Delighting in Trinitarian Prayer

Throughout these past few months, we have looked at various terms and definitions that are pertinent to knowing about the Trinity, its development through the years, the trustworthiness, and its foundation to faith. Over the next few posts, all these things will come together as we look at what it means to delight in the Trinity and what Trinitarian prayer looks like. Many times, our prayers may not reflect a Trinitarian model.

So what to expect? More information will be put forth on each member of the Trinity taking many of the terms we looked at and putting it all together. After that, a model of prayer will be set forth that will hopefully be helpful for all of us in talking to the Triune God. Finally, I will show how this relates to my own life and how I intend to apply it.

Delighting in Trinitarian Prayer

The path into the kingdom is open. All the barriers have been removed and the King himself eagerly awaits your presence. He knows that you have something to say. He has heard your cries and wants to hear your petitions. Then you realize how inadequate you are and think, “Who am I to talk to the King?” How does one even begin to talk to the powerful King about requests that are important to a few, but are very small when compared to the business of the kingdom? Do you talk directly to Him? Are you supposed to talk to the royal publicist who will then talk to the King? Are you to talk at all? You then realize that you are before the great throne of the King and have no idea what to do with this honor.

In many cases, Christians will take the great honor of praying to the Almighty Father and truly not know or understand how to pray to the Triune God. How are Christians to pray? Do we talk directly to the Father? Or do we pray to the Son, Jesus Christ? What about the Holy Spirit? Do we pray to Him? Is it wrong to pray to the Spirit? For many, including myself, the privilege of praying to God is often taken for granted; and many times, our prayers to God do not follow a Trinitarian model. We will pray to the Father thanking Him for dying on a cross, or we pray to Jesus calling Him “Abba.” The writer intends to answer these questions and provide the reader with a model of Trinitarian prayer. Prayer is to step into the great throne room of the King of kings, who eagerly desires to have a conversation with all of us, and for us to humbly kneel in awe of the Triune God and talk to our heavenly Father through the Son and in the Spirit.

Glossary of Trinitarian Terms: A Conclusion

This marks the last post on the important terms that are related to the Trinity. But also, these terms are important to know in our daily Christian lives as they help us to know more about God. As we understand these terms more, they can help us have a deeper appreciation for each Person of the Trinity. They help us know more about each Person, how they relate to us, and can be useful in relating to them.

Procession: (Gk. ekporeuomai, Jn 15:26; Lat. processio, “to emanate from another”) In Trinitarian theology, as the Son is eternally generated from the Father, so the Holy Spirit eternally comes forth (proceeds) from the Father—“and [in Western theology] the Son” (Lat. filioque). The procession of the Spirit (or in the West the double procession) has traditionally distinguished the eternal relations of the Spirit within the Godhead. See Filioque.

Psychological Model of Trinity: Articulated by Augustine, this perspective suggests that since the human being is created in the imago dei and since God is Trinity, then human nature (expressed in activity) will reflect a threefoldness, e.g. in mind, knowledge, love of self; etc. Until recently, the West has preferred emphasizing the personal unity of God in the three “subsistencies” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. See Social Model of Trinity.

Sabellianism: A 3rd century form of Modalism popularized by Sabellius, the teaching denied three distinct persons of the Trinity and, some surmise, posited three successive modes of divine manifestation from the Father of the OT, to the Son of the Gospels, to the Holy Spirit of Acts and the present age; deemed heretical. See Modalism, Monarchianism.

Social Model of Trinity: Loosely attributed to the Cappadocians but also expressed by Augustine, the Social Model explains the Trinity in terms of human relationships: e.g., Adam, Eve, and Seth (Basil); Lover, Beloved, Love itself (Augustine). Eastern Orthodoxy prioritizes the three persons (hypostases) over singularity of substance, affirms that each person shares the same attributes, locates divine unity in perichoresis, and often attributes ontological priority to the Father as the eternal source (fons totius divinitatis) of the full eternal deity of the Son and the Spirit. See Cappadocians,Perichoresis, Psychological Model.

