Who Is The Christian God?

The citation from Brian Daley alone is worth the price of admission. I read Khaled Anatolios’s book Retrieving Nicaea last year and intend to reread it in the upcoming months. It’s one of the best books on the Trinity I have read in recent years. I should have included it in my 2013 best books list, but I simply forgot about it.

The Evangelical Calvinist

*Here is a post I once wrote about a year or so ago at another blog of mine; I thought I’d respost it here

I have become inspired once again to talk about my God. And so I am going to start an ongoing series of posts under the generic title, Who Is the Christian God? I intend on blog inking multiple posts, on an ongoing basis on getting at this question through a variety of modes; either through patristic theology, reformation theology, biblical theology, systematic theology, Christian dogmatic theology, and devotional/reflective theology. I am concerned that there are many Christians who claim to be trinitarians, but then who do not know what this really means. Or, many Christians follow a certain articulation of what it means to be a trinitarian Christian, but then don’t have the critical resource to appeal to, to check whether or not what they…

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9 Responses to Who Is The Christian God?

  1. John burnett says:

    Daley says, ‘For Christians, all three of these figures and voices in the history of revelation remain distinct—related intimately to one another, working along with one another, but not simply the same as one another—yet all, taken together, are what Christians mean by “God.”’

    The problem is, that sounds additive. Taken together, they are “God”. But if you take two, and leave one, do you still have “God”? What about if you just take one and leave two? Does it matter which one(s) you take?

    Trinitarian language has to be extremely precise. There’s really no wiggle room.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Thanks, John, for your comment. You write: “Trinitarian language has to be extremely precise. There’s really no wiggle room.”

      I disagree, John. I believe there is in fact a lot of wiggle room—and must be a lot of wiggle room—within the dogmatic boundaries established by the councils. We aren’t talking about a mathematical or chemical formula. We are talking about the ineffable life of the one God, and so we will always find ourselves talking in paradoxical and seemingly contradictory ways.

      When an orthodox preacher or theologian wishes, e.g., to emphasize the distinctness of the hypostases in the biblical narrative of salvation he will always sound tritheistic, in one way or another.

      Consider the sentence you quoted from Daley: ‘For Christians, all three of these figures and voices in the history of revelation remain distinct—related intimately to one another, working along with one another, but not simply the same as one another—yet all, taken together, are what Christians mean by “God.”’ If this were all Daley had written, then one might rightly raise the question, Is he thinking of three gods who together add up to the one God? Now I have the advantage of having read Daley’s foreward to Anatolios’s book, so I know the fuller context, whereas others, like yourself, do not. So I know that Daley is not intending and doesn’t come close to the additive heresy that you fear. But even within the citation itself, Daley counterbalances his statement “yet all, taken together, are what Christians mean by ‘God'” with the clear statement regarding the divine persons: “God is …”

      You write: “But if you take two, and leave one, do you still have ‘God’?” The problem you pose is of course impossible, but I would think that the quick answer is no. And this is true whether one is Cappadocian, Augustinian, Jensonian, or Dalysian. An appeal to the divine Monarchy (the Father is the one God) doesn’t really solve anything here, because there is no Father without his Son and Spirit. Hence there must be a sense in which together the Three are the one God, even as we confess with Jesus that the Father is the one God. We see this fairly clearly, for example, already in the writings of St Gregory the Theologian: “When I say God, I mean Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Or. 38.8).

      While Daley is an eminent patristic scholar, he still remains Western and Catholic. Hence it is not surprising to find him locating the divine unity in the personal communion and activity of the divine persons. And like a lot of contemporary theologians, including Anatolios (and N. T. Wright, for that matter), he is loath to divorce the immanent Trinity from God’s self-revelation in the economy of salvation. But beyond a matter of emphases, I do not discern anything in the little I have read of Daley that would raise questions for a Byzantine theologian.

      I commend Anatolios’s book to you. I’d like to hear what you think of it. I think it would dovetail nicely with your reading of Wright, John.

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      • The only difficulty I have with your assessment that “An appeal to the divine Monarchy (the Father is the one God) doesn’t really solve anything here, because there is no Father without his Son and Spirit” is that it assumes that God must be this way (Trinitarian). But if we operate on a scale of what most anti-Trinitarian Christians resort to is that specifically, God can be that way but has not revealed himself as such. I’m not certain what extent relational metaphysics can be appealed to here. I think they definitely provide an adequate explanation for why certain persons in the Trinity take the duty that which they take. Relational metaphysics for one, answers the question adequately of why not all three died for me.

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  2. there are evangelical calvinists?

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Apparently. Bobby Grow has been strongly influenced by T. F. Torrance, and Torrance was certainly influenced by Calvin. Yet I wouldn’t call Torrance a Calvinist.

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      • i was going to say, from my understanding, it was the calvinists who ceased evangelizing others with the established school of geneva, they figured that everyone was either pre-destined to eternal bliss or pre-destined to burn for eons and eons on top of eons and eons.

        i think most in neo-orthodoxy would definitely draw upon calvin’s writings but would not be calvinistic per se either. karl barth if i recall was a universalist.

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      • Bobby Grow says:

        That’s because you don’t appreciate that Thomas Torrance was a Presbyterian through and through, Alvin. 😉 Or the fact that he contrasted his own position (evangelical Calvinist) with that of the Westminster trad (which unfortunately has become the standard for what it means to be Calvinist today … for many, anyway). Have you read TFT’s book Scottish Theology, Alvin?

        Here is one example from TFT’s book Scottish Theology

        […] Leighton was certainly a Calvinist, but a mild Calvinist horrified at the obsessive attention given to predestination as a test of orthodoxy, and at the substitution in the pulpit of doctrinal diatribes for biblical exposition and the preaching of the Gospel. He was an evangelical Calvinist of whom John McLeod Campbell once said in a letter to his father, ‘I love the writings of Leighton, because they breathe so much of the spirit of an evangelist’. Leighton himself preached to his congregation in direct personal terms about repentance and conversion, and spoke of the lively belief to which he called his people as ‘experimental knowledge of God, and of his son Jesus Christ’. This was a way of believing and knowing God with an ‘inward affection towards Christ’. pg. 163

        Torrance aligns himself with the ‘evangelical Calvinist’ position in contrast to Federal or Bezan Calvinism. So I would argue with you on your assertion that Torrance was no Calvinist; he was not a Calvinist only if that is reduced to one iteration of Calvinism in its Westminster mode.

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Let me concede the contest from the start. 🙂

          I know TFT identified himself as Reformed, but did he identify himself as a “Calvinist”? Would he have been happy being labelled as such? Just asking.

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  3. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I just discovered that the Daley foreward is available in its entirety in the Amazon.com preview of the book.

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