The Trinity

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”

Matt 28:19

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me…”

Isa. 61:1

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo…  He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove…  And lo a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son…'”

Mt. 3:16-17

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Order of Contents

Articles
Books
Early & Medieval Church
French
Historical Theology
In Jewish Writings

On the Definition of ‘Person’
On the Numeric Order of the Persons & the Essence
On the Divine Nature being Communicated
Eternal Generation of the Son
Christ & Autotheos
.      Autotheos & the Nicene Creed: ‘God of God’
.      What does ‘Light of Light’ Mean?
God Only has One Will (not Three)
In Relation to the Covenant of Redemption

On the Less Certain Aspects of the Trinity
That the Trinity is a Fundamental of the Faith
The Trinity in Practical Godliness
Heresies
.       The Eternal Subordination of the Son
.       Tri-Theism
.       Unitarianism

Bibliographies


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Articles

1500’s

Beza, Theodore – ‘Beza on the Trinity, 21 Theses’  also entitled:  ‘Theses or Axioms on the Trinity of Persons and their Unity of Essence as Derived from Theodore Beza’s Lectures’, from Tractationes Theologicae Bezae, Volumen I  (Geneva: Jean Crespin, 1570), p. 651.  In Ordained Servant Online, OPC

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1600’s

**  Leiden Professors – Disputation 7, ‘On the Holy Trinity’  in Synopsis of a Purer Theology…  ed. Dolf te Velde  tr. Riemer A. Faber  (1625; Brill, 2015), vol. 1, pp. 184-201

Concise and breathtaking.

Ruiz de Montoya, Diego – ‘Preface to Disputations on the Trinity’  in Commentaria ac Disputationes in Primam Partem Sancti Thomae, De Trinitate  (Lyon, 1625) p. 1

Ruiz de Montoya (1562-1632) was a Spanish Jesuit theologian.

Cotton, John – ‘A Letter on the Late-Disputes About the Ever-Blessed Trinity, to Thomas Bradbury’  5 pp.  prefixed to Thomas Bradbury, The Necessity of Contending for Revealed Religion…  (London, 1720), pp. xix-xxiv

Cotton (1585–1652) was a New England puritan.  Cotton expresses his concern for the rising popularity in England of Tritheism and Arianism, which were being allowed under the Anglican 39 Articles under latitudinarianism. 

Bradbury was was an English, reformed, congregationalist minister.

Goodman, Godfrey – ‘The Ineffable Trinity’  in The Two Great Mysteries of Christian Religion, the Ineffable Trinity, [the] Wonderful Incarnation, Explicated to the Satisfaction of Man’s own Natural Reason, and according to the Grounds of Philosophy  (London, 1653), pp. 11-72.

Godfrey (1582 or 1583–1656) was an Anglican bishop who converted to Romanism.  Nonetheless, from a quick skim, this work appears orthodox and helpful.

Durham, James – Lecture 1, ch. 1, ‘Concerning the Holy Trinity & Object of Worship’  in A Commentary upon the Book of the Revelation…  (Edinburgh, 1658)

Vincent, Thomas – The Foundation of God Standeth Sure, or, A Defence of Those Fundamental and so Generally Believed Doctrines of the Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the Divine Essence, of the Satisfaction of Christ, the Second Person of the Real and Glorious Trinity, of the Justification of the Ungodly by the Imputed Righteousness of Christ, against the cavils of W.P.J., a Quaker, in his pamphlet entitled, The Sandy Foundation Shaken etc.: wherein his and the Quakers’ hideous blasphemies, Socinian and damnably-heretical opinions are discovered and refuted...  (London, 1668)

ch. 5, ‘The Doctrine of the Trinity of Distinct Persons in the Unity of the Divine Essence, Asserted & Proved’

ch. 6, ‘An Answer to Part of the 10th, the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th Pages of W. P.’s Pamphlet, which He Entitles, ‘The Trinity of Distinct Separate Persons in the Unity of Essence, Refuted from Scripture, Right Reason, with Information and Caution in the Close”

Sterry, Peter – The Appearance of God to Man in the Gospel, and the Gospel Change, together with Several Other Discourses...  (d. 1672; London, 1710), 1st Part

ch. 11, ‘An Explication of the Trinity in Three Sections’, pp. 422-451

ch. 13, ‘Five Letters’, Letter 1, ‘Of the Trinity’, pp. 467-9

Sterry was a Westminster divine.

Barrow, Isaac – A Brief State of the Socinian Controversy Concerning a Trinity in Unity  (London, 1698)  23 pp.

Barrow (1630–1677) was an Anglican theologian and mathematician who is generally given credit for his early role in the development of infinitesimal calculus; in particular, for the discovery of the fundamental theorem of calculus.  He was a teacher of Isaac Newton.

This piece is one of the most beautiful and profound, orthodox statements and guardings of the Trinity, and the mystery of the depths of it, beyond our knowledge, in English, though outside of the title, it does not mention Socinians or the history or state of the controversy.

Barrow also wrote ‘A Defence of the Blessed Trinity’ (before 1698).

van Mastricht, Peter – Theoretical Practical Theology  (2nd ed. 1698; RHB), vol. 2, bk. 2, pp. 497-592

ch. 24, ‘The Most Holy Trinity’
ch. 25, ‘God the Father’
ch. 26, ‘God the Son’
ch. 27, ‘God the Holy Spirit’

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1700’s

Tennent, Gilbert – Twenty-Three Sermons upon the Chief End of man…  and the Doctrine of the Trinity...  (Philadelphia, 1744)

Sermon 20, ‘The Oneness of God’, p. 385 ff.  on Dt. 6:4

Sermon 21, ‘The Life of God Explained’, p. 403 ff.  on Jer. 10:10

Sermon 22, ‘A Trinity of Persons Proved’, p. 420 ff.  on 1 Jn. 5:7

Sermon 23, ‘The Holy Spirit Proved to be God’, p. 449  on 1 Jn. 5:7

De Moore, Bernardinus – On the Trinity  This is a collection of De Moore’s series of short articles on the Trinity.  The series starts at the bottom of the page.

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1800’s

Bavinck, Herman – ‘The Divine Trinity’  no date or source info, 56 paragraphs

Buchanan, James – ‘Father, Son & Holy Spirit: Each Have a Part in Saving Sinners’  HTML  (1867)  from his Doctrine of Justification  (Baker), pp. 388-92

Cunningham, William

‘Distinction of Persons in the Godhead’  (1863), p. 192 ff., 10 pp.  from his Historical Theology, vol. 2

‘Trinity & Unity’  (1863), p. 203 ff., 9 pp.  from his Historical Theology, vol. 2

Vos, Geerhardus – ch. 3, ‘The Trinity’  in Reformed Dogmatics  1 vol. ed.  (1896; 1910; Lexham Press, 2020), pp. 48-86

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1900’s

Warfield, B.B. – ‘The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity’  (1915) annotated Fred Sanders.  Originally in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Barr

Sanders is a conservative evangelical writer on the Trinity.  See his necessary introduction to this piece.

Sanders:  “The substantive entry (about 15,000 words, running for 20 columns in the ISBE) has been very influential, partly because it was incorporated into a well-regarded reference work, but mainly because of the high quality of Warfield’s writing.

…in my judgement, the early parts of the essay are magnificently helpful, while the conclusion swerves off course in a few ways.  When I think of this essay, my immediate response is gratitude: the way Warfield describes the revelation of the Trinity in the economy of salvation and its canonical witness in Scripture is revolutionary.  My first reading of it was an intellectual and spiritual event for me…

But if I reflect further on the entire essay as it stands –that is, not just on what it did for me, but more objectively on what it contains and on what others might therefore take from it– I wince to recall that Warfield bends his powers to keep the exegetical case from supporting the traditional Nicene doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son and procession of the Spirit.  He pulls his punches on the meaning of the terms Son and Spirit; he cordons off the economy of salvation as the only place where we can be certain that the second and third persons come from the first; he gets stingy with how much is revealed in the order of operations among the three; he overloads covenantal categories in order to bypass ontic categories; he comes within a hairs-breadth of affirming a merely messianic sonship; and for the life of him he can’t imagine how anybody could reconcile eternal relations of origin with absolute equality of persons.  Never mind that the Nicene Creed and the Westminster Confession of Faith both instruct him otherwise; here he forges his own way ahead, and his overall trinitarianism fares the worse for it, more anemic than it needed to be after the vigor of his biblical proof.”

Berkhof, Louis – ‘The Holy Trinity’  (1949)  35 paragraphs from his Systematic Theology


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Books

1500’s

Zanchi, Jerome – On the Triune Elohim, Eternal Father, Son & Holy Spirit, One & the Same Jehova, pt. 1, bks. 1-3  ed. Ben Merkle, tr. Wenden House Scholars: Michelle Bollen, Angela Filliceti, Rachel Jo, Sam Taylor  (1572)  170 pp.

