This paper is based on Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics Volume 2. I have chosen to focus on the person of the Trinity and will be defending the statement that God is three persons and one God.
“All salvation, every blessing, and blessedness have their threefold cause in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”(1) Each person of God is different and manifests themselves in different ways.
Bavinck explains the title of God the Father stating, “In its most general sense, this name refers to God as Creator of all his works, especially of humankind.”(2) We can, however, understand the term of Father in reference to the Son. Bavinck says, “but in a unique metaphysical sense God is the father of his Son.(3)” When reading the Scripture, it is important to have the understanding that God the Father has a relationship in which He is the Father of Israel, but the immediate implication at that of the Father and His Son. We gain a greater personal meaning seen in Scripture from verses like Romans 8:17 where we are faced with the reality that as the elect, we are heirs. And that is a result of John 3:16, and the love the Father has.
Of the Logos Bavinck says, “Undoubtedly, however, the premise underlying this name is the consistent teaching of Scripture that both in the creation and re-creation God reveals himself by the word.”(4) It is clear that the Son would bear the name of Logos for by Him, the Word of God and creation is seen. “By the Word, God creates, preserves, and governs all things, and by the Word, he also renews and re-creates the world.”(5) The Logos was not created to become the Logos, nor was He designed by the Father to create. The Logos is part of God, never being created, always in perfect being, He never did not exist. John 1 shows that the Logos was there at creation. “In the beginning God…” is just that, God. God has always been and will always be. That includes Father, Spirit, and Son. All equal in their level of divinity. We understand that just as we need to have a proper metaphysical understanding of the Father, we must understand the title of Son. Bavinck writes, “But he is the Son of God in a metaphysical sense: by nature and from eternity.”(6) Christ’s level of power is over that of angels, Jesus is God. “He is equal to the Father in knowledge, honor, creative and re-creative power, activity, and dominion.”(7)
On the Holy Spirit, Bavinck clearly states, “At the very outset it is worth saying that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is the same throughout the Scriptures of the Old and New Covenant.”(8) When reading the Bible, both New and Old Testament have accounts of the Spirit of God, which is the Holy Spirit. Clearly we receive a better understanding of the Spirit in the New Testament, but He is clearly seen within both texts. “And although the divine being we call God is “spirit” and “holy,” in the Scriptures the term “Holy Spirit” is still a reference to a special person in the divine being distinct from the Father and the Son. He owns this name to his special mode of substance: “spirit” actually means “wind,” “breath.” The Holy Spirit is the breath of the Almighty, the breath of his mouth.”(9)
It is important to mention Bavinck has much more on the differences and particular persons of the Trinity. I have only referenced some of his views to show the distinct persons of the Trinity and what they do. Throughout history, there has been a debate of trinitarian doctrine and from this, many people and works have been named heresies. The Council of Nicea in 325 deemed that Christ was equal with the Father in essence. Christ is not the first creation in the way we think of created items, rather Christ is just as much God as the Father. Just as there was not a time without the Father there has not been a time without the Son,( as well as the Spirit). “From the very outset it is clear that the dogma of the Trinity was not born from philosophical reasoning about the nature of God, but from reflection on the facts of revelation, specifically on the person and work of Christ.”(10) The thought of philosophy, although a major part of the foundations for many theological and hermeneutical explanations of Scripture, was not part of the establishing of trinitarian theology. It is clear from Scripture itself without the addition of human thought that there is a God, and He is seen in three parts – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The true and living God makes Himself revealed in many ways: Pillar of Fire (Exodus 13:21), Burning Bush (Exodus 3:1-17), Logos (John 1), His Spirit (Acts 2), and many more ways at different times. “The whole Bible is a single, unified text with theological coherence, and in it, the one supreme and true God, the God who exists in the entirety of his being as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, reveals himself to his people in personal self-disclosure.”(11) Each time God is seen or felt, He impacts those around. The person of God has never changed, nor will He ever change. “The Father was always Father. Unlike human fathers, it belongs to his very nature to be Father (De decr. Nic. Syn., 12). Just as one cannot conceive of the sun apart from its light, nor of a spring apart from its water, so one cannot conceive of the Father apart from the Son.”(12) This is true for every part of God.
