Wesleyan Theology I - Lesson 7

God as Trinity

Triunity describe God’s nature. The concept of the Trinity was foreshadowed in the Old Testament and taught explicitly in the New Testament. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all active in creation, baptism of Jesus and resurrection of Jesus. The Trinity is three distinct persons with the same essence. The distinctiveness has to do, not with their nature or essence, but with the relations. Person is different than an individual. According to Wesley, the Trinity is an invitation to participate in the deeper life of God. The gospel is the universal love of God, manifested in the person of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Holiness apart from love can result in legalism. Love apart from holiness can result in sentimentality and wishful thinking. 

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology I
Lesson 7
Watching Now
God as Trinity


A. Biblical foundations

B. Wesley on the Trinity

C. Three distinct persons

D. The Trinity is relational

E. Wesley, the Trinity and the language of holy love


A. Council of Nicaea

B. Council of Constantinople

C. Nicene Creed

D. Three distinct roles




  • For the first 5 centuries after Christ, the theology of the Christian Church was ecumenical. Since then, you have differences in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology, and then the Reformation with different Protestant traditions. The Church has a history of promoting and preserving knowledge in all fields of study. Ideological secularization is characterizing theological ideas as irrelevant and not academic. Structural secularization is the process of marginalizing the subject of theology in the academy. Both revelation and reason are both important elements in the discussion of philosophical and theological subjects. God is transcendant, which means that he is distinct from everything that has been made. God is immanent, which means that the Spirit of God can be communicated in time and space through media, but is not the media itself. 

  • God can only be fully know by revelation. However, we can know some things about God by observation and reason. Thomas Aquinas gave 5 reasons that supports the idea of the existence of God. We can perceive motion and there must be something that caused the motion. Nothing can come from nothing, so something must exist at all times, which is God. Humans are contingent beings, but God’s essence is to exist. There are different degrees of goodness and complexity in organisms, so there must be a being of a highest form of good. Design and purpose must be at work because it’s not reasonable that the universe resulted from chance. Dembski also estimates that the mathematical odds for everything happening from a single cell at less than 1 in 10 to the 150th power. 

  • Humans are both material and spiritual and have the capacity to experience transcendence. Without God, you are describing a diminished view of humanity. John Calvin says that wisdom is the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves. Revelation of God comes from Scripture (the most important), tradition, reason and experience. Theology should be participatory and result in transformation. …Wesley’s theology describe in two words would be, “holiness” and “grace.” Wesley’s theology is conjunctive. Holy love is a tension. Holiness results in separation and love results in community. Wesley’s view of grace includes both cooperant grace and free grace. 

  • Two sources for knowledge are revelation and reason. Empiricism teaches  that you get knowledge from your senses. Rationalism teaches that you get knowledge from the operation of your mind. Kant said that the mind makes a formal contribution to knowledge by organizing it.  All knowledge begins with experience but it does not all arise out of experience. Reason can only take us so far. Humans are the only species that worship God.

  • Scripture is unique, the word of God and inspired by God. Scripture is the source of truth and provides a norm for truth. Wesley gives four arguments for inspiration. They are miracles, prophecy, goodness of the doctrine and the moral character of the penmen. Characteristics of Scripture include the sufficiency, clarity and wholeness of Scripture. 

  • Univocal refers to a one-to-one correspondence between the language we use and the reality of God. Equivocal refers to the idea that human language does not correspond directly to describing God, so it acknowledges ambiguity and more than one interpretation. Analogical refers to language used to describe God using  analogy. “Via Negativa” is describing characteristics that God is “not.” “Via Positiva” is describing a characteristic that is true of God, using analogy. Aseity means that God’s essence  is to exist. Eternity means that God transcends the limitations of time-space. There is not a space where God is not. Omniscience of God means that God knows all things. Omnipotence of God means that God is all powerful. Once God creates, there is an order in creation, and God works within the framework he created.  Immutability means that God’s essence does not change. Leslie Weatherhead describes three aspects of the will of God as the intentional will of God, circumstantial will of God and the ultimate will of God. Wesley describes God’s holiness as purity and simplicity. The wrath of God can be described as God’s unending determined opposition to evil.

  • Triunity describe God’s nature. The concept of the Trinity was foreshadowed in the Old Testament and taught explicitly in the New Testament. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all active in creation, baptism of Jesus and resurrection of Jesus. The Trinity is three distinct persons with the same essence. The distinctiveness has to do, not with their nature or essence, but with the relations. Person is different than an individual. According to Wesley, the Trinity is an invitation to participate in the deeper life of God. The gospel is the universal love of God, manifested in the person of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Holiness apart from love can result in legalism. Love apart from holiness can result in sentimentality and wishful thinking. 

  • God created humans in his image so we have both a physical and spiritual nature. Sometimes biologists make statements about evolution that are outside of what can be examined and verified by science. According to young earth creationism, creation took place in 6, 24 hour days and the earth is about 6,000 years old. According to theistic evolution, once the process of evolution began, no special supernatural intervention was required for it to continue. The opposite of a naturalistic explanation for life is not supernatural, but intelligent causes. Intelligent design makes information theory and mathematical probability integral to its overall approach. Irreducible complexity argues against gradualism in the evolutionary process. 

