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ETS 2016 Paper in Progress: Incarnation, Change, & Trinity

ETSDuring this week of Fall Break at NOBTS, I have been working on my paper that was accepted for next month’s meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. The title is: “Did the Incarnation Introduce Change among the Persons of the Trinity?” (Click here to read the proposal.) I was encouraged to find support for my thesis in the writings of theologians as diverse as Wolfhart Pannenberg and Wayne Grudem, among others. Consider these extended quotations:

“The passion of Jesus Christ is not an event which concerned only the human nature that the divine Logos assumed, as though it did not affect in any way the eternal placidity of the trinitarian life of God. . . . It is incorrect, of course, to speak point-blank of the death of God on the cross, as has been done since the time of Hegel. We can say only of the Son of God that he was ‘crucified, dead, and buried.’ To be dogmatically correct, indeed, we have to say that the Son of God, though he suffered and died himself, did so according to his human nature. . . . Nevertheless, we have to say that Jesus was affected by suffering and death on the cross in person, i.e., in the person of the eternal Son. . . . Nor can the Father be thought of as unaffected by the passion of his Son if it is true that God is love. . . . To this extent we may speak of the Father’s sharing of the suffering of the Son, his sym-pathy with the passion.” – Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 1:314. The word “sym-pathy” is broken in the original.

“in his human nature, Jesus died (Luke 23:46; 1 Cor. 15:3). But with respect to his divine nature, he did not die, but was able to raise himself from the dead. . . . Nevertheless, by virtue of union with Jesus’ human nature, his divine nature somehow tasted something of what it was like to go through death. The person of Christ experienced death. . . . Therefore, even though Jesus’ divine nature did not actually die, Jesus went through the whole experience of death as a whole person, and both human and divine natures somehow shared in that experience.” – Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 560. Emphasis his.

I look forward to completing this paper in order to present it and receive feedback to sharpen my thinking on the intersecting points of incarnation, change, and Trinity.

Some of the works which have informed my writing on this question include:

Augustine, On the Trinity.

Cyril of Alexandria, On the Unity of Christ.

The Canons of the Councils of Ephesus (431) and Constantinople (553)

Crisp, Oliver D., and Fred Sanders, ed. Christology, Ancient & Modern: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Crisp, Oliver D. The Word Enfleshed: Exploring the Person and Work of Christ. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016.

Erickson, Millard J. Who’s Tampering with the Trinity? An Assessment of the Subordination Debate. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2009.

Fiddes, Paul. The Creative Suffering of God. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.

Ganssle, Gregory E., ed. Four Views of God and Time. Downers Grove: IVP, 2001.

Gavrilyuck, Paul L. The Suffering of the Impassible God: The Dialectics of Patristic Thought, Oxford Early Christian Studies, ed. Gillian Clark and Andrew Louth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Letham, Robert. The Message of the Person of Christ: The Word Made Flesh. The Bible Speaks Today, ed. Derek Tidball. Downers Grove: IVP, 2013.

McCall, Thomas H. Forsaken: The Trinity and the Cross, and Why It Matters. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2012.

McCall, Thomas H. Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of Trinitarian Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.

Peckham, John C. The Love of God: A Canonical Model. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015.

Sanders, Fred, and Klaus Issler, ed. Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007.


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