Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Jesus the Son - Complement not Clone

Following on from this post, here is my current thinking on the issue of unity and diversity in the Trinity. Comments/questions welcome.

My starting point here is that the divine nature (God as trinity) is simple to understand for if it wasn't we would have an excuse for unbelief before the judgment seat of Christ. It has to be simple so that the only reason for not getting it is choosing not to. The Bible clearly reveals God as a community of persons who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit not by logical argument, but by symmetry. The danger comes when we are tempted to fall into metaphysical speculation and are so busy reading between the lines for the logic that we fail to read the lines themselves and ask the Holy Spirit for the revelation of symmetry.

With that in mind, what's wrong with saying, that the Son is as different from the Father as you are from your earthly father? Whilst you are not your father, you are nevertheless 100% human and (in the perfect scenario) remain 100% relationally united to him, (until you leave and cleave). So then, the Son can be totally distinct from the Father and remain 100% divine and relationally united to the Father.

When Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11 that the woman is the glory of man, he is not saying that she is a clone of the man, that would be ridiculous and the human race would be doomed to extinction before it had even got going! The Woman displays the glory of the Man by being his complement. I think this is the paradigm we need in our heads when we read the writer of Hebrews saying that the Son is the radiance of the Father's glory. The Son declares the Father's glory by being his complement, not his clone. The Son completes the Father in the same way that the Woman completes the Man. Father and Son are both fully divine, but without each other, their existence is meaningless.

This is important, because if we think trinity = 1 + 2 clones we will fall into the trap of thinking that the Father doesn't need the Son or the Spirit and could act unilaterally if he wanted to (we would then say he simply chooses not to). That is impossible. It's not just that the Father chooses not to do what the Son can do; the Father cannot do what the Son or the Spirit does, and the same applies to the other two. (For example, the Father cannot be mediator but the son can.) All three persons are absolutely necessary to the community otherwise the whole thing collapses.

Glen Scrivener fills this point out beautifully, go read.

The next question is then, who does that make the Spirit?



FloydTheBarber said...

I like your thinking, particularly in the 1 Cor 11 paragraph.

Can we divide the role and character of God like that? I keep thinking of John 5:17-18. Jesus claimed to be God not only be claiming that God was His Father (thus making Himself equal with God) but he did this by saying they were doing the same thing: working. Their work was different, but it served the same end.

Do they compliment eachother's character as well as role? In other words, are there parts of Jesus' character that aren't part of the Father's character? I think i'm less comfortable with this, but i'm not sure you were even suggesting it!

Richard Walker said...

Thinking aloud, in terms of moral character Father, Son and Spirit are all the same, but express it differently because of who they are. You and Rachel both have godly characters, but you don't express it the same, because you are not clones of each other. Do either of you feel demeaned because of that? (Rhetorical)

So the Father glorifies the Son, the Son obeys/honours the Father and the Spirit is in both of these bringing them to unity. These expressions, that come about by virtue of their person-hood, don't change.

How's that?

Glen said...

Great post Richard. These are such invigorating things to get our teeth into.

To Floyd's question I'd say that the roles are absolutely and irreversibly different and that these roles therefore shape every character trait of the Persons.

Father, Son and Spirit are all loving/holy/merciful/authoritative/wise etc etc. But the Father is always these things in the role of Initiator/Sender, the Son is these things in the role of Agent/Sent One, the Spirit is these things in the role of Empowerer/Perfector. And these cash out as significant differences.

Think for example of Jesus' obedience (a wonderfully, divinely praiseworthy characteristic) - but it would be blasphemy to consider the Father to be equally obedient. Obedient to who???

But of course the Father is the great Initiator (a wonderfully, divinely praiseworthy characteristic) - but it would be blasphemy to consider the Son to be equally Initiator. He is Son!

etc, etc.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!


Glen said...

Also - Floyd your reference to John 5 is really helpful. Notice how even the Jews know that Jesus is claiming to be 'equal' to God by calling Him 'Father'. It's not the equality of being a clone but a complement. And then Jesus cashes that out in terms of His *delegated* authority and utter *dependency*.

Richard Walker said...

I'm feeling a lot of love here!! Thanks for you inputs guys!