  • God freely created the world and chooses to govern within the framework of the created order. The moral law is consistent with the character of God. God uses the moral law to convict the world of sin, bring us to Christ and keep us alive. Natural law is a body of moral principles that can be discerned by reason. Natural law is the will of God expressed in a created order. Deep conscience refers to the interior witness to the foundational principles of the moral law. Four characteristics of our moral design that are evident at the level of the species are interdependence, complementarity, spontaneous order and subsidiarity. 

  • Adam and Eve were created, not just as physical beings, but also spiritual beings. The image of God includes relationality as well as the capacity for rational thought. Wesley describes it as a natural image, political image and moral image. Wesley says that the natural image of God means that we have physical bodies and also a spiritual nature. Humanity is the conduit for God’s blessing of the rest of creation. 

  • The characteristics that give a human personhood belong to another order of explanation than that explored by biology. Sartre, who is an existentialist, says that existence precedes essence. In other words, each person determines their own nature by the choices they make. Others would say that your choices determine your character but that’s separate from your nature. Postmodernism teaches that the self is only a social and linguistic construct. Some scientists have argued that humans do not have a soul, but that cannot be proved or disproved by the scientific method. If God is dead, humanity is dead. Human beings are more than the social groups in which they participate. Humans are animals, but not merely animals.

  • Lucifer brought sin into the world with his sin of pride. The sin of Adam and Eve was unbelief. Wesley describes  unbelief as the perversion of the relationship between God and humanity, a lack of faith in God, resulting in alienation. He distinguishes three types of death as physical death, spiritual death and eternal death. Satan was self-tempted when he sinned. Adam and Eve were tempted by something external to them, Satan.  Wesley sees Adam as a representative of all humans, so all humans inherit Adam’s sin nature. 

  • There are orders of creation and preservation, like family and marriage, that can mediate the grace of God. God sustains creation, and also relates to people as persons. The three-fold circle of divine providence is the outer ring of the whole race of humans, the second smaller circle is all that are called believers and those who profess to be believers, the innermost circle only the true disciples of Jesus who worship God in Spirit and in truth. Wesley doesn’t deny that bad things happen to good people, both from other people and from events in nature. If God eliminated all evil, it would require eliminating freedom, which would also eliminate love. 

  • Wesley describes total depravity as "a want of original righteousness," and also in terms of a "natural propensity to sin.” Luther, Calvin and George Croft Cell agree. Eastern Orthodox teaches that Adam and Eve were not so fallen as to be unable to respond to any subsequent proffered grace. Wesley teaches the total depravity of humans and the sovereign act of God in salvation. He uses prevenient grace in two distinct ways. The “narrow” sense refers to all those degrees of grace that come before justifying and sanctifying grace. The “broad” use views all grace as prevenient and emphasizes the prior activity of God because he is always ahead of us and takes the initiative. Prevenient grace can be understood as both cooperant and free grace. 

  • God acts preveniently to give humans revelation by communicating his divine attributes. God places in humans a moral law that is expressive of the image of God. The Holy Spirit restored to all humans a certain measure of free-will. Original sin makes it impossible for people to respond to God on their own without God restoring their personhood, which they need to be able to respond to God’s grace. God doesn’t do it in a way that overruns a person’s personality.

  • The incarnation is a foundational teaching of the Christian faith. Since Jesus claimed to be God, it’s not an option that he could be just a good person. Paul teaches that Jesus has the same nature as God and that Jesus created all things. Ebionites rejected the divinity and virgin birth of Jesus. Adoptionism taught that Christ was a good man that was penetrated by God’s nature at his baptism and becomes divine, which treats divinity as an acquired attribute. Arias taught that Christ was not coeternal with the Father. He was more than mere man but he was created so he wasn’t equal with God. The first ecumenical council of Nicea in 325 affirms the divinity of Christ in response to the teaching of Arias. Wesley affirmed that Jesus existed as one person with both a human and divine nature. To affirm the essential equality of Christ with God the Father, Wesley often used the terms, “the only-begotten Son of God,” and “the Word of God.” The Son of God is the creator and sustainer of all things and the redeemer of humanity. The difference in the Godhead is relations, not nature. 

  • 1 John 4:2 describes the incarnation as Jesus coming to earth in the flesh. Jesus is also referred to as the Son of David in the Gospels. Jesus was able to become the mediator between God and humanity because his divinity meant that he was not a part of the problem of sin and his humanity meant that he could fully identify with humans. This is a unique and distinct role that can only be accomplished by Jesus, the God-human. Jesus suffered physically and emotionally and then died and was resurrected to new life. This qualifies him to be priest, a mediator between man and God. The title, Son of Man also emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. Apolliniarism taught that Jesus had a human body and soul, but a divine mind rather than a human mind. Docetism taught that Christ is pure spirit and only seemed to have a body. Gnostics view the body as lowly and the mind is considered higher. Monophysitism taught that the divine and human nature of Jesus was mixed into one nature. Nestorianism teaches that the divine and human natures of Jesus were sharply separated. Wesley viewed Jesus as the expression of the God of holy love, maintaining divinity while becoming human.

  • As a prophet, Jesus proclaimed the coming kingdom of God. Messiah in Hebrew has the same meaning as Christ in Greek. It means, “the anointed one.” The baptism of Jesus was the beginning of his public ministry.  When Satan tempted Jesus, the temptation was real because of the humanity of Jesus. It was necessary for Jesus to experience temptation. Jesus as a preacher, went from place to place, proclaiming the kingdom of God. As a teacher, Jesus taught in the synagogues and the listeners described him as teaching with authority. Christ as a lawgiver is seeking to communicate wisdom to humanity. This moral law is connected to God’s character. Jesus performed miracles to heal the sick, bring people back from the dead and demonstrate his power over nature. Christ as priest, became the mediator to bridge the gap between God and humanity. At the cross, what the holiness of God required, the love of God provided. Theories of the atonement are the best attempts of thinking about how to express the atoning work of Jesus. 

