The Dogmatician: The Deity of the Holy Spirit

The choice is clear: either the Holy Spirit is a creature—whether a power, gift, or person—or he is truly God. If he is a creature he cannot in fact and in truth communicate to us the Father and the Son with all their benefits; he cannot be the principle of the new life either in the individual Christian or in the church as a whole. In that case, there is no genuine communion between God and humans; God remains above and outside of us and does not dwell in humanity as in his temple. But the Holy Spirit is not, nor can he be, a creature. For he is related to the Son as the latter is to the Father and imparts to us both the Son and the Father. He is as closely bound up with the Son as the Son is with the Father. He is coinherent in the Son as the Son is coinherent in him. In substance he is the same as the Son. He is the Spirit of wisdom and truth, of power and of glory; the Spirit by whom Christ sanctifies the church and in whom he communicates himself and all his benefits: the divine nature, the adoption as children, the mystical union. He who gives us God himself must himself be truly God. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: Father

This name of ‘Father,’ accordingly, is not a metaphor derived from the earth and attributed to God. Exactly the opposite is true: fatherhood on earth is but a distant and vague reflection of the fatherhood of God (Eph. 3:14-15). God is Father in the true and complete sense of the term. Among humans a father is also someone else’s son, and a son in turn becomes a father. Here, too, a father cannot bring forth a son by himself; fatherhood is temporary and accidental, not essentially bound up with being human. It starts relatively late in life; it also ends rather soon, in any case at death. But in God all this is different. He is solely, purely, and totally Father. He is Father alone; he is Father by nature and Father eternally, without beginning or end. For that reason also generation has to be eternal, for if the Son were not eternal, the Father could not be eternal either. The eternity of the Father carries with it the eternity of the Son.  Addressing God as Father, one by implication also addresses the Son. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: Trinity means Unity and Diversity

“The glory of the confession of the Trinity consists above all in the fact that that unity, however absolute, does not exclude but includes diversity. God’s being is not an abstract unity or concept, but a fullness of being, an infinite abundance of life, whose diversity, so far from diminishing the unity, unfolds it to its fullest extent.” —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: How Unbiblical Terms Help You Be Scriptural

Furthermore, reflection on the truth of Scripture and the theological activity related to it is in no way possible without the use of extrabiblical terminology. Not only are such extrabiblical terms and expressions used in the doctrine of the Trinity but also in connection with every other dogma and throughout the entire discipline of theology. Involved in the use of these terms, therefore, is the Christian’s right of independent reflection and theology’s right to exist. Finally, the use of these terms is not designed to make possible the introduction of new—extrabiblical or anti biblical dogmas, but, on the contrary, to defend the truth of Scripture against all heresy. Their function is much more negative than positive. They mark the boundary lines within which Christian thought must proceed in order to preserve the truth of revelation. Under the guise of being scriptural, biblical theology has always strayed farther away from Scripture, while ecclesiastical orthodoxy, with its extrabiblical terminology, has been consistently vindicated as scriptural. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Essential, Foundational Trinity

The confession of the Trinity is the heartbeat of the Christian Religion. …

The doctrine of the Trinity makes God known to us as the truly living God, over against the cold abstractions of Deism and the confusions of pantheism. A doctrine of creation—God related to but not identified with the cosmos—can only be maintained on a trinitarian basis. In fact, the entire Christian belief system stands or falls with the confession of God’s Trinity. It is the core of the Christian faith, the root of all its dogmas, the basic content of the new covenant. The development of trinitarian dogma was never primarily a metaphysical question but a religious one. It is in the doctrine of the Trinity that we feel the heartbeat of God’s entire revelation for the redemption of humanity. We are baptized in the name of the triune God, and in that name we find rest for our soul and peace for our conscience. Our God is above us, before us, and within us. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Dogmatician: The Blessed God

