Trinitarian Reformational

An integrated vision

The Centrality of the Heart

The Bible speaks of the “heart”, the central concentration point of our deepest hopes and desires. In all things the heart is the centre of human orientation (whether or not they recognize themselves as ‘religious’). For a Christian, it is in the heart that each person encounters, and responds to God. God speaks to all human beings, but the human response can be distorted by over focussing on one or other element or aspects of experience.

In the story of the creation of humanity in the first chapters of the book of Genesis, the key point in the coming to be of humanity is the encounter with God — so that the human race can be described perhaps not just as homo sapiens but homo religiosus.  The Adam and Eve story in Genesis 2 marks a boundary in terms of the human response to God,  resulting in a signal  act of disobedience. This in turn led to the whole story of judgement and redemption, in which humanity’s relation to God is seen through the experience of key figures, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, each with  a covenant associated with his name — a progressive revelation of the judgement on humanity for its disobedience but, at the same time God’s gracious provision for human beings to be restored to a right relationship with himself. This process culminates in the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God becoming fully human, and dying and rising to provide the sole basis for the redemption of human beings through the power of his Holy Spirit.

Human beings are inescapably religious, and this is true both of those considered conventionally to be religious (i.e. of the traditional relations, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism), but also those who are secular, not least the most aggressive secularists such as Richard Dawkins, who, in his attack on religions “fundamentalisms” creates a new fundamentalism of his own with its own creedal basis.

August 25, 2012 Posted by | Belief, Calvinism and Reformed Theology, chrisitian faith, Christ Centered Trinitarian Theology, Christian, Christian Living, Christian Theology, Christian Thinking, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Contemporary Worldview, Covenant, Covenant, Covenantal, Doctrine/Theology, Follow, Following Jesus, Following of Christ, Kuyper, Life in general, Mind and heart, Philosophical Anthropology, philosophicaltheology, Philosophy and Religion, Purpose, Reformational Thought, Reformed theological, Reformed Theology, Religion, The Following of Christ, the life, The truth, Theology, Theology and Discipleship, TriniTalk, Trinitarian, Trinity, Trintarian, Truth and Doctrine, Vollenhoven, Worldview, worldviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Three Covenants

A.  It is critical to distinguish between three covenants, each between the three Persons in the first instance — each with the appropriate human response.

  1. The first is the covenant of creation: the Father calls all things into existence, through the Son and the effective operation of the Holy Spirit. The proper human response to this is obedience to the creational and revealed laws and norms.
  2. The second is the covenant of redemption: the Son vicariously lays down his life as the sole basis for salvation in agreement with the Father, and the Holy Spirit ‘opens the gate of heaven to the elect’ (as Calvin puts it).  This from a human point of view is justification by faith alone through grace.
  3. The third is the covenant of glory: the Holy Spirit transforms those who have been justified according to the will of the Father to ‘the fullness of the measure of Christ’ This  culminates in the entire purging of the universe of all evil and the new heaven and earth.  Applied to elect humanity, this is sanctification.

B. In each of these covenants, a different Person takes the leading role.  In creation the Father takes the leading role, in redemption, the Son and in transformation, the Holy Spirit.  However, not exclusively.  In each of the great acts, the other two Persons are involved perichoretically, as we see above. In creation, the Son is the Word of the Father, made effective through the Holy Spirit.  In redemption, the Son is appointed as Christ by the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit.  In transformation, the Holy Spirit is send by the Father according to the measure or shape of the Son.

C. The three covenants can also be seen in the threefold character of the Son’s office as Christ, the Second Adam.  As Second Adam, he is first of all the example of what created humanity was created to be — this is his prophetic role calling fallen humanity back to God’s creatorly intention for humanity.   ‘Second Adam’ also refers to his substitionary role, as the one who died in Adam’s place, that is on behalf of the elect — this is his priestly/sacrificial role, both High Priest and Lamb,  ‘Second Adam’ finally refers to his eschatological role — the human being of the future, the first fruits of the dead and the prototype and king and  of the transformed and restored creation.  In broader terms, the Son is Word (through whom all things were created), Christ (in whom alone is redemption), and Lord (who alone has the authority from the Father and power from the Holy Spirit over all areas of the transformation of the created order).

D. Office is a function of the Person (the Son in relation to the Father and the Holy Spirit) not the nature. he Son’s role as Christ should not be assimilated to his humanity (in contrast to, say, his role as Logos which is then seen purely as a function of his divinity).  Rather, the Son’s office as Christ is as both fully divine and fully human.

