Showing items filed under “D: The Sanctuary II: Who is God? The Trinity, divine attributes, election, grace”

The Son

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 On two questions the universal Church has definitive dogma, which is to say, it has defined two questions ‘everywhere, at all times, and by all’ (called the ‘Vincentian Canon’).  They really answer the same question, ‘who is Jesus Christ?’ though one answers it with respect to the doctrine of God itself, and the other by a more narrow angle, with respect to His person.  The definitions go like this: God Himself is one God in three persons, the Son eternally ‘begotten’ that is, related to his Father in God Himself.  The second definition is that Jesus Christ is one person, one agent of thought and action, who is both the Second Person of the Trinity and the man Jesus. In neither case can you think of parts or division, but rather of distinction. We know both to be true, though how they are so exceeds our understanding.

While it is no substitute for the traditional answers the Church has offered, the fondness of our era for the idea of story, of narrative, as a way to describe who someone is, can help us here. Take the Bible as the human story from its origins in eternity to its conclusion there as well. Now think of that story as on one hand the story of God, in Himself and in relation to His world. Consider John 1, as the key to this expansive story: ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…’ This story, of God’s love for the world, of His prophetic Word, finds its perfection and its climax in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God sovereign, but also intimately involved.  But the Bible is also the story of the human beings as the crown, and also the tragedy, of God’s creative work.  The human obedient to God, the human faithful and self-giving in love - this may finally be seen in Jesus Christ. 

The narrative of God Himself, and with His world, and the narrative of the human being in response to Him- both converge in one person Jesus Christ. His one story is may be read in both of these ways.

Read the Athanasian Creed. How does it tell us who Jesus is and who Jesus isn’t.



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Some accounts of God make it sound as if the Father was the Creator, the Son that came to earth to save us, and finally the Spirit who opens to us the new life.  This too is a kind of modalism, but played out historically, in three phases or eras. In such an understanding, we live in the Third Age, of the Spirit.  You can see how this would appeal to our modern notions of being more advanced or enlightened, but you can also see how such ideas are debunked by the horrendous aspects of our world. (It should also be noted that Muslims too think they live in the third or new era of the final revelation, that of the Koran and Islam. This way of thinking easily falls into a notion that we have moved beyond the former revelation involving Jesus Christ!)

By contrast the traditional doctrine of the Trinity understood the actions of God to be one and indivisible, since the Actor Himself is one and so all His actions equally attributable to Him. The classic formulation comes again from St. Augustine: ‘all the works of God are indivisible.’ This is confirmed for example, by the affirmation in the Creeds that Jesus Christ is the one ‘through whom all things were made.’  If this is true, you can see how inclusive language naming God as ‘creator, redeemer, sanctifier’ is more confusing, and says less, than one might at first suppose.

As an addendum to this truth about the Trinity we should say that, sometimes, one person of the Trinity has a role that seems to us more prominent or discernible. The Father creates with the Son uttered and the Spirit hovering, the Son redeems as He hands Himself over to the Father and is raised by the Spirit- each involves all but in differing ways. We can see that in some cases the one work of God may be spoken most accurately by a kind of shorthand that focuses on the role of one person in that work. The tradition called this the doctrine of appropriation.  It does not compromise or undercut the prior truth that the persons always act in concert.

Read Revelation 21 and discuss how the persons cooperate in the indivisible work of God


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