  • Penal substitution asserts that atonement primarily involves Jesus’ taking the sinner’s place (‘substitution’) in bearing the penalty (hence ‘penal’) for his or her sin. That penalty was no less than God’s wrath and the sinner’s death. God’s wrath is his unswerving opposition to evil. The moral influence theory teaches that without the fall, that amazing instance of the love of God to humanity would have never existed. Penal substitution and moral influence theory complement each other. In the governmental view, the death of Christ illustrates the punishment which sin may attract and therefore serves good government by acting as a deterrent. Jesus raised from the dead into an immortal body. Only life can give meaning to human existence. Death destroys all meaning. The first time Christ came as a redeemer. As king, Christ is coming again to rule . Three roles of king are giving laws, restoring people to the image of God and reigning in all believing hearts.

  • The personhood of the Holy Spirit is revealed by the roles of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the disciples that he would send an advocate. The Holy Spirit is an advocate, teacher, proclaims truth, provides direction and assists in prayer. Four characteristics of the Holy Spirit that indicate his deity are eternity, omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. The Filioque controversy is a difference between how the Eastern Orthodox and Western Traditions describe the nature of the Holy Spirit.

  • At the beginning of creation, the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible and brings understanding as people read it. The Holy Spirit makes effective the completed work of Christ and gives us the power to live out the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is personal, not an impersonal force. The believers received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost after Christ ascended to heaven. The gifts of the Spirit are for the common good of building up the body of Christ. We should be cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives and his influence should be evident in how we interact corporately.

 John Wesley's beliefs understood from an historical and theological perspective

Dr. Ken Collins

Wesleyan Theology I


God as Trinity

Lesson Transcript

Okay. Now, when we use the word trinity and by the way, the language Trinity, as you realize, is not found in scripture. It is a reflection, a judgment that comes from considering what Scripture has revealed. But the exact word Trinity would not be found in the Bible itself. And when we use this word Trinity, I think it's helpful to think of try unity. Try unity. In other words, we're thinking of the three, the distinctiveness of the persons. But at the same time, we're thinking of the unity of God, the Christian Godhead. We're thinking of the unity of God. God is one. God is one. But so I think try unity is a helpful way of emphasizing, on the one hand, the distinctiveness of the persons, but also the unity of the divine being. Now, in terms of biblical foundations, we can take a look at Romans chapter 16 versus 25 to 26. And here Paul writes The message I proclaim about Jesus Christ in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for a long age is past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings, although I am. So in other words, this mystery of the Trinity is going is being revealed to us. It is something that has taken time for it to be revealed. And Paul writes elsewhere in Ephesians about this great mystery being preached to the Gentiles and offering the boundless riches of of Christ. Now, the Trinity had not been revealed in the Old Testament, although it had been foreshadowed. It had been foreshadowed. The New Testament revelation is necessary in order to understand this teaching. And so what we're saying here is that the church is now appropriating the Old Testament in a new way and in a greater depth, especially in terms to how God has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ that there are three persons in one God.


Now, if we were to look at verses in the Bible, which bespeak of the Trinity, even though they don't use the exact word Trinity, there are two passages which come to mind. They are explicitly Trinitarian the first and you are familiar with both of these. Matthew 2819. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spirit. And then, of course, Second Corinthians Chapter 13, verse 13 The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Okay. I've been doing a study on another topic, working with the biblical materials, and it's very interesting when you look at the resurrection of Christ from the dead, that all three persons of the Trinity are involved in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Christ himself said, You know, I laid down my life. I freely lay it down. I can take it up again. Then there's another passage of the Bible that talks about the father raising the son from the dead. I forget offhand which one that is. But then there's also the Holy Spirit's role that Christ was raised by the Spirit of holiness. And if that spirit, same spirit of holiness is in us, Scripture says we too shall rise. And so here we see by inference, something so important as the resurrection of Christ. And all three persons of the Trinity are involved in it in terms of the resurrection. Okay. Now, Wesley, of course, John Wesley thought and reflected upon the Trinity at great length. And one thing you'll learn about Wesley is that he likes to keep to a tight biblical idiom.


He likes to use the language of the Bible. And so Wesley maintains, quote, that there are three that. Their record in heaven, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And these three are one. Okay, so that's a basic affirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity. And then elsewhere, Wesley writes. Do you never lose your consciousness of the presence of the three one God? So the way he writes it and he does this often, by the way, he writes it this way. Three and then dash one. God. The three one God, the three, of course, relating to the distinctiveness of a person's, the oneness relating to the unity of the divine being. And so Wesley did have a preference for the raw, undeveloped biblical language in describing the Trinity. And he underscores that the father is distinct from the son, and the son is distinct from the Holy Spirit. When we talk about the Trinity, theologians at times make a distinction between the economic trinity, how God has been revealed to us, and then the imminent trinity, the relations within the Godhead, how they are properly understood. And sometimes theologians will make that distinction between economic and mental trinity. But as Wesley, you know, is grappling with this whole topic of Trinity. Again, we see his orientation to scripture, and this is what he writes, quote, I would insist only on the direct words, the direct words of scripture, unexplained, just as they lie in the text. There are three that their record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. And so, interestingly enough, this may come as a surprise to you. Wesley did not insist upon the use of the word trinity or even person for that matter, in referring to the three and one.


