“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List.
Explaining the Trinity…You’re Probably Doing It Wrong
I’m not sure it’s wise to use analogies from human life to explain the Trinity. The early church fathers sometimes do, but they also admit that their analogies have limitations. I hesitate to use illustrations of the Trinity in fear that my words can be misused to distort this teaching. It isn’t wise, however, to say nothing. We should point out the distinctions between the persons of the Trinity because Scripture does so.
Here is the distinction: The Father begins an actions. He is the fountain and source of all things. The Son is wisdom, counsel, and arrangement in action. The Spirit is the energy by which the actions gets done.
Just as the Father is eternal, so also are the Son and the Spirit. The Father is never without His own wisdom and energy. Although in eternity there is no room for first or last, still, there is some distinction of order in the Trinity. The Father considered first, next the Son, and then the Spirit from both. As humans, we are naturally prone to think about God first. Next, we move onto the wisdom emerging from Him. Last, we think about the energy by which he executes the plan.
For this reason, the Son is said to from the Father only, while the Spirit comes from both the Father and the Son. This is done in many Scriptures, but Romans 8 expresses this most clearly where the same Spirit is called the Spirit of God and the Spirit who raised Him from the dead (Romans 8:9, 11). Peter also testifies that it was the Spirit of Christ who inspired the prophets, even though the Scriptures are often said to come from the Spirit of God the Father (1 Peter 1:21).