[This post is part of How The Trinity Changes Everything series]
The first several posts in this series are from a paper I had to write in seminary. With only one semester under my belt, I was tasked with offering a single page definition of God. I could use end notes to support my formal statement, but I had to compress the statement itself into a single page. Which I did, but then it took 70 end notes to defend, and honestly, that’s not that many. My views in small places have changed since I first wrote this, and I’d like to invite you to push back in places you might disagree since it could sharpen both of our understandings.
In that light then, here is what I had to say about God the Father:
God the Father is neither begotten nor does He proceed from any. He is therefore the Source of all things and the Maker of heaven and earth. He is the Sovereign ruler of all and to Him all things will ultimately return. In the Old Testament, He is named Yahweh and is also encompassed in the plurality of the terms Elohim and Adonai. In both the Old and New Testaments, God the Father is Father in relation to Christ, Israel, angels, and all believers, and finally all the created order. The Father is primary, and constitutes the basis of all divinity.
So you can see my thinking behind this, I’m going to list footnotes as bullet points with the relevant phrase before the explanatory note:
- neither begotten nor does He proceed from any is supported by John 1:14, Galatians 4:6
- the Source of all things comes from the Latin = Fons Divinitatus. God the Father is repeatedly presented as such, and this constitutes Him as the divine source from which all else flows, seen in both the history of the world and it seems the Trinitarian activities as a whole (J. Scott Horrell, “The Eternal Son of God in the Social Trinity,” in Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective, ed. Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2007, 65.) This is especially seen in Johannine language in reference to the Son being sent and the Spirit proceeding (see John 5:23-24, 37-38; 6:38-39; 7:28-33; 8:16-18; 12:44-45; 15:26; 6:7-8,13) According to Eastern thought, being the source of all includes the Son and Spirit, while Western thought would say the Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son (filioque). I personally am partial to the understanding that the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father, or in other words, I would tentatively reject filioque as it seems lacking substantial direct Scriptural support. I am however open to rethinking this in some respect. Scripture explicitly says the Spirit proceeds from the Father (John 15:26), but procession from the Son is only by implication, and shaky it would seem at that. See Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church,Crestwood,NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1976, 75.
- Maker of heaven and earth is of course supported in Genesis 1:1 (and elsewhere)
- Sovereign ruler of all is supported by 1 Timothy 6:15
- to Him all things will ultimately return is supported by 1 Corinthians 15:24-28
- Yahweh is the Hebrew name for God used throughout the Old Testament as the name for God. It was revealed to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14. As a side note, Jehovah is not a real word, nor a name of God, but is rather the result of using the vowels of “Adonai” with the consonants of “Yahweh” (Yahowah, Y = J, W =V)
- encompassed in the plurality is not in any way to say there is a plurality of Gods (a la Mormonism) but there is in a certain sense a plurality yet unity to the Trinity as we will brought out as we go on.
- Elohim in Hebrew is literally “the powerful ones.” The –im suffix denotes plurality much like adding “s” in English.
- Adonai in Hebrew is literally “my Lords.” It is a singular possessive pronoun used with plural noun, yet always has singular verb attached as well. Parallel not found in English, but Spanish equivalent might be mi senores (rather than the grammatically correct “mis senores”)
- In relation to Christ is supported among other places, by Matthew 3:17,11:27
- Israel is supported by Exodus 4:22
- Angels is supported by Job 1:6
- All believers is supported by Romans 8:14-17
- All the created order is supported by Ephesians 4:6
- The Father is primary according to Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 58-59. The Greek Fathers specifically have held that the principle unity of the Trinity is in the person of the Father, and considering Jesus’ language concerning the Father and His own conformity to the Father’s will, and the Spirit’s conformity as well, this seems a rather sound place to build the foundation of the Trinity. Jonathan Edwards starts here as well, as does John Owen, but we’ll get there a little later on.
- basis of all divinity has been somewhat expounded on above (see note 3,5,15) but this is just one more way of asserting the conception that the divine nature is rooted in God the Father who then confers His nature on the Son and Spirit (see Ibid., 59.). Since I wrote this paper, I have been rethinking the concept of the Father conferring his nature onto the Son and Spirit, and might want to nuance this a little differently as we go on in this series.
Next week, I’ll have similar thoughts posted for God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
But as far as this goes, what is something here you’ve never thought of before?
What is something you might wish to disagree with?
Are there other relevant biblical texts we should consider?