Original Research - Special Collection: Trinity

Historical development of trinitarian doctrine in Roman Catholicism

Valentine U. Iheanacho
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 43, No 1 | a2667 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v43i1.2667 | © 2022 Valentine U. Iheanacho | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 August 2022 | Published: 21 December 2022

About the author(s)

Valentine U. Iheanacho, Department of Historical and Constructive Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, United States


The Trinity both as a Christian concept and doctrine is a complex whole or better still a “mystery.” Even the great bishop of Hippo, St Augustine at the end of his monumental opus, De Trinitate, prayed God the Trinity to pardon him if he had written anything that was untrue about the Trinity. The Catholic Church, to say the least, is a trinitarian church in the sense that the belief in the Trinity is one of the cornerstones of its constitution and belief system. The church baptises and receives people with the Trinitarian formula. It begins and ends prayers in ‘the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’. Catholic Theological discourse accepts as given, the existence of Three Persons in One God, and only afterwards, proceeds to investigate and elaborate upon the ‘how’ of the Trinity. This article takes a historical excursus into the historical evolution of Catholic trinitarian thought. It will argue that while there is a diversity of theological opinions on the subject, there remains in the final analysis, a unanimity in the belief that the Christian understanding and experience of God are unreservedly and indisputably trinitarian.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The article draws insights from a wide range of related areas of theological disciplines like patristics, church history, systematic theology and ecumenism. As a study that cuts across theological and historical boundaries, its content and conclusion are couched within the context of multiple theological and ecclesiastical disciplines. By means of an interdisciplinary perspective as applied to a complex subject such as the Trinity herein, a broader perspective is obtained about this core Christian belief and notion of God who is One in substance and Three in persons. This is most notably by locating trinitarian discourse within the liturgical and theological traditions of the Western and Eastern churches.


Trinity; trinitarian theology; Church Fathers; Catholic Church; Orthodox Church; liturgy; Latin and Greek

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