Subordinationism: A view that holds that the Son or the Holy Spirit are inferior to the Father in nature or are less than co-equal in glory, as such deemed heretical. The term might also be used, not in terms of essential inequality of nature or glory, rather in terms of Trinitarian function, either temporarily in the economies of salvation, or even regarding eternal roles the members of the Godhead, e.g., eternal subordination of the Son to the Father; this latter meaning has been common in the history of both Eastern and Western Christianity.

Substance: (Lat. substantia, “that which stands under”) The Latin term substantia and persona and the Greek terms ousia and hypostasis were deemed equivalent in Triinitarian discussion for the East and West by Pope Damasus (366-84). See Essence, Nature, Ousia, Person.

Theophany: A manifestation of God in audible or usually visible form, conceivably in “heaven” as well as on earth (e.g., Ex 3:2-6; Da 7:9-10; Rev 4:2ff); such appearances are contrasted with the Incarnation which secured permanent union between the eternal Son and a human nature. See Incarnation.

Transcendence: The superiority of God over and apart from his created world; God is uniquely “other” from all created existence. See Immanence.

Trisagion: The Greek term for “thrice holy,” i.e., the ascription to the One on the heavenly throne as “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8); also ancient liturgy as the response, “Holy God, holy mighty, holy immortal, have mercy on us.”

Tritheism: (Lat. “three gods”) Heterodox theology in various forms through Christian history that deny the consubstantiality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; unity is sacrificed to affirm divine diversity; deemed heretical. See Consubstantial.

Unitarianism: Variously expressed since the 16th century, the belief that denies the Trinity and deity of Christ, while affirming a single personal God; deemed heretical. See Deism, Monarchianism.

Glossary of Trinitarian Terms, Part 5

We continue our series on important terms to know about regarding different characteristics and attributes about God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A couple of different beliefs that have inaccurately viewed the Trinity are explored today. There are a couple of terms that we explore today that provide us more clarity as we continue building a Trinitarian foundation. Pay special attention to Ousia, perichoresis, and person. Each will help us develop our theology better when trying to put all of this together in the future.

Nestorianism: A Christological view supposedly purported by Nestorius (d. 451) that defended the full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ, but seemed to have so separated the two natures as to lose the single self-consciousness of the Savior; deemed heretical by the West at Chalcedon, Nestorian faith extended into the East and continues today as Assyrian Christianity. See Chalcedonian Definition, Hypostasis.

Nicene Creed (325): The definitive standard of Trinitarian faith set forth at the Nicene (or 1st Ecumenical) Council that declares the consubstantiality (homoousios) of the Son with the Father, while anathematizing the views of Arius. See Arianism, Consubstantial, Homoousios.

Ontology: Literally, the “study of being,” the philosophical investigation of the fundamental properties that constitute the nature of existence; popularly, the ontological Trinity is synonymous with the Immanent Trinity.

Ousia: The Greek word for “being” or “substance,” parallel with the Latin substantia. See Essence, Nature, Substance.

Panentheism: Denoting at least two perspectives, panentheism can mean that (1) God includes the world as part of the divine being, the world being God, yet God exists as more than the world; or (2) combining classical theism with pantheism, the view that God infiltrates all things, but that his Being is more than the universe.

Pantheism: The view that God is everything and everything is God; the pantheist seeks to deny (transcend) individual consciousness so as to obtain oneness with the All-Inclusive. Some forms of pantheism understand the world as illusion, the only reality being God; other forms identify the world (universe) itself as God.

Patripassianism: The belief associated with Modalism that the Father (patri) became incarnate, was born of a virgin, and suffered (passion) and died on a cross; i.e., a denial of the eternal personal distinction between the Father and the Son; deemed heretical. See Modalism, Sabellianism.

Perichoresis: (from Gk. peri “around” + choreuo “dance in chorus”) A doctrine evident in the Cappadocians and developed by John of Damascus, that each member of the Godhead indwells or interpenetrates the other without confusion of personal distinction (Jn 14:9-11; 17:21). See Latin Circumincession and Circuminsession.

Person: Concepts of person (Gk. prosopon, hypostasis, Lat. persona) have differed from Boethian individual rationality to Buddhist and postmodern visions of a mere knot of social relationships. From a Trinitarian perspective, person is best conceived as a center of self-consciousness existing in relationship to others; this entails (1) full self-consciousness (“I am”), (2) the I-Thou reality of self distinct from other persons (“the Word was with God”); and (3) the capacity of perichoresis (“I am in the Father and the Father in me”). See Hypostasis, Substance.

Platonism: Inspired by Plato in the 4th c. B.C., Platonism’s supreme Idea of the Good, eternal realities above the present world, and the creation of the world were attractive bridges for the Apologists to argue for Christian faith, with sometimes reciprocal influences such as divine impassibility and a Platonic theory of knowledge. See Neo-Platonism.

Pneumatomachians: (Lit. “Spirit-fighters”) Those aligned with Macedonius of Constantinople (also called Macedonians) who affirmed the homoousios of the Father and the Son, but denied the personal deity of the Holy Spirit; deemed heretical. See Binitarianism.

Glossary of Trinitarian Terms, Part 4

We continue our series on important terms specifically regarding the Trinity. Our focus for this post is on the hypostasis and the hypostatic union that was controversial during the early church. One more key term to note is the Logos Christology and how that relates to Jesus as the Word of God that is described in John 1. Finally, pay special attention to modalism as this is still practiced today by many Christian churches.

Hypostasis: The Greek word variously renders “person,” “substance,” “subsistence.” In Heb 1:3 it denotes “substance,” “actuality or reality of something.” The term was appropriated by the church fathers in two ways: first by the Cappadocians to denote the personal objective realities that share the same nature, that is, the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as individual divine realities; second by Chalcedon to mean the one person (hypostasis) of Christ as having two unconfused but inseparable natures. (E. Ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 443-45)

Immanence: God’s omnipresence in and with his creation, as contrasted with divine transcendence.

Immanent Trinity: The view that centers on the Trinity in and of itself, i.e., as present (immanent) only to itself—a view occasionally expressed in Scripture (Jn 1:1-2,18); thus it focuses on the internal relations between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Traditionally, the Immanent Trinity is assumed as the ontological basis for the Economic Trinity, a posture being questioned by some today. See Economic Trinity.

Incarnation: (Lat. in + caro, carnis, “flesh”) The Son’s act of “taking flesh,” i.e., a full human nature; thus, as Tertullian and later Chalcedon articulated, in the one person Jesus Christ exists the fullness of deity and of humanity (two natures). See Apollinarianism, Chalcedonian Definition, Hypostasis, Nicene Creed.

Logos Christology: The conception of Christ that sees the Son as the pre-existent divine Word (Jn 1:1-3) or expression of God, especially based on the Prologue of the Gospel of John. With both Gk and Heb entailing rich conceptions of logos, 2nd and 3rd century Apologists speculated that the Son was originally only latent in the Father, implying the personal inferiority (subordination) of the Son. Nicea insisted on coeternal equality of the Son’s nature and person as God. See Generation.

Modalism: Advocated especially in the 3rd century, it constitutes a form of Monarchianism in which God diversely manifests himself as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, thus denying eternal distinctions of three persons within the Godhead; the divine names denote only manifestations or modes of expression of a single-personned God. Deemed heretical. See Monarchianism, Patripassionism, Sabellianism.

Monarchianism: A diverse effort especially in the 2nd and 3rd centuries that emphasizes the one principle (arche) or monarchy of God such that it denies the personal distinctiveness of the divine Son and the Holy Spirit in relation to God the Father; expressions include Adoptionism, Modalism, and Sabellianism, deemed heretical.

