“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the-t Lord hath anointed Me…”
Order of Contents
On the Definition of ‘Person’
Eternal Generation of the Son
Christ & Autotheos
. The Eternal Subordination of the Son
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. 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).
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.
Bavinck, Herman – The Divine Trinity, no date or source info, 56 paragraphs
Buchanan, James – Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Each Have a Part in Saving Sinners, HTML, 1867, from his Doctrine of Justification, 388-392, Baker edition
Distinction of Persons in the Godhead, 1863, p. 192, 10 pp. from his Historical Theology, vol. 2
Trinity and Unity, 1863, p. 203, 9 pages, from his Historical Theology, vol. 2
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, HTML, 1949, 35 paragraphs from his Systematic Theology
Zanchi, Jerome – On the Triune Elohim, Eternal Father, Son & Holy Spirit, One & the Same Jehova, pt. 1, bks. 1-3 ed. Ben Merkle, trans. by the 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.”
Cheynell, Francis – The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit GB 1650 480 pp.
Cheynell was a presbyterian, Westminster divine.
Owen, John – Works ed. Goold (1851; rep. Banner), vol. 2
Of Communion with God the Father, Son & Holy Ghost (1657), pp. 2-274
“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
A Brief Declaration and Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity: as also of the Person and Satisfaction of Christ, accommodated to the capacity and use of such as may be in danger to be seduced… (1669), pp. 365-413
The Doctrine of the Trinity and Transubstantiation Compared as to Scripture, Reason, and Tradition. The First Part in a New Dialogue Between a Protestant and 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
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.
A Calm and 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.
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: and the Ways of Managing that Controversy OTA (London: 1696)
Gastrell (1662-1725) was a reformed Anglican divine.
Edwards, John – Some Animadversions on Dr. [Samuel] Clark’s Scripture-Doctrine (as he styles it) of the Trinity : Briefly showing that his quotations out of the Fathers are forced: his texts produced from scripture are wrested: his arguments and inferences are weak and 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 and 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).
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
Jurieu, Pierre – The Religion of Latitudinarianism, with a Defense for the Holy Trinity, Called the Heresy of Three Gods… (Rotterdam, 1696) ToC 455 pp.
The History of the Trinity
Through Church History
Fortman, Edmund J. – The Triune God: A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity Pre (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1972)
On the Early Church
Cunningham, William – The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Early Church 1863, p. 267 ff., 38 pp. from his Historical Theology, vol. 1
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.
Torrance, Thomas F. – The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church Pre (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988)
Torrance was Neo-Orthodox.
Ayres, Lewis – Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth Century Trinitarian Theology Buy (2006) 490 pp.
On the Medieval Church
Butner, D. Glenn – ‘For and Against De Regnon: Trinitarianism East and West’ 2015 13 pp.
“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.”
On the Post-Reformation
Dixon, Philip – Nice & Hot Disputes: The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Seventeenth Century (2005)
On the Definition of ‘Person’
See the important remarks under Robert South’s work on Tritheism below.
Allix (1641-1717) was a reformed Huguenot minister.
On the Eternal Generation of the Son
De Moore, Bernardinus
‘Eternal Generation Defended Against Socinianism’ 13 paragraphs
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?
Christ & Autotheos
Rutherford – Examination of Arminianism
Can those who hold to Autotheos Confess that Christ is ‘God of God’ in the Nicene Creed?
‘On Christ as ‘God of God” Sacra nemesis, The Levite’s scourge… (Oxford: 1644), pp 17-18
Featley was a reformed Anglican bishop and Westminster divine.
‘In Defense of the Apostles’ and Athanasian Creeds’ Sacra nemesis, The Levite’s scourge… (Oxford: 1644), pp. 14-16
Calvin & Autotheos
Ellis, Brannon – Calvin, Classical Trinitarianism, and the Aseity of the Son Buy 2012 260 pp.
Calvin, John – Bk. 1, ch. 13, ‘The Unity of the Divine Essence in Three Persons Taught, in Scripture, From the Foundation of the World’ in Institutes trans. Beveridge (1559)
Sherlock, William – pp. 300-326 of Ch. 4, Section 8, ‘Concerning the Divine Relations’ in The Present State of the Socinian Controversy, and the Doctrine of the Catholic Fathers concerning a Trinity in Unity 1698
Sherlock (c. 1641–1707) a leading Anglican minister. He also was a main proponent of the erroneous Cartesian doctrine that ‘person’ constituted a mind and substance; hence the Trinity had three minds and substances.
“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
Bull, George – Sections 13 & 14 of Book 4, ch. 4 of Defense of the Nicene Creed 1685 6 pp.
This selection is important and helpful for its historical quotations from early church fathers about perichoresis, however not everything Bull says is on target, and his theology of the Trinity, and this work in particular are highly NOT recommended.
Bull was an Arminian, Latitudinarian, Anglican who held to an early form of Tri-theism from certain church fathers before the council of Nicea, AD 325. That is, he held that while the divine nature amongst the persons of the Trinity was the same in quality, it was not numerically the same: he believed there were three divine natures. Bull’s thought is known as Monarchian Subordinationism.
Bull understood the unity of the three persons as being only an intellectual unity, of their thoughts of one another. Hence he slants perichoresis to be an intellectual communion, rather than an inter-penetration of the being of the three persons. Nonetheless, for the reasons stated, this piece is worthy of attention, as there is so little on this topic.
De Moore, Bernardinus – ‘Emperichoresis’
Blunt, John Henry – ‘Circumincession’ 1872 2 pp. in Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology, p. 129 ff.
