The Trinity as the Safeguard of Creation
Rev. Prof. Michael HULL
To speak of the Trinity as the "safeguard" of creation is to delve simultaneously into two fundamental mysteries: the unity of the Divine Persons and the unity of God’s essence and existence. Creation is a communal and on-going activity of the Divine Persons. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit participate in creation according to their respective analogous relations within the Trinity. Moreover, the safeguarding of creation speaks to its origin, its sustenance, and its end.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one. Though implicit in the Old Testament (Gen 18:1–33 and Isa 6:3) and explicit in the New Testament (Matt 28:19), the revealed mystery of the triune nature of God is beyond human comprehension. Whilst the majority of the Greek Fathers stressed the three Persons in God and often found themselves mired in linear thinking, the Latin Fathers stressed the one Subsistence and the interrelationship therein. The latter thinking found its convergence in St. Augustine’s psychological understanding of the Trinity (De Trinitate), an understanding developed significantly by St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa contra Gentiles, IV, 1–28 and Summa Theologiae, I, 27–43). The Father is from no one, the Son is from the Father only, and the Spirit is equally from both. Since God’s essence and existence are one and the same, the Father is eternally generating, the Son is eternally generated, and the Spirit proceeds eternally from both Father and Son.
According to Thomas (ST, I, 45, 6), creation is a communal activity of God that is not proper to any one Person in the Trinity. God causes all created things through His intellect and will. Thus, the Father creates, ex nihilo, through His Word, the Son, and by His Love, the Holy Spirit. The Father’s creation by the Spirit hovering over the waters is good (Gen 1–2) and all things created were and are created through the Son (John 1:1–3). The Trinity, then, is the safeguard of creation in as much as all that has been created is created by the essence of God—Father, Son, and Spirit—and is continually created—conserved in being—by the existence of God.
Creation is by nature good. But creatures, angels and men, sinned: They debased themselves and distorted the created order by their disobedience. Since the fall of Satan (and his angels in their irrevocable rejection of God) and his seduction of Adam and Eve, a disordered creation has groaned for redemption (Rom 8:22–23). This redemption, effected by the Son’s obedience to the Father in the Spirit, the Love shared between Them, restores creation through a process that culminates at the parousia (1 Cor 15:20–28). As the Father created all things through the Son with the Spirit, so all things are restored through the Son with the Spirit. The Trinity is the origin of creation insofar as the Father is the Creator. The Trinity is the Savior of creation insofar as creation came to be and is restored through the Son. The Trinity is the sustainer of creation insofar as it is animated by the Spirit. Thus, the Trinity is the safeguard of all creation in that all that is comes from the essence and existence of God, Who is at once Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.