The entire Christian message can be understood through the lens of gift-giving. At its heart, the Bible is the story of God’s gracious and sacrificial giving of himself in order to rescue his fallen and rebellious creation. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1Jn 4:10). And not only has God rescued us, but he also invites us to be instruments of his own grace and hospitality toward others.
On this program, Michael Horton talks with Kelly Kapic, author of God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity. Join us for this edition of the White Horse Inn.
“The God who is, is Triune—Father, Son, and Spirit. Eternally, this is who God is; so, God in himself is full. God doesn’t need to create in order to be loving. We can sometimes be a little confused on that—like God had to make something in order to be a loving God. Yet from all eternity the Father loved the Son and Spirit. So as you start to unpack that you have to realize, God doesn’t make the world, he doesn’t create things in order to be loving. All that he makes is the overflow of that Triune love. It’s not to fill some hole in God’s soul…God doesn’t have some inadequacy in him. It’s the overflow [of that eternal love] that’s the basis for Creation, not an inadequacy or need in God.”
–Kelly M. Kapic
Term to Learn
The Trinity is not merely one doctrine among others; besides being proclaimed in Word and sacrament, this article of faith structures all the faith and practice of Christianity: our theology, liturgies, hymns, and lives. It is clear enough from Scripture that the persons of the Godhead are persons-in-relation. It is not simply that begetting, being begotten, and being spirated are essential to their identity, but that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are essential to each other’s identity.
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity (from Latin trinitas “triad”) defines God as three consubstantial persons, or hypostases: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; “one God in three persons”. The three persons are distinct, yet are one “substance, essence or nature.” In this context, a “nature” is that which can be said of something, while a “person” is the acting agent, of whom one is. Along with their unity in essence an activities, each is an unsubstitutable person who lives and acts differently. This difference never provokes opposition, but love, because each person has something different to bring to the intratrinitarian relationship and extratrinitarian works. The Father not only knows his fatherhood from the Son; his person as such is defined by this other who addresses him. Much different from human personhood, the first person’s being the Father of the Son is a necessary rather than contingent aspect of his existence. Precisely because each person is different (i.e., possesses incommunicable properties), each knows himself in and through the other. Not even the Father knows himself as Father apart from the Son through the Spirit.
According to Herman Bavinck, “in the doctrine of the Trinity beats the heart of the whole of revelation of God for the redemption of humanity.” As the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, “our God is above us, before us and within us.” We believe in one God who is one in essence and three in persons. As the Fourth Lateran Council declared, “it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.” While distinct from one another in their relations of origin and in their relations with one another, they are all three co-eternal and co-essential. There is neither first nor last; for they are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy co-equal, and consubstantial, and “each is God, whole and entire.” The works of creation and redemption are operations common to all three persons, in which each shows forth what is proper to him in the Trinity, so that all things are “from the Father”, “through the Son” and “in the Holy Spirit.” Cf. WCF II; BC 8; Nicene and Athanasian Creed
(Adapted from Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, pp 273-306)