For background on this work, see the dissertation by Merkle, Benjamin – Triune Elohim: the Heidelberg Antitrinitarians and Reformed Readings of Hebrew in the Confessional Age  (Univ. of Oxford, 2012)

Abstract: “In 1563, the publication of the Heidelberg Catechism marked the conversion of the Rhineland Palatinate to a stronghold for Reformed religion. Immediately thereafter, however, the Palatinate church experienced a deeply unsettling surge in the popularity of antitrinitarianism…  later, the displaced Italian theologian and Heidelberg professor, Girolamo Zanchi…  [wrote] his De Tribus Elohim (1572)…  [the] variety of responses to Zanchi’s argument demonstrates the diversity of assumptions about the nature of the biblical text within the Reformed church, contradicting the notion that the Reformed world in the age of “confessionalization” was becoming increasingly homogenous or that the works of John Calvin had become the authoritative touchstone of Reformed orthodoxy in this period.”

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1600’s

Cheynell, Francis – The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit  GB  (1650)  480 pp.

Cheynell was a presbyterian, Westminster divine.

Owen, John – Works  ed. Goold  (NY: Robert Carter, 1851; rep. Banner), vol. 2

Of Communion with God the Father, Son & Holy Ghost  (1657), pp. 2-274  ToC

A Vindication of Some Passages in a Discourse Concerning Communion with God from the Exceptions of William Sherlock… pp. 276-364

“The best puritan works on the Trinity are Volume 2 of John Owen’s Works…  and the last one hundred pages of Volume 2 of John Howe’s Works…  Owen’s major work in Volume 2, Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost  (365 pages) is unsurpassed in Christian literature in detailing how the believer experimentally communes with each person in the Trinity.” – Joel Beeke, Reader’s Guide, p. 17

’The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity Explained & Vindicated’  in A Brief Declaration & Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity: as Also of the Person & Satisfaction of Christ…  pp. 365-413

Stillingfleet, Edward

The Doctrine of the Trinity and Transubstantiation Compared as to Scripture, Reason & Tradition.  The First Part in a New Dialogue Between a Protestant & a Papist: wherein an Answer is Given to the Late Proofs of the Antiquity of Transubstantiation in the Books Called Consensus Veterum [Consensus of the Ancients] & Nubes Testium [Clouds of Witnesses], etc.  (London, 1688)

Stillingfleet (1635–1699) was a latitudinarian Anglican theologian and scholar.  

“…against [Roman] Catholic views of the rule of faith…  Stillingfleet…  reiterate[d] his conviction that the doctrine of the trinity, being derived from a historically sound scripture, albeit above reason, was an assured certainty of faith; whereas that of transubstantiation, being contrary to reason and sense, was not.  The Catholics argued for an exact parallelism and believed that the Protestants had no reliable arbiter in their disagreements about biblical interpretation.

By 1687 Stillingfleet had opened up the debate over the identification of substance and the distinction of persons. This was an opportunity for a growing Unitarian movement on the edge of Anglicanism to weigh in, seeking to demonstrate on clear and distinct principles that both the trinity and transubstantiation were equally indefensible and to promote a revisionist account of the atonement.  Simultaneously with this, a rising tide of deism—religious belief based on natural reason alone without revelation—was beginning to pose awkward questions about the credibility of revelation.” – Encyclopedia.com

A Discourse in Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, with an Answer to the Late Socinian Objections Against it from Scripture, Antiquity & Reason, & a Preface Concerning the Different Explications of the Trinity, & the Tendency of the Present Socinian Controversy  (London, 1697)

“Stillingfleet had already attacked Socinianism, a continental form of Unitarianism, in 1669 and Deism in 1677, without obvious effect.  Beset with opposition on so many fronts, he published A Discourse in Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity (1696).” – Encyclopedia.com

“‘Stillingfleet’s Vindication stands out among the many polemical works of the 1690’s by virtue of its eirenical tone, and the breadth of learning displayed marks it off as a minor classic of seventeenth-century theology.’ (Dixon, Nice & Hot Disputes: The Doctrine of the Trinity in the 17th Century (2005), pp. 143–4)

It had three intentions: repelling the Unitarians, shoring up the unity of the orthodox Trinitarians, and doctrinal defence of the Trinity.  Under the third heading, Stillingfleet took on John Locke, and his Essay on Human Understanding.  He wrote Three Criticisms of Locke (1697).” – Wikipedia

Wallis, John

Eight Letters Concerning the Blessed Trinity  ed. Flintoff  (1690; London, 1840)  260 pp.

Wallis (1616–1703) was a non-voting scribe at the Westminster Assembly.

Three Sermons Concerning the Sacred Trinity  (London, 1691)  100 pp.

Howe, John

A Calm & Sober Inquiry Concerning the Possibility of a Trinity in the Godhead, in a Letter to a Person of Worth: Occasioned by the Lately Published Considerations on the Explications of the Doctrine of the Trinity by Dr. [John] Wallis, Dr. [William] Sherlock, Dr. S–th, Dr. [Ralph] Cudworth, etc….  (London, 1694)  141 pp.

Wallis was a reformed, Westminster divine.

Sherlock (c. 1641–1707) was a leading Anglican minister.  “In 1690 and 1693, he [Sherlock] published works on the doctrine of the Trinity, which helped rather than injured the Socinian cause and involved him in a controversy with Robert South and others.” – Wikipedia

Dr. S–th (this is how the name seems to always appear) appears to have been a Socinian opponent of Sherlock.

Cudworth (1617–1688) was an English Anglican clergyman, Christian Hebraist, classicist, theologian and philosopher, and a leading figure among the Cambridge Platonists.

A Letter to a Friend Concerning a Postscript to the Defense of Dr. Sherlock’s Notion of the Trinity in Unity, Relating to the Calm & Sober Enquiry upon the Same Subject  (London, 1694)

A View of that Part of the Late Considerations addressed to H.H. about the Trinity, which concerns the Sober Enquiry on that Subject: in a Letter to the Former Friend  (London, 1695)

Howe (1630-1705) was an English Puritan and presbyterian theologian.  He served briefly as chaplain to Oliver Cromwell.  These works are at the end of the 2nd volume of the three volume reprint of his works.

“The best puritan works on the Trinity are Volume 2 of John Owen’s Works…  and the last one hundred pages of Volume 2 of John Howe’s Works…” – Joel Beeke, Reader’s Guide, p. 17

Gastrell, Francis – Some Considerations Concerning the Trinity: & the Ways of Managing that Controversy  OTA  (London: 1696)

Gastrell (1662-1725) was a reformed Anglican divine.

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1700’s

Edwards, John – Some Animadversions on Dr. [Samuel] Clark’s Scripture-Doctrine (as he Styles it) of the Trinity [1712]: Briefly Showing that his Quotations out of the Fathers are Forced: his texts produced from scripture are wrested: his arguments and inferences are weak & illogical: his whole performance falls short of his design  (London, 1712)

Edwards (1637-1716) was a leading reformed, Anglican divine.

Clarke (1675–1729) was an English philosopher and Anglican clergyman.  He is considered the major British figure in philosophy between John Locke and George Berkeley.  Clarke was an Arian who wrote at length on and debated the Trinity, especially with Daniel Waterland, who defended orthodoxy.

Bradbury, Thomas – An Answer to the Reproaches Cast on Those Dissenting Ministers who Subscribed their Belief of the Eternal Trinity: In a Letter to John Barrington-Shute, Esq.  (London, 1719)  40 pp.

Bradbury was was an English, reformed, congregationalist minister.

4 London Ministers – The Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity Stated & Defended  (1719)  ToC

The four sections of this work were written by four Calvinistic ministers in the context of the Salters’ Hall controversy (see below).  The second chapter is entitled, ‘Of the Harmony of the Reformed Churches…’.

In the Introduction, William Tong (see below) makes his case for subscription to the Trinity amongst the English dissenting ministers, which action he was a leader in implementing.

Tong, William – A Plain & Faithful Narrative of the Differences Among the Dissenters at Exeter Relating to the Doctrine of the Ever Blessed Trinity, so far as gave Concern to Some London Ministers  (1719)  32 pp.

Tong (1662-1727) was an English, presbyterian minister and the biographer of Mathew Henry.

Tong was at the center of the complex, Salters’ Hall controversy (amongst English dissenters, presbyterian and congregationalist) regarding the doctrine of the Trinity, which was initially prompted by James Peirce‘s (1674?–1726) inclining towards a non-Arian, eternal subordination of the Son.

Tong was a leader amongst the majority of the group which ‘imposed’ amongst the ministers subscription to the Trinity.

Taylor, Abraham – The True Scripture Doctrine of the Holy & Ever-Blessed Trinity, Stated & Defended, in Opposition to the Arian Scheme  (London, 1727)  560 pp.  ToC  The work is dedicated to Daniel Waterland.

