Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trinity and Revelation

Chapter Nine, “The Church and the Kingdom of God,” in Charles Norris Cochrane's classic study, Christianity and Classical Culture, contains a discussion of issues that hold great interest for us and that we have already touched upon..

Cochrane begins by observing that, for the fourth century Church, the vision of the Kingdom was of “a society regenerated by the acceptance of Christian truth.” (359) As we have seen—and this is a point that we will return to in greater detail--the articulation of the doctrine of the Trinity was seen to solve many of the theoretical problems inherent not only in the more traditional expressions of the archaic ontology but also those problems that were raised by the Platonic elaboration of that ontology: “philosophy,” especially in its Neoplatonic form. (As we have already seen, the Arian heresy can be viewed as a Neoplatonizing version of Christianity, and so involves the same issues.) That being the case, the Christians considered that their faith held the key to all truth, and that those aspects of truth which they found in pagan thought could be “baptized,” subsumed under the superior theoretical insight of Trinitarian thought. It was thus true to say, from this standpoint, that “all truth is Christian truth” and that Christian truth is human truth--the truth of and for all men. As Cochrane states, the function of this Christian universalism was “to heal the wounds inflicted by man on himself in classical times and, by transcending while still doing justice to the elements of truth contained in philosophical paganism, to revive and give direction to the expiring spiritual ideals of classical antiquity.” (360)