Chapter 8.

— The Holy Spirit And The Trinity
1. The Holy Spirit
THE biblical doctrine of the Spirit of God exhibits many marks of progress in the revelation from the earliest to the latest stages. The Hebrew word for spirit originally meant “breath.” From this it came to mean “wind,” and gradually it passed into the meaning “spirit.” Originally the Spirit of God meant his energy or power in contrast with the weakness of the flesh. (Isa. 31: 3.)

1. In the Old Testament the following are the leading points in the teaching as to the Spirit of God:
(1) The Spirit of God was God in action accomplishing an end. The Spirit was sometimes distinguished from God in the Old Testament, but not in the later Trinitarian sense. (Gen. 1: 2; 6: 3; Psa. 51:11.) (2) The Spirit was the energizing power in the primeval chaos, bringing out beauty and order. (Gen. 1: 2; Psa. 104:28-30; Job. 26: 3.) (3) Life is imparted to man through God’s Spirit. (Gen. 2: 7.) (4) Many powers were conferred on men through the Spirit, as on Samson and others. (Jud. 14: 6; 11:29.) (5) Wisdom and skill were conferred by the Spirit, as in the case of Bezaleel. (Exo. 31: 2-5; 35:31; 28: 3.) (6) The Spirit endowed the prophets with wisdom and revealed divine truth to them. (Eze. 2: 2; 8: 3; 11: 1, 24.) In the earlier stages the prophetic gift took the form of enthusiasm or ecstasy. (1 Samuel 10.) Later the prophets were especially chosen as messengers to convey truth from Jehovah. (7) Moral and spiritual character is traced to the Holy Spirit also. The ethical quality of the Spirit’s work becomes quite manifest. (Psa. 51:11; Isa. 63:10.) The expression “Holy” came to be applied as the special designation of the Spirit. (8) The Messiah is to be anointed by the Holy Spirit for his work, and predictions of a future outpouring of the Spirit appear in the later Old Testament teachings. (Isa. 11: 1-5; 42: 1 ff.; 61: 1; so also, Isa. 44: 3; 59:21; Joe. 2:28-32.)

2. In the New Testament the work of the Spirit of God appears in great fulness.
(1) Observe his work in relation to Jesus. He is present at the birth of Jesus. He anoints him at his baptism. (Mar. 1:10; Luk. 3:22.) Through the Spirit Jesus endured temptation (Mat. 4: 1); Jesus taught, and healed, and cast out demons through the Holy Spirit. (Luk. 4:14-21; Mat. 12:18, 31; Mar. 3:28, 29.) Jesus offers himself upon the cross by the “eternal Spirit.” (Heb. 9:14.) He was raised from the dead according to the Spirit of Holiness. (Rom. 1: 4.) It is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. (Mat. 3:11; Mar. 1: 8; Luk. 3:16; Joh. 20:22; Act. 1: 5.) (2) Pentecost is the fulfilment of the prophecies concerning the outpouring of the Spirit, and marks the turning-point in the activities of the first generation of Christians. This is the baptism of the Spirit referred to above. (Acts ch. 2.) (3) As the result of the pentecostal outpouring there were many charismatic gifts or enduements of power bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon early Christians, such as speaking with tongues, power to work miracles, and others. (4) The Spirit of God convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. This was to be a special feature of his mission to the world. (Joh. 16: 9 ff.) (5) Chiefly, however, the work of the Spirit in regenerating sinners and in imparting power for holy living receives increasing emphasis. In the later New Testament writings especially the ethical results of the Spirit’s action are made prominent. Paul’s entire conception of the Christian life involves at every point the presence and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Believers “walk in the Spirit.” They are commanded to “grieve not the Spirit,” to be “filled with the Spirit.” Paul’s own preaching was in demonstration of the Spirit.” (6) In the New Testament the attributes of personality are ascribed to the Holy Spirit, and the teachings on which the doctrine of the Trinity is founded come into clear expression. Jesus describes the Spirit as “another Comforter,” whom he will send from the Father. Masculine pronouns are applied to the Spirit: “He shall teach you,” “He shall bring to your remembrance,” “He shall testify of me.” The Spirit “comes,” is sent,” “teaches,” may be “grieved,” or “resisted.” All these expressions indicate the growing sense of the special and distinctive work of the Spirit and the personal qualities manifest in his action. Another group of passages especially emphasize the Trinitarian aspect of the teaching as to the Spirit of God. The commission commands baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Mat. 28:19.) In 2Co. 13:14 Paul clearly distinguishes Father, Son, and Spirit. So also in 1Co. 12: 4-6 Paul mentions the three as sources of spiritual blessings for believers. (See Eph. 2:18; 3: 2-5, 14, 17; 4: 4-6; 5:18-20.)

