you possess it, the exact same humanity that makes you you. Because they have your humanity, anything you do affects them, and anything they do affects you, because they are acting with your individual nature.
After that perhaps mentally painful detour, we finally get to that “discarded thought” I mentioned up above. It was this:
If the Persons of the Trinity possess the exact same divinity (just like if someone possessed your particular allotment of humanity), and one of these Persons (the Son) experienced intense suffering and death, could it be that His suffering and death affected the Father and the Holy Spirit in some mysterious, hypothetical way?
Obviously I’m not trying to say that the Son’s divine nature underwent suffering, thus making the Father and Holy Spirit feel that suffering, too. The Son didn’t suffer in His divinity; He suffered in His humanity. Nor am I trying to say the Father and Holy Spirit suffered and died. They did not assume a human nature as the Son did, and so could not suffer or die. But the Son, possessor of both human and divine natures, is a single Person. The same one who experienced suffering, death, and agony in His humanity from the time after the Last Supper until His death is united infinitely, unfathomably, to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, in a unity so intense that even if the First and Third Persons did not experience suffering properly speaking, They must still have shared somehow in the anguish of the Second Person. We can see a hint of this in our own lives. If we see loved ones sick, for example, or on the verge of death, we feel a certain degree of heartache for them, especially if they are remarkably upright individuals. We’re not sick or dying ourselves, and may not be even close to death, but our love for them makes their suffering ours. And this is the case with our small, imperfect, finite natures. Is it not possible, is it not likely, that this is the case further with that infinite and perfect God, Whose communion with the suffering and perfectly innocent Christ is so strong, Whose love for Him is so intense, as to be only glimpsed at by the greatest of minds?
We need to be very careful here, however, because from the outset, any notions of the Father and the Holy Spirit heaving sighs of grief over the Son or feeling the nails of the Cross cut into Them need to be thrown out. The Father and Holy Spirit, and also the Son according to His divinity, do not possess human emotion or physical senses. But even with that being the case, the unity and love of the Godhead suggests that, somehow, in a way perhaps known only to God, the suffering experienced by the Divine Son affected the other Persons. I don’t pose the question to you as one that I expect or attempt to give proof about. Rather, I give it for you to ponder amidst the fog it brings. Have you considered this before? What do you think? Let me know.
Though please, if possible, keep comments limited to this topic. If you want to talk about the impossibility of the Trinity or something like that, keep it to yourself for now.
*Edit: If anyone feels, like I do, that the explanation of why there’s only one particular divine nature is not exactly relevant to the topic, let me know and I’ll see about removing it. I felt it was necessary for the purpose of highlighting the profound unity of the Three Persons, but now I’m thinking it might just be a confusing and unnecessary addition.