Knowing and Loving God: Part 4b
by Jonathan Hamilton
Thursday, June 19, continued (previous post here)
At this point Dr. Bauder inserted a brief explanatory discussion on passions vs. affections that I think you will find helpful. I have stricken the names that he used as an example because I want readers to absorb the principle of what he is saying, rather than getting hung up on whether or not you like the person exemplified.
Also, things might seem harder to follow at this point because we change in and out of topics regularly, but I think the brief interjections of related topics throughout the main thread of discussion are helpful to the overall understanding of the discussion, so rather than pull them out and put all the “random” topics at the end, I am leaving them exactly where they happened in class. If you can piece them together as presented, it will hopefully lead to better understanding of what is being argued. Let’s get started!
Passions vs. Affections
[Prominent evangelical pastor’s] basic system in [prominent evangelical pastor’s most famous book] is sound, but he always gets wrong the distinction between passions and affections, probably due to his charismatic understanding of emotions. The obliteration of the proper distinction between passion and affections is why he can preach the way he preaches and then sing the junk that [his church] can sing. You think you are fostering affections for God while actually fanning passions that ought not to be aroused in the worship of God.
At this point we moved on to a discussion of the Trinity.
Knowing and Loving God is about fellowship, or communion, with God. But it is not original, it is derived from something that has been going on in the Godhead for all eternity. So we have to understand this first, and it starts with the Doctrine of the Trinity (this is why there is no communion with a god like the god of Islam, for example).
Some terms we need to define:
- Dogma: in theology, simply a definition; often expressed in creeds from councils
- Athanasian Creed: key document on this doctrine from early church; not drafted by Athanasius but reflecting his teachings; actually drafted at 451 Council of Chalcedon
- Athanasius: pretty well stood against the world, which was Arian; virtually rescued orthodox Christianity at a very dark hour
Since we’re talking about true doctrine over and against false, especially a core doctrine like the Trinity which directly affects the Gospel itself, Dr. Bauder inserted a brief explanation of how true Christians treat Gospel-related doctrine.
On true Christians – No one can deny the Gospel and be a true Christian. If someone professes saving faith, and their life does not deny that, I am to recognize them as a Christian. I cannot know who truly possesses saving faith, I can only know who professes. If someone denies the Gospel, I am not to recognize them as a Christian. The key is recognition.
Back to discussion on the Trinity
GOD IS ONE GOD. GOD IS THREE PERSONS.
This simple graphic is a diagram known as the “Scutum Fidei” (shield of faith) which illustrates the truths stated in bold above. Which truths raise a question:
How are they not the same then? How is it not Jesus is the Father is the Spirit? How are they different if the same?
The Bible never directly answers this question, we are left with hints to try and derive an answer.
Father: paternal quality, from which His activities flow; personhood as the Father; it would have been impossible for the Son to send the Father into the world to take on flesh, for example; it is right and fitting and proper that the Father would send and the Son would be sent
Son: distinguished by the characteristic, or quality, of filiation; He is the One Who was sent by the Father into the world to do His will; in what sense is the Son “begotten” or “of the father”? (We will get to that question shortly)
Holy Spirit: distinguishing characteristic: spiration, from which flow His activities
All three Persons are autotheos (God in Himself; each One possesses their divinity in and of Himself) with respect to deity and underived. But when it comes to the personhood of the three, the personhood of the Father seems to be primary, the personhood of the Son secondary, and the personhood of the Spirit tertiary.
What is the difference between the “begetting” of the Son and the “procession” of the Spirit?
All we can find in Scripture is that begetting is from the Father, while procession is from both Father and Son.
These trinitarian doctrines took a good three centuries to work out after the death of the Apostles.
In Augustine’s work on the Trinity, book eight, he argues that love requires three things: lover, beloved, and the love between them. He argues this is what, or part of what, makes them Father, Son, and Spirit. He clearly uses it as an analogy, not a literal description of the Trinity.
So there is an eternal, non-interchangeable order among the members of the Trinity: the “eternal taxis” (pronounces “tagsis”; Latin for “ordering”) of the Trinity. Hold in mind the truth that they are not three Beings, but three Persons. There is an eternal ongoing communion/interaction between the members of the Godhead (perichoresis). And we are invited to participate in this!
If God is self-contained, self-existent, in need of nothing, why would He create?
The Word of God never directly tells us. We are getting into speculative theology here. Understand that.
Attempt at an answer: When you love, you want to give. But how does God give anything to God? He created a race of God-like creatures, permitted them to fall, then purchased them back at infinite cost. This is completely God-centered soteriology. It is all about God.
This is not a new idea, certainly not Bauder’s idea, it has been around. It is not provable from Scripture. But it is compatible with other revealed truth.
What does it mean to “abide” with Him (John 15:1-11)?
Throughout the Gospels, “abide” means “live with.” We live with Him in a very real, though not literal, sense. And He with us (John 14:23). [Note: Bauder takes 15:1-11 as talking with believers] Just as in other facets of life, when we live with someone, we alter our lives to accommodate that person. By abiding in Him, and He in us, we ought to conform our lives to Him. We ought to seek close fellowship. When this happens, our desires are His and He delights to grant our requests (v. 7). This is more than “I had my devotions today” or “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” This is the essence of knowing and loving God.”
There are carnal Christians, those whose lives are indistinguishable at times from unbelievers (1 Corinthians 3). If he is saved, God is eventually going to bring him around. Also, 1 John 1:1-10 gives the idea that there are varying levels of fellowship with God and other Christians. This passage is not about getting saved, but sinning as saved people. God uses the process of confession, repentance, forgiveness, to remove sins from our lives. Not that we are sinless, but we sin less if practicing these truths.
Contrary to what I stated at the beginning of Day 4a, this day didn’t take three or four posts! I had more time to write this post, so this marks the completion of Day 4. Next up: Day 5, and a discussion of what place “emotions” have in Christianity.