Nature, Substance, Essence
The terms “nature,” “substance,” and “essence” all signify the same thing when speaking of the being of God in Trinitarian nomenclature. We’ve previously mentioned the occasional confusion of “substance” and “person” (because of the meaning of hypostasis), and there is similar confusion in the possibility of distinguishing between “substance” and “essence,” however, the terms were eventually worked out into a consistent fashion. Though “substance” and “essence” could mean different things when speaking of the creation, they meant the same when speaking of God. Each word signified the single divine being.
Like we saw with “person,” the actual definition of these terms is quite bare. Esse means “the act of existing.” Essentia means “the whatness of a being.” Natura also means essentia or quidditas: “the character of something.” Substantia could have the connotation of material “stuff,” but in Trinitarian nomenclature it was always identified with the essence and thus spiritual, invisible, simple, and infinite. Continue reading