Ichabod explores the Age of Apostasy, predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, with an emphasis on UOJ, Church Growth, and Emergent Church heresies. The antidote to these poisons is trusting the efficacious Word in the Means of Grace. John 16:8. Most readers are WELS, LCMS, ELS, or ELCA. This blog also covers the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the mainline denominations.
Question: Isn’t the doctrine (of the trinity) one of purely theoretical or speculative interest? Answer: It is intensely practical. The burning point of all controversies concerning it has reference to the nature of Jesus Christ, and involves the truth of His declarations as the Revealer of the Father, and the efficacy of His work as the Redeemer of the human race.
1. What knowledge of God is peculiar to Christianity?
That there is but one God; and yet that this one God is Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
2. Is not this doctrine taught by Natural Revelation?
It is neither taught by Natural Revelation, nor can it be demonstrated from that source, even when the fact has been made known from Holy Scripture. It is a “pure,” not a “mixed” doctrine.
3. Do not some non-Christian religions teach a triad or threeness in God?
Yes, as particularly, Hinduism and the religion of the Ancient Egyptians; but such doctrine is entirely different from that of the Trinity, and not exclusive of Pantheism and Polytheism.
4. Is it not taught in the Old Testament?
It is suggested there, but not expressly taught. When the doctrine has been learned from the New Testament, it can be faintly traced in the Old.
5. Who is first known to have used the term “Trinity”?
Tertullian in “De Pudicitia,” Chapter 21.
6. But why should non-Scriptural terms be employed?
In order to express in one word what Holy Scripture teaches in many words and in numerous passages.
7. Is not the doctrine one of purely theoretical or speculative interest?
By no means. It is intensely practical. The burning point of all controversies concerning it has reference to the nature of Jesus Christ, and involves the truth of His declarations as the Revealer of the Father, and the efficacy of His work as the Redeemer of the human race.
8. Upon what three propositions does the doctrine of the Trinity rest?
Upon the following:
I. There is but one God. II. There are three who are declared to be God. III. The distinction between the three is not one of manifestation only, but is real and personal.
9. What is meant when “unity” is ascribed to an object of thought?
Either that such object is undivided within itself (affirmatively) or that there is no other such object (exclusively).
10. Apply this to God.
He is one and but one, that is, He is the only God (Deus est unus et unicus).
11. Give Scripture proofs.
1 Tim. 2:5 — “There is one God.” Gal. 3:20 — “God is one.”
Deut. 6:4 — “Hear, Israel, Jehovah, our God, is one Jehovah.” Ex. 20:3 — “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Is. 43:10, 11 — “Before me, there was no God formed, neither shall be after me. I, even I, am Jehovah; and besides me, there is no Savior.”
12. Is not unity implied in the very conception of God?
There cannot be more than one Supreme Being. For this reason, wherever among the heathen a plurality of gods in taught, the mind inevitably turns to one as supreme, and regards the rest as subordinate.
13. But is not this unity contradicted when we say that there are three who are God?
There would be a contradiction, if we were to teach that they are three in the same sense that they are one. If there are three who are God, and there be but one God, then the reference is to three distinctions within the one God. There cannot be three Gods.
14. What grounds are there for holding that there are three who are God?
The first ground is that Father and Son and Holy Ghost can each separately be proved to be God.
The argument concerning the Father is so overwhelming that it has no opponents among those believing in the existence of God. The controversy is with those who deny that the argument belongs to the Son and the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless, to make the process complete, it is herewith recapitulated: To the Father are ascribed Divine Names:
1 Cor. 8:6 — “To us there is one God the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him: and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him.”
2 Cor. 1:3 — “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Gal. 1:3 — “Grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Omnipotence. — Matt. 11:25 — “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.”
Mark 14:34 — “Abba Father, all things are possible with thee.”
Eternity. — Is. 9:6 — “The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.”
Holiness. — John 17:11 — “Holy Father, keep through thine own those whom thou hast given me.”
Goodness. — Titus 3:5 — “But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love appeared.”
Mercy. — 1 Peter 1:3 — “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his great mercy, begat us unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Glory. — John 17:3 — “The glory which I had with thee before the world was.”
Here it is sufficient to refer to those mentioned in 1 Peter 1:3 above cited, viz: Regeneration and Resurrection from the dead, and in 1 Cor. 8:6, viz: Creation and Providence.
John 4:23 — “The hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers.”
Phil. 2:11 — “That every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
John 16:23 — “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name.”
Rev. 1:6 — “Priests unto his God and Father.”
17. Applying this same argument to the Son, give, first, passages in which the names of God are ascribed to the Son?
John 1:1— “And the Word was God.” Cf. v. 14.
Rom. 9:5 — “Christ who is over all God blessed forever.”
Heb. 1:8 — “Of the Son he saith: Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.”
John 20:28 — “Thomas answered and said unto him: My Lord and my God.”
1 John 5:20— “His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”
Titus 2:13 — “The appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ,” or as in the margin, “of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
18. How is this argument from Divine Names ascribed to Jesus Christ further confirmed?
By a comparison between many passages in the Old with others in the New Testament.
(a) Thus the theophany of Is. 6:1, is explained in John 12:41
“These things said Isaiah because he saw his glory; and he spake of him. Nevertheless even of the rulers many believed on him,” i. e., on Jesus.
(b) The sublime description of the immortality of Jehovah
In Ps. 102:25-27, is quoted in Heb. 1:8, 10, 12, as referring to the Son.
“Of the Son he saith: Thou Lord in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth,” etc.
(c) Isa. 7:14
“Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” is quoted in Matt. 1:21, “And thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.”
(d) Isa. 40:3
“The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah,” is interpreted by John 1:23,30 as referring to John the Baptist’s relation to Jesus.
19. What attributes of God are ascribed to the Son?
He is Eternal.
Col. 1:17 — “He is before all things, and in him all things consist.” John 1:2 — “The same was in the beginning with God.” Rev. 1:8 — “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come the Almighty.”
He is Immutable.
Heb. 1:12 — “They shall be changed, but thou art the same, and thy years sball not fail.” Heb. 13:8 — “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.” 2 Cor. 1:19 — “The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was not yea and nay, but in him is yea.”
He is Omnipresent.
Matt. 28:20 — “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.” Matt. 18:20 — “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Eph. 1 123 — “The fullness of him that filleth all in all.”
He is Omniscient.
John 2:25 — “He needed not that any should bear witness concerning man; for he himself knew what was in man.” John 1:48 — “Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.” Rev. 2:18, 23 — “Thus saith the Son of God, I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts.” John 21:17 — “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.”
He is Omnipotent.
Matt. 28:18 — “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” Rev. 1:18 — “I have the keys of death and of Hades.” Phil. 3:21 — “He is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Heb. 1:3 — “Upholding all things by the word of his power.” Col. 1:17 — “He is before all things, and in him all things consist.” He is Life.
John 14:6 — “I am the way, the truth and the life.” John 11:25 — “I am the resurrection and the life.” John 5:21 — “The Son giveth life to whom he will.”
20. What works peculiar to God belong to the Son?
John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:10 (See above).
Col. 1:1; Heb. 1 13 (See above).
(c) Forgiving sins
Mark 2:9,10, and saving, Matt. 1:21.
(d) Raising the dead
2 Cor. 1:9 — “We trust in God who raiseth the dead.” John 6:39 — “This is the will of the Father that of all that which he hath given me, 1 should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.”
(e) Judging the world
John 5:22, 23 — “For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” For to exercise this office infinite knowledge, power and majesty are required.
21. What worship is claimed for the Son?
(a) Equal honor with the Father
(John 5:23, as above).
(b) Baptism is to be administered in the name of the Son, just as in that of the Father (Matt. 28:19).
(c) We are bidden to believe in the Son, just as in the Father.
John 14:1 — “Believe in God, believe also in me.”
(d) He is to be religiously adored.
Phil. 2:10 — “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” Rev. 5:12-14 — “Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. And every created thing which is in the heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them heard I saying, Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb be the blessing and the glory and the dominion forever and ever.”
22. What adds especial force to these ascriptions of worship as an argument proving that the Son is God?
The fact that God has revealed Himself as a jealous God, sharing His honor with none else.