Since he writes they are not biblical words, though he immediately added, quote, I use them myself without scruple because I know of none better. Okay. So Wesley is being cautious here. He always wants to be faithful to the exact words of the Bible, what we would call the obsessive a verb. But he realizes that this doctrine clearly arises out of Scripture. It is a suitable reflection on the revelation. What has been revealed to us in in the New Testament. Now, Wesley knew, even in his own age in the 18th century, that many people were puzzled, you know, by the three one. And so he drew an important distinction between the fact and the manner of the three one. And so Wesley wrote a letter to Miss March, which was composed in 1771. And this is what he writes, quote, The mystery does not lie in the fact these three are one, but in the manner, the accounting, how they are one. And so he's making a distinction here between fact and manner. He recognizes, you know, that that this could be problematic for some to think it through. And Wesley also was principally concerned with what theologians today would call the economic trinity. That is how God is revealed to us in the economy of salvation, in the economy of salvation. In other words, how does God work with humanity in terms of the order of salvation? Rather than Wesley's focus is not on the internal relations of the Christian Godhead. That's not his focus. His focus is on father, son and spirit as they are involved in the processes of redemption, of salvation. And so Wesley underscored this, these things. Now, there are three persons in one God. The three members of the Trinity are distinct persons, distinct persons.


And that is clear in that each is mentioned in distinction from the others. The son prayed to the father. We see that in John 17, the Father spoke from heaven about the son at his baptism. We see that in Matthew chapter three, verses 15 through 17. And indeed, the Holy Spirit was present at the same time, revealing that they coexist. That they coexist. And that is that has been pointed out by Norman Geisler. In one of his works. So that's a helpful way of understanding the three members of the Trinity as distinct persons. We speak of God as having one essence, but we speak of the distinctiveness of persons. Now, when I look at some of the great theologians of the past who have written on this particular topic, we have Eastern theologians considering the doctrine of the Trinity, and then we have Western theologians considering it as well. I find myself favoring the Eastern discussions of the Trinity, especially in terms of the distinctiveness of the persons. Now, don't get me wrong, I appreciate Augustine, the great Latin father, but when it comes to exploring the doctrine of the Trinity and the distinctiveness of the persons, I like reading Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus, who are together known as the Cappadocian Fathers. And if you ask yourself the question, okay, what is it that distinguishes the persons? It cannot be in terms of nature because they share the same nature that the Father is not more God than the son. The son is not more God than the Holy Spirit. They are all equally divine. So we cannot distinguish the persons in terms of nature, in terms of essence, because the father is divine, the Son is divine, the Holy Spirit is divine.


And there is no sense of subordination as that one person is somewhat less than the other in the writings of the Cappadocian fathers. So then you ask yourself the question, Well then what is distinctive about the persons such that there are three such that there are three in one? Well, the cappadocian I argue that the distinctiveness has to do, and this gets us back to how we understand God has to do with the relations, has to do with the relations. The Father is the UN begotten, the son is the begotten, and the spirit is the one who proceeds from the father through the son. And so we can talk about the distinctiveness of the persons in terms of relations, in terms of relations. And that's how the Cappadocian fathers did it. And I find that to be very helpful. I find that to be very helpful. And I think it illuminates, once again, the Christian understanding of the Godhead that relationality distinctiveness of persons is at the heart of how we understand God to be. And we as human beings are reflective of that image in that we are persons for relation as well. Now, someone who has done a good deal of work in this area, a contemporary theologian who I greatly appreciate is Gerald Bray, and he has a very helpful biblical and systematic theology simply called God is Love. And I like his work, especially when he's highlighting and underscoring God as person. God is personal. And so he writes, We find the controversies about the Trinity that plagued the early church confusing. But one of the main reasons why they occurred was because the Greco-Roman world had no single concept for what we now call personhood. And so I think Bray is being very helpful here.


He is suggesting that the work that the Cappadocian fathers are doing in reflecting on the quote, quote, Trinitarian problem, that out of that work is coming and understanding of person and understanding of person. And you have to recognize that person. And Bray will point this out. I'm going to quote this in a moment for you. That person is different than an individual, okay? They are different. And here's what Bray has to write. Quote, In modern usage, person is often taken to be synonymous with individual. But that definition is not very useful either. The word individual describes someone who is different from others and separate from them, whereas the word person emphasizes the relational aspect of the individual and what links him to others. And so the word person is used to describe three different kinds of relations within the Godhead. Okay. There you see, Bray is working with the material from the Cappadocian Fathers that what we mean by person describes the three different kinds of relations Father, Son, Holy Spirit within the Godhead. And that, of course, is going to have consequence for how we understand human beings who have been created precisely in this image, in the image and likeness of God. And so I think this is an enormous contribution to the discussion of the Trinity and something that I think subsequent ages need to recognize and give the church credit for, because in a real sense, what we mean by person today has come out of a reflection by the early church fathers, how God has been revealed in Christ through the Holy Spirit. In other words, thinking through the Trinitarian issue out of that reflection, working with the biblical materials and thinking it through has come the very understanding that we now enjoy in terms of person.


