There are three individuals within the Trinity, all coequal, coeternal, and coessential. There can hardly be a deeper Christian intuition than the one which prompts us to do equal justice to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
However alongside this intuition, there’s additionally a deep knowledge to recognizing a sure order in the best way we deploy Christian instructing on the Trinity—and particularly on the Holy Spirit because the third individual of the Trinity. Actually, there’s a lengthy and wholesome custom in Christian doctrine of letting pneumatology, the doctrine in regards to the Holy Spirit, fall into place after sure different issues have already been established. On this custom, the primary strains of the Christian confession are established first with out a give attention to the Holy Spirit—and nothing goes incorrect on account of this short-term postponement of pneumatology. However when, in a later transfer, reflection on the Spirit is added to these important strains, a world of better depth opens up, and the complete glory of trinitarian soteriology shines forth. Nothing modifications, however all the pieces is best.
Let me present this by a number of key examples.
1. The Nicene Creed
On the finish of the creed, having elaborately affirmed that they imagine within the Son, the fathers of Nicaea added the unimpressive phrase “and in the Holy Spirit.” Interval.
However, 56 turbulent years later when this creed was retrieved and expanded at Constantinople 381, this paltry third article blossomed forth into the confession we recite within the Nicene Creed at the moment:
I imagine within the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who’s worshiped and glorified along with the Father and the Son, who spoke by the prophets.
What let’s assume occurred when the creed of Nicea, with minimal express pneumatology, added the wealthy pneumatology of 381? Trinitarianism got here into its personal. Extra reality was declared. The entire assertion turned richer, fuller, deeper. You may say the fathers of Constantinople took a step again. It may be value saying right here that the motion I’m describing solely works if there’s some pneumatology in step one; I gained’t present any examples of theology that altogether omit any recognition of the Spirit. These can be more durable instances; they could run afoul of orthodoxy or of correctness. You may’t say nothing in regards to the Spirit. What I’m drawing consideration to is the custom of initially saying little in regards to the Spirit, after which later saying a lot.
A parallel growth may be seen in one of many best pro-Nicene fathers, Athanasius of Alexandria. Most of his theology is a relentless hammering house of the Nicene recognition of the complete deity of the Son, consubstantial with the Father. He solely sometimes mentions the Holy Spirit, and by no means as a spotlight of consideration in his personal proper. Athanasius had message self-discipline, and the message was: Arianism is fake. However then, on the request of Serapion of Thmuis, Athanasius wrote a collection of letters explaining the individual and work of the Holy Spirit, which quantity to a quick treatise so highly effective and built-in that it’s exhausting to imagine Athanasius had held all that understanding in regards to the Spirit subliminally in his thoughts all through the Arian disaster.
What occurs when the Christological Athanasius extends his consideration to express dialogue of the Holy Spirit? His work achieves a rounded trinitarian contour that may be a marvel to behold. Maybe contour is the incorrect metaphor; the form and type of Athanasian theology don’t change, however drawing out the pneumatological depths transfigures all the pieces he says.
3. Calvin’s Institutes
The construction of John Calvin’s Institutes reveals an analogous dynamic. For varied causes, he postpones a lot dialogue of the Spirit till e book 3, when he asks how the salvation which the Father has labored out in Christ can develop into ours. His reply is religion, however then he climbs excessive into the mysterious workings of the Spirit, and expounds a sensible pneumatology of magisterial energy.
4. New Testomony
Fairly than tracing out this custom in later examples, I need to attain again to the sources and recommend, reverently, that Holy Scripture itself follows an analogous sample in a number of locations. The Gospel of Matthew reaches a primary climax in chapter 11 when Jesus says no person is aware of the Father besides the Son, and vice versa, however it reaches a rounded conclusion in chapter 28 when the risen Christ extends that formulation to incorporate the third individual, the Holy Spirit—whose work he left implicit in chapter 11. John’s Gospel likewise expends appreciable vitality on the dyadic relation of the Phrase to God, after which of the Father to the Son, earlier than turning sustained consideration to the Holy Spirit round chapter 14 or particularly 16. In Romans, Paul works out the righteousness of God and the propitiation in Christ earlier than turning his consideration totally to the Spirit in chapter 8, during which Romans reaches a doxological and kerygmatic highpoint.
5. Success of God’s Guarantees
To finish with the broadest potential gesture on the construction of your entire economic system of salvation, the Spirit, by no means absent however typically nameless within the early phases of God’s work, is conspicuous exactly on the success of God’s guarantees—when his title and character and distinctive work come into their very own and develop into a matter of proclamation and instructing. Or to say that in Michale Horton-esque idiom, covenant and eschatology are the primary poles of pneumatology.
It’s incorrect to neglect the Spirit. Nevertheless it’s additionally incorrect to belabor pneumatology in a distracting approach, or to try to put a pneumatological basis within the first strikes of systematic theology.
It’s incorrect to neglect the Spirit. Nevertheless it’s additionally incorrect to belabor pneumatology in a distracting approach, or to try to put a pneumatological basis within the first strikes of systematic theology. There’s a smart custom of building the primary strains of theology earlier than drawing out the implicit pneumatological realities which have undeniably been at work all alongside. No less than within the order of instruction, this appears to be a prudent approach of working for pilgrim theologians instructing the church.
In Thomas Goodwin’s e book The Data of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, he notes round web page 351 that his entire venture has a dyadic, to not say “binitarian,” ring:
There’s a third individual within the Godhead, the Spirit of God the Father, and of Christ; who in my dealing with the purpose will fall in, and seem like that solely true God, in addition to these different two named.
Because it turned out, the Spirit did the truth is “fall in” to Goodwin’s dealing with, not solely in that e book but in addition later when he wrote an prolonged pneumatology. If the Spirit had by no means fallen in, we’d choose Goodwin’s dyadic begin in another way looking back. However he did fall in.
My suggestion is that this occurs on a regular basis in Christian theology, and that it’s good.