Yesterday, I finished reading through Gerald Bray’s The Doctrine of God. I would highly recommend it to you, as well the other volumes in the Contours of Christian Theology series. Bray’s work has aged well, and 20 years after it was written it is still a good introduction to contemporary discussions in the doctrine of God. Particularly interesting to me was the way Bray highlighted the Reformation turn in trinitarian thought. While many paradigms of the Trinity tend to emphasize one of the persons as primary, Bray shows how Calvin avoided this and kept the 3 persons primary. He supports his claim by pointing out that the Reformers (generally speaking) believed:
- The essence of God was of secondary importance in Christian theology (199)
- The persons of the Trinity are equal to one another in every respect (200)
- The knowledge of one person involves knowledge of the other two at the same time (202)
- Human creation in the image and likeness of God cannot be understood as either the image of the Trinity or as the image of Christ (204)
- The persons possess distinctive attributes of personhood which they share with elect human persons (210)
I’m still processing these ideas. One thing I did notice is that there is a latent triperspectivalism in the way Calvin conceives of the knowledge of the persons of the Trinity. The Son reveals himself, but he also reveals the Father and His Spirit. The Spirit reveals himself, but also the Son and ultimately the Father. The Father can be known, but through the Son and by the Spirit.
I’m thinking the last point is a bit controversial and gets into some significant philosophical issues. Are attributes properties of persons or natures? If the latter, then the persons of the Trinity have to have identical attributes. If the former, then there has to be a sense in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all share the same nature and divine attributes, but somehow have different personal attributes. I’m inclined to say this is not the best way to look at things, but I’m going to do some more digging into the subject.