Drawing from the Well, 2/14/17

For an introduction to the series, read this.

Today I will begin working through the Nicene Creed, offering suggestions for how to teach its contents to children. This creed, in its final form, is a revision of the Creed of the Council of Nicea (AD 325) that was updated by the Council of Constantinople (AD 381), the council that settled the boundaries of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. From the latter part of the fourth century to this day, the Nicene Creed has been the primary theological statement of all branches of the Christian church: Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant. Those who deny its teachings cannot rightly be deemed orthodox Christians, at least in any historical sense. Like the Apostles’ Creed, it has a follows a Trinitarian structure.

Memorization for the Week

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth…

Thoughts for Discussion with Children

How many gods are there? That’s right: there is only one true God. He alone is the Creator of all things who was never created by anyone else, because he just always was. So that means everything else that was made depends on him, but he doesn’t depend on anyone or anything else at all. That’s what makes him the only true God.

But notice how the Nicene Creed refers to him: “the Father Almighty.” Was there ever a time when he was not “the Father,” or has he always been Father? That’s an interesting question, because when we follow the Bible’s teaching and say that he was indeed always God the Father, that means there must have always been God the Son with him. He wouldn’t be Father without having a Son. So, the Creed is telling us that there is only one God, and yet this one God always had someone with him. The Father always had the Son with him. There was never a time when the Father was without the Son (and, as we know as well, there was never a time when the Father and the Son did not have the Holy Spirit with them).

So, if the Son was always there, it means that he was never created, just like the Father was never created. Does that mean we really have two (or three) gods instead of one? No! There is only one God, but this one God has always been Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is one thing but three persons: one “what” but three “who’s”. That’s something we can’t fully understand, but we shouldn’t expect to be able to understand God completely anyway, or else he wouldn’t really be God.

The wonderful thing about the Bible’s teaching that God has always been Father is that it means he has always loved the Son. He never had to learn how to love. When he created us, he loved us already because love is his very nature. If he had been all alone before creation, we couldn’t really say that about him. But the Bible’s teaching on the Trinity shows us that he was not all alone. The Father has always loved the Son, and the Son has always loved the Father, in the Holy Spirit.

 

The Trinity Wars 2016

So here is what happened. Liam Goligher made some strong charges against some theologians who have argued that, within God’s own being, the Son eternally submits to the Father, and the Spirit eternally submits to the Father and the Son (see here and here). According to Goligher, theologians who make this move have abandoned Nicene orthodoxy, promoted idolatry, and subsumed their doctrine of God under a social agenda by looking to the Trinity as an analogy on which to ground their understanding of men and women (for record, Goligher himself affirms the complementarian view of male headship in the home and in the church). Carl Trueman added his own contribution along similar lines. The two theologians who are probably most in the crosshairs of these charges are Bruce Ware, who responded here, and Wayne Grudem, who responded here. Denny Burk, who shares the Ware/Grudem perspective, also offered these words in response. Carl Trueman has made three brief responses to Ware, to Grudem, and on the question of 1 Corinthians 11:3. If you want to take the time to read all of that, go ahead. I’ll wait. Continue reading