Sunday, March 17, 2024

Post #39 The Doctrine of God - Bridging How To Discuss God As One God To His Triune Identity


    In the last post I gave readers links to all 37 posts that detailed God's being and attributes here The point of the last post was to bring together this series for readers to grasp the "big-picture" of what we mean when we study theology proper or the doctrine of God in regards to His being and attributes. In my very first post of this series I noted how there are five ways to begin one's study of theology proper here The series up until this point has focused on the first major area of the doctrine of God, namely the oneness of God in His being. 

    In any work of systematic theology, we constantly bump up against that perfection of God which is identified as God's "incomprehensibility". This means God is by no means comprehensively exhausted or mastered by the human intellect. We can truly know God because of Divine revelation (Job 42:1-5; Philippians 3:7-10), yet we can never comprehend Him. This is proved by such Biblical phrases as God "dwelling in unapproachable light, which no man has seen nor can see" (1 Timothy 6;16). 

    As we push on ahead, I want to use all the prior posts as our launching point for the next leg of our study of the doctrine of God - the doctrine of the Trinity. Much like we did in the very first post, where we enumerated various starting points for studying the doctrine of God as a whole, I want to lay out ways we may begin to bridge our conversation and study between God's Divine nature (also called His "Godhead", the subject of the last 38 posts in this series) to that of His Triune identity.

1. The glory of God as a bridge between discussion of the Divine nature and the Trinity. 

    I hinted at this in the last post and will continue to draw on this throughout the remaining posts. Scripture certainly points us in this direction. 

    For example, Psalm 19:1 tells us how "the heavens declare the glory of God", with "glory of God" gesturing toward contemplation of God in all that He is as revealed through the general revelation of creation. We then see God's glory as a theme in a key Trinitarian passage, reminding us in Hebrews 1:3 of how the Son is "the radiance of God's glory, and the exact representation of His being". The term "God" in Hebrews 1:3 refers to the Person of the Father, of whom the Son discloses in His effulgence as the Divine Son. God's glory bridges any discussion of the Divine Godhead to the Persons in the Godhead. 

2. The Old Testament's preparation for the full revelation of the Trinity in the New Testament. 

    Not only does God's glory help us bridge between discussion of God's oneness of being and Triune identity, but also the Old Testament revelation of God. Genesis 1 reveals what we could call the "twin pillars" of any Biblical doctrine of God - God's oneness of being and plurality of personhood. 

    Genesis 1:1 squarely tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. The Hebrew text utilizes a singular masculine verb in the third person to tell us of a singular God verbalizing everything into existence. Yet, the subject of the sentence, "God", is the Hebrew name for God "Elohim", which is a plural masculine noun. We see this same sort of phenomenon in Genesis 1:26, with the third masculine singular verb for "make" in reference to the making of man as male and female. Yet, the subject of that verb in the sentence is the Hebrew name of God "Elohim". 

    Furthermore, Genesis 1:26 also includes pronoun "our" in reference to the image He would stamp into the moral and spiritual make-up of the man and woman. God is no doubt a singular entity, Creator of all things. At the same time, this one God is a plural personality. 

    Throughout the Old Testament revelation we see references hinting at the personages in the Godhead. For instance, we see "The Spirit" (Genesis 1:2) and "The Son" in Psalm 110:4 and Proverbs 30:4. 

    The Old Testament doesn't get to the level of detail we find in the New Testament revelation to how it ties together the oneness of God with the plurality of personality. Nonetheless, The Old Testament sets up for what would be that eventual bringing together of the complete picture of "One God in Three Persons" observed in the New Testament.  

3. The mutual indwelling of Father, Son, and Spirit as One God by nature.  

     Jesus' teaching on the doctrine of God is a quantum leap forward in the progressive revelation of Scripture in bridging God's oneness of nature and plurality of personality. As only Jesus could do, He utilizes the language of what theologians call "mutual indwelling", which is to say the "Father is in me and I in the Father" type of expressions. For instance, we read Jesus' words in John 14:10-11

"Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves."

    What Jesus taught in John 13-17 about Himself, the Father, and Holy Spirit being One in unity and distinct in identity moves our understanding forward in formulating a Biblical doctrine of God that affirms a oneness in being and three in identity.  

Closing thoughts for today

    As I have read various theologians and studied God's Word over the years, it appears there are at least three ways of bridging our discussion of God's oneness of being to His Triune identity. Such bridging is comprised of three conceptual truths.

    First, God's glory, revealing the inner reality of His nature, attributes, and relationships between the Father, Son, and Spirit. Secondly, grasping how the Old Testament introduces to the main points of the doctrine of the Trinity, followed by how the New Testament draws those points together into a coherent picture of the Triune God. Then thirdly, studying the words of Jesus as He taught the doctrine of God, especially in His final teaching before His crucifixion in John 13-17. The posts that will follow will attempt to map out the main contours of the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity, and how that brings a complete picture of our overall understanding of God in His oneness of being and threeness of identity. 

More next time....

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