Is. 42:8 — “I am Jehovah; that is my name, and my glory will I not give unto another.” Cf. Ex. 20:3, 5
23. Where is the worship of the very highest of creatures reproved?
When John intended to worship an angel he heard these words:
Rev. 22:9 — “See thou do it not; I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren the prophets and with them that keep the words of this book; worship God.”
24. Where are the Names of God ascribed to the Holy Ghost?
Acts 5:3, 4 — “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie unto the Holy Ghost Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.”
1 Cor. 3:16— “Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
1 Cor. 12:4-6 — “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of administrations, and the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God who worketh all things in all.”
1 Sam. “The Spirit of Jehovah spake by me,” interpreted in v. 30: “The God of Israel said.”
25. What attributes of God are ascribed Him?
Heb. 9:14 — “Christ who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without blemish unto God.” So, in accordance with the ordinary mode of describing the eternal in the Old Testament, as that which preceded the creation, Ps. 90:2, the Spirit is mentioned in Is. 40:13: “Who hath directed the Spirit of Jehovah, or, being his counsellor, hath taught him?”
Ps. 139:7 — “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall 1 flee from thy presence?”
1 Cor. 2:10 — “The Spirit searcheth all things; yea the deep things of God.”
26. What works of God are ascribed to the Holy Ghost?
(a) Works of Power
Gen. 1:2; Ps. 33:6 — “All the host of them by the breath of his mouth;” 104:30: “Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created;” Conception of Jesus, Luke 1:35; Casting out of demons, Matt. 12:28; Anointing of Jesus as Christ, Acts 10:38.
(b) Works of Grace
As His activity in everything pertaining to the redemption and salvation of man.
(c) Works of Justice
Culminating in raising the dead. Rom. 8:11 — “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you “
27. Where is divine worship addressed Him?
According to Matt. 28:19, Baptism is to be administered in His name.
In 1 Cor. 6:19, the hearts of believers are said to be temples of the Holy Ghost.
He is joined with the Father and the Son in the Apostolic benediction (2 Cor. 13:13).
28. How can you prove the fact that the Holy Ghost is God by a comparison of Old and New Testament passages?
When what is ascribed to God or Jehovah in the Old Testament, is ascribed in the New to the Holy Ghost. Thus in Is. 6:8-10, words spoken by Jehovah, are quoted in Acts 28:25 as spoken by the Holy Ghost through Isaiah. If in Is. 1:2; Ez. 1:3; Jer. 1:2; Hos. 1:1, etc., Jehovah is declared to be speaking through the prophets, this is further interpreted in 2 Peter 1:21, when men of God are said to have spoken “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost’ and 1 Peter 1:11, “Searching what time or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ, which was in them did point unto.”
29. What is the chief point of attack concerning the divinity of the Holy Ghost?
The force of the above argument is met by the assertion that the Holy Ghost is not distinct from the Father, but His Spirit, i. e., His intelligence, will and energy. This will be considered below. (Q. 32.)
30. What second class of arguments may be adduced for the doctrine of the Trinity?
Those passages of Scripture in which all three, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, are co-ordinated.
(a) The Theophany at Christ’s baptism
(Matt. 3:16, 17) where Jesus is baptized, the Holy Ghost is present in the visible form of a dove, and the Father speaks from the opened heavens.
(b) The Baptismal Formula
Matt. 28:19, “Go ye, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.”
(c) The Apostolic Benediction
2 Cor. 13:13, ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all.”
(d) The Promises of Christ
John 14:16, “I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter even the Spirit of Truth.” 15:26, “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth which proceedeth from the Father.”
(e) Similar formulas of St. Paul
As 1 Cor. 12:4-6 (see above, Q. 24), Eph. 4:4-6.
31. But may not Father, Son and Holy Ghost be only different forms or modes of manifestation of God?
No. For Father and Son are expressly distinguished as “other.”
John 5:32, 27 — “It is another that beareth witness of me…. the Father that sent me, he hath borne witness of me.”
The Father speaks of the Son, and the Son of the Father, the Father addresses the Son, and the Son addresses and prays to the Father. The Spirit is constantly carefully distinguished from both Father and Son. These statements are manifest throughout the entire New Testament, and particularly in John, Chapters Xiv-Xvii.
