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Love and the Trinity

Love and the Trinity

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Published by akimel
by Andrew Louth
by Andrew Louth

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Published by: akimel on Mar 10, 2014
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 Augustinian Studies
 33:1 (2002) 1–16
2001 St. Augustine Lecture
Love and the Trinity:Saint Augustine and the Greek Fathers
Andrew Louth
University of Durham, United Kingdom
It is generally recognized that one of the most distinctive, even unique,elements in St. Augustine’s treatment of the Trinity is his thinking togetherthe doctrine of the Trinity and his doctrine of love. Indeed this claim can beenhanced by a further claim: that it is to Augustine that we owe the emphasison the twofold commandment to love as summing up the essence of the Chris-tian life.
 What I want to do in this lecture is to look at the way in whichAugustine uses his doctrine of love in thinking about the Trinity, and use thisas a way of comparing Augustine’s approach to the Trinity with that found inthe Greek East. Comparison between Greek and Latin doctrines of the Trinityinevitably always gives Augustine’s doctrine a central part, and this seems tome justified, for his doctrine of the Trinity (as of much else) has become, atleast until comparatively recently, determinative for Western theology, at leastsince the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Such comparison, however, usually
1.Oliver O’Donovan,
The Problem of Self-Love in St. Augustine
 (New Haven and London: YaleUniversity Press, 1980), 4.
tries to articulate the difference between Eastern and Western approaches byconcentrating on other aspects of trinitarian doctrine, usually the question of the
; I want to go behind that to what it seems to me are more funda-mental differences. I need, however, to limit my field of discussion, for whereasin Latin theology it seems justifiable to concentrate on Augustine, given hisunquestioned influence, no such limitation in the realm of Greek theology canbe justified so simply. It might seem obvious to concentrate on the theology of the great Cappadocian Fathers, especially given the likelihood that Augustinewas influenced by, at least, St. Gregory Nazianzen, but I do not propose to dothat for two, closely related, reasons. First, almost all that the Cappadocianshave to say about the Trinity is directly related to their polemic against Eunomiusand his followers; so their discussion tends to be technical, and to take its cuefrom Eunomius’ own philosophical arguments; but secondly, such technicalargumentation has little opportunity to develop links between Christian life andChristian thought—between spirituality and theology, as we would say nowa-days—in the way that is characteristic of Augustine’s own treatment of loveand the Trinity, which though not so remote from polemics as has sometimesbeen claimed,
 certainly has a spaciousness that is usually impossible in directpolemic. I am therefore going to use, as a foil to Augustine and an introductionto Greek Trinitarian theology, two theologians: Clement of Alexandria and St.Maximos the Confessor. The choice of the latter needs no justification: thegreatest of all Byzantine theologians, St. Maximos is unquestionably a bench-mark for Greek theology, as much by virtue of the brilliance and subtlety of histheology, as by his influence. Clement is perhaps a more puzzling choice, but Ithink I am ultimately moved by a series of articles, later published as a book,that constitute a seminal work of twentieth-century Orthodox theology, by MyrrhaLot-Borodine, entitled “Le déification de l’homme selon la doctrine des Pèresgrecs,” in which that great interpreter of Byzantine theology made clear thefundamental place of Clement in the formation of that tradition.
What I propose to do, then, is, first, to look at Augustine’s own thinking, which joins together the doctrine of love and his Trinitarian theology, and then try andsee how these themes are treated in Clement and Maximos; finally, I shall drawsome conclusions.
2.I am not unmoved by the recent arguments by Lewis Ayres and others that Augustine’s argumen-tation is much more directly affected by contemporary Arianism than has often been allowed.3.M. Lot-Borodine,
 La deification de l’homme selon la doctrine des Pères grecs
, (BibliothèqueŒcuménique 9, Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1970), esp. 26–8.
Augustine on Love and the Trinity
 De Trinitate
, to which I shall mostly confine my discussion, Augustine’suse of his understanding of love to elucidate his doctrine of the Trinity occursmainly in two pivotal books: books VI and VIII. There is also a brief fore-shadowing in book V, and a kind of reprise in book XV.First, let us look at the brief foreshadowing in book V. In that book, Augustineasserts that the Spirit is peculiarly to be regarded as the “gift of God,”
donum Dei
. Unlike the names “Father” and “Son,” which reveal the intratrinitarian rela-tionships in which Father and Son stand, the name “Holy Spirit” reveals no suchthing, since both Father and Son are both holy and spirit. The designation
donum Dei
 reveals the Spirit’s relationship to the Father and the Son. The identificationof the title
donum Dei
 with the Spirit Augustine derives from Acts 8:20, wherePeter calls the Holy Spirit, which Simon Magus wishes to obtain, the “gift of God”; the fact that it is given by the Father and the Son is justified by referenceto John 15:26, which speaks of the Spirit “proceeding from the Father,” and toRom. 8:9, which affirms that anyone “who does not have Christ’s Spirit doesnot belong to him.” Augustine does not take the step from thinking of the Spiritas gift to thinking of him as love, though he comes very close when he goes onto say, “to speak of the gift of the giver and the giver of the gift is to use termsthat are relative one to another. Therefore the Holy Spirit is a certain ineffablecommunion of the Father and the Son; and thus perhaps is he called, becausethe same designation can be appropriate to both Father and Son”:
 suggests something of the nature of love, but Augustine does notmake the connexion.
On the basis of this point, it seems, Augustine brings in the notion of love inbook VI. He notes that, though on the one hand one can speak of God as spirit,and on the other speak of the human spirit as spirit, when someone cleaves tothe Lord, “there is one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17). If that is the case between humanbeings and God, how much more is that true, where there is
inseparabilis atqueaeterna connexio
, “an inseparable and eternal union” (
 VI. iv. 6). Whichleads Augustine to begin the next section by asserting that “the Holy Spirit isthe basis (
) of the same unity and equality of substance,” and goes onto affirm that
whether it is a matter of the unity of the two [Father and Son], or holiness, orlove, or unity because of love, or love because of holiness, it is manifest
 For all this see
. V. xi. 12.

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