E.  The three covenants should not be confused.  For example, we are saved not through works (creational) nor through our sanctification (transformational), but solely through the death of Christ (redemptive).  At the same time, these covenants build on one another — the basis for setting right the failure of humanity to respond rightly to the creation mandate, provided by the Son in his role as Logos,  is the act of redemption to provide justification fo the elect, accomplished by the Son in his role as Christ, for which the final act of consummation, prepared for by the sanctification of the elect and the inaugurated restoration, indeed transformation, of the fallen creation as a whole, is the return of the Son in his office as Lord and Judge.

F. The different biblical covenants (Adamic, Noachic, Mosaic, Davidic – are all mixtures of all three covenants.  It important to distinguish the creational, redemptive and transformational strands in all these).  These biblical covenants should not be regarded as successive dispensations, but rather as the progressive revelation of God’s purposes.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | Belief, Calvinism and Reformed Theology, Christian, Christian Worldview, Covenant, Doctrine/Theology, Reformational Thought, Reformed theological, Reformed Theology, Spirit, TriniTalk, Trinitarian, Trinity, Trintarian, Truth and Doctrine, Worldview, worldviews | 2 Comments

The Triune self-revelation

All that we know or can know of God is that he has revealed himself in the person of Jesus. In other words, our knowledge of God is first of God as Trinity (which is the deeper logic of the affirmation that “Jesus is Lord”), and then of God who created the world. We cannot move immediately to the affirmation that God created the world, because it is only within the framework of our affirmation that God is Trinity that we can affirm that God created the world. Otherwise, that would be what Heidegger calls “onto-theology” – the projection of our own temporal reflections onto a notional eternity .

1. The Trinity is how God reveals himself. It is a limiting idea in that it forbids us to think other of God than how he reveals himself.

2. The presumption of a disjunction between who God is and how he reveals himself is something we impose on God (it is what Calvin calls a “bare and empty name” which “flits around in our brains, to the exclusion of the true God.” [Institutes 1.13.2)].

3. It is not permitted to speak of God as “originating essence” or in any other similar way. This is to impose an essentially Unitarian construction on our understanding of God. It is contrary to divine self-revelation to say that in effect that God is “essentially” mondic but “energetically” or “economically” triune.

4. To say that God could (Voluntarist) or could not (Realist) be other than the Trinity is to impose inappropriate categories upon God, because while the alternatives of necessity and contingency are characteristic of the created order where characteristics are predicated of these things to which they pertain. To say that characteristics are predicated of God is inappropriate: God simply is who he says he is.

5. There is both continuity and discontinuity between God and the world. The world reflects the Trinitarian character of God, and yet God is entirely other in relation to the world. That God is Trinity is not derived from the world, and yet, since the world is created by the Triune God, it is to be expected that the world is Trinitarian in character.

6. To accord eternity or a-temporality to any aspect of the created order is to compromise the temporal character of the universe. Time does not stand over against the rest of the created order – it comes into being as occurrence. “The beginning in Gen 1:1 – also John 1:1 and Proverbs 8 – is originally not part of the created order but is rather the eternal Son in whom all things are created, and in whom all Wisdom (that is the Holy Spirit) is possessed.

7. God is Creator (with a capital “C” indicating creatio ex nihilo) but this is not an adequate description of God as God, since that would make God dependent on the world for who is is (since it is not possible to be a Creator without a creation). If being Creator is what makes God god then God cannot be god without creating, i.e. God has to create in order to be god, in other words, since God is none other than God, God has to create.

8. By contrast, to define God as Trinity means that God does not have to create in order to be god. Creation is not per se part of God’s definition as god, since God’s self-definition is on the basis of the inter-dependency of the Three Persons – there is no infinite regression of ontological dependency but only a closed ontological circle (i.e. with each of the Persons being eternally dependent on each of the other two – they are not dependent on any other entity or “originating essense” apart from themselves). As Triune, God is always god, regardless of whether he creates or not.

9. The fact that in both instances (i.e. with respect to God as Creator and God as Trinity) we have to use created language, albeit inadequately, to describe the reality of God does not reduce God to the created order. The reality of God, be it as Trinity or as Creator, cannot be reduced either to the numerical or formative modalities.

10. To say that because we can only speak of God in created terms that God is thereby reduced to created forms is a fallacious argument. That is to confuse our speech about God with God’s sovereign self-revelation. Because God reveals himself as Trinity in created terms does not mean that God’s freedom consists in our freedom to speak of God other than as Trinity – rather God’s sovereignty requires us to speak about God as Trinity, and not as any of our projections about God be it as “created essence” or in any other way. God certainly defines himself with respect to us as Creator – but if that were purely the case it would be impossible to know him. It is only through the Son that God can be known (this is true implicitly in the Old Testament and explicitly in the New Testament).

