The Manifestation Of The Trinity -- By: C. Norman Bartlett

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 088:350 (Apr 1931)
Article: The Manifestation Of The Trinity
Author: C. Norman Bartlett

The Manifestation Of The Trinity

C. Norman Bartlett

In theological discussion and treatises we refer to the “immanent Trinity” and the “economic Trinity.” Just what do we mean by these two technical phrases that must sound so strange to the average layman? By the “immanent Trinity” we mean the Trinity as it subsists in the Supreme Being in eternity; by the “economic Trinity” we mean the Trinity as manifested to the world and to men in time. This distinction is a convenient one and aids in clearness of thought upon this profound doctrine. All too many thinkers have treated the Trinity simply as a threefold manifestation of God in time, ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture that there is a trinitarian personal distinction in God from all eternity. In our introduction we stated our own firm conviction that a trinitarian manifestation of God must be based upon a trinitarian distinction in God.

In this third and last section of our thesis we are to treat of the manifestation of the Trinity. This will naturally involve some consideration of relations subsisting between the Trinity as immanent and the Trinity as economic.

For convenience sake we shall discuss this part of our subject under three general headings: (1) the Trinity as related to the world, (2) the Trinity as related to the Christ, and (3) the Trinity as related to the Spirit. The second of these three topics will receive the fullest consideration.

I. The Trinity And The Finite

Since God has manifested himself as a Trinity in and to the finite, the question naturally arises as to whether trinitarian personal distinctions in himself are the only ground of possibility whereby the Infinite can enter into actual relationship with the finite, whether of things or of men.

In this matter of speculation, where little or nothing has been revealed, we cannot dogmatize, we can only theorize.

It is commonly urged by philosophers that for the Absolute to be personally concerned in the finite would detract from his Absoluteness. How can the Infinite attach value to the finite? He is all-sufficient in and unto himself. As the All-perfect One anything and everything less than perfect and infinite is beneath his notice and even beyond the pale of his comprehension. Others would make the Absolute to be simply the sum total of all finite entities and individuals, nothing more nor less. One class of Absolutist philosophers would exile God from his universe, the other would imprison him within it.

In philosophy then we have these two contradictory tendencies in the view of God—one to make him absolutely transcendent, the other to make him absolutely...

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