Non Sequitur

Although there has been much interchange between orthodox evangelical brethren (and I use “orthodox” as a courtesy) and those who hold to the doctrine of the church as expressed in highly valued church confessions (and rightly so – these confessions, for the most part (depending on the confession) hold the doctrines of Scripture), I have been surprised that there are those who disagree with the established doctrine of God and the Trinity.

After all, what could be more plain than that which all the Reformed confessions – well – confess, about the most important doctrine of our faith?

Let’s review:

WCF — Chapter II: Of God, and of the Holy Trinity SDFO — Chapter II: Of God and of the Holy Trinity LBCF/PCF — Chapter II: Of God and the Holy Trinity

1. There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his won glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty.

1. There is but one only living and true God; who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure Spirit, invisible, without body, parts or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

1. The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

2. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone foundation of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature; so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.

2. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in, and of himself; and is alone, in, and unto himself, all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures, which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them: He is the alone fountain of all being. of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service or obedience, as creatures, they owe unto the Creator, and whatever he is further pleased to require of them.

2. God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself, is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creature which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things, and he hath most sovereign dominion over all creatures, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth; in his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain; he is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands; to him is due from angels and men, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator, and whatever he is further pleased to require of them.

3. In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the HolyGhost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

3. In the unity of the God-head there be three Persons, of one substance, power and eternity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the HolyGhost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. Which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence upon him.

3. In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the HolySpirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations;which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.

If there is any disagreement with the Nicean understanding of our Triune God in these three statements of our faith, I do not find it.

By the way, the LBCF goes further than the others, but in no manner disagrees with them, nor would our brothers of those confessions find anything to disagree with in the 1689.

It appears that all historical, confessional believers are in agreement on these matters (excepting those who claim to subscribe to a Scriptural confession, but redefine it to their ends – but that is beyond the scope of this bit of blurb article)

The problem, therefore, is a lack of being anchored to what the apostolic doctrine, handed down by faithful men to other faithful men who have passed it down to other faithful men have consistently taught (2nd Timothy, anyone?).

Not all catholic doctrine is to be mindlessly adhered to – in fact, those on this site hold to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith – but that doctrine which we agree upon with our brethren has been well stated.

When it comes to the doctrine of God – Theology Proper – all the confessions hold to that which was first stated in Nicea, and confirmed again in Chalcedon. There has been no ambiguity regarding the most important doctrine of our faith for years, until the 20th and 21st centuries.

This article is not a scholarly treatment of the questions and arguments which have been put forward, but it does affirm that which has been passed down by faithful men of God to other faithful men of God, up to the present.

When it comes to Scripture, we are quick, as the body of Christ, to affirm there is no error in it, but when it comes to the Doctrine of God, although innovation of the same was handled in the early church, apparently, it is fair game, and we are left to wonder why such is the case.

Mystery surrounds our God, but not in the manner some have re-imagined. He is so clear in His communication to us – His Scripture – that it boggles the minds of we who hold to sound doctrine regarding His self revelation, which was challenged by heretics in the early church, and soundly defeated by good men of God. He stated that He is all that He is, uncreated. He stated that He does not change, and He stated that such is true of Him in all His Persons, undividedly.

He has further stated that the Son and the Spirit are co-eternal with the Father. These are unequivocal truths found in Scripture.

What has been contested is that which was defeated in the early church, namely, that God has any properties aside from His nature, and that in the Trinity, the Son, who is equally God, has been eternally subjugated to the Father.

Scripture, and the orthodox Reformed confessions, are ever agreed on these matters, as should all believing Christians always be.

God, before creation, was eternally, unchangeablely, blessed and happy within Himself. Being perfection, He had no  need of a perfunctory order where either the Son or the Spirit submitted to the Father. As the confessions state, soundly based upon the early creeds, which in turn were based on Scripture, God was complete within Himself. There was no need for subjugation of one divine person to another, nor should we expect such was true of our unchangeable God.

The eternal Son being ever subject to the eternal Father is a man-made construct, based on the understanding of God by equating the Triune Being to those whom He created.

Likewise, as has been said by very many Reformed theologians of the past (and many today) “all that is in God is God.” There is no room for “added properties”, whether they are called “creational properties,” or “covenantal properties.”

Man cannot understand the relations within the Triune God by imposing those relations of the created creature which are made known to man by natural revelation – it simply will not work. God, as He has revealed Himself in Special Revelation – i.e., Scripture – is not subject to the changes and vagaries of man’s existence. God is unique, and man is created.

These innovations by contemporary theologians trying to explain God’s relationality and the Son’s subjection to the Father according to human philosophies, and/or seeking to exegete the Scripture as if it contradicted itself (which is contrary to orthodox Reformed hermeneutics) in order to match those philosophies (which really results in eisegesis), are simply misplaced. When Scripture states that God does not change, and another passage in Scripture seems to say that He did change, in contradiction to the fact that God does not change, the primary passages which define God’s being, substance and character take precedence over those passages defining things about God in human language, for this – human language – is accommodated to our finite understanding in order to communicate to us things which are true of God in a manner which we would normally associate with other finite beings, not to inform us that God did, indeed, change. Thus, we may view His anger as abating, His love as increasing or decreasing, and such things, when in fact, these are simple finite expressions of His infinite, unchanging existence and being. Since this is a brief article, we will not go more into this now. (There are other articles on this site which speak to this a bit more, as well as books recommended which speak to these things extensively.)

Returning to the main thrust of this article, to say God changes and does not change, and that the Son has the same relation to the Father from everlasting as He took on as the God-man through the incarnation, as the title of this article says, simply does not follow from Scripture. Non Sequitur.

 

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