Monotheism: The belief in one (and only one) personal, omnipotent, omniscient God who created the universe and everything in it, as in classical Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; as distinct from Pantheism, Panentheism, polytheism, and atheism.

Montanism: The doctrine of Montanus, a converted priest from a frenetic sect of Asia Minor (c. 155) who claimed special anointing of the Holy Spirit through prophecy, glossalalia, and rigid moral standards by which he challenged the “lax” church; he claimed the old dispensations were now superceded by the law of the Spirit, and that the New Jerusalem would soon be instituted in his home town in Phrygia.

Nature: The fundamental properties, “material” reality, or inherent character that constitutes an individual being; used theologically to signify the being or substance of the three persons of the Godhead; largely synonymous with Essence, Ousia, Substance; see also Consubstantial, Homoousios.

Neo-Platonism: As articulated by Plotinus (d. 270), a dominant Greek philosophy from the 3rd to the 6th centuries that taught that everything that exists comes from the Glossary of Trinitarian Terms 5 ineffable One—a single, impersonal, transcendent source, from which all beings derive. A person “must gradually divest his experience of all that is specifically human, so that in the end, when all attributes have been removed, only God is left.” (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2d ed., 960). See Platonism.

Glossary of Trinitarian Terms, Part 3

Today, we continue our series, “Glossary of Trinitarian Terms.” This will focus on some very big topics in Christianity and Christology that the early church struggled with. The biggest terms of note are the economic Trinity, Essence, Filioque, Generation, and Homoousios. The latter three are some of the highly debated topics the church fathers argued over. It is also important for us as it provides clarity on the Holy Spirit and Christ. It helps strengthen our own beliefs about Christ, His being and origin, as well as the deity of the Holy Spirit.

Doxology: (Gk. doxa and logos, “words of praise”) An ascription of glory to God, often traced to the Greater Doxology, or Gloria in Excelsis: “Glory be to God on high” and to the 4th century Lesser Doxology, or Gloria Patri: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”

Ebionism: A primarily second century belief among peripheral groups in the Jewish diaspora that viewed Jesus Christ as an exceptional prophet (similar to John the Baptist)—human but not divine; Ebionites strictly adhered to Jewish law and rejected Paul’s writings.

Economic Trinity: Expressed as early as Hippolytus and Tertullian, it is a view of the Trinity focused on the functional acts (economies) of the Godhead in the creation and salvation of the world; this perspective is distinguished from that of the immanent Trinity (the Godhead in itself, transcendent, and outside all created reality); contemporary Trinitarianism debates the relation of the two. See Immanent Trinity.

Enhypostasis or Enhypostatic Union: The doctrine that the human nature of Christ exists in (en-) his divine nature (hypostasis); the divine Logos assumed and sustains Jesus’ human nature in the one person of Jesus Christ; or Jesus’ human nature subsists in the divine nature. See anhypostasis, negatively stating that no Jesus would have existed apart from the assumption by the Logos of a human nature.

Essence: (Gk. ousia, being; Lat. substantia, substance) The requisite fundamentals that constitute a static reality; in theology, the divine essence denotes that which constitutes the basic nature, substance, or fundamental character of the divine being, i.e., the Godness of God. See Consubstantial, Homoousios, Nature, Ousia, Substance.

Eutychianism: Contra Nestorius in the early 5th century, Eutyches promulgated the belief that Christ had “two natures before, but only one after, the Union” in the Incarnation; the divine and human natures commingled, each assuming the characteristics of the other; deemed heretical, the view continued as Monophysitism. See also Chalcedonian Definition; Nestorianism.

Filioque: The Latin word meaning “and from the Son” added by the West to the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed at the Council of Toledo (589) to express the double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and from the Son. The term was contested from the East as diminishing the full personal deity of the Spirit and led to the schism of Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism.

