The Causal Nature of the Trinitarian Processions

Throughout the early church, patristic theologians understood the trinitarian eternal processions in terms of causality. When scripture teaches that the Father begets, or generates, the Son, the patristic fathers understood this to mean that the Father, in his timeless eternity, causes the being and existence of the Son. The same is the case with the doctrinal claim that the Father [with or through the Son] spirates the Spirit. Theologians who explicitly affirm this causal aspect of the processions include Origen, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, and this causal understanding of the processions is most likely in view in the processional teachings of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.

In this paper, I conduct an analytic-theological investigation of this causal understanding of the processions. In particular, I investigate various understandings of “cause,” both ancient and contemporary, and I attempt to articulate what view of causation (e.g., efficient, formal, material, final, etc.) was in mind when the patristics claimed that the Father causes the Son’s and the Spirit’s being. I argue that the patristics had efficient causation in mind when they articulated the causal aspect of this doctrine. I then attempt to articulate how we should best understand this causal nature today, if we are to maintain this aspect of the classical doctrine of the eternal processions. In so doing, I evaluate, in light of contemporary developments in metaphysics, questions such as whether or not causes must temporally precede their effects and whether or not the notion of atemporal, or timeless, causation is metaphysically possible.

3 thoughts on “The Causal Nature of the Trinitarian Processions”

  1. Opposite Conclusion from Other Proposal
    The author did not specify how he will explain the “efficient causal” aspect of processionism. Were the Church Fathers wrong or not? He indicates that he will articulate how we should view the causal aspect without specifying his conclusion so the thesis is unclear.

    In the previous proposal, the same author opposed processions as articulated by the Church Fathers and blamed the view on philosophical bias. Here, he apparently suggests that the Church Fathers accepted processionism qualified by causation. Will he support this brand of processionism?

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  2. interesting
    This is an interesting proposal about an important topic. It does seem to argue differently than the author’s other proposal, but this presentation seems worth hearing.

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