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TH 301 Week 5

5.1 God and Revelation

"Theology from Below": General Revelation

"Theology from Above": Special Revelation

The unique role of Scripture

5.2 The Christian God is Triune

"Its all the same God, really..."

In our current age, with its emphasis on "spirituality" over religion, you will often hear the claim that the "divine being" referred to in all major religions is really the same, deep down, across all faiths. The argument is that the differences which are seen on the surface are really false, and what is essential to our God is the same as what is essential to Allah, the Buddha, etc.

In contrast to this very simplified montheistic model, orthodox Christianity has traditionally proclaimed a very peculiar and distinct manner of talking about the being of God. Instead of emphasizing the bare monotheistic essence, this tradition has insisted upon certain particular and non-interchangable claims. The major claim of the Christian faith regarding the God it worships is that this one God is known in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In short, the Christian God is triune.

Some common misrepresentations of the Doctrine of the Trinity

The following are slightly more technical ways to describe the examples Guthrie gives on pages 81-82:

  • Subordinationism (which includes positions such as Arianism and Adoptionism ) is the notion that, when referring to God, the term "Father" is the real God, while the Son and the Holy Spirit are somehow "servants" or (in some formulations) "creations" of the Father which do his bidding. This is a position we can see being wrestled with in the Apostles' Creed (how close do you put Christ to the Father?) and one which the Nicene Creed attempts to settle conclusively (Jesus, as the Son, is "one being" with the Father, "true God of true God," and the Holy Spirit is claimed to be the "Lord" just as the Father and Son are one Lord). Some difficulties in making the other two persons of the Trinity subordinate to the Father include the effect on the mechanics of salvation (one example: only God can forgive sins; if Jesus is less-than-truly-God, are we in fact saved by his action on the cross?)

  • Modalism (also called "Monarchianism") is the term for a variety of misconceptions. The common feature among them is the over-emphasis on God's "one-ness." For the Modalist, any time God seems to be acting in different roles there is really only one God wearing different "masks," instead of truly distinct persons at work. While this misconception has a tempting logic to it (we like the thought that God is really only one person, sometimes wearing the "Father" hat, sometimes the "Son" hat, sometimes the "Spirit" hat) it falls short of accurately accounting for the Scriptural witness of God's being. The Modalist position has trouble, for example, accounting for the presence of all three persons in the Baptismal narrative (Lk 3:21-23) or the occasions when Jesus (the Son) clearly prays to the Father.

    God's triunity as a model for the church and human interaction

  • Click here for more information on the doctrine of the Trinity from the online Catholic Encyclopedia.

  • TH 301 Week 6

  • (last modified 2006-09-19)       [Login]
    This page is referenced by the following pages:
    Theology 301 class (American Baptist College - Nashville, TN)