Generation: Owing to Origen, the Nicean and Christian tradition affirms the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, as expression of Ps 2:7 (“today I have begotten thee”) and its citations in the NT and, again, the Gk. monogenes (trad. “only begotten”; lit. “one and only”). Some question the exegetical bases of eternal generation; others see it as broadly expressing the ontological relations of the Son and the Father. See Logos Christology.

Gnosticism: A non-Christian religio-philosophic movement especially evident during the early centuries C.E. which claimed that matter was evil and salvation was available only through gnosis, an illumination or revealed knowledge given esoterically. See Docetism.

Homoousios: Greek word meaning “of one and the same substance or being” as contrasted to homoiousios (“of a similar substance or being”) as applied to the Son’s divine nature in relation to that of the Father. See Consubstantial, Essence, Nature, Ousia, Substance.

Glossary of Trinitarian Terms, part 2

Today, we continue our look at various trinitarian terms. We have covered some in past post, but this will hopefully add a little extra insight or clarity on a couple of old and new topics. All this, we continue to build a foundation of  Trinitarian theology. We look at what the early church fathers and the developing church struggled with and what many of people today still have struggles with.

Cataphatic Theology: (Gr. kataphasis, affirmation) In contrast to apophatic (or negative) theology, this line of thought is employed to describe God in positive language, particularly based on God’s own self-disclosure in the language of Scripture (e.g., God is eternal, holy, love, etc.)

Chalcedonian Definition: The edict of the 4th Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon (451) generally accepted in the East and West that affirms the divine and human natures of Christ are united in his single person (hypostasis), thus in hypostatic union. It stands as the definitive statement of Christology against both exaggerated separateness of natures (Nestorianism) and exaggerated commingling of natures (Eutychianism). See Eutychianism; Hypostasis, Nestorianism.

Circumincession and Circuminsession: (Gk. perichoresis) Latin terms describing the interrelation, mutual immanence, and interpenetration of the members of the Godhead; this is the basis for declaring that in every action of a member of the Godhead all three persons are present. Circuminsession accentuates “the abiding reality; Circumincession the dynamic circulation of Trinitarian life from each to the others” (M. O’Carroll, Trinitas: A Theological Encyclopedia, 69). See Perichoresis.

Constantinopolitan Creed (381): Also called the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, this statement of faith reaffirmed and strengthened the Nicene Creed (325) especially in the East, also expanding the confession regarding Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary. While not well documented until later, the Constantinopolitan Creed effected the Athanasian insistence of the primacy of Scripture as well as the final defeat of Sabellianism and Arianism. See Nicean Creed.

Consubstantial: English translation of the Greek word homoousios, meaning “of one and the same substance or being”; it is used in the Nicene Creed to describe the essential divine equality the Son with the Father, as against the Arian homoiousios (“of similar substance”) and anomois (“of different substance”). See Homoousios, Essence, Nature, Ousia, Substance.

Divinization (deification): Developing through the early Christian centuries, especially in the East, the theology of divinization affirms that believers are to “participate in the divine nature” (2Pe 1:4), infused by the divine presence, hence becoming godly, godlike, indeed gods and God by grace. Later Eastern fathers ascribed such Christian deification to the penetration of the divine energies, thus distinguishing between the absolute Trinitarian persons and the divine nature that infuses the believer.

Deism: Until the 17th century synonymous with theism, the term Deism came to distinguish a view that affirms that a Supreme Being created the world but has little or no direct involvement in that creation; knowledge of this God comes through natural reason as opposed to divine revelation. Nevertheless humankind has obligation to worship, live ethically, and repent of sin in light of eventual divine judgment.

Demiurge: An often Platonic view of a god or God as one who crafts the visible world as a sculptor would shape a piece of stone or clay (cf. Heb 11:10, demiourgos, builder); the term is also used in Gnostic philosophical systems to describe an inferior or “lesser” being as creator of the world but inferior to the supreme God.