Taylor (fl.1726-1740) was an English, Calvinistic, Independent minister and dissenting academy tutor, known as a controversialist.

Calamy, Edmund – Thirteen Sermons Concerning the Doctrine of the Trinity…  together with a Vindication of that Celebrated Text, 1 John 5:7 from being Spurious…  (1732; London, 1772)

This Calamy (1671-1732) was a moderate, English, Baxterian, presbyterian minister and historian, known for his ecclesiastical biographies.

Mastertown, Charles – The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, Asserted from the Sacred Scriptures  (1734)  96 pp.

Mastertown (1679–1750) was born in Scotland but served in the Irish Presbyterian Church.  He uses the Westminster Confession of Faith through his short book.

Edwards, Jonathan – An Unpublished Essay of Edwards on the Trinity, with Remarks on Edwards and his Theology  (d. 1758; New York: C. Scribner’s sons, 1903)

Edwards (1703-1758) is the famous, American, reformed, congregationalist divine.  This work is here for reference and is not particularly recommended.

Edwards was very influenced by empiricism and uses hetero-orthodox categories in his investigation into the Trinity, which leads him to a paradigm of the Trinity which is less than orthodox.  Specifically, he makes great use of the analogy of mind, will and love in human psychology with respect to the Persons of the Trinity, something the reformed orthodox before him thought it best to stay away from (though such was precedented in the early and medieval Church).

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1800’s

Bickersteth, Edward – The Trinity  (1859; 1892)  87 pp.

Bickersteth was an Anglican bishop.

Joel Beeke:  “A nineteenth-century classic, Edward H. Bickersteth, The Trinity…  is the best older work.  First published in 1859 under the title, The Rock of Ages, this little work promotes a worshipful tone in approaching the doctrine of the Trinity and provides considerable biblical evidence for belief in the eternal Godhead of the Father, Son and Spirit.  The concluding chapter, ‘Faith, the Scriptures, and the Trinity,’ is particularly helpful.” – Reader’s Guide, p. 17

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1900’s

Preuss, Arthur – The Divine Trinity, a Dogmatic Treatise  2nd ed.  trans.  (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1912)  305 pp.  ToC  Advanced

Toon, Peter – Our Triune God: a Biblical Portrayal of the Trinity  (Wheaton, ILL: Victor Books, 1996)  265 pp.  ToC  Intermediate

Fowl, Stephen – ch. 6,‘The New Testament & the Nicene Dogma: a Contribution to the Recovery of Theological Exegesis’ in The Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Classic & Contemporary Readings  in Blackwell Readings in Modern Theology  (Blackwell, 1997), pp. 87-102  Intermediate

“This chapter shows how Phil. 2 leads to Nicene terms by talking about the distinction between judgments and concepts.” – Mark Jones

White, James – The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief  (Bethany House, 1998)  225 pp.  ToC  Introductory

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2000’s

Swain, Scott & Andreas J. Kostenberger – Father, Son & Spirit: the Trinity & John’s Gospel  Pre  (IVP Academic, 2008)  ToC

Sanders, Fred

The Triune God  in New Studies in Dogmatics  Pre  (Zondervan, 2016)  ToC

“Offers an account of Trinitarian exegesis, especially of OT texts.” – Mark Jones

The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything  2nd ed.  Pre  (Crossway, 2017)  ToC

Swain, Scott

Trinity, Revelation & Reading: a Theological Introduction to the Bible & its Interpretation  in T&T Clark Theology  Pre  (Bloomsbury, 2011)  150 pp.  ToC

The Trinity: an Introduction  Ref  (Crossway, 2020)  160 pp.

The Trinity & the Bible: on Theological Interpretation  Ref  (Lexham Press, 2021)  144 pp.

Webster, John – God Without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology, vol. 1: God & the Works of God  Pre  (T&T Clark, 2015)  ToC

Mark Jones: ”Puts Trinitarian thinking to use in both talking of God in Himself and God in his works.  Essays on ‘eternal generation,’ ‘it was the will of the Lord to bruise Him,’ and ‘place of Christology in ST’ are especially significant.”

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Early Church

Irenaeus of Lyons.

Against Heresies  in ANF, 1:309-567  Need to get specific sections.

Irenaeus (c. 130 – c. 202)

Proof of the Apostolic Preaching  trans. Joseph P. Smith  in Ancient Christian Writers: the Works of the Fathers in Translation  (Newman Press, 1952)

Tertullian – Against Praxeas, in which He Defends, in all Essential Points, the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity  in ANF, 3:597-632

Tertullian (c. 155 AD – c. 220)

Origen

Origen: Commentary on John, bks. 1-10  in Fathers of the Church, vol. 80  Ref  (Catholic Univ. of American Press, 1948)  This work is partially in ANF, vol. 9.

Origen of Alexandria (c. 184 – c. 253)

Origen: Commentary on John, bks. 13-32  trans. Ronald Heine  in Fathers of the Church, vol. 89  Pre  (Catholic Univ. of American Press, 1993)

On First Principles  in ANF 4.239-385  Need to get specific sections.

Hilary of Poitiers – On the Trinity  in NPNF2, 9:40-234

Hilary of Poitiers (c. 310 – c. 367)

Basil – Against Eunomius  tr. Cogliano & Gallwitz  in The Fathers of the Church, vol. 122  Pre  (Catholic Univ. of American Press, 2011)

Basil of Caesarea (330–379)

“Key texts from later fourth century father.” – Mark Jones

Gregory Nazianzus

On God & Christ: The Five Theological Orations & Two Letters to Cledonius  in Popular Patristics Series 23  (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002)

Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329–390)

“Includes his five theological orations and a couple key letters.  Single most significant patristic starting point.” – Mark Jones

Select Orations  in NPNF2, 7:203-436  Need specific sections.

Gregory of Nyssa

Against Eunomius  in NPNF2, 5:33-314

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395)

On the Holy Spirit against the Followers of Macedonius  in NPNF2, 5:315-25

On the Holy Trinity, & of the Godhead of the Holy Spirit, to Eustathius  in NPNF2, 5:326-330

On ‘Not Three Gods.’ to Ablabius  in NPNF2, 5:331-336

Augustine – On the Trinity  in NPNF1 3.1-228

Augustine (354-430)

Cyril of Alexandria – That Christ is One, by Way of Dispute with Hermias  in A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church…  (Oxford: James Parker, 1881), pp. 237-328

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376–444)

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Medival Church

Maximus the Confessor – On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ  in Popular Patristics Series 25  (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1993)

Maximus the Confessor (c. 580–662)

John of Damascus – An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, book 1  in NPNF2 9.1-17

John the Damascene (b. c. 675)

Richard of St. Victor – On the Trinity  ed. & tr. Ruben Angelici  (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2011)

Richard of Saint Victor (d. 1173)

Aquinas, Thomas – pt. 1, chs. 1-15 & pt. 2, chs. 1-31  of Contra the Errors of the Greeks


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French

Jurieu, Pierre – The Religion of Latitudinarianism, with a Defense for the Holy Trinity, Called the Heresy of Three Gods…  (Rotterdam, 1696)  ToC  455 pp.

Jurieu (1637–1713)


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The History of the Trinity

On the Whole of Church History

Fortman, Edmund J. – The Triune God: A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity  Pre  (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972)  410 pp.  ToC  Liberal publisher

eds. Emery, Gilles & Matthew Levering, The Oxford Handbook of the Trinity  Pre  (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011)  606 pp.  ToC

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On the Early Church

Articles

Cunningham, William – The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Early Church  1863, p. 267 ff., 38 pp.  from his Historical Theology, vol. 1

Kelly, J.N.D. – Chs. 4-5 & 9-10  of Early Christian Doctrines  (1958)

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Books

1900’s

Bishop, W.S. – The Development of Trinitarian Doctrine in the Nicene & Athanasian Creeds: a Study in Theological Definition  (New York, 1910)  95 pp.

Prestige, G.L. – God in Patristic Thought  Buy  (1936)  301 pp.

“The appearance of G. L. Prestige’s God in Patristic Thought initiated a sort of polarization between Eastern and Western Trinitarian theologies.  What seemed to be at stake to many was a conflict between the personalistic or the essentialistic character(s) of Trinitarian ontology, inasmuch as the supposedly personalist East contradicted the supposedly essentialist West and vice versaand without any real possibility of synthesizing the two.  Today we know that this was a rather schematic way of understanding the difference, resulting in an unfair opposition between East and West.” – Nikolaos Loudovikos, ‘Consubstantiality Beyond Perichoresis’

Torrance, Thomas F. – The Trinitarian Faith:  The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church  (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988)  360 pp.  ToC

Torrance was Neo-Orthodox.

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2000’s

Douglass, Scot – Theology of the Gap: Cappadocian Language Theory & the Trinitarian Controversy  (NY: Peter Lang, 2005)  310 pp.  ToC

**  Ayres, Lewis – Nicaea & its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth Century Trinitarian Theology  Buy  (Oxford Univ. Press, 2006)  490 pp.

