Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Trinity, Part I

I woke up early today and had a couple of cups of Kona before starting on Calvin.  I don't have to go to work, so I have been lazy thus far.  Here it is 7:00 and I am just now writing the blog. 

I am glad I had over a cup of coffee in me before reading Calvin this morning.  It is such an important chapter to Reformed theology and I was excited to get started on it.

Before Calvin introduces the word "Persons" in his discussions of the Trinity, he first makes it clear that God is "infinite and spiritual."  God is everywhere around us in heaven and earth.  Still before the word "Persons" is used, Calvin discusses so-called "anthropomorphisms" in the Bible.  God in some places is said to have a mouth, ears, eyes, hands, and feet, but these are metaphors only so we can understand his message to us.  God lowers himself in order to communicate with us.  Calvin compares it to the way a nurse speaks to an infant.  "Thus such forms of speaking do not so much express clearly what God is like as accommodate the knowledge of him to our slight capacity.  To do this he must descend far beneath his loftiness."

The next section addresses the three "Persons" in God.  It is here that Calvin's writings really gain some substance (pun intended).  The famous Council of Nicaea was held to deliberate the teachings of Arius.  Out of the council, the bishops agreed on some verbiage to describe the nature of the three Persons in God.  The word chosen was homoousiosHomo- means "same".  Ousios means "substance".  What was decided at Nicaea was that Christ was of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father.  Arius and some others thought that this was too strong of a word and they preferred the term homoiousios which means "of a similar substance".  Arius believed that Christ was a created being and expressed this by saying "there was a time when he (Christ) was not".  This made Christ similar, but inferior to God the Father.  Obviously, Arius did not cling to the beginning of the Gospel of John.

Some people had expressed concerns about the use of words like "Trinity" and "Persons" when describing God.  It is true that the word Trinity never appears in the Bible.  Does it mean that it is not a valid word or worse that it is insulting to God?  Calvin argues that these words are perfectly acceptable for this use as long as they concisely convey something in Scripture and do not add anything in themselves.  These words express ideas which help to weed out false teachings.  For instance the term homoousios quickly distinguishes true doctrine from the false doctrine of Arius.  Sabellius, another heretic, did not believe in the Trinity as defined by orthodox Christianity.  He taught modalism which is the belief that God is either the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit at any given time.  All three cannot exist at the same time because it is the one God who has three separate modes.  His teachings do not work with the idea of the Trinity, therefore we know that his teachings are false.

It is going to be an enlightening week.  That is how long it will take to get through chapter 13.  The doctrine of the Trinity is one that is so difficult for men to comprehend, and in some ways we will never understand it in this lifetime.

If you are reading this on the website, you can also now view it on Facebook by becoming a fan of Coffee with Calvin.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Presbyterian Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf