Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Some thoughts on the Trinity

The following is an attempt to summarize a discussion on the Trinity addressed in Kyle Strobel's book, "Jonathan Edwards's Theology: A Reinterpretation" Edwards is considered by many to be the greatest theological mind produced in America. The book mentioned above is an overview and summary of Jonathan Edwards understanding of God as revealed in scripture. An excerpt from Strobel's book summarizing Edwards overview may help explain the comments that follow below. If you wish to see this excerpt click here

Because Strobel's book on Edwards is not the easiest read I put the below summary regarding the Trinity covered in the book, into my own words for my personal understanding and clarity. Hopefully you will find it helpful as well. 

Describing an infinite God with finite reasoning and words is limited at best but a task worth endeavoring nevertheless. There can be no greater pursuit than pursuing the beautifully mysterious, incomprehensible, infinitely glorious, majestic, all powerful, all wise God of love. To see and know him truly is to pursue him fully. If you find the below helpful, you may wish to read his entire book.

You will note I use several words interchangeably and not always in the same order. This is deliberate in an attempt to better capture the fullness of meaning and nuances conveyed by the various words and different orders.


·        The Son/Word (Logos Jn 1:1) is God's perfect [1]understanding of himself. 

An understanding so perfect and complete this understanding issues forth (is begotten) into a separate person as God the Son of his Father (the begetter of the only eternally begotten Son Joh 1:14;1:18;3:16;3:18 ).

·        The Spirit is God's perfect love of himself. 

A love drawn out of the Father in perfect affections for the object of that love, which is the Logos, the perfect (complete) understanding of himself.

This drawing out involves God choosing what he has the greatest affections for and is most attracted to. He is attracted to what is most lovely/beautiful as he beholds it/him or in his beholding it/him; which is the perfect understanding of himself i.e. The Logos/Word of God. 

Note: This would explain why the Bible speaks of God sending forth his Son and the Father and Son together sending forth the Spirit. Joh 17:3; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7. The Father first begets the Son (not chronologically since God is eternal but in order of succession i.e. the Father initiates). By and through the eternal union/relationship/love of the Father and the Son/Logos/Word they in turn beget/issue forth and send the Spirit.

      The Father gazes upon the Son and the Son gazes upon the Father in perfect delight. This beatific delight is so tangible and complete it issues forth (overflows) into the distinct person of the [3]Holy Spirit; the very (and holy) affection/passion of God for himself as mirrored (imaged) back to himself in/by the Word/Logos of God, the perfect/complete understanding of himself.

Note: In order for the Spirit to be a distinct and completely other person, the Logos also had to be a distinct and completely other person; each having their own unique and individual [3]understanding and will.

How we are like God and not like God

We in turn, as his created image bearers, do the same i.e. we are attracted to and have affections for what we [4]behold as most lovely/beautiful. In this way, loving and choosing (willing) are connected for both God as Creator, as well as for us who are his created (vs eternal) image bearers. To love something is to have affections for it and be attracted or drawn to it. To be attracted to it verses something else is to choose (will) it over something else. 

[4]We only are able to see God as most lovely by the Spirit revealing his loveliness to us. The very same Spirit of love between the Father and the Son. This is due to our spiritual deadness caused by our turning away from God and being cut off from the very life of God. To see spiritual things we must have spiritual life which gives us spiritual eyes. 

In a similar way as the Son and Spirit, we are unique individuals with our own understanding and will but as created image bearers (in contrast to the Logos who is the eternally begotten image bearer). Just as the Son and Spirit issue forth from God so we too issue forth from God but as created persons; not as the eternal persons of Son and Spirit.


[1]In a sense you can say Christ is God's "self image." Of course unlike our self image, which is warped and distorted by our brokenness, Gods "self image" is perfect and complete. So much so that his "self image" issues forth into the person of his Son; the exact representation of his nature or being (Heb 1:3; Col 1:15) while also distinct from him in person. "... The Word (logos) was (equal to) God and the Word was with (distinct from) God..." Jn 1:1 i.e. The same while distinct at the same time. The same in essence/nature/being while distinct in person.

[2]The Holy Spirit is the holy breath or Holy passion (emotion) of God. A passion between the Father and Son that issues forth in the distinct person of the Holy Spirit. 