Anatolios, Khaled – Retrieving Nicaea: the Development & Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine  Buy  Pre  (Baker Academic, 2011)  352 pp.  ToC

“Helpful history of key figures and moves.” – Mark Jones

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On the Medieval Church

Muller, Richard – pt. 1, ch. 1, ‘The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Christian Tradition: the Medieval Backgroun’  ToC  in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: the Rise & Development of Reformed Theology, ca. 1520 – ca. 1725, vol. 4, The Triunity of God  2nd ed.  (Baker Books, 2003), pp. 17-59

Butner, D. Glenn – ‘For & Against [Theodore] de Regnon: Trinitarianism East & West’  (2015)  13 pp.

Abstract:

“Modern systematic theologians frequently claim that Eastern trinitarianism begins with the persons while Western trinitarianism begins with the divine essence, and fails to truly differentiate the persons. This article explores the origins of this claim in the writing of Theodore de Régnon [1831-1893], noting recent criticism of his paradigm’s applicability to the patristic era. In response to these criticisms, I argue first for the limited validity of the de Régnon paradigm by demonstrating its applicability in the Carolingian–Photian dispute surrounding the filioque.  I then argue against the deployment of the paradigm as a controlling schema in systematic theology by pointing to problems this narrative has created in the theology of Robert Jenson and John Zizioulas.”

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On Aquinas

Emery, Gilles – The Trinitarian Theology Of St Thomas Aquinas  (Oxford Univ. Press, 1990)  445 pp.  ToC

“Best introduction to medieval and patristic terminology and distinctions.” – Mark Jones

Levering, Matthew – Scripture & Metaphysics: Aquinas & the Renewal Of Trinitarian Theology  (Blackwell, 2004)  266 pp.  ToC

“Engages narrative theology and post-metaphysical thought of the last 75 years by retrieving the exegetical and metaphysical account of Aquinas.” – Mark Jones

Wanless, Brandon L. – Universality & the Divine Essence: St. Thomas
Aquinas on the Unity Characteristic of the Trinitarian Persons  a Masters thesis  (University of St. Thomas, 2015)  92 pp.

Introduction:  “The greatest of the Scholastic doctors understood himself as a conduit of the wisdom he himself received from earlier doctors of the Church. This medieval method of theology—originating in part with such persons as St. John of Damascus in the East and Peter Lombard in the West—amounted to a synthetic engagement of the patristic theologians with the goal of producing a unified and holistic theological account of the faith…

…The disagreement itself regards the proper predication of the relation of the three persons of the Trinity to the divine nature, and whether we can speak of the divine essence as a universal, that is, as a relation of three individuals to a species.  In other words, are the trinitarian persons three individuals of the one divine species of divinity?  Augustine argues in the negative, whereas [John the] Damascene speaks affirmatively….

After addressing the specifics of the relative positions of Augustine and Damascene, and their treatment by Peter Lombard in his Sentences in the following chapter, I will spend the bulk of this paper examining Aquinas’s theology of the Trinity…  he uniquely provides a definitive account of the various concepts needed to thoroughly understand the relation of individuals to a species and its applicability to the Godhead…  Aquinas proves on multiple levels that, properly
speaking, God cannot be said to be a divine species with three subordinate individuals…  I will also show how it is that Aquinas recognizes some similarities (and thus allows for Damascene’s
position) between the species/individual relationship and that of the divine essence and persons…

What follows in this paper is a relatively unique Thomistic analysis of this question, putting to use his trinitarian and metaphysical principles as a way to understand all the critical implications of a relationship of universality between essence and persons in the Godhead.”

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On Late Medievalism

Friedman, Russell L. – Medieval Trinitarian Thought from Aquinas to Ockham  (Cambridge University Press, 2010)  205 pp.  ToC

Paasch, JT – Divine Production in Late Medieval Trinitarian Theology: Henry of Ghent, Duns Scotus & William Ockham  (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012)  220 pp.  ToC

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On the Post-Reformation

Books

Muller, Richard – Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: the Rise & Development of Reformed Theology, ca. 1520 – ca. 1725, vol. 4, The Triunity of God  2nd ed.  (Baker Books, 2003)  ToC

For an overview of the era on the topic, see pt. 1, ch. 2, pp. 59-143  ToC.

Dixon, Philip – Nice & Hot Disputes: The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Seventeenth Century  (2005)

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On Calvin

Ellis, Brannon – Calvin, Classical Trinitarianism, & the Aseity of the Son  Buy  (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012)  260 pp.  ToC

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On the Puritans

McGraw, Ryan – A Heavenly Directory: Trinitarian Piety, Public Worship & a Reassessment of John Owen’s Theology  Pre  (V&R, 2014)  250 pp.  ToC

Truman, Carl R. – The Claims of Truth: John Owen’s Trinitarian Theology  (Paternoster, 1998)  280 pp.  ToC

Metaphysics:  and ch. 2   Truman, Carl – Appendix 1, ‘The Role of Aristotelian Teleology in Owen’s Doctrine of Atonement’  in The Claims of Truth: John Owen’s Trinitarian Theology  (Paternoster, 1998), pp. 233-40

On Common benefits purchased by Christ in the atonement for unbelievers, p. 237

Carl Truman on Baxter and Catholic Theology

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On the Modern Era

Swain, Scott – The God of the Gospel: Robert Jenson’s Trinitarian Theology  Pre  (IVP Academic, 2013)  250 pp.  ToC

”Interacts with evangelical historicist approaches to theology and economy in Jenson and McCormack (pt 1) and then offers a catholic and Reformed alternative (pt 2).” – Mark Jones

Butner, D. Glenn – ‘For & Against [Theodore] de Regnon [d. 1893]: Trinitarianism East & West’  (2015)  13 pp.

Abstract:

“Modern systematic theologians frequently claim that Eastern trinitarianism begins with the persons while Western trinitarianism begins with the divine essence, and fails to truly differentiate the persons. This article explores the origins of this claim in the writing of Theodore de Régnon [1831-1893], noting recent criticism of his paradigm’s applicability to the patristic era. In response to these criticisms, I argue first for the limited validity of the de Régnon paradigm by demonstrating its applicability in the Carolingian–Photian dispute surrounding the filioque.  I then argue against the deployment of the paradigm as a controlling schema in systematic theology by pointing to problems this narrative has created in the theology of Robert Jenson and John Zizioulas.”


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In the Jewish Writings

Allix, Peter – The Judgment of the Ancient Jewish Church Against the Unitarians in the Controversy Upon the Holy Trinity and the Divinity of Our Blessed Savior  ToC  (1821)  405 pp.

Allix (1641-1717) was a reformed Huguenot minister.


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On the Definition of ‘Person’

See also the important remarks under Robert South’s work on Tritheism below.

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Article

Cheynell, Francis – ch. 6, ‘The Divine Subsistence being the Most Excellent Subsistence that is or can be, the Word ‘Subsistence’ or ‘Person’ Cannot be Attributed After the Same Manner to God, Angels & Men’  in The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit…  (London, 1650), pp. 61-180

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On the Numeric Order of the Persons & the Essence

Cheynell, Francis – The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit…  (London, 1650)

p. 234 (#6)  in ch. 6
pp. 184 (#3), 227 (#5) & 235-7 in ch. 7

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On the Divine Nature being Communicated Amongst the Persons of the Trinity

Article

Wanless, Brandon L. – ‘The Incommunicability (& Communicability) of the Divine Nature’, pp. 75-80  in ch. 9, ‘Communicability & Incommunicability’  in Universality & the Divine Essence: St. Thomas Aquinas on the Unity Characteristic of the Trinitarian Persons  a Masters thesis  (University of St. Thomas, 2015)

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Quote

Theodore Beza

‘Beza on the Trinity, 21 Theses’  from Tractationes Theologicae Bezae, Volumen I  (Geneva: Jean Crespin, 1570), p. 651  tr. David Noe

“Thesis XIV…  For because divine essence is infinite, most simple, and eternal, therefore the three hypostases subsisting in it—although they are truly three in number—because these individual hypostases are distinguished by their own incommunicable properties, they are nevertheless not three gods nor are they said to be three gods in the same way that there are three men…

But instead, in the divine this happens by an indescribable communication of the whole essence from eternity, in which no point of beginning, middle, or end can be stated.†

† dari, i.e., cannot be stated or supplied because it does not exist.”


