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Rector’s Reading Group: Delighting in the Trinity #3

Some more complex issues regarding Chapter 1.

1. Reeves argues (with Hilary of Poitiers) that the unity of God is found in the way the persons relate to each other. My understanding has been that the unity of the Trinity is a product of both the persons’ mutual indwelling (“I am in the Father and the Father is in me”) and the fact that the persons share a divine substance. Reeves offers a useful critique of depending on the idea of a shared substance: “there is no cold, abstract ‘God’ or ‘God-stuff’ behind Father, Son and Spirit” (p.36). This idea leads to there being a fourth element beyond the three persons, “out of which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit emerge.” (p.34)

2. Rather the unity is seen in how the persons depend upon each other, with their relationships providing their being. “The Father is who he is by virtue of his relationship with his Son … And the Son would not be the Son without his Father. He has his very being from the Father … They are who they are together” (p. 34. Emphasis original). 

3. It’s clear Reeves sees a definite relational order among the persons of the Trinity. Such a point of view has been derided in recent debate as being too “subordinationist”. He also emphasises the eternal generation of the Son. My own point of view identifies with much of what Reeves writes, but I did feel the weight of what those on the other side of the debate might say as I read what felt like an over emphasis on the priority of the Father. The words “God is Father” seemed to come up a lot, and I was left linking “and so is the Son and Spirit!” Calvin argued that each member of the Trinity is “God in and of himself”, and I’d like something like this idea to be expressed as the book continues.

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