John Piper (and Edwards) on the Trinity

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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I'd like to know your opinions of what John Piper (and Edwards) have written below on the Trinity. I'm very confused by what is said. The following is from John Piper's book, "Think."

Trinitarian Thinking and Feeling

One of the gifts Edwards gave to me, which I had not found anywhere else, was a foundation for human thinking and feeling in the Trinitarian nature of God. I don't mean that others haven't seen human nature rooted in God's nature. I simply mean that the way Edwards saw it was extraordinary. He showed me that human thinking and feeling do not exist arbitrarily; they exist because we are in the image of God, and God's "thinking" and "feeling" are more deeply part of his Trinitarian being than I had realized.
Prepare to be boggled. Here is Edwards's remarkable description of how the persons of the Trinity relate to each other. Notice that God the Son stands forth eternally as a work of God's thought. And God the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as the act of their joy.

"This I suppose to be the blessed Trinity that we read of in the Holy Scriptures. The Father is the deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner, or the deity in its direct experience. The Son is the deity generated by God's understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea. The Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God's infinite love to and delight in Himself. And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are properly distinct persons." ["An essay on the Trinity," in Treatise on Grace and Other Posthumously Published Writings, ed. Paul Helm (Cambridge, UK: Clarke, 1971), 118.]

In other words, God the Father has had an eternal image and idea of himself that is so full it is another Person standing forth--distinct as the Father's idea, yet one in divine essence. And God the Father and the Son have had an eternal joy in each other's excellence that carries so fully what they are that another Person stands forth, the Holy Spirit--distinct as the Father and Son's delight in each other, yet one in divine essence. There never was a time when God did not experience himself this way. The three Persons of the Trinity are coeternal. They are equally divine.
 

Weston Stoler

Puritan Board Sophomore
Their where some remarks in Desiring God about the trinity (I believe they where in the foot notes) that I questioned quiet heavily. I think he is somewhat confused about the confessional beliefs on what the trinity is, or if he knows what it is, cannot really explain it very well.

---------- Post added at 01:01 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:51 PM ----------

I dusted out my copy and found the foot note

"In Other words, the Holy Spirit is the delight that the Father and the Son have in each other and He carries in himself so fully all the essence of the Father and the Son that he Himself stands forth as a third person in His own right"

page 44 Desiring God foot note 9
 

Unoriginalname

Puritan Board Junior
"In Other words, the Holy Spirit is the delight that the Father and the Son have in each other and He carries in himself so fully all the essence of the Father and the Son that he Himself stands forth as a third person in His own right"

page 44 Desiring God foot note 9

:confused: has anyone ever tried to use this type of reasoning before or is this just a Piperism?
 

Weston Stoler

Puritan Board Sophomore
Don't get me wrong I love Piper, he is one of my favorite contemporary theologians. However some of the things he says just don't make sense.

---------- Post added at 04:44 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:42 PM ----------

I apologize I think that was actually a quote by Edwards and not by piper himself. I still do not see how it is orthodox though.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
There are antecedents to that kind of thought. But I suspect that Rijssen (quoted in Heppe) may be closer to the truth:

What the difference is between generation of the Son and the procession of the H. Spirit cannot be explained and it is safer not to know than to enquire into it. The Scholastics would look for the difference in the operation of intellectus and voluntas, so that the generation of the Son is brought about by means of intellectus, whence he is called the wisdom of God; but procession by means of voluntas, whence it is called love and charity. But as this is said without Scripture, it involves rather than explains matters. Those talk more sanely, who babbling in such a difficult matter find the distinction in three things. (1) In principle: because the Son emanates from the Father alone, but the H. Spirit from Father and Son at once. (2) In mode: because the Son emanates per vim generationis, which culminates not only in personality but also in likeness, on account of which the Son is called the image of the Father and according to which the Son receives the property of communicating the same essence to another person. But the Spirit does so by spiratio, which ends only in personality, and through which the person who proceeds does not receive the property of communicating that essence to another. (3) In order: because as the Son is the second person, but the H. Spirit the third, generation by our way of thinking, precedes spiratio, although really they are co-eternal.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Without speaking to select, specific concepts wrapped up in the Trinitarian conceptions of some of these teachers, nevertheless the base concept expressed here is as old as medieval theology and is rooted in scholasticism. It was customary in the medieval School-men to speak using the same basic concepts as found in Aristotelian faculty psychology; accordingly, the divine nature was approached in terms of Understanding (scientia) and Will (voluntas). Certain scholastics used this conception in the endeavor to explain the difference between the generation of the Son and the spiration or procession of the Spirit, whereby the second person (the Logos or Word) became associated with the Understanding, and the Spirit with the Will. That is (if I may speak crudely and slightly less than accurately for simplicity's sake), the Logos was the perfect understanding and image God has of himself (which was so perfect, it was itself a person) and the Spirit was the will or charity of God between the "image" and the "original." Some Reformed teachers did take up this base conception in their scholastic works (for example, Richard Baxter), but mainstream reformed scholasticism of the 17th century attempted to stay away from what they considered speculative accounting for how the difference between Generation and Procession worked, and simply rested content with the fact that they were different.

