Drinking Deeply

Saturday, April 01, 2006 at 8:43 PM

A presentation of the Trinity

From an annoymous comment on Puritan Belief's post (the post is linked for reference, read it carefully. I don't agree with the views espoused by the poster, the comment however is gold):

The Trinity

Scripture attests that “the mystery of godliness is great” (1 Timothy 3:16)—hence I am not presuming to resolve everything with regard to the triune Godhead. May the Lord give us insight into these things.

With regard to the Trinity, I think everyone (on this blog) is agreed that Scripture describes much commonality and overlap with regard to activity and characteristics of “the Father,” “the Son,” and “the Spirit.”

For instance, the Father, the Son and the Spirit all sanctify (1 Thessalonians 5:23, Hebrews 2:11, 1 Peter 1:2), each is eternal (Psalm 90:2, Micah 5:1-2, Hebrews 9:14), each is called God (Philippians 1:2, Colossians 2:9, Acts 5:3-4), and many other examples, including omniscience and omnipresence, and speaking, creating, and loving. And the Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, so it should not surprise us that Scripture refers to the Spirit within (John 14:17), Christ within (Colossians 1:27), and God within (2 Corinthians 6:16). It should not surprise us that Jesus refers to himself as the “I AM” (John 8:58) or that the “Lord is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17) or that God sends his Spirit and they are created (Psalm 104:30), or that God sends his Spirit to Mary (Luke 1:35), and the Son of God is born in the flesh. The pattern seen in Scripture, although I do not have space to develop this, is that the Son and the Spirit eternally act on behalf of (and to glorify) the Father (e.g., Jesus glorifies the Father’s name, Jesus is the lamb slain before the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8), the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will—Romans 8:27).

This is to be entirely expected, if as Scripture teaches: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Nonetheless, the Hebrew word translated “one” in this verse often refers to plurality in unity, such as two people becoming one flesh (Genesis 2:24), the builders of Babel powerfully being one people (Genesis 11:6), the people of Israel answering with one voice (Exodus 24:3), and many other examples. There is a different Hebrew word for “unique,” or “one and only,” but this is not used in Deuteronomy 6:4 to describe God.

Plurality within unity, then is also consistent with Scripture’s describing distinctions within the Godhead. For instance, during Jesus’ baptism, the Father speaks while the Spirit comes down in bodily form like a dove while Jesus is coming out of the water (Luke 3:21-22). During Stephen’s stoning, he is filled with the Spirit and sees Jesus standing beside God the Father in heaven (Acts 7:55).

That Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not synonymous should be clear insofar as: “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). That Jesus and the Father are not identical should be clear from the fact that Jesus calls upon the Father as his second witness (John 8:16-18). Moreover, Jesus prays to his Father, is often described as being in heaven alongside the Father, does not know the day and hour of his return whereas his Father does, and is the appointed mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). That God the Father and the Spirit are not identical should be clear from the fact that the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:27), and that “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6).

This view of the Trinity as ontological1 unity but economic2 trinity is fully consistent with the Sovereign God who says, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26, italics mine) or who says regarding the builders of Babel, “Come, let us go down and confuse their language” (Genesis 11:7). This is consistent with the God who consistently throughout the Hebrew bible is called “Elohim,” (God in plurality) although he acts with singular verbs (in contrast, when the false gods are called elohim, they almost exclusively govern plural verbs).

This is consistent with the Godhead who is self-reliant and does not depend on creation for anything, who can act as he sees fit, always in the presence of witnesses, including the two other persons of the Trinity (sometimes God calls heaven and earth as two witnesses, as in Deuteronomy 30:19. But clearly this would not have been an option in eternity-past before God created the heavens and the earth). Jesus demonstrates this for us in John 8:16-18: “But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me” (John 8:16-18).

And it is from those Scriptures (and many others) that is derived the concept of “one God, three persons”—the orthodox view of the Trinity.

April 02, 2006 11:29 AM

1The ontological Trinity speaks of essence (John 1:1-2), nature or attributes of the Trinity. Or more simply - the ontological Trinity is who God is

2Economic Trinity: When we describe the acts of the triune God with respect to the creation, history, salvation, our daily lives, etc, we describe the Economic Trinity. Refers to how the Trinity operates within redemptive history as we think of the roles or functions performed by each of the persons of the Trinity. The Economic Trinity is what God does (definitions from Monergism.com added for clarification)

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Anonymous katie said...

I know this is slightly off topic but it is inregards to something you said on PB's post about being 'made in the image of God'

"Even if we do conceed the point that we ourselves are created in God's image (and this point is debatable), "

i am sure there was something else but i cant find it now...anyway could you please clarify what you meant by debatable?
thanks  

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Blogger mxu said...

Hey katie -

I wish I knew how to contact you, but I will simply leave a comment here and hope you find it.

What I meant that the claim that we ourselves are created in God's image is debatable because there are some people who would disagree. I believe Martin Luther believed the concept that the fall completely ruined God's image (thus the spiritual deadness and need for a new heart, rather than a further developed heart). They would claim that being made in God's image is what happens to us when we are reborn, and only to the elect. Most people would say that all people are made in the image of God, though the significance of what the discussion is about is a little lost on me.

To me it seems like in large part a semantical debate, no one really disagrees that there is something that man has over animals in terms of being held accountable to commands.

::shrug:: Personally I see nothing wrong with saying that all humans are in the image of God, as long as we maintain a distinction between the image of God and being a Son of God, which I fear PB is losing.  

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Blogger Jessica said...

just wanted to say props to Mr. Anonymous :) you should start your own blog :D  

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