(Al Kimel) Thinking Trinity: No God Behind the Back of Jesus

Every important soteriological claim of the gospel depends on the consubstantiality of the Son and Spirit with the Father, for every important soteriological claim depends on the identity of God in his self-communication and self-giving. As Thomas F. Torrance liked to say, “There is no God behind the back of Jesus.” This evangelical truth was firmly impressed upon Torrance during his service in World War II as a chaplain the British army. After an engagement in Italy, he went in search for wounded soldiers:

When daylight filtered through, I came across a young soldier, Private Philips, scarcely twenty years old, lying mortally wounded on the ground, who clearly had not long to live. As I knelt down and bent over him, he said, ‘Padre, is God really like Jesus?’ I assured him that he was the only God that there is, the God who had come to us in Jesus, has shown his face to us, and poured out his love to us as our Saviour. As I prayed and commended him to the Lord Jesus, he passed away. (quoted in T. F. Torrance, p. 74)

The homoousion of the Council of Nicaea boldly declares the ontological identity of Jesus Christ with the Creator of the universe. During the fourth century Arians and Semi-Arians were content to affirm the likeness of Christ to the Father. They might disagree about the points of likeness; but they all agreed that there could not be an identity of being. In their eyes, such an assertion would compromise the simplicity and holy transcendence of the Deity. The Son is a creature, made by the unbegotten God from out of nothing. No matter how exalted a creature he may be, the distance between the Son and his Maker is infinite. The one thing that the Arian Christ cannot communicate to humanity is God.

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Posted in The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit