The History of the Trinity

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Information about The History of the Trinity

Published on November 29, 2008

Author: andrewneileen


The Trinity : The Trinity Christadelphian Presentation Development of Doctrine : Development of Doctrine 2c. the idea of the pre-existence of Christ as the Word of God is put forward by Apologists 3c. the idea of the pre-existence of Christ develops as a doctrine by Pre-Nicene fathers 4c. the doctrine of the Trinity triumphs over Arianism at the council of Nicea (c. 325) 5c. the two-nature (God-man) doctrine of Christ is elaborated Two Choices : Two Choices Either Christ was on a par with God the Father, in which case a doctrine is required that preserves the unity of God while admitting a plurality in the God­head. Or Christ was secondary and subordinate to the Father, in which case an Arian doctrine is required . Basic Premise : Basic Premise We should not allow the basic premise - that Jesus Christ had some manner of personal existence before his birth of the virgin Mary Developing the “Big Idea” (1) : Developing the “Big Idea” (1) Ignatius (c. 112) in his letter to the Magnesians remarks, 'Jesus Christ who was with the Father before the worlds and appeared at the end of time' (Mag. 6.1). To the Ephesians he comments, 'There is only one physician, of flesh and spirit, generate and ingenerate, God in man, true life in death, Son of Mary and Son of God, first passable and then impassable, Jesus Christ our Lord' and '...when God appeared in the likeness of man' (Eph. 7.2, 19.3). Developing the “Big Idea” (2) : Developing the “Big Idea” (2) Justin Martyr (c. 155) in his Apology and in his Dialogues with Trypho develops a sophisticated pre-existence doctrine. He uses Greek philosophical concepts (logos). The Biblical starting point for him is therefore the Prologue of John. But he develops the idea to assert that the Word was distinct from the Father, and as the first begotten of all creatures, 'he is adorable, he is God' (Apol. 62.4, Dial. 63.5). Developing the “Big Idea” (3) : Developing the “Big Idea” (3) Irenaeus (c. 180), the first of the Pre-Nicene fathers, in his work Against Heresies, III., xviii., comments on the prologue of John, 'Now it has been clearly demonstrated that the Word which exists from the beginning with God, by whom all things were made, who was also present with the race of men at all times, this Word has in these last times according to the time appointed by the Father, been united to his own workmanship and has been made passable man. There­fore we can set aside the objection of them that say, 'If he was born at that time it follows that Christ did not exist before then'. For we have shown that the Son of God did not then begin to exist since he existed with the Father always'. Developing the “Big Idea” (4) : Developing the “Big Idea” (4) Tertullian (c. 200) in his Apology, xxi., says that, 'We also lay it down that the word and reason and virtue, by which we have said that God made all things have spirit as their substance...This Word, we have learnt, was produced from God, and was generated by being produced, and therefore is called the Son of God, and God, from unity of substance with God...This ray of God...glided down into a virgin, in her womb was fashioned as flesh, is born as man mixed with God.' Major Dates in the 4c. : Major Dates in the 4c. Pre- 325 CE Few Councils Council of Nicaea 325 CE Oecumenical 1 (followed by many councils) Council of Constantinople 381 CE Oecumenical 2 Council of Chalcedon 451 CE Oecumenical 3 Major Churches : Major Churches Western Axis Rome – primary See of Empire Egyptian Eastern Axis Alexandria – second See of Empire Syrian Eastern Axis Antioch, Caesarea, Jerusalem Asia Minor Axis Constantinople (Cappadocia) Major Landmarks : Major Landmarks Pre-325 CE (Influential Theologians) Economic Trinity 325 CE (Nicene Creed) Substance Trinity 381 CE (First “proper” trinitarian creed) Holy Spirit Incorporated Fully 451 CE The Son Clarified Nicene Creed : Nicene Creed “We believe in, One God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Only-begotten, that is, from the substance [ousia] of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, Very God from Very God, begotten not made, Consubstantial [‘homoousios’] with the Father, by whom all things were made, both things in heaven and things in earth; who for us men and for our salvation came down and was incarnate, was made man, suffered, and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven, and is coming to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit. And those who say, ‘There was when he was not’, and ‘Before his generation he was not’, and ‘he came to be from nothing’, or those who pretend that the Son of God is ‘of other hypostasis or substance [ousia]’, or ‘created’, or ‘alterable’, or ‘mutable’, these the Catholic and Apostolic church anathematizes.” Amalgam : Amalgam The creed is an amalgam of some pre-existence texts: came down (Jn 3, 6), was made flesh (Jn 1:14), through whom all things were made, things in heaven and things on earth (Col 1:16), only-begotten (Jn 1:18), and became man (Phil 2:6-8). The Basic Idea : The Basic Idea These examples (many other examples could be cited) from the early church fathers are useful to illustrate one point: they invariably use some of the 'pre-existence' texts of the N.T., with John 1 being the most popular. If the exposition of these pre-existence passages is wrong, then the doctrine constructed upon their foundation will be severely undermined. Irony : Irony Indeed, it is not too far-fetched to say that if John 1 had not been penned, then much of the early church's writing (particularly the Apologists) on the nature of Christ would not have been written. Major Emperors : Major Emperors Constantine (305-337) Three way split in Empire Constantius East 337-361 Constantine II / Constans West (to 350) Unified Empire 361 onwards – less impact Goodies and Baddies : Goodies and Baddies Alexander of Alexandria (E) Athanasius (E) Basil of Ancyra (N) Hilary of Poitiers (W) Cappadocian Fathers (N) Arius (E) Eusebius of Nicomedia (E) Eusebius of Caesarea (E) Aetius and Eunomius (E) Valens and Ursacius (W) Political Parties : Political Parties Arians Homoousions Homoiousians Anomoeans Homoeans Creeds : Creeds Nicene Creed 325 Dedication Creed 341 Sirmium Creed 357 (B of S) Constantinople Creed 381 Chalcedonian Definition 451 Constantinople Creed : Constantinople Creed “We believe in, One God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, before all ages, Light from Light, Very God from Very God, begotten not made, Consubstantial [‘homoousios’] with the Father, by whom all things were made, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man, and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried, and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven, and sits in the right hand of the Father, and will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of whose kingdom there will be no end; And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and life-giver, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is together worshipped and together glorified, who spoke through the prophets; in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church. We confess one baptism to the remission of sins; we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. Chalcedonian Definition : Chalcedonian Definition Wherefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one voice confess our Lord Jesus Christ one and the same Son, the same perfect in Godhead, the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same consisting of a reasonable soul and a body, of one substance with the Father as touching the Godhead, the same of one substance with us as touching the manhood, like us in all things apart from sin; begotten of the Father before the ages as touching the Godhead, the same in the last days, for us and for our salvation, born from the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, as touching the manhood, one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way abolished because of the union, but rather the characteristic property of each nature being preserved, and concurring into one Person and one subsistence, not as if Christ were parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son and only begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from the beginning spoke concerning him, and our Lord Jesus Christ instructed us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us. Who made the decisions? : Who made the decisions? The early church fathers were men. They were generally the “university graduates” of their day, no different from the graduates of this day. They were theologians and church leaders, again, no different from such leaders today. They might have made a mistake in their approach to the subject of the pre-existence of Christ. Could they all be wrong? : Could they all be wrong? This may have happened because of the power of tradition. If the very first church fathers made mistakes at the expositional level on the subject of Christ, and if these mistakes were embroidered as they developed their doctrine of Christ, then these mistakes could be perpetuated as the tradition of the church. Such mistakes would influence later thinkers to model their doctrine about Christ along the same lines, simply because they wanted to build on a tradition that they could trace back to the apostles. This, I suggest, is what hap­pened.

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