Passion and Atonement -- the story from theology

[Note: The contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, Chapter 47, can be found here.]

[This entry constitutes Chapter 48, "The Story From Theology"]

In the four previous sections I have analyzed dozens and dozens of metaphysical propositions--over 600 pages worth!--deciding for various reasons between them, building and shaping a metaphysic, and arriving at what Christians have historically called ‘orthodox trinitarian theism’. I have arrived there without reference to scriptural authority or claims of special revelation; right or wrong, any sceptic could in principle arrive here, too, by following out the logical trail in regard to data commonly accessible to any of us. I am a trinitarian theist, and this is why I would be a trinitarian theist, even if there was no such thing as historical Christianity, or scriptures to seek out testimony on.

I worship one God in Trinity,
and Trinity in Unity,
neither confounding the Persons,
nor dividing the Substance.

For there is one Person of the Father,
another of the Son,
and another of the Holy Spirit.

But the Godhead
of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
is all one,
the Glory equal,
the Majesty co-eternal.

Such as the Father is,
such is the Son,
and such is the Holy Spirit.

The Father uncreated,
the Son uncreated,
and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

The Father incomprehensible,
the Son incomprehensible,
and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

(By this I do NOT mean 'no one can understand or make true reasonings or even statements about God'. I mean that all three Persons are omniscient, unlike any creature which must be less in knowledge; and I mean, a little more literally, that no not-God system or entity ‘naturally’ contains or encloses any Person.)

The Father eternal,
the Son eternal,
and the Holy Spirit eternal.

And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated,
but One uncreated, and One incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is Almighty,
the Son Almighty,
and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.

So the Father is God,
the Son is God,
and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

So likewise the Father is Lord,
the Son Lord,
and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.

For as I am compelled by verity (and validity!)
to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be both God and Lord,
so I am likewise forbidden to say: There be three Gods, or three Lords.

The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers;
one Son, not three Sons;
one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.

And in this Trinity none is afore, or after the other;
none is greater, or less than another;
but the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid,
the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped.

There are differences between trinitarians as to details after this. For example, many or most of us (though not I) would be pretty hesitant to affirm that God loves rebel angels and seeks their salvation from sin, even though all of us would quickly affirm that God loves at least some human sinners and seeks their salvation from sin. And although all of us would agree, in principle, that God is the single ultimate Self-existent, Self-begetting, Self-begotten multi-Personal reality, not all of us would agree (though I do) that this means God is essentially intrinsically Love in God’s own fundamental self-existence. And quite a few of us would have problems agreeing that the Spirit proceeds from both the Son and the Father (though I agree with quite a few others of us that the Spirit does not proceed from the Father alone.)

There are some other disagreements among us of this sort; and those disagreements, however little they may seem, are as important as the truth of the ultimate Truth is important! Which is why professionals among us go to a lot of trouble to work on properly identifying and understanding the details. Some of our variances can be reconciled with each other; in other cases we cannot all be right about our variances. But because we care about rightly worshiping and praising God, and about rightly representing God to other people, then we care about those differences. I wish we all cared enough to recognize when our opponents also care about God and are (typically) doing the best they can to love God with all their heart and all their soul and all their strength and all their understanding (even when they have results that are different from ours, and are important enough to disagree even strenuously about!)

But after all, even we theologians are sinners, too. And to a sinner, by corrupted birth and by intentionally chosen habit, disagreement will (naturally!) tend to involve working toward non-fair-togetherness. And even toward regarding non-fair-togetherness as 'dikaiosunê', righteousness. (Even though that word means... fair-togetherness!--the utter essential reality of God Most High, if trinitarian theism is true.)

Still, despite our differences, generally trinitarian theologians are going to agree on a huge and rather complex number of detailed doctrines regarding God and God’s distinct relationship to the natural system in which we humans live. The differences are important enough that it's easy to forget (or, as sinners, to willfully ignore) how much we actually do agree on--in fair-togetherness with each other! Consequently it is also easy for sceptics to forget (or to willfully ignore) how much we actually do agree on. But as the orthodox trinitarian author Dorothy Sayers once said, on much the same topic, "For this state of affairs, I am inclined to blame the orthodox!"

One of those many things we trinitarian theologians agree on, however, is something that my argument in the prior Sections has often involved and finally arrived at: God acts in history, even for there to be a ‘natural history’ at all; and we can expect God to act historically in regard to human sin. (Which is why, not-incidentally, there is a second half to that Creed I quoted the first half of at the beginning of the chapter!)

That history will itself be not only history but a story.

But what kind of story will it be?

If I pull together all the things I have argued up till now, what kind of story will result?

The result will also be the kind of story I ought to be looking for, to happen in our history, sooner or later.

Telling that myth, that story of principles, which I ought to expect and search for as history, is what I will do in this final Section of chapters.

[Next up: the genesis of atonement]


Jason Pratt said…
In case I didn't make it obvious enough: this means my analytical argument ended back at the end of the previous Section. What remains, and what is coming, amounts to an 80ish-page evangelical Easter sermon, written in a poetic narrative style. Which by a nice coincidence I originally finished composing the book with around Easter of 2000; and which by no coincidence at all I intend to finish out posting during Easter week this year! {g}

I haven't quite decided yet what my posting schedule will be on this. Set it up to be Mon/Wed/Fri as usual up to now? Or wait and run it out in one fell swoop on subsequent days of Easter week?

Either way I will most likely take a break from posting the book until next Friday at least (maybe longer), in order to synch up the final push to completion. (And also to finish re-composing the first third or so, the structure of which still needs some revision.)


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