Trinitarian Basics- Part 6

Eternal Generation and Spiration

These two concepts essentially address the same issue, with the former speaking of the relation between God the Father and God the Son, and the latter speaking of that between God the Father and God the Spirit.  We’ll leave the filioque to the side for the moment.  Also, I’ll be primarily speaking of the eternal generation, but know that I could also add to everything I say, “And it works the same way for spiration of the Spirit…”  I’m just conserving space here.

What is meant by this doctrine is also what is meant by the “monarchia” of the Father.  That is, trinitarian ordering begins with the Father and then moves to the Son and the Spirit. Continue reading

Trinitarian Basics- Part 5

Divine Simplicity

“Simplicity” is the underlying definition of, or way to understand, the divine essence.  Though hotly contested among modern and post-modern theologians (you can see the shift in the mid-19th cent.  Bavinck even critiques Charles Hodge in a footnote about this very subject), simplicity was mostly universally accepted throughout Christendom.  Recently Lewis Ayres has identified three organizational planks behind pro-Nicene theology, and simplicity is right at the top of the list.  It is the statement that God is not composed of “parts,” nor do his attributes make up a composite.  All of God is all of God, and each of His attributes is Him.  “Simple” is thus opposed to complex or composite.

Simplicity is really another way to explain infinity.  If God is outside of space and time, and thus always all that He is without bounds, then no “real” distinctions can be placed within His being.  This means Continue reading

Trinitarian Basics- Part 4

Nature, Substance, Essence

The terms “nature,” “substance,” and “essence” all signify the same thing when speaking of the being of God in Trinitarian nomenclature.  We’ve previously mentioned the occasional confusion of “substance” and “person” (because of the meaning of hypostasis), and there is similar confusion in the possibility of distinguishing between “substance” and “essence,” however, the terms were eventually worked out into a consistent fashion.  Though “substance” and “essence” could mean different things when speaking of the creation, they meant the same when speaking of God.  Each word signified the single divine being.

Like we saw with “person,” the actual definition of these terms is quite bare.  Esse means “the act of existing.”  Essentia means “the whatness of a being.”  Natura also means essentia or quidditas: “the character of something.”  Substantia could have the connotation of material “stuff,” but in Trinitarian nomenclature it was always identified with the essence and thus spiritual, invisible, simple, and infinite. Continue reading