Summary Against Modern Thought: Understanding The Trinity XIV

Summary Against Modern Thought: Understanding The Trinity XIV

Previous post.

Why the Holy Ghost is God.


1 One must now answer the arguments previously given, those in which the conclusion seemed to be that the Holy Spirit is a creature, and not God.

2 In this matter our first consideration must be that the name “spirit” seems to be taken from the respiration of animals, in which with some change air is taken in and expelled. And so the name “spirit” is extended to every impulse and movement of every single airy body; thus, the wind is called a “spirit” in the words of the Psalmist: “Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds which fulfill His word” (Ps. 148:8).

Thus, also, the fine vapor diffused through the members for their movements is called “spirit.” Again, because air is invisible, the name “spirit” was carried further to all invisible and motive powers and substances. And on this account the sensible soul, the rational soul, the angels, and God are called “spirits”, and properly God proceeding by way of love, because love implies a kind of moving force.

Accordingly, one understands the saying of Amos, “creating a spirit,” as referring to the wind; so our translation more expressly says, and this is also harmonious with what goes before: “forming mountains.” But what Zechariah says about God “creating” or “forming the spirit of man in him” one understands of the human soul. Hence, the conclusion cannot be that the Holy Spirit is a creature.

Notes Nice to think about the origin of spirit!

3 In the same way, of course, one cannot from our Lord’s saying about the Holy Spirit, “He shall not speak of Himself; but what things soever He shall hear, He shall speak,” conclude that the Holy Spirit is a creature. For it was shown that the Holy Spirit is God. Hence, He must have His essence from another, just as we said about the Son of God above. And thus, since in God the knowledge and the power and the operation of God are His essence, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit all the knowledge and power and operation are from another.

But the Son’s is from the Father only; that of the Holy Spirit is from the Father and from the Son. Therefore, since one of the operations of the Holy Spirit is His speaking in saintly men, as was shown, it is on this score said that “He shall not speak of Himself,” since He does not operate of Himself. “To bear,” of course, in His case is to receive knowledge, as He does essence, from the Father and the Son; and this because we receive knowledge by bearing, for it is customary in Scripture to deal with things divine in the fashion of things human.

Nor need one be disturbed by His saying: “He shall hear,” speaking of future time, so to say. For the Holy Spirit receives eternally, and the verbs of any tense can be applied to the eternal, because eternity embraces the whole of time.

Notes The beginnings of the filioque.

4 Following the same points, it is also clear that the sending of the Holy Spirit by the Father and the Son does Hot justify concluding that He is a creature. For it was said above that in this the Son of God is said to have been sent: that He appeared to men in visible flesh.

Thus, He was in a new kind of fashion in the world, a fashion in which previously He had not been; namely, visibly; and for all that He had always been in it invisibly as God. The Son’s doing so, of course, was His from the Father, and so in this He is said to have been sent by the Father. Thus, of course, the Holy Spirit visibly appeared: “as a dove” (Mat. 3:1.6) above Christ at His baptism, or “in tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3) above the Apostles. And, granted He did not become a dove or a fire as the Son became man, He nevertheless did appear in certain signs of His own in visible appearances Of this kind; thus, He also in a new kind of fashion—namely, visibly—was in the world. And this presence was His from the Father and the Son; wherefore, He, too, is called sent by the Father and the Son. Yet this indicates not His being the lesser, but His proceeding.

5 Nevertheless, there is another way in which both the Son and the Holy Spirit are said to be invisibly sent. For from what has been said it is plain that the Son proceeds from the Father by way of the knowledge by which God knows Himself, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son by way of the love by which God loves Himself. Hence, as was said,” when by the Holy Spirit one is made a lover of God, the Holy Spirit is dwelling within that one, and thus in a new kind of way He is in a man: to wit, dwelling in the man according to a new proper effect. And that the Holy Spirit produce this effect in man is His from the Father and the Son; and on this account He is said to be sent invisibly by the Father and the Son.

And reasoning equally, in a human mind the Son is said to be invisibly sent when a man is in such wise established in the divine knowledge that the love of God comes forth in the man. Hence, clearly, neither does that fashion of being sent indicate in the Son or in the Holy Spirit His being the lesser, but His proceeding from another.

6 Similarly, also, the Holy Spirit is not excluded from the Divinity by the occasional connumeration of the Father and the Son without mention of the Holy Spirit, just as the Son is not excluded from the Divinity by occasional mention of the Father without the Son. In this way Scripture tacitly suggests that whatever relating to Divinity is said of one of the Three must be understood of all, because they are one God. Nor is it possible to understand God the Father without a Word and a Love, nor is the converse possible.

For this reason, in one of the Three all Three are understood. Hence, mention occasionally is made of the Son on a point common to the Three; such is the case in Matthew (11:27): “Neither does any one know the Father, but the Son,” although both the Father and the Holy Spirit know the Father. In the same way, we read about the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians (2:11): “The things… of God no one knows, but the Spirit of God,” whereas it is certain that from this cognition of Divinity neither the Father nor the Son is excluded.

7 Clearly, also, one cannot show that the Holy Spirit is a creature because one finds sacred Scripture saying things about Him which pertain to motion. They must be taken metaphorically. For sometimes, also, sacred Scripture attributes motion to God; for example, Genesis (3:8; 18:21): “When they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in paradise;” and later: “I will go down and see whether they have done according to the cry that is come to Me.”