What does it mean to be a person? As Bray is suggesting here, in contrast to an individual, as a contrast to an individual. And so once again, I think Trinitarian discussions are going to be very helpful for us and a lucrative for us to understand how just how are we created in the image and likeness of God. And that Imago day is going to be expressive of relationality. I've said that earlier, but it's also going to be expressive of personhood personhood. And I like to use the language of an embodied soul. You know, speaking of a person as an embodied soul, where the soul is 50,000 fathoms deep. Yes. Yes. We'll get to that. We'll get to that. 50,000 fathoms deep. So the Cappadocian Fathers on the Trinity, the distinctiveness of the persons understood in terms of relations. The father is the begotten son is to begotten. The spirit proceeds. So the Trinity then highlights relationality highlights, relation, the relationality. The three persons of of the Godhead are in distinct relations with one another. Wesley As you might imagine, he developed this teaching as well. He focused on the economic trinity, as I said earlier, that God, the Father has revealed to believers in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, thinking of the economic trinity in the processes of salvation. This presence is an invitation to participate, to participate more deeply in the divine life of God. And so Wesley's understanding of God, I think I'm going to take off the jacket. It's getting a little warm here with the fireplace. I think I'm going to take off the jacket that that Wesley is reflecting on this. In other words, on the Trinity.


And he is trying to win the inside in terms of us. And then thinking more broadly now in terms of salvation and the processes of salvation. And so Wesley is considering human beings as creating the image and likeness of God. And to participate in salvation is to participate in a certain sense in the divine. Life of Father, Son, Holy Spirit. And at one point when when Wesley is underscoring the processes of redemption, and he's underscoring that redemption is participatory. You know, we cannot be removed. We have to be engaged. We have to participate in these relations. He talks about, as he uses this language, which I think is wonderful language transcripts. We are transcripts of the Trinity. That's what he says. He says we are transcripts of the Trinity written emblems of glory, reflecting nothing less than the resplendent holy love of God in which we are created. Now, what does this mean? What's the cash value here in terms of what we're saying? Well, unlike how other religions would present God, they would present God as a monad. In other words, God is a monad. God is simply one. We don't know about relationality in terms of God. We don't know about love in terms of God. We don't know about personhood. God is simply a monad. That is not the Christian understanding of God. And though the Trinity has been criticized by other world religions, when they think of the Christian faith, I think much of that criticism has been based on misunderstanding. We have been accused from time to time as believing in three gods. We do not. It's just that our understanding of God has relationality and personhood at the essence of who God is. You say the essence of who God is, and we say that God is not a monad, but that God is relational Father, son, Spirit in one God.


Now, of course, there has been historical development that precedes all of this theological reflection, and we see it in terms of the Nicene Creed, the first Council of the church, the Council of Nicaea, which met in 3 to 5, and then later on the Council of Constantinople in 381. And the Nicene Creed calls the son not just true God, but true God of true God signifying at the same time that Christ is. Of the same substance of the father that uses the language, the Greek language, homo. You see us, which means Christ is of the same substance of the Father. The Latin for homo Odysseus would be con substantial, that Christ is con substantial of one essence with the Father. Okay, so we have that basic affirmation at Nicea that the son is homo. See, as with the father con substantial or of one essence with the father. And this relationship is eternal. It's an eternal relationship. There never was a time when the son was not related to the father as such. And then later on in the Council of Constantinople, the divinity of the Holy Spirit was affirmed, and the Eastern churches affirmed that the Spirit proceeded from the Father. And then later on, much later on actually into the sixth century, the Western churches, in affirming the divinity of the Holy Spirit, maintain that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son. So you have the dual procession in the Western expression, and we call that the the Phile OC clause. It's actually an interpolation of the Creed Phile. Okay, Claus. It simply means that the Western expression of the doctrine of the Trinity maintained that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and from the Son. And this. When did this happen? Well, there was a third synod of Toledo in five, eight, nine.


So we're deep into the sixth century. And it actually took a little time after that for the West, especially the popes, to embrace this fully. But it eventually became a part of the Western tradition. And so here you have this distinctiveness of traditions. I remember the first day we talked about we basically had an ancient ecumenical church, very a lot of commonality up until the fifth century. Now we have a clear distinction of the Eastern tradition, from the Western tradition, because the Western tradition has interpolated the historic Nicene Constantinople and Creed, which talked about the spirit proceeding from the Father and the West in the sixth century, late in the sixth century, added, and the spirit proceeds from the son. So dual procession. And so now we have a distinction between the East on the one hand, the West on the other. Filial charism or preceding the dual procession has been very important in Latin theology, Western theology. It's been important in the theology of Augustine, also of Thomas Aquinas, who recognized the Holy Spirit as the bond of union between the Father and the Son. And so we have some slightly different theologies being articulated here in terms of the East and the West. When we think of the credo development corresponding to the two councils that feed into it, the Council of Nicaea had focused on the matter that Christ was divine because that was being challenged by Eris. And so it used that specific language that Christ is of the same substance homasi as with the Father. It did not focus on the Holy Spirit. That work was left for the second council, the second Ecumenical Council, the Council of Constantinople, which took place in 381, and that Council refuted the new modern Mateen's, who basically denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit.


