“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.
New Errors are Still Errors
It is tedious to try to catalogue all the errors about the Trinity. Many false teachers attack the glory of God. Based on a few of these teachers, numerous sects, which tamper with the Trinity, have spring up. Sometimes they try to split up God’s one essence. Other times, they collapse the Persons into each other.
The Trinity presents us with two major truths. First, God has one essence. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all share in this one divine essence. Second, each Person differs from the others in some ways. The Father has some special properties different than the Son, and the Son different than the Father, and the Spirit different from both. These truths shut the door on Arius and Sabellius, as well as other older authors of error. In today’s age, there are others, such as Servetus, who have thrown every thing into confusion by spreading errors.
Servetus hated the term “Trinity” so much that they claimed all who were Trinitarians as being atheists. I have no response for his insulting terms. His view of this: he argued that a three gods are introduced wherever three Persons are said to exist in God’s essence. Thus, the three Persons are imaginary, since it was inconsistent with the unity of God. At the same time, he says that the Persons are external ideas which do not exist in God’s essence. At first, there was originally no distinction in God because the Word was the same as the Spirit. But ever since Christ came from God, another Spirit who was also a God, had proceeded from him.
Although Servetus sometimes dresses up his absurdities in allegory, like when he says the eternal Word of God was the Spirit of Christ with God, he reduces the “God-ness” of both to nothing. He maintains that there is a part of God in the Son and part in the Spirit, just like the Spirit is the “God” part in us! I will address his absurdities concerning Jesus in another place.
The terrible idea that a Person is nothing else than a visible appearance of God’s glory does not need a long refutation. When John declares that before the world was created, the Word was God (John 1:1), he shows that the Word was something very different than merely an idea. From eternity, the Word who was God was with the Father. The Word even had His own distinct and peculiar glory with the Father (John 17:5). He certainly could not have been an external, different glory from God’s own glory. Necessarily, he must have been a hypostatis with dwelt in God Himself.
Although the Spirit isn’t mentioned before the creation account, he is not introduced as a shadow, but as the essential power of God (Genesis 1:2). It is obvious that the eternal Spirit always existed in God. He loved and sustained the unfilled materials of the heavens and earth before they even possessed order and beauty. He could have been merely an image or representation of God as Servetus maintains.
In other places, he is forced to be more open of his heresy when he says that God through His eternal reason decrees a Son for Himself. In this way, God assumed a visible appearance. Now this is true, then Christ is not God. Moreover, Servetus substitutes “ghosts” for the Persons of the Trinity as so he makes new changes in God. His worst error, however, is his confusion of both the Son and Spirit with all of God’s creation. He argues that “part” of God exists in all things. He claims that the spirits of believers are co-eternal and consubstantial with God. Elsewhere, he assigns “God-ness” not only to people’s souls, but to all creation.