(Note from Tim Bayly: This is the first in a series of articles written by Craig French for Christ the Word's newsletter. At my request, Craig is allowing the series to run here on Baylyblog. Thank you, Craig, for your faithful work in our behalf.)
Many Christians find it difficult to apply the doctrine of the Trinity. Truth be told, even the most orthodox Christians stumble trying to articulate how this teaching is relevant; yet early on in the Church, godly men died to preserve this doctrine.
How have we gone from dying for truth about God to scratching our heads about its importance? Probably too long of a story with rabbit trails every three feet causing us to become distracted. The short story, I’m convinced, is that we are very Trinitarian...we just don’t realize it. That’s not something I came up with...
In part one, I wrote of the practical aspects of who God is as Trinity with a special focus on the Biblical truth that God is love with the Father as the source. This post will focus on Jesus Who conveys most clearly His Father because He is His Father's Son.
Apart from the Son, there is no Father; with no Father, there is no Son. The identity of each Person of the Trinity is tied to the others. This may be confusing but that’s because we’re not God. Nevertheless we benefit from this reality. It’s a matter of life and death.
As we saw in part one, the Trinity drives us to our knees and carries our prayers. Without the Trinity we don’t know how to pray. It shouldn’t be surprising that Jesus gave His disciples an insider’s view into what Trinitarian discourse (prayer) sounds like on the very night He was betrayed (John 17). His prayer is a dizzying revelation of the glory of the Father...
God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. WSC Q4 (emphasis mine)
That's how the Shorter Catechism answers "What is God?" The Westminster Confession has more to say but the focus is the same: a description of what amounts to "attributes" concluding with the Western formulation of the Trinity. None of these descriptions are wrong. I affirm them wholeheartedly. But should we start with attributes?
What are we describing when we begin with the "attributes of God"? Let me rephrase that: Who are we describing?
At first it's difficult to answer the question. If "what" is in view, we're probably describing God's "essence", His "substance" or "nature." It's of no small consequence that the possessive "his" or "God's" precedes this "what." But even so, we're left with "Who?"
Detectives do their best to determine whose body they've found before turning it over to the coroner for an autopsy. But here we are, giddy as we pick apart the parts of God long before we've stopped to consider Who God is...
[Note from TB: We realize Craig French's posts on the Trinity aren’t typical Baylyblog entries, but I have found them very helpful and hope you will read them. Carefully—and following the links. Thank you, Craig, for your excellent teaching, here.]
In part one, I began discussing the inherent problem of starting with a theology of God by way of “essence” or “attributes” apart from hypostases (persons). In part two, I describe what I mean by God playing “dress-up” and show how this implies a disconnect from human sexuality and ordering under father-rule. I take the ambivalence of many Reformed men (and outright mockery from R2k and Redeemerites) as prima facie evidence that men see no relevance to the Fatherhood of God from which human fatherhood derives.
I have two main goals for part two:
Show where the Reformed are made susceptible to functional egalitarianism by focusing on the essence/attributes of God apart from hypostases, and
Show how this undermines our apprehension of God and our human relationships.
It’s no coincidence that our Reformed seminaries churn out men ill-equipped to pastor souls in the midst of sexual immorality fueled by egalitarianism. Our seminaries are either outright feminist, or they are functionally neutered because discussion of theology proper centers on God’s attributes apart from hypostases. This leaves the door open to a God “transcending gender” because there is a “god” beyond and above the Trinity. This is a breach egalitarians have capitalized on by paying lip-service to the doctrine of the Trinity while they’re busy attacking it. Meanwhile our luminaries fumble about trying to respond while functionally accepting the “orthodoxy” of feminists. The breach has yet to be repaired...