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Reviewed by:
  • Medieval Trinitarian Thought from Aquinas to Ockham
  • Matthew Levering
Russell L. Friedman . Medieval Trinitarian Thought from Aquinas to Ockham. Cambridge-New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. viii + 198. Cloth, $85.00.

In this elegantly written book, Russell Friedman offers a fascinating account of Trinitarian theology in the period 1250-1350. Chapter 1 compares Aquinas's and Bonaventure's explanation of the identity and distinction of the three divine Persons. For Aquinas, the properties constitutive of the divine Persons are strictly relational properties, grounded in relations of opposition in the order of origin. Bonaventure accepts the role of relational properties, but he emphasizes the distinct way that each Person emanates: the Father is unemanated, the Son emanates as generated by the Father ("by way of nature"), and the Holy Spirit emanates as freely spirated by the Father and the Son ("by way of will"). As Friedman shows the difference between Aquinas and Bonaventure is encapsulated by the fact that the latter holds that the Father is Father because he generates (generation constitutes the distinct relation, "Father"), whereas the former considers that the Father generates because he is Father (the distinct relation, "Father," is the ground of generation). The [End Page 374] first view prioritizes emanation; the second, relation of opposition in the order of origin.

Having argued that generation conceptually precedes the Person of the Father, Bonaventure has to deal with the challenge that generation can only arise from an agent. His solution to this challenge is to posit that the Father's "primitas" or innascibility is not simply what the Father is not, but rather contains a positive disposition (or fontal plenitude) to generating another Person. For Bonaventure, this is a conceptual move rather than an alternative to the relational account, but soon other Franciscans—Friedman focuses on John Pecham—begin to consider "primity" (rather than paternity) as constitutive of the Person of the Father. In this view, the "emanational distinction" now does the work of the "relational distinction," although the latter remains present. Emanations do not constitute relations of opposition.

In privileging the emanational account, Henry of Ghent goes so far as to reject the relational account entirely, on the grounds that a relation cannot be real. Radicalizing Augustine's psychological analogy, Henry also understands the two divine emanations as literally intellectual and voluntary: the Son and Holy Spirit differ because generation is an intellectual emanation and spiration is a voluntary emanation. The same view is held by John Duns Scotus. For the relational account, by contrast, strictly linking the generative power with the divine intellect and the spirative power with the divine will is a serious mistake. Although they differ from each other as regards cognitional theory, Henry and Scotus also agree in warning that Aquinas's cognitional theory assumes that the mental word is produced by the act of understanding rather than (as Augustine has it) by the intellectual memory.

To ensure the role of the intellectual memory, Scotus finds himself compelled to argue that there is a formal distinction both between divine intellect and will and between the divine attributes and essence. For his part, Henry of Ghent holds that all plurality (divine and created) arises from the distinction between intellect and will in God. In response to these threats to God's simplicity, early fourteenth-century Franciscan theologians—Friedman discusses Peter Auriol, Francis of Marchia, and William Ockham in particular—stress the absolute divine simplicity. Auriol, for example, denies that the emanations of the Son/ Word and the Spirit/Love have a source in the divine attributes or essence. Rather, it is the distinction between the two emanations that grounds what Auriol terms the "connotative" distinction between divine intellect and will. Arguing against the literal construal of the psychological analogy, Francis of Marchia strongly rejects Scotus's notion of the formal distinction of the divine essence and attributes. Ockham does the same, even though he allows for a weak "connotative" distinction. According to Ockham, we can know only by faith that the Son is properly called "Word." On this basis we can define divine "intellect" as the source of the Word, so long as we do not attempt to explain this any...


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