"Three Persons--One God"
The Desires of the Human Heart:
An Introduction to the Theology of Bernard Lonergan
edited by Vernon Gregson
Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1988
pp. 150-167


  1. 1. Separating the questions, in order to focus in his Pars Systematica  on only one-- the question for understanding: What does this dogma mean?.
  2. 2. Answering the prior question: what precisely is the dogma, the mystery, which a theologian accepts on faith and tries to understand? [This is the burden of Pars Analytica.]
  3. 3. Reviewing the diversity of opinions on the prior question, reducing them to their roots in flawed cognitional analysis. [Also the work of Pars Analytica].
  4. 4. Emphasizing the Sendings.
          The world's great religious traditions took their start from different sets of experiences which were perceived to be God's actions in the human world. In Christianity those special experiences were first Christ's life, death, and resurrection, and then the Spirit-filled life of the early communities.  "Incarnation and Redemption," "Grace" and divine Indwelling" are in Christian experience the Sendings of distinct divine persons. The Sendings were the revealing of the Trinity, making possible personal relationships between us and God.
  5. 5. Finding and using a revolutionary analogy.
    Lonergan holds that there is only one analogy in all human experience which has the necessary qualities.  It is the psychological analogy based on the workings of the human mind.  But even that analogy will do what it should only if it starts from an accurate analysis of those workings.  That right analysis is the analysis of Insight.
    Getting the analogy exactly right is terribly important to Lonergan.  He devotes 49 of the 195 pages of his Systematic to explaining it, and adds another thirty pages in the form of two appendices on the subject.  Moreover, his entire massive research project of the Verbum articles was devoted to establishing that this one cognitional analysis (later developed in Insight) was the only key to Aquinas' writings on the Trinity.  Lonergan maintained that, although Aquinas had not explicitly described the conscious psychological process of "What do I do when I know?" his writings on the "intelligible emanation" of the divine Persons clearly presupposed an awareness of it.
    The heart of the analogy is an event in human consciousness.  Understanding what Lonergan's Pars Systematica is about depends entirely on being able to identify that event in one's own consciousness.  Lonergan insists that that is in itself a simple thing to do.  But the prejudices of  language, as well the influence of incomplete or erroneous philosophic accounts of knowing, are so all-pervasive that very few people ever do it successfully.  There is nothing more fundamental for understanding Lonergan, and nothing more indispensable for grasping his major contribution to the theology of the Trinity.
    We will study the analogy in four steps.  The first two describe the psychological fact; the last two show its use as a Trinitarian analogy.