for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
2:00p.m., Caldwell Hall, Room 125
god the father in the western tradition: bringing Augustine and bonaventure into conversation with modern theology
Director: Rev. Regis Armstrong, O.F.M.Cap., Ph.D.
One of the widespread contemporary approaches to the Trinity militates against “mere monotheism” and emphasizes the community of the Persons as three separate centers of action. Within some versions of this “social Trinitarianism”, the unique role of the God the Father as source of the godhead is marginalized or obscured. The views of Jürgen Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg on God the Father bring this problem into focus, as they diminish the “monarchy” of the Father as unfitting because as traditionally understood it lacks reciprocity. Instead, they envision alternative modes of explaining the unity, stressing the original threeness and describing divine unity as an eschatological achievement. After linking the Father’s weakened place in these approaches with the problem of divine unity, this study examines the theology of God the Father in Augustine and Bonaventure to clarify how the concept of the Father as unique source can provide a solution to this pressing problem in contemporary systematic theology.
The Western tradition has often been accused of starting with the divine essence and tending toward modalism, so there is need for a fresh understanding of the persons and God the Father’s role in particular. This study closely interprets primary works from Augustine and Bonaventure to distill how they express the Father’s role and what this means for their concept of the Trinity. Neither author uses the term “monarchy,” but Augustine employs and Bonaventure develops further the notion that the Father is sole principle of the godhead. Augustine’s mature works make reference to this notion at a several key junctures, even as his Trinitarian logic steadfastly holds to the equality of the persons. He steers a middle course in the face of Homoian subordinationism; he insists that the Father indeed is the sole source, but that the greatness of his fatherhood is enhanced and not diminished by the Son’s equality. Bonaventure articulates a Trinitarian theology with the Father as First Principle (primum principium) in such a way that he shares being principle with the Son and Holy Spirit. The Father’s innascibility constitutes for him a positive characteristic, as it conveys the pure pouring out of being. The eternal emanations of the Son and Holy Spirit from the Father are matched by their eternal return (reductio) to him. This dynamic concept of God binds the Trinity in highest unity, and also serves as a model for the economies of creation and salvation. The conclusion of the study points to how this strong sense of God the Father as source, as articulated by Augustine and Bonaventure, actually protects the equality of the Persons while also indicating unity and order in the godhead.