32. How do you answer the proposed explanation, mentioned above (Q. 29) that the Holy Ghost is simply the divine energy or power?
The names by which He is designated are personal, as in the Baptismal Formula and Apostolic Benediction. They cannot be a personification of God’s power. Personal works are ascribed Him; He teaches, prays, speaks, governs the Church. Personal revelations are made, as at Christ’s Baptism and at Pentecost. Personal occurrences are mentioned, e. g., He is blasphemed (Matt. 12:31), is tempted (Acts 5:9), dwells in the hearts of believers (1 Cor. 3:16), is resisted (Acts 7:51), is grieved (Eph, 4:30). The distinctions between Father, Son and Holy Ghost cannot, then, be modal, but are personal.
33. What result has now been reached by this argument?
The establishment of the three propositions set forth under Question 8.
34. How is this doctrine taught by the Church?
In the Athanasian Creed it is thus stated: “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such the Holy Ghost. . . „ The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet there are not three Gods, but one God.”
And in the Augsburg Confession: “There is one divine essence which is called and is God. . . . and yet there are three persons of the same essence and power, who also are co-eternal, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”
35. What does the Athanasian Creed mean when it speaks of the “substance” and the Augsburg Confession, when it speaks of the “essence” of God?
That which makes God God, His very being, that of which all His perfections and attributes are the expression.
36. How is this essence common to all three persons?
Not as though it were divided among them, or each contributed to it a part; for this would be contrary to the Unity and Simplicity of God. But to each person, belongs the entire divine essence. The Father is not God without the Son or the Holy Ghost. The entire one essence is in the three persons collectively and individually. There are three who are God, and, nevertheless, there are not three Gods.
37. What is meant by “person”?
“Not a part or quality in another but that which properly subsisteth” (Augsburg Confession). Father, Son and Holy Ghost are not parts of God, as man’s spirit is a part of his complex nature; neither are they qualities or attributes of God, as God’s love, is God considered as loving, and God’s omniscience is God considered as knowing. But they “properly subsist,” i. e., they have a distinct and independent relation, apart from our thought or God’s revelation. While “the Father is God, and the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God,” the Father is neither the Son nor the Holy Ghost. “For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.” “We are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by Himself to be God and Lord” (Athanasian Creed).
38. What are the distinguishing attributes of personality?
Self-consciousness and self-determination.
39. What is a brief definition of “person”?
A person is one who can say “I.”
40. What distinguishes “person” in Grammar?
The personal pronouns. “I” and “thou” express personal relations. When the Father speaks of Himself as I and addresses the Son as “Thou,” or when the Son refers to either Father or Holy Ghost as “He,” there is a clear distinction of personality taught.
41. For the popular statement of the subject, this is sufficient. What value, then, must be attached to the current Scholastic definition, as revised by the Reformers of both branches of Protestantism?
Each term is carefully chosen with reference to both actual and possible controversies or misunderstandings.
42. Repeat it.
“A person is a substance, individual, intelligent, incommunicable, not sustained in another, or a part of another.”
43. Why is “person” defined as substance?
To affirm (a) that it is not a mere subjective conception. It is more than an idea, or matter of thought, (b) In contrast with what is accidental.
44. Does this imply any contradiction with the formula of the Athanasian Creed that God is one in substance?
Like the “persons,” the “essence” of God, is neither a mere subjective conception, nor accidental. The Scholastic definition only attempts to define one species of substance from another. At every stage in the attempt to reduce the contents of divine revelation into the technical terms of philosophy, the inadequacy of these terms becomes apparent. Loqnimur de his rebus non ut debemus, sed ut possumus.
45. What is meant by the descriptive terms “individual”, “intelligent” “incommunicable,” “not sustained in another,” “not the part of another”?
“Individual” is what distinguishes one from others of the same nature, the characteristic of what is separate and distinct. The individuality of each person is clearly presented in the declarations of the Schmalkald Articles: “The Father is begotten of no one; the Son, of the Father; the Holy Ghost proceeds from Father and Son. Not the Father, not the Holy Ghost, but the Son became man.”
