“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.
So Many Other Anti-Trinitarians
A new breed of heretic has come up at this time. Certain false teachers were unwilling to share Servetus’ view and indeed believed that three Persons exists in the Godhead. But what they also believe is that the Father, who they considered the only true and proper God, infused His “God-ness” into the Son and the Spirit when He made them. They often put it bluntly: The Father can be distinguished from the Spirit and Son by this: He is the only essentiator. Meaning: He is the only one with an original God essence. Their first line of evidence is this: that Christ is regularly called the Son of God. From this fact they infer that there is no proper God but the Father. They forget, however, that although the Son shares the the name of God too, sometimes the term “God” is given to the Father since He is the source and principle of “Godness.” This is done is order to delineate the undivided unity of God’s essence. These false teachers object and argue that if the Son is truly God, He must be deemed the Son of a person. This is absurd.
Here’s my answer: both are true. Jesus is the Son of God because He is the Word, begotten of the Father before all ages (We aren’t speaking of the Person of the Mediator). Yet, for the purpose of explanation. Yet is He is also called God because the term “God” is often equivalent to Father. If we hold that there is no God than the Father, then the Son is clearly not fully God.
In every case where the Godhead is mentioned, there is no division between the Father and the Son, as if the term “God” could only be applied to the Father. Because the God who appeared to Isaiah was one true God, and yet John declares that it was Christ (Isaiah 6:1; John 12:41). When Isaiah says the God is “a stone of stumbling” for the Jews, Paul declares that He is christ (Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:33). Isaiah proclaims that at God’s name, “every knee will bow,” but Paul says that this too applies to Christ (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11).
Furthermore, we can add passages from Hebrews, which is the author quotes from the Old Testament: “You, Lord, have laid the foundations of the earth;” “Let all the angels of God worship him,” (Hebrews 1:10; 10:6; Psalm 102:26; 97:7). All of these attributes apply to God alone, yet the author of Hebrews argues that they also apply to Christ. Christ is the brightness of God’s glory. Since the name of Yahweh is everywhere applied to Christ, it follows that Christ is fully God too. If Christ is Yahweh, it is impossible to deny that He is the same God who proclaims through Isaiah, “I am the first, and I am the last, there is no other God besides me” (Isaiah 44:6). We would also do well to ponder Jeremiah’s words, “Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens” (Jeremiah 10:11). Therefore, it follows that the God whose divinity Isaiah repeatedly stresses from the creation of the world is none other than the Son of God. How is possible that the Creator would borrow the essence of another being? Therefore, whoever says the Son received His “Godness” from the Father denies the Son’s self-existence.
The Holy Spirit also protests when people deny the Son the same divinity of the Father. If the Father only has “Godness” then the essence of God becomes divisible or is denied to the Son. If the Son is robbed of His divinity, He becomes a “lower g” god, who is not really God. If we believe these liars, then only the Father has the divine essence on the ground that He is solely God and essentiator of the Son. If we believe this, then the divinity of Son will be separated from God’s essence. Or you must chop up God’s essence into parts.
If believe this, then we must also concede that the Spirit belongs only to the Father. If God’s essence is only found in the Father, then the Spirit cannot rightly be called the Spirit of the Son. Paul refutes this view when he makes the Spirit come from both the Father and the Son.
Moreover, if the personhood of the Father is cancelled out of the Trinity, in what way will he differ from the Son and the Spirit? They confess that Christ is God and that He differs from the Father. If he differs, there must be some kind of distinction between them? Those who place this difference in the essence of God reduce Christ’s divinity to nothing. Divinity cannot exist without essence, indeed, it must dwell in the essence in its entirety.
The Father cannot differ from the Son unless there is something exclusive to the Father Himself. What do these men think is the mark of distinction? If it is in the essence, they should make it plain whether the Father gives essence to the Son. God cannot give only part of Himself otherwise He would be a divided God. Furthermore, there would be a tearing apart of the divine essence if this happened. Therefore, the Father and the Son must share the full essence of God. Therefore, in respect to the essence there is no distinction between them.
If they reply that the Father, while giving His essence to the Son, still remains the only God, being the sole possessor of essence, then Christ is merely a phantom of God. Christ would not be God in reality. The one thing which differentiates God from everything else is His essence, according to the words, “I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:4).