Therefore, the saying, “the Spirit of God was borne over the waters,” must be understood to be said as the will is said to be borne on the willed, or the love on the beloved. This, also, by the way, some choose not to understand of the Holy Spirit, but of the air which has its natural place above the water, and so it was to indicate its manifold mutation that Scripture said it “was moved over the waters.” This further saying, “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh,” must be understood as said of the way in which the Holy Spirit is sent to men by the Father and the Son. This was mentioned. Of course, in the word, “poured out,” the abundance of the effect of the Holy Spirit is grasped: He will not be stopped at one but will move on to many, and from these also somehow to others; this is clear when things are poured out corporeally.

8 In like manner, the saying, “I will take of your Spirit, and will give to them,” must not be referred to the essence or person of the Holy Spirit, since He is indivisible. The reference is to His effects, by which He dwells in us, and these can be increased or diminished in a man: not with the result, for all that, that what is subtracted from one is bestowed on another remaining numerically identical (this happens in bodily things), but so that a like thing may increase in one which decreases in another.

Nor does this demand that to increase the effect in one it must be subtracted from another, for a spiritual thing can be possessed by many simultaneously without any loss. Hence, concerned with spiritual gifts, one must not understand that something was withdrawn from Moses to be conferred on others; the reference is rather to his act or office, for what the Holy Spirit had previously done through Moses alone He later effected through many.

Thus, also, Elishah did not beg that the essence or person of the Holy Spirit be increased by duplication, but that the twofold effect of the Holy Spirit which had been in Elijah—namely, prophecy and the working of miracles—be also in himself. To be sure, there is no awkwardness in one’s participating in the Holy Spirit more abundantly than another, be it by the double or by any other ratio whatever, for the measure in each participant is finite. For all that, Elishah would not have had the presumption to ask that in a spiritual effect he should be greater than his master.

9 Again, it is plainly the custom of sacred Scripture to pass over into God a likeness to the passions of the human spirit; we read in the Psalms (105:40-41): “And the Lord was exceedingly angry with His people.” God is said to be angered by similarity in the effect, for He punishes, which is what the angered do; so this is added below: “And He delivered them into the hands of the nations.” Thus, the Holy Spirit is said to be ‘made sorrowful,” for He leaves sinners as those who are made sorrowful leave those who make them sorrowful.

10 It is also the usual manner of speech in sacred Scripture to attribute to God what He does in man; hence, Genesis (22:12): “Now I know that you fear God”; that is, “now I have made you know.” And in this way the Holy Spirit is said to petition, for He makes others petition; He makes the love of God be in our hearts; out of this we desire to enjoy Him, and in our desiring we petition.

11 Of course, since the Holy Spirit proceeds by way of the love by which God loves Himself, and by that same love and for His own goodness God loves Himself and other things, manifestly that love pertains to the Holy Spirit, the love by which God loves us. So, also, does the love by which we love God, for He makes us lovers of God. This has been explained. It is in regard to each of these loves that “to be bestowed” is fitting to the Holy Spirit. It is fitting by reason of the love by which God loves us in that manner of speech wherein each is said “to give his love” to someone when he begins to love him.

Although there is no one whom God begins to love in time, if one considers the divine will by which He loves us, there is, nevertheless, an effect of His love caused in time in the one whom He draws to Himself. It is fitting to the Holy Spirit by reason of the love by which we love God, for the Holy Spirit makes this love in us. Hence, in accord with this love, He dwells in us, clearly from what has been said, and so we possess Him as one whose resources we enjoy.

Now, this is in the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son: that by the love which He causes in us He be in us and be possessed by us. Fittingly, therefore, He is said “to be bestowed” upon us by the Father and the Son. Nor does this show Him to be one lesser than the Father and the Son, but to be one who has His origin from them. He is said also to be given us even by Himself in that He causes in us the love by which He dwells in us together with the Father and the Son.

12 Although the Holy Spirit is, of course, true God and has the true divine nature from the Father and the Son, He need not, for all that, be a son. For son is said of one because he is begotten. Hence, if a thing should receive its nature from another not by begetting, but in any other way whatever, it would lack the essential of sonship. If, for example, a man had the power divinely conceded to him to make a man out of some part of his own body, in some exterior fashion as one makes artefacts, the man produced would not be called the son of the producing, for he would not proceed from him by birth. But the procession of the Holy Spirit does not have the essentials of birth (as was shown above). Hence, the Holy Spirit, although He has the divine nature from the Father and the Son, cannot, for all that, be called Their son.

Notes More filioque.

13 But that in the divine nature alone nature be communicated in several ways is reasonable. For in God alone is His operation His being. Hence, since in Him, as in any intellectual nature, there is an act of understanding and an act of will, that which proceeds in Him by way of understanding as Word, or by way of love and will as Love, must have the divine being and be God. And thus, not only the Son but the Holy Spirit is true God.

14 Let these, then, be our points about the divinity of the Holy Spirit. But other difficulties about His procession ought to he considered in the light of what has been said about the nativity of the Son.


  1. Uncle Mike

    Finally. God is love. I’ve been waiting for Aquinas to make that point.

    PS — filioque is a new word for me. Thanks. Looked it up. It does not rhyme with karaoke.

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