October 8, 2006 Posted by | Analysis, Belief, calvinism, Calvinism and Reformed Theology, Chrisitan Resources, chrisitian faith, Christ Centered Trinitarian Theology, Christian, Christian Living, Christian Worldview, Christianity, christinty, Contemporary Worldview, Covenant, Covenantal, Doctrine/Theology, Following Jesus, Following of Christ, Following the Master, Introduction, Life in general, Mind and heart, Mind and Spirit, Neo-Calvinism, philosophical thoughts, philosophicaltheology, Philosophy, Philosophy & Religion, Philosophy and Religion, Philosophy for today, Philsophy, Purpose, Reflections, Reformational Thought, Reformed theological, Reformed Theology, Religion, Something meaningful, Spirit, spirituality, The Following of Christ, the life, The truth, Theology, Theology and Discipleship, TriniTalk, Trinity, Trinity Secret, Trintarian, Truth, Truth and Doctrine, Van Til, Worldview, worldviews | Leave a comment

The Basis of Reformational Trinitarianism

The key break is with the medieval scholastic dichotomy between intellectualism and voluntarism. Calvin rejected both with his dictum “deus solus legibus solutus est” (“God alone is free of law” – against a intellectualist understanding of God) “sed non exlex” (“but is not arbitrary” – a rejection of the voluntarist position). God for Calvin can only be known as he reveals himself – that is, as Trinity. Any attempt to get “behind” God’s Triune reality or posit a non-Triune essence is vacuous speculation – an empty idea flitting around the brain.

How the dichotomy is overcome was not fully developed in Calvin, but is developed more elsewhere in Reformed tradition. God cannot be bound by forms outside of the Godhead – God binds himself, freely, in the eternal pact between the Three Persons which is the basis of our creation (Genesis 1:26) and redemption (John 17:2). In the Reformed tradition, this eternal pact is misleadingly called the “covenant of redemption” but it not just about redemption, but about creation as well – it is according to the will/authority of the Father that all things are created, through the Son and by the Spirit. It finds its political expression in the federal ideal – not least in the thought of Johannes Althusius, the great German Reformed philosopher, and also more recently, in the thought of Abraham Kuyper, with his notion of sphere sovereignty. The covenant of redemption is also key to the thought of Jonathan Edwards, as well the theologians of “Old Princeton”, such as the Hodges and especially B.B. Warfield, as well as Bavinck in the Netherlands. However, the old scholasticism does tend to creep back, with the old scholastic lists of “communicable” and “incommunicable” attributes with which the old systematic theologies tended to be prefaced. God does not “possess” attributes in this way – God simply is who he reveals himself to be – “I am who I am”.

There has been something of a rediscovery of the centrality and implications of the doctrine of the Trinity in the latter half of the Twentieth Century, especially in the Western Church (where it tended somewhat to be pushed to one side – unlike in the Eastern Church, where there has been much deeper and more extensive reflection on the Trinity, not least by the “Cappadocian Fathers” – Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus). The being (ontology) of the Trinity consists in the relations of the Persons – the Persons are mutually dependent (pace Subordinationism) and eternally distinct (pace Monarchian Modalism). This is not something which arises from creation – the Triune being is not dependent on creation or redemption, but is revealed “economically” (as theologians say) through creation and redemption. Of course we can only know God through creation, but we have God’s self-attesting revelation that he is Triune. There are no categories of being to which God needs to conform – but God reveals himself finally and authoritatively how we are to speak of him, and that it true; and it is that truth which is the key to the universe. We know God himself because we know Jesus, whose fully human personality is at one and the same time, the personality of God.

July 18, 2006 Posted by | Belief, calvinism, Calvinism and Reformed Theology, chrisitian faith, Christ Centered Trinitarian Theology, Christian, Christian Living, Christian Theology, Christian Thinking, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Contemporary Worldview, Covenant, Covenantal, Doctrine/Theology, Dooyeweerd, Follow, Following Jesus, Following of Christ, Following the Master, Introduction, Kuyper, Life, Life in general, Mind and heart, Mind and Spirit, Neo-Calvinism, Philosophical Anthropology, philosophical thoughts, philosophicaltheology, Philosophy, philosophy & politics, Philosophy & Religion, Philosophy and Religion, Philosophy for today, Purpose, Reflections, Reformational Thought, Reformed theological, Reformed Theology, Religion, social ideas, social theory, Society, Something meaningful, Spirit, spirituality, spirituality/logic/+-, The Following of Christ, the life, The truth, Theology, Theology and Discipleship, Trinity Secret, Trintarian, Truth, Truth and Doctrine, Uncategorized, Van Til, Vollenhoven, Worldview, worldviews | Leave a comment