Now, when ascribed to God blessedness has three components. In the first place it expresses that God is absolute perfection, for blessedness is the mark of every being that is, and to that extent it is complete; in other words, blessedness is the mark of every being that lives and in living is not hampered or disturbed by anything from within or without. Now, because God is absolute perfection, the sum total of all virtues, the supreme being, the supreme good, the supreme truth (etc.); in other words, because God is absolute life, the fountainhead of all life, he is also the absolutely blessed God. In Scripture ‘life’ and ‘blessedness’ are very closely related: life without blessedness is not worthy of the name, and in the case of God’s children eternal life coincides with blessedness. Second, implied in the words “the blessed God” is that God knows and delights in his absolute perfection. …God absolutely delights in himself, absolutely rests in himself, and is absolutely self-sufficient. …God’s delight in his creatures is part and parcel os his delight in himself. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

The Fountain of Eternal, Infinite Bliss (1 Timothy 1:11)

…the gospel of the glory of the blessed God. —1 Timothy 1:11

The gospel is a gospel of glory and the glory is the glory of God, but is Paul wanting to say something more specific than that? Is “blessed” just a chance adjective that Paul uses to describe God here such that he could have just as coincidentally said the gospel of the glory of the holy God, the immortal God, or the gracious God? 

Rewind thirteen years. I come home and tell my parents that I have good news. Specifically, I say that I have “good news of the beauty of my godly fiancé.” When I use that phrase, do I desire to tell them about her beauty in general, such that godly is a chance adjective, or is the specific beauty that is such good news the beauty of her godliness? If you know my parents then you would know that the news that would most thrill them would be the news of her godliness. When you understand the person, then you realize that the adjective isn’t a chance choice.

When you understand the persons involved in 1 Timothy 1:11, then you know that “blessed” isn’t some chance adjective, and by persons I don’t merely mean Timothy and Paul. I mean the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When you understand the Trinity, then you see that the good news is good news of the glory of God’s happiness, His eternal bliss, His unconquerable joy.

Why is God so happy? The short answer is that He is God. But our sinful minds can misunderstand that too easily. We read Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases,” and we think God is happy simply because He can do whatever He wants to do. We say we would be happy too if we were God. Like the little child that sees dad and mom staying up late, watching a movie, eating popcorn and thinks that being an adult is the happiest thing in the world because you can do whatever you want, we are naive. Their are deeper joys and complexities beyond the child’s comprehension. So it is with God, but we do get glimpses. One such glimpse is at Jesus’ baptism. There we get a snippet of how the Triune God has eternally related. The Son does the Father’s will, The Father sends the Spirit to anoint His Son and exclaims, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” No dad rising from the bleachers has ever matched God the Father’s rising from the throne, rending the sky and exclaiming His joy. The Father is happy because the perfect Son perfectly reflects His perfect glory.

God’s happiness rests ultimately not on what He does, but in who He is. God is love. God’s being love didn’t happen once upon a time. It didn’t rev up at creation. It didn’t ignite when God breathed into man the breath of life. Eternally the Father has delighted in the Son, the Son in the Father, and the Spirit in the Father and Son.

Redemption overflows from this love. Creation and redemption speak to the fullness of God’s delight in God. Why did the Father plan our redemption? For the glory of the Son (Philippians 2:8–11; Colossians 1:15–17). Why did the Son accomplish our redemption? For the glory of the Father (John 12:27–28; 14:31; 17:1-4). Why does the Spirit apply our redemption? To glorify the Son and the Father (John 15:26; 16:14).

But now for the goodest part of this goodest of news. Our redemption not only flows out of God’s joy in God, it flows into God’s joy in God. At the end of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 He asks His Father, “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” With what love do you love Jesus? You love Jesus with the Father’s love for Jesus put in you by the Spirit. Your love for Jesus is an expression of the Father’s love for Jesus. Astoundingly, in John 15:9, Jesus says that He loves us as the Father has loved Him. How is this not idolatrous? Because His love for us and toward us is an expression of His love for the Father. Jesus goes on to say that He has spoken these words (Joh 15:9-11) so that His joy may be in us, and that our joy may be full. Our love for God is God’s love for God. Our joy in God is God’s joy in God.

Behold the fountain from which our salvation flows and which it flows into—the blessed triune God. This fountain is its own undiminishing source, so it is natural that it would flow back into itself. The ocean of bliss from which our salvation flows, is the fountain from which it gushed. God is the Alpha and the Omega of our salvation. Our salvation flows out of God’s delight in God, and into God’s delight in God so that we exclaim with David, “in your presence there is fulness of joy, and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).” This is the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. —Romans 11:36