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Trinity in Worship: A look at John Owen's "Christologia"

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, May 17, 2012.

  1. asterisktom

    asterisktom Well-Known Member
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    May 29, 2007
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    Trinity in Worship
    John Owen's "Christologia" reviewed (continued)

    Actually this is only a review of one section of this excellent book, dealing with how worship relates to the Trinity.

    This particular section of Owen's book assumes that all honor is due to the Son, expressed and demonstrated by praise, petition and obedience to Him ("Why do you call me, 'Lord. Lord', and do not the things which I say?", Luke 6:46). The reason for this due honor is more closely examined. In order to do this, three more general truths need to be established, having to do with Scriptural worship of the Trinity:
    1. Because the divine nature in each person of the Trinity is the same, when one is worshiped the others are as well -and equally- worshiped.

    2. It is legitimate to call on any, or all, of the Persons of the Trinity, but it is "not exemplified in the Scripture, nor among the ancient writers of the church" to make a request of one, and then to repeat the same request to another person in the Trinity.
    3. Because of His divine nature, and because of His perfect victory in His human nature, Jesus Christ is the proper object of all honor and worship.

    A closer examination of these three points:
    1. When we call on any in the Godhead, we call on all,
    because we are calling on the same divine nature in all. Scripture teaches this:

    "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

    It is only one name here spoken, not (as the modalists teach) because there are not three Persons, but because there is one Nature. "God is One." It is the same God in three persons. The "Deity, substance, and power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is one and the same; their dignity equal; their kingdom coeternal, in three perfect persons." (Theodoret)

    Gregory Nazianzen, choosing just one of Owen's examples of this point, puts it even more concisely:

    "The one name common to the three is the Deity."

    Modern modalists, as I said, twist this very passage away from its Christ- and God-glorifiying roots to make it teach either "Jesus only" or "Father only" theology. In the process they end up with a salvation that is not all God-accomplished. Works-salvation is the damning consequence of misconstrued Trinitarian theology.

    The ancient anti-Arian doxology has it:

    "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost."

    Owen sums it up:

    "The same glory, in every individual act of its assignation or ascription, is directed unto each
    person jointly and distinctly, on the account of the same divine nature in each of them. I need not produce any testimonies in the farther confirmation hereof; for, in all their writings against the Arians, they expressly and constantly contend that the holy Trinity (that is, the divine nature in three persons) is the individual object of all divine adoration, invocation, and all religious worship; and that by whatever personal name - as the Father, Son, or Spirit - we call on God, it is God absolutely who is adored, and each person participant of the same nature."

    2. God's three persons are often invoked in Scripture: That is, prayers in the Bible begun to the Father are often ended as addresses to the Son, or begun to the Son and then closed in His name (as if He was a third party). This is all legitimate. What is not seen in the Bible is requesting something of one member of the Trinity and then repeating that same request to an other, as if the Son wasn't already concerned in a prayer to the Father. This is because the Three are one. To paraphrase Epiphanius, "Though there are three Persons, they are counted in one name" (see Matthew 28:19, where the "one name" is applied to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

    3. Because of Christ's nature, and His perfect victory over the world, the flesh, the devil, He is the proper object of all honor and worship. This is the point that gets most attention in this section, and rightly so. It is insulting to the divine glory that much of Christianity tries to wheedle some credit to himself, in the process cheating God of His glory. The depth and loftiness of many of the following quotes show that there were at least some ancient writers who were not man-centered (self-centered) in their theology. They knew that all things (including their own rescue) were "of Him and through Him and to Him", Rom. 11:36.

    About this victory Owen writes:

    "It belonged unto the wisdom and righteousness of God, that Satan should be conquered and subdued in and by the same nature which he had prevailed against, by his suggestion and temptation. To this purpose that holy writer speaks"(I think Owen refers to Augustine. He is unclear here), "(lib. 3 cap. 20,) ... Words plainly divine; an illustrious testimony of the faith of the ancient church, and expressive of the principal mystery of the gospel! [Augustine quote begins here] "Wherefore, as we said before, he united man unto God. For if man had not overcome the adversary of men, the enemy had not been justly conquered; and, on the other hand, if God had not given and granted salvation, we could never have a firm, indefeasible possession of it; and if man had not been united unto God, he could not have been partaker of immortality. It behaved, therefore, the Mediator between God and man, by his own participation of the nature of each of them, to bring them both into friendship and agreement with each other."

    A little further he continues his quotation from the same writer:

    "The all-powerful Word of God, no way defective in righteousness, set himself against the apostasy justly also; redeeming from him (Satan, the head of the apostasy) the things which were his own - not with force, as he bare rule over us, insatiably making rapine [unjust seizure] of what was not his own - but he, the Lord, redeeming us with his own blood, giving his soul for our soul, and his flesh for ours, wrought out our deliverance."