“Intelligent,” having self-consciousness and thought. No tree or beast is a person.
“Incommunicable,” i. e., incapable of imparting its individuality to another. The personality of one can never become the personality of another. No human father communicates his personality to the children whom he begets.
“Not sustained in another,” to exclude any thought that the relation is analogous to that of the humanity of Christ to His divine nature. The one had a beginning in time, the latter was from all eternity; the one originated from the act of the latter, and exists only through that act.
“Nor a part of another.” This is the statement of the Augsburg Confession, explained in Q. 37.
46. How does “person” as used here differ from the same term as applied to men and angels?
In the latter case, each person has an essence of his own; here there is but one essence for the three persons.
47. By what term did the early Greek theologians designate the distinction which we indicate by “person”?
“Hypostasis.” They preferred this to “person,” because they regarded it more irreconcilable with Sabellianism than the Greek word for “person,” which means likewise “a mask,” and could readily be perverted into the conception that the distinctions in God were not real, intrinsic and immanent, but only different economical and official manifestations assumed in time.
48. In what are the three persons alike or the same?
(a) They have, as we have shown, the same undivided divine essence.
This was confessed by the Council of Chalcedon in the declaration that one Person is “consubstantial,” or in Greek “homoousios” with the other.
(b) They have the same Majesty
So that no preference is given one Person above another. “The Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.” “In this Trinity, none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another” (Athanasian Creed).
(c) Each of the three persons exists in the essence of each of the two others.
This was designated by the Greek Fathers as perichoresis, or the eternal and inseparable pervasion of one person by the other. John 14:10, “I am in the Father and the Father in me.”
49. In what are they distinguished?
By certain modes, not of manifestation, but of simultaneous subsistence of the one divine essence. They bear a certain relationship to each other based upon two personal acts, which result in five personal peculiarities.
50. What are these personal acts?
They are immanent and eternal activities of God, known as opera ad intra, because they do not go out of God, but are wrought within Him. These are Generation and Spiration, when viewed with respect to the activity itself, or Filiation and Procession, when viewed with respect to its results.
51. What is Generation?
That activity whereby one Person is Father and another Son. Or, more specifically, “the act, whereby God the Father, from all eternity, by the communication of His essence, begets the Son, His image, truly and properly, yet in a supernatural and inscrutable way.”
52. From what conceptions must it be guarded?
From that of creation, as though there could have been a time when the Son were not. From that of completion, as though the activity were one act that has ended or is not continuous. From all ideas of succession, change, division or multiplication. From all attempts to explain it figuratively; for if the generation be figurative, then God is Father and God is Son only figuratively and not really. Yet literal as it is, it is raised above all the limitations of human relationships. It is the human relationship which is a feeble figure of the divine.
53. Upon what Scriptural grounds does this rest? .
Ps. 2:7 — “Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee.” Compare with this the New Testament passages which take it as a basis: Acts 13:33 — “As it is written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee.” Heb. 1:5 — “But unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?”
Heb. 5:5 — “Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that spake unto him, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” God’s day is eternity.
(b) Express declarations of the peculiar nature of Christ’s Sonship:
John 1:14 — “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten from the Father.”
John 1:18 — “The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father he hath declared him.”
Rom. 8:32 — “He that spared not his own Son.” The “his own” is not a simple possessive, but is the adjective “idios,” meaning his own in a peculiar sense, a sense in which none other would be called his son. Compare with this John 5:18, where Jesus is understood, by calling God “his own Father,” using “idios,” and therefore claiming God as Father in a sense none else could claim, as “making himself equal with God.”
John 3:16 — “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.”
Heb. 1:3 — “Who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance.”
54. What is Spiration?
The activity of the Father and the ‘Son, whereby, from all eternity, the Holy Ghost proceeds from both.
55. Is it identical with the activity by which the Son is generated?
No. The Holy Ghost is nowhere said to be begotten; and if this had been so, He would be Son and not Holy Ghost.
56. What proof is there that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father?
John 15:26 — “The Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father.”
57. Is our Lord’s promise that He would send the Holy Ghost a proof that He proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father?
