« AnteriorContinua »
Equally sure are the foreshadowings of the Trinity in the numerous passages concerning the Messiah which indicate His sonship and divinity, as Ps. ii. 7; Isa. ix. 6; Micah v. 2, and the gift of the Holy Spirit in Joel ii. 28; Isa. xliv. 3; Ezek. xxxvi. 27. While these and other assumptions and adumbrations of the Trinity were insufficient to enable men to read it clearly or certainly, they, nevertheless, formed the underlying basis on which the movement of redemption was unfolding and the result was preparing. Delitzsch well says: “The Trinitarian conception of God . . . is a reflex even of the Old Testament facts of revelation. God and the Spirit of God are already distinguished upon the first pages of the Holy Scriptures, and between both, the Angel of God stands as the Mediator of the Covenant, according to Gen. xvi., and as Leader of Israel, according to Ex. xiv. 1-9. The Angel of His presence, according to Isa. lxiii. 9, is the Saviour of His people."1 Yet it must be conceded that these Old Testament passages, taken together, do not necessarily carry the conception beyond that of a threefold manifestation of God, or what is usually designated an “economic Trinity.”
But the truth comes into explicit revelation in the New Testament. And here it comes, not so much in the way of formal announcement as in an unqualified assumption of it as the fundamental conception of the real nature or being of God, upon which the great movement of providence and redemption is advancing and consummating its grace. It is openly placed as the basis of the essential facts of mercy and salvation. It is in the activity of God as triune that the divine love 1"Old Testament History of Redemption," p. 173 (Curtis' edition).
reaches down to man, and opens the way of forgiveness of sin and recovery to spiritual and eternal life. The threefold forms of divine grace are directly and formally laid back upon the trinitarian reality in the Godhead. This is not yet the place to give the full Scripture evidence on this point. It is enough here to fix in mind that, whatever advances may appear in Christ's expressions of a conscious identity with God, the fact of such consciousness is certain, if the Gospel accounts are at all reliable, and that the divine claim is recognized and woven-up by the apostles in the very texture of the view they give of the way of salvation and the practical relations men sustain to God. It is this fundamental position and practical bearing that make the doctrine of the Trinity so vital in the theological system. It is not something merely speculative, an abstract, barren metaphysic. It is a centrally constitutive principle of Christianity. It is placed in such living relation to the whole soteriological provision and to the consequent actual life of faith, love, and worship to which it invites and binds men, as to become incorporate in all the distinguishing doctrines of the faith. It not only becomes an essential part of our conception of the Absolute, Self-sufficing Personality of God, with all fullness of blessedness in Himself and power to go forth in creational activity for origination of other being, but through the conjoint offices of Justifier, Redeemer, and Sanctifier enters profoundly into personal Christian experience."
It was inevitable that the theology of the Church, after the Apostles, should seek to realize and fix for itself the true sense and content of the New Testament facts and language. The faith of the Gospel was bound up therewith too vitally, at the points of incarnation, the cross, resurrection, and divine mediation, to permit the Church either to drop the question or to be content with anything short of a definite settlement of the essential verities involved. The theological impulse was quickened by the appearance of different forms of denial of the truth, annulling the integrity and fullness of the faith. So this truth of the Trinity, especially in connection with the question of the person of Christ, became the first great subject for theological settlement.
1 Sartorius' “ Doctrine of the Divine Love," pp. 11-22.
The beginning of this settlement connected itself with the use of the Baptismal Formula (Matt. xxviii. 19). That formula served not only as itself an expression of the Trinitarian belief of the early Church, but as a convenient basis on which to gather its advancing determinations of the content and definitions of the doctrine. It was thus gradually expanded so as to make distinct affirmations of faith with respect to each "name" of the Three (Triad), with explanatory terms according true divinity to each, until it reached the completed form of the so-called “ Apostles' Creed.” From the second century on, every phase of speculation that seemed to endanger the traditional and Scripture teaching on the subject was earnestly discussed, and the conclusions reached were carefully formulated in chosen and guarded terms. At the first Ecumenical Council, at Nicæa, A. D. 325, called together especially by the rise of the Arian heresy as to the Person of Christ, the immediate interest was satisfied with an explicit and positive for, mulation of the Church's Trinitarian faith with respect to the true and full deity of the Son-leaving the generally recognized divinity of the Holy Spirit stand as accredited in the Apostles' Creed—as follows:
“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (ópoovola) with the Father ; by whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day He rose again, ascended into heaven; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
“And in the Holy Ghost.
“But those who say there was a time when He (the Son] was not'; and “He was not before He was made'; and He was made out of nothing'; or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence', or The Son of God is created,' or changeable' or 'alterable,' such the catholic and apostolic Church condemns."
The second Ecumenical Council, at Constantinople, A. D. 381, carried forward the credal formulation of the Trinitarian faith by adding clauses affirming the true divinity of the Holy Spirit, against the disturbing teaching of the “Macedonians,” or “Pneumatomachians.” 1
“We believe in one God, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
“And in one LORD JESUS CHRIST, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance (mootola) with the Father ; by whom all things were made; who for us men and for
Hefele, “History of Church Councils," Vol. II., P. 350, note.
our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; who was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried ; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sat down on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have
“And we believe in the HOLY GHOST, the Lord and Giver of life; who proceedeth from the Father;' who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spake by the prophets."
With this Nicæno-Constantinopolitan Creed the dogmatic development of the doctrine of the Trinity by the Eastern Church substantially ended. The subsequent insertion of the “ filioque” (“and from the Son "), in the clause on the Holy Spirit's procession, by the Western Church, and the elaborate definitions and explanations of the so-called Athanasian Creed, also peculiar to the West, were not meant so much as additions to the content of the Church's doctrine, as explications and safeguards of it as already essentially included in the previous symbols. As the Lutheran and Anglican Churches have formally embodied the Athanasian Creed, as well as the Apostles' and the Nicæno-Constantinopolitan, in their doctrinal standards, its statements on the subject have a proper place here in this glance at the progress of thought through which the Church gave permanent theological setting to its Trinitarian faith :
* The addition, "and from the Son" (filioque), as now used, was added by the Western Church, at the third Council of Toledo, in Spain, A. D. 589, but has never been received by the Eastern Church.