Below is the Hebrew definition for spirit. The following is a list of some of the things implied by that definition. 

1. Spirit (or spirit) in the OT has the same general definition in every instance (see definition below). This general definition has no qualifiers such as "Holy Spirit" or "Spirit of God." When these qualifiers are applied, this determines a specific meaning outside it's common use i.e. how do we know when this same word is referring to God verses man? When there are qualifiers such as "Holy","of God" or "man's spirit..." 

2. Also note in the below definition, emotions themselves are common characteristics or attributes in defining "spirit." Unlike us however, God doesn't have general emotions, such as anger, but only righteous or holy emotions. But they are still no less emotions. For example, the emotion of anger for God is a holy or righteous anger not an unrighteous one. 

3. Lastly it's worth noting that spirit in the OT is always in the feminine gender. This may be significant since the Holy Spirit is the spirit of love (relationship) between the Father and Son. It is worth noting that generally relationship is more a strength of the feminine gender than the masculine. This may also add significance to that fact that "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Gen 1:27). This may also help explain the differences between the genders as men tend to be more cerebral and action/production driven or oriented and women more supportive, nurturing, emotionally and relationally oriented and driven; making neither gender superior (no more than Christ or the Spirit are inferior to the Father, though certainly different in role ...The Father sends, the Son is sent). Both are necessary to convey a full spectrum of the make up of God as a being. 

The difference in gender is not a matter of value before God. Clearly genders are equal in value and different only in role. This also corresponds with Edwards proposal of what constitutes a person i.e. understanding (reason) and will (emotion). Both genders have these attributes and neither attribute is more important or significant then the other. Both are vital to personhood and being in God's image. 

spirit - H7307   רוּח  rûach

BDB (Brown-Drive-Briggs) Definition:
1) wind, breath, mind, spirit
1a) breath
1b) wind
1b1) of heaven
1b2) quarter (of wind), side
1b3) breath of air
1b4) air, gas
1b5) vain, empty thing
1c) spirit (as that which breathes quickly in animation or agitation)
1c1) spirit, animation, vivacity, vigour
1c2) courage
1c3) temper, anger
1c4) impatience, patience
1c5) spirit, disposition (as troubled, bitter, discontented)
1c6) disposition (of various kinds), unaccountable or uncontrollable impulse
1c7) prophetic spirit
1d) spirit (of the living, breathing being in man and animals)
1d1) as gift, preserved by God, God’s spirit, departing at death, disembodied being
1e) spirit (as seat of emotion)
1e1) desire
1e2) sorrow, trouble
1f) spirit
1f1) as seat or organ of mental acts
1f2) rarely of the will
1f3) as seat especially of moral character
1g) Spirit of God, the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son
1g1) as inspiring ecstatic state of prophecy
1g2) as impelling prophet to utter instruction or warning
1g3) imparting warlike energy and executive and administrative power
1g4) as endowing men with various gifts
1g5) as energy of life
1g6) as manifest in the Shekinah glory
1g7) never referred to as a depersonalized force

Part of Speech: noun feminine
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H7306
Same Word by TWOT Number: 2131a

***Edwards proposes that the two qualities of understanding and will ("will" includes our affections. For more discussion click here) are the essential characteristics of what comprises a person versus say, a body. We creatures see ourselves as distinct because we have a body but God (prior to his incarnation) did not have a body, so his distinction lies (rests) elsewhere i.e. In one having their own separate and distinct self understanding and will from others.

We could say understanding and will correspond with knowing and feeling. What distinguishes one person from another is that each person has their own unique understanding (knowing) and will (choosing/feeling/affections). This too may be what distinguishes us as image bearers from other creatures/image bearers. As physical beings we each have our own location but we can also know and choose God in a way other creatures can not and that knowing and choosing is our own, not those of *anyone else. 

*Maybe not even God himself in some mysterious fashion (yet at the same time all things are to, through and from him), just as the Logos and Spirit are distinct yet of the same essence as God. Only speculating of course. We may never know with certainty how these things work, at least not in this life. Than again for God to be God (infinite and unfathomable) we may never fully know since there is no "end" to him. He is truly distinct i.e. He is God. We are not.   

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Grace to you
Jim Deal