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On the Eternal Generation of the Son

Articles

1600’s

Leiden Professors – Disputation 8, ‘On the Person of the Father & of the Son’  in Synopsis of a Purer Theology…  ed. Dolf te Velde  tr. Riemer A. Faber  (1625; Brill, 2015), vol. 1, pp. 202-227

Cheynell, Francis – ‘Conclusions Concerning the Eternal Generation’  in ch. 7  in The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit…  (London, 1650), pp. 191-248

Owen, John – pp. 33-34 (1.)-(3.)  of Exercitation 26  in An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews…  vol. 2  ed. W.H. Goold  in Works  (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1862), vol. 19, Preliminary Exercitations

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1700’s

De Moore, Bernardinus

‘The Generation of the Son’

‘The Generation of the Son, Psalm 2:7’

‘The Generation of the Son (Micah 5:2)’

‘The Unique Sonship of Jesus Christ’

‘The Eternal Generation of the Son (Proverbs 8)’

‘The Hyperphysical Generation of the Son’

‘The Proper Generation of the Son’ pt. 1, 2 (John 5:26)

‘The Communication of the Divine Essence by Generation’, pt. 1, 2

‘Eternal Generation Defended Against Arianism’

‘Eternal Generation Defended Against Socinianism’  13 paragraphs

‘Eternal Generation Defended Against the Remonstrants’, pt. 1, 2, 3

‘Eternal Generation Defended Against Roellius’, pt. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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1800’s

Bavinck, Herman – ‘Son: Generation or Filiation’  being pp. 308-310 in Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2

This is the best piece as to what constitutes the nature of the eternal generation of the Son.  That is, what is it?  What does ‘eternal generation’ mean?

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2000’s

Muller, Richard – Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: the Rise & Development of Reformed Theology, ca. 1520 – ca. 1725, vol. 4, The Triunity of God  2nd ed.  (Baker Books, 2003), pt. 2

ch. 5, B, 2. ‘The Father’s Active Generation of the Son’, pp. 260-2

ch. 6.1, ‘The Person & Generation of the Son’, pp. 275-88  ToC

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Books

Paasch, JT – Divine Production in Late Medieval Trinitarian Theology: Henry of Ghent, Duns Scotus & William Ockham  (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012)  220 pp.  ToC

‘Production’ refers to one Person of the Trinity producing another, whether that be by generation or spiration.

eds. Sanders, Fred & Scott Swain – Retrieving Eternal Generation  Pre  (Zondervan, 2017)  ToC


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Christ & Autotheos

Articles

1200’s

Aquinas –  Compendium of Theology, pt. 1

ch. 63, ‘Personal Acts & Personal Properties’

ch. 64, ‘Generation with Respect to the Father & with Respect to the Son’

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1600’s

Rutherford – Examination of Arminianism

Cheynell, Francis – pp. 230-235  in ch. 7  in The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit…  (London, 1650)

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1700’s

De Moore, Bernardinus – ‘The Son as Authotheos’, pt. 1, 2, 3

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Historical Theology

On the Post-Reformation

Muller, Richard – pt. 2, ch. 6.3, ‘The Aseitas, or Self-Existence of the Son’  in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: the Rise & Development of Reformed Theology, ca. 1520 – ca. 1725, vol. 4, The Triunity of God  2nd ed.  (Baker Books, 2003), pp. 324-33

Johnson, Charles – ‘Resources on άυτόθεος’  2020

This (ongoing) collection of sources provides excerpts from:

Medieval:

Anselm;

Essence is communicated from the Father:

Rollock, Gomarus, Synopsis of Pure Theology, Voet, Hoornbeek, Hutcheson, Turretin;

Essence is not communicated from the Father:

Calvin, Trelcatius Jr., Maccovius, Rutherford, Leydekker.

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Calvin & Autotheos

Article

Swinburnson, Benjamin –  ‘John Calvin, Eternal Generation & Communication of Essence: A Reexamination of His Views’  The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary, vol. 25, no. 1  (May 2010), pp. 26-49

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Book

Ellis, Brannon – Calvin, Classical Trinitarianism, & the Aseity of the Son  Buy  (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012)  260 pp.  ToC

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Can those who hold to Autotheos Confess that Christ is ‘God of God’ in the Nicene Creed?

Quotes

Theodore Beza

‘Beza on the Trinity, 21 Theses’  from Tractationes Theologicae Bezae, Volumen I  (Geneva: Jean Crespin, 1570), p. 651  trans. David Noe

“Thesis XVII. ὁμούσια (homousia) or ὁμοούσια (homoousia)…  And so this term was adopted for divine phenomena in order to refute the Arians, who claimed that the Son was from the Father—not begotten from the Father’s substance but made ex nihilo. Consequently, they claim, the Son is God by participating in his power, not by nature.  Therefore, against such men it was decided that the Son is ὁμούσιον (homousion) or ὁμοούσιον (homoousion) with the Father.

They did not, however, intend by this term merely that the essence of the Father and of the Son is similar, as is the case in natural phenomena (this is how two essences numerically would be taken, and thus there would be numerically two gods, which is anathema). Instead, they wished to describe two realities: first, that the Son is not different from the Father in essence, not because he was made ex nihilo, but as he was begotten from the Father himself, and so from eternity. This distinction they marked by another term, coeternal.

Second, that he is from the Father insofar as he is the Son, such that he is one with the Father insofar as he is God.  That is to say, that the Son’s essence is not somehow a derivative essence which took its origin from another principal.  The heretics called this notion ex traduce, and today some men advance this idea under the term essentiation.  But we assert that the actual, complete essence—by which the Father is God—is the Son by begetting, as the essence has been shared with him by the Father.

As a result, Father and Son—insofar as they subsist in one and the same essence, or are of one and the same essence numerically, with respect to essence—are the one and same God, although, nevertheless the Father is not the Son.

Thesis XX. The ancients used these formulas [such as homoousios and homousios] not to convey the notion of a plurality of essences but to show that there was identity of essence in the relations of the persons, against those who said that Christ was made ex nihilo and in fact made in time.  For statements of the Arians like the following lead to that understanding: “there was a time when he was not” and, “he was created from things that were not.”  In other words, that he was established from things that did not exist.  Therefore the Fathers added to the Creed the phrase “true God from true God” to show that God from whom God exists, i.e., the Father, and God who is from God, i.e., the Son, are by reason of essence one God.”

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Thomas Beard

A Retractive from the Romish Religion…  (London, 1616), Motive 12, pp. 469-70

“71. Fourthly, they [Romanists] accuse us of blasphemy against the Son of God, for denying (as they say) that He is Deus ex Deo, God of God: against the doctrine of the Nicene Creed; and this they call the atheism of Calvin and Beza: a palpable slander: for neither Calvin nor Beza did ever imagine, much less utter the same in that sense which they lay to their charges: for let [Robert] Bellarmine their sworn adversary speak for them: ‘Calvin and Beza teach’ (says he)

‘that the Son is of Himself in respect of his essence, but not in respect of his Person, and they seem to say that the essence of the Deity in Christ is not begotten, but is of itself: which opinion’ (says he) ‘I see not why it may not be called Catholic.’

Here Bellarmine tells us truly what their opinion was, and does acknowledge it to be a true catholic doctrine: and yet in the same chapter he contemns Calvin for his manner of speaking of it and of intolerable sauciness for finding fault with the harshness of the phrase used by the Nicene Council, ‘God of God: Light of light’.  Mark (I pray you) his absurdity, it is catholic, and yet it may not be spoken: it is true, and yet it is to be blamed.  May not a catholic doctrine be spoken then? or must the truth be smothered?  This is such an inconsequence as neither reason nor religion can any ways bear withal: and for his saucy dealing with the Nicene Council, all that ever he says is, that it is durum dictum, ‘a hard phrase’:

yet so that he confesses it may receive a good and commodious interpretation if it be understood in the concrete, that Christ who is God, is of the Father that is God: the word being taken personally, and not in the abstract; as if the essence of the Deity of the Son should be from the Father, which is entirely subsisting, in, of, and by its own eternal, incomprehensible, and most glorious nature: and this without question was the true intendement of the Council; for else it had not confuted, but favored the blasphemous heresy of Arius, against whom it was assembled, which Calvin and Beza do not anyways cross, but onely bring unto it a fit and fauourable exposition.

Thus we have Bellarmine, Calvin’s and Beza’s patron in this doctrine, though full ill against his will: and not only him, but Ribera and Gregory de Valentia, two other no mean Rabbies, both which do conclude that:

‘the Son as He is a Person, is of another; but as He is a simple ens [being], is not of another: and that the essence does not beget the essence, but the Father the Son;’

so that either they are slanderers of the truth, or their catholic doctrines may be atheism and blasphemy.”

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Articles

Featley, Daniel

‘On Christ as ‘God of God”  Sacra Nemesis, The Levite’s Scourge…  (Oxford: 1644), pp 17-18

Featley was a reformed Anglican bishop and a Westminster divine.

‘In Defense of the Apostles’ & Athanasian Creeds’ Sacra Nemesis, The Levite’s Scourge…  (Oxford: 1644), pp. 14-16

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What does ‘Light of Light’ Mean?