They did not affirm the full divinity of the Holy Spirit. And so we see that in terms of these two councils. First, the Council of Nicaea dealing largely with Christology. Then the Council of Constantinople dealing largely with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. We have a creed that comes out of that which we call the Nicene Constantinople and Creed. And then what the West did later on in the sixth century is. A departure from the council as well as the. And so that's rather interesting. Let me read because I think it's helpful to do so at this point. Let me read to you the language of the Nicene Constantinople and Creed and so that you get a good feel for it. We believe in one God, the Christians. We're monotheist. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten begotten of the Father before all ages. Notice this language now. Light of light. Very God of very God begotten, not made of one substance with the Father or one essence. That's that word, Homo U.S.A. or the Latin would be con substantial. By whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man and was crucified for us under punches, pilot and suffered and was buried. And the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. Whose kingdom will have no end.


And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. So here we see in this creed the Nicene Constantinople and Creed, we see the church is reflection on the biblical materials, on Revelation in terms of Christology, to be sure, in terms of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, to be sure. But there's also a Trinitarian reflection as well. And we can see the Trinity properly expressed in this creed, in this early creed of the church. Now, some people today in contemporary theology, and here I'm thinking of some feminists who have argued that they've taken umbrage with the language of Scripture in terms of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And so what they would like to do is displace that biblical language with functional roles, so to speak, of creator, Redeemer and sanctify. Well, that is not going to work. It's not going to work for a number of reasons. I'll suggest a couple. But that kind of passing out in terms of what we see in the revelation of Scripture and in the early church is reflection is not going to work because, as you know, even the cappadocian is understood in terms of such things as creation, redemption and sanctification. We have an interpenetration of roles in terms of father, son, spirit. You cannot discretely say that the father is the creator, the Son is the Redeemer, the Holy Spirit is the sanctify because all the persons of the Trinity are involved in creation.


They're all involved in redemption and they're all involved in sanctification. So it's simply not going to work. So therefore and I and I understand the point, don't get me wrong, I understand the point that that that God is not male, that God transcends the distinction of male and female. And I myself would use language on, you know, not to suggest, you know, that God is is male, you know, in that sense, because the Godhead, the Christian Understanding of Godhead transcends gender. Okay. Now, Jesus Christ as the God human, of course, is male. And we have to make that affirmation. And I also want to use the language Father, Son, Holy Spirit, because it is language that easily gets at the persons involved in the Christian Godhead. And so although I have those thoughts, I, I cannot go with breaking things down in terms of roles because it doesn't properly understand the divine being, it doesn't properly understand the Trinity. The father is involved in redemption, the son is involved in creation, and the Holy Spirit is involved in creation as well. That that just would be an example. Okay, so God has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit as Holy Love. God is love. That's what God essentially is. No other religion makes this claim in the way that the Christian faith does. No other world. Religion says that God essentially is love, holy love at the core of the divine being. No other religion can say that in a way that the Christian faith can say that God is not a monad as God is presented in other world religions. And as we said earlier, it is God's very nature, God's very nature to love. And here I'm thinking of second Peter, Chapter three, verse nine The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise.


As some understand, slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Indeed, the gospel is now. I'm going to define the gospel now in terms of our understanding of God. And Wesley does this as well. What is the gospel? It is the universal love of God manifested in Christ through the power of a Holy Spirit. That's what the Gospel is. It is the universal love of God. And we've got to understand that that word universal to get it right. Paul understood this very well, especially in his Galatians Epistle, Galatians Chapter three, verse 28. Let me read it for you here. Paul writes, There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free. Nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ. Jesus. What is Paul saying here? Well, Paul is testifying to the universality of the gospel. That all means all see prior to the coming of Christ. You know, there was this very sharp Jew gentile distinction. But that division, scripture tells us, has been put aside at the cross. And so not simply Jews now, but also Gentiles, other people of God. Okay. And not just males, but also females. And so the Christian faith is the universal love of God and not simply slaves, but also free the slaves and free, no matter what condition one is, what class, what grouping, what society, what tribe, even one is that the gospel is universal. And this, I think, is is very important, especially in our age, because we tend to define people in terms of groups, what groups they participate in, in terms of race, in terms of gender, in terms of economic status, and on and on it goes.


And those groups become oftentimes at odds with one another opposed to one another in various power configurations. The gospel is very different than that. The gospel transcends the kind of tribalism that we see in many of our cultures where one group is pitted against another. And the Bible is saying that God loves all people Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free. And so we emphasize this at this point. We will pick up on this theme later on because it's at the heart of what the good news of the gospel is. And it also bespeaks of a God of holy love who loves all people, even the people we don't like. God loves them, too. Yes, God loves them, too. Even the people we don't like. God loves them as well. And that's part of the good news of the gospel as well. Now when we see God in terms of holy love, Father, Son in spirit. And we've been talking a lot about holiness. We've been talking a lot about love. I want to focus that discussion a bit because I think we're now at a point in the course. Where we can take the Christian revelation seriously and start to draw some of the conclusions from it that will challenge many other peoples, perhaps even other religions understanding. Of who God is. Okay. And so I want to start out the discussion once again by appealing to Holy Love. I'm going to start out with holiness and make the observation that holiness, apart from love, holiness, apart from love, would result in a dour, unloving religion, one where people were preoccupied with their own sanctity and they would distance themselves and separate themselves from others. I mean, we see examples of this even in the gospels in terms of some of the religious leaders not wanting to eat with Gentiles because they're unclean and they want to be separate, removed from those who have been created in the image and likeness of God.


