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Did the Incarnation Introduce Change among the Persons of the Trinity?

ETSToday is the paper proposal deadline for the 68th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, which will meet November 15-17, 2016, in San Antonio, Texas. Its website explains: “Founded in 1949, the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) is a group of scholars, teachers, pastors, students, and others dedicated to the oral exchange and written expression of theological thought and research.” I have been a member of ETS since 2003, and have presented seven papers at regional or national meetings. (For a list, see the Presentations section here.)

This year’s theme is the Trinity. I have submitted a paper proposal and expect to hear in June whether the proposal has been accepted. If the selection committee accepts the proposal, then I will plan to write the paper this summer and deliver it in November. This is my proposal:


Did the Incarnation Introduce Change among the Persons of the Trinity?

Premise 1: A person who was born, then grew, learned, suffered, and died is a person who experienced change.
Premise 2: Jesus is a two-natured person who was born, then grew, learned, suffered, and died. Conclusion: Jesus is a two-natured person who experienced change.

If change includes introducing a person to new relations or experiences, then the incarnation of the Word, or the addition of true humanity to the eternal Son of God, introduced change among the persons of the Trinity. At the incarnation, the Son of God was born of a woman (John 1:14; Gal 4:4). As a result of the incarnation, the Son grew (Luke 2:52), learned obedience by his suffering (Heb 5:8), and died (1 Cor 15:3). These verbs—born, grew, learned, suffered, and died—are predicated in the New Testament to the person of Christ, and they refer to acts which the Son had not previously experienced in time. Because of the interpenetration of the persons of the Trinity (Perichoresis), the Father and Spirit participated in some way with the Son in these new relations and experiences in time. The following issues will be considered when developing this paper:

• While God is unchanging in his character, the incarnation of the eternal Son resulted in the introduction of new relations and experiences among the persons of the Trinity.
• Although proper distinctions should be maintained between Christ’s two natures, those natures were united in one person. Should death and resurrection be ascribed to only the human nature of Christ, or to the person?
• Christian thinkers affirm different views of God’s relationship to time.
• How might the possibility of OT Christophanies affect the present thesis?

In the paper, I will interact with the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Karl Barth, Millard Erickson, Paul Fiddes, Jürgen Moltmann, and others.


I welcome any feedback on the proposal.

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