Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Trinity: order, persons, nature and will

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The incarnate Christ has two wills. Each proper to his divine and human natures. If will were a property of persons, he would only have one will, for Christ is not two persons, but one person with two natures. 

Since will is a property of nature, the three persons of the Trinity share one will, as they share one nature. It is therefore inappropriate to speak of the Son eternally submitting to the Father's will.

The Son together with the Father and the Holy Spirit is the electing God. The Son is also the Elect One, appointed by the Trinity as Mediator between God and humanity. Plus the Son is the One in whom God's people were elected for salvation before the foundation of the world.

As God is one and each person indwells the other, the external actions of the Trinity are undivided. All three persons were fully involved in the work of redemption, while only the Son became incarnate, suffered, died for our sins, rose again and ascended into heaven.

It was singularly appropriate that the Son rather than the Father, or the Spirit became man. The Son is the image of the invisible God, while human beings are made in the image of God. The Word is the eternal Son of God, while Adam is the created son of God.

There is, however, no order of being, or division of will in the one God. Concerning his deity the Son is of the same essence as the Father. Concerning his person he is of the Father. The persons are not interchangeable. Each possesses unique characteristics. The Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. 

The economic Trinity does not exhaust the ontological Trinity, but 'God for us' truly communicates 'God in himself'. Otherwise we are left with a hidden and unknowable deity. It was reflective of the order of persons in the Trinity that the Father sent the Son into the world and that the Spirit proceeds to us from the Father through the Son. 

Herman Bavink says as much, having made the point that in the economy of redemption,  'The Father came without being sent, the Son came having been sent by the Father, and the Holy Spirit came because he was sent by both the Father and the Son.' The theologian then posits,
But this "being sent" in time is a reflection of the imminent relations of the three persons in the divine being and is grounded in generation and spiration. The incarnation of the Word has its archetype in the generation of the Son, and the outpouring of the Spirit is a weak analogy of the procession from the Father and the Son. The church fathers, accordingly, derived the eternal and imminent relations existing between the persons from the relations that were manifest before the human eye in time. (Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation Volume 2, Baker Academic, 2006, p. 320-321). 
What got me thinking on this was dipping into 'The Son Who Learned Obedience' by Glenn Butner. Only £7.59 on Kindle. The generous sample includes the intro and a good chunk of Chaper 1.

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