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

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Order of Contents

Articles
Books
History of
.       Calvin & Autotheos
Jewish Writings
Eternal Generation of the Son
Perichoresis
Heresies
      The Eternal Subordination of the Son
      Tri-Theism
Bibliographies


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Articles

1800’s

Bavinck, Herman – The Divine Trinityno date or source info, 56 paragraphs

Buchanan, James – Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Each Have a Part in Saving SinnersHTML, 1867, from his Doctrine of Justification, 388-392, Baker edition

Cunningham, William

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

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1900’s

Berkhof, Louis – The Holy Trinity, HTML, 1949, 35 paragraphs from his Systematic Theology


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Books

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

Cheynell was a Westminster divine.

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.

Bickersteth, Edward – The Trinity  1892  87 pp.

Bickersteth was an Anglican bishop.

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The History of the Trinity

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

Butner, D. Glenn – ‘For and Against De Regnon: Trinitarianism East and 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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Books

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

Ayres, Lewis – Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth Century Trinitarian Theology  Buy  2006  490 pp.

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Calvin & Autotheos

Ellis, Brannon – Calvin, Classical Trinitarianism, and the Aseity of the Son  Buy  2012  260 pp.

 


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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.


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On the Eternal Generation of the Son

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


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Perichoresis

Short Excerpt

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.

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Articles

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 was an Anglican.

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.

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.

Prestige, G.L. –  Ch. 14, ‘Co-Inherence’  in God in Patristic Thought, pp. 282-302  Buy  1936  301 pp.

Prestige is 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 and 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.

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.

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Books

Twombly, Charles – Perichoresis and Personhood: God, Christ and Salvation in John of Damascus  Buy  2015  134 pp.

Womack, James A. – A Comparison of Perichoresis in the Writings of Gregory of Nazianzus and John of Damascus  Ref  2005  a dissertation for Asbury Theological Seminary

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Heresies

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The Eternal Subordination of the Son

Articles

Intro

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.”

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In-Depth

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

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MP3

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.

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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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Tri-Theism

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

South (1634-1716) was a reformed Anglican.  William Sherlock 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 reply’s to the latter book. 

Sherlock’s new notion of the Trinity stemmed from the influence of Descartes, which included self-consciousness in the definition of person.  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.  Self-consciousness is essentially self-knowledge, which is an operation of the intellect.

Richard Muller:

“In none of these usages 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 ad Church of Bern in Switzerland  1696  155 pp.

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Bibliographies

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

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Related Pages