quarta-feira, 18 de maio de 2011


The Trinity

§ 1. Preliminary Remarks.

  THE doctrine of the Trinity is peculiar to the religion of the Bible. The Triad of the ancient world is only a philosophical statement of the pantheistic theory which underlies all the religion of antiquity.
  With the Hindus, simple, undeveloped, primal being, without consciousness or attributes, is called Brahm. This being, as unfolding itself in the actual world, is Vishnu; as returning into the abyss of unconscious being, it is Shiva. In Buddhism we find essentially the same ideas, in a more dualistic form.  Buddhism makes more of a distinction between God, as the spiritual principle of all things, and nature. The soul of man is a part, or an existence-form, of this spiritual essence, whose destiny is, that it may be freed from nature and lost in the infinite unknown. In Platonism, also, we find a notional Trinity. Simple being (τὸ ὀν) has its λόγος, the complex of its ideas, the reality in all that is phenomenal and changing. In all these systems, whether ancient or modern, there is a Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis; the Infinite becomes finite, and the finite returns to the Infinite. It is obvious, therefore, that these trinitarian formulas have no analogy with the Scriptural doctrine of the Trinity, and serve neither to explain nor to confirm it.

  The design of all the revelations contained in the Word of God is the salvation of men. Truth is in order to holiness. God does not make known his being and attributes to teach men science, but to bring them to the saving knowledge of Himself. The doctrines of the Bible are, therefore, intimately connected with religion, or the life of God in the soul. They determine the religious experience of believers, and are presupposed in that experience. This is specially true of the doctrine of the Trinity.

  It is a great mistake to regard that doctrine as a mere speculative or abstract truth, concerning the constitution of the Godhead, with which we have no practical concern, or which we are required to believe simply because it is revealed. On the contrary, it underlies the whole plan of salvation, and determines the character of the religion (in the subjective sense of that word) of all true Christians. It is the unconscious, or unformed faith, even of those of God’s people who are unable to understand the term by which it is expressed.
  They all believe in God, the Creator and Preserver against whom they have sinned, whose justice they know they cannot satisfy, and whose image
they cannot restore to their apostate nature. They therefore, as of necessity, believe in a divine Redeemer and a divine Sanctifier. They have, as it were, the factors of the doctrine of the Trinity in their own religious convictions. No mere speculative doctrine, especially no doctrine so mysterious and so out of analogy with all other objects of human knowledge, as that of the Trinity, could ever
have held the abiding control over the faith of the Church, which this doctrine has maintained. It is not, therefore, by any arbitrary decision, nor from any bigoted adherence to hereditary beliefs, that the Church has always refused to recognize as Christians those who reject this doctrine. This judgment is only the expression of the deep conviction that Antitrinitarians must adopt a radically
and practically different system of religion from that on which the Church builds her hopes. It is not too much to say with Meyer,473 that “the Trinity is the point in which all Christian ideas and interests unite; at once the beginning and the end of all insight into Christianity.”

  This great article of the Christian faith may be regarded under three different aspects: (1.) The Biblical form of the doctrine. (2.) The ecclesiastical form, or the mode in which the statements of the Bible have been explained in the symbols of the Church and the writings of theologians. (3.) Its philosophical form, or the attempts which have been made to illustrate, or to prove, the doctrine on philosophical principles. It is only the doctrine as presented in the Bible, which binds the faith and conscience of the people of God.

§ 2. Biblical Form of the Doctrine.

A. What that Form is.

  The form in which this doctrine lies in the Bible, and in which it enters into the faith of the Church universal, includes substantially the following particulars.

  1. There is one only living and true God, or divine Being. The religion of the Bible stands opposed not only to Atheism, but to all forms of polytheism. The Scriptures everywhere assert that Jehovah alone is God. (Deut. vi. 4.) “The Lord our God is one Lord.” “I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God.” (Is. xliv. 6.) “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well.”
  (James ii. 19.) The Decalogue, which is the foundation of the moral and religious code of Christianity, as well as of Judaism, has as its first and greatest commandment., “Thou shalt have no other God before me.” No doctrine, therefore, can possibly be true which contradicts this primary truth of
natural as well as of revealed religion.

  2. In the Bible all divine titles and attributes are ascribed equally to the Father, Son, and Spirit. The same divine worship is rendered to them. The one is as much the object of adoration, love, confidence, and devotion as the other. It is not more evident that the Father is God, than that the Son is God; nor is the deity of the Father and Son more clearly revealed than that of the Spirit.

  3. The terms Father, Son, and Spirit do not express different relations of God to his creatures. They are not analogous to the terms Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor, which do express such relations.

  The Scriptural facts are, (a.) The Father says I; the Son says I; the Spirit says I. (b.) The Father says Thou to the Son, and the Son says Thou to the Father; and in like manner the Father and the Son use the pronouns He and Him in reference to the Spirit. (c.) The Father loves the Son; the Son loves the Father; the Spirit testifies of the Son. The Father, Son, and Spirit are severally subject and object. They act and are acted upon, or are the objects of action. Nothing is added to these facts when it is said that the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons; for a person is an intelligent subject who can say I, who can be addressed as Thou, and who can act and can be the object of action. The summation of the above facts is expressed in the proposition, The one divine.  Being subsists in three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. This proposition adds nothing to the facts themselves; for the facts are, (1.) That there is one divine Being. (2.) The Father, Son, and Spirit are divine. (3.) The Father, Son, and Spirit are, in the sense just stated, distinct persons. (4.) Attributes being inseparable from substance, the Scriptures, in saying that the Father, Son, and Spirit possess the same attributes, say they are the same in substance; and, if the same in substance, they are equal in power and glory.

  4. Notwithstanding that the Father, Son, and Spirit are the same in substance, and equal in power and glory, it is no less true according to the Scriptures, (a.)  That the Father is first, the Son second, and the Spirit third. (b.) The Son is of the Father (ἐκ θεοῦ, the λόγος, εἰκὼν, ἀπαύγασμα, τοῦ θεοῦ); and the Spirit is of the Father and of the Son. (c.) The Father sends the Son, and the Father and Son send the Spirit. (d.) The Father operates through the Son, and the Father and Son operate through the Spirit. The converse of these statements is never found. The Son is never said to send the Father, nor to operate through Him nor is the Spirit ever said to send the Father, or the Son, or to operate through them. The facts contained in this paragraph are summed up in the proposition: In the Holy Trinity there is a subordination of the Persons as to the mode of subsistence and operation. This proposition again adds nothing to the facts themselves.

  5. According to the Scriptures, the Father created the world, the Son created the world, and the Spirit created the world. The Father preserves all things; the Son upholds all things; and the Spirit is the source of all life. These facts are expressed by saying that the persons of the Trinity concur in all acts ad extra. Nevertheless there are some acts which are predominantly referred to the Father, others to the Son, and others to the Spirit. The Father creates, elects, and calls; the Son redeems; and the Spirit sanctifies. And, on the other hand, there are certain acts, or conditions, predicated of one person of the Trinity, which are never predicated of either of the others. Thus, generation
belongs exclusively to the Father, filiation to the Son, and procession to he Spirit. This is the form in which the doctrine of the Trinity lies in the Bible. The above statement involves no philosophical element. It is simply an arrangement of the clearly revealed facts bearing on this subject. This is the form in which the doctrine has always entered into the faith of the Church, as a part of its
religious convictions and experience.
  To say that this doctrine is incomprehensible, is to say nothing more than must be admitted of any other great truth, whether of revelation or of science. To say that it is impossible that the one divine substance can subsist in three distinct persons, is certainly unreasonable, when, according to that form of philosophy which has been the most widely diffused, and the most persistent, everything
that exists is only one of the innumerable forms in which one and the same infinite substance subsists; and when, according to the Realists, who once controlled the thinking world, all men are the individualized forms of the numerically same substance called generic humanity.

Systematic Theology - Volume I Charles Hodge
Pesquisa: Pastor Charles Maciel Vieira

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