The Trinity is one of the most essential doctrines of the Christian faith, as it reveals a magnificent truth about God—that he is one God eternally existing as three distinct persons. While Christians often struggle to find the right words to describe the union of Father, Son, and Spirit, the Bible gives clarity concerning the triune God’s activity in nature (creation), grace (redemption), and glory (reward). In the second installment of the Short Studies in Systematic Theology series, theologian Scott Swain examines the Trinity, presenting its biblical foundations, systematic–theological structure, and practical relevance for the church today.
“What distinguishes the persons of the Trinity from each other are their relations to each other, not their relations to us.” (Pages 32–33)
“Common predications are patterns of speech that refer to what the three persons of the Trinity hold in common with each other as the one God. They are ‘the Lord.’ They are the author and end of all creatures. And so forth. Proper predications are patterns of speech that refer to that which distinguishes the three persons of the Trinity from each other within the one God.” (Pages 34–35)
“Note, then, a third pattern: the Bible’s Trinitarian discourse consistently distinguishes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit by their mutual relations, which are ‘relations of origin.’” (Page 32)
“Because of divine simplicity, the external works of the triune God are not parceled out among the persons, with each person perhaps doing his share to contribute to a larger whole. The external works of the triune God are indivisible. All of God’s works, from creation to consummation, are works of the three persons enacting one divine power, ordered by one divine wisdom, expressing one divine goodness, and manifesting one divine glory.” (Page 59)
“Appropriation, more precisely defined, then, is the special association of certain works of the Trinity with certain persons of the Trinity based on the way certain works specially manifest personal properties of the Trinity (paternity, filiation, and spiration).” (Page 113)
Dr. Swain joined the faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary in 2006. Before coming to RTS, he taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. His main research interests include the doctrine of God and the relationship between biblical interpretation and Christian doctrine. Dr. Swain is a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.