As part of affirming a Trinitarian doctrine, it is important to put together a synthetic definition. So over the next few post, we will be working through a synthetic definition of God. What this means is essentially creating a doctrinal statement about God. This is something you might find at a church that could be called a statement of beliefs as well. This is mainly to provide a summary statement (if possible for a completely infinite God) on the names and attributes of God, specifically focusing on the Trinity and each member of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This is not meant to be an apologetic or argument, but a definition or creed like the Athanasian creed. At the same time, this is not meant to be long, the main body should fit on a page, while the footnotes will handle the biblical references, bibliographic annotation and theological notes and observations. In the endnotes, there will be a couple of arguments that are elaborated on to provide clarity on a topic that has seen much debate. The main body is just a definition, while the footnotes are the background and grounds for that definition.
Today, we look just at the Trinity and what the Trinity is or defined as.
I believe in the Holy Trinity. I believe in one true God that eternally exists as three Persons –Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and that these three are one God.[i] I believe that God is one in essence, three in Person each fully God and equally God each equal in nature, attributes and glory, and worthy of worship and obedience.[ii] I believe that none is greater or less than the other but all equal and united.[iii] I believe that the Bible has revealed the name and person of God for His creation to call Him.[iv]I believe that the Triune God is perfect[v], immutable[vi], eternal[vii], omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.[viii] In God being very God, He is true, holy, just, good, faithful, loving, merciful and gracious.[ix] God is beyond what humans can comprehend. [x]
[i] J.I. Packer, Knowing God, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 20. “…[S]ince ‘God is spirit,’ ‘Holy Spirit’ can be predicated of the whole Trinity; the Father and Son both being ‘spirit,’ and both ‘holy’… But the Holy Spirit, as a proper name in the Trinity, is relative to the Father and the Son, since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son.” – Augustine, De Trinitate 5.12, in Henry Bettenson, ed., The Later Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Cyril of Jerusalem to St. Leo the Great, trans. H. Bettenson (London: Oxford Univ. 1970) 231. Deut 6:4-5; Matt 28:18-19; Mark 12:29; John 14:6-17; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor 13:14; Col 1:13-19.
[ii] Athanasian Creed lines 3-20. The Creed speaks to the Father, the Son and the Spirit each uncreated, incomprehensible, eternal, almighty; yet they are not three “almighties,” “eternals,” “uncreateds” and “incomprehensibles” but one. Each is God and Lord. “It is most important that we think of God as Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance.” – cf A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, (New York: HarperOne, 1961), 20. “Within God’s one, undivided being is an ‘unfolding’ into three personal distinctions. These personal distinctions are modes of existence within the divine being, but are not divisions of the divine being.” – cf Matt Perman, “What is the Doctrine of the Trinity,” http://www.desiringgod.org, Jan 23, 2006 (accessed Oct 8, 2014). Also see Dallas Theological Seminary Article II from Doctrinal Statements, http://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement. John 1:14; 2 Cor 13:14; Heb 1:1-3; Rev 1:4-6.
[iii] Athanasian Creed lines 25, 27. “The Persons of the Godhead… have one will. They work always together…. Every act of God is accomplished by the Trinity in Unity…. It is a real if understandable error to conceive of the… [Trinity] as conferring with one another and reaching agreement by interchange of though as humans do.” – cf A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, 22. “When we speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together we are not speaking of any greater being than when we speak of the Father alone, the Son alone, or the Holy Spirit alone.” And “the being of each Person is equal to the whole being of God.” – cf Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 255.
[iv] Ex 3:13-15; Jdg 13:17-18; Gen 2:4. Other sources for the doctrine of the Trinity include acts of God in history such as the resurrection, the apostolic and Christian tradition such as the Nicene Creed, and the threefold experience of the Christian God. While God has progressively revealed Himself to creation, the Bible is the foundational source for the doctrine of the Trinity and God’s revelation about Himself.
[v] God is the definition of the measure or standard of all that is right, excellent, worthy and complete. Deut 32:4, Hab 1:13; Ps 18:30; Matt 5:48; 1 Tim 4:4.
[vi] God never differs from Himself. “God cannot change for the better. Since He is perfectly holy, He has never been less holy than He is now and can never be holier than He is and has always been. Neither can God change for the worse. Any deterioration within the unspeakably holy nature of God is impossible…. All that God is He has always been, and all that He has been and is He will ever be.” Any attempt to think of God as changing, that object is no longer God and becomes something less than He is. A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 49-50. Ps 102:27; Mal 3:6.
[vii] God exists infinitely before when time began, everlasting (in time) but also stands outside of time.
[viii] Incommunicable attributes of God. “God is at once far off and near, and that in Him men move and live and have their being….There is no limit to His presence…He surrounds the finite creation and contains it. There is no place beyond Him for anything to be.” – cf A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 74. God is both transcendent (beyond and outside of creation; 1 Kings 8:27; Isa 40:12-28) and immanent (God is everywhere sustaining creation but is not creation itself; Jer 23:23; Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:3).
[ix] Communicable attributes of God. True: Job 9:4; Ps 33:10-11; John 17:3; Rom 11:33. Holy: Lev 19:2, 21:8; Ps 24:3, 99:3. Good: Ps 25:8, 34:8. Faithful: Deut 7:9; Ps 25:10. Loving: John 17:24; Rom 5:8; 1 John 4:8, Merciful: 2 Sam 24:14; Ps 86:16; Luke 1:78. Gracious: Ex 34:6; Ps 103:8; Eph 2:4-5.
[x] Athanasian Creed, line 9. “The intellect knoweth that it is ignorant of Thee because it knoweth Thou canst not be known, unless the unknowable could be known, and the invisible beheld and the inaccessible attained.” – cf Nicholas of Cusa, The Vision of God (New York: E.P. Dutton & Sons, 1928) 60. Job 36:26; Ps 139:6; Rom 11:33.