January 1, 2011

Theology Pop Quiz: Trinity & Incarnation

Here's a question I've been thinking on for quite some time that could provoke some interesting discussion: Is Jesus of Nazareth the incarnation of the Triune God or of the Second Person of the Trinity?  I've got my own ideas on this one, but I want to hear from all of you out there in the blogosphere.  So, if you get this through email or a feed reader, click through and weigh in.  What do you think?  

*For the sake of a good Christian blogging ethic, please remember to put your real name on your comments.

5 comments:

beaker1 said...

Christ is the begotten son of GOD, obedient to his father GOD even until death. The trinity is untrue and not preached in the new testament. GOD is the creator of all things. Christ whether the previous spirit of an angelic creature or an inspired man was and is not GOD's equal in my humble opinion, I am searching for truth in this matter.

iambeaker

Luke said...

Seeing Jesus as the incarnation of the entire Godhead runs into problems on several different fronts. Biblically, the narrative of the gospel assumes a personal distinction between Jesus of Nazareth and the Father (as well as the Spirit). Many examples could be given here (the Baptism, Jesus' prayers, etc.). Theologically, the incarnate-Godhead view runs the risk of patripassianism, which the tradition has always wanted to avoid. Additionally, the ecumenical councils seem pretty clear on this question (see Ephesus and Constantinople II especially). In the incarnation, the Second Person of the Trinity, who has always subsisted in the one divine nature along with the Father and the Spirit, took to himself (assumed) a concrete human nature (body and soul).

Matt O'Reilly said...

Hi Luke, I was hoping you'd chime in. Thanks for a theologically and historically informed answer. Matt

Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Jesus is the incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity: God the eternal Son. The Tradition seems pretty clear on this.

But there is a connection between the incarnation and the Trinity: The Son is distinct, but never separated, from the Father and the Spirit. The Son always and eternally shares in the dynamic life (the Love) of the Triune Godhead. So, I would say, to encounter Jesus is to encounter the second person of the Trinity and, in and through him, the whole life of the Triune Godhead as well.
Thus, "whoever has seen me has seen the Father"

Matt O'Reilly said...

Hi Beaker,

Glad to hear that you are searching for truth with regard to the Trinity. Let me encourage you to consider that, while the word 'Trinity' may not appear in the New Testament, the seed of the doctrine certainly does.

For example, in John 1:1 Jesus is said to be "with God" and "God". This unique language suggests that within God there is both personal distinction and essential union. As the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was articulated, passages like this led the Church to refer to the distinction in terms of personhood and the unity in terms of essence or substance. So, there are three distinct persons who share one divine essence.

Further, Paul speaks of God demonstating his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. As its been said, you don't show your love by sending someone else to do your dirty work. There is a unity between God and Christ such that when Christ comes to die for us, it is a personal demonstration of God's love. This passage only really makes sense if there is essential unity between God and Christ.

One more, in Philippians 2:5-11, Christ is said to have the form of God and yet didn't count his equality with God as something to be exploited. Well, you can't exploit something you don't have; can you? Thus, for this passage to be true, for Christ to resist the exploitation of his equality with God, then Christ and God must once again share the same divine essence or essential unity.

So, to point out again, the word Trinity is not in the NT, but there are many passages of which it is difficult or impossible to make sense if the doctrine were not true. We could say that the planks used to build our Trinitarian house are all in the New Testament. Trinitarian language is a way of summarizing the NT affirmation of both unity and distinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Grace,
Matt