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Lecture Outline on The Doctrine of the Trinity


The doctrine of the T. isn’t articulated in scripture.
[1] The “raw materials” of the doctrine are there. E.g., Luke 1:28, 31, 35.
 Consider Isaiah 48:16 (God’s Messiah is speaking): “Draw near to me (Messiah)…
from the beginning I have not spoken in secret….And now the Lord God has sent me and
 his Spirit.”
[2] The thrust of scrip. is certainly in the direction of the doctrine.

Note the church’s proclivity to various kinds of unitarianism.
[a] of the Father
     God is one-sidedly sovereign, so very “high and lifted up” as to be remote, inaccessible.
     (Most commonly found in a Magisterial Protestant environment.)
[b] of the Son
     Jesus Christ is our intimate (friend, pal), but never challenges us or rebukes us but rather
        aids and abets our schemes for ourselves and can be summoned to support us.
     (Most commonly found in a Roman Catholic environment, but also in sentimental
[c] of the Spirit
     God is one-sidedly to be experienced (but not adored, not one before whom we prostrate
     This unitarianism is frequently characterized by emotionalism, frenzy, undervaluation
        of scholarship amounting to mindlessness, corporate and individual disorderliness.
        (Most commonly found in the newer, more effusive churches.)

The heresy of modalism (p.35): God exists as Father, Son and Spirit in different eras, but never as triune.

The necessity of the ontological (or essential or immanent) T.: God is eternally triune. The economic T. maintains that God is triune only in his dealings with us. “Father”, “Son” and “Spirit” are merely three interrelated forms in which divine revelation functions.
We need an ontological T., for God’s revelation isn’t merely a “face” he puts on; rather, his “face” is
 the unambiguous disclosure of his heart, his essence, his being.
The triune revelation of God must point back to, presuppose, a triune being of God (or else we are
 saying that revelation is from God but not of God.)
Unless the economic T. is grounded in the ontological T., the economic T. isn’t a faithful and true
 revelation of the transcendent communion of F, S, and HS — which the eternal being of God is inhimself.

By means of the ordo cognoscendi we come to know the economic T.
Yet the ordo essendi plainly entails the ontological T.
These two interpenetrate each other and regulate each other.
Apart from the ontological T., the economic T. would have only transient significance
 and therefore be without saving power, since only the eternal God can save.

Note (p. 35) that the doctrine of the T. doesn’t mean one God in three manifestations (modalism) nor a triad of separate persons with separable functions.
Rather, the whole God is involved with us at all times.


The Arian Heresy
Arianism is a form of subordinationism (Jesus is an inferior sort of deity.)
There are two dangers here:
     [a] polytheism: JC doesn’t disclose the nature of God, since Christ’s being isn’t the being of God.
     [b] agnosticism: if Christ doesn’t disclose God, then who does? How do we know whether anyone does?
Note the subordinationism in all talk of “the God beyond God” or “the God beyond theism.”


With respect to Thomas Aquinas’ assertion, “The T. reflects the truth that God is intelligible but not comprehensible” (p.37), the implications are:
     [a] God is intelligible only to faith (God is never naturally intelligible)
     [b] if God weren’t intelligible (albeit to faith), nothing could be known or said of him
     [c] if God were comprehensible (rather than intelligible or apprehensible), then we’d have mastered God, transcended him.
The doctrine of the T.[a] affirms the knowability of God
                                     [b] preserves the mystery of God. (I.e., we know God truly but don’t
know him exhaustively.)


God’s glory is the splendour of God turned outward upon us.
Where the glory of God isn’t our motive, then we lapse into a mysticism where we appear to be concerned with God but are chiefly concerned with what God can do for us and how he can nurture our “self” or even by means of whom we can find our “self.”
But in fact I come to my “self” only as I look away from myself to God. In other words, to exalt the glory of God is to find myself both established and exalted. (Here Christians must always disagree with those who say that concern for God’s glory is other-directed and therefore undercuts the foundation of a self even as it diminishes our “self.”)


The importation of the “static Absolute” of Platonism, neo-Platonism, and Aristotelian philosophy. (Or
 philosophy in general.)
     e.g., deism during the enlightenment
     e.g., Hegel and Pannenberg
     e.g., Heidegger and Bultmann
     e.g., Plotinus and Tillich

Erigena and emanationism (vs. creation)

The anthropocentric character of religion (p. 42)

A “growing sacramentalism in the church.” (p.43)

The Reformers’ distinction between the revealed will and secret will of God. (p.44)

The influence of Hegel.
The Influence of Schleiermacher
The Influence of Barth

Erosions of God from within Evangelicalism
[i] a sentimentality born of “palsi-walsiness”
[ii] the God who is chiefly concerned with my happiness rather than my holiness
[iii] the exhortation to “make Jesus Lord”
[iv] the tendency to restrict God’s concern to the church, rather than to acknowledge God’s concern with all aspects of the creation (especially the material and the socio-economic)
[v] the failure of Christians to honour God’s claim on their obedience
[vi] (Shepherd) the substitution of “spirituality” for faith
[vii] (Shepherd) the inversion of witness and apologetics