The Trinity: An Overview, Order in the Persons

God has revealed himself as three distinct persons or substantia

There are differences among the persons.  For example, there is a difference of order.  Giles writes, “The word order used relationally always implies the question, what order?”  The question is how are the three persons to be ordered?  Well, we need to keep a few things in mind. 

 

An overview of the Trinity ought to include a variety of elements.  The synopsis might begin with a statement concerning God’s incomprehensibility and our creaturely need for revelation.  It ought to cover the doctrine of divine simplicity.  God’s triunity should also be part of that discussion.  And how could we forget perichoresis?  These are vital to any summary.  However, in this overview article I want to reflect briefly on order within the ontological Trinity.

No one denies order in God – not even egalitarians like Kevin Giles.[1] The problem arises “over the question of how the divine three are ordered.”[2]  Now, that is an interesting question.  How are the persons of the godhead to be ordered?  The question itself suggests that there are differences among the three persons and we would be right to think so.  But before we consider personal properties we must do so against the backdrop of God’s essence.  In other words, triunity belongs to the simplicity of God, which means that the persons are not parts of God to be parceled out.  God is one.

Nevertheless, God has revealed himself as three distinct persons or substantia, which means that there are differences.[3]  However, these distinctions must be made within the one simple essence that is God.  And yet, there are differences among the persons.  For example, there is a difference of order.  Giles writes, “The word order used relationally always implies the question, what order?”[4]  The question is how are the three persons to be ordered?  Well, we need to keep a few things in mind.  First, any way we describe the situation is going to be accommodated.   God is lisping to us.  The second is related, this accommodated communication is from God and is therefore true knowledge about Him.  So, third, we are describing an order drawn from special revelation.

So, what is the order?

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