A fight of the church has branched out and confronted branches of thought that are contradictory to Scripture itself. One such was Arianism. “The essence of Arianism is its denial of the Son’s consubstantiality with the Father; in other words, its assertion that the Father alone and in an absolute sense is the one true God.”(13) This denies the very divine nature of Christ. This is one of the main forms of heresies the Church has had to fight against. They claim that the divine nature of Christ is granted to him from the Father. This would reject the claims of John 1, and the claims of Jesus who said in John 10:25-30, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The idea of the creation of the Son is to say that the Son was formed by the Father. When hermeneutically reading Scriptures, we see that the persons of God have been from the beginning of time.
So to whom do we pray? There are three persons to the GodHead, so what about prayer and worship? Often people begin to pray by saying “God…,” it becomes very evident that as this person progresses in their prayer to whom they are praying because they say, “God thank you for sending your son,” etc. I am not trying to belittle anyone’s prayers, I just feel that it is important that we view God as God, the Father and Father, Son as Son, Spirit as Spirit, and all as God. Each person is referred to in different terms, so is it wrong to say God and be talking about the Father? No, I do not think it is a primary tier issue, this will not impact your salvation. You will not be living a life of sin. When you pray to God (in the correct biblical parameters, and with the correct heart, through the Spirit, in the power of Christ, etc.), I believe He hears.
But even when Jesus prayed, he said, “Our Father”(Matthew 6:9). It is important that as Jesus is teaching His followers to pray he does not say, God, he says “Our Father.” The act of prayer is communication, we are actually talking with God the Father. It is not like we are sending a prayer and hoping God hears. We are in direct connection through Christ who died on the cross, and His mediation. First Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” It is important that we follow the teaching of the New Testament which in Ephesians 6:18 says, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” The form of praying is clearly stated, “In the Spirit.” On the issue of who a Christian should pray to John Piper says this, “So, in general, pray to the Father; but occasionally, to express their Personhood and your own love for them, telling the Spirit and the Son that you love them and that you would like them to come in fullness is a good thing.”(14).
Piper put it really well as he mentions we do not only talk to the Father, in fact, we have communion with the whole Godhead, but when praying the emphasis should be that we are talking to the Father. This is, of course, not to say that the Son or the Spirit are lower in value or are insignificant for that would be heresy.
Bavinck does not give much insight into this problem in the book other than a few lines. Bavinck says, “The Holy Spirit dwells in and among us, with the result that our prayers are directed more to the Father and to the Mediator than to him. He is much more the author than the object of our prayer.”(15) Bavinck’s view would seem to conclude that it is both the Father and the Meditator (Son) to which we should pray. What I think Bavinck is saying here is not that we are specifically praying to the Son, but the fact that we are in use of the Mediator as we commune with the Father, through the Spirit. We must remember that in this section Bavink is not focused on the form in which, or by which we pray, rather he is focused on the persons of God. Nevertheless, it poses the question of who do we pray to. The person we pray to is important as the biblical model should be the model for our life, however, this has been adequately covered for the length of this research paper.
Therefore, to deny the Trinity is to deny Christ. But we as Christians are to be students of the Bible. It is the Inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and as the children of God, we are to study it. The Word is one major form of communication with the triune God, the Creator of the heavens. Another form of communication is that of prayer which through Scripture we understand as to the Father. Each person of the GodHead is different, and yet the same. We should look at the Bible to understand the differences between each part of the holy, perfect, and awesome God whom we serve and from whom we are His image-bearers. It is imperative that the Church holds to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity or the Church will fall into heretical teaching.
- Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 270.
- Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 272.
- Ibid 2.
- Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 273.
- Ibid 4.
- Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 275.
- Ibid 6.
- Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 277.
- Ibid 8.
- Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 280.
- Daniel L. Akin, ed., A Theology for the Church (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2014), 165.
- Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 286.
- Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 291.
- Does It Matter Which Person of the Trinity We Pray To?,” Desiring God, January 14, 2009, https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-it-matter-which-person-of-the-trinity-we-pray -to).
- Bavinck, Bolt, and Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, 311.
Akin, Daniel L., ed. A Theology for the Church. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2014.
Bavinck, Herman, John Bolt, and John Vriend. Reformed Dogmatics. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003.
Does It Matter Which Person of the Trinity We Pray To?” Desiring God, January 14, 2009. https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-it-matter-which-person-of-the-trinity-we-pray-to.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2014.