    And then he observes:

    "[It] is a fruit of divine wisdom, that our deliverance should be wrought in and by the me nature wherein and whereby we were ruined" ... but at the same time "it should be free from all that contagion which invaded our nature by the fall. And these things are divinely expressed. "Our Lord," saith he, "had not gathered up these things in himself, had not he been made flesh and blood, according unto its original creation.""

    "[N]one of the ancient writers do so frequently express the fall of Adam by our apostasy from God, and our recovery by a recapitulation in Christ, as Irenaeus - his recapitulation being nothing but the "
    anakephalaioo" mentioned by the apostle, Ephesians 1:10"

    BTW, It is inadvisable for us to be so quick to pronounce, definitively and exhaustively, what was necessary in God's plan of redemption and what was not. To make those kind of judgments is to pretend to see things from God's viewpoint and not from the pit of our actual predicament. However this didn't deter confident scholastics (Duns Scotus, Magnus, Osiander) from insisting dogmatically that, for instance, if man had never sinned Christ would still have become incarnate.

    Yet we can say that Christ's Incarnation was necessary because God planned it. Certainly all that all-powerful God wills becomes necessity by the force of His sovereignty. In that sense, the Fall was also. And this is what many of the earlier writers also wrote.

    Continued in next post
    #1 asterisktom, May 17, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2012
  2. asterisktom

    asterisktom Well-Known Member
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    May 29, 2007
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    Trinity in Worship (2)

    Continued from previous post.

    Returning to Christ as the proper object of our worship because of the Incarnation, Owen cites Irenaeus twice:

    "Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who, from his own infinite love, was made what we are, that he might make us what he is;" that is, by the restoration of the image of God in us."

    "Being the Son of God always with the Father, and being made man, he reconciled or gathered up in himself the long-continued exposing of men," (unto sin and judgment,) "bringing in salvation in this compendious way, (in this summary of it,) that what we had lost in Adam - that is, our being in the image and likeness of God - we should recover in Christ."

    And Clemens Alexandrinus to the same purpose: (Adhort. ad Gentes.)

    "The Word of God was made man, that you might learn of a man how man may become" (as) "God."

    Note: A few of the ancients were curiously uncareful in their phraseology, as here, this being the reason for Owen adding the parenthetical "as".

    And Ambrose, in Psalm 119

    "The image of God, that is, the Word of God, came unto him who was after the image of God, that is man. And this image of God seeks him who was after the image of God, that he might seal him with it again, and confirm him, because you had lost that which you had received."

    Continues Owen, "Augustine in one instance gives a rational account why it was condecent unto divine wisdom that the Son, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, should be incarnate - which we also inquire into"

    "The Father did not assume flesh, nor the Holy Spirit, but the Son only; that he who in the Deity was the Son of the Father, should be made the Son of man, in his mother of human race; that the name of the Son should not pass unto any other, who was not the Son by an eternal nativity."

    Not to go into all the quotations and writers that Owen makes use of, we'll look at just two more. Augustine, again (Enchirid. ad Laurentius, chapter 99) makes an observation that I have seen from more than one modern Reformed author, that God would still be just even if all went to Hell. Yet it is a mercy of His when He saves any. Augustine enlarges upon this:

    "Behold, the whole race of mankind, by the just judgment of God, so condemned in the apostatical root, that if no one were thence delivered, yet no man could rightly complain of the justice of God; and that those who are freed, ought so to be freed, that, from the greater number who are not freed, but left under most righteous condemnation, it might be manifest what the whole mass had deserved, and whither the judgment of God due unto them would lead them, if his mercy, which was not due, did not relieve them."

    The great purpose, says Owen, of Christ being here described is "that we may love him, and thereby be transformed into his image."

    The last quote is from Jerome ( Epistle 66 to Pammachius):

    "Whether you read or write, whether you watch or sleep, let the voice of love (to Christ) sound in your ears; let this trumpet stir up your soul: being overpowered (brought into an ecstasy) with this love, seek

    Him on your bed whom your soul desires and longs for."

    Powerful appeal! And this last quote from a writer who had many theological glitches and incipient Romeward leanings. Yet, like all the rest quoted above, Jerome recognized that there is great comfort, strength and motivation in knowing Jesus aright. To know Him is to adore Him. Christians of this ancient caliber would be blessedly immune to some of the sugar-coated incentives to "decide for Christ". These saints had such a large view of God that they praised Him for who He is - and that He decided to elect them! They were not purpose-driven, but God-drawn. They were God-drawn because they heard God-glorifying preachers like those quoted above, and recognized the voice of Truth in them.

    "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Me".

    No trickery needed.
    These men lifted Christ up, as He is in all His blinding/unbinding glory. And those for whom He died will recognize the light and come to Him.
    #2 asterisktom, May 17, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2012