In chapter 13 things get really good. I’ve already mentioned some of this.  There are several further insights here and a meaning triad Poythress takes from Kenneth Pike (Linguistic Concepts).

God also gives distinct names to some of the things that he has created (vs. 5, 8, 10). He thereby shows that his gift of language includes distinctions. indeed, the distinctions in his language precede the distinctions in the world of things, because his commands precede the existence and structure of the things created by his commands. Psalm 33:6 summarizes Genesis 1 by saying, “By the word of the LORD the heavens the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. (p108-109)”

He then states,

The distinction between the Word [the Son] and God the Father is the ultimate foundation for distinctions in the distinct words of command in Genesis 1. (p109)

I think he is on shakier ground when he says, especially based on the Spirit’s hearing in Jn 16:13, that the Spirit in the divine communication triad is breath and hearer (p109). I would have to think about that, based as the triad is, on  the speech of creation, and not the speech of the processions, which is often referenced in the historical literature on the Trinity (and of course finds scriptural support in Jn 1).

Diversity runs deep, just as deep as does unity. God is the archetype, the original pattern for unity. He is also the archetype for diversity. Manifestations of unity and diversity that we receive as human beings are what we might call ectypes, reflections of the archetype. (p112)

There may be a lost opportunity for triadic thinking here. I perceive that there is two kinds of unity in God. There is the primitive unity, singularity-unity, in which all things are comprehended (F). this unity precedes any diversity (S) and is the ground of diversity (S). Two cannot exist before one, precisely because that would be saying that things could exist before anything exists. But there is also the communion-unity, which presupposes an antecedent diversity. In fact, this is the more common use of the word in the vernacular. When we speak of unity, except in mathematical or scientific language, we usually mean two or more things having commonality. This represents the union that is found in the Holy Spirit.

On page 112 and following, Poythress develops some overlapping triads about meaning and communication. Language has

  1. Unity of meaning (F) (which involves a contrast with other words)
  2. Diversity/distribution of meaning (S)
  3. Context in meaning (HS)

As a note, based, it would seem, on this triad being found in Pike, Linguistic Concepts, Poythress alternates between the first part of the triad being “unity” or “contrast.” This makes sense, but it is also somewhat confusing. For instance, he writes on p121 “Thoughts have integrity; they contrast with other possible thoughts.” Slightly awkward, albeit true. I prefer “unity” to “contrast.”

This chapter also prompted my own thoughts in contemplating the expression of God’s attributes in the world. Poythress uses the example of “good,” stating that God is good and that God does good, reflecting Himself and His attributes in the world (p112-113). He uses this (binary) distinction to illustrate the difference between the first two aspects of his triad: unity (God’s goodness and the goodness we see in the world are both “good”) and diversity (good in the world come from and is different from God’s goodness). However, this got me thinking about whether this binary (God-world) is actually a triad, and I think it is, drawing from a Neo-platonic conception which I think is grounded not only in Christian tradition but also in revelation–the idea that God’s wisdom and futurition (eternal covenant, election, foreknowledge, predestination)  precedes historical/material creation. I would suggest the following triad concerning God’s goodness:

  1. God is good (F)
  2. God has an idea of good (S)
  3. God does good (HS)

To further some speculation, we could easily see how the third part of the triad actually has a dual function (upon which I have lectured at New Antioch– the unfolding and enfolding nature of the Holy Spirit). Not only does God do good towards creation, outwardly (unfolding), but he does good to His Son, the great idea of good, inwardly (enfolding).



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