Simply Trinity (Barrett)

Status
Not open for further replies.

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Barrett, Matthew. Simply Trinity

It’s hard to imagine a near-perfect book. This is one. I wanted to highlight every single word. I cannot imagine a better book on the Trinity. I am going to say something that isn’t commonly said in these debates: if you are manipulating the Trinity to back up a social program or second-order teaching, you need to be deposed from ministry. This book is a crash course in Trinitarian grammar. I cannot imagine a better intro to the Trinity.

Social readings of the Trinity cannot affirm one will in the Trinity or inseparable operations. That puts them outside of orthodoxy. Most cannot affirm eternal generation. That puts them outside Nicea.

Basic Trinitarian Grammar

It is not enough to say 1 essence/3 persons. It will not do to find proof texts that may or may not say that. Rather, you have to have a grammar that weaves these thoughts together. First, how do we identify the persons? We do so by their origins of relation. Full stop.

image.png
The three persons are subsistences of the one essence. Upon that sentence hinges the essence (no pun) of all Trinitarian grammar.
The immanent Trinity is ontology. The economic Trinity is God’s plan of salvation. The danger is identifying the two. What the Great Tradition does is see how one reflects the other. Barrett has a helpful chart:

image-2.png

The doctrine of simplicity keeps the Trinity from collapsing into modalism or tritheism. There is one simple essence that has three modes of subsistence. God is not simply just three persons. The one undivided essence subsists in three persons. This rules out multiple wills in the Trinity and demands the doctrine of eternal generation.

Eternal generation means from all eternity “God communicates the one simple, undivided essence to the Son.” This is a spiritual, not physical generation. Barrett lists how John Gill identified the marks of a wrong type of generation:

image-3.png

Some more grammar:

image-5.png

The Enemy: Social Trinitarianism

Barrett helpfully identifies the marks of social trinitarianism.

image-1.png

Eternal Functional Subordination

We will camp out here. As those who posit the Son is eternally functionally subordinate to the Father, they not surprisingly say, “To the Father belongs ultimate praise and glory” (Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 67). To Jesus, logically, belongs a lesser glory. That sentence should bother you. Barrett then points out a number of fatal problems to EFS/ESS.

image-4.png

Even more, EFS cannot simultaneously speak of ontology and function. They want to say that the Son is ontologically equal to the Father, though functionally subordinate. That cannot work. As Barrett notes, “As subsistences of the essence, the persons are ontological through and through.” You can’t simply add the category “functional” to this. While I am not a Van Tillian, he is right here: the persons of the Trinity equally exhaust the divine essence. If they fully exhaust the divine essence, function goes out the window.

Barrett goes on to say that they can’t appeal to homoousios to strengthen their position. You can’t simply say the persons are homoousios. Homoousios works in a specific context. That context, at least for the Son, is eternal generation. “The Son subsists from the same essence as the Father because he is eternally generated from the Father.” That’s it. Simply Trinity.

Hebrews and Jesus’ Obedience

Jesus couldn’t have been eternally obedient to the Father for one simple reason: he became incarnate to learn obedience. If EFS is true, then the contrast in Hebrews 5:8 is gone.

Conclusion

I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much. It was pure delight.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
That's next on my list to read - I'm currently in his earlier, NONE GREATER: The Undomesticated Attributes of God - got them both on sale.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
Eternal generation means from all eternity “God communicates the one simple, undivided essence to the Son.”
As I understand it, this statement has not gone unchallenged in Reformed history. Calvin, I believe, was the first to challenge it. I think Robert Reymond brought this issue to light most powerfully in recent years. Namely, the issue is: To what does "eternal generation" refer? The actual divine essence, or only the hypostatic identity? John Murray elaborates on the issue:

