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IS GOD ONE PERSON? Robert W. Jenson ‘The theme of our conference is: the doctrine of the Trinity and the mission of the church. The connection between the theme’s two halves is profound, immediate, and decisive. If anything is clear in the New Testament about the church’s mission, it is that this mission is in some sense a continuation of Christ’s sending, of his "mission;" and that it depends upon the Spirit’s sending. "As the Father sent me, so I send you." *I will send you the Paraclete, and he..." It is by no coincidence whatever, that exactly this language about the "missions" of Christ and the Spirit reappears as technical language of developed trinitarian theology. But the language has also marked a point of continuing controversy. Throughout the history of trinitarian reflection, it has been a delicate and sometimes disputed question: lho sends Christ and the Spirit on their missions? Simply "God"? Or the Father specifically? Is their sending an event between "God" and the action among us of Christ and the Spirit, or is it an event in God’s life? The question is in fact a key question for trinitarien understanding. Trinity 2 Moreover, this question is the link between the general theme of the conference ‘and the particular question asked by the title of my essay. If God simply taken, the Trinity as One, sends Christ and the Spirit on their ways, then God simply taken, the Trinity as One, is a personal reality; for sending is surely-an archetypically personal act. If the Father as such sends Christ and the Spirit, then the Father, the Son and the Spirit stand in personal relationships one to another, and God is three persons also in the modern sense. 4nd vice versa: if the Trinity is but one personal being, then Christ is sent by God simpliciter, but if Father, Son and Spirit are three personal beings, then surely the Father is the sender and the personal relation of sending and being sent obtains within the ‘Trinity. Only so far on this line now, by way of indication that the reflections on which I am about to embark may not be so distant from the church’s life as will probably first appear. What actual difference they do make to the mission of the church, I can say only at the end. Ir Is God one person or three? In this usage, "person" appears of course in its modern acceptation: a "person" in our modern lingo is an entity of @ particular sort. A person in this use is an entity that is a subject, a conscious and self-conscious agent. Or again, a person in this use is a transcendentally unified sequence of willings and Inowings. Or again, a person is an historical mover, an agent of time’s sequences. One could Trinity 3 continue with such definitions, but there is no need, since in fact we all know what we mean when we speak of "a person." It is likely that the concept of personal being, which the modern West, uses so freely, is a specific product of Christian experience. ‘Two points are anyway patent: 1) the ancient western world did not have such a concept, and 2) so soon as the concept is there, then if it be asked, "Is ‘the biblical God personal?" the answer obviously must be Yes. But how many persons - in this sense - is that biblical God? Both the question and many of its subtle difficulties arise from the circumstances that 1) there was pre-modern language - in Greek, "hypostasis," translated into Latin, "persona," and adapted into English as "person" - which did not carry the notes of consciousness or historical agency, 2) that it was in this sense that trinitarian dogma and original trinitarian speculation spoke of "three persons" of God, but that 3) it is was out of this use of "person" for the three in God that the modern concept of personhood seems to have grown, and that 4) precisely at this juncture trinitarian theology in East and West has gone different and opposed ways. : ‘The founders of conceptually developed trinitarianism, the Cappadocian fathers, began their analysis with Father, Son and Spirit as the givens of biblical narrative. These, they said - using the language in its pre- modern sense - are three hypostaseis - in Latin, personae - of God; that is, they are three distinguishable individual realities, characterized in common by deity, that is, by whatever it takes for something to be God.