3. From the preceding outline of Scripture teaching the following points are
clear: (1) The teaching as to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is the culmination of the Old Testament teaching on the subject; (2) in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is revealed as personal in his action upon men; (3) the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are grouped together and regarded as belonging to the same class; (4) on the basis of these facts the Christian doctrine of the Trinity arises. The word Trinity does not occur anywhere in the Bible, but the thought expressed by the word is clearly taught therein.

2. The Trinity 1. Before proceeding to the chief question in regard to the Trinity several preliminary statements are necessary. The first that the Christian conception of the Trinity does not imperil the conception of the unity of God. The Old Testament gave us monotheism. New Testament writers, mostly Jews, give us the Trinitarian teaching with no sense of conflict or inconsistency. The unity of God is clearly held in the New Testament. Sometimes the Trinitarian doctrine has been stated in theological works in a manner which makes it difficult to distinguish it from tritheism. This is a fundamental error, and should be carefully avoided.
In the second place, it is to be noted that when we employ the terms “person” and “personal” in connection with the Trinity, we do not mean precisely what we have in mind when we apply the terms to men. With men a person is a separate and distinct individual, having no essential connection with other individuals. In reference to the Trinity we mean by personalities inner distinctions in the Godhead. These distinctions, however, are qualified by the most intimate relations of unity. They express the meaning of a single divine life, not of three separate and externally related divine lives. There are not three Gods, but one. A divine person is not less than a human person, but more. The divine life is richer and more complete than the human. In the third place, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is not the result of an effort to solve an abstract metaphysical problem. It arises out of the revelation in and through Jesus Christ and out of our experience of the grace of God in him. That is to say, God has spoken to us in Christ, and our experience of God in Christ is accompanied by a need which the Trinitarian truth alone supplies.

In the realm of experience, therefore, we find the solution of several pressing speculative problems.

2. Is the Trinity immanent or economic? The most fundamental question
regarding the Trinity is whether the distinctions are to be thought of as inside the Godhead itself or as manifested simply in the outward activities of God. Some are content to adopt an agnostic attitude and deny the possibility of solving the problem. This is an untenable position. The Christian teacher must not expose himself to the charge of evasion. The human mind refuses to ignore ultimate questions. The agnostic attitude on this point is no more justifiable than or, others. At the same time we may and should admit that knowledge here is partial. All the questions of ultimate being remain and wily remain partly in shadow until our capacities are enlarged. But do have real knowledge. God’s revelations do not conceal. Our discoveries all imply growing capacity for knowledge and an expanding realm of truth. The infinite is implicit in the finite. Both Scripture and experience warrant the view that the distinctions in the Trinity are not merely economic. They are immanent. They are distinctions in the Godhead. The grounds for this statement are manifold.

1. All the evidence for the deity and preexistence of Christ confirms the
Trinitarian doctrine. By this it is not meant that the Trinitarian doctrine is a necessity for thought to those who accept the preexistence doctrine. It is only meant that by the teaching of preexistence we ascribe immanent distinctions to the Godhead. If God is eternally Father and Son, then provision is made for a further distinction of Father and Son and Spirit.

2. The evidence for the personal action of the Spirit confirms the Trinitarian view. Beyond all question, the Spirit of God is revealed as distinct in some sense from God, both in the Old and in the New Testament. In the New he is clearly revealed as personal. Indeed, a mere “principle” could not mediate the inner life of the religious man. Personality and personal relations are essential to the very idea of religion. The Spirit of God, regarded as a mere principle or impersonal force in man’s religious life, is a self-contradictory conception. Only a pantheistic view of the world, in which personality loses its meaning, is in harmony with it. 3. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity aids man in his speculative endeavors.
A standing problem of thought is the difficulty of relating the abstract and infinite being to the finite as conditioned. This is not the place to enter fully into the controversy, But a brief statement is in order. As soon as we attempt to abolish all distinctions in the Godhead, we come upon insoluble difficulties. A

God without such distinctions has no relations either within or without. He is unlike and apart from everything we know. We cannot conceive of him as active in relation to any finite existence without compromise, in some form, of his absoluteness. The result is that gradually men come to view him as a simple monad, an indefinable and intangible bare unity lifted far above all finite forms. He is like the dot above the i, and unrelated to it. Or else he is conceived of in a pantheistic way which cancels the meaning and validity of all finite beings, including human personality. Thus God is absorbed in the world like water in a sponge. The philosophic thought which takes either of these directions is fatal to all our higher interests. We are plunged in hopeless agnosticism, or else we are swallowed up in the All which devours ruthlessly every form of finite life. Now the Christian Trinity recognizes that finite being is not the negation, but in part the expression of God; that the universe is a clue to the meaning of the divine Being, not a veil to hide him from view; that human personality is a reflection of his image, not a passing phase of being. It shows that God’s own life may find expression in a finite human life through the incarnation of his Son; that the infinitude of his being as Father does not prevent his gift to us of his Spirit, who teaches us to say, “Abba, Father.” We may sum up the matter by saying that we must find in God himself the ground for all that we discover in his works. God sustains relations to man and nature. Hence we are not surprised to find him revealed as having relations within the divine nature itself.