Bibles verses

Jn. 1:5  “And the Light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Jn. 1:9  “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

Jn. 8:12  “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world…”

Jn. 16:28  “I came forth from the Father.”

1 Tim. 6:16  “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto;”

Heb. 1:3  “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power…”

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Historical Quotes

Early Church

Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170 – c. 235)

Against Noetus

“And as the Author, and fellow-Counsellor, and Framer of the things that are in formation, He begot the Word; and as He bears this Word in Himself, and that, too, as (yet) invisible to the world which is created, He makes Him visible; (and) uttering the voice first, and begetting Him as Light of Light, He set Him forth to the world as its Lord, (and) His own mind; and whereas He was visible formerly to Himself alone, and invisible to the world which is made, He makes Him visible in order that the world might see Him in His manifestation, and be capable of being saved.

11. And thus there appeared another beside Himself.  But when I say another, I do not mean that there are two Gods, but that it is only as light of light, or as water from a fountain, or as a ray from the sun.  For there is but one power, which is from the All; and the Father is the All, from whom comes this Power, the Word. And this is the mind which came forth into the world, and was manifested as the Son of God.  All things, then, are by Him, and He alone is of the Father.  Who then adduces a multitude of gods brought in, time after time?  For all are shut up, however unwillingly, to admit this fact, that the All runs up into one.”

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Post-Reformation

Henry Bullinger

Fifty Godly & Learned Sermons…  (London, 1577), 4th Decade, 3rd Sermon, ‘Of God, of the True Knowledge of God…’, pp. 630-31

“But in all the things that God has made…  there is nothing which can properly be likened to the nature of God: neither are there any words in the mouths of men that can properly be spoken of it: neither are there any similitudes of man’s inuention that can rightly and squarely agree with the divine essence.  And St. Basil, disputing De Ousia & Hypostasi, says:

‘It cannot be that the comparisons of examples should in all points be like to those things, to the use whereof the examples do serve.  Thou mayest say that injury is done to the majesty of God if it be compared with mortal things.  But for because the holy scripture does not a little condescend and attemper itselfe to our infirmity, I will put a similitude, although in very deed much unlike, which is usually taken and commonly used.

Behold the sun and the beams that come from it, and then the heat that proceedes from them both.  As the sun is the head-spring of the light and the heat: so is the Father the headspring of the Son, who is light of light.  And as of the sun and the beams together the heat does come, so of the Father and the Son together the holy Ghost proceeds.  But now, put case, or imagine that the sun were such, as never had beginning, nor ever shall have ending, and should not then I pray you, ye beams of this everlasting sun be everlasting too? and should not the heat, which proceeds of them both, be everlasting as well as they?  Finally, should not the Son be one still in essence or substance, and three by reason of the three subsistences or persons?

This parable of the sun did Tertullian use (contra Praxeam.), whose words, which do also contain other similitudes, I will not be grieved to recite unto you.  ‘I wil not doubt’ (says he)

‘to call both the stalk of a root, the brook of a springhead, and a beam of the sun, by the name of a son: for every original is a parent and every thing that issues of that original is a son: much more then the Word of God may be called a Son, which even properly has the name of Son, and yet neither is the stalk separated from the root, nor the brook from the springhead, nor the beam from the sun, no more is the Word separated from God.

Therefore according to the fashion of these examples I profess that I say there are two, God & his Word, the Father and his Son.  For the root and the stalk are two things, but joined in one.  And the springhead and the brook are two kinds, but undivided.  And the sun and the beams are two forms, but both cleaving the one to the other.

Everything that comes of anything must needs be second to that out of which it comes, and yet it is not separated from that from which it proceeds.  But where a second is, there are two, and where a third is there are three.  For the third is the spirit of God and the Son: even as the third from the root is the fruit of the stalk, the third from the springhead is the river of the brook, and the third from the sun is the heat of the beam: yet none of these is alienated from the matrix [womb] of which they take the properties that they have.

So the Trinity descending by annexed and linked degrees from the Father, does not make against the monarchy, and does defend the economical state, that is, the mystery of the dispensation.  Understand everywhere that I profess this rule wherein I testify, that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are unseparated one from another, and so thou shalt know how everything is spoken.’

And so forth.  For all these are the words of Tertullian, who flourished in Africa not long after the age of the apostles.”

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Samuel Hill  (1648-1716)

A Vindication of the Primitive Fathers Against the Imputations of Gilbert Lord Bishop of Sarum…  (London, 1695), pt. 2  Hill was an Anglican canon and minister.

section 6, pp. 61-66

Now first, I confess, I have found this mystery [in the Fathers] assimilated to the light, motion and heat of fire, which are all coeval (Athenagoras, Legat. [Greek]; Augustine, Exposition on Jn. ch. 5, tract 20 & Sermon 199; De quin{que} Haeresibus & de Verb Apost. & quor. al., Sermon 1). 

I have also observed a simile of fire, generating fire in itself, brought by St. Hilary (On the Trinity, bk. 7) to illustrate the homoousion, with an excuse for its singularity and indignity, to which he was forced hereby to succour the faith of the plainer and simpler sort of people against the tricks of the heretics, who endeavoured to shake their faith by objecting to them the difficulty of its conception, which he thought fit to be helped by corporeal comparisons.

But note, he is so far from the simile of two separate candles, or fires, or lights that his discourse runs altogether against them; and so in his judgment these separate lights are no proper, or safe, or congruous representations, or originals for the received Light of Light.”

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section 8, pp. 71, 77-78

“Justin in his Dialogue with Trypho had asserted

‘that in the beginning before all Creatures God begat out of Himself a certain rational Virtue (or Power)…  for that He was begotten by the will of the Father, after the manner we see a word produced in us.  For when we utter a word, we beget it not by abscission or separation, so as to lessen the internal word or reason by this utterance.  And as we see in fire, that out of one fire another is kindled without the diminution of the first fire from whence it was kindled, this remaining the same.  And that which is kindled of it also appears to subsist not having lessened that from whence it was lighted

They say also that this Power is indivisible and inseparable from the Father, after the same manner as they say the light of the sun upon the earth is not to be cut off or separated from the sun which is in heaven, but when he sets [at sunset] the light is carried off with it…  and that he is not as the light of the sun only nominally numbered, but really is another in number, I have shown by exquisite reason in my former discourses in short…

And for example’s sake, I took those instances, as we see from one fire other fires kindled, that fire not being lessened from whence many may be kindled, but remaining the same.’

Thus Justin.  By which it appears that these kind of pro-Sabellians used the simile of the sun and its light to prove the Logos non-subsistent, no Person, Son, or Angel of the Father, and therefore Justin rejected that simile by which the sun and its light, and God and his Logos are only nominally distinguished, and took the simile of fires kindled from fires, in which there is none of that diminution, which those adversaries object to our doctrine of the consubstantiality, and both fires subsist really after one is kindled from the other in a true diversity…

This appears further to be his sense from the like doctrine of Tatian, who after he had taught that God the Father had before the creation the Logos subsistent in Him, at length thus speaks (Contra the Gentiles):

‘By the will of God’s simplicity the Logos [Greek] goes forth, and going forth not in vain, [Greek] per vacuum, he becomes the firstborn production [Greek] of the Spirit.  But thus he became by [Greek] communication, not abscission.  For that which is cut off is separated from its first original, but that which is communicated [Greek], being endowed with its proper function, did not leave him from whence it was taken void of the Logos.

For as many fires are kindled from one torch, and the light of the first torch is not diminished through the kindling of many torches: So also the going forth out of the power of his Father did not render his Father void of Reason, or without the Logos.'”

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God Only has One Will, Not Three

Articles

1600’s

Owen, John – pp. 244-46  of Christologia…  in Works, vol. 1

On this section, see under Muller below.

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2000’s

Muller, Richard – 3. ‘The Love of the Father for the Son & the Pactum Salutis  in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: the Rise & Development of Reformed Theology, ca. 1520 – ca. 1725, vol. 4, The Triunity of God  2nd ed.  (Baker Books, 2003), pp. 266-67

In this section Muller quotes John Owen to say that the eternal, intra-Trinitarian love of the Father for the Son is not through a difference of will, but rather is “a natural, necessary act of the divine essnece,” which is Love, “in its distinct personal existence.”  That is, the bond and act of love between them is their indwelling each other, sharing the same essence, the Son “being begotten in the entire communication of the whole divine nature.” (Owen, Christologia in Works 1.144)

This is the same doctrine as was taught by the early and medieval Church with regard to perichoresis, as may be confirmed in that section on this page.