Okay. But then, on the other hand, if we have love apart from holiness, that would result in sentimentality and wishful thinking. It would not be a serious understanding of love. Certainly not what Christians mean when they talk about the love of God. Or when they say the love of God is preeminently revealed at Calvary. Okay. What do we see at Calvary? Well, we see precisely this. We see holy love in tension. We see a humble sacrificial love. Okay. Now, interestingly enough, I make this observation, you know, just as a matter of fact, if you've read the Koran and I've read the Koran several times now, at least three, it says specifically in the Koran that that Christ was not crucified. He was not crucified and put to death that way. It says it specifically. As a matter of fact, let me read the material from the Koran in which this is stated. That they said in boast, We killed Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary, the messenger of Allah. But they did. They killed him, not nor crucified him. But so it was made to appear to them. And those who differ therein are full of doubts with no certain knowledge, but only conjecture to follow for a surety. They killed him, not nay. Allah raised him up into himself and Allah is exalted in power wise. End of end of quote. That's the quote from the saw Sura four. And so here we have in the Koran specifically denying that Jesus Christ was put to death and that he was crucified. And now I'm going to say, on the other hand, out of Christian revelation, that this is precisely the place. In other words, at Calvary, at the Cross, where God is revealed to us, God is revealed to us as humble, sacrificial love.


That this is the heart of the revelation of who God is. And this is one of the least likely places we would imagine to look in order to gain a window on who God is, on who God is. In other words, God the greatest, the most exalted of being, or greater of which cannot be conceived. The one chock full of superlatives. Okay. So what I'm going to suggest to you at this point in the course, as we have reflected on the being and nature of God, as we have explored the Trinity and have especially dealt with this tension of Holy Love, which plays so out richly in Wesley's theology that we need and this is a challenge to us. We need to rethink the attributes of God. Yes, we need to rethink the attributes of God in light of precisely how God has been revealed to us at Golgotha in the midst of torture and mocking and darkness and shame, etc.. Though Jesus was in the form of God. We think of more faithful, more faithful, the form of God. He emptied himself. We talk about Kenosis. We talk about an emptying, taking on the form of a servant. More faith do live. Christ took on the form of a servant. And so in Jesus Christ, then God bridges the distance, the distance between God and God's glory. And then us as sinners, alienated from the being and life of God, that Jesus Christ bridges the distance in love and comes to us. And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. We have beheld his glory. This is what the Incarnation is all about. This indeed, is what the Gospel is all about. Only Jesus Christ reveals a God who is so humble and so lowly that is willing to get down to our level to meet us in forgiveness and love.


Only Jesus Christ displays a God who truly comes to us and is one with us, and who identifies with our pain, our sorrow, and our failures. See, I don't know about you, but in my theology, if God doesn't come that the Odyssey problem is too great. In other words, the evil and suffering of the world is just simply too great. I, I can't go forward. But if I know that God has come. It has tasted that suffering and knows that suffering and knows that defeat and knows mocking and shame. Yes, I can listen. I'm teachable at that point. But a God that doesn't come. I'm clear in my own theology. I can not worship a God who does not come, who remains in the starry heavens or removed. From the evil and pain and suffering and defeat and failure. That's very much a part of this world. I cannot believe in such a god. But I can believe in the one who has come. But Jesus Christ went further. He went further. He not only humbled himself among men and women, but he became obedient unto death. Even death on the cross. The disciples, his own disciples. They had spoken what a power of glory, of the cushy seats in the Kingdom of heaven. Who's going to sit at the right? Jesus spoke of the powerlessness of the cross. A powerlessness, however, which is far greater than all human power. And as Saint Paul has reminded us, a foolishness which is far greater than all human wisdom. And so do we want to know who God is? God the greater the exalted, the highest. The one of the magnificent superlatives. Then let us look to Calgary. It is here that Christ sets up his kingdom.


It is here where He will begin His rule, and He will begin it nailed to a tree. At the cross and only at the cross do we see the magnificent display of God's reigning attribute. Humble. Sacrificial holy love. For. After all that was done to Jesus on that dark day, He still loved his enemies. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. The love of Jesus was, is and remains. Unconquerable. Males cannot destroy it. Taunting cannot weaken it. Hatred cannot overcome it. It is a love which is eternal. And so I would ask us all who are here, especially those who are despised and rejected. Then remember that Christ knows your plight, for He died the death of a common criminal and surrendered himself to the lowest depths of human existence, spanning the gulf of separation between God and humanity. Are there any? Among us who are honored, who are celebrated, then know that Jesus Christ, He is the king. He is the king. He is the Lord of Glory, to be sure. Jesus Christ himself is the bridge which God throws across to us, over which God comes to us. He is the new Adam who has led the way for a new humanity. The old way has passed away. The new has come. And so the true greatness. What is true greatness? You know, Is it the stuff of pride? The true greatness consists in this that Christ sought not to remove himself from his neighbors, but to identify with them, not to be insensitive to their need, but to be compassionate, not to engage in selfish pride, but to be humble and lowly. He sought to relate to all people from the lowest to the highest. Thieves and former prostitutes were his friends.


He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He touched lepers. Spoke with Samaritans. We see here. God is being revealed to us differently than we would have ever come up with it. That God, the greatest, the magnificent, the one of great superlatives is none other than. Oh, watch this word now. Humble. Humble. God is humble. Oh, wrap. Wrap your mind around that. The greatest. The highest lowly. Precisely. Precisely. Because that's how God has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ. And look a look at the image that John is using in the Book of Revelation to express that humility and the trans valuation that has to happen in terms of our understanding of God, that we have to rid ourselves of the sinful, pride infested characteristics that we ascribe to God. We take our own sin. We magnify it. We put it on to God, and we expect that that is God and God has been revealed to us otherwise in Jesus Christ. He's been revealed to us as humble, sacrificial love. And so when John in the Book of Revelation is looking for an image, how do I describe God? He talks about the lamb. Why is the lamb worthy to receive power? Because he alone will use it rightly. He will aim at the father's will not my will, but thy will be done. Why is the lamb worthy to receive riches? Because for our sakes, he became poor. He emptied himself so that we might become full. Why is the lamb worthy to receive wisdom, strength and honor? Because he served not himself. But others. And finally, why is the lamb worthy to receive glory and blessing? Because he sacrificed himself for others in dying on the cross. He therefore has a name which is above every other name that at the name of Jesus Christ.


Every knee shall bo in heaven, on Earth and under the earth. And so, in light of this reflection, I am amazed. Who would have believed it? That God, the highest, the most excellent, the omnipotent, the omnipresent, the omniscient is none other than humble love. Who would have ever thought what persons reason would have ever suggested? What theologian would have ever come up with in? That God is lowly and meek. That God is sacrificial love. Jesus said, Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you a rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For I am gentle and lowly in heart. And you will find rest for your souls. And so. As a. Professor, as a theologian, I must I must offer to you the good news of the gospel that God has revealed to us in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit entails a trans valuation. Okay. The first shall be last. The last shall be first. He who exalts himself will be humbled. He who humbles himself will be exalted. The meek. Not too proud. Will inherit the earth. And so when we hear someone say, God is great. We must, first of all, be sure we understand just in what that greatness consists. For Jesus Christ. We know that God's ways are clearly not our ways. His ways are far more glorious. Let's take some questions. When we think about our relationship with God, is it would it be correct to say that we're invited into the Fellowship of the Trinity since God? Uh, since since Christ is has made a way for us to have a relationship with God since her fellow airs with Christ and since the Holy Spirit lives in us, that we're invited into the fellowship of the Trinity.


I like your question. I think your question is very good because it's going to get us at a couple of important things and distinguish Christian understanding of redemption from how other religions would understand redemption. And I like how you working out, how God has been revealed as triune that unity and then the invitation to participate, you know, in the divine life. And the distinction I would make so that this stays properly within the revelation is that we are invited to communion with God. It's a communion of holy love that. But it's not union. It's not union in the sense of ontological union. Because at the end of the day, so to speak, God is God and we are the people of God. So there there remains that distinctiveness, that God is who God is. We are the children of God. We are invited, as you are pointing out correctly, that for fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to enjoy the richness of the divine life in our relations with God and others. However, having said all that, we want to also underscore that it's not ontological union, as some religions would teach, that we don't become God. We are the people of God. We are in fellowship with God in relation to God and throughout all eternity, God will be God and the Saints will be the people of God related to God, but ontologically distinct from God. Because if we didn't say that, if we said, for example, Oh yes, that we are invited into the divine life and we become united with God, such like a drop of water goes into the ocean. Well, that would be perhaps an eastern understanding of what redemption would look like. It wouldn't be a Christian one because Christianity will continue to maintain the distinctiveness of creator and creature, even though they are in rich fellowship and are related.


And we, as the children of God, enjoy the love of the divine life. Yeah. So good. Great question. Love that question. Great question. I was wondering if you could clarify the difference between individual and person, because I got a little confused on that. Yeah, I'm actually going to flip back here to my notes because that actually that distinction comes from Bray. And I don't want to miss quote him. So I'm going to flip back to that now and what he says here. And I'm just going to read the quote and then we can talk about it. In modern usage, person is often taken to be synonymous with individual, but that definition is not very useful because the word individual describes someone who is different from others and separate. Whereas the word person emphasizes the relational aspect of the individual and what links him or her to others. And so what Bray is saying there, when he's distinguishing personal person from individual, he's underscoring the relation as relationality in terms of person and is suggesting that individual could be understood apart, separate by itself. Gosh, when I when I hear that language of individual, I'm thinking of the enlightenment of, you know, human autonomy, then, you know, dare to reason your own reason, be autonomous, be an individual, be separate, be removed. That's what I'm thinking when I hear Bray describe an individual, in other words, someone who is a self apart from relations to others. I know when I read saw it, when I read cites philosophy. One of the problems I had with saw it in his philosophy is that he assumed the Enlightenment self and he didn't bring in the whole context of relationality, which is for me as a Christian where I live, that I am a person and who I am as a person has to be understood in relation to others.


I do not exist. You know, as an individual, I would not understand my own life that way, but that who I am as a person is a function of the relations of which I am a part, which bespeaks of my identity and of course, my relation to God, who transcends me being the most important relation of all. So I think Bray is really getting at something important here. And I know we've had problems in the West with individualism, rampant individualism, isolation separate, and that has been a problem for us and for for our culture. Hopefully today we're in a better place, you know, because we're critiquing the Enlightenment and we're critiquing these isolated conceptions of individual that reigned in the 18th century but no longer inform how we understand ourselves today. You know, in the 21st century. Yeah. Yeah.