Not of itself, for a distinction must be made between the gift of the Holy Spirit in time from the Ascended Savior. and a relation subsisting in God from all eternity.
58. Why then did the Western Church maintain in opposition to the Greek Church that He proceeds not only from the Father but also from the Son?
Because if He is called in one passage of Holy Scripture, as in Matt. 10:20, “the Spirit of the Father,” He is called elsewhere “the Spirit of His Son” (Gal. 4:6) and “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9).
Because in John 16:15, His relation to the Son is described as such that all that the Spirit teaches is derived through the Son.
The Son is sent equally by the Father and the Son (John 16:7; John 15:26).
Without the procession from the Son as well as from the Father, it would be difficult to distinguish the Spirit from the Son, or to hold that the Son would not be subordinate to the Father.
Our Lord’s breathing upon His disciples with the words: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” was regarded a figure of what occurs from all eternity.
Hence “the river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,” in Rev. 22:1, was widely applied to the double procession from eternity.
Without urging the complete decision of the question by each argument separately, taken together they indicate such a relationship, as to render any other inference very difficult.
59. What then are the five personal peculiarities founded upon these two acts?
Two belong to the Father alone: That He is unbegotten (“The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.” — Athanasian Creed), and Paternity. One belongs to the Son: Filiation, that He receives and has all His essence of the Father. One belongs jointly to Father and Son: Spiration, and one to the Holy Ghost: Procession.
60. Is there not then an order?
Undoubtedly, yet not of rank or of time, but of origin and operation.
When the Athanasian Creed confesses: “None is before or after other,” the next clause interprets it: “None is greater or less than another.” The order is: “The Father”; “the Son of the Father”; “the Holy Ghost, of the Father and the Son.” Or: “The Father through the Son in the Holy Ghost.”
Rom. 11:33 — “For of him and through him and unto him are all things.”’ John 5:19 — “The Son can do nothing of himself, but whatsoever he seeth the Father doing.”
61. Is the term “Father” when applied to God always restricted to the First Person of the Trinity?
It often refers to the essence of God, and thus belongs to all three persons alike. When in the Lord’s Prayer we address, “Our Father which art in Heaven,” no Trinitarian relation is expressed or implied. We pray to all three persons in the one essence. The entire being of God is Father to men both by creation and regeneration. Nor can we address one person of the Trinity in prayer without addressing all; for they are all and in all, since they are one in essence.
62. Besides the immanent acts, not common to all persons, but distinguishing them from each other (opera ad intra), what other personal acts are there?
The external activities proceeding from the power common to all three persons, and directed to an end outside of God (opera ad extra).
63. What especially distinguishes them from the former class?
They are common to all three persons. For this reason they are sometimes called “essential,” while the immanent acts are called “personal.” Nevertheless each person has manifested Himself in a peculiar way in a temporal work or act, which is ascribed to Him not exclusively or predominantly, but because of the prominence given to that person in the description of said act in Revelation.
64. Name them.
Creation., or the external work of the Father. Redemption, or the external work of the Son. Sanctification, or the external work of the Holy Ghost.
65. What traces are there (see Q. 4) of this doctrine in the Old Testament?
It explains the passages where God speaks of God and the Lord of the Lord (Gen. 19:24; Ex. 16:7; 34:5,6; Num. 14:21); those in which the Son of God is explicitly mentioned (Ps. 2:7); those in which a plurality of Persons is mentioned (Gen. 1:1,2; Ex. 31:1,3; Ps. 33:6; Is. 61:1), as well as those in which God speaks of Himself in the plural number (Gen. 1:26; 3:22), or where the name of God or Jehovah is thrice repeated (Num. 6:23-26; Deut. 6:4, 5; Ps. 42:1, 2; 67:6, 7) .
66. What philosophical arguments for the Trinity hare been used and what is their value?
One from personality. Personality implies self-consciousness, and self-consciousness implies three things, a subject contemplating, an object contemplated and a subject conscious that that which contemplates and that which is contemplated are the same.
Another from love. This implies a subject loving, an object loved, and the communion of love in a third who unites the love of the one loving and the one loved.
Both have value as illustrations, but not as arguments.