Jones, Mark

‘God’s Will & Eternal Submission’  (2016)  at NewCityTimes

‘Subordination in the Pactum? (And the irony of ESS)’  at NewCityTimes

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Quotes

1600’s

John Owen

An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews…  vol. 2  ed. W.H. Goold  in Works  (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1862), vol. 19, Preliminary Exercitations, Ex. 28, ‘Federal Transactions Between the Father & the Son’, pp. 87-88

“The will is a natural property, and therefore in the divine essence it is but one.  The Father, Son, and Spirit, have not distinct wills.  They are one God, and God’s will is one, as being an essential property of his nature; and therefore are there two wills in the one person of Christ, whereas there is but one will in the three persons of the Trinity…

…for such is the distinction of the persons in the unity of the divine essence, as that they act in natural and essential acts reciprocally one towards another—namely, in understanding, love, and the like; they know and mutually love each other.  And as they subsist distinctly, so they also act distinctly in those works which are of external operation.

And whereas all these acts and operations, whether reciprocal or external, are either with a will or from a freedom of will and choice, the will of God in each Person, as to the peculiar acts ascribed unto Him, is his will therein peculiarly and eminently, though not exclusively to the other persons, by reason of their mutual in-being.

The will of God as to the peculiar actings of the Father in this matter is the will of the Father, and the will of God with regard unto the peculiar actings of the Son is the will of the Son; not by a distinction of sundry wills, but by the distinct application of the same will unto its distinct acts in the persons of the Father and the Son.”

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1800’s

Charles Hodge

Systematic Theology

“As the essence of the Godhead is common to the several persons, they have a common intelligence, will, and power.  There are not in God three intelligences, three wills, three efficiencies.  The Three are one God, and therefore have one mind and will.

This intimate union was expressed in the Greek Church by the word perichoresis, which the Latin words inexistentia, inhabitatio, and intercommunio, were used to explain.”

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In Relation to the Covenant of Redemption

See also our page, The Covenant of Redemption.

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Article

Muller, Richard – Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: the Rise & Development of Reformed Theology, ca. 1520 – ca. 1725, vol. 4, The Triunity of God  2nd ed.  (Baker Books, 2003), p. 267

2. ‘The Eternal Decree & the Election of Christ’, pp. 265-66

3. ‘The Love of the Father for the Son & the Pactum Salutis, pp. 266-67

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Books

Woo, Hoon – The Promise of the Trinity: the Covenant of Redemption in the Theologies of Witsius, Owen, Dickson, Goodwin & Cocceius  Abstract  (V&R, 2018)  317 pp.

Abstract – “The doctrine formulated by Owen endorses the doctrines of inseparable operations and terminus operationis so as to give deep insight into the Trinity.  In Dickson’s doctrine, the Son’s voluntary consent and obedience to the will of the Father are highly emphasized.  Likewise, Goodwin’s depiction of the Holy Spirit secures the divinity of the Spirit as well as his indispensable role for the transaction and accomplishment of the pactum.  The doctrine in the theology of Cocceius sheds much light on the vibrant dynamic of the Christian life in accordance with the ordo salutis.”

Yazawa, Reita – Covenant of Redemption in the Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards: The Nexus Between the Immanent Trinity & the Economic Trinity  Pre  (Pickwick, 2019)  ToC  Foreward by George Marsden

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On the Less Certain Aspects of the Trinity

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John Owen

The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity Explained & Vindicated, pp. 407-8  in Works  ed. William H. Goold  (NY: Robert Carter, 1851), vol. 2

“There are, indeed, very many other things that are taught and disputed about this doctrine of the Trinity, as: the manner of the
eternal generation of the Son, of the essence of the Father, of the rocession of the Holy Ghost, and the difference of it from the generation of the Son, of the mutual in-being of the persons, by reason of their unity in the same substance or essence, the nature of their personal subsistence, with respect unto the properties whereby they are mutually distinguished; all which are true and defensible against all the sophisms of the adversaries of this truth.

Yet, because the distinct apprehension of them, and their accurate expression, is not necessary unto faith, as it is our guide and principle in and unto religious worship and obedience, they need not here be insisted on.

Nor are those brief explications themselves before mentioned so proposed as to be placed immediately in the same rank or order with the original revelations before insisted on, but only are pressed as proper expressions of what is revealed, to increase our light and farther our edification.

And although they cannot rationally be opposed or denied, nor ever were by any, but such as deny and oppose the things themselves as revealed, yet they that do so deny or oppose them, are to be required positively, in the first place, to deny or disapprove the oneness of the Deity, or to prove that the Father, or Son, or Holy Ghost, in particular, are not God, before they be allowed to speak one word against the manner of the explication of the truth concerning them.

For either they grant the revelation declared and contended for, or they do not.  If they do, let that concession be first laid down, namely that the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one God; and then let it be debated, whether they are one in substance and three in persons, or how else the matter is to be stated.  If they deny it, it is a plain madness to dispute of the manner of anything, and the way of expressing it…”

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That the Trinity is a Fundamental of the Faith

Cheynell, Francis – The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit…  (London, 1650)

ch. 8, ‘The Grand Mystery of Three Divine & Coessential Subsistents in the Single Godhead is Not Problematical, but Fundamental’, pp. 248-70

ch. 10,‘Christians who have a Lively Sense & Sweet Experience of this Grand Mystery of Faith & Practical Mystery of Godliness are Afraid to Hold Communion with such as Pretend to be Spiritual Christians & yet Deny the Divine Nature & Distinct Subsistences of Christ & his Holy Spirit’, pp. 417-80

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The Trinity in Practical Godliness

Cheynell, Francis – ch. 9, ‘This Grand Mystery of Faith has an Effectual Influence into the Practical Mystery of Godliness & Power of Religion’  in The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit…  (London, 1650), pp. 270-416


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Heresies

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The Eternal Subordination of the Son

Articles

Jones, Mark

‘God’s Will & Eternal Submission’  (2016)  at NewCityTimes

‘Eternal Subordination of Wills? Nein!’  (2016)  at NewCityTimes

‘Subordination in the Pactum? (And the irony of ESS)’  at NewCityTimes

Butner, Jr., D. Glenn

‘Eternal Submission & the Story of the Seven Ecumenical Councils’  2016  7 paragraphs

This is a concise introduction and summary of Butner’s more in-depth, academic article below (‘Eternal Functional Subordination and the Problem of the Divine Will’), which is one of the best on the topic.

‘Against Eternal Submission: Changing the Doctrine of the Trinity Endangers the Doctrine of Salvation & Women’  7 pp.  in Priscilla Papers, vol. 31, No. 1  (Winter, 2017)

Giles, Kevin – ‘The Evangelical Theological Society & the Doctrine of the Trinity’  16 pp.  in EQ 80.4 (2008), 323-338.

Giles is an evangelical, egalitarian, ordained Anglican who lives in Australia, who is in firm opposition to the eternal subordination of the Son.  He here documents the contemporary rise of this error in ETS and the contemporary scene, and argues against this heresy.

Abstract: “Significant evangelical leaders today teach that the Son is eternally subordinated in authority to the Father, sometimes using ontological terms. This teaching would seem to stand in stark tension with the primary Christian confession that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and to contradict the Athanasian Creed which teaches that all three divine persons are ‘almighty’ and ‘Lord’, ‘none is before or after, greater or lesser’, and all are ‘co-equal’. What is more, it would seem to contradict virtually all the Protestant Reformation and post-Reformation Confessions which speak of the three divine persons as equal in being/essence and work/function.”

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In-Depth

Butner, Jr., D. Glenn – ‘Eternal Functional Subordination and the Problem of the Divine Will’  19 pp.  in JETS 58/1 (2015) 131–49  The article is also here.

“The problem with EFS is not Arianism, but the fact that it entails tritheism.  Advocates of EFS are…  replacing terms like ‘unbegotten’ and ‘begotten’ with the ideas ‘authority’ and ‘submission’…  EFS is more in the line of what might be called polytheistic homoiousianism, whereby the Father and the Son have distinct natures, but each is still eternally divine…  Because Chalcedonian Christology insists that Jesus has two natures but only one hypostasis, dyothelitism [the orthodox doctrine that Christ has a divine will and a distinct human will] as a development of Chalcedonian Christology necessitates the recognition that a will must be a property of nature [and not the Person] in order for there to be two wills in Christ.  To posit such terms as ‘obedience’ and ‘submission’ that imply a distinction of wills between the Father and the Son while affirming dyothelite Christology entails a distinction of natures between the Father and Son (and Spirit) resulting in tritheism…  After this historical account, a word study of the term ‘submission’ will demonstrate that the term clearly implies an activity of the will yielding to another will and should therefore be rejected as an eternal property of a divine hypostasis.” – p. 132-3

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Book

Butner, Jr., D. Glenn – The Son Who Learned Obedience: A Theological Case Against the Eternal Submission of the Son  Buy  (2018)  234 pp.

