Trinity and the Old Covenant: Some Brief Questions and Answers

I’d planned to post the next article in my short series about “personhood” in the context of the Trinity. But, alas, my intellectual bandwidth is unequal to the task right now. Next week, though, the article about the social trinitarian understanding of “person” is coming! For now, I leave you with some brief discussions about the doctrine of the Trinity and the Old Covenant scriptures we discussed in the Theology Thursday class in my congregation. Ciao.

Q1: If the doctrine of the Trinity is really so important, why does the Bible not explain it like Grudem’s definition does?

Well, because the bible just isn’t organized that way. It wasn’t meant to be, either! Bible study is a lot like detective work.

Scripture isn’t an encyclopedia, arranged exhaustively by topic. It’s a series of books and letters written to very specific audiences, for very specific purposes. The authors could have said much more than they did

Systematic theology is the branch of bible study that “systematizes” and catalogs the 8 “big” topics of revelation (God, Man, Sin, Christ, Holy Spirit, Salvation, Church, Last Things). Our bible doctrines sum up what we believe the Bible teaches about specific topics based on the evidence we have from the Scriptures. Creeds, confessions, and statements of faith are the fruit of all that effort.

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Modalism Redux? The Idea of “Person” in Classical Trinitarianism

The doctrine of the Trinity tells us there is “One Being, three Persons.” Of course, it’s more complicated than all that, but we’ll leave it there! In this definition, what is a “person?” That’s a hard question. Two main views are common today; the classical model and the social model. The Church has traditionally held to the classical view. However, if you ask the right questions, you’ll likely find most Christians actually believe in the social model.

Why does this matter? Well, because it’s probably the most practical question you can ask about the Trinity! If the Scriptures show us three Persons who relate to one another in the Gospels, it’s important to know what “Person” means. If you hear “Person” and think of an autonomous individual with his own self-consciousness and will, then you don’t believe in the classical view, you’re at odds with all the great creeds of the Church, and you’ve abandoned the Nicene and post-Nicene understanding of God. Depending on who you ask, you may be a heretic.

Are you interested, now? 

Classical view of personhood

The Church has done most of the heavy lifting about divine Personhood in the context of Christology, so we ought to begin there. That first Christmas, the divine Son added a human nature to His divine nature. That’s why we confess that Jesus is one divine Person with two natures.1

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Some Thoughts on the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity is hard to teach, because there are so many ancient heresies to guard against and because, well … it’s complicated. But, the Scriptures present God as triune. That means we need to teach about Him. We need to teach Christians to know Him and love Him as He is; and He’s triune.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the doctrine of the Trinity; probably more than most pastors. That, and Christology, are my own hobby horses. Some people find joy in making complicated end-times charts. Others find fulfillment in being a Baptist fundamentalist. Still other Christians find their religious self-identity in a particular view of the doctrine of salvation. I like to study about who God is, and how He’s revealed Himself.

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One is not like the other ...

The Septuagint (“LXX”) is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, dating to sometime in the mid to early 2nd century B.C. It came about because many Jews living abroad, particularly in Egypt, had lost much of their ability to read and speak Hebrew. They need a translation of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures) in their own language. The Mediterranean culture was heavily influenced by Hellenism at this time; a legacy of Alexander the Great’s conquests. So, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek.

This Greek version of the Tanakh was the version Jesus and the apostles used. The majority (but not all) of their Old Testament citations are from the Septuagint. This means the Septuagint is important.

I’m preaching from Zechariah 12:1 - 13:1 next week, as our congregation celebrates the Lord’s Supper. This passage contains the famous prophesy about the Israelites looking to Jesus, whom they pierced (Zech 12:10). This “piercing” clearly refers to Jesus’ death, and echoes an earlier prophet, Isaiah (“but He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities …” Isa 53:5). But, there’s an interesting problem. The LXX is different from the Hebrew!

One of these is not like the other

Here is the difference between the two:

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Triune Worker

Theology Thursday - Aquinas on the Procession and Generation of the Son

If Christians confess that the Son proceeds from the Father, then is it proper to call this “generation?” Doesn’t this term imply the Son had a beginning, or at least owes His existence to the Father? Is the “eternal generation of the Son” a Biblical concept?

Many Christians assume the medieval period lacked original theological insight. Almost unconsciously, they often assume the church entered a dark age at the end of the patristic era; a darkness which was only pierced by the bright and shining rays of the Reformation 1000 years later. This is incorrect.

In this excerpt from his work Summa Theologica, the theologian Thomas Aquinas carefully discusses whether Christ’s procession from the Father can properly be termed “generation.” He follows the scholastic method, which means he (1) first introduces potential defeater objections, (2) then issues a crushing “on the contrary” statement which defines his own position, (3) followed by an extended discussion and defense of his position (“I answer that”), and (4) concludes with replies to the objections.

He begins:1

Having considered what belongs to the unity of the divine essence, it remains to treat of what belongs to the Trinity of the persons in God. And because the divine Persons are distinguished from each other according to the relations of origin, the order of the doctrine leads us to consider firstly, the question of origin or procession; secondly, the relations of origin; thirdly, the persons.

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