Toward A Biblical Model of the Social Trinity: Avoiding Equivocation of Nature and Order -- By: J. Scott Horrell

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 47:3 (Sep 2004)
Article: Toward A Biblical Model of the Social Trinity: Avoiding Equivocation of Nature and Order
Author: J. Scott Horrell


Toward A Biblical Model of the Social Trinity:
Avoiding Equivocation of Nature and Order

J. Scott Horrell

[Scott Horrell is professor of theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, 3909 Swiss Avenue, Dallas, TX 75204.]

Classical Christian faith is agreed around the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.1 Although the Creed in its variations never explicitly gives the formula, it has been summarized with Tertullian’s simple description of tres personae, una substantia—or, in Greek theology, three hypostaseis and one ousia. Of course, the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople intended as much to protect the mystery of God as to delimit and define catholic belief. Thus, in guarding divine mystery, the Creed provides a certain latitude regarding how God as Trinity is to be perceived, evidenced by the two streams of Eastern and Western trinitarianism. Extraordinary carefulness should and does mark divergencies around this central dogma of Christian faith. Nevertheless, conceptions of how God is God in “Godself” have often been distant from Scripture and effectually created an immanent Trinity discussed among theologians quite different from that to which the average Christian relates.

The purpose of this paper is to contribute to how we think about God by tightening the relationship between the economic and the immanent images of the Trinity. An introductory discussion of background issues and terms lays foundations for a three-part paper. Offered in Part One is a basic presentation of a social model of the Godhead, observing especially divine reciprocity in Scripture. Part Two, after tracing current issues in social trinitarianism, investigates biblical evidences for eternal order in the Godhead. Part Three attempts a synthesis of the biblical evidences arguing for an “eternally ordered social model” of the Godhead. My definition of social model of the Trinity is that the one divine Being eternally exists as three distinct centers of consciousness, wholly equal in nature, genuinely personal in relationships, and each mutually indwelling the other. I define an eternally ordered social model as the social model that, while insisting on equality of the divine nature, affirms perpetual distinction of roles within the immanent Godhead. Broadly conceived within the metanarrative of biblical revelation, this entails something like the generous preeminence of the Father, the joyous collaboration

(subordination)2 of the Son, and the ever-serving activity of the Spirit. I will argue that while hundreds of biblical texts af...

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