Friday, June 14, 2024

Post #47 Doctrine of God - An Introduction To Eternal Relations of Origin In The Trinity


    In the last post we explored how we see the doctrine of the Trinity in Paul's letters. Today's post continues our series on the doctrine of the Trinity. I did want to review the doctrine of the Trinity in this post, while introducing the important doctrine of "eternal relations of origin" in our portion of this series of posts on the Trinity. Let's then look first at the doctrine of eternal relations of origin, followed by plugging what we learn into our review of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Eternal relations of origin in the doctrine of the Trinity

     When we talk of the distinctions of identity between the Persons of the Trinity, we refer to what is called the doctrine of "eternal relations of origin". When we look at the name of the doctrine, we can break down each word as follows.

1. "Eternal", meaning forever, without beginning, the Father has always been the Father, the Son has always been the Son, the Holy Spirit has always been the Holy Spirit.

2. "Relations", meaning that the distinction of identities reside in the unique way each Person is related to the other two. Such relationships in the Trinity had no beginning. The One God of the Bible did not decide one day to be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Instead, these "relations" are embedded by necessity in the nature of God Himself, which in turn would not be without the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ever relating to one another. 

3. "of origin" tells us that all three Persons of the Trinity never had a beginning or origin. The Father is the source of identity for the Son, the Son in turn makes it possible for the Father to be ever the Father, and the Holy Spirit's identity is ascribed to how He proceeds forever from the Father and the Son. However, as to the source of the Divine nature shared between them, there is no beginning. God as He is has forever been and forever will be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

    To bring some clarity to what I've written thus far, we can appeal to far better thinkers than myself. Theologian Matthew Barrett defines this important doctrine in his book "Simply Trinity - The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Holy Spirit":

"Eternal relations of origin distinguishes how each person is related to another, identifying the everlasting provenance (principle/origin/source) from which each Person proceeds."

       Thus, when we speak of the Father, we talk of Him as "unbegotten" or without origin, or what theologians term "innascible" (Latin "in" meaning "not" and "nascibilis" meaning "born", hence "that which cannot be born"). When we speak of the Son, Scripture talks of Him as "begotten" of the Father, meaning He as Son derives His eternal identity from the Father and forever has shared in the same undivided deity of the Godhead (see Psalm 2:7; John 1:18). When we discuss the Holy Spirit, we use the term "proceed" to distinguish Him from the Father and the Son (see John 15:26).

    What the eternal relations of origin doctrine explains is what distinguishes each Person of the Trinity from the other two. All three are equal in glory, power, and worthiness of worship. Each Personally and all three together possess the undivided Divine essence or Godhead. 

    As touching the Divine nature, each Person of the Godhead is the same in attributes and being, with all three sharing the same essence, mind, and will as One God. These eternal relations of origin help us explain how we can distinguish the Father from the Son, the Son from the Father, and the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son.

    The great 19th century theologian Charles Hodge summarizes this doctrine of "eternal relations of origin":

"While all the Divine attributes are common equally to the three persons...nevertheless the Scriptures attribute some Divine works wrought within (the Trinity), exclusively to each divine Person respectively; thus, generation to the Father, filiation (or begetting) to the Son, and procession to the Holy Spirit." 

   So that is an introduction to "eternal relations of origin" (or what one friend of mine called "eroo" for short). In the time that remains in this post, I want to plug in what we just learned to reviewing the doctrine of the Trinity, showing how this doctrine aids us in our overall grasping of the doctrine itself.

Review: The Doctrine of the Trinity

    Being that this is the 47th post in our overall series on "The Doctrine of God", I felt it necessary to restate what has been our working definition of the doctrine of the Trinity.

1. There is only one true and living God.

2. This one true and living God is three “whos”: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

3. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each have the whole and entire Divine nature. 

4. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the One True & living God.

    We can summarize the four above propositions by using a diagram used in the earlier part of church history called "the shield of faith".

    As the reader can see, the doctrine of the Trinity is interested in expounding how God is "One" in one sense and "Three" in another sense. If we take the same diagram, we can change the labeling connecting the Three Persons of the Trinity to depict what we learned today about "the eternal relations of origin" of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

    The eternal relations of origin doctrine aids us in noting how there are two sets of relationships between the Three Persons of the Trinity:

1. The Father, who being unbegotten or without origin (what theologians call "innascibility") begets or makes common the Divine nature to the Son. 

    The Father is the eternal source of the identity of the Son, who forever shares co-equally the Divine nature with the Father. Sometimes we speak of the  relationship of the Father to the Son as "the paternity of the Father" in His filiation of the Son. As we view the same eternal relation of origin from the Son's perspective, the Bible reveals He is the "only-begotten Son" (Psalm 2:7; John 1:18; John 3:16), begotten of the Father.

2. The second type of relationship in the Trinity has to do with how the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, or more accurately, proceeds from the Father through the Son (see John 15:26). 

    As we view this second relationship from the Father and Son's perspective, theologians speak of this as their "spiration" or out-breathing of the Holy Spirit. Such a metaphor captures what Scripture talks about in reference to the Triune God being "the Living God". As viewed from the Holy Spirit's point-of-view, Scripture reveals Him "proceeding" from the Father and the Son.  

Closing thoughts:

    In today's post we introduced the reader to the doctrine "eternal relations of origin". Such a doctrine aids us in explaining what distinguishes the Father from the Son, and the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. This doctrine reminds us that all three Persons are identical in being and attributes, indistinguishable from the vantage point of considering as three as One God by essence. At the same time, the doctrine informs us that their eternal identities as unbegotten (the Father), begotten (the Son), and Proceeding (The Holy Spirit) is how we distinguish the Three Persons. Nothing outside of the Trinity, including the works of creation, redemption, or the Christian life, makes the Trinity the Trinity. The Triune God has been Who He is and what He is from all eternity.

    We then plugged in this important doctrine of "eroo" (eternal relations of origins) to reviewing and grasping better our overall working definition of the doctrine of the Trinity. As we progress onward in this series on the doctrine of God, knowing such truths will enable greater appreciation and worship of our Triune God. 


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