Monday, October 1, 2012

John Owen and Trinitarianism

Since I've recently written a few posts on the subject of Trinitarianism, I found this short summary by Owen in The Priesthood of Christ (link),  to be an excellent summation of my own position:

(1.) The Son was the essential and eternal image of the Father antecedent unto all consideration of his incarnation. He is in his divine person “the image of the invisible God,” Colossians 1:15; “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,” Hebrews 1:3: for having his essence and subsistence from the Father by eternal generation, or the communication of the whole divine nature and all its infinite perfections, he is the perfect and essential representation of him.  
(2.) The order of operation in the blessed Trinity, as unto outward works, answereth unto and followeth the order of their subsistence. Hence the Son is considered as the next and immediate operator of them. Thus, as he is said to have made all things, John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, so the Father is said to make all things by him, Ephesians 3:9; not as an inferior, subordinate, instrumental cause, but as acting his wisdom and power in him, to whom they were communicated by eternal generation. Hence, the immediate relation of all things so made is unto him; and by and in his person is God even the Father immediately represented unto them, as he is his image, and as the brightness of his glory shines forth in him. Hereon follows his rejoicing in the creation, and his delights in the sons of men, Proverbs 8:30, 31, because of their immediate relation unto him.  
(3.) Therefore should he have been the immediate head and ruler of angels and men, had they all persisted in their original integrity and innocency, Colossians 1:16; for the representation of God unto them, as the cause and end of their being, the object and end of their worship and service, should have been in and by his person, as the image of the Father, and by and through him they should have received all the communications of God unto them. He should have been their immediate head, lord, and king, or the divine nature in his person; for this the order of subsistence in the blessed Trinity, and the order of operation thereon depending, did require.

While I'm not sure I agree with Owen's seeming implication that the economic activity of the Trinity necessarily reflects the intra-Trinitarian relationships, it is encouraging to discover so much agreement with a theologian for whom I have great respect:

  • He mentions the persons of the Trinity have distinct subsistences.
  • He alludes to an "order" of subsistence among these persons, giving the [causal] primacy to the Father while carefully maintaining the co-equality of the Son in respect to deity.
  • He agrees with a derivation, so to speak, of the "essence and subsistence" of the Son from the Father as conveyed by eternal generation.
  • He willingly equates "the Father" with "God."
  • He explains in what manner the Son can be said to perfectly represent the Father and enable communion with Him: as the divine Son, He images the Father.

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