Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Trinity, Part V - The Relationship and Servetus' Heresy

We continue on Calvin's chapter on the Trinity, this time exploring the differences in the Persons of the Godhead and then the relationship between those same Persons.  We wrap up with Calvin speaking of Servetus and the heresy about the Trinity he was proclaiming as truth.

Calvin once again discusses the roles of the three Persons.  The Father is "the fountain and wellspring of all things."  The Son is "wisdom, counsel, and the ordered disposition of all things."  The Spirit is "the power and efficacy of that activity."  All three Persons are eternal.  "...the eternity of the Father is also the eternity of the Son and the Spirit, since God could never exist apart from his wisdom and power..."  Calvin does state that there is use in the observance of an order, "the Father is thought of as first, then from him the Son, and finally from both the Spirit."  We must be careful not to think of a hierarchy existing within the Trinity.  No member of the Godhead outranks any other member.  Calvin does not make that clear here.  Augustine made it clear in his writings that there is no inequality among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Athanasius, one of Arius' main opponents at the Council of Nicaea, also believed that there was no hierarchy contained in the Godhead.

"God is the relationship."  That was a point that Douglas Kelly made in my Systematic Theology I class.  The relationship between the members of the Godhead is love.  And we all know that God is love.  All the members of the Godhead dwell within and have relationship with each other.  Augustine wrote, "Christ with respect to himself is called God; with respect to the Father, Son.  Again, the Father with respect to himself is called God; with respect to the Son, Father.  In so far as he is called Father with respect to the Son, he is not the Son; in so far as he is called the Son with respect to the Father, he is not the Father; in so far as he is called both Father with respect to himself, and Son with respect to himself, he is the same God."  Calvin somewhat refers the reader to Augustine's On the Trinity for further study on the relationships within the Godhead.

I will only touch on one point for the next section.  When we refer to God, we are referring to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Calvin writes, "Therefore, whenever the name of God is mentioned without particularization, there are designated no less the Son and the Spirit than the Father..."  When we read especially from the Old Testament, we should remember that God is all three Persons, not just the Father.

Michael Servetus is remembered in history for one thing - he was burned at the stake in Geneva during the time of Calvin for being a heretic.  This was very uncommon practice in Geneva in these days.  Calvin is often blamed with being the instigator, when this may not be entirely accurate.  In fact, Calvin thought it too cruel to burn Servetus at the stake and even suggested beheading him instead.  I don't see a big need in discussing this heresy.  Servetus thought the term "Trinity" was insulting to God.  He believed that it describe three gods, not one God in three Persons, making this a tritheistic form of Christianity.  He also believed that the Son and the Holy Spirit were created beings, created by the Father.

The next two days we will be reading 1.13.23-24 then 25-29 respectively.  It will be a continuation of some of the Trinitarian heresies which Calvin was battling.  It is kind of appropriate that since we are dealing with heresies, I am drinking a cup of Dark Magic coffee by Green Mountain today.  Hopefully I will have enough of it to last the next two days.

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