“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Trinity: A Deeper Unity

In all this consideration of the relationship between three distinct persons, we must be careful to remember the unity in the Godhead. Edwards writes:

“There is such a wonderful union between them that they are, after an ineffable and inconceivable manner, One in Another, so that One hath Another and they have communion in One Another and are as it were predicable One of Another; as Christ said of Himself and the Father 'I am in the Father and the Father in Me,' so may it be said concerning all the Persons in the Trinity, the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, the Holy Ghost is in the Father, and the Father in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost is in the Son, and the Son in the Holy Ghost.”
When Christ speaks of unity with the Father and Paul speaks of Christ as the image of God, it seems reasonable to conclude that “whole Divine essence” as Edwards calls it – the same essential nature or tapestry of Divine perfections (the same greatness, goodness, holiness, wisdom, knowledge, power, beauty, justice, love, joy, etc.) – is inherent in each person. Although they play distinct roles and are distinct beings in the Divine order, the persons of the Trinity share the same Divine substance or nature. As the Son is the image of the Father, so in a different way the Father is the image of his image; similarly each person of the Trinity reflects the essence of the others.

Edwards argues that because of this, characteristics specific to any one person of the Trinity are shared with the others in an incomprehensible way that preserves both the distinctness of each person and the unity of one being. Furthermore, because of this deep unity and shared essence between the persons of the Trinity, each is equal in honor; when one person is honored, the whole being of God is honored. Thus we cannot speak of, for example, Christ being praised and not the Father. For example, Paul writes in Philippians 2:11 that the Father is glorified when we say “Jesus is Lord,” and John writes that “he who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father” (John 5:23).

I would guess that there is even more to the unity within “the one who lives as three” than a shared essence, but I confess that here I speculate. It seems to me that the most natural interpretation of the Trinity is that although there are three “centers of consciousness” in the Godhead, there is at the same time a shared consciousness that is the mind of the whole Triune God – not a fourth mind, but simply the three combined, almost as if they/“he” are/is tied up together in a “web of being” of sorts. Perhaps this is something along the lines of what Paul meant when he wrote, “the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). (Remember that Paul speaks elsewhere of the Spirit as a person that can be grieved.) Here of course, my perspective is that of a fallen, sinful, and finite creature trying to comprehend the infinite Creator. I am stuck, as Lewis wrote, in two dimensions.

We would be wise to note Edwards’s conclusion, “I am far from pretending to explaining the Trinity so as to render it no longer a mystery. I think it to be the highest and deepest of all Divine mysteries still…Scripture with reason may lead to say something…[though] there are still left many things pertaining to it incomprehensible...No wonder that the more things we are told concerning that which is so infinitely above our reach, the number of visible mysteries increases.”

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