3. There are several forms of statement which men have employed to show the necessity for distinctions in the Godhead. It is said, for example, that as thinking subject God needs and requires an object. If the universe is created and finite, God can only find an eternal object in himself, that is, in one of the persons of the Trinity.
Again, it is urged that as infinite will God must have a corresponding object for the action of his will. This he finds in the Son and the Spirit. More attractive than either of these is a third statement viz., that as eternal love God must have an object which is also eternal. His Son and his Spirit are such objects. Thus it appears that the eternal Fatherhood of God and the eternal Sonship of Christ supply us an infinite ground for love as it is manifest in the world. Whatever may be said of the first two suppositions, the last must appeal powerfully to every thoughtful mind. We place righteous love at the apex of the divine attributes. It is the crown of all. And yet apart from immanent

distinctions in the Godhead it is a finite quality. In a sense it is a derived and dependent quality rather than inherent and essential, since it arises only after God has created finite beings. A fourth statement is that God as a moral being generally is dependent on immanent distinctions in the Trinity. We can think of God as enacting a moral law, objective to himself, and establishing a moral system for the benefit of his creatures, but it lowers the ethical values very greatly if they be conceived as a mere positive ordinance of God based on expediency and not grounded in his eternal nature. If we eliminate the ethical ideal from the divine nature, it is difficult to see how we can ever give such a system the necessary motive and sanction. It would reduce God to a merely intellectual being without any wealth of moral content. On the other hand, to conceive God as eternally ethical involves relations in the Godhead. At the same time it gives an infinite sanction to the moral ideal among men, and greatly exalts its meaning. A fifth statement is that the ideal of personality itself involves; relationships to others. We remain mere individuals so long as our lives are apart from other lives. We realize our true personality only in our connections with other lives. Love is necessary for us to attain the goal of our being. No truth has become clearer than this is in modern times. Yet a non-Trinitarian view of God leaves the most essential element in our self-realization as personal beings without an adequate basis in the divine nature, Finally, the Trinitarian view helps us to understand the end of God in the creation of nature and man. A moral kingdom of persons redeemed through Christ is the end set before us in Scripture. The Trinity shows how this kingdom is grounded in God himself. It shows how the universe is the expression of God’s nature which is righteous love. The very type and ideal of all that is highest in our individual and social development are found thus in the Godhead itself. Physical nature is a means to this personal, moral, and social end. The image of God in man thus appears in its final and perfected form in a holy society of men who have been recreated in Jesus Christ.

3. The Practical Religious Value Of The Doctrine Of The Trinity
It was previously stated that the Christian teaching as to the Trinity is not the result of an effort to solve a speculative problem. It is a revealed truth, and its grows out of religious experience. Observe some of the elements of value contained in its meaning as to God and man. Through it God becomes for men forever a personal being. Jesus, who reveals him in the incarnate life, writes this truth across the face of history. God is a

person. He is also paternal. God is our Father. This conception exalts religion to the highest possible level. It is fellowship between the Father and the Son. As to Jesus Christ, the Trinitarian teaching connects his Saviourhood with the diving nature itself. His incarnation becomes for us the token of God’s capacity for sacrifice. Sacrifice on our part becomes the imitation of God. As Saviour Jesus is armed with infinite resources for his redeeming work. He is “mighty to save.” This was the experiential conviction of the early Christians in their definitions of Christ’s person. His deity and Saviourhood were indissolubly bound together. As to the Holy Spirit, the Trinitarian, doctrine defines him first in relation to the Godhead and, then in relation to the work of Christ in and for believers. The material with which the Spirit works is the truth as it is in Jesus. His sphere of action is the consciousness of men. He makes the historic manifestation, the life of Christ, a continuous factor in man’s religious life and in history. The outward historic revelation of God in Christ becomes thus the inward revelation of God through the Spirit. As to believers themselves, the Trinitarian doctrine saves them from unfruitful views of God as above the world on he one hand and as identical with the world on the other. The Holy Spirit creates the spiritual union between the believer and Christ by his regenerating act. He forms the Christian consciousness in terms of fellowship with God, of sonship, of growing moral likeness to God in Christ. He sustains the inner life of Christians in all stages of its development from beginning to end. In a word, the Holy Spirit makes the historical revelation in and through Christ morally and spiritually effective in the life of believers. His work is absolutely essential to the success of the gospel. In view of this, it is easy to understand the saying of John the Baptist to the effect that the work of Jesus which was to distinguish him in a peculiar manner was that he was to baptize men in the Holy Spirit. The saying is given in all four of the Gospels. It is repeated by the Master himself. The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the fulfilment of this promise of Christ. (See Mat. 3:11; Mar. 1: 8; Luk. 3:16; Joh. 1:33; Act. 1: 5.) In the light of these passages, then, we may say: (a) that the relation of Christ to men after his ascension was a relation created and maintained by the Holy Spirit; (b) that the outpouring at Pentecost was the permanent baptism of the Holy Spirit; (c) that the Spirit remains as the guide of Christ’s people through all the gospel age;

