The term "person" in contemporary trinitarian theology: Resources from the thought of W. Norris Clarke, S.J. and William Hill, O.P.

Cary Dickerson Lynch, Fordham University


The elusive, flexible term person has provoked discussion since its introduction into the theology of the Trinity. With the evolution of thought from Descartes to the Kantian “turn to the subject” the term lost its primarily objective meaning and began to be defined as a distinct center of consciousness and will. Karl Barth and Karl Rahner contended that the modern meaning of the word as a distinct center of consciousness eclipsed the original metaphysical connotation and led unavoidably to a tritheistic misunderstanding. Though many contemporary theologians responded that the term remains useful for Trinitarian theology provided that it is understood analogically, there has been no satisfactory attempt to explain explicitly in depth and detail the specific sense in which the term is to be understood and the delineation of the analogical process to be used in. pointing the term toward God. This dissertation proposes that neo-Thomist philosopher W. Norris Clarke's and theologian William J. Hill's creative retrievals of elements in the thought of Thomas Aquinas contain resources for an adequate analogy of person amenable for use in contemporary trinitarian theology. There is a viable argument supporting the view that the contemporary meaning of the term may be considered a development of, rather than a contradiction of, its original metaphysical connotation in the tradition. This dissertation brings together the conclusions of Clarke and Hill by constructing an analogy of person, human and divine. Clarke's and Hill's thorough and detailed explanations of the dynamics of Thomistic analogy provide the method for this construction which combines Clarke's metaphysical explanation of the human person and Hill's theological understanding of the divine persons. This analogy joins the ontological density of the Thomistic use of the term with the subjective and relational aspects of the modern definition. Thus, this dissertation supplies an aspect missing in other contemporary defenses of the usefulness of the term for Trinitarian theology.

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Recommended Citation

Lynch, Cary Dickerson, "The term "person" in contemporary trinitarian theology: Resources from the thought of W. Norris Clarke, S.J. and William Hill, O.P." (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9955968.