Gregory of Nyssa on the Trinity

Saturday, March 10, 2007

In his "Address on Religious Instruction" the church father Gregory of Nyssa has some pretty amazing insights into the Trinity. He begins with the statement from the Nicene Creed that the Son and the Spirit "proceed from the Father", and then conceptualizes the Son as the Word, and the Spirit as Breath (the biblical Greek word for spirit "Pneuma" also means "breath"). Words are used to communicate who we are to another, and the Word is God's self-revelation of himself. The Word of God is also God's vehicle for creation (Genesis says "God spoke" an the Earth was), and for transformation (Hebrews says that the Word of God is like a sword cutting to the bone). He is careful to stress that this should not be understood conceptually only, but that the Word is also a Person. The idea of truth (communicated by word) is not abstract, but personal, Jesus says "I am the truth". The Word of Truth then is creative, transforming, and alive. Because the Word "proceeds from the Father" it is through the Word that God reveals who God is to us, in a sinless man who perfectly reflects as Genesis says "the image of God".

Similarly the Spirit is the "breath". Breathing is the spark of life. God breathed into Adam and he became alive. So the Pneuma of God is what breaths new life into us, so that we are indwelt with God's life. Spirit also implies inspiration, as the prophets often began by saying "the Spirit of the Lord is upon me". So the Spirit is how we encounter God inspiring, convicting, comforting, indwelling, and enlivening us.

One thing I especially like here is how since both the communicative Word and the life imparting Spirit "proceed from the Father" we have God encountered in three persons, but all coming from one single essence. We encounter God through the Word (Jesus) and through the Spirit, but there is only one God that this is all coming from. That is a God who looks like Jesus (his image and Word) and relates to us as the life giving and ministering Spirit.



At 9:56 PM, Blogger Weekend Fisher said...

Have you noticed how many of the questions that keep coming up in the modern church are basically these ancient arguments all over again? Funny old world ...


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