Pohle, Joseph – ‘The Unity of Mutual Inexistence or Perichoresis’ being Pt. 2, Ch. 3 of The Divine Trinity: a Dogmatic Treatise 1912
Pohle was a prominent American Catholic scholar at the turn of the 20th century.
Muller, Richard – 7. ‘Circumincessio, perichoresis, emperichoresis‘, pp. 185-6 in PRRD (2003), vol. 4, pt. 2, ch. 3.2, A.7
On the Early & Medieval Churches
Bethune-Baker, James – p. 226, fn. 2 of An Introduction to the Early History of Christian Doctrine (1903) This is in the context of Augustine’s thought. For other early figures expressing the same idea, see p. 129, fn. 2 and p. 221
Bethune-Baker was a Cambridge professor.
** Prestige, G.L. – Ch. 14, ‘Co-Inherence’ in God in Patristic Thought, pp. 282-302 Buy 1936 301 pp.
Prestige was an excellent patristics scholar and his discussion is one of the fullest on this doctrine, and the history of it, where very few are available.
Stramara, Jr., Daniel – ‘Gregory of Nyssa’s Terminology for Trinitarian Perichoresis’ 1998 6 pp. in Vigiliae Christianae, Vol. 52, No. 3 (Aug., 1998), pp. 257-263 This can be read for free by setting up a free account.
Manastireanu, Danut – ‘Perichoresis & the Early Christian Doctrine of God’ in Archaeus, XI-XII (2007-2008) pp. 61-93
Manastireanu interacts with Prestige and examines in detail how perichoresis has been used of the hypostatic union, in the Trinity, and with respect to the Greek Orthodox doctrine of the deification of saints. The article is careful and helpful.
Twombly, Charles – Perichoresis & Personhood: God, Christ & Salvation in John of Damascus Buy 2015 134 pp.
Womack, James A. – A Comparison of Perichoresis in the Writings of Gregory of Nazianzus & John of Damascus Ref 2005 a dissertation for Asbury Theological Seminary
On Jonathan Edwards
Cunnington, Ralph – Sections 2.3.3 ‘Edwards Discussion of Perichoresis’ & 3.4 ‘Edwards Use of Perichoresis’ in ‘A Critical Examination of Jonathan Edwards’ Doctrine of the Trinity’ 2014
Jonathan Edwards, in his somewhat problematic An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity, does not set forth the traditional, and correct, notion that the 3 persons of the Trinity have all the divine attributes by their sharing the same essence as the one God, but rather, “the Father understands because the Son, who is the divine wisdom, is in him. The Father loves because the Holy Ghost is in Him…” etc.
This is a novel use of perichoresis: that each member of the Trinity is dependent on the other members’ in-dwelling of them for certain divine attributes, which those persons are more characterized by; this being something that Augustine taught explicitly against.
Institutes (P&R, 1992), 3rd Topic, Question 23, ‘The Holy Trinity’, section 13, p. 257
XIII. Here belongs the word emperichoreseos which the fathers frequently used and [Etienne de] Curcellaeus [1586–1629, an Arminian] rails at (as unwritten [agraphon], ambiguous and employed to signify a thing nowhere taught in Scripture). But that it was not used without reason to describe the intimate mutual union of the persons can be inferred not obscurely from Scripture itself when ‘the Son is said to be in the Father, and the Father in the Son’ (Jn. 10:38; 14:11).
They [the fathers] thought this mystery could not be better expressed than by the phrase enallelon emperichoresin (i.e., a mutual intertwining or inexistence and immanence), so as to designate thus that union by which the divine persons embrace each other and permeate (if it is right to say so) each other. So that although always remaining distinct, yet they are never separated from each other, but always coexist; wherever one is, there the other also really is.
And if believers are said to dwell in God and He in them (1 Jn. 3:24; Jn. 14:23) on account of the intimate presence of the Spirit (who is the strictest bond of their communion with God), does it not follow that such an emperichoresis can be attributed to them? There is the widest difference [though] between the mystical union of believers with God and the divine union of the persons of the Trinity in [the divine] nature, or of the [relation of the] human and divine natures in the person of Christ.”
Peter van Mastricht
ch. 1, ‘The Actions & Decrees of God’, section 7 of Theoretical-Practical Theology (RHB), vol. 3 Mastricht distinguishes between internal personal works of God (such as begetting, being begotten and spirating) and internal essential works.
“Or, they are essential works, by which the persons are conveyed partly toward each other, when for example the Father knows, loves, and glorifies the Son, and the Son in turn the Father; and partly toward the creatures, works by which God knows, loves, elects, and reprobates the creatures: in these particularly occur the divine decrees.”
Marck, Johannes – Compendium, V.v-vi
Amyraut et al., Syntagma thesium theologicarum, I.xvii.14
The Eternal Subordination of the Son
Butner, Jr., D. Glenn
‘Eternal Submission and 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 and Women’ 2017 7 pp. in Priscilla Papers, vol. 31, No. 1, Winter 2017
Giles, Kevin – ‘The Evangelical Theological Society and the Doctrine of the Trinity’ 2008 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.”
Butner, Jr., D. Glenn – ‘Eternal Functional Subordination and the Problem of the Divine Will’ 2015 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
Butner, Jr., D. Glenn – ‘How Eternal Functional Subordination Undermines Transactional Atonement Theories’ Buy $4 2016
For an online article covering much the same topic, see Butner’s ‘Against Eternal Submission’ above.
Butner, Jr., D. Glenn – The Son Who Learned Obedience: A Theological Case Against the Eternal Submission of the Son Buy 2018 234 pp.
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).
“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.
Historical Theology on the Early Church
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)
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
Jones, Mark – ‘A (Somewhat Annotated) Bibliography on the Trinity’ 2017