Students of historical theology are acquainted with the furore which Calvin’s insistence upon the self-existence of the Son as to his deity aroused at the time of the Reformation. Calvin was too much of a student of Scripture to be content to follow the lines of what had been regarded as Nicene orthodoxy on this particular issue. He was too jealous for the implications of the homoousion clause of the Nicene creed to be willing to accede to the interpretation which the Nicene fathers, including Athanasius, placed upon another expression in the same creed, namely, ‘very God of very God’ (θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ [theon alēthinon ek theou alēthinou]). No doubt this expression is repeated by orthodox people without any thought of suggesting what the evidence derived from the writings of the Nicene fathers would indicate the intent to have been. This evidence shows that the meaning intended is that the Son derived his deity from the Father and that the Son was not therefore αὐτόθεος [autotheos]. It was precisely this position that Calvin controverted with vigour. He maintained that as respects personal distinction the Son was of the Father but as respects deity he was self-existent (ex se ipso). This position ran counter to the Nicene tradition. Hence the indictments levelled against him. It is, however, to the credit of Calvin that he did not allow his own more sober thinking to be suppressed out of deference to an established pattern of thought when the latter did not commend itself by conformity to Scripture and was inimical to Christ’s divine identity.​
—John Murray, Studies in Theology, vol. 4, 4 vols., Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982), 8.​

The issue has to do with what the communication of the divine essence does to Christ's status as autotheos. If Christ's divine essence is derived (i.e., not original to him), then how can he be said to be a se? And if he is not a se, then how can he be truly God? It's a question worth pondering, in my opinion. People have dogged on Reymond for bringing the issue to the fore, but I have read the same concerns in B. B. Warfield and Morton Smith, each of whom, like Murray, argue that Calvin was the first long before them.

For reference, and for what it's worth, here is what Reymond concludes:

I would suggest, therefore, with Calvin and these American theologians [Warfield and Murray], that Christians should not believe that the Father, through an eternal act of begetting in the depth of the divine being that is always continuing, is begetting the Son’s essential being as God out of his being, which act thereby “puts this second person in possession of the whole divine essence.” They should believe, rather, that the Son, with respect to his essential being, is wholly God of himself (αὐτόθεος, autotheos). They should also believe that the Son, as the second Person of the Godhead, derives his hypostatic identity as the Son from the “generated” relation “before all ages” which he sustains to God the Father, the first Person of the Godhead (what this means beyond “order” I cannot say and will not attempt to say), and that the Father precedes the Son by reason of order. This means that there is no essential subordination of the Son to the Father within the Godhead.​
—Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1998), 335.​

So, he doesn't deny eternal generation. Rather, he argues that its exact referent should be carefully understood. I am still think through this issue myself, honestly.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
To what does "eternal generation" refer? The actual divine essence, or only the hypostatic identity?

You can't split the two. The hypostasis of the Father is a mode of the essence. The original creed said the Son was eternally begotten of the essence of the Father.
If Christ's divine essence is derived (i.e., not original to him)

The danger is that if we take this to the conclusion, you have at least two gods, since there is no connection between the essence of the Father and the essence of the Son. Eternal generation has always been seen precisely as that connection.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
You can't split the two. The hypostasis of the Father is a mode of the essence. The original creed said the Son was eternally begotten of the essence of the Father.


The danger is that if we take this to the conclusion, you have at least two gods, since there is no connection between the essence of the Father and the essence of the Son. Eternal generation has always been seen precisely as that connection.
This is helpful, thank you. Yes, for these reasons I’m still thinking about these things. It’s all such a mind-shattering mystery.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
This is helpful, thank you. Yes, for these reasons I’m still thinking about these things. It’s all such a mind-shattering mystery.

In the ancient world, when a man begets a son, they thought that part of the man's essence was "shaved off" to the son. That was understood to happen in physical generation. But because eternal generation is a spiritual act, there is no passing off of the essence. Divine simplicity and eternal generation go together. They have to. That's why many semi-Arians in the CBMW have rejected both simplicity and eternal generation.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top