Confessions on the Trinity

Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday. I will preaching on the Trinity. Here are the main confessions and their sections on the Trinity. 

Belgic Confession (Continental Reformed)
Article 8: The Trinity

In keeping with this truth and Word of God we believe in one God, who is one single essence, in whom there are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties– namely, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is the cause, origin, and source of all things, visible as well as invisible.  The Son is the Word, the Wisdom, and the image of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son. Nevertheless, this distinction does not divide God into three, since Scripture teaches us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has his own subsistence distinguished by characteristics– yet in such a way that these three persons are only one God.  It is evident then that the Father is not the Son and that the Son is not the Father, and that likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.  Nevertheless, these persons, thus distinct, are neither divided nor fused or mixed together.  For the Father did not take on flesh, nor did the Spirit, but only the Son.  The Father was never without his Son, nor without his Holy Spirit, since all these are equal from eternity, in one and the same essence.  There is neither a first nor a last, for all three are one in truth and power, in goodness and mercy.

Thirty Nine Articles (Anglican)
Article I: Of faith in the Holy Trinity

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Augsburg Confession (Lutheran)
Article I: Of God

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term “person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.

They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other Evil- also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that “Word” signifies a spoken word, and “Spirit” signifies motion created in things.

Westminster Confession of Faith (English Reformed)
Article II:Of God and the Holy Trinity 

1. There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal, most just, and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

2. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent, or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.

3. In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Bavinck on Organizing Theology

Here is the final paragraph from Part I of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics Vol I: Prolegomena. This chapter is entitled “The Method and Organization of Dogmatic Theology.” Throughout the chapter Bavinck explains what men have used in the past to organize theology. He then gives this concluding paragraph to explain how he organizes his dogmatics. To be clear early in the chapter he says  Scriptures are the sole foundation of theology. The question he is now answering is how should we organize theology. All parentheses are his.

Accordingly, the order that is theological and at the same time historical-genetic in character deserves preference. It, too, takes its point of departure in God and views all creatures only in relation to him. But proceeding from God to his works, in order through them again to ascend to and end in him. So in this method as well, God is beginning, middle, and end. From him, through him, and to him are all things (Rom. 11:36). But God is not drawn down into the process of history here, and history itself is treated more justly. God and his works are clearly distinguished. In his works God acts as Creator, Redeemer, and Perfecter. He is “efficient and exemplary Cause of things through creation, their renewing Principle through redemption, and their perfective Principle in restoration (Bonaventure). Dogmatics is the system of the knowledge of God as he has revealed himself in Christ; it is the system of Christian religion.  And the essence of the Christian religion consists in the reality that the creation  of the Father, ruined by sin, is restored in the death of Son of God and re-created by the grace of the Holy Spirit into a Kingdom of God. Dogmatics show us how God, who is all sufficient in himself, nevertheless glorifies himself in his creation, which, even when it is torn apart by sin, is gathered up again in Christ (Eph. 1:10). It describes for us God, always God, from the beginning to the end-God in his being, God in  his creation, God against sin, God in Christ, God breaking down all resistance through the Holy Spirit and guiding the whole of creation back to the objective he decreed for it: the glory of his name. Dogmatics therefore is not a dull and arid science. It is a theodicy, a doxology to all God’s virtues and perfections, a hymn of adoration and thanksgiving, a “glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14).

While the quote is long and decontextualized, it shows why Bavinck does not think Christ can be the organizing principle of theology. Dogmatics begins with God, which obviously includes Christ, but is not limited to Him, then proceeds to creation, redemption, and ultimately glorification. This method keeps God and his works related, but distinguished. It also allows for full development of the Trinity and their works while again allowing them to be interrelated, but distinguished.

Book Review: Delighting in the Trinity

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian FaithDelighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fantastic book, that caused me to delight in God, Father, Son, and Spirit, more with each page. Reeves has taken a hard and often obscure doctrine and showed how it relates to the most basic questions of the Christian life: Who is God? Why does the world exist? What is salvation? And How should we live? His writing style was excellent with just a enough wit to keep you engaged. There are many sidebars, small pictures, and quotes which add to the book instead of distract from it. The book reminded me that God is personal. He is not far off. I especially enjoyed his point that because we are united to Christ, the Father sees us as beloved children. We share in God’s glory because we share in Christ. The emphasis on the restoration of our relationship with God was also wonderful. Anyone who carefully reads this book should find a deeper love for and delight in God, but will also find a deeper love for those around them.

My only critique is that I wished he taken more time to talk about what it means to fear God in a Trinitarian context and how God’s discipline of us fits his nature as well. He does mention the latter, but it would have helped if he could have unfolded that more. But that is really a minor point in an otherwise great book.

View all my reviews

Preparing the Way for the Atheists

“Is it too much of a coincidence that the advance of atheism parallels the retreat of the church on the Trinity? The nineteenth century was the century where Marx dismissed religion as ‘the opium of the people’ and where Nietzsche declared: ‘God is dead.’ And it was the century that opened with its perhaps most eminent theologian, Friedrich Schleiermacher, making the Trinity a mere appendix to the Christian faith; it was the century that closed with his greatest successor, Adolf von Harnack, dismissing the Trinity altogether as a bundle of philosophical rot. Of course, the theologians weren’t feeding the atheists, but they were disarming the church so that the atheists could storm on without meeting much serious opposition. For if God is not a Father, if he has no Son and will have no children, then he must be lonely, distant and unapproachable; if he is not triune and so not essentially loving, then no God at all just looks better.” Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity, p. 110-111.