I would, as a quick appendix, point out that the above framework does not account entirely for Edwards' understanding, as he stood in a different fundamental philosophical framework than the Aristotelian Scholastics, but many of the basic ideas are the same.

Edit
Ruben, nearly identical postings from both of us at 5:57 precisely. Who'd have thought? You certainly get more points for quoting Rijssen, though!
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Hugh Binning expresses the same thought as Riissen:

It is commonly held forth, that this eternal Word is the birth of the infinite understanding of God, reflecting upon his own most absolute and perfect Being, which is illustrated by some poor comparison to us creatures, who form in our minds in the understanding of any thing, an inward word or image of the object some representation and similitude of that we understand. And this is more perfect than any external vocal expression can be. So we have a weak and finite conception of the acting of that infinite wisdom of God, by which he knows himself, that there results, as it were, upon it, the perfect substantial image, and the express character of the divine essence, and therefore is the Son of God called “the Word” which was with God, and “the Wisdom” of the Father, because he is, as it were, the very birth of his understanding and not only the image of his own essence but the idea, in which he conceived, and by which he created the visible world. Then we use to conceive the Holy Ghost as the production of his blessed will, whereby he loves, delights and hath complacency in his own all sufficient, all blessed Being, which he himself alone perfectly comprehends, by his infinite understanding, and therefore called, “the Spirit,” a word borrowed from resemblance to poor creatures, who have many impulses, and inclinations to several things, and are carried to motion and action, rather from that part which is invisible in them, the subtilest part, therefore called spirits. So the Lord applies his almighty power, and exerciseth his infinite wisdom according to the pleasure and determination of his will, for that seems to be the immediate principle of working. Therefore there is mention made of the Spirit, in the creation of the world. He sent out his Spirit, and they were created, Psal. civ. 30. These are the weak and low attempts of men to reach the height of that unsearchable mystery. Such conjectures we have of this word of God, and his eternal generation, as if trees could take upon them to understand the nature of beasts, or as if beasts would presume to give an account of the spirit that acts in men. Certainly the distance is infinitely greater between God and us and he must needs behold greater vanity, folly, and darkness, in our clearest apprehensions of his majesty than we could find in the reasonings and conceptions of beasts about our nature. When our own conception in the womb is such a mystery, as made David to say, O how wonderfully am I made, and fearfully! he saw a curious art and wisdom in it that he could not understand, and he believed an infinite power he could not conceive, which surprised his soul with such unexpected matter of wonder, as made him fear and tremble at the thought of it,—I say, when the generation of a poor creature hath so much depth of wisdom in it, how canst thou think to understand that everlasting wonder of angels, the birth and conception of that eternal wisdom of God? And if thou canst not understand from whence the wind comes, and whither it goes, or how thine own spirits beat in thy veins, what is the production of them, and what their motions, how can we then conceive the procession of the holy Ghost, “which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to consider it?”
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Edit
Ruben, nearly identical postings from both of us at 5:57 precisely. Who'd have thought? You certainly get more points for quoting Rijssen, though!

Years of obsessively stalking you are beginning to pay off!
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Isn't much of this speculative theology hinging on speaking of things that we cannot understand or substantiate? After the first post, I was honestly expecting someone to denounce the idea that there is any feeling in God.
 

Weston Stoler

Puritan Board Sophomore
Isn't much of this speculative theology hinging on speaking of things that we cannot understand or substantiate? After the first post, I was honestly expecting someone to denounce the idea that there is any feeling in God.

Are their people on this board that declare a God without passions? I have yet to see one, although I have yet to see a thread about that yet.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Isn't much of this speculative theology hinging on speaking of things that we cannot understand or substantiate? After the first post, I was honestly expecting someone to denounce the idea that there is any feeling in God.

Are their people on this board that declare a God without passions? I have yet to see one, although I have yet to see a thread about that yet.

Confessionally, he is without passions. There are many on this board with various definitions of "passions" though
 

Weston Stoler

Puritan Board Sophomore
Isn't much of this speculative theology hinging on speaking of things that we cannot understand or substantiate? After the first post, I was honestly expecting someone to denounce the idea that there is any feeling in God.

Are their people on this board that declare a God without passions? I have yet to see one, although I have yet to see a thread about that yet.

Confessionally, he is without passions. There are many on this board with various definitions of "passions" though

I have never made the connection of passions to emotions when reading that part of the Westminster. sorry for being :offtopic:
 
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