Thursday, March 02, 2017

The Christian Doctrine of God, 1 Being 3 Persons, Torrance #3

(Note: Today I am resuming the posting of summaries of my morning devotional reading. Originally, the idea for me was to crystallize my thinking and keep a record and of what God was teaching me in my morning readings. It also, kind of, serves as a devotional journal for me. So each day I write a little bit to remind me of what I have learned that day. Hopefully, it can be a help to those of you who want to read it as well.)

TorranceAfter a bit of an absence, I continue reading through the very insightful and almost devotional, theology, The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons, by Thomas F. Torrance. This book is a meditation on the great truth and mystery that God is a Trinity. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

At the theological level we see that who God is in His saving acts in Jesus and who He is ultimately are one and the same. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons "who in their differentiation from one another and in their communion with one another are the one eternal God." The key term used in the creeds is homoousios, or "same being." This is not just how God presents Himself, but also what He actually is. The word to describe this perichoresis, or mutual indwelling. Whatever, any of the three persons does is "eternally grounded in the intrinsic and completely reciprocal relations of the Holy Trinity." Again we must be careful to not think the words we use can fully describe our inscrutable God.

The homoousion crystallises the conviction that while the incarnation falls within the structures of our spatio-temporal humanity in this world, it also falls within the Life and Being of God—that is its astounding implication which needs to be thought out very carefully. Jesus Christ is not a mere symbol, some functional representation of God detached from God, but God in his own Being and Act come among us, exhibiting and expressing in our human form the very Word which he is eternally in himself. 95

(God) is not different in himself from what he manifests toward us in Jesus Christ—there is a relation of perfect oneness between them. This means that our evangelical experience of God in Christ is not somehow truncated so that it finally falls short of God, but is grounded in the very Being of God himself; it means that our knowing of God is not somehow refracted or turned back on itself in its ultimate reference to God, but that it actually terminates on the Reality of God, even although in the mystery of his self-revelation God sets boundaries to our knowing of him. 99

The incarnation was not necessary for God to be God and live as God: it flowed freely, unreservedly and unconditionally from the eternal movement of Love in God, the very Love which God is and in which God lives his Life as God; it took place in the sovereign ontological freedom of God to be other in his external relations than he eternally was, and is, and to do what he had never done before. 108

In the chapter entitled One Being Three Persons, Torrance focuses in on the intrinsic "Oneness" of the three persons of the Trinity. The Trinity makes itself known through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Thus, we know the Father through Jesus Christ, in His oneness with the Father, as he fully and perfectly reveals the Father, and as the Spirit communes with His people. The word "homoousion" in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed was chosen for its ability to portray this Oneness of life, movement, relationship and communion within the Trinity, to which we are invited, through Christ's revelation and work.

Athanasius much preferred to use verbs rather than nouns when speaking of God as the mighty living and acting God, for abstract terms or substantives seemed to him (as indeed to the biblical writers) to be inappropriate in speaking about the dynamic Nature of God, or in expressing who God is who makes himself known to us in his mighty acts of deliverance and salvation. 117

For God to be, is to be for himself in himself, that is, for the three Divine Persons which God is to be for one another in the onto-personal relations of the Holy Trinity. As such God’s Being is, so to speak, inherently altruistic, Being for others, Being who loves. 131

Worship is primarily the act of God upon us and arises in us as an echo of his own transcendent Nature which we offer back to the Father through the Son and in the Spirit, and takes place as in the Spirit we are given to share through Christ in the inter-personal Communion of love and self-giving in the Life of God. 135

The next chapter, Three persons, One Being, focuses on the distinctions between the persons, all the while keeping clear that all three persons share the same being, each one contains (inadequate word here) all the Godhead and that we know them by what God has revealed in Jesus Christ. The Father is known through Jesus who is the main content of the revelation. The Spirit "hides behind the face of the Father and Jesus" and actualizes the knowledge of God through Jesus in the lives of believers. It is the Spirit that brings us human creatures into the perichoresis of the Trinity, this divine relationship of Love. The love within the Trinity is what the Spirit enables in us.

God directs us in our knowledge of him not to some superessential realm beyond the space-time universe which he has brought into being out of nothing but to his unceasing interaction with us in the midst of our creaturely and historical existence where in his loving purpose he makes himself known to us as our God and Father. 138

We must think of our being in the Spirit in the incarnate economy of God’s saving acts in Jesus Christ as deriving from and grounded objectively in the homoousial Communion of the eternal Spirit and the eternal Son in the Holy Trinity. 148–149

No divine Person is who he is without essential relation to the other two, and yet each divine Person is other than and distinct from the other two. They are intrinsically interrelated not only through the fact that they have one Being in common so that each of them is in himself whole God, but also in virtue of their differentiating characteristics as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit which hypostatically intertwine with one another and belong constitutively to their indivisible unity within the Trinity. 157

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