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CS Lewis - On the Doctrine of the Trinity

CS Lewis - On the Doctrine of the Trinity

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07/14/2012

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Matt DaviesMarch 20, 2009Professor Apel
C.S. Lewis: On the Doctrine of the Trinity
The Doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most important Christian doctrines and would possibly be considered a “protective” doctrine.
1
Defined by the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, theTrinity consists of three separate species, hupostaseis, who share a common substance, ousia.
2
 Although the Trinity is a complicated doctrine, we can suffice it by saying that the Trinityconsists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all of whom are equal in power but separatein entity. C.S. Lewis warns that the Trinity works together in ways that we, as humans, couldnever understand. He uses the analogy of a cube: a perfectly three-dimensional object made upof six two-dimensional squares. Each square is unique but remain one cube.
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Lewis adopts thetypical evangelical view of the Trinity when it comes to Jesus, as adopted by the NationalAssociation of Evangelicals.The National Association of Evangelicals adopts the following definition for the Trinity:“We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and HolySpirit.”
4
To begin his defense of the Trinity, Lewis talks about the common problem faced whenusing the words “to create” and “to beget.” The Bible talks about Jesus being the only begottenSon of God. John 3:16 says that God sent his only
begotten
Son. John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One andOnly
 Begotten
, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." But what does "begotten"
1 [Tillich, 1957] 139-140.2 [, 2005]3 [Lewis, 2002] 133.4 [Evangelicals]
 
Matt DaviesMarch 20, 2009Professor Apelactually mean? CS Lewis puts the definition as such: "To beget is to become the father of: tocreate is to make."
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He goes on further saying that when one begets something, you begetsomething of the same kind as yourself. Therefore, humans can beget a baby but they will createa birdhouse. He goes further to say this, which begins the first point. "What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is notman. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God incertain ways, but they are not the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God."
6
 Working off the aforementioned premise, we can examine the position of Lewis based onthe Bible and the accepted evangelical definition. The Bible states that Jesus was begotten, asdemonstrated above by John 1:14 and John 3:16. Therefore, Jesus is of one spirit with God andis, in fact, God Himself. The Trinity is one perfect being
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but also three. This line of reasoningwould lead us to believe that a member of the Trinity was walking on earth with mere mortals atone specific point in time. This is a claim that Lewis would defend. We cannot claim that Jesus’earthly life was part of Jesus’ divine history because God has no history.
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Yet to be a Christian,one must belief that the earthly Jesus was divine; to use the language of Lewis, Jesus was either who he said he was, i.e. the Son of God, or a madman.
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To be a Christian, you must believe theformer.
5 [Lewis, 2002] 130.6 Ibid. 130.7 I use the word “being” with great caution. The common Christian belief is that Jesus is the only member of theTrinity with a body. However, when I use the word “being” here, I refer to the previously defined “hupostaseis
.”
8 [Lewis, 2002] 139.9 Ibid. 51.
 
Matt DaviesMarch 20, 2009Professor ApelA difficult question arises from this line of reasoning. If Jesus’ time on earth was not partof God’s history, then was He both fully God and fully man? This is the question of theHypostatic Union: “what is the relation between the entity to which…human predicates apply,and the Second Person of the Trinity?”
John Lamont, a professor at St. Mary’s College at theUniversity of St. Andrews, claims that we have only one sufficient possibility when dealing withthe Hypostatic Union. This possibility deals with the question of identity. If Jesus-man was andis identical to Jesus-divine, then the divine nature of Jesus had human predicates. Lamont willclaim that this view necessitates that Jesus had every human attribute and every divine attribute, by Leibniz’s Law of the indiscernability of identicals.
One might think that this would becontradictory unless we distinguish between being fully human or merely human; or consequently between being fully divine or merely divine. However, this contradiction does nothave to exist. If we ascribe to a deity at least the knowledge, or predicates, of a human, Jesus canaccurately have both. For example, a human cannot fully know everything; we can only identifya true proposition as it specifically relates to our worldview or paradigm. However, God can,and does, know everything. He has
at least 
the knowledge of a human. Paul Tillich warns thatany “diminution of the human nature would deprive the Christ of his total participation in theconditions of existence.
Lamont solves the dilemma by attributing the theory of divinesimplicity. “…there is no feature of that [divine] nature that is not identical with every other feature of it, and with the divine existence…the doctrine of divine simplicity means that God
10 [Lamont, Jan. 2006] 16.11 Ibid. 16-1712 [Tillich, 1957] 142.

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