(d) that the Spirit’s distinctive work is to carry forward the work Christ began; (e) that Christ’s activity on earth is thus continued in and through the Holy Spirit. (Act. 1: 1.)

4. Objections.
In the preceding discussion most of the usual objections to the Trinity have been met in the positive statements made. There are four others to be named. The first is that some of the ethnic religions have forms of Trinitarian belief, from which it is inferred that the Christian Trinity must be false. The reply is that it is a reversal of the proper method of inductive logic to declare that a thing is untrue because there are so many examples of it. The contrary is the true method. The greater the number of examples, the greater the force of the verifying evidence. As in so many other particulars, Christianity is the ideal toward which the ethnic religions pointed. Their trinities are far below the Christian in their appeal to man’s religious craving in their ethical quality, and in self-consistency and harmony with the divine unity. The Christian Trinity is a revealed truth which is abundantly verified in our experiential religious life. A second objection is that the doctrine of the Trinity is self-contradictory in asserting that God is three and one at the same time. The reply is that manifoldness of life is not a self-contradictory idea. A barren unity of being would be far more difficult to conceive. Besides, the objection is groundless in that the three-ness and one-ness of God are asserted with reference to different aspects of his being. God is three in one respect, and, one in another, as man is two in one respect, and one in another. He is body and spirit. But he is one person. A third objection is that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is unthinkable. This objection sounds very formidable. But it is quite vague. What is thinkable depends on the thinker. Implied in the objection is the assumption that reality must conform to our thoughts about it. On the contrary, our thoughts are bound to conform to reality if we are to have true thoughts. What God is in himself, God alone can make clear. God’s revelation of himself in Christ and in our experience of him through the Spirit, is his answer to our theories of knowledge. We must remake those theories if they contradict the given facts. As to the unthinkableness of the Trinity, we need only reflect a moment upon modern philosophic thought to be reminded that in its better representatives it tends to confirm the Trinitarian teaching. Mention may be made, for example, of certain forms of personal idealism in which personality is made the ultimate

reality and in which all persons are conceived as having an eternal basis in the infinite life of God. Another objection is that the Trinity is a metaphysical doctrine and is to be rejected on this account. The answer is that the doctrine of God is metaphysical in the same sense. There is no way to avoid some metaphysics in religion. The modal and economic trinities are all metaphysical doctrines. In fact all world-views are metaphysical. Yet there is a great variety of them claiming the field, even by those who in some instances object to the Christian Trinity on metaphysical grounds. Indeed, agnosticism itself is a metaphysical world-view. It holds a very definite conception of the make of the universe. We must have some metaphysics. But metaphysics should be well based in facts. Objections to the Christian Trinity on metaphysical grounds rest on a narrowly rationalistic criterion of truth. There are several forms of rationality: logical, emotional, esthetic, moral, religious. A universe emotionally rational implies a supreme object worthy of our love. A universe esthetically rational implies a supreme satisfaction of our faculty for the beautiful. A universe morally rational implies a being who gives supreme sanction and meaning to the moral law. A universe spiritually and religiously rational implies a supreme object of worship who cares for us, reveals himself to us, and creates in us capacity for holy living and fellowship with himself. Metaphysics goes astray when it assumes that the logical faculty of man alone finds satisfaction in the universe. It becomes thus abstract and misleading. The doctrine of the Trinity in Christianity is God’s response to the total religious and moral need of man. It also arises out of the facts of the religious life itself. It is thus the best possible answer to our craving for a completely rational universe. Rationality in all its forms, emotional, esthetic, ethical, logical, and religious, is satisfied in it as nearly as this is possible under present conditions.

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