Docetism: A Christianized form of Gnosticism on the periphery of the early church which believed that the divine Jesus only appeared to have a human form; because the physical world is perceived as evil, it was unthinkable that the divine incarnate in human flesh (cf. 1Jn 1:1-4); deemed heretical. See Gnosticism.

Glossary of Trinitarian Terms: Part 1

A number of my recent posts have put together just some of the terms that are important for  a belief in the Trinity. These are the ideas and concepts that many in the early church wrestled with, and many still do. It is my hope in posting this that will continue to build that foundation. Some terms you will notice are the same and have been covered. For those, you will see either a slightly different wording or an expanded definition. Over the next several post, the terms will focus on different beliefs that have risen as a result of Christians wrestling with the Trinity and the place of the Son and the Spirit; also terms dealing with the attributes and characteristics of God, qualities and attributes of Christ and the Spirit, and finally some key characteristics of the Trinity. 

It is my hope in presenting these terms that it will help strengthen your own beliefs and possibly fill in any gaps or curiosities that the reader might have.

Adoptionism: A belief which viewed Jesus as merely a virtuous human being chosen by God to be elevated to divine Sonship, through being anointed with his Spirit and resurrected as Lord of the church; deemed heretical.

Analogy: Comparison between a known reality (e.g. light; Son) and another both similar yet different; analogy is neither equivocal (open to ambiguous, multiple interpretations) nor univocal (directly correspondent). Theologically, analogy is human language (e.g., light; Son) employed to speak of that which reflects divine reality (e.g., God as pure light; the Son in filial role but not physical birth from the Father).

Anhypostasis, or Anhypostatic Union: Articulated by Cyril of Alexandria, the divine and human are so united in Jesus that there would be no (an-) human nature (hypostasis) without the divine; that is, there would never have been a human Jesus without the divine Logos assuming that human nature. See Enhypostasis.

Anthropomorphism: The metaphoric or analogous attribution to God of human characteristics, emotions, or activities (e.g., God’s finger; his repenting).

Apollinarianism: The belief asserted by Apollinarius which argued that Jesus Christ’s humanity was limited to body and emotions, not a human “higher soul”; thus, Jesus was divine only in his higher immaterial being, God on the inside, man on the outside; deemed heretical.

Apophatic Theology: Sometimes termed negative theology or the via negativa, apophatic theology defines God by what he is not; human language is said to be incapable of describing the infinity wonder of God, thus he is in-finite, im-mutable, etc.

Apostles’ Creed: A Western statement of Christian faith based on a 2nd century Roman Creed (traditionally ascribed to the Twelve Apostles) and today nearly universally appreciated as a foundational and unifying statement of Christian belief. Its three articles devoted to God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are echoed in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.

Arianism: A belief based on the teachings of the 4th century theologian Arius which maintained that Jesus Christ was the highest of all created beings, similar but not equal in nature to God the Father; thus the Son is considered a god but not consubstantial with the Father; deemed heretical. See Consubstantial; Homoousios.

Athanasian Creed: Known also as the Quicunque Vult (Lat. “Whosoever will”), the Creed is a late 5th or 6th century Western catechism named in honor of Athanasius which states the basic tenet of Trinitarian doctrine: “the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.”

Baptism (Trinitarian): Water baptism that invokes, whether explicitly or implicitly (Ac 2:38; 19:3-5), the tripartite formula of the Savior in Mt 28:19, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” From the late first century, Trinitarian baptism (whatever the age or means) has served as the initial public rite of an individual’s acceptance into the church.

Binitarianism: The belief that the Godhead consists of only the Father and the Son, thus denying the deity of the Holy Spirit; in the early church, this view was purported among Monarchians, some Arians, and the Pneumatomachians.

Cappadocian Fathers: 4th Century Eastern theologians Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, whose influence helped toward the full adoption of Nicene Trinitarian orthodoxy, the defeat of Arianism, and introduction to what some term the Social Model of the Trinity.