Question: Are there new ideas necessary for creedal Trinitarianism?

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Question: Are there new ideas necessary for creedal Trinitarianism?

"The doctrine of God’s immateriality is, at least formally, new"

Robert Casey wrote long ago that “Origen’s development of Clement [of Alexandria’s] thought is characteristically thorough and systematic. He acknowledges that the doctrine of God’s immateriality is, at least formally, new, and asserts that the word asomatos ["no body" in Greek] had been unknown alike to biblical writers and to Christian theologians before his time.”[1] Casey also wrote that “the Christian doctrine of God was becoming inextricably involved in a trinitarian theory, the substance and form of which would have been impossible but for Clement and Origen, whose immaterialist teaching it presupposed.”[2]

Jesuit Roland Teske states that Augustine turned to Manichaeism because he thought that all Christians believed in an anthropomorphic God, which he could not accept on philosophical grounds. Teske reports that Augustine believed that in accepting the Manichee doctrine he was joining a Christian sect which rejected the “anthropomorphic interpretation of the scriptural claim that man was made in the image of God” as taught in Genesis 1:26.[3]

In a footnote to the above statement Teske writes that “prior to Augustine…the Western Church was simply without a concept of God as a spiritual substance.” Augustine apparently believed that the Catholic Church taught that God had a body similar to that of a mortal, and that belief prevented him from seeking truth within the Church.[4] Augustine tells us in another work that it was the preaching of Ambrose of Milan who helped him see that there was another way to view God, which ‘spirituals’ alone could decipher.[5]


  1. Robert P. Casey, “Clement of Alexandria and the Beginnings of Christian Platonism,” Harvard Theological Review 18 (1925): 39–101, at page 82, referring to Contra Celsum 7.27, and Commentary on John 13.22.
  2. Ibid., 100.
  3. Roland Teske, S.J., “Divine Immutability in St. Augustine,” Modern Schoolman 63 (1986): 233–249, at page 236–237.
  4. Ibid., 237–238, with notes 25 and 34, citing Confessions 5.10.19 (Pusey translation, page 77).
  5. Ibid., 238–239, quoting De beata vita 1.4.