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Quotes

Amandus Polanus

Syntagma VI.xiii (p. 364, col. 2) as quoted in Richard Muller, 3. ‘The Love of the Father for the Son & the Pactum Salutis  in Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: the Rise & Development of Reformed Theology, ca. 1520 – ca. 1725, vol. 4, The Triunity of God  2nd ed.  (Baker Books, 2003), p. 267

“The Son, indeed, is incarnate because He wills voluntarily to be made our sponsor, voluntarily subjecting Himself to the Father not according to nature, but according to the voluntary arrangement (oeconomia) or dispensation: a natural subjection is, surely, distinct from an economic or dispensatory subjection:

He is made freely obedient to the Father, not according to the divine nature itself (in se), but according to will: obedience, indeed, is not the natural act of a nature (actus naturalis naturae), but of the will or free accord of the Person of Christ (voluntarius personae Christi).”

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John Owen

An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews…  vol. 2  ed. W.H. Goold  in Works  (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1862), vol. 19, Preliminary Exercitations, Ex. 28, ‘Federal Transactions Between the Father & the Son’

p. 86

“…the exercise of his [the Father’s] authority, both in the commission and commands that He gave [in the eternal Covenant of Redemption] unto the Son as incarnate, for the discharge of the work that He had undertaken…

…for what is spoken of the second Person is spoken with respect unto his purpose to assume our nature, for the obedience whereof, in all that was to be done upon it or by it, He undertook.

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p. 87

“So then He freely undertook to do and suffer whatever on his part was required; and therein owns Himself the servant of the Father, because He would obey his will and serve his purposes in the nature which He would assume for that end, Isa. 42:1, 6; 49:8-9; Zech. 13:7; and therein acknowledgeth Him to be his Lord, Ps. 16:2, unto whom He owed all homage and obedience…”

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p. 94

“And therein, although He was with God, and was God, and made all things in the glory of the only-begotten Son of God, yet He was ‘made flesh,’ John 1:14.  And this condescension, which was the foundation of all his obedience, gave the nature of merit [ex pactum] and purchase unto what He did.”


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Tri-Theism

Medieval

Boethius – ‘The Trinity is One God, Not Three Gods’  in Boethius: the Theological Tractates with an English Translation  eds. Stewart & Rand  (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1918), pp. 2-31

Boethius (c.480-c.524, also known as Severinus) was an orthodox Church father after the Council of Chalcedon.

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1600’s

Turretin, Francis – 3rd Topic, ‘The One & Triune God’, Question 3, ‘Is God One?  We Affirm Against the Heathen and Tritheists’  in Institutes  (1992), vol. 1, pp. 181-3

South, Robert – Tritheism Charged upon Dr. [William] Sherlock’s New Notion of the Trinity  (1695)  316 pp.

South (1634-1716) was a reformed, episcopal, Anglican.  William Sherlock (c. 1641–1707) was an Anglican, who wrote the book, A Vindication of the Doctrine of the Holy and Ever Blessed Trinity (1690) and then defended it in, A Defence of Dr. Sherlock’s Notion of a Trinity in Unity: In Answer to the Animadversions Upon His Vindication (1694).  South replies to the latter book.

Sherlock’s new notion of the Trinity stemmed from the influence of Rene Descartes (1596-1650), which included self-consciousness in the definition of ‘person’.  Self-consciousness is essentially self-knowledge, which is an operation of the intellect.  If all three Persons of the Trinity have a distinct mind, this is contrary to the classic doctrine of God where the three Persons share the same divine intellect, which intellect was understood to be part of the common nature of God (and not uniquely and separately attributable to each Person).

Richard Muller:

“In none of these usages [by the reformed orthodox] does the term ‘persona’ have the connotation of emotional individuality or unique consciousness that clearly belongs to the term in contemporary usage.  It is quite certain that the trinitarian use of ‘persona’ does not point to three wills, three emotionally unique beings, or, as several eighteenth-century authors influenced by Cartesianism argued, three centers of consciousness; such implication would be tritheistic.

It is equally certain that contemporary theological statements to the effect that the God of the Bible is a ‘personal’ God point not to the Trinity, but to the oneness of the divine will in loving relation to creatures.  In other words, despite the variety of usages and implications we have noted, the patristic, medieval, Reformation, and Protestant scholastic definitions of the term ‘persona’ are united in their distinction from colloquial modern usage.” – Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms (2nd. Ed.), pp. 263-4

Aretius, Benedictus – A Short History of Velentinus Gentilis, the Tritheist, Tried, Condemned and put to Death by the Protestant Reformed City and Church of Bern in Switzerland, for Asserting the Three Divine Persons of the Trinity to be Three Distinct Eternal Spirits, etc….  now translated into English for the Use of Dr. Sherlock  EEBO  (London, 1696)  155 pp.  ToC

Robert South (above) may have been the translator of this work.  See above on Sherlock.

Sherlock, William – A Modest Examination of the Authority & Reasons of the Late Decree of the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford & and some Heads of Colleges & Halls, Concerning the Heresy of Three Distinct Infinite-Minds in the Holy and Ever-Blessed Trinity  (London, 1696)

Sherlock (c. 1641–1707) was an Anglican who was not employed at Oxford.

Sherlock defends himself from this short Latin decree (p. 4) by officers at Oxford (highly favored by Robert South) against the Trinity having three distinct minds, as Sherlock understood himself to be principally aimed at in it.  Sherlock’s main strategy is to cast doubt on the authority of the decree; he never denies that the Trinity has three distinct minds.

Wallis, John – An Answer to Dr. [William] Sherlock’s Examination of the Oxford Decree, in a Letter from a Member of that University to his Friend in London  (London, 1696)  19 pp.

Wallis was a non-voting scribe at the Westminster Assembly.

Oxford made a declaration condemning the new, Cartesian-influenced notion that “There are Three Infinite distinct Minds and Substances in the Trinity”.  Sherlock had promoted this, and wrote a tract critiquing the declaration.  Wallis here counters his arguments.

van Mastricht, Peter – bk. 2, ch. 24, ‘The Most Holy Trinity’, section 9, ‘What Kind of Distinction is there among the Divine Persons?’  in Theoretical Practical Theology  2nd ed.  (1698; RHB), vol. 2, p. 504

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1700’s

Howe, John – Works (d. 1705; London: William Tegg, 1848), vol. 2 (of 3)

‘A Calm & Sober Inquiry Concerning the Possibility of Trinity in the Godhead, in a Letter to a Person of Worth; Occasioned by the Lately Published Considerations on the Explications of the Doctrine of the Trinity, by Dr. Wallis, Dr. Sherlock, Dr. South, Dr. Cudworth, etc.’, pp. 527-54

‘A Letter to a Friend, Concerning a Postscript to the Defence of Dr. Sherlock’s Notion of the Trinity in Unity, Relating to the Calm & Sober Inquiry upon the Same Subject’, pp. 578-95

De Moor, Bernardinus

4.23, ‘Against Tritheism’

5.5, ‘God One with Respect to Essence’

5.5, ‘Three Persons Subsisting in One Essence’

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1900’s

Preuss, Arthur – 1. ‘Tritheism & the Church’  in The Divine Trinity, a Dogmatic Treatise  2nd ed.  trans.  (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1912), pp. 255-64

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2000’s

Muller, Richard – Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: the Rise & Development of Reformed Theology, ca. 1520 – ca. 1725  2nd ed.  (Baker Books, 2003)

vol. 3, pt. 2, ch. 4.1, B, 2. ‘The Unity of God’, pp. 241-46

vol. 4, pt. 2, ch. 3.2, B.1, pp. 190-91

Clark, Kelly James – ‘Trinity or Tritheism?’  Religious Studies, 32(4) (1996), 463-476, Cambridge University Press online (2008)

Extract: “In The Christian God Richard Swinburne offers a series of arguments which a priori support the necessity of the doctrine of the Trinity. If his arguments are successful, he has dramatically narrowed the field of logically possible religious beliefs to (Christian) trinitarianism. I contend that Swinburne’s arguments necessitate the existence of more than one quasi-independent divine being; indeed Swinburne’s arguments move us in the direction of tritheism rather than orthodox trinitarianism.”

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Historical Theology on the Early Church

French

Jurieu, Pierre – Pt. 2, chs. 5-9  of  The Religion of Latitudinarianism, with a Defense for the Holy Trinity, Called the Heresy of Three Gods...  (Rotterdam, 1696)


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Contra Unitarianism

Allix, Peter – A Defence of The Brief History of the Unitarians: Against Dr. [William] Sherlock’s Answer in His Vindication of the Holy Trinity  (London, 1691)  55 pp.

Allix (1641-1717) was a reformed Huguenot minister. 

Sherlock (1641-1707) was a leading Anglican.  “In 1690 and 1693, he [Sherlock] published works on the doctrine of the Trinity, which helped rather than injured the Socinian cause and involved him in a controversy with Robert South and others.” – Wikipedia


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Bibliographies

Jones, Mark – ‘A (Somewhat Annotated) Bibliography on the Trinity’  (2017)  at NewCityTimes

Barrett, Matthew – ‘A Working Trinitarian Bibliography from Simply Trinity’  (2021)  at Credomag.com

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Related Pages