This is long. I could have extended this as part of a series but the thought flow necessitated one long post, so I apologize. Three thousand, eight hundred words longer than any other post I write but I figured that since no one is reading, I figure I could just put this all out there with my thought flow in place. Those who do actually read this are to be commended.
Every Christian knows about the Holy Spirit. He’s the guy who helps you preach, right? Or maybe, he’s the guy that wakes you up at night so you can feel lousy about the Cheesecake you had during your promised fasting period? Or is he the guy who teaches you how to pray? Every Christian really knows who the Holy Spirit is, right?
I know it’s dangerous to try to describe the Trinity; I’ve said as much in the past. Even when I resorted to describing one aspect of the triune God’s work (his imputed righteousness with the illustration of a pizza) I still knew I was making a mistake. Even when having a conversation with friends about one of their illustrations, I had an inkling that there was something wrong so I asked for help (and people answered). The problem is that all illustrations fall into the error of some heresy (comment thread) or another—a point that Michael Patton reinforces in his posts regarding the stupidity of using these illustrations to teach the trinity. He states that teaching the trinity “is more about giving basic principles of what it is and then shooting down illustrations about what it is not. Proper Trinitarianism is about a delicate balance between the unity and diversity in the Godhead. Christians believe in one God, i.e., one essence, who eternally exists in three separate persons, all of whom are equal.”
But I have a few problems with this no-illustration bit in that it ignores that language is essentially illustration. Let me explain.
How would you deal with the question: “When did the Son of God exist?” Notice that it’s not asking “when was the Word created” or “Is Jesus eternal?” The question is specifically asking about the Son of God and doing that assuming a whole bunch of things about what it means to be the Son of God.
In a recent discussion about the validity of Trinitarian theology there was some questions about the use of the term “Son of God” as applied to Jesus. Some have argued that (1) the Son of God can’t technically be part of the Godhead since the Son is the physical manifestation of the Word. The basic argument is that “Son of God” is temporal language (like Jesus) which can only come into proper usage when the Son is born (Luke 1:35-this one will be called the Son of God). Others argued that (2) “Son of God” is an ambiguous term completely interchangeable with “Jesus Christ” and “The Word of God”. Yet others argue that (3) the term “Son of God” has been imbued with new (and exegetically unsound) theological meaning by the New Testament writers.
Starting with their own presuppositions they each make some solid points but I would argue that contra (1) the term refers to something with intent that can only be realized with a preexistent Sonship; contra (2) the term has specific meaning; and contra